BEST Insider tips to Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure

So much to do! So much to see! So much to show! So many adventures! So many pictures! We spent an amazing long weekend in Florida over Labor Day and had a blast with the #FamilyForward team.


An amazing view ofthe Incredible Hulk Coaster, Doctor Doom's Fear Fall and The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man in Universal's Islands of Adventure in Marvel Super Hero Island.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center

If you have young paleontologists in our home, like I do, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center is a must-see. Jurassic Park Discovery Center is an indoor educational exhibit and discovery area. It is located in Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure. There are life-sized dinos to explore and the most amazing is the visit to the nursery to watch a Velociraptor hatch in a lab . . . which if you are lucky enough to be selected . . . you get to name!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -Diagon Alley

You must simply take a ride on the Hogwarts Express at the Hogsmeade Station . . . and take the Hogwarts Express ride back at the King's Cross Station and don't forget to look for the 9¾ platform. Yes, Hogwarts Express can carry you from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley . . .  or from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure.

One simply MUST catch the fire-breathing dragon by day and by night!

You also must walk around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Just wander about . . . gaze upon the stores, go into the stores, watch Celestina Warbeck perform, see the Hogwarts students and the croaking frogs, catch the Triwizard Spirit Rally, have lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and then have dinner at Three Broomsticks (or vice versa) . . . be sure to have plenty of Butter Beers and never share!!, stock up on all the wizarding supplies from Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods and Ollivanders . . . and Fizzing Whizzbees and Chocolate Frogs from HoneyDukes is something that can not be passed by. Oh, do not pass by one single attraction! They are all A-MAZ-ING! Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (our family favorite), Flight of the Hipposgriff, Dragon Challenge - BOTH sides, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and end your night at The Knight Bus! Chat with the Knight Bus Conductor and the shrunken head and be left rolling in laughter as you exit Universal.

Character Sightings at Universal Studios

An Universal Adventure would not be complete without visiting some characters sprinkled throughout the park. Whether you adore super heroes, Dr. Seuss, comic books,  Hollywood or movie favorites such as Shrek or the Transformers . . . you can fit in a snap shot of your favorite. The joy on your children's faces will keep you happy for years!


#FamilyForward Workshops

We traveled to Orlando to spend time together. As my children are growing, the time we are all able to spend together is dwindling. I actually have to schedule family time now and this makes me a bit sad. However, there was nothing but joy filling up our souls at the #FamilyForward Retreat.

Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel

We stayed at the gorgeous Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort and I will happily tell anyone I encounter to stay there. Beautiful hotel, fabulous accommodations, delicious restaurants, fun pools and really just super convenient.

The morning kicked off with Doh Vinci. My girls were so excited to sample these new products. They saw the new commercials on television and when I told them one of our family workshops would include creating a masterpiece with #DohVinci . . . well, I had to plug my ears from their excitement! They had loads of fun!

The morning continued on with a chat with a couple of SouthWest Air "Super Heroes" pilots. The children had a wonderful time interacting with these pilots.

We had a fun and interactive lunch workshop on the agenda next. Barilla spoke with us about creating meaningful memories over dinner. This is something I already do at home, so I was pleased that we are on the right path at dinner time. The issue we have now is our busy schedules and getting in enough family meals during the week. I'm a bit of a control freak and don't like messes, so I need to remember to let my children help out in the dinner-making-process! I intend to continue to make meals meaningful and #ShareTheTable with Barilla.

When I was growing up, the rule in my home was, you had to eat dinner together . . . there was never an acceptable excuse. I was almost suspended from cheerleading because my father wouldn't let me leave until I ate dinner with him instead of rushing off to cheer at a football game. I still remember that moment quite clearly and how passionate he was that we must eat together every single day. I do that in my house as well, but I don't think I am as strict as my father was.

Dr Brady Barr

The afternoon workshop was presented by Animal Jam and I think the kids favorite. There was a LIVE crocodile. Dr Brady Barr spoke with the children and his enthusiasm for animals was infectious! The entire room was buzzing with excitement! Especially after a "sleeping" croc flipped off the table and was lose on the floor!

We ended the afternoon with a pool party at the newly opened Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This is Universal's fourth hotel at Orlando. This resort is a fun beach resort themed from the 50's and 60's and is loaded with amazing amenities.


The evening ended with. . . . BLUE MAN GROUP!!!!!!!!! My husband and I have sen a performance before and were excited for the children to see these Blue Dudes! We knew they would love it and these Blue Men did not disappoint.

Universal CityWalk

I must give some attention to the Universal CityWalk as well as there are some delicious restaurants to visit. Antojitos Authentic Mexican or VIVO! Italian Kitchen are a couple of the newest restaurants to open. Delicious menus!

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular - 100 Years of Movie Memories

End your evenings by taking in Universal's Cinematic Spectacular - 100 Years of Movie Memories. A beautiful tribute to 100 years of film making amidst the fountains and couple with fireworks.  You can walk to the water taxiand enjoy a quick ride back to your resort.

We all had an amazing time at the #FamilyForward Retreat and created some beautiful family memories. We are back in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives here in Chicago and trying tosavor all our memories until next year!