Universal Studios – What are we eating?

Florida, Travel

Universal Studios offers a lot of food options for visitors, but unfortunately they don’t offer the variety of Disney. This is due to the size of the parks, the demographics of the parks, and just pure logistics. While Disney operates on a much larger scale, Universal is a fraction of the size, meaning it has a fraction of the resources.

However, that being said, they have a lot more options every year than they did before. If you are a regular family, and you have no allergies, you will have a great time eating every deep fried offering you can find. For instance, their Halloween Horror Night menu looks completely amazing.

If you are a part of my family, everything gets hard.

I have celiac disease (I eat Gluten Free), which makes life interesting enough, but I also have allergies (because of celiac) to dairy, soy, and I don’t eat any meat but fish and seafood. I am an absolute pain in the ass – I admit it. So eating out is a nuisance, and even bigger when you are visiting a theme park that was never meant to cater to people like me.

If you are in my boots, I suggest bringing something from home to eat through the day. While Universal has a “no outside food” policy I have never had an issue if I explain I have a lot of allergies and it’s safer if I bring something pre-packaged. If you can’t bring something, go straight for table service restaurants. The table service restaurants will have someone speak to you about your needs and they will be able to make you something, or modify something. A few years ago I had a very tasty risotto at Mythos and had no issues.

While the parks have a few dining options, the real gems are located at City Walk, and they are very easy to access during your day. My sister is quite partial to the experience at Toothsome. Don’t worry you will be able to reenter the park after dining.

For you potterheads, the Butter Beer IS Gluten Free!

Universal Studios offers a lot of food options for visitors, but make sure you read up in advance to make the most of your trip!

Universal Studios – What are we riding?

Florida, Travel

Start by reviewing what you want out of the vacation. Universal Orlando has two separate theme parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios) and a water park (Volcano Bay). The theme parks are manageable in a day, depending on how old your kids are, and what all you want to ride. If you are going to try for both theme parks, I suggest starting at open, and not leaving until closing and only going on a weekday, not a weekend. If you have little ones, just do a park a day, or those little feet may not quite make it.

Volcano Bay is the water park at Universal Orlando, and from all reviews, it is a great park for a day visit. The park has most of the important water park features, and has some fantastic tech to reduce ride waits, make reservations and more. Having a nice water park is extremely helpful for HOT days in Orlando, and for your mermaid/merman littles.

Universal Hollywood is one theme park, and is theoretically comfortable to visit in one day. However, if you want to get the most of the activities and fun, a second day may be worth the extra cash.

Much like with Disney, I suggest you read over all of the rides and make sure that your kiddos are all tall enough to ride. Make sure your big people are comfortable, and make sure people are actually interested in such and such ride. For more information on rides that may be uncomfortable, click here and here. Also, for you tall folks, my husband (6’ 4”) had a miserable time on the Rip Ride Rocket as it literally smashed some sensitive areas (it wasn’t so bad that ice was needed, but bad enough that there was awkward walking the rest of the day).

UNIVERSAL FLORIDA RIDES
Kid – Friendly (40″ and less)“Grown-up” Rides
Minion MayhemRevenge of the Mummy
Shrek 4-DMen in Black
Simpsons RideHarry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster 
Hogwarts Express 
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl 

For instance, we are traveling with my five-year-old cousin, but there is plenty she can ride at Universal that we can either split up to enjoy, or that we can use a kid swap option for.

If you are going with older kids and/or adults, talk about what the top priorities for the day are. For instance, we are taking my stepdaughter to Olivander’s and to avoid the crowds we are planning on doing that part of the park first thing. Then we can spend the morning in the busiest part of the park (Wizarding World) before the majority of crowds show up.

If your group has been there, done that, then head to other parts of the parks and skip it. There is no point in visiting a super crowded part of a theme park if no one actually wants to be there.

For families with littles there are endless opportunities with cartoons, movies like Shrek and Despicable Me. For classic story lovers, the Dr. Suess land can’t be missed. For my family, we LOVE the Jurassic Park ride and mini attractions.

If you are planning trips in the near future (2020, 2021) you can expect even better options for families, and fanatics of a variety of fandoms. My number one suggestion is to pick your favorite characters or movies, and make an effort to experience interactions with them.

Universal is different in that many of their classic rides and activities go away when they lose popularity, so there are not as many popular “classics” as exist in Disney. That being said, Universal is little kid friendly, but really geared to older kids, in the 8+ range. It’s not that littles won’t have a great time, but some of the activities and events may just go over their heads.

Regardless, I do feel like it’s an easy place to have fun and escape from reality. Seeing their Diagon Alley in Orlando was truly a magical experience for me. I was practically skipping I was so excited. Meaning, if you just love fun, movies, and some whimsy, you are sure to enjoy the parks!

Happy Travels

Planning for Magic at Universal Studios

Florida, Travel, United States

Universal Studios is the competitive edge to Disney’s theme park empire. While the Universal Studios experience has existed since 1961, the theme park magic that we know today is a more recent concoction. While some attractions existed at their Hollywood Studio in the 1960s and 1970s, the theme park lands really expanded in the 1990s with the opening of Universal Orlando in Florida. Over the last 50+ years Universal has brought its own version of movie magic to kids young and old, offering imaginative and exciting adventures.

Family Travel Planning – Part 1

family, Florida, Travel, wedding

My sister is getting married in October, in Orlando, in a backyard wedding. This means the whole famdamily is going to the wedding. Which means we are going to be trying to make the most of the vacation, family time, and sightseeing in one giant Robinson Wedding Week.

As you can imagine, trying to organize approximately 20 people to show up to pre-wedding events, and another 60 for the wedding, is a bit of a project. While it’s my sister’s wedding, and she is tackling the wedding EVENTm I am working on extra events to keep kids, parents, cousins, and myself sane.

While my family likes a good time, I can’t say they are the best at planning in advance to make the most of their time. If you are in a situation like me, it’s vital that you make a plan and stick to it so that you can actually enjoy your “vacation” without getting lost in a sea of relative needs. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying the journey.

UNIVERSAL FLORIDA RIDES  
Ivy Friendly “Grown-up” Rides
Minion Mayhem Revenge of the Mummy
Shrek 4-D Men in Black
Simpsons Ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster  
Hogwarts Express  
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl  
  1. Make Lists
    • Make a list of people going, lists of priority sites and activities, lists of time needed for travel.
    • Lists will help you prioritize and plan more comfortably.
    • If you are headed for theme parks, make a list of activities and rides that are most important, and that will work for different people and ages. For instance, my five year old cousin won’t be able to do many of the rides my 12 y/o step daughter wants to ride. Therefore, with some planning we can split up and get to ride everything we want. (see above)
  2. Plan What You Want or Need
    • Vacations are expensive, so it’s important to make a plan to get the most out of your time on a trip. With a group, things go slower, and sometimes you just won’t get everyone to commit to a plan. Therefore, it’s important to choose what you want and need the most then invite everyone.
    • For example, I pick days that work the best for the most important things. What day do we need to do the Bachelorette for the Bride? What day will be more comfortable for everyone for sleep, timing, obligations etc.
    • You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but people usually will make something work if they want to join in. If they can’t, then they usually find an alternative option.
  3. Know You Won’t Make Everyone Happy
    • Inevitably you will have people that aren’t happy with the schedule. While it’s nice to make things work for everyone, it usually doesn’t ever work. If you waited for everyone to be able to go, the truth is that you probably would never get to go!
    • Prioritize the most important people, sometimes this is the people getting married, sometimes it’s making sure the kids get to have the most at their day at Disney. While it’s nice to wait for Aunt Janet to get her nails done, maybe Janet needs to reschedule or join everyone at another time.
  4. Don’t plan on Being with Everyone All The Time
    • It’s nice to plan on being together a lot, but the truth is that everyone will want to do different things at different times.
    • It’s common for everyone to get sick of each other too. This gives kids and adults a chance to get space, quiet time, and down time to relax.
  5. Plan Ahead
    • The sooner you start trying to book an AirBnB, hotel, rental cars, and other arrangements, the better the rates and the better selection you will have. Booking a last minute flight and room probably won’t give you the best price and options.
    • Start drawing up plans for each day so that you can get a feel for what everyone wants or needs. This gives you time to rearrange plans in case of closures, event changes, or other situations.
  6. Plan for Down Time
    • If kids are involved you will need some time to relax. If adults are involved, you will need some time to sleep, eat, talk, and not have to be anywhere. I highly suggest making a day or two free days, or open days, where loose plans are made, and everything is casual. If people are exhausted, cancel plans, and take time to sleep or just chill.

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Happy Travels!

When Nerds Unite

family, geek, love, wedding
Ryan and I have many interests that differ, opposites attract if you will. He loves Star Wars, we love Harry Potter. He loves Star Trek, we love X-Files. I ylove costumes, we love jeans and t-shirts. I love traveling, we love vacationing.
We balance it out and find a happy medium. So for our wedding we needed something that blended our quirks into one. So we blended my love of romantic art nouveau, Alphonse Mucha pretty details with our nerdiness to make a fun and entertaining blend of us.
Example A: Our cake. Traditional white frosting with a variety of autumnal saturated colored flowers and leaves. The cake was delicately pieced together to make a stunning result. Then, being us, we had to have a Millenium Falcon crashing into the side. Thank you Das Meyer for working your wonders!

Exhibit B:
We needed something to celebrate my love of Harry Potter, well OUR love (I’m the bigger fan though).
So we brought our wands and had some fun.
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And FINALLY Exhibit C: We entered to the Imperial March from Star Wars, complete with a Vader helmet…
22549891_10210271620095576_5428734385234528632_n.jpg
So that is us, a mix of love and crazy, and nerdiness….

Did you know Dementors in Harry Potter are symbols for J.K. Rowling’s own struggle with depression? for me, they are the only analogy that makes sense to someone that has spent at least 15 years fighting those same monsters.

They come and go, sometimes I have the strength to fight, sometimes they overpower me. Sometimes I forget that they exist.

I have struggled with depression since I was about 12. That’s 13 years now…meaning I’ve been “depressed” longer than I’ve not been.

Yet, that’s only when I remember it getting bad enough that I thought my death might be a good option. Which is crummy that a 12 y/o would ever feel that way. Yet, at 12, even though you aren’t given the credit, we know more and feel more than the adults around us understand.

I would say my real depression started at age 9 or 10. 4th grade. When conflicts with members of my family hit a breaking point. And all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and listen to audio books. Compound this with constant and debilitating stomach aches. Splash on anxiety and I was starting to struggle with all the things a normal older child should be able to deal with.

Sadly, I didn’t always have a support system that could help me or reach me when I had attacks. Often, members of my own family could be Dementors.

This isn’t about the list of things that have made it hard to change my internal dialogue, but a list of things on how to fight the darkness that creeps steadily and sneakily into your chest when you’re busy trying to survive.

Yet, either I can fall down with the monster, into a dark hole. OR

OR I can fight it.

Because I have come too damn far to not.

It’s like getting to the final battle of Hogwarts and not showing up, you know you need to be there, but you forget to set your alarm…..

It’s easy to forget the alarm, but it’s a lot harder to make up for lost time on an already short existence on this blue marble.

Here are my tips on fighting off the Dementors…

  • Find little things
    • I love stupid animal videos and many hours have been spent laughing at dogs fall down stairs and cats run into walls. But who cares if it’s nonsense or silly, I can laugh. I can laugh and laugh and laugh and sometimes that is just the best feeling…remembering what it’s like to laugh.

a97c4a1614b53d6f55ae2464b06ba6aa

  • Remember what helps
    • make a list, or just think a few moments on what helps you feel better. Is it a hug from your partner or sister? How about chocolate chip cookies? Avoid co-dependence but try the little things to help. Remember if a poem helps you feel grounded, or a favorite book helps you feel alive.
  • Love
    • sometimes we can’t love ourselves, but we can love something else. When we share love, we can receive love and I believe if you love more and more, then you can’t stop loving everyone, especially yourself.
  • Be Healthy
    • many times, when I feel at my worst, it’s because I have been eating out too much, or not eating enough healthy things my body needs. This is a good chance to eat some salad, be mindful of foods you crave and maybe take a walk or a hike.

pexels-photo-25293

  • Keep it simple
    • it’s easy, as a culture, to bury ourselves in To-Do lists. however, sometimes the list is a ridiculous set of standards that causes more harm then good. When you feel low, don’t worry about all the dishes or laundry, just enjoy little things. Embrace the crazy and be. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO FEEL BETTER.
    • The world will not end if you don’t clean the toilet TODAY
  • Do something for confidence
    • if you feel off inside, you’ll feel off outside. Not that anything may be wrong, but one may just need a boost. Maybe it’s a new haircut, or getting your nails done. Try a new perfume, or pull out those heels you never wear. Perhaps you just need a new toilet paper, but sometimes, the little things make a big difference.
  • Make a change
    • Change can be terrifying, but also liberating. Move some furniture around, paint a wall, sew something. Throw out old clothes, buy some new clothes, try a new blanket etc. New hobbies and other things can help a lot.
  • Reach out
    • talk to the people you trust and love to see how they are doing, Go get food or a drink. Be together, be friends, be loving
  • Meditate
    • This helps myself, and millions of others, find some sense in the storm that is their mind. In the internet age you can find thousands of videos, instructions and ideas to help with meditation. No need for it to be intimidating
  • Self-Care
    • Most importantly, practice self-care. Be loving, be kind and be patient. This life is hard and disappointing and no one makes it out alive….so sometimes we have to step back and care. Talk to people to get through the time, therapists and doctors may have some ideas to get you back on your feet.

Best,

Rebecce

musings

Universal Studios for the Potterhead

Florida, Travel

Old Firehouse Books

2015-10-24 07.12.02-1 (1) I was up at 6am! and yes that is a Marauder’s map dress!

This October I had the fantabulous experience of getting to go to Universal Studios Orlando!

2015-10-24 08.12.10 HDR-2 My baby sister and I were pretty stoked!

AND OF COURSE I WENT TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!

Because you can’t have a potter tattoo and not go if you are in Orlando, let alone the theme park.

Also, 8 year old me desperately need to go be an 8-year-old in a theme park and 11-year-old me wanted to live the potter books and movies, and buy my wand, and get sorted, and try butter beer, and act like a spaz about the Hogwarts Express.

2015-10-24 09.34.33 HDR-2 The Knight Bus starts the journey to Diagon Alley

We spent like 75% of the day in “Harry Potter World” which is split between a “Diagon Alley” and a “Hogsmeade” and in two separate parks…

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platform 9 3/4

How Harry Potter is still magical as an adult!

musings

Over the last few months I have been listening to the Harry Potter audio books as a chance to re-read the stories and save time as I finish my Master’s degree. This has been a chance for me to stay sane as I deal with the pressures of real life. It’s escapism of the best kind and it’s a chance to feel some of the magic that drew me to the stories in the first place.

As an adult, in many ways, it’s even better. I actually understand much of the subtext and references that J.K. Rowling was making and I have a better understanding of the dark content that was in the stories. In ways they’re more frightening as an adult for it works well as an analogy for my own problems and battles. I constantly think, “that’s so sad that Harry has to go through so much, how is he so sane?” Because as we get older we realize just how hard and heart-wrenching life is and if Harry can do it, so can I. Seriously.

So while Harry Potter helped me through growing up, today it’s helping me get through being a grown up. Which is a really unique position, and I don’t know if many people get that chance. It’s not just Harry Potter, countless people have also found this in the Lord of the RingsChronicles of Narnia and many other magical series.

If you’re looking for a chance to feel a little joy from something you loved as a kid, I suggest you pick up your favorite books and series and try them again! I guarantee you’ll get something out of them this time around, whether it’s the second, fifth or twentieth time.

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson