So You’re Going To Universal Studios Orlando?

So You’re Going To Universal Studios Orlando?

You’ve watched Universal Studios Orlando featured on All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and decided:  This year, you are going to Universal Studios Orlando for your family vacation.    Yes, I know, if you are going to Orlando shouldn’t you visit “the House of Mouse?”  But, let’s get honest, doesn’t your family crave and deserve a new adventure?   It’s time to indulge your older child and explore a new “world.” Enter Universal Studios Florida, also called Universal Studios Orlando.

You’ve made the decision to go and and as the official “Family Vacation Coordinator” you are now wondering what your family should see and do first. My first bit of advice:  Assess with whom you are traveling: with or without kids?  Older, younger or all ages?  Are the grandparents joining you or are you on your own with your children?  These are important questions to ask because, at Universal Studios Orlando, there is no prescribed list of things to see or do and your itinerary can really depend on the ages of your entourage. 

So let me get this point out of the way: I am 100% convinced that Universal Studios Orlando’s target audience is not children ages 5 and under.  Yes, I know that there are rides (and islands) that cater to younger children but I found that I had the most fun when Lulu was old enough to take advantage of the more vigorous rides.  Now, I know that there are some people who would TOTALLY disagree with me but having visited this theme park a few times, I feel strongly that more fun is had being able to ride the adventurous rides like “The Hulk” and “Dragon Challenge” on the Islands of Adventure with your family than taking turns riding separately because one of your children is too young to partake in the adventure. (Am I being too harsh?  I don’t mean to–I’m just telling you how I see it.)   Those rides are not designed for the faint of heart or the small of age and stature.  If you want rides targeted toward your “wee ones” and have classic photo opportunities with memorable (and somewhat historical) characters, I know a park down the street that will be happy to oblige.  Lulu is the perfect age to enjoy ALL of the rides on the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.  We got lucky–Adam and I wound up “fighting” over who got to ride with her on her first “big” roller coaster. As it turns out, thanks to a change in my center of gravity I get completely and totally ill riding roller coasters. Yet, one more reason that getting old sucks! So Adam and Lulu enjoyed the roller coasters while I sat out to “check Facebook.”

After five Disney Cruises, our little (okay, now big) adventurer was Disney’d out and wanted to see something new–and something for “a more sophisticated” traveler.  And guess what?  Universal Studios Orlando delivered!  We are both diehard Harry Potter fans: she loved the movies while I devoured the books almost on the same day as they were released. (Fortunately, Adam agreed to indulge our addiction to the world of wizards and witches.)  We were anxious to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  But not before we had a chance to embrace our inner Lorax and pay homage to the man who taught us the fun of using words to rythme and teach us valuable lessons about respecting the trees: Dr. Seuss at Seuss Landing.

Looking for our list of great things to do while at Universal Studios Orlando? It’s coming. Check this site over the weekend and we will post a list of our favorite adventures!



Tween Approved: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a Go!

Tween Approved: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a Go!

Disclosure: I am not a car person; I don’t review cars for a living.  But I am a mom who is concerned about the safety of her family, is budget conscience and also takes pride in have a cool “mom-mobile. ”  All opinions and views with regard to this car review, the company that loaned it to me and the vehicle manufacturer are entirely mine and were not influenced, edited or even reviewed by the companies prior to posting. 

Last week, I test drove the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE and it couldn’t have come at a better time: Lulu had a day off of school and it was up to me to plan something cool to do that day.  Last year, Lulu’s class had gone on a field trip to the Chicago History Museum and I left feeling like we had been rushed and needed more time to explore the exhibits and gain some appreciation of our home town.  (Coincidently, since I was test driving the car, it would also be a great excuse to drive the car on the highway, in the rain and determine if it was, in fact, “kid friendly.”)  As I only have one child, I decided that I needed to “rent” two more, Lila and Madison, and thus fill the car’s back seat with wiggly, screaming, sometimes singing 10-year-olds.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE

“We Like The Color!”

Armed with their American Girl dolls to keep them company, my test drivers were up to the challenge of evaluating the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.  Of course, the color of the car was their primary concern and these 10-year-olds gave it a thumbs up.  One girl commented that “I’m not sure if there will be enough room for my dolls and us.”  (There was.)  So in they climbed and fortunately there were three headrests and three 5-point seat belts.  This meant that everyone would be secured in the car equally and safely. (Check one for the Mitsubishi Outlander.)  Actually, as the day progressed, this turned out to be a very good feature because the two girls sitting on opposite sides of the car got into a fight and the middle child was able to keep them separated by the mere fact that her seat belt restricted each of the girls from lunging over each other.  (They are a very spirited bunch).  Also, I was a bit concerned about the seemingly lack of cargo space.  But, as the week progressed and I bought groceries, collected sports equipment and other school related items, I found that the cargo space actually met my needs.  Note: Also the front seat warmers were nice to have, but the switches were hidden and my husband had to point them out to me.  

As we pulled out of the driveway, I explained to my pre-teen passengers, that I was testing out this car for the week and I wanted their honest opinions about the car, the ride, the sound system and anything else that came to mind as we drove downtown.  Lila commented that she thought it was fun to watch the reverse mirror on the console while we were backing up and that “it’s a nice feature.  That way you don’t have to worry about getting into an accident.”  Lulu liked the panoramic glass roof but didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t open it and she also thought that the LED lights were a bit “cheesy.”  Personally, I found them to be distracting particularly when the roof was exposed while I was driving at night.  But, while driving home from the museum, all three girls were lulled into silence (and then sleep) while they watched the world go by via the glass roof instead of just looking out the windows.


As we drove through the driving rain, the car handled well but seemed to lack some pick-up or power.  I actually didn’t feel like I was driving a SUV.   Yes, it was comfortable but I didn’t get the “zippy”  SUV feel that I am used driving my old car.  Also there are a lot of windows in the car, but I felt like the manufacturers could have designed the back windshield better.  It felt a bit small to me.

My passengers (and adopted daughters for the day) didn’t complain about the lack of speed.  They were too enamored with the INTENSE sound system and the huge speakers in the cargo space!   The girls continually ordered me to “crank it up!” but, to be quite honest, I was afraid all that bass would shatter the windows.

Note the giant speakers!

Note the giant speakers!

As a music lover,  I like to listen to a variety of tunes while I drive but I couldn’t figure out how to use and then program the stereo. Somehow the user has to switch between the different sources (GPS, MP3, Sirius, AM/FM etc) which takes some time, and requires the driver to take her eyes off the road (or pull over.)  I didn’t feel that the steering wheel controls improved my ability to drive and manage the music or GPS.    Also finding stations on the built-in Sirius/XM satellite radio system was really a challenge. To load CDs or DVDs, the display faceplate sort of  swings down and detaches itself from the unit. (Very odd looking.)  I originally thought that I had broken the stereo. I also struggled with connecting and then programming the navigation system.  I did, eventually, figure out how to use the GPS but never quite got a handle on the other components of the sound system and user interface.

All in all, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE was a decent and seemingly solid car. But for the MSRP of $23,695 (with basic options), its combined MPG of 26 and general lack of exciting features, I wasn’t overly impressed with the car.   My fellow reviewers enjoyed being in the car and felt that there was PLENTY of space even if Adam was riding in the back seat (i.e. lots of room for tall people.)  From the driver’s seat. I felt that the car handled well (especially in the driving rain.)  All-in-all, I felt that it if you are looking for a solid, reliable ride you can’t go wrong with the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE but for a mom who is used to a lot of power and a sun roof that opens, this wasn’t the best choice of car for me.