Categories:Opinions

My Forbidden Journey to Universal Studios Florida

I grew up a Disney fan.

Many, actually most of us did as well. Even if we never got to the parks as a child, the movies, tv shows and characters most likely impacted us when we were young. For me I loved all those things but I was also fortunate enough to go to Disney World frequently. And these trips are what helped nurture my love of Disney.

My family was very much a Disney family. Our trips to Orlando were for Disney and though we knew of Universal Studios Florida we never ventured there. It’s like that for many Disney fans. Universal is thought to be the “theme park who shall not be named”. Out of everyone in my family I was probably the most intrigued to try it out. Partly in large part due to the fact that I would watch things like Slime Time Live. That and other shows were filmed there in the now defunct Nickelodeon Studios section of the park. Plus I would see commercials which definitely appealed to a teenage audience. That and a growing interest in roller coaster and thrill rides had me intrigued to give Universal a shot.

Universal Studios Florida Archway
Before you enter Universal Studios Florida you must first past through the archway and enter the into the movies.

But trips came and went and no plans were made to visit Universal. Really I was alright with that because going to Universal meant less Disney time and less Disney time was something I was NOT cool with. I was perfectly happy living my life inside the Disney bubble.

And then something happened….

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter helped usher in a new era of immersion to theme parks.

A certain wizard was coming to Universal’s Islands of Adventure park. Harry Potter impacted my generation much like Disney has done for many generations as well. For some their childhood was defined by Harry Potter. I had read a few of the books but the movies were what really drew me in. When I heard about the new land opening, my interest was immediately piqued. I knew I had to get to Universal. I started to research the parks, listen to podcasts and watched videos covering them. But it wasn’t until I graduated from college and moved down to Orlando that I would make my way into the Universal parks. In fact, buying a Universal annual pass was one of the first things I did when I got to Orlando.

By then Diagon Alley had just opened and I was incredibly blown away by. I’ve written about being a little underwhelmed by Hogsmeade before but I also appreciate what it has done for the theme park industry. It ushered in new immersive experiences and because of it we’ve gotten Pandora and soon to be Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. But what I really was surprised by was how much of the rest of the parks I was entertained by. They were awesome! In many regards the theming was on par with Disney. Because of what Universal has accomplished, Disney has begun to pick up the pace to stay competitive. New experiences are flying into production in an effort to stop Universal from gaining any further ground.

Duff Beer Billboard at Universal Studios Florida
Springfield, home to The Simpsons, is another immersive land to explore whilst at Universal Studios Florida.

Now Disney World will always be my home and my favorite place and nothing will be able to change that. Mostly because of my past experiences and memories that I will always have. The family trips and memories will make me always have Disney as my number one. Yet, I still keep wanting to go back to Universal and with each new experience announcement I find myself getting excited about as well. Where in the past new Disney announcements were the only things I got excited for.

So if you’ve never been to Universal Orlando Resort I encourage you to look into planning out some time for it on your next trip. You won’t be disappointed.

Universal's Islands of Adventure
Two theme parks encompass Universal Orlando Resort and they are connected by the shopping, dining and entertainment district known as CityWalk.

Disney and Universal will remain rivals for years to come and with each new experience one delivers, the other is sure to counter. But when two billion dollar companies duke it out there’s only one winner….us, the theme park goers.

And that is more than ok with me.


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