Universal Orlando: The “Other” Theme Park

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First and foremost, attitude is everything. You have to know that things are slightly different, but once you get past the masks, just let go and have fun.

There is so much that we talk about when it comes to the Disney life, that I felt Universal Studios needed a little love. We are Mouseketeers and annual passholders for life, but, we are also loyal lovers and passholders of Universal Orlando. During our recent trip for Marcelo’s second birthday, we split our time between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, we were there celebrating his first birthday, March 13th 2020. That was the very weekend everything sadly shut down in Orlando, Monday the 16th, the final day of our trip. Being back a year later, things look and feel a bit different but the fun remains the same.  

WHAT’S HAPPENING AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Here’s a quick recap:

Universal Orlando just celebrated their 30-year anniversary in 2020. To commemorate, there is lots of cool retro merchandise to pick up (think neon and Jaws).

They are also bringing back their Annual Halloween Horror Nights, which are slated for the fall, so stay tuned for those details. 

Finally, the brand-new Universal Studios Store at CityWalk opened its doors on April 1st. Their flagship store has a new façade, beautiful storefront, and window displays, and definitely has a noticeable upgrade. 

Sandra and her son at Islands of Adventure (Universal Orlando: The "Other" Theme Park Sandra Jacquemin Contributor Miami Mom Collective)

CHANGES DURING COVID

There are some minor changes and precautions if visiting this year, but still lots to do for both kids and adults. Team Members are doing their part to create a safe, fun experience for all visitors. 

EVENTS. We happened to be visiting during Mardi Gras and while things were scaled back, festivities were just as fun. There was an abundance of beads, music, and lots of entertainment. Parades are suspended but traditional floats were stationed throughout the park. Dancers on stilts provided tossed out beads and street bands kept the mood going. The good news is for all major events, dates have been extended (due to capacity measures), so you can schedule your fun. 

CAPACITY HOTLINE. During COVID, and for the foreseeable future, parks in the Orlando area all operating at a lower capacity. Unlike Disney, you don’t need reservations for visiting the parks. If you’ve downloaded the Official Universal Orlando Resort App, that’s an easy way to check park hours and capacity. We found it easier and quicker to just call the capacity hotline at 407-817-8317. This avoids arriving and being told the park is full.

Sandra at a U Rest Area at Universal Studios Orlando (Universal Orlando: The "Other" Theme Park Sandra Jacquemin Contributor Miami Mom Collective)
U-Rest Area

COVID PROCEDURES

There are just a few things to note, but by now, nothing we’re not used to.

  • Masks are required at all times while in the park and on rides. However, they have introduced U-Rest Areas to sit, take a breath and relax without your mask.
  • Team Members take your temperature upon arrival, anyone over 100.4 F will not be admitted to the park. 
  • There are floor markings, hand washing stations, and hand sanitizer throughout the park. Also before boarding any attraction, a Team Member will give you a squirt of sanitizer. 
  • Enhanced cleaning procedures for major touchpoints. We witnessed Team Members wiping down every bike on the E.T. ride, prior to boarding. (Bring your own wipes if you feel more comfortable). The same applies to any 3-D experiences. 
  • If traveling with a family pet, keep in mind their kennel is closed currently. 
  • Wheelchair and stroller rentals are available and are cleaned and disinfected per protocol between each guest’s use. 
  • Lines are not that bad and with the help of the app, you can get live updates. However, Express Passes are available for purchase if you want to maximize those roller coasters. 
  • Character meet and greets are still happening. With social distancing in place, you can still get your memorable photos. 
Sandra and her family on the Suess Trolley Train Ride (Universal Orlando: The "Other" Theme Park Sandra Jacquemin Contributor Miami Mom Collective)
Marcelo’s first “roller coaster” – otherwise known as The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!™

Sandra's husband and son at the Hard Rock cafe (Sandra Jacquemin Contributor Miami Mom Collective)

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS AT UNIVERSAL

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are not just for thrills and adults. There is lots to with young ones, you just have to plan ahead a little bit. Pro-tip: a bubble maker goes a long way in entertaining young ones when navigating through long lines. 

  1. Download the Universal Orlando App. You can order food, use it as a wallet for payments, check wait times and so much more. The map is a great feature that lists all of the attractions and their locations. The parks are also offering Virtual Line™ experiences for select attractions.  
  2. Check height requirements. Our son Marcelo is pretty tall for a 2-year-old, with a 6’5″ Dad and 5’10” mom, what else do you expect? Naturally, we made sure to take advantage of that. Using the app, we checked all of the height requirements
  3. Locate the “kid-friendly” attractions. Again, using their app and applying search filters, you can easily find kid-friendly rides depending on your little’s age. This made it easy for us to plot out where we were going within a small window. 
  4. New Rides. The much anticipated Jurassic World Velicoaster opened on June 10th, so summer is looking adventurous. We definitely felt Islands of Adventure has more to offer if you’re bringing younger kids. 
  5. CityWalk. Select venues are now open with limited operations. Dine, shop, and have fun at over 20 restaurants, plenty of stores, and even a Drive-In Golf for all ages. For the moment, Blue Man Group and most nightclubs will remain temporarily closed at this time. There are plenty of mobile ordering options and reservations are always available. 

Sandra and her son (Sandra Jacquemin Contributor Miami Mom Collective)

TIPS FOR YOUR OWN PEACE OF MIND

Everyone has their own threshold of feeling “safe” during COVID. Personally here are a few things we do every time we go, which is A LOT!

  • Bring our own disinfecting wipes. I have put them either in a Ziploc, which you know I love. Alternatively, I brought a few packs of Babyganics Toy & Table wipes for a quick wipe of any safety bars on attractions. 
  • Paper masks are the way to go. While it’s true the fabric ones are sometimes much cuter, the paper ones are easier to breathe in the heat all day outdoors. We bring a box and leave it by the door, grabbing a couple of fresh ones on the way out. At the end of the day, we toss them out. 
  • Be vigilant. There are procedures in place for distancing, but staying on top of attraction wait times allows you to avoid the crowds. Early morning or end of the day are always the best times to visit the park. Expect larger crowds on weekends, so if you can, try to go during the week. You’ll maximize your time and get more done. 

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO: COVID, NEW OPENINGS AND MORE. | Leave your questions about visiting Universal Orlando resort in the comments or send us a note on Instagram.

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Sandra is originally born and raised in Miami, fluent in 4 languages and attributes her upbringing as more Brazilian-French. After graduating high school from Gulliver Prep, she pursued a degree in Elementary Education followed by earning a Bachelors in Marketing and International Business. While finishing up university, she opened her boutique marketing agency working with a roster of recognized global brands. Sandra and her husband, a former U.S. Marine, are first-time parents to their son Marcelo Joseph whose middle name pays homage to Sandra's late father who passed just 3 months before they met. They’re also pet rescue parents to their adopted chihuahua with her own Instagram. Her affinity for Disney started when her Mom took her at only 7 days old. Coming around full circle, she has not only worked with the company behind-the-scenes, but they are loyal Disney Passholders. Today, they reside in Pinecrest and are enjoying discovering life as new parents. Look for her posts sharing her love of decluttering, transitioning to non-toxic products, the journey to becoming vegan, starting a small business and so much more! Follow her on Instagram

2 COMMENTS

    • Haha, yes!! Headed back in a couple of weeks I’ll report back on the Velicoaster, (maybe). Now the mask mandate has changed so we will see what changes have been made again. 🙏🏻😂

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