So if you’re going to Orlando annually, as we do, you need to mix it up. A few years back, we decided to do brief stays at a Disney or Universal resort (like 2 nights), followed by a week at a time share. That way, we have a kitchen for most of the trip, and pretty awesome selection of gluten-free options for our hotel stay, and theme parks are optional. This year, we opted for Universal, so we got a non-resident annual pass for Universal, so that we could take our time with the 2 parks (visited 4 times) and come back in June.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The Hard Rock Hotel
Advised by friends, we stayed here two nights. It was, in a word, AWE-SOME! We felt like rock stars (the phone next to the toilet reminded us too, lol…) The food was amazing and there were allergen-friendly options cooked separately – and they knew the French fries were NOT. Sweet! The pool is awesome, but the band at the pool made it complete, plus non-stop rock-n-roll all days. Amazing, and a quick, short boat ride to Citywalk and the Universal Parks! Another great thing was slipping away to the adult-only bar that was open til 2am after the kids and their sitter were asleep. Chocolate cake shots! The down side? Everything is super-expensive, including the room. It’s a lot of fun, but 2 nights was our max.
- The Character Breakfast at Universal Studios
Ok, so this really rocked, and compared to some other (ahem) character breakfasts, cost effective: $10 for kids, $20 for adults – ALL inclusive! That’s right, no tax or tips on top of that. You get a pretty good selection, and they too did gluten-free properly and separately. The staff was so nice, and though they told us there would be a 10 minute wait for gluten-free pancakes, they were ready when we got on line. Yay! There are 6 characters that visit you personally, and they take their time, since this is not crowded. It’s new, and it’s wonderful – take advantage. 2 Hop characters, 2 from Sponge Bob, and Gru and a minion from “Despicable Me”. Really enjoyable!
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride
Yea, I still don’t know what it’s called but you MUST do this!! I don’t care if you’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie, this is a helluva ride. Part sort-of-coaster, part-interactive, part-movie, it was so much fun. I do wish they had more of a plotline (and I’m not the only person I overheard say that), but still, it’s amazing. Or go see the first film and then go. A GREAT time.
If you don’t know what this means, skip this. The folks at Universal have figured out not only how to make the quintessential Hogsmeade drink, they also managed to make it magical. I swear the more I drank, the more foam filled up to the top…delicious, creamy, caramel tasting foam. Well done!
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3D Ride
Yes, this is a must-do, IF you have seen the movie, otherwise you might be confused. This is a great kid’s flick, do check it out, and ride the ride. And there will be minions waiting to boogie with you when you get out (the best part!).
- Coasters: Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
Mummy: Ok, this did not just open, but I’ve never ridden this coaster – LOVED it! Terrifying and good and dark, gosh, I love a dark coaster! Rocket: FUN!!! And music, and lots o’drops. SWEET.
I love all the rides here, and was sorry not to do the horror make up show, save something for next year! We also love Shrek 4D, we did The Simpsons ride TWICE, Amelia adored ET, and then of course, we did Islands of Adventure, which, by the way, has an amazing restaurant, also with gluten-free options.