By Laura Mason
Yes, we did Florida with a baby and two toddlers, and yes we had more fun than we ever thought possible! It’s the stuff that lifelong family memories are made of, the justification to those grey Monday mornings in the office, the reason you make sacrifices to see that shred of amazement on your child’s face and I can guarantee you, it is all totally worth it.
You can’t beat staying on site. The access to having everything on your doorstep removes all the issues with transportation, queuing, scheduling etc, you are on your own schedule and being on site invites you to take advantage of the little things that slow down travelling with a baby.
Our home from home for our Universal fun-packed week was Universal’s newest resort, Lowes Sapphire Falls. A beautiful, bright Caribbean-themed mid range hotel; it’s a fun fantastic family offering that taps into the ideology of island life, creating a calm oasis away from the Orlando bustle.
The hub of the hotel, which I refer to as the gateway, is a gorgeous open plan lobby featuring everything you need and more at your fingertips – Hertz car desk, perfect for easy rental (with plenty of car seat options) for flexibility if you want to explore the wider area; park ticket counter; gift shops (worth a visit to avoid queues at the park) and plenty of foodie options.
Our room was a Kids Suite, a beautifully decorated room that extended on the hotel’s aura of calm. It comprises of a main adult room with connecting kid’s twin room, making it an ideal solution for families wanting the benefits of a hotel, but with adequate space for children to rest and break out. Little extras such as fridge are great for storing baby milk and kids snacks, and the coffee machine is a nice start to the day for parents – win win!
The hotel boasts three very decent food and drink offerings – Amatista Cookhouse, Strong Water Tavern and the New Dutch Trading Co alongside poolside dining option, Drhum Club Kantine. While slightly on the pricier side, the portions were generous and we dined in Amatista Cookhouse on numerous evenings – really accommodating of guests young and old with a solid menu of family favourites but done to a high standard; my top tip is to start your day off with one of the delectable Belgium waffles!
The New Dutch Trading Co. is more of a grab and go option, so it’s really handy if you want to pick up a quick snack for the family en route or one of the resort’s refillable cups which is a great value option for keeping everyone hydrated on resort and around the parks.
Guests can hop aboard one of the complimentary water taxis to jet off to Universal’s CityWalk, an entertainment hub of restaurants and bars; which also doubles as the entrance to the main event! Hotel guests can also take advantage of early admission to the park – great for utilising part of the day when we found the kids struggling with jet lag, while beating the crowds.
Without doubt, Universal Studios and Island of Adventure are the main attraction. People travel across the world to revel in the truly breath-taking Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to ride the biggest and best rollercoasters.
I think there’s a preconception that it’s more suited to big kids and the even bigger kids (adults!) but I have to disagree as I think it’s a great family day out. It has a nice mix of thrill riders and tamer entertainment. The interaction from characters roaming the parks was amazing to see the big smiles from my little ones.
Likewise the shows and parade was a spectacular for us all as the recognition of some of their best loved on screen superheroes and characters bought to life right before their eyes. A number of wonderful wet and dry play areas are also on hand for some free roaming time for little legs.
If you weren’t pooped enough from everything on offer, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Blue Man Group located at the CityWalk. We split in to two groups to take our pre-schoolers on consecutive nights. I didn’t think three bald men dowsed in blue paint would excite the kids and I quite as much, but fast forward 90 minutes of music, drama and colourful paint splatting had my little one and I cheering along and having an absolute blast!
Universal Orlando is a ready-made family indulgence – whether you want to enjoy and share in the fast paced theme parks, shows and entertainment all on hand, or sit back and enjoy the slower pace of island life with the Floridian sun and sea (OK, it’s a pool but an impressively large one!) with cocktail in hand, you couldn’t ask for more from a great set up to create your own quality time as a family.
What you need to know….
A Kid’s Suite at Loews Sapphire Falls starts from $258/night.
A week’s car hire from Lowes Sapphire Falls costs from £181. Book online at Hertz.co.uk.
For further details and to book tickets, visit www.universalorlando.com