We went to Universal last week, and it was our first time going together as a family. We typically go to Disney (fun fact: my grandfather helped build Tomorrowland at Disneyland), but now that the twins are old enough, we decided to try something new. A few years ago at one of the Automattic Grand Meetups, we spent time at Universal and it was a blast! So I felt confident deciding to visit.
I’m going to tell you where we spent most of our time, but first, an important note: trans people are people, trans rights are human rights, trans women are women, trans men are men. I don’t agree with JK Rowling’s statements saying otherwise. Eleanor has long ago fallen in love with the world of Harry Potter, listening to the audiobooks every night, and reading my old copies of the books often, leaving them jacketless and well-loved. All of us are fond of the stories, and sharing this magic with Eleanor is important to us.
The kids were all super excited about the Wizarding World, and it was so fun to see it with them. They all got wands, and candy from Honeydukes, and Eleanor got robes!
After the Wizarding World, we did the log flume style ride in Jurassic Park (Grant declared he is never doing that again), and went to the playground in the Jurassic area, which was awesome.
In the manner of the best playgrounds, there was only one entrance, so all the parents hung around the entrance and let their kids run around freely. With limited space – you had to allow people to go in and out – and limited shade – it was hot – the parents lined the edges of the pathways, like cholesterol slowly building up in arteries. Dads lolled in the shrubbery, and moms sat in the shade of strollers.
We unleashed the children and didn’t see them for at least 20 minutes. One or another of them came back eventually and lured Bob deeper into the playground. After another 20 or so minutes, he came back, eyes shining, and told me to go in and check it out. Tree houses! Hidden splash pads! A mountain riddled with caves, waterfalls, mist, and mazes! Dinosaurs roaring out of sight! Tube slides! Vertical play – climbing rope net pathways that created 4 different, intertwined levels. The rope netting was some of the best I’ve ever seen – tightly knotted and double layered so you couldn’t see the ground very well (highly necessary for people like me, terrified of heights), and even the smallest players could toddle along it without trapping a tootsie. I followed Grant around for a long time, and never felt that I was bored with the configuration.
Reluctantly, we left the playground and went to the toon lagoon, where we rode one of those wreath shaped boats and got soaking wet. We were dripping and squelching, and Grant yelled at us and said we were never doing that again. Then he saw where you could spray water at the people on the ride, and we almost didn’t leave that area again, because he was having such a good time spraying people. He and Eleanor worked up a double act. When a boat approached, Ele would yell “hi!” And the people in the boat would look up, and two stories up, Grant would spray them.
We went onwards to the Dr Suess area, and Grant loved the Cat in the Hat ride, and begged to go on the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish ride. So he and I went on together!
We park hopped, between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (so Eleanor could see all the Wizarding World stuff), and we parked at Universal, so as we wound up our day, we walked the longer way through the park, so we could see everything (though we weren’t staying to ride on anything).
We were actually all getting punchy by now. We had ordered dinner in the Universal app, and they had silently cancelled it because it was within 30 min of the restaurant closing. So we were very snippy when we turned towards the entrance and ran straight into a parade.
At this time of day, there was a big Mardi Gras themed parade (apparently), and we couldn’t cross it without going pretty far out of our way. The kids were interested, so we stopped to watch. Bob held Grant up (balanced on the edge of a particularly sturdy garbage can), and once Grant realized that if he waved, he would get beads, his waving arm (and his backup waving arm) never got a rest. He waved vigorously at every float, and everyone threw him beads. The twins also got beads through their own waving efforts, and they generally loved the entire affair.
As we were leaving, Henry asked if we could get a picture with the Universal sign. So we tried getting organized (I think we nailed it). You can see in the photo below that Henry is standing patiently waiting, smile already hitched into place.
All in all, it was a very good day.