by Canadian Diva
Sharpen your pencils, get your favorite highlighter and gather up your colorful sticky notes because the team over at The Unofficial Guide Series have done it again! With over 4 million Unofficial Guides sold, they have added a NEW book to their “unofficial” family this year: the first, inaugural edition of a stand alone guide to Universal Orlando, aptly named, The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando by Seth Kubersky.
The Unofficial Guide Series, in particular The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, is considered one of the ULTIMATE guides for touring Walt Disney World. They have other books in their series like: The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, Mini-Mickey: The Pocket-Sized Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, (look out for Tips from the Disney Diva and Devoes‘ future reviews on these books) as well as The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids – which Character Diva did a wonderful review here. With over 30 years of experience writing vacation guide books, Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa along with an extensive research team coupled with expert, statistical analysis, scientific background and state of the art technology (à la Len Testa), the self-professed ‘tech-geeks’ merged their knowledge with insane numbers’ accuracy to help regular folks (like math illiterate persons as myself), have the most efficient and effective way to vacation in the theme parks. Their well known “Crowd Calendars” on their site touringplans.com and their LinesApp, have been often imitated (but of course, never duplicated), which helps vacationers know, to be meticulously precise; which hour is the best time to experience the Theme Parks.
Since 1992, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World has included a small section in the back of their guide for Universal Orlando as well as Wet ‘n Wild and Sea World. A few years ago, when my husband bought me, my very first The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (it was a romantic and sentimental gift, but that’s another story), I noticed the Universal section. It seemed to me like an afterthought. Although I love Universal films, the Universal Theme Parks didn’t appeal to me and I’m guessing this is the case for many who visited Orlando. For vacationers across the globe, Walt Disney World was the “world” when visiting Florida. In recent years however, Universal has upped it’s theme park game, so much so, that according to this guide book; Attractions, Dining, Resort Accommodations and overall Themed-lands of Universal Orlando have been on par and in many areas, even surpassed Walt Disney World. And of course, with Harry Potter literally taking the “universe” by storm, Universal Orlando is definitely no longer an afterthought!
First, you may be wondering why they are called “Unofficial” guides. They are “Unofficial” because they are not affiliated in any way to the Walt Disney Company or to Universal Orlando. The research team are independent writers, much like our team of writers here at Tips from the Disney Diva and Devos. By not being affiliated with the above companies, the Unofficial Guide team is able to give you HONEST reviews. If they don’t like something, they will tell you. Their honesty will help you get the most of your vacation, with their thorough ratings on attractions, hotels and restaurants as well as detailing what to avoid. Their goal is to help visitors make the best decisions for their vacation.
Fun Fact: Author Seth Kubersky was a former employee of Universal Orlando’s entertainment department and has been living in Orlando since 1996.
Before you read any further, let’s take a look at who this guide may not appeal to:
- You don’t like to read – The Unofficial Guide Series is EXTENSIVE with pages upon pages of information. When I received my first Unofficial Guide book and was preparing for my vacation, I felt like I was back in University studying for an exam. If you get bored with reading text easily, this book is not for you.
- You strongly prefer “scrapbook” type vacation guide books with color-coded descriptions, inspirational and flowery quotes throughout, pocket pages to place your memories in and lines with “The best part our day was ___________”… Yeah, this guide is probably not for you.
- You are an extremely visual person – The Unofficial Guide Series is very sterile in appearance. The only colors you will see are two shades of blue and black. It is like, in reference to above, a University textbook guide (but with humor). The Unofficial Guide does have another stand alone book: The Unofficial Guide: The Color Companion to Walt Disney World featuring gorgeous photos from some of the most esteemed photographers who take photos at Walt Disney World.
Canadian Diva suggestion: I am a visual person but I also like to study textbook-like guides loaded with a lot of information. Since The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando does not have a “color companion” guide yet (hopefully a future addition to their series), what I did was get one of those free, glossy pamphlets/brochure on Universal Orlando and after reading each section of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, refer to a visual color reference of the pamphlet.
Now, let’s take a look at why you would want to own a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando:
You love Harry Potter!
I’m a bookworm, but I have to admit something, I have never read a Harry Potter book by J. K. Rowling or seen any of the Harry Potter movies in it’s entirety (I know, it’s blasphemous!). If you are a true “muggle” (no idea what this is) fan, then The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando is right up your ‘Diagon Alley’. It has everything you need to know to make the most of your Harry Potter experience; from why you need a “Park to Park” pass when riding ‘Hogwarts Express’ to what phenomenon in ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ The Unofficial Series Guide staff have never seen in the decades of covering theme parks. You will get such detailed vacations tips like, the best line to wait for a ‘Butterbeer’, to the FIVE page (yes, 5 page) description of the “Super-Headliner” attraction, ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’. The Castle is said to be even more incredible than Cindy’s and under the stern and careful direction of J.K. Rowling herself, according to The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, you will be completely immersed with everything Harry Potter. After reading all about Harry Potter in this guide, I might become a fan myself and take their suggestion on page 22.
You are a Walt Disney World FAN but want to try Universal Orlando.
In my opinion, this seems to be the target demographic and meat of the book. There are many Disney World fans who love to stay in the Disney World ‘bubble’. What may have once seem unfathomable to visit outside the ‘world’, times have changed and there are many Disney World repeat vacationers who are thinking to explore what may be on the other side (often referred jokingly, among Disney World online fans as, the ‘dark side’). The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando vehemently states that there is more to Orlando than Walt Disney World. Which brings us to what I consider is the heart of this book, because throughout, you, as a Disney World and Disneyland fan, are guided extensively to what is similar in comparison, what Universal Orlando excels in, and where they fall flat to the Mouse. I really enjoyed reading about the fruition of the rivalry between the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks and their executives. And I liked how this guide tells me, which attraction at Universal Orlando is like, or feels like a similar attraction to one I have experienced at Walt Disney World.
You have a family with teens as well as tweens and/or young children…
This actually surprised me the most! I have two children, one is a tween and the other is a baby. As my older child grew into a tween heading towards the teenage years, I thought she will probably enjoy Universal Orlando. However, never would I have thought to bring my younger child there. As stated in the The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando , Universal Orlando has had the reputation of being a more “Thrill Ride” Theme Park for “Rollercoaster Junkies”. This is the stereotype I always assumed of Universal Orlando and it is a valid one as Universal Orlando does have a lot of thrill rides meant for older children/teens and adults, yet, I was pleasantly surprised to read that Universal Orlando can be a great vacation destination for families with young children as well. The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando will tell you such things as, which is the best themed playground area for kids out of any theme park across the country, the best resort swimming complex in all of Orlando and a lot of information on children’s activities and shows (including one with a famous purple, ginormous dinosaur). They also explain why Universal Orlando is a better park to ‘manage’ with kids than Walt Disney World as a whole.
You are a Foodie.
The word ‘Foodie’ seems to get tossed around more than a garden salad, but if you love to eat, The Unofficial Guide Series have amazing restaurant and counter service (or quick service) reviews. I never read the food section of The Unofficial Guides hungry! Under the direction of Derek Burgan, The Unofficial Guide Series’ “Universal food consigliere”, they give a very honest and descriptive rating system for the over hundreds of restaurants and eateries in Universal Orlando including inside the resorts and in CityWalk. With this guide you will find out such things as; which restaurant is best to order appetizers, drinks and desserts but not entrées , how “Green Eggs and Ham” really taste like, which restaurant is the BEST THEMED they have ever seen, which Italian restaurant is the best table service on Universal Property and oh my goodness I have to try ‘Cowfish’! They also give you tips on making dining reservations, dress code and noting dietary or allergy restrictions.
More Theme Park Fun.
The comparisons do not only stop at Walt Disney World! Here is just a small snippet of what you will find out about Universal Orlando through The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando‘s research team:
- Which roller coaster is one of the best in the U.S.A.
- Their favorite white water raft on the East Coast
- Their favorite ride in the entire world in Universal Orlando
- What they think is the ‘most intense, immersive thrill ride in any theme park”
- Which is the best place they like to dine in Orlando
- And a touring section, attractions review and map of Wet ‘n Wild
- Plus they include their signature, clip-out touring plans for Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Island of Adventure in the back of the book.
Canadian Diva Suggestion: Cut out which touring plan page is best for you, laminate it and carry a dry erase marker with you to map out your touring plan while on vacation.
If you are a fan of Shrek, The Simpsons (Television’s longest running sitcom, which I found out in this book), Transformers, Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, Men in Black, Hop (I disagree with them on page 275), Terminator as well as many other Universal films, television, cartoons and the Golden Age of Hollywood, you will love to visit the many attractions, shows and parades based on the above at Universal Orlando. And our family is super excited about the proposed Nintendo themed land, which I found out about in this book!
More fun facts: From reading this guide, I found out that I will probably get more wet than visiting Niagara Falls, as Universal Orlando has a thing for water, they teach you on how to prepare for this!! And you can have fun reading this book while playing a drinking game, with the amount of times they say “Immersive”, ‘Bottleneck”and ‘queue” (on page 46, you receive a grammar lesson on the word “queue”)
Warning: if you have a sense of humor, do NOT drink coffee or have a glass of water while reading any of The Unofficial Guide Series. Don’t let their sterile appearance fool you because some of the comments, descriptions, “Author’s Ratings” as well as witty sarcasm will make you laugh out loud! I would get an Unofficial Guide Series book just to have a good chuckle on it’s own, they are that funny! Their twitter account and articles on their site touringplans.com is informative with many of their trademark humor mixed in.
Some of my favorite humorous moments (among many):
- which Universal Orlando, on property resort shower has “enough water pressure to strip paint from old furniture”
- which queuing area is best if you love plants
- which Universal Orlando attraction, Seth Kubersky recommends you bring soap for.
- which attraction is difficult for “Yanks to decipher”.
- which show they suggest you “practice” for, “under the supervision of a psychiatrist”.
I also liked the “reader’s comments” seen in light blue italics throughout. The Unofficial Series Guide team have surveyed over 47,000 Universal Orlando vacationers and included many of their comments as well as feedback in the Unofficial Guide Series Books. Not only do the feedback from readers include great tips, some of the comments made, can be more funny and witty than The Unofficial Guide Series team themselves. My all time favorite is the last reader’s comment of the book.
In conclusion, The Unofficial Guide to Orlando is a wonderful wealth of entertaining information. I really enjoyed reading this book (many times actually) and it made me more excited to visit Universal Orlando as well as guide me on the best way to avoid stress and have the perfect vacation at Universal Orlando.
Do you want your own copy of The Unofficial Guide to Orlando or any one of the other books in The Unofficial Guide Series? Well, we have a contest for you to WIN a book from The Unofficial Guide Series. Click here for more details!
And don’t forget, we all need help planning our vacation and a Vacation Specialist will help you plan your trip as well as SAVE YOU MONEY. With this guide, our own site and a Travel Specialist like our favorite Patricia Payne, she can help you make the most of your Florida Destination – yes, she can plan your Universal Orlando trip and of course your Walt Disney World vacation too!
Are you a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) owner, and want to sell some of your points? Check out DVC Resale Market! You could perhaps use that money to stay at one of the many Universal Orlando resorts! The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando strongly suggests to stay on Universal Orlando Property when visiting there.
Do you like to dress your children up as various characters at the Theme Parks (I sure do)? Get well made and comfortable costumes with high quality material at Mom Approved Costumes and check out our own special discount code: DISDIVA !
Disney Diva Disclaimer: Liliane Opsomer from The Unofficial Guide Series and Keen Communications, LLC, provided me with a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. They have generously allowed ‘Tips from the Disney Diva and Devos” to give away another copy of ONE of The Unofficial Guide Series for free to our readers and fans of our site and social media. I received no other compensation for this review and my opinions are 100% entirely my own.
Copyrights of all the Photographs in this article belong to Liliane Opsomer and are being used with her permission.