Orlando Fun

Disney World Orlando - Pixabay by eduneriEveryone said a visit to Orlando in July is a mistake. The temperatures are high – in the 90s, and the air is thick with humidity. To top it all, expect thunderstorms every evening.

Everyone is right about the weather, of course, but we still had a blast relaxing at the resort and visiting theme parks and attractions. 

Orlando is considered the Theme Park capital of the world with 13 major theme parks and a few more adventure destinations. Less than an hour away, you can learn about NASA’s history and achievements at the Kenny Space Center in Cocoa Beach.

We live in Anaheim, California, another major theme park destination, but we still managed to find a lot of new experiences in Orlando, Florida.

Walt Disney World

Disney World - Sleeping Beauty Castle - from WikipediaDisney’s group of Theme Parks, hotels, and shopping centers is really a world on its own. The property covers 25,000 acres nestles in the woods around Lake Buena Vista with its own roads and transportation system.

Walt Disney decided to build his expansive new resort on the east coast and went hunting for the location. He picked this area because it was basically empty and close to the intersection of the four freeway and the Florida Turnpike.

The magic kingdom opened its doors in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982. The rest followed through the years with a total of 6 parks finishing with Animal Kingdon in 1998. Many lodgings and resorts offer different experiences to visitors like Music, Movies, Animals, Polynesian, Wilderness, and New Orleans themes. 

Magic Kingdom

Disney World - Magic Kingdom - (publicDomainPictures)This is the park that is most like Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It is dedicated to fairytales, fantasy and Disney characters.

Like Disneyland, it has Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Also, it has a unique land called Liberty Square with the Hall of the Presidents.

You can read more and see lots of photos in the Disneyland article here. Having said that, the Magic Kingdom is not a replica of Disneyland. There are a lot of important differences. To read more about those differences, go here.

Epcot

Epcot is the most unique theme park in the Disney World collection with rides and exhibits Disney World - Epcot - Future World - Mission Space - Wikimedia by UpstateNYerthat you can’t find in any other Disney property.

The park is basically a permanent World’s Fair with a Disney flair. As you enter, you are presented with Spaceship Earth, a huge sphere you walk into and ride through human history.

On either side of Spaceship Earth, you will come across Future World (East and West sections). The exhibits demonstrate the latest technologies and allow visitors to Disney World - Epcot - Reflections of Earth - Wikipedia by Benjamin D Eshaminteract with hands-on experiments.

In the West section, the Land Pavillion is a showcase of human interaction with mother earth. Visitors here can enjoy the flight simulator ride Soarin over the World and a ride through innovations in agriculture. 

In the Eastern Future World, build your own race car and test on the “Test Track” ride.

The World Showcase starts after future world and surrounds a large lake. Eleven countries from around the globe represent their culture and sites – with most offering rides and shows. Most notable are O Canada!, a Circle-Vision 360°, Frozen Ever After ride, and Impressions de France.

The United States pavilion, located in the middle between the other countries, showcases American history with an animatronics show titled The American Adventure.

Read the full article about Epcot here.

Hollywood Studios

Disney World - Sunset  Boulevard Hollywood Studios - Wikipedia by Jedi94This park opened in 1989 as both a production studio and a theme park but later became a theme park dedicated to the fantasy worlds and characters from film, television, music, and theatre, while celebrating the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Visitors enjoy many shows and attractions with movie themes in 6 distinct areas:

At Echo Lake, you can ride “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue”, or “Indiana Jones”, or watch the “First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along show, and “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi” shows.

Disneyland - Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Millennium FalconAt Grand Avenue, you can pretend you are back in Los Angles walking on the famous street, enjoying the restaurants and pubs or relax in the park with the same name. The are also has the Muppets Vision 4D show. The Figueroa Street Tunnel leads you into the new Starwars land.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will officially open at the end of August 2019. It will be a duplicate of the Star Wars land at Disneyland. Like Disneyland’s version, the main attraction will be Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. You get to train as a spaceship pilot and the fly the infamous Millennium Falcon.

At Toy Story Land, visitors feel like toys as they walk through giant props and enjoy kid-Disney World - Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Land - Flickr by elisfkc.jpgfriendly attractions. While here you can ride on Slinky Dog Dash or shoot your way through Toy Story Mania. 

In the Animation Courtyard, learn about Walt Disney’s life at Walt Disney Presents or get close to Star Wars characters and exhibits at the Star Wars Launch Bay. Visitors can also enjoy live shows, Disney Junior Dance Party, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

Walking through Sunset Boulevard, you can enjoy the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or scared out of your mind at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The area also has three live shows including “Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage” and “Fantasmic!, a nighttime show with fireworks and laser.

Read more about Hollywood Studios here.

Animal Kingdom

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Pandora - Wikipedia by Jedi94Disney’s zoological park is the only place in the world where you can go on an animal safari through time and fantasy – without leaving home.

The park is considered the largest theme park in the world with 580 acres of land dedicated to a natural environment and animal conservation with a Disney twist.

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Safari - Wikipedia by LoadmasterThe fun and learning happens in 7 distinct areas. You will need more than one day to explore everything in the park. My favorites are Pandora (The world of Avatar), the Kilimanjaro Safaris in "Africa", Dinoland, and the mythical kingdom of Anandapur in "Asia".

At discovery Island, admire the Tree of Life, which is a huge representation of the baobab tree. At night, the tree comes alive with beautiful colors. As you walk around, you will pass by several animal exhibits and many shops and restaurants.

Read more here.

Disney’s Water Parks

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999For wet fun, you have two parks to pick from; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Both are full of water slides, pools, lazy rivers, and fun areas for smaller children.

Blizzard beach looks like snow-capped peaks with melted water running through. This park is home to the Summit Plummet, a fast freefall 120-feet drop and the Toboggan Racers, an 8-lane racing slide.

Typhoon Lagoon looks like a hurricane just whipped through a tropical island, destroying homes and throwing wrecked ships on top of mountains. Here you can find “Surf Pool”, a wave pool with 6-foot waves. The pool is used to give surf lessons before the official park opening.

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal opened the first theme park in Orlando June of 1990. They quickly expanded the Universal Orlando - Citywalkresort to include two theme parks, a water park, a shopping district, and several hotels.

The resort immerses visitors into movie and TV themes with rides, exhibits, and shows.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the latest addition, and it spans the two theme parks. To enjoy everything Harry Potter, you can have to buy passes that cover both parks. 

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Orlando - Hollywood - Wikimedia by EliedionThere are so many rides and shows to pick from, It is hard to decide where to go and what to do. To help, the Universal website offers several ways to filter the attractions. You can find your favorites by height requirements, areas, or interests. Go here to find your thrills.

Some of my favorite rides and shows are Shrek 4D at Production Central, Revenge of the Mummy at New York City, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Diagon Alley, and Men in Black: Alien Attack at World Expo.

Families with younger children can find many attractions at Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

The see the full list of attractions go to the main story about Universal Studios Florida here.

Universal’s Islands of AdventureUniversal Islands of adventure Incredible Hulk

Go on a journey of exploration and adventure through uniquely themed islands.  Visit places like “Marvel Super Hero Islands”, Jurassic Park”, or “Skull Island’ for rides and shows - and spend time at the other half of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

The two halves of the Wizarding World are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

Universal Islands of adventure - Potter Fly - WikipediaWhile visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

Other islands at the park are Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. Some of the most thrilling rides and shows on those islands are “The Incredible Hulk Coaster”, “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Jurassic Park River Adventure”, and “Poseidon's Fury”.

Read more about Islands of Adventure here.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort

The resort we stayed at during this visit is a destination on its own. The rooms and Orlando - Hyatt Grand Cypress resortamenities are what you expect from a Hyatt property - top-notch, but the activities are what makes this place amazing. Without leaving the grounds, we had access to swimming, biking, sailing, paddle boats, golf, hiking trails, gym, and Spa.

In the room, the beds and pillows were very comfortable. The large smart TV had an option to stream your own device and on-demand programming. I used my Netflix account to keep up with my shows. The view from the room was breathtaking. Down below we can see the private lake and gardens, and in the distance, we can see miles of forest.

Shuttle service was provided to the major theme park. It was recommended to reserve your seats ahead of time to guarantee you ride.

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Disney World, Florida

Disney World - Sleeping Beauty Castle - from WikipediaDisney’s collection of Theme Parks, hotels, and shopping centers in Orlando, Florida is a world on its own. The property covers 25,000 acres nestles in the woods around Lake Buena Vista with its own roads and transportation system.

Walt Disney decided to build his expansive new resort on the east coast and went hunting for the location. He picked this area because it was mostly empty and close to the intersection of the four freeway and the Florida Turnpike.

The magic kingdom opened its doors in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982. The rest followed through the years with a total of 6 parks finishing with Animal Kingdon in 1998. Many lodgings and resorts immerse visitors in themes like Music, Movies, Animals, Polynesian, Wilderness, and New Orleans.

Disney World - Dolphin Hotel - Wikipedia by Pete ToscanoThe six Disney parks offer a large variety of experiences, with many rides and shows to choose from. So how do you pick the right park for you and your family?

The simple answer is you do a lot of research and ask people’s opinion before you go. Also, visit Disney’s website here to read about the attractions. 

Here is a quick guide to help you choose. If you like to learn more about a park, follow the link.

The Magic Kingdom

For families with kids or everyone who loves Disney movies and cartoons, then the Magic Kingdom is your park, with authentic Disney experience, the usual characters, fairytales, and fantastical places.

It is the park most like Disneyland in Anaheim, California with Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. It also has a unique land called Liberty Square with the Hall of the Presidents.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney World - Sunset  Boulevard Hollywood Studios - Wikipedia by Jedi94For everyone who loves movies, television and everything Hollywood, a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a must. It is similar to Universal Studios but with a Disney flare.

The park is full of rides based on your favorite movies and shows like “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue”, “Indiana Jones”,  “First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along show”, “Muppets Vision 4D” show, and “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”. It is also home to the new land “Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

Epcot

Disney World Epcot IllumiNations - Wikipedia by Katie Rommel-EshamAt Epcot, you can visit 11 countries, learn about their cultures, and catch rides and shows.

Walking around the huge center lake, you can visit Canada, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, The American Adventure, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.

You can also glimpse the future and learn about sustaining the Land and the Sea. Also, make sure to build your own race car then test it at the Test Track ride.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

To visit animals in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts, you can take Disney World - Nighttime landscape at Pandora - Wikipedia by Jedi94this safari through the Animal Kingdom. While at the park, visit the Tree of Life, go into the mythical world of Pandora (from the Avatar movie), or go back in time to the age of Dinosaurs. The Kilimanjaro Safaris will take you deep into the wild animal's territory for a closer look.

Water Parks

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Team Boat Springs - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999For wet fun, you have two parks to pick from; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Both are full of water slides, pools, lazy rivers, and fun areas for smaller children.

Blizzard Beach looks like snow-capped peaks with melted water running through. This park is home to the Summit Plummet, a fast freefall 120-feet drop and the Toboggan Racers, an 8-lane racing slide.

Typhoon Lagoon looks like a hurricane just whipped through a tropical island, destroying homes and throwing wrecked ships on top of mountains. Here you can find “Surf Pool”, a wave pool with 6-foot waves. The pool is used to give surf lessons before the official park opening.

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Animal Kingdom, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Pandora - Wikipedia by Jedi94Disney’s zoological park is the only place in the world where you can go on an animal safari through time and fantasy – without leaving home.

The park is considered the largest theme park in the world with 580 acres of land dedicated to a natural environment and animal conservation with a Disney twist.

The fun and learning happens in 7 distinct areas:

The Oasis

The Oasis is the main entrance to the animal kingdom with lush vegetation, streams, waterfalls, a few animal exhibits, and stores.

Discovery Island 

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Safari - Wikipedia by LoadmasterThe island is the main hub connecting to all the other areas with bridges. It is home to the Tree of Life, which is a huge representation of the baobab tree. At night, the tree comes alive with beautiful colors. As you walk around, you will pass by several animal exhibits and many shops and restaurants.

Pandora – The World of Avatar

The newest area in the park allows visitors to walk into the fantasy world of Pandora, based on the Avatar Movie. Along with the stunning plants and rock formation, you get to go on two thrill rides: Avatar Flight of Passage, a 3D flying simulator and Na'vi River Journey, a dark ride boat attraction.

Avatar Flight of Passage

Animal Kingdom - Avatar Flight of Passage - by Theme Park Tourist - wikimediaThis virtual reality ride simulates riding on the back of a Banshee and flying around Pandora. 

Before the ride, we had to watch 2 videos. The first video was purely instructional and told us what to do, and that was followed by a safety lecture and we were matched up with our avatars.  The second video explained why the banshees are important to Pandora, along with telling us what we should expect. 

As we enetered the ride, everyone was given his own vehicle that he straddles like a bicycle. Once we were fastened in and wearing our 3D glasses, the banshees flew us all around Pandora.  

It felt like we were actually flying. It was a mixture of riding on a roller coaster and paragliding at the same time.  The visual effects were absolutely stunning and made us feel as if we were actually flying over the planet, which made this a thrilling experience. 

See the video below or click here.

Na’vi River Journey

Too cool off in the warm months, take this raft ride down the river and through the dark Pandoran jungle with glowing bioluminescent plants. Along the way observed the exotic animals on this mythical planet.   

Africa

In this simulated African village, the main attraction is the Kilimanjaro Safaris where Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Africa - Wikipedia by Jennifer Lynnyou climb aboard an open-sided vehicle for an expedition through the African savanna, rivers, and rocky hills. During this safari, you will visit the wild African animals in their natural habitat. Back in the village, you can enjoy some more animal exhibits, shops, and shows.

Rafiki's Planet Watch 

You can take a train to this area from “Africa” and learn about animal habitats, how Disney takes care of the wildlife and spend some time at the petting zoo.

Asia

Enter the mythical kingdom of Anandapur, which blends the cultures of Cambodia, Disney World - Animal Kingdom - Asia - Komodo - Dragon - Wikipedia by LoadmasterIndia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, and Thailand. In the Himalayas region, take a rollercoaster ride through the forbidden mountain and try to avoid the Yeti or enjoy a thrilling ride through the Kali River Rapids.

DinoLand USA: Enter the land of Dinos and other prehistoric animals and enjoy the rides, games, and shows. The area is home to Dinosaur (a dark thrill ride), Primeval Whirl (a spinning roller coaster), the TriceraTop (carousel ride), and Finding Nemo – The Musical.

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Disney World Water Parks

Disney World - Typhoon Lagoon and Mount Mayday - Surf Pool - Wikipedia by JZ85Within Disney World’s sprawling complex of theme parks, you will find two Water Parks, each with a distinct personality.

Typhoon Lagoon

Imagine a hurricane whipping through a tropical island, destroying homes and throwing wrecked ships on top of mountains. Then add slides, waterway, and geysers to come up with this wild wet fun place designed by Disney.

Main Attractions

The water park has six distinct areas of fun; the most prominent is with a ship on top and many slides running through it. Riders can choose between speed slides, body slides or rafts.

Disney World - Epcot - Typhoon Lagoon - Crush n Gusher - Wikipedia by JZ85 Another popular attraction is Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, which is a wave pool of 6-foot waves. You can take surf lessons here – but before the official park opening.

For relaxation, take a tube a lazily drift along the 2100-foot river that circles the park. The river passes through waterfalls, rainforests, mist screens, and Mount Mayday itself. Riders can float on their own or in an inner tube.

Young children can have fun at "Ketchakiddee Creek" with small slides and fountains shaped like tugboats, whales, and seals.

Dining

The main dining are is the “Leaning Palms” with shaded outdoor seating and is located near the main entrance.

For snacks or treats, try “Happy Landings Ice Cream”, “Snack Shack”, or several other small carts throughout the park.

Blizzard Beach

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999Only Disney could come up with a snow-themed water park. The park is full of slides for every age and daring level.

Main Attractions

If you dare, go on the Summit Plummet for a fast freefall drop from 120 feet or go for a thrilling race on the Toboggan Racers – which is an 8-lane slide with riders sliding face down.

For milder wet fun, try the Cross Country Creek (Lazy River) or Melt-Away Bay (a wave pool).

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Team Boat Springs - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999Even though you can see snow (mostly simulated) everywhere you look, the water is always at a steady 80 degrees – good enough for all seasons.

At Ski Patrol Training Camp, smaller children can enjoy milder fun on several slides and pools. AT the Leisure Pool kids can walk across "icebergs" and at Freezin' Pipe Springs they can slide on short body slides.

The Chairlift is a "one-way" ride to the top of the Summit. It is a fun way to get to slide at the top, but guests can also use the long stairs.

At the main entrance, you can find locker rentals, and you can buy or rent any supplies you forgot to pack.

Dining

For a full meal, Lottawatta (Ski) is the main counter service restaurant providing outdoor covered seating.

If you are looking for a snack or a treat try the ice cream shop “I. C. Expeditions” or “Avalunch” for light snacks and refreshments.

If you like to relax on the beach with a drink while watching the kids having fun, then try the “Polar Pub” bar. 

 

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Epcot, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Spaceship Earth - at main entranceEpcot is the most unique theme park in the Disney World collection with rides, exhibits, and shows you can’t find in any other Disney property.

The park is a permanent World’s Fair with a Disney flair. As you enter, you are presented with Spaceship Earth, a huge sphere you walk into and ride through human history.

On either side of Spaceship Earth, you will come across Future World (East and West sections). The exhibits demonstrate the latest technologies and allow visitors to interact with hands-on experiments.

In the West section, the Land Pavillion is a showcase of human interaction with mother earth. Visitors here can enjoy the flight simulator ride Soarin over the World and a ride through innovations in agriculture. 

In the Eastern Future World, design your race car on a touch screen then test it on the “Test Track” ride.

The World Showcase starts after future world and surrounds a large lake. Eleven countries from around the globe represent their culture and sites – with most offering rides and shows. Most notable are “O Canada!” - a “Circle-Vision 360° movie, “Frozen Ever After” ride, and “Impressions de France”.

The United States pavilion, located in the middle, showcases American history with an animatronics show titled The American Adventure.

Future World

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - Soarin around the worldAt future world, experience the progress of innovation throughout history, get a glimpse of our future, learn about the land and the sea, and have fun while you are at it.

Future World starts with Spaceship Earth as you enter the park and splits into East and West sections – each with many exhibits and rides.

In the Eastside, go inside Spaceship Earth, try a space launch at “Mission Space” or go on a race at “Test Track”.

In the Westside, learn about the land and the sea, visit Nemo and Friends or go Soarin’ Over the World.

Future Plans: Disney is planning to replace future World with three “neighborhoods” - World Nature, World Discovery and World Celebration.

Spaceship Earth  

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The LandThe iconic geodesic sphere dominating the park entrance is a time-machine ride through human innovation from the stone age to modern times.

The ride starts with the caveman’s first attempts at communication and takes through major events like the invention of the alphabet and the printing press and ends with today’s broadcasts and the Internet.

Riders can then use the touch-screens in their time machine to fill out a questionnaire to build a possible future, which uses the pictures taken at the beginning of the ride.

Mission Space  

A place for aspiring astronauts to train for their Disney World - Epcot - Mission Space - Wikimedia by UpstateNYermission to Mars. The centrifugal motion simulator ride simulates what an astronaut might experience aboard a spaceship.

Riders will train for the mission then go on a flight on the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle. You have to pick between a thrilling Orange Mission and a more subdued Green mission.

After your mission, visit the Advanced Training Lab, a high-tech play area featuring space-themed games and activities for all ages.

Test Trak 

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - Test TrackYou start your adventure by designing your race car. You learn about factors impacting performance and speed. Then you get to test your design on the tacks.

Your car undergoes four different tests: capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and power. At the end of the ride, you get to see how your design performed.

Fun idea: If the lines are not too long, go back and try a different design.

The Land

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The LandThis indoor pavilion is a launchpad to two attractions and a place to grab a snack.

From here you can go on the flight simulator ride “Soarin’ Over the World” – with amazing views, sounds and smells of famous world landmarks. You get to see the Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, Iguaza Falls, and many more.

Living with the Land is a slow-moving ride through greenhouses and innovative experiments in agriculture.

The ride starts in a rain forest simulated environment and then meanders through 5 distinct biospheres. As you visit each area you learn how to live with the land and protect the environment.

The Sea

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The Sea - Dory - Pexles by Magda EhlersAt “The Seas”, browse through an aquarium and ride a “Clamobile” under the sea.

The Sea Base is the main viewing area of the aquarium with several exhibits of manatees, dolphins, sharks, and jellyfish. It is not SeaWorld, but it is a good launching point to your journey under the sea.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends is an adventure to help Dori and her friends to find Nemo. After several misadventures, you are deposited into a large aquarium where Nemo is reunited once again with his friends.

World Showcase

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Lake

Unless you live abroad, you probably haven’t seen a World Fair in recent times. The last one held in the USA was in New Orleans in 1984, unless you count Epcot with its permanent World fair with eleven countries with permanent exhibits.

The counties are arranged around a large lake – each country showcases its culture, architecture and goods. Some counties have attractions, rides or shows. There is a lot to see, so plan your visit ahead of time and hit your favorite countries before you run out of time.

Canada

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - CanadaThe Canada pavilion celebrates Canada’s outdoors with a canyon, a waterfall, gardens, a pool with fountains, and totem poles. The buildings within this natural wonder are reminiscent of old English castles.

If you venture indoors, you will find “O Canada!”, a Circle-Vision 360° movie of Canada's cities, scenery, and people.

To try a taste of Canada, visit “Le Cellier Steakhouse” – a sit-down service restaurant. Enjoy steak or seafood with Canadian wines and beers.

United Kingdom

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - United KingdomThe UK pavilion was designed to represent an old English village with garden and a hedge maze. The main attraction here is the “British Revolution” band that performs British rock music covers from acts such as the Police, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Blur, and Led Zeppelin.

If you are hungry, this is good place to stop and try some traditional British dishes in a Pub like setting. You can also enjoy your meal in the outdoor garden.

France

Visit a French suburb of Paris with a bakery, restaurants, and shops selling French goods. Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - FranceIndoors enjoy a panoramic film about France entitled "Impressions de France." 

Outdoors you can always find street performers most notable is the comedy chair climbing and balancing show "Serveur Amusant."

For authentic French Cuisine, visit “Les Chefs De France” for a sit-down meal or grab a pastry at the Boulangerie Pâtisserie des Halles.

Morocco

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - MorrocoThe Morocco exhibit was designed to simulate a real Moroccan city with realistic houses, minaret, and restaurant. It is the only exhibit at Epcot that is managed by the host government. This allowed for a real non-commercialized representation of the country.

The Fez House shows guests the traditional Moroccan dwelling with exquisite mosaic tiles, carvings, and artifacts from daily life. A large open courtyard in the middle with benches allows visitors to sit, relax and enjoy the beautiful art.Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Morocco - Marrakesh Restaurant

To complete the Moroccan experience, make sure to visit Marrakesh, an authentic local cuisine restaurant.

The best way to enjoy this place is to order the “Taste of Morocco” -  a three-Course Meal with choices of Lamb, Beef or chicken with Couscous and Seven Vegetables.  End your feast with Assorted Baklavas.  

Depending on the time of day, you may be entertained with traditional Arabic music and/or belly dancers.

Japan

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - JapanAt the Japanese pavilion you can admire the unique Architecture, arts, and entertainment styles. Don’t miss the Matsuriza playing and dancing to the traditional drums at the Pagoda.

The drummers are the highlight of the visit to Japan, but you can also spend some time browsing through an art gallery and the shops.

For a delicious Japanese meal, stop at Tokyo Dining, which offers traditional sushi, tempura, and some grilled items.

You can’t go wrong with the specialty rolls, but if you are not sure what to order, try the Chef’s Bento box. It comes with Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura, New York Sirloin Steak with Wafu Sauce, Chicken Teriyaki, Garden Salad with Dressing, Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp Nigiri, and Vegetable Roll. 

The American Adventure

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - The American AdventureYou are now mid-way through the World Showcase, and it is time to take a break before continuing your world tour. 

At the American pavilion, you can attend a galactic rock concert with the Guardians of the Galaxy or step back in time and learn about American history.

The concert is held in an outdoor theater overlooking the lake. The music is loud, but the guardians make it fun to watch.

The large colonial building presents the American story on a large stage with animatronics of figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. 

Before the show, you can browse through photos of famous Americans posted around the square lobby with an oval dome. While you wait, a chorus entertains the audience with stories about America.

ItalyDisney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Italy

Visitors to the Italian Plaza can admire the Venetian, Florentine, and Roman architecture – or dine at an Italian restaurant. There are no major attractions here, but you can catch a show by Sergio, the comedic juggler or the flag throwing troop.

 

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - GermanyGermany

The German Plaza resembles an old Bavarian village with unique colorful buildings and many shops. At the center you admire a fountain with a statue of St. George slaying a dragon. The clock tower sings a different song every hour and a miniature German village with model trains delights all guests.

If you are hungry, join the Oktober Fest at Biergarten Restaurant. This dining hall offers a buffet-style feast with long communal tables. While eating, enjoy a band playing German Folk songs.

China

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - ChinaEnter China through the large gate and into a replica of the Temple of Heaven. The plaza showcases Chinese architecture and culture with a museum, a circle vision movie and lots of shops.

The circle vision movie "Reflections of China" explores China's history and scenery. Outdoors you can catch a team of young acrobats performing their feats.

If you love Chinese cuisine, try the Nine Dragons Restaurant, a full-service gourmet Chinese restaurant featuring traditional Chinese cuisine with a twist.

Norway

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Norway - by Jared from FlickrBuilt to resemble a Norwegian village, the plaza includes reproductions of famous buildings and churches in Oslo and the countryside. A lot of interconnected shops sell Norwegian clothing and trinkets.

The main attraction in this pavilion is the Frozen Ever After ride. The ride features scenes inspired by Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen.

For lunch or dinner, visit Akershus Royal Banquet Hall which offers buffet-style dining with Disney Princess Characters.

For a light meal or a snack go to Kringla “Bakeri og Kafe” for Norwegian pastries.

Mexico

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - MexicoThe tall Mesoamerican pyramid dominates the Mexican pavilion and leads into an indoor plaza resembling a Mexican village at twilight.

Inside you will find a large lagoon, with shops and restaurants and the entry point to the Gran Fiesta Tour. The boat ride starts on the lagoon inside the pyramid and continues into a dark tunnel. The ride is based on The Three Caballeros, an old Disney cartoon.

You have many dining choices at the Mexican pavilion. You can enjoy a sit-down meal on the indoor lake at “San Angel Inn Restaurante” or “La Hacienda de San Ángel” – or you can have a light meal at “Cantina de San Ángel“.

Finally, you can’t visit a Mexican village with listening to some authentic Mexican music. The “Mariachi Cobr” band entertains visitors throughout the day.

Other Attractions

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

IllumiNations is a spectacular laser-pyrotechnics nighttime show to complete a thrilling day at Epcot. The show utilizes fireworks, pyrotechnics, water fountains, fire effects, lasers, and searchlights to create a compelling story about our planet.

The show is ending on September 30, 2019 and will be replaced by a new show: Epcot Forever.

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Hollywood Studios, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Wikimedia by Jedi94This park opened in 1989 as both a production studio and a theme park but later became a theme park dedicated to the fantasy worlds and characters from film, television, music, and theatre, while celebrating the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Visitors enjoy many shows and attractions with movie themes in 6 distinct areas:

Echo Lake

At Echo Lake, you can ride “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue”, or “Indiana Jones”, or watch the “First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, and “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi” shows.

Grand Avenue

Disneyland - Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Millennium FalconAt Grand Avenue, you can pretend you are back in Los Angles walking on the famous street, enjoying the restaurants and pubs or relax in the park with the same name. This area also has the Muppets Vision 4D show. The Figueroa Street Tunnel leads you into the new Star Wars land.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge officially opened in August 2019. It is identical to Star Wars at Disneyland, California. Like Disneyland’s version, the main attraction is the “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” ride. Disney World - Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Land - Flickr by elisfkc.jpgGuests will join smugglers on the infamous Millennium Falcon and become part of the action as Pilots, Gunners or Engineers. Read the full review in the Disneyland article.

Toy Story Land

At Toy Story Land, visitors feel like toys as they walk through giant props and enjoy kid-friendly attractions. While here you can ride on Slinky Dog Dash or shoot your way through Toy Story Mania. 

Animation Courtyard

In the Animation Courtyard, learn about Walt Disney’s life at Walt Disney Presents or get Disney World - Hollywood Studios - Sunset Boulevard - Wikipedia by Jedi94close to Star Wars characters and exhibits at the Star Wars Launch Bay. Visitors can also enjoy live shows, Disney Junior Dance Party, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

Sunset Boulevard

Walking through Sunset Boulevard, you can enjoy the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or get scared out of your mind at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The area also has three live shows including “Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage” and “Fantasmic!, a nighttime show with fireworks and laser.

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Kennedy Space Center

KSC - Rocket Garden - main plazaAnyone interested in the space program should try to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida located near Cocoa Beach.

This is where the American manned space history happened and is still happening. Visitors get to relive the great moments of the Mercury, Gemini, Appollo and the Shuttle space programs.

The vast 144,000 acres property houses 700 facilities including launch pads, vehicle assembly, Payload processing, Headquarters, Operations and Checkout, and the Central Instrumentation Facility. 

Visitors to KSC start their visit at the visitors complex and can only see a small portion of those facilities.

Kennedy Space Center Mission Control replicaAs you enter the visitors complex, the first sight you encounter is the Rocket Garden – showcasing rockets that were actually used to launch space vehicles of every kind.

The towering giants include rockets like Saturn, Juno, Mercury, and Atlas. This exhibit is the most photographed area of KSC.

After admiring the rockets you have to decide on your itinerary. The KSC website offers a choice of itineraries based on your interests and the number of days you are visiting. Go here to get your plan.

My favorite plan is the “Space Enthusiast (one or two days)”. Here are the highlights of my most recent trip to KSC:

Getting there

My daughter and I stayed in Orlando to do the usual Theme Parks, but our main goal was the Space Center.

The drive from Orlando to Cocoa Beach took one hour and was very pleasant. The highways were not crowded and the scenery was beautiful along the way. We hit a thunderstorm somewhere in the middle, which is very usual for Florida in the summer.

Entrance Plaza

We already had our passes so we just breezed through the gates and straight to the Rocket Garden. If you don’t have your tickets, you can stop at the windows, buy tickets and add-ons.

Some of the add-ons to consider are “Astronaut Training”, “Mars Base 1”, or an “Explorer Tour”. If you pick “Astronaut Training” or “Mars Base 1” be ready to pay $150-$175 and visit for more than one day.

The Tour

KSC - Tour - STS-36 Rollout - Wikipedia by NASAAdmission to the center comes with a standard 2-hour bus tour of the facilities. For most people, this is enough of an introduction to the space program and the historic figures and events, but if you want more, you can buy several extended tours. Go here for more options.

The buses leave from a building next to the Mars experiences and close to the Imax theater. The whole tour takes about 2 hours but you will be on the bus for around 40 minutes. The rest of the time is spent exploring the Apollo / Saturn Center.

The bus will take you close to major sites and buildings. The most impressive are the Launch Complex 39, the Vehicle Assembly Building, the large crawlers that carry a rocket to the launch site, and the new home of Space-X.

At the Apollo/Saturn Center, you get to experience the original launch control room and walk under an actual Saturn V rocket. The 363-foot rocket is the largest ever flown (so far).

Don’t miss the doors leading outdoors away from the main entrance. There is a picnic area with a great view of Launch Pad 39B.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

KSC - Atlantis - by Kitch - WikimediaAs you walk around, you can’t miss the full-scale shuttle with two solid rocket boosters at the entrance. Go inside to see the Shuttle as only astronauts have seen. It is shown titled on its side with the payload doors open and the arm extended. This provides a great view of the interior.

The exhibit showcases the 30-year shuttle space program and tells the story of this incredible achievement.

As part of the admission, you get to fly in the shuttle at the shuttle launch experience. This flight similar is the next best thing to actually flying on the shuttle.

As part of this experience, you get to watch a film about the space shuttle program, the building process and its missions. After the film, you will end up in a smaller theater with 360 vision to experience a shuttle launch.

After all this excitement, you can still spend more time viewing the exhibits under the shuttle.

IMAX Theater

KSC - IMAX - Stars - by NASAThe IMAX theater plays space exploration films in the amazing IMAX format – some are in 3D. You can usually pick from 3 different movies to watch.

During our visit, we had a choice between Apollo 11 First Steps, Journey to Space, and Touch the Stars: The Journey Has Begun 3D. It was a tough choice, but I love 3D space films, so that is what we picked. Always check the schedules to plan your viewing time.

Touch the Stars: The Journey Has Begun 3D takes you along with NASA’s robotic exploration craft on a journey across our solar system.  Pass by the planets and their moon and witness strange phenomena like Ice Volcanos on Triton, Jupiter’s colorful storms, and the Diamon Rain on Saturn.

Space Mirror Memorial

A huge slab of polished black granite memorializes the names of 24 astronauts who gave their lives to space exploration.

Those heroes include the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. This memorial reminds us that space exploration can require the ultimate sacrifice.

Journey to Mars

I was always fascinated by the red planet and my fascination grew with the exploits of the Mars Rovers. So being able to explore the Mars exhibits and trying some of the hands-on experiences was a dream come true.

This building includes multimedia exhibits, interactive games, and a mockup of the Mars Rover.

Heroes and Legends

KSC - Legends and Heroes - Flickr - by NASA KennedyThe astronaut hall of fame is the first building you see as you enter the Kennedy Space Center -right next to the rocket garden.

The hall tells the story of space exploration and celebrates the heroes who made it happen.

The main attraction here is the giant 225-degree, cinematic, 3-D screen projecting an immersive movie with four space legends retelling their historic moments.

As you experience the story, you will forget the screen and relive those moments with the astronauts.

After the show, you can wander around the multimedia exhibits with unique artifacts, each with its own story, that helps understand the astronaut and what made him a legend.

Astronaut Training

If going on a tour, watching immersive movies or browsing the exhibits is not enough for you, you can sign up for a Space Experience. Those experiences sell out quickly, so make your reservations early.

The newest experience is Astronaut Training. You will join a crew on a mission and train for it.

The mission simulates launching to Mars, landing and walking on the red planet. You will also train to perform a spacewalk using an immersive microgravity simulation technology.

As you train, you can create personalized video logs of your experience to revisit after you complete your mission – and share it with family and friends.

The training takes 4 to 5 hours and anyone ages 10 and older can participate.

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Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Studios Orlando - Main Entrance GlobeUniversal opened the first theme park in Orlando June of 1990. They quickly expanded the resort to include two theme parks, a water park, a shopping district, and several hotels.

The resort immerses visitors into movie and TV themes with rides, exhibits, and shows.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the latest addition, and it spans the two theme parks. To enjoy everything Harry Potter, you can have to buy passes that cover both parks. 

Universal Studios

Universal Orlando - Hollywood - Wikimedia by EliedionUniversal Studios Orlando is the first universal park to open in Florida and has many of the traditional rides similar to the park in Hollywood. The main difference is that this park is much larger, with more rides and attractions.

The park has eight distinct areas surrounding a large lagoon but does not have a studio tour. Instead, some of the attractions from the Hollywood tour are stand-alone rides in this park.

There are so many rides and shows to pick from, It is hard to decide where to go and what to do. To help, the Universal website offers several ways to filter the attractions. You can find your favorites by height requirements, areas, or interests. Go here to find your thrills.

Some of my favorite rides and shows are Shrek 4D at Production Central, Revenge of the Mummy at New York City, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Diagon Alley, and Men in Black: Alien Attack at World Expo.

Families with younger children can find many attractions at Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

The see the full list of attractions go to the main story about Universal Studios Florida here.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Go on a journey of exploration and adventure through uniquely themed islands. Visit places Universal Islands of adventure Incredible Hulklike “Marvel Super Hero Islands”, Jurassic Park”, or “Skull Island’ for rides and shows - and spend time at the other half of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

The two halves of the Wizarding World are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

Other islands at the park are Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. Some of the most thrilling rides and shows on those islands are “The Incredible Hulk Coaster”, “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Jurassic Park River Adventure”, and “Poseidon's Fury”.

Read more about Islands of Adventure here.

City Walk

Universal Orlando - CitywalkLike its sister in Hollywood, the City Walk is a long entrance plaza for the Universal Resort parks with lots of entertainment, dining and shopping choices.

It is hard to resist browsing through the shops on your way in or out of the parks. It is also a good place to have your main meal outside of the parks.

If you live close by or taking an extended vacation here, you can spend a day at the Citywalk without paying for park entrance.

For entertainment, you can enjoy a meal while listening to dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s, and you can spend some time at the Groove for a drink and dance, or watch the latest movies at Cinemark theaters.

For a delicious meal, go to Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar, Hard Rock Café, or Margaritaville. You also have a choice of fast-food and snack shops.

Finally, for epic shows don’t miss the Blueman Group or Bob Marley–A Tribute to Freedom.

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Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal Islands of adventure - EntranceGo on a journey of exploration and adventure through uniquely themed islands.  Visit places like “Marvel Super Hero Islands”, Jurassic Park”, or “Skull Island’ for rides and shows - and spend time at the other half of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

The two halves of the Wizarding World are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

Other islands are Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. Some of the most thrilling rides and shows on those islands are “The Incredible Hulk Coaster”, “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man”, “Jurassic Park River Adventure”, and “Poseidon's Fury”.

You don’t have to visit the islands in any specific order – except for their vicinity from each other – but if you have a 2-park ticket, you should make the Wizarding World your last island so you can hop on the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios.

Marvel Super Hero Island

Enter the world of comic books and superheroes and enjoy four thrill rides. This island was Marvel Super Hero Island - from universal pressdesigned to resemble comic book buildings with sharp angles, loud colors and Marvel characters roaming the streets.

This island is designed for thrillseekers. All the rides here are extreme so be prepared to be thrown about, spun and dropped.  

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

The spiderman ride is a 3D motion simulation dark ride. The ride takes you to New York City on an adventure to save the Statue of Liberty.

The Incredible Hulk

Universal Islands of adventure - Incredible HulkThis rollercoaster is not for the faint of heart. Join the hulk in the Gama Ray accelerator to be launched at an incredible speed.

Be ready to reach 40 mph in two seconds and then speed up to a top speed of 67 mph. From then on experience freefall drops, sharp turns, and seven inversions. 

Although the lines are some times too long, riders are kept busy while going through Dr. Bruce Banner’s lab and by the screens retelling the story of the Hulk. 

Doctor Doom's Fearfall

A typical freefall drop ride with a movie theme. Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four movie uses the audience’s fear to defeat the Fantastic Four. Not a very original plot, but for thrillseekers, the drop is enough.

Storm Force Accelatron

Another teacup ride in which riders can control the spin of the cup. The more you spin the more you help the X-Men defeat Magneto.

Toon Lagoon

You can find plenty of wet fun for all ages on this island. Riders can go on a log-ride, river rafting or shoot each other with water canons.

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

The log-ride takes passengers through several “caves” and a few short drops before reaching the final 75-foot drop that ends with a big splash.

Riders are guaranteed to get wet, but if they escape this fate, some evil spectators may get them with nine hoses. Believe it or not, people pay to use those hoses on the riders.

Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

Ride a big raft through white-waters with a lot of twists, turns, and dips. This is not as exciting as the “Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls” ride, but still fun for the whole family - and you will get wet.

Me Ship, the Olive

This is a wet play area for young children built around Popey’s ship. Three levels of the boat offer lots of fun and opportunities to soak each other. From that vantage point, visitors can aim nine water hoses at riders on the Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls ride.

Skull Island

Skull Island is home to the newest attraction, “Skull Island: Reign of Kong”.Universal Islands of adventure - Skull Idland - Wikipedia by Paulo Guereta

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Based on the 2005 movie “King Kong”, the ride takes visitors on a dangerous adventure to skull island.

Be prepared to encounter all kinds of prehistoric animals and be chased by vicious dinosaurs and then get saved by King Kong. The moving safari vehicles and 3D effects will make you feel part of the action. 

Jurassic Park

Step into Jurassic park (from the movie series), and go exploring the era of the dinosaurs. This island has three main attractions and lots of exhibits, shops, and dining options.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Universal Islands of adventure - Jurassic Park - Wikipedia by Little Mountain5This ride is one of the most thrilling attractions I was ever on. It starts with a deceptively tranquil Jurassic habitat with life-size animatronic dinosaurs.

The raft you are riding gets attacked by parasaurolophus which diverts the raft from its intended course into the Raptor containment area. You will know that your tranquility is over when you pass by destroyed vehicles, damaged electric fences, and a Dilophosaurus eating the remains of a poncho. Then, the raft goes into a series of mishaps Universal Jurrasic Park Discovery Centerand dinosaur attacks culminating in an 85-ft plunge into the water.

If you didn’t already get wet while dinosaurs and waterfalls try to get you on the way, you are guaranteed to get wet at the end of the ride.  

Jurrasic Visitors Center

After your Jurrasic rides, visit the archaeological center to discover dino fossils, gaze at huge reconstructed T-Rex skeletons or play the Jurrasic trivia game.

Pteranodon Flyers

A slow roller coaster with suspended two-seater cars. The cars are pulled up a hill and then go on a leisurely spin around Jurrasic Park.

Camp Jurassic

This children’s play area is centered around a massive Banyan tree. Kids can have fun on the slides, nets, water cannons and fountains.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

Universal Islands of adventure -Wizarding World Entrance - Wikipedia by AlfredA_SiThe Wizarding World is split into two areas between two parks. The two halves are connected via the Hogwarts Express, which in itself is an attraction.

While visiting this newest expansion to the Universal parks, you must go on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride through Hogwarts Castle and try the newest ride, the “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure”.

At night a spectacular special effects show is projected on the castle walls celebrating the house spirit with music and laser lights. The first show of the night gets very crowded. You can avoid the crowds by going to the last 2 shows instead.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Universal Islands of adventure - Potter Fly - WikipediaSoar over Hogwarts Castle on your magic broom with Harry and friends and try to evade dragons, giant spiders, and spirits. Join a game of Quidditch and fight Dementors before you are guided back to safety by the young wizards. 

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Take a fast ride on Hagrid’s motorbike through the forbidden forest and come face-to-face with the magical creatures.

The roller coaster ride travels up to 50 mph and passes by Fluffy the three-headed dog, Cornish pixies, Devil's Snare, a Centaur from the Harry Potter movies.

The motorbikes have speakers that provide sound effects and the storyline.

Other attractions

This half of the Wizarding World also has “Flight of the Hippogriff”, a roller coaster for a younger audience – Ollivanders, where you can buy your perfect Wand – and the Hogwarts Express, a train ride between the two sides of the Wizarding World.

Hogwarts Express

Universal Islands of adventure - Hogsmeade ExpressThe Wizarding World was smartly split up between the two parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. To see both sides, you will need to buy a ticket for two parks and you will probably take the train between the two parks.

The train ride itself is an experience. The windows simulate going from the magical castle to London, and the cabin doors show reflects of the Harry Potter gang running around and preparing for some mischief.

The videos played on the windows change depending on the destination. You will see different scenery and storyline when coming from King’s Cross station.

The Lost Continent

Universal Islands of adventure - Lost continentThe lost continent take the visitors to ancient mythical times with a visit to old Arabia and the lost city of Atlantis. The main attractions here are Poseidon's Fury, an undersea adventure, and The Mystic Fountain that entertains and interacts with guests.

Poseidon's Fury

Take a trip under the sea with an archeologist, discover the hidden treasures and witness a battle between the gods.

The undersea chamber comes alive with fireballs, laser flashes, and water spouts coming at you from all directions. The chamber quakes and falls apart while you are trying to escape with the help of Poseidon.

Dining

The lost content is home to Mythos, a full-service restaurant with an ancient theme. In keeping with the lost content theme, the place feels like a cave in a lost city with a cascading waterfall.

Mythos offers a mix of American, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisine. You can find items like Greek salad, pad Thai, wraps, burgers, or Pan Roasted Wild Salmon.

Sitting indoors you can admire the lost continent theme, but the outdoor seating has a grand view of the inland sea (the large lake in the middle).

Seuss LandingUniversal Seuss Landing - wikipedia by David Bjorgen

This island is themed after the famous Dr. Seuss children books. It has 3 rides, a stage show, and an interactive play zone – all geared towards younger kids.

“If I Ran the Zoo” is the play area where kids can spend their energy riding a wacky cow, sliding down tunnels, or getting each other wet. 

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Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Orlando - Main Entrance GlobeUniversal Studios Orlando is the first universal park to open in Florida and has many of the traditional rides similar to the park in Hollywood. The main difference is that this park is much larger, with more rides and attractions.

The park has eight distinct areas surrounding a large lake but does not have a studio tour. Instead, some of the attractions from the Hollywood tour are stand-alone rides in the park.

There are so many rides and shows to pick from; It is hard to decide where to go and what to do. To help with your choices, the Universal website offers several ways to filter the attractions. You can find your favorites by heigh requirements, areas, or interests. Go here to find your thrills.

The parks areas, going clockwise around the lake, are:

Production Central

As one of the main entry points into the park, you will find lots of dining options and shops along with two main rides, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (4D) and Shrek 4D - both are motion simulator rides – and a music-themed roller coaster.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Universal Studios Orlando - Minions - Flickr by Jeremy ThompsonDespicable me ride is based on the popular animation movies and takes the rider into a 3D simulation. The riders are transformed into minions and then undergo extensive training. The training involves being tossed around, sprayed with water cannons, hit with giant fly swats. If you survive the training and avoid becoming a minion, you get to join a dance party before you exit the ride.  

Shrek 4D

The fourth dimension is motion. So grab your 3D goggles and help Shrek and Donkey to Universal Studios Orlando - Shrek4D - Wikimedia by Freddosave princess Fiona from the spirit of Lord Farquaad.

You are immersed in the action through the motion seats that tilt, vibrate, and drop down – and with unexpected effects like water sprays and foot ticklers that make you feel spiders crawling on you.  

For people who are sensitive to motion, fixed seats are available.

New York City

Walking through this area, you must try the “Revenge of the Mummy” and “Transformers: The Ride 3D”. Both are immersive rides that take you into the movies. Another fun ride is “Race Through New York”. You can also find Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's here.

Revenge of the Mummy

nullAs with all the rides at the lower lot, this is not your average rollercoaster. The ride will start with an accelerated and sudden takeoff taking you through tombs and treasures while you are getting attacked by scarab beetles and worrier mummies - all while you are twisting and turning, rising and falling through a maze of caves.

Cinematic special effects and bursts of air at the right time and place make this experience even more thrilling and creepy.

Just when you think you survived the experience, everything starts over – in reverse.

Transformers: The Ride-3D

null This is the newest attraction at Universal. The ride is a fusion of HD 3D imaging, motion simulation and vehicles moving on a track to achieve a high level of realism.

When you first get into the ride, it is obvious to you that you are entering a simulator. But you will soon forget that fact and become immersed in the non-stop action. YourAutobott (EVAC) will take you from one intense battle to another while actually moving between streets and buildings. You will actually feel like you are flying next to Optimus Prime or the Devastator or crashing through buildings. You will basically join the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons and help in achieving the final victory over Megatron.

This ride was so exhilarating and realistic, I am left wondering how great it would be to watch a full-length movie using this technology.

San Francisco

In this area, take a ride through the “Fast & Furious: Supercharged”, which is based on Universal Studios - Fast and Furious - Flickr by Prayitnopopular movie series. It is similar to the Hollywood ride – which is part of the Studio Tour - except with no 3D effects.

Fast & Furious: Supercharged

After a long pre-show explaining the storyline, guests board the bus and start on highspeed chase with cars crashing. The ride is underwhelming. If you have witnessed the Hollywood version with 3D, then skip this ride.       

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley/London

Universal Studios - Diagon Alley - Wikipedia by osseousBrowse through the streets of London, and if you are lucky, you can find the secret entrance to Diagon Alley where you will discover the world of Harry Potter.

The ally has many shops catering to aspiring wizards and a restaurant. It is also home to “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” ride. A dark rollercoaster ride into the deep vaults of the Gringotts.

Universal Studios - Escape from Gringotts Bank receptionIf you want to experience more magic, you will need to ride the Hogwarts Express into Islands of Adventure, which is a separate Universal theme park. Once at the other half of the wizarding world, you can gaze at the commanding Hogwarts castle and enjoy more rides, shops, and restaurants.

Diagon Alley

Diagon alley is an experience on its own. Just like the young Harry Potter was amazed the first time he stumbled into it, I was thrilled and amazed with all the magic and merchandise around me. The fire breathing dragon was a nice surprise too.

And just like the young wizard, you can be fitted with your own wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop or get your official wizard’s robe.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Join Harry Potter and friends in trying to infiltrate Gringotts Bank to retrieve a Horcrux during Universal Studios - Escape from Gringotts - Wikipedia by Eliediontheir mission to defeat Lord Voldemort.

This roller coaster dark ride takes you and the wizards deep into the bank vaults. The ride is enhanced with 3D movie scenes and special effects.

At some point, the tracks are cut, and the cart careens down a steep drop. As if that is enough, the cart is dropped into a lava-filled chamber deep in the vaults. In the end, the wizards are victorious as they leave the vaults with the Horcrux.  

World Expo/Springfield

World Expo is a weird mix of attractions and dining experience with no central theme. Here you can find the “Men in Black: Alien Attack” and “The Simpsons Ride” side by side, along with the “Fear Factor” live show.

Men in Black: Alien Attack

Universal Studios - MIB - Flickr by Jeremy ThompsonA drank interactive ride based on the Men in Black movies. Riders get to shoot aliens with laser guns, but even before you board your car, you are immersed in the movie plot.

During the pre-show you will be recruited to join the MIB team then you will plunge into the depths of the earth to the underground HQ passing by all kinds of aliens.

Once you pass your initial training with the lasers you are sent right into the action in New York. Your goal is to kill the most aliens and rack up the points. At the end of the ride you get to know your team’s score – but no prize for the winner.

The Simpsons Ride

nullThe fun starts while you are waiting in line and in the staging area. You are supposed to be visiting Krustyland for a fun-filled day with the Simpson family. While you are waiting for your ride to start, the villain Sideshow Bob appears and takes over the park and causes all kinds of destruction and mayhem – and you are caught in the middle.

The big HD dome screens and the motion simulators make your ride on the extreme rollercoaster seem very realistic. And, of course, you can’t watch a Simpsons movie without coming across giant baby Maggie - “Walking” through Springfield. Just when you think you and the Simpsons are safe at their home all hell breaks loose again.

Fear Factor Live

Universal Studios - Fear Factor Live - Wikipedia by ZappaOMaticA live stunt show in which you can be the contestant. Do you dare be a victim (I mean volunteer)? You will either hang from rope, retrieve beanbags from an aquarium full of "carnivorous eels", or grab flags from a window sill through air cannons and sprinklers. If you survive till the end, you get to launch a rocket at a target.

Fast Food Boulevard

This casual dining area present foods you can’t find anywhere else in the park with a theme straight out of the Simpsons. You can find places like Krusty Burger, The Frying Dutchman, Flaming Moe's, Cletus' Chicken Shack, Luigi's Pizza, and Lisa's Teahouse of Horror.Universal Studios - Curious George - Wikimedia by Eliedion

Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone

The kid zone is a great place to spend some time with younger children. “Curious George Goes to Town” is a play area where kids can have fun with water and balls. The “Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster” is an easy rollercoaster for smaller visitors. Saving the best for last, ride on your bike and fly above town to help ET go home – at the “E.T. Adventure” ride.

E.T. Adventure

Universal Studios - E.T. - Flickr by Sam HowzitRide on a bike and fly over town to take ET to his spaceship. But this time you will fly through a portal to ET’s planet where you discover the planet is dying. ET saves the day with his healing touch and everyone celebrates.

Before this exciting ride you pass through a sound-stage where the producers discuss how the film was made, you will then pass through a forest and hear police and NASA discussing the need to capture ET.

Hollywood

Stroll through the streets of vintage Hollywood and admire the classic buildings. Venture into the gift shops or learn how make is designed and applied for horror movies.

Universal's Horror Make-Up Show

Universal Studios - Horror Make Up Show - Wikipedia by JoopjrHow do they make those horror movies look so real? It takes a great makeup artist. This show starts with the co-host showing up with a knife through his heart. After his dying agony, it is revealed that the knife is fake.

The show then continues with various gruesome displays of fake props and makeup tricks. Someone from the audience is always picked to peform some task.

The highlight of the show is the use of a motion capture vest to control an animatronic dummy.

Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration at the Lagoon

Universal Studios - Cinematic Celebration - from Universal press relationsWhat a great way to end the day at Universal Studios. This huge production of mist, fountains,  pyrotechnics, and music is a celebration of everything Universal.

The 20-minutes of excitement starts with clips from Jurassic World, Fast & Furious, E.T. and runs through popular animations like Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.

Harry Potter and friends have to make an appearance to try and defeat Voldemort again – then the minions bring this celebration to an end.

Dining

Finding a good meal at Universal parks is actually easy. There are a lot of restaurants from fast-food stands to lovely sit-down places. We had a delicious meal at an Irish Pub called “Finnegan's Bar & Grill”. We also had large pretzels for a snack.

Universal Studios - Finnegans Bar and Grill - Guinness Beef StewFinnegan's Bar & Grill

If you haven’t been to an Irish pub, this is your chance to try a god one. This restaurant serves traditional Irish cuisine along with some American favorite with a live band. Very upbeat atmosphere and great food.

We ordered the Potato & Onion Webb for starters, Guinness Beef Stew, and the Shepherd's Pie. All were delicious.

The prices were high, but that is always expected inside a theme park.   

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