Orlando’s Sunshine Resort
Orlando’s Sunshine Resort™ is in the heart of Orlando Florida. On this trip, this was my second resort this week. I was moving over from my visit at The Fountains. You can read about my time there and in Orlando the first part of my week here. If you have not read about my stay at The Fountains and the first four days at Disney you can read that here.
Video by Island Hopper TV
Day One Arrival
I felt like I was making out like a bandit, as my grandfather would have once said. Today was my fourth day in Orlando and I was actually checking in now after a full day at Disney. While I like the drive to a vacation and I usually am driving down on day one. I was very happy to just be moving resorts this week.
I had my accommodations set up so I could spend an entire week down here having fun in the Orlando sun moving one resort to another. I remember now looking at those travels shows first on PBS, then years later on the Travel Channel, or another channel. I used to say to myself, how does that person get paid to travel? How does anyone get a job like that?
Now these days with the very attractive traveling women I kind of get it. They are amazing to look at, and heck, even just see smiling on video. So, the whole thing kind of works. But in the early PBS days it was like a mildly geeky guy sharing his world travels with you. Or even later someone who was certainly cute, but not a model. For me if anyone is wondering I got this gig because I have written a number of books, and I do a great deal of online marketing. Knowing the owners of TZort and several other brands, I kind of lucked into the position. I am no model, not even for big men’s clothing.
I feel very lucky to be able to travel to these amazing resorts and tell you about them, thank you TZort.
Arriving at Orlando’s Sunshine Resort™ you will find it is truly in the heart of Orlando. By that I mean it is just a little North of my last resort at the Fountains. Beyond Sea World on I4. This means it is closer to downtown Orlando and right on top of Universal studios. If you are going to Universal, this is the resort of choice for you.
This was turning out to be the vacation trip of a lifetime. I had already spent the first 4 days at Disney and now I was going to be going to Universal for the next 3 days before leaving and driving home. That is the big Orlando 1-2 vacation. For most because of the cost of tickets alone you will choose only one resort per vacation. It just makes sense how much these parks charge for entry these days.
Years ago when I first came to Universal (I was here the first year it was open as a park) they had a season pass for Florida residents. It was the deal of a lifetime. Now if you are a Florida resident, they do offer some great deals for you, just not the same amazing pass.
The resort itself shares land with the Fun Spot America Theme Park, which is neat. One could come stay here and do the other smaller parks in Orlando and have an amazing time as well.
This resort has many of the amenities you are looking for in your Orlando dream resort.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- Ice Maker
- Iron/Ironing Board
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- BBQ Grills
- Fitness Room
- Game Room
- Hot Tub
- Outdoor Pool
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- On-Site Security
- Vacation Planning
- On-Site Security
- Sauna/Steam Room
- Wheelchair Accessible
The villas at this resort are available in a standard two-bedroom size. A kind of one size fits most approach to resort design. There are two designs here, one just over 1,200 square feet and the other just over 1,300.
Each has everything a small family or two couples would look for in accommodations. Especially when your plan is to assault one of the amusement parks on your trip, anyway. The site itself is not the same size as the Fountains, but it is very nice. If a two-bedroom is what you are looking for, then this may be the resort you are looking for.
For me the size was, but I did love the layout of the master bedroom and the jet tub in that bedroom area. That would be amazing for mom and dad on vacation, once the kids had collapsed and fallen asleep, or even just for the couple that stayed in the master suite in the two-bedroom layouts here.
Both of the room designs here have that feature so it is one that many people must enjoy not just me. Of the two-room layouts, I think I like the smaller one a little better just because in the master it has a shower whereas the larger unit does not, but it still has the shower in the main bathroom. I just liked the bathroom having its own shower idea, in addition to the jet tub.
After my check-in. I focused on getting something to eat, then settling in. I had already enjoyed a meal at the park for lunch, but tonight with all the walking in the park I wanted some dinner. Since this was technically my fourth day in town. I had already taken a good brand of allergy med and I think that contributed to my hunger too. The flowers and plans in Orlando are great, but if you are not used to them, you should take some kind of antihistamine during your trip. For me, if I do not then by day 3 my body starts to respond and shut down my lungs some.
These resorts and parks are well maintained with plants and flowers year-round here. If you are sensitive at all, just have the over-the-counter brand of your choice available. Consider also taking it ahead of time for your vacation, instead of in response to the reaction you are bound to have.
Almost next to the resort was an Asian buffet called Ichiban Buffet so right now that felt like the ideal pick. There were plenty of other options in the area as well, but a buffet with Hibachi-style items as well seemed ideal for me at the moment.
This restaurant must have had 8 tables of options available. If you like a buffet, this is a low-cost affordable option for dinner or lunch. I was impressed at all the choices for the low cost. If you have a large Asian buffet near our home, town, this may be what you are expecting and you will find many of the same options.
The food was good but average. Kind of the solid 3-star middle-of-the-road experience. Which often is perfect for you. It was a great place to feed the troops on vacation, just not the place for the romantic dinner to celebrate 20 years of marriage if that makes sense.
Day Two at Orlando’s Sunshine Resort™
I woke up before the sunrise mostly because I went to bed so early. But also, because I was hungry, and wanted to get an early start to be a Universal as the gates opened. I had paid extra to be able to get in 1 hour before the regular pass holders and I wanted that jump on the crowds today to get in to see a few things without a line.
Close to my resort, there were both Denny’s and an IHOP. Given the two choices, I went to the IHOP. If there had been a line, I would have gone to Denny’s without issue. My goal was breakfast and both have a solid breakfast menu and even many of the same options.
Today I thought about when IHOP became IHOB a few years back when they tried a marketing plan out. I chuckled because I recalled what Wendy’s has said on their corporate social account in response. It was something to the effect of them not being worried about competition in the burger space from a company that had trouble cooking pancakes. It was very funny at the time and a wild thing for another company to do.
Looking at that though, I think the two are about equal on the difficulty scale. Both are ideally cooked on a griddle in the restaurant setting (though burgers on the grill at home are best). Each is about the ingredients and the timing of the flip and cooks that matter.
I liked the pancakes at IHOP and their country-fried steak breakfast. Which is huge but would give me enough food and fuel for the park to likely get me to dinner. Which was a goal because I really wanted to jump back into the Harry Potter parts of the park as this would be my first trip to the newer Diagon Alley section. Eating a big breakfast before the park opened would mean I would be ahead of the game and fueled again for the day.
After my favorite IHOP breakfast, I headed for the park. I would start and the Universal Studios park since that was where they had built the Diagon Alley. Years ago, now I had come the first year that they had the Harry Potter Hogsmeade area built in the Islands of Adventure. It was fun and the Butter Beer that they made was a great treat.
I am like a big kid with these things. Not full nerd but very close to that on the scale of 1-10 or nerdom, I am likely a 6 or 7. By that I mean I would not dress and wear any costume ever, but I do enjoy all the movie-related content. I had just enjoyed the heck out of Disney with Star Wars, and Pandora content. Now I was letting my nerd flag fly with the Harry Potter stuff.
For me, the Harry Potter fandom was more about having enjoyed the movies and content with my nieces and nephews. I was older when this content came out. So, this was not me reliving moments from my own childhood but the stories I shared with them.
By comparison with Star Wars, I started that saga at 7 years old and watched the new films as they came out. I had many developmental years investing in the storyline. All the Harry Potter world stuff was fun though because it too was about a mental escape from reality with the movies and the books.
I never read a Star Wars book. I know they exist, but for me, it was just the movies. I can say the same with Avatar as well. But with Harry Potter I did read those books both with the kids and by myself later too. There is just something about seeing the pictures you created in your own mind for a book brought to life that was amazing and special. Maybe that is why I liked Winnie the Poo world too at Disney?
Anyway, today was going to start with a little book and movie magic with Diagon Alley coming to life. My thoughts were that they likely made one heck of a store out of the redhead brothers store on Diagon alley that they had in the later movies and books. Or maybe they would go with the store from the earlier books? It would be cool to see.
In the other park, they had already made an Oleander’s so you could go on a tour and get matched with your wand. That was a genius thing. Kind of like the build your own lightsaber thing at Disney. On the verge of evil though because if you are a family traveling on a budget, you need a plan to be able to avoid the added expense of the wand or lightsabers.
Great gifts for the kids if you can afford them without putting it on plastic and going over your budget, but expensive either way.
When I was young, the parks got the kids for the giant suckers that cost a little money but they were not $100. They just gave all the kids a giant sugar rush for days and made a mess. There is no way to neatly eat a giant sucker that you have to break down with saliva over time. Great as a kid, gross for all adults associated with the snack project it becomes.
The ride here is Escape from Gringotts and it is a great ride. I rode it twice since I made it in the park with the early access group today. Then I checked out all of Diagon Alley, and about 2 hours in I was already downing my first Butter Beer. The Butter Bear here tastes like a super sweet slurpy. (Imagine that a sweeter than normal slurpy) That is why it tastes like to me but with a buttery finish. If I was to break it down, I would say it is a slurpy, whipped cream, and some kind of butter flavoring all rolled into one partially frozen beverage.
For these, I would be careful with how many you let kids have. Not only from the sugar perspective but just overall calories. You could get them sick with even just a few. The good thing for most families is that they are not cheap, so that will prevent most grandparents from over-providing access to their grandkids.
Now in the park they also have a transformers ride. I have watched those movies and even earlier the cartoons and enjoyed them. But for whatever reason, I was not in geek or nerd mode about getting in to see or experience that content. If you are (or your kids) visit this one early in the day as well because when the park is busy there is a line for this ride. It is a 3D experience that was fun and worth doing no matter how into the movies or cartoons anyone is.
Universal has had Fast Passes for a while and they are great options. Now they also offer virtual line passes. You just need a smartphone and you can save time standing in lines. Right now, they are still free and that means using them is a no-brainer. If you have a family plan for cell phones and the kids are old enough, separating and using this virtual line feature is amazing.
Universal now charges a ton extra for the “Express passes” as much as $90 a person per park now, so the Virtual Line pass is the equalizer for a great visitor experience. They do not overlap on rides or, however. Now parks have always had extras, these days they are just more visible with it. A few trips back I paid a small fortune for a Disney Package that basically made a niece and her friend Disney Princess’s for the day and gave all of us a tour guide to the park, made them be the ones to start a parade that night and on and on.
Heck, you can even stay in the Disney castle if you have the money and leverage. Or you can go to Disney Hollywood in California and become a member of the private club there. I never did that, but if anyone reading this is a member and wants to take a guest, just let me know.
So these express passes are just paid options to spoil yourself and your family or friends. Not a must-have at all, but if you had a great year and want to spoil yourself have at it.
I recall a year where it started out horrible for the family. I lost my father and then 20 days later my brother-in-law lost his Mother. Just a tough year by anyone’s measure. That Thanksgiving nearly 10 months later, we chose to go to a Great Wolf Lodge for the Holiday. Doing that with a family group of 8 was pricey. But it was well worth it to break from our normal that year.
Looking back now in context I think as we all get over COVID worries that many people who can take huge vacations, will overdo it. That may not be a bad thing. The Express Pass options are nice. They kind of feel like a short-term peek into how some people live all the time.
At this Universal Park there are 32 places to get something to eat or drink. It was now time for me to find something of more substance than Butter Beer to get me through my visit. I wanted to go to the first place I had ever been at Universal, Finnegan’s this is set in the New York area of the park and is just a great take on an Irish Pub. Years ago on my first trip I visited and had a blast here, as well as some real Irish food, so I wanted to go back.
I started with an Irish cheese dip, then had Bangers and Mash. It was great, and I washed it down with some beers. When you eat in amusement parks, you kind of have to ignore the menu prices. I feel like the saying in for a penny in for a pound applies here. I always do it, and I just kind of hold my nose. Figuring that one expensive meal in the park is just part of my deal.
For families, this might be a costly option. You can buy meal plans that save you money, and there are some discounts related to your passes to check into. For me, even if I was with a family of 4, I would not be worth leaving the park, walking out and in just because the dinning is more expensive by say $10-15 a person. But these are things you have to choose based on your budget.
There is many things close however, so here it is not that difficult to leave and come back if you want to. Some people chose to do it not only for the savings but to catch their breath. The parks are so fun and energetic that stepping out for an hour may make sense for people as well.
Day Three back to Universal
OK back to a giant theme park again for the 5th day on my trip. This is amazing! While I have traveled a ton in my life (I am very grateful for those opportunities) I have not done full weeks in the parks but a handful of times. This has been amazing.
Today I would start off in the Islands of Adventure for all the things you can do here. In this park now you have not only more Harry Potter fun, but Marvel Super Heroes, and Jurassic park fun. I have not been since the Jurassic Park area was added, so I made a B-Line towards that area first.
Score one for the home team. If you read my Disney trip blog on the first few days of this trip, you know I love boat rides. I am a sucker for those since that was the very first ride, I even went on in Disney almost a half-century ago now. (Wow just typing that makes one feel old.) The reason I am sharing that with you is that the main feature of Jurassic Park is the boat ride. It is a great way to control the situation, I guess with animatronic dinosaurs and people in close distance from each other.
It was a very fun ride, especially for any kids who loved the movie, or just who is into dinosaurs. Many kids go through a dinosaur phase, if that is one of yours now, this is a ride for them. Well, if they are old enough to not get scared as one of two pop out and roar, that is.
The minimum size for the ride is 42” and if your little guy or gal is under 48” an adult will need to be with them. Also, the reason for the height restriction is likely that this water ride comes with an 85-foot drop.
In this park, there are more water-based fun areas too. With Poseidon’s Fury, which is a show and experience in one. I would add it as a must-see or do experience in this park.
The Marvel-focused areas of the park are heavy on rides and some character interactions. There is one of the 3D rides that is neat, which has a Spiderman theme, then a Hulk rollercoaster for those that want to get green.
Another similar ride is the King Kong ride. That one was a great one to make sure you catch as well and allow some smaller guys and gals to go onboard with parents. The minimum size here is 36”.
The time and the parks this week have been amazing. But unless I am buying a house in town, at some point I have to leave. Even if I had a home, could I afford to live here as much as I would want to come to these resorts? Likely not, so vacations it is.
If you want to stay near Universal, this resort may be a great choice. Just make sure you book it with TZort.