Disney may rule the theme park world, but Mickey’s looking over his shoulder because Universal Orlando Resort keeps blooming like a flower on steroids. Now, muggles can mingle with Harry Potter in two Wizarding Worlds. Plus, a new water park, Volcano Bay, splashed to life this summer. That means three parks and the CityWalk entertainment district beckon.
Stay: Absorb the mid-century vibe at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, complete with a lazy river and bowling alley. Guests get early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Do: Shun extras and enjoy overlooked treasures – call the Ministry of Magic from a phone booth in Diagon Alley and watch dino eggs hatch at Jurassic Park Discovery Center.
Dine: Sample franks from ballparks around the country at CityWalk’s Hot Dog Hall of Fame. Or, feast Simpsons-style along Fast Food Boulevard in Universal Studios.
Stay: Relish an island-inspired paradise at Loews Royal Pacific Resort, where soaring bamboo, swaying palms, an orchid-adorned courtyard and a lagoon-style pool await.
Do: Purchase an interactive wand to cast spells and unlock magical experiences throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They make stylish souvenirs, too.
Dine: Gather at Mama Della’s Ristorante at Portofino Bay for fresh pasta and Italian dishes. For dessert, go to CityWalk’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.
Stay: Live la dolce vita at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. This waterfront retreat is most serene, with cobblestone lanes, a piazza with roving musicians, three pools and a full-service spa.
Do: Say yes to Universal’s VIP Experience. The tour ensures an epic, line-skipping affair complete with backstage access, expert inside info, wonderful food and other benefits.
Dine: Savor Creole dishes with a “Bam!” (think andouille-crusted redfish) from celebrity chef and James Beard award winner Emeril Lagasse at his eponymous restaurant, Emeril’s, on CityWalk.
By Dana Hammond
Find AAA vacation packages and theme park discounts at AAA.com/Universal.
Top photo: The Volcano Bay water theme park opened in Universal Orlando Resort this summer. (Universal)