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The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando Paperback – August 18, 2015
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From the Inside Flap
Diehard Disney devotees may want to cover their mouse ears, because we are about to utter the ultimate blasphemy: it is possible to enjoy an awesome Orlando vacation without spending a single minute in Mickey's world. For much of the past four decades, the notion of spending a holiday in central Florida without seeing Walt Disney's sprawling wonderland seemed silly. While visitors might take a day or two out of their trip to explore independent attractions like Sea World, Busch Gardens, or Kennedy Space Center, the Magic Kingdom and its sister parks were seen by most as the area's main draw.
Much to the Mouse House's dismay, that situation is swiftly shifting. While Walt Disney World is in no danger of closing for lack of interest attendance at Disney's theme parks hit an all-time high in 2014 their share of Orlando's lucrative tourism market has been steadily and significantly swinging in favor of an energetic upstart located a few miles up I-4: the Universal Orlando Resort.
Originally opened in 1990 as a single theme park packed with advanced but unreliable attractions, Universal Orlando has matured into a full service, fully immersive vacation destination with enough world-class activities to keep a family occupied for four days or more. Universal Studios Florida, a longtime rival of Disney’s Hollywood Studios that draws its inspiration from movies and television, has been almost entirely overhauled since its debut, and now houses one of the world's top collection of cutting edge attractions. Universal’s Islands of Adventure debuted in 1999 as the most modern, high-tech theme park in the United States, featuring an all-star lineup of thrill rides that make it the best park in town for older kids and young-at-heart adults.
Together, the two parks are home to the game-changing Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a meticulously imagined multi-layered experience that's drawing millions of Muggle fans from around the world to the hallowed halls of Hogwarts Castle and Gringotts Bank. Surrounding the two parks are four (soon to be five) immaculately appointed on-site resort hotels, and the CityWalk nightlife complex full of restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment options appealing to families and adults.
Universal Orlando's ascendance is not about to bankrupt Walt Disney World, and likely never will Disney's nearly unlimited dominion over its vast 43 square mile kingdom practically ensures its dominance. But those who approach the Universal with open eyes will find the resort can provide just as much magic and fantasy in its own fashion. Universal Orlando has an energy, pace, and attitude all its own that might appeal to the most adamant anti-amusement park person, and could even convert confirmed Disney customers. Instead of opting for the same old rat race, consider spending your next vacation playing Qudditch with Harry, saving New York with Spidey, and drinking Duff with the Simpsons. You may just find yourself asking, Mickey Who?”
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Top Customer Reviews
There is one catch: You MUST be willing to wake up VERY EARLY for this to work.
If you want to squeeze every drop of value out of your Universal vacation this is the tool to do it.
Overall, though the second half of the book was too much information for me. The simple, "we recommend eating at Fast Food Bouevard" that was included on the Touring Plan was enough. We had no desire to research and memorize the profiles of every restaurant in Universal, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk (and I definitely don't want to carry a book around all day). Same goes for the rides. Reading detailed descriptions of every ride sort of spoils the fun, no?
The biggest problem with the book is that publishing requires long lead-times and things at USF/IOA are always changing so imagine my dismay when the Touring Plan told us to visit three attractions that are no longer there (Beetlejuice Graveyard Review, Twister, and Disaster!). Not temporarily closed, like the Hulk coaster, but completely, permanently gone. Not a great way to start our visit. On day two, we switched over to using their app, but it listed incorrect showtimes for multiple shows and left us standing around, trying to decide what to do (exactly what the book and app are designed to prevent). So, buyer beware.
This book is an easy read, and is well labeled throughout! I can't recommend this book enough! It includes everything Harry Potter, and this is the first year where it has been a separate book (according to the synopsis on Amazon).
I originally got the 2013 Disney World guide from a friend, and bought the 2016 prior to our trip. I was impressed with how the Disney World guide was written, so I purchased this one.
Additionally, there are online resources and an app! Definitely saves you a lot of time!