E46 – Universal Orlando Resort Planning
Beth, the host of The Roaming Yeti podcast, excitedly shares her upcoming trip planning for Universal Studios Orlando. As she reminisces about her last visit 24 years ago, she dives into the park’s history, tracing its origins back to the early 1980s when Universal Studios Florida was conceived to expand the brand outside of Hollywood. Beth’s research reveals the park’s opening attractions and how it has evolved over the years, including the significant addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She also discusses the various themed areas and attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, providing insights into what she and her family look forward to experiencing.
Here is a transcript of the podcast. Please remember this was done via AI, so there are typos and mistakes.
Welcome to the roaming Yeti podcast where we share travel stories full of nostalgia, interesting locations and the tales behind those locations. I am your host and heavy Eddie Beth Schillaci. So today I want to share some planning we’re doing for an upcoming trip in December, winter break hits for college, we are picking Juliet up in Cincinnati, and then we’re going to actually drive down to Orlando, from Cincinnati, it’s about a 12 to 13 hour drive, which is very similar to our drive from here in Maryland down to Orlando as well. We are set to visit universal for a couple of days, and then we will head over to Walt Disney World. I’ll be talking a little bit more about the Disney World one on another episode. But you know, I realized when John and I started talking, we haven’t been to universal in Florida, in about 24 years, and that means joy has never been there. A lot has changed, of course, since the last time we were there. So I’m in a bit of planning mode, I’m doing some research, I’m looking what’s going on. I just thought, you know, in case you haven’t been there in a while, or, you know, or if you have, please email me with advice. You know, I just wanted to sort of share what we’re, what we’re planning and what I’m learning in in all this. So, of course, I dug in the history a little bit. And Universal Studios, Orlando, was conceived initially as a way to expand the brand, outside of its Hollywood location, and Universal Pictures and its parent company at the time MCA began considering this idea of a Florida theme park in the early 1980s. And construction of Universal Studios, Florida began in 1986 on this massive 444 acre site in Orlando. And, um, you know, they say it’s the first time a major film studio established a theme park on the east coast, but I mean, Disney was already there. So I’m not really sure that statement from them, but we’ll we’ll let it slide. We’ll let it slide. I guess since Disney was mainly animation at that time, I don’t know. But anyhow, Universal Studios, Florida officially opened its gates to the public on June 7 1990. I actually thought this was an older Park than that. So yeah, it was really interesting. So the opening day attractions the list of that was the production tram tour. Et adventure Jaws earthquake. Con fermentation. Ghostbusters spectacular Murder, She Wrote mystery theater, Phantom of the Opera horror makeup show animal actors, Alfred Hitchcock, the art of make Alfred Hitchcock the art of making movies. Fantastic world of Hanna Barbera. Remember Hanna Barbera cartoons are good stuff. Nickelodeon studios and dynamic nights stunt spectacular I was trying to remember back to some of the rides we would have would have rode. I don’t always have the greatest of memories, but I remember a tram tour was that the backlot tour? I remember at adventure I remember jaws but I felt like it was part of the back lot tour so I don’t I’m I’m not sure same for Earth and earthquake and something with calm. I felt that was part of the the backlot tour as well. I don’t remember someone can let me know. I remember there was an animal actors and I remember something of a nighttime stunt spectacular. I don’t know if it’s the same one as this one. But um, so you know, I experienced some of those but like I said, that was 24 years ago, which is crazy to me. We haven’t been back. I feel a little feel a little bad about that. There’s second Park call universals island of adventure that opened in 1999 on May 28, and it was part of an expansion that converted Universal Studios Florida into Universal Orlando Resort. So Universal Orlando Resort I’ve learned is everything and then Universal Studios Florida is one park and islands of adventures another park. So I will probably up in this conversation. So please, please excuse me. But this park was sort of designed and to be a journey of exploration where guests could embark on an adventure to visit these various themed islands. And, of course, each Islands has its own themes and its own attractions. And these islands included a port of entry which is the entrance to the park and it was designed as a global marketplace. Marvel superhero Island was features attractions based on Marvel Comics, characters like Spider Man and The Incredible Hulk, Toon lagoon, which is home to some water based attractions inspired by classic cartoon characters. Nope, I’ll be skipping that thanks. Jurassic Park is based on a course the film franchise and it’s well known for now velocity coaster but at the time Jurassic Park river adventure. The last continent was a mythical land inspired by legends and stories from around the world is their description and Seuss Island or landing, Seuss Landing, which was an island, a whimsical area based on the works of Dr. Seuss. So, in addition to that, probably one of the most, if not the most significant milestone in the parks history was the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. And this is Mersive land brought to life iconic locations from the Harry Potter series and became of course a massive success for the parks and attracted fans worldwide. And Universal Orlando has continued to expand and evolve over the years. And now it has Diagon Alley, which is part of the wizarding world. With that opened in 2014 and 2017, they opened volcano, Volcano Bay, which is a waterpark, tropical paradise, water rides and attractions. And one other significant moment in history for universal in 2021, Fast and Furious supercharged, opens at Universal Studios Florida. And we’ll get back to this topic in just a little bit. First, I want to take a look at the hotels and I’m only going to talk about the hotels that are actually on on the resort. And they have theirs broken into a premier option, a prime value option and then a value option. So at the top is your premier options and this gets you if you sign if you do a vacation plan with them you get a free Universal Express unlimited Pass, which allows you to skip line. So for your Disney fans, older, older Disney fans remember fast passes. This is like unlimited fast passes to all the rides that participate which when I looked at the list seems like pretty much everything so because of limited days, that’s a really good thing to have. You can usually get through both parks in two days with that. So your premiere options are Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a hard rock and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. So the Portofino is themed after the Italian fishing village of Portofino has a waterfront gondola ride. Of course restaurants with Italian harbor aka Hard Rock Hotel, you know rock and roll theme we’re all pretty familiar with that has a lot of you know variety of restaurants, bars, and of course nightclubs. And then the Loews Royal Pacific Resort is themed after the South Pacific Islands has a lagoon with a sandy beach waterfall and has a variety of restaurants as well. In the prime value options, there is a is Universal’s cabana Bay Beach Resort, and this is themed after a classic 1950s Beach Resort has two swimming pools, a bowling alley, and a lot of restaurants. Another prime value is adventurer, adventure ra hotel. This hotel is right across the street from Universal Studios, Florida has a rooftop bar, rooftop pool, a fitness center and a variety of dining options. And then there’s two value options. Pretty much same thing. So there’s universal endless summer resort, dockside Inn and Suites and then there’s universal endless summer resort, Surfside Inn and Suites. So dockside Inn and Suites is Florida Keys style, sort of themed, and then Surfside Inn and Suites is California beach bungalow resort themed.
Again, those are your your value options. We are staying In a resort hotel, but I’m gonna hold that information until we return. So I can give you some more details about it and get a little more into it at that time. But those are the hotels, those are your options on resort I, if I understand there’s some other partners and there’s some other, but we were we were specifically looking to stay close to take advantage of some of the perks. So, let’s the next thing I wanted to do then, is I want to get sort of acclimated what what was at the park now. So let’s take a look at the different themed areas throughout the two parks. I’m not going to touch on Volcano Bay. We won’t be visiting the waterpark. Again, if that’s your thing. Go for it. Love it. I would love to have you on we can talk about it. There’s just not it’s just not something, something we do. So Universal Studios, Florida, which was the original Park has a Hollywood area. They have minion land, which has a new ride villain con minion blast that I’m looking forward to try it out. There is a New York section which has Revenge of the Mummy and race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. I have heard that the Jimmy Fallon ride is very motion sickness inducing so a lot of these simulator rides they’re cool but they just they actually cause me worse. Worse motion sickness sometimes then than other rides so we’ll see we’ll see how I’m feeling another areas production central that’s where there is a Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt. I think it’s a little roller coaster I’m not sure. And then there’s a 3d ride the Transformers San Francisco that’s where we’ll find Fast and Furious supercharged Springfield, The Simpsons ride and Kang and Kodos twirl and hurl. Yeah, that’s, that’s that’s exactly like something I want to ride Diagon Alley has Harry Potter and escape from bring dots. And it also has the king Kings Cross station for Hogwarts Express, which will take you if you have passes for both parks. It’ll take you to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and I’ll let you it’ll it’s a ride between parks. The E T adventure is actually in Woody Wood packers Kid Zone. And you can find men in black alien attack in World Expo. So if we head over to the other parks say we get on the Hogwarts Express Express. islands of adventures that’s where you’re going to find Jurassic Park, where the velocity coaster is. There’s the river adventure ride. And then there’s the Tirana Dawn fliers. Marvel superhero Island has Dr. dooms fearful Storm Force accelerate Tron The Amazing Spider Man and The Incredible Hulk coaster there’s a port of entry and the last continent that I cannot find on universal sight sort of what’s there so um, I guess I don’t know if they’re shopping areas or what I’ll report back for you. Seuss island there’s a carousel Carrboro Seuss L as they say one tip Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, the Cat in the Hat and the high in the sky Seuss trolley train ride. And so I’m really looking forward to seeing the theming in that area. Skull Island has a reign of con con Hogsmeade which is the wizarding world in Islands of Adventure has hybrids, motorbike adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Again, Hogwarts Express and then Flight of the Hippogriff. And then toon lagoon has your water to water rides Dudley do right’s rip Sol falls and Popeye and Bluto, those blige barges. No, I’m not gonna try to pronounce all that. So, that’s sort of what we were looking at what’s there. And from that, you know, I’ll let John and Julia sort of plan their attack of rides but like I said, we have the unlimited, the Universal Express Unlimited, so that’s gonna help for sure. But um, like I said, from looking at these, there’s, there’s a lot that I may unfortunately be skipping due to my motion sickness. I always get asked questions like, what? You don’t ride so many of those rides? Why do you love theme parks so much? But I do, I love them. I love being in them watching people just being immersed in the fandoms. And watching people get excited about their fandoms. It’s just it’s a lot of fun for me even without riding the rides. But I will definitely be holding backpacks and phones. While those who are on coasters. I know they’re looking forward to the haul. And I know the velocity coaster, which, if you heard the roller coaster episode with Leroy, that gets his seal of approval, so that’s good. But I get the thinking like, I’m going to have the Universal Express unlimited pass to like, should I should I take on some kind of silly challenge while they’re on the thrill rides. If you have an idea, like, Give me something to do, like hit me up on one of my social media accounts, there’s a contact form on the roaming yeti.com website. Fill it out, let me know give me give me some ideas of what to do. You know, in addition to the rides and things, we we knew the summer of this was a planned trip, we wanted to do this. And Joey is not as familiar and I’ll say, you know, none of us are or as familiar with some of the universal movies as as Disney. So we decided this summer to sort of tackle some shows and watch. So this is when I have to get really honest with you admit, admit to the fact that I am a I’m a muggle. I said it. I have read one of the Harry Potter books when it first came out. I actually had bought it on a trip we were in London. And I really liked it. I just, it just wasn’t a point in my life that I had a chance to read anymore. There was a lot going on. And I just never I never took the time to sit and watch the movies. They were always so long. So we decided to tackle the movies this summer and and I enjoyed them I really enjoyed the stories. And but from what I can understand from talking to people, the books are so much better. No surprise books are almost always better than movies. But it made me feel better because I just I just didn’t. I didn’t I wanted to be excited about the fandom and I love people who are excited about the fandom but I just I didn’t get it. But I’m glad we watched them I can definitely will know more of what’s going on in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m looking forward to two kids and adults running around with their wands and getting excited. But, you know, I, I am sorry. I’m a muggle. I was talking to a friend of mine though. And I’m thinking maybe in 2024 I will tackle the books. So maybe by the end of the year, I can put a sorting hat on and see which house I belong to. I don’t I don’t know. But to my Harry Potter listeners, I love you. I hope you get a chance to go down and experiences these lands for sure. So that’s that’s my confession for the day. I’m sorry. The other franchise I don’t know this might be another confession. Who knows. The other franchise we watched was fast and furious. And that culminated in watching the family in fast 10 with my family in the theater. This was this franchise was a surprise to me. I didn’t think I was gonna like it. It’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t take itself too serious. But really the the relationships of the people the characters and the humor it just it really made me a fan so I did not have that on my 2023 Bingo card at becoming a fan of Fast and Furious but here we are so fast and furious supercharged it’s it’s going to be a must do for me. Definitely will check out the minion rides. Gotta go old school with EA t. If I remember correctly, it’s very interesting. So I love that movie as a kid to all cried and cried. I can’t wait to see the Marvel area. This is based on Marvel Comics and not the MCU. And really this area is the reason that we’re probably never gonna see Marvel characters in Walt Disney World, at least not anytime soon. So
I’m interested to see sort of how they do it compared to Avengers campus in California and in Paris. I’m I’m really sad there is no backlot tour anymore. That’s just something In You know, I love those behind the scenes things and, and those backstories so that was that’s something I was looking forward to that we won’t have also lost so excited just walk around experience the different lands and the theming one of my favorites. Universal Hollywood was actually Springfield. With the Simpsons. It was so well done. It was so cute. So I’m really hoping I can visit Mo’s and get a Duff’s beer while we’re there. And speaking to Duff’s beer, you know, I’ve been trying to find out which what other beers they may be exclusive to universal. I love to try beers that only are available in the parks. I know that’s how the duff beers are. At one time there was a Jurassic park themed one I have to find out if that’s still there. And I believe some in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter we had we tried some when we were in universal Hollywood, so I don’t know if they’re the same. I cannot find any reliable information online right now. So if anyone knows again, please let me know. But again, here let’s let’s talk a little bit about food and drinks that I’m on the lookout for. I know I want to try very badly a hot butter beer. Yeah, I’m, I’m a muggle. But I gotta give it a try. I can’t I can’t wait. And it might be my age. But I do like to find a little bit of a lighter food at parks. So I will be checking out the today cafe. It looks like it has some really good fresh good food. So I’m looking forward to that in CityWalk if there is a Margaritaville so I know we will be stopping by there to pay our respects to Jimmy Buffett. Have a margarita. Yeah, that I’m looking forward to doing that. There’s also this is so cute. There is a green eggs and ham cafe. And they have green eggs and ham tots. Tater Tots that I might just have to go check out It sounds fun. But there is a ton just like any of these theme parks are so many places to choose from. Again, if you have a personal favorite, please let me know on the social media accounts or on the website. I’d love to hear from you. And in addition to this being our first trip back in a long time, can’t believe how much I’m enjoying myself by telling you how long but it’ll also be the holidays and I can’t wait I love seeing how parks incorporate holidays into their themed areas. did a little research into this of course because that’s what I do. In the New York area of the park they have a large Christmas tree and they have a parade that has balloons similar to those found in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Diagon Alley and hugs me get all decorated and they have a projection show in the evening that I can’t wait to see. Seuss Land Of course. You know we have a Grinch show we’re going to see who’s hoping to see the Grinch maybe max Fingers crossed. I always go for for sort of the niche out there thing is URL the squirrel. This is what I’m most interested in are all the squirrel. He has become a holiday mascot and Universal Studios Orlando. And the official story from Universal is that URL was actually a real mischievious squirrel, who was found nestled in the branches of the parks main Christmas tree and according to legend, squirrel had an affinity for Blue Christmas lights often stringing stealing strands and bringing them back to his nest. I love that universal is the laid back part and can sort of make fun of itself and now he’s a character and he’s an icon. I think there might even be a female squirrel that’s been spotted on merch this year. I don’t know I’ll let you know. But he can see be seen throughout the park during the holiday season. meet and greets yes please. And I it’s gonna be hard to resist a piece of all the squirrel merch for sure so can’t wait to check out all the holiday foods I love that the I don’t love peppermint and my stuff all the time but at holidays. Bring it on I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see what other things they might have. And you know there’s so much to check out and I can’t wait to let you guys know what we see what we do. So that you know it’s going to be after the holidays you hear about the trip but I really do this so you can plan in the future, you know, this is I know you’re not gonna, like drop everything and run to these things. You know, I just want you to have the information and know firsthand sort of what I liked what I didn’t like, but I just want to include you in the planning and really what, what we’re looking for and sort of how I, I try to plan. I feel like you can’t, you can’t go into a theme park without some kind of of plan and sort of a goal list because it’s, it can be overwhelming and there’s just so much to do. So I will let you know. I really do want to thank you for listening. As I’m growing and figuring this whole podcast world out. Please, please reach out to me if you have ideas. I want roaming Yeti to be our community, our little oasis among the chaos. So let me know what topics you want to hear about, you can reach me on social media. Again, you can reach out to fill out the contact form on my website, the roaming yeti.com. And I really do hope that these episodes inspire you to get out and roam even in your own neighborhoods. So please subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes. And if you like what we’re doing here, please leave a review and a rating. And thanks so much again and I’ll talk to you soon. Keep roaming