The Universal Orlando Challenge! 30 FUN things to do while at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando!!!

I love challenges, scavenger hunts, etc. and even though there’s SO MUCH FUN to be had at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, I realize that I tend to stick to my favorites and end up missing out on a lot of the small treasures and certain areas of the park!

Also…because of my favorites (especially The Wizarding World of Harry Potter) I like to go a lot, so adding silly challenges and things to do makes it even more fun when you’ve been there more than a couple of times!

So, to help make sure you’re not missing out on any small treasures,  I challenge you to do some, or ALL, of these fun things while you’re at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, Orlando and add to your already SURE-TO-BE-AMAZING photo album of the trip!

As part of the challenge, you can hashtag your pictures #UniversalOrlandoChallenge and compare them to the other creative talent out there!

  1. Catch the Sunset over Toothsome or Hogsmeade or Anything in IOA.
  2. Take the most CREATIVE picture you can think of with Jaws. 
  3. Try ALL the Butterbeer flavors (regular, frozen, ice cream, fudge, hot, clotted cream). 
  4. Get an unsuspecting person wet using your magic wand (or just photograph/video someone else caught by surprise!!!  SO FUN TO WATCH!)
  5. Find, and DO, all the SECRET spells in Diagon Alley!!! 
  6. See how many creative different angle pix you can get of the fire breathing dragon. 
  7. Take a picture of yourself eating “The Tonight Dough” ice cream (from the nearby Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop) in front of “The Tonight Show” ride!! (A very close rival to Butterbeer ice cream, IMO) 
  8. See how many characters  you can give Rabbit ears to.
  9. ESPECIALLY if you’re not a kid (–so what?!?!??–) take a picture of yourself with a waterfall in CAMP JURASSIC!!! …or on a rope bridge! …or in a cave!!
  10. Visit Moaning Myrtle. 🙂
  11. Call the Ministry of Magic  (Dial 62442 (MAGIC))!
  12. Take the most creative picture with one of the Transformers!  Double brownie points if its Megatron, he’s scary & it’s so fun watching him scare people! Bumblebee & his music & dancing are entertaining too! 
  13. Have a conversation with Shrek’s Donkey (he’s HILARIOUS!)
  14. Visit the local Raptor 
  15. Volunteer to GET ON STAGE at the Hollywood Horror makeup show!!!! Make sure your family or friends videotape your performance!!!
  16. Place a REALLY GOOD bet against your family or friends on the MIB ride!  Karaoke for the losers? Loser HAS to ride something that they are afraid of? Loser has to take an embarrassing picture of your choice? (Hint: Frank the pug is worth a LOT of points)
  17. Capture a picture of your favorite Harry Potter fan’s MOST AMAZING FACIAL EXPRESSION, AS THEY WALK INTO DIAGON ALLEY FOR THE FIRST TIME!
  18. Take THEE coolest Sunglass reflection selfie (one that is way better than this, LOL)!
  19. Pose for the most CREATIVE pic on The Mummy Ride!!! (hint: the camera is on the right, as you go down a hill, after you are in the room that fills with fire on the ceiling !!!).
  20. Get a VIP tour at MIB—just ask a Team Member!!! (…then do number 16)
  21. Come up with a silly/Creative name for your Intergalactic Adventure Passport on the ET Ride, then make sure you catch ET saying good-by to “Poopy-head” or whatever your name is! 
  22. Make the loser of #16 take a picture in the hat of your choice.
  23. Find these AMAZINGLY uncrowded and SUPER quiet spots in Islands of Adventure (hint:  this is where to go when you want to get away from the crowd!)
  24. Take a picture with the SCARIEST Halloween Horror Nights Prop at Williams of Hollywood Prop Shop 
  25. Eat an entire Lard Lad’s donut!!!
  26. Compete to see who stays the DRIEST on Bluto’s barges.
  27. Create your very OWN specialty Vodoo Donuts drink or dessert and post it!!!  Hey- if Toothsome can put an entire cupcake on a shake, you can put a donut on a shake too, no? …or even put it on a cupcake on a shake? …or on Butterbeer? …or a Strawberry Daquiri? …or White Russian?
  28. Find the cartoon bubble that best describes you and pose with it 
  29. Find the statue of the one-eyed witch from Harry Potter’s The Prisoner of Azkaban
  30. OK, this one’s not in the actual parks, but has to be included: Find the ACTUAL piece of the Berlin wall (!!!) outside the Hard Rock Cafe and take a picture of it!

OR~Create your own challenge!!!  Do something creative or unique and snap a picture and post it, challenging others to top it! 🙂

I’m so excited for you, and hope you enjoy every minute of your trip and have fun with these challenges! 🙂


As I write this, I realize how incredibly LUCKY we are to have the bike culture that we do here in the Triangle area!!!

…and along with the amazing bike culture, there are SO many fun excuses to dress up your bike!!!

From the, always FUN, New Belgium Fat Tire Festival in Durham:

To the annual Tour de Toys, benefiting the women’s shelter here in Raleigh:

and, of course, my FAVORITE, Crank Arm Brewing‘s HALLOWEEN SPOOKY RIDE!!!

(get wheel lights above, here!!!)

Sometimes, Dave just uses these wheel lights for fun! 🙂

And when there aren’t events, why not create your own?!?!?!  Like a BIRTHDAY RIDE!!!

The fun light up hair can be found HERE!

Although you can’t see them in these pictures, I used THESE super cool lights:

which you can get for only $12.65 per wheel by clicking here.

These LED TUTUs are SUPER fun too!!!!

and I use these lights for simple visibility purposes for mountain biking at night, either in the woods or on urban rides!

UPDATE:  I got Boom Brightz Blinking LED Rechargeable Bluetooth speaker for Raleigh’s Oaks and Spokes “Light up the Night” Ride and it’s my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!!!!!  SO FUN, SUPER EASY TO ATTACH and with the added bonus of MUSIC!!!  AND the lights blink to the beat of the music!!! I even ant to take this baby mountain biking (night riding)!

OK, going back to my FAVORITE event, these are the costumes that we made for the first CRANK ARM HALLOWEEN SPOOKY RIDE; Ms Pac Man and BLINKY!!! (OR, as one of the adorable little Trick or Treaters in Oakwood yelled out “It’s a TACO!!! AND A MAIL BOX!!!”):

These were super easy to make, with some colored poster board, a Christmas bow, a little red paint for the mouth, googly eyes, and duct tape!

BUT…if you can’t find the googly eyes at the craft store, you can always get them here.

Oh, and check out this SUPER fun video of us rollin on Instagram here!!!

My LAST Spooky Ride costume wasn’t as easy 😉

It was a dragon, so I dressed up as the Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones!!!

Below are pictures to describe the basic jist of the creation of this bike costume, but I got my inspiration/instructions from this YouTube video, so if you want to make something like this, use this video!: How to Make Moving Dragon Wings

THAT’S ALL I’ve got for now!!!!!  but I.CAN’T.WAIT. for you guys to see what I’m planning for THIS Halloween!!! Stay tuned!!!!!!

oh yeah, and this isn’t a bike costume, but it was a FUN costume to wear for the Muddy Buddy bike/run race that ended up with a crawl through a mud pit!!!

Oh–and side note, DRESSING UP KAYAKS is super fun, too!

Like this one I did for my whitewater wedding:



7 Things to PACK for your TRIP to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Orlando!!!!!!

YAY!!!! Your trip is booked and I’m so excited for you!!! 🙂

I wanted to share some packing tips that I have specifically for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando as I hope they will help make your trip even more easy and enjoyable!

For some awesome GENERAL packing tips, especially for things like jewelry, and make-up and hydration items, check out my 9 minute vlog: PACK NIGHT! and a couple of AWESOME travel & packing tips !!! 

The video covers some cool tips, but THESE recommendations below are specific to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure:

  • TIP 1: PACK THE MOST COMFORTABLE PAIR OF SHOES THAT YOU OWN!!!! You will be walking 5 to 15+ miles a day, and you don’t want blisters!



My top pick for comfort are some worn-in Vans, OR Skeechers memory foam shoes -as long as they fit perfectly snug so that your foot doesn’t slide, which also causes blisters.

  • TIP 2 ( and my FAVORITE tip): Get a LANYARD!!! These things are so helpful!!!

If you’ve heeded my advice from my other blogs about visiting Universal Studios ( Random Tips for Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter  or HOW TO: A Harry Potter fan’s “Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” Guide! ) then  you will have an on-site hotel key card, which is ALSO serves as your UNLIMITED EXPRESS PASS  if you stay at Loews Hard Rock Hotel, Portifino Bay, or the Royal Pacific,  AND you will have your park ticket that shows that you have a park-to-park pass, which you’ll need to show when boarding the Hogwarts Express.

Wearing a lanyard makes navigating the rides soooo much easier, as you don’t have to fumble to pull out park tickets and/or your Express Pass every time you board a ride or the Hogwarts Express!  You can also store other cards in it if you’d like.

They sell Lanyards at the parks, BUT you can get them cheaper and have them ready ahead of time if you buy them on Amazon.

Check out one like MINE (in pic above) or this Hogwarts one, Gryffindor one-or THIS one, or Ravenclaw one! (click on highlighted styles for the links…but note, that some don’t have the card case, so you’d have to buy that separately)


and if you want to get REALLY fancy, you can add this badge holder

  • TIP 3: BRING YOUR SUNGLASSES!!!!! and for extra fun pix, wear the reflective kind, so you can take cool pictures of the sights in the reflection of your glasses!!!

I am SO taking a pic of myself with the Volcano at Volcano Bay in the reflection of my glasses next time!

  • TIP 4: If you are prone to burning, bring Sunscreen

I LOVE these little travel-sized ones that can go in your carry-on and are TSA approved sizes.

  • TIP 5: BRING A  WATER BOTTLE WITH YOU ON THE PLANE AND INTO THE PARK, so you can refill it at the water fountains and stay hydrated (as well as staying hydrated on the plane, because planes are very dry)…you can store it in your little backpack (see Tip 6).

  • TIP 6: BRING A SMALL BACKPACK…to carry your water bottles, wands, snacks, sunscreen, any medications needed, phones, portable chargers, a selfie stick, etc.

Lockers  are provided at all the thrill rides and roller coasters that don’t permit backpacks and are FREE for the duration of the ride.

The lockers aren’t HUGE, so that’s why I say a “small” backpack.

It can be something as simple as THIS (that the kids can wear, too):

and this one is inexpensive, but super cool and comes in 30 different awesome designs and colors!

…and finally (last, but not least…or last, for that matter!)

  • TIP 7: Consider bringing  a portable charger.  Nothing is worse than your phone dying right in the middle of taking an awesome video, or cool pictures of the AMAZING Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!!!!!!

My absolute FAVORITE (and I’ve tried 5 different kinds so far) is the Jackery.  The Jackery charges your phone QUICKLY and you can get about 3 full charges with this size.

Some other tips:

  • In preparation for RAIN or WATER RIDES, if you already have thin rain ponchos at home (ones that would fit in your little backpack), consider bringing them, so you’re not stuck buying overpriced ones at the park during a storm.  Plus, they are great for wearing on the water rides.  Also bring storage baggies to keep electronics, etc. dry,  and maybe an extra pair of socks, if you wear them (I typically don’t), because they will get wet during a rain storm or water ride.
  • OF COURSE, bring ALL your Harry Potter shirts and jewelry and paraphernalia!!! or Minion, Spider-man, Transformers,  Hulk, Simpson’s, King Kong, The Tonight Show…etc.  shirts!  One day I’ll post pix of my 8 Harry Potter shirts 😉
  • on ETSY, you can find some amazing Harry Potter jewelry, shirts, etc….they even make adorable Gryffindor “Mickey Ears” that are perfect for a park so close to Disney World!
  • If you are prone to motion sickness, FORGET Dramamine, which makes you sleepy, try SEA-BANDS, all natural accupressure nausea relief bands. I use them for Jimmy Fallon’s ride, the Minions ride, Simpson’s ride and Forbidden Journey rides.  Everyone’s different, but those are the only rides that I need them on.
  • Volcano Bay does NOT provide Towels!  I just bring a towel from my hotel’s pool to Volcano Bay, but if for some reason this is not possible, you might want to consider packing towels for Volcano Bay.
  • I’ll probably think of more later, and have to update this blog…

I HOPE that this list was helpful for you, and please leave a comment if you have ANY other questions, and most importantly ENJOY YOUR TRIP!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! 🙂






Colonial Williamsburg has some BEAUTIFUL Christmas decorations made from all natural items and Christmas Town in Busch Gardens is just super Christmas fun!  Loved the Scrooged play there!

Some of these are from the Colonial section, and they are made from all natural leaves, pinecones and other things that one might be able to find in their backyard.

In the Colonial section…Magnolia leaves. Love how this can be made from things you can find in your yard!!!!

The fancier decorations,, with extra things like ribbons and such,  are from Storefronts at Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square.

Storefront at the Market…this is not the Colonial section, so a little more fancy.
Storefront at the Market
Storefront at the Market
With Fall being late this year, the contrast of gorgeous autumn foliage and this Christmas tree in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square was magical!
Beautiful all natural decorations

My favorite natural decoration is below.  One day I’m going to make this….

This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE beautiful all natural decoration
LOVE the use of fresh fruit for decoration at Colonial Williamsburg 🙂
LOVE the all natural decorations at Colonial Williamsburg 🙂

Back to the store fronts:

This is in the British section of Busch Gardens at Christmas Town!  If you are interested in going to Busch Gardens Christmas town and want to see and learn more about what it is like, and see a lot more of the decorations and lights, check out my awesome video! (click here) 

you see this tree pretty much as soon as you walk into the park 🙂
Decor on the “Family” bathroom 🙂
Heading into the Ireland section of the park, one of my fave’s
This is leaving New France, heading towards Germany
Back in Ireland
Das Festhaus in Oktoberfest section!
I”m 99% sure that this is in Ireland 😉
The big gorgeous tree in front of Das Festhaus!!!! it has a musical, magical light show!!!!!
France! lots of yummy crepes and wine in this section 🙂
This is the North Pole! Where Santa is hanging out….watch out for looooong lines—sheesh!
If you want to see more, check out my awesome video here!:


Here are some of my tips for Visiting Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure!

For more tips or just fun stuff about this magical place, check out my other blog posts, and YouTube videos on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hard Rock Hotel, and other fun stuff at the parks!


…if you don’t have any of your own, borrow some! Be the bestest Aunt or Uncle alive!!!

…and they FORCE you to ride the Hulk and other fun stuff like that…

…they also enjoy all the small details of the place 🙂  and seeing their joy is priceless

AND, if they’re under 56″ tall, you can join them (one adult per kid under 56″) on Pterandon Flyers and see super cool sights like these from above!!!!!

Skull Island, Reign of KONG…I took this while riding Pterandon flyers with my nephew (note: you’re not really supposed to take pix from up there, but….)
Super fun play area in Jurassic Park that is best enjoyed with the little ones

RANDOM TIP # 2: Head from Universal to Islands of Adventure during the sunset….soooo pretty!

Absolutely EVERYTHING at Toothsome Chocolate Factory is DELICIOUS, even the Brussels Sprouts!!!! …AND if anyone in your party has a peanut (or other allergy) the chef comes to visit your table to discuss your options and it certainly feels good to know that he’s aware of the allergy! it STAYS PACKED here, though, and always on a wait. The best time to come is right when they open. if it’s just one or two people, try sitting at the bar and eating.

yes…the above picture deserves posting twice 🙂

RANDOM TIP #3: DO THE RAPTOR ENCOUNTER! It’s so cool and well worth the wait…and you can watch the raptor attack children while you wait, which is very entertaining!  The “trainer” is hilarious, AND if you hand them your phone they will take video AND pix for you!!!

By the way, I challenge you to come up with a better pose than this 😉


WHAT a FUN roller coaster!!!!! its so cool how it gives you little breaks and scary interactions in between the screaming fast roller coaster!  Even my 7 year old nephew loved it.  Also, the line is usually super short (a hidden gem?) and I didn’t know it at the time that this picture was taken, BUT NOW I know that after you are in the room where there’s fire-literally- on the ceiling, then you go down a drop, that’s where the pic is taken -to your right…so you can pose for it!

RANDOM TIP #5: Buy some reflective sunglasses.  I mean, you’re in Florida, you NEED sunglasses….then you can take much cooler pix than this one that I took while waiting in line for the Flight of the Hippogriff (….the kids LOVE this ride, so be prepared to ride it like 26,397 times!!!!)

RANDOM TIP #6: STAY AT THE HARD ROCK HOTEL! The Hard Rock Hotel is one of the 3 hotels that gives every member of the family Unlimited Express Passes for their entire stay (including the day that you arrive, and the day that you leave).  Those suckers are worth $89 per person per day.  It’s worth it. period.  THEN you can spend the day RIDING RIDES versus WAITING IN LINES!!!!

The pool is super awesome, has a fun slide, AND has speakers under water so you can hear music underwater while you swim.
Watching a Harry Potter movie at the pool is just one of the many, many, perks!
Speaking of perks…for a deposit–that you get back–you can have an electric guitar during your stay!
so when your niece becomes a famous musician, she can give you all the credit for getting that guitar and she’ll probably buy you a house to live in when you’re not on tour with her band 🙂
the kids LOVE it…..and, dude…you only live once, and those Express passes are GOLD. (side note: my nephew Sebastian wrote this in his cute little 7-year old handwriting and signed his sister’s name…I’m sure she would want ya’ll to know this… )

RANDOM TIP #7: Visit the Knight Bus. Just because….

RANDOM TIP #8: Get the short ones to dial 62442 (M-A-G-I-C …on an old school phone…you know you remember those!) in this phone booth to reach the Ministry of Magic

(Is Sebastian not the CUTEST little Harry Potter EVER?!?!?!??)

RANDOM TIP #8: Get an interactive wand.  LOADS of fun (…and sometimes frustration when the little muggles can’t get the spells!). this map comes with it, and if you go to Knockturn Alley you can hold the map under the blacklight at the entrance to illuminate all the spell locations. It’s a blast. trust me.

The blacklight highlights all the spell locations in the area on the right…you can just barely see it in this pic.


While you’re in Knockturn Alley, check out the Vanishing cabinet in Borgen & Burke’s. You can hear what’s inside it!

RANDOM TIP #9: **ALWAYS** buy a “park-to-park” pass so you can ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios and vice versa…it’s a different ride each way and its just a MUST.  If you don’t get this you lose major brownie points and coolness status, just saying….squib.

RANDOM TIP #10:  The Hogs Head Pub has beer.  This is an important fact. Riding the Flight of the Hippogriff 10,567 times will make you want to visit this establishment.

This is my sister. She needs this place after riding the Forbidden Journey ride 🙂 Look how happy she is.

This is inside the Hogs Head pub. that hog is an Animatronic. super cool. Dragon Scale beer is good.

This is the wizards version of Immodium AD. I’d probably need this if you could ever get me to eat the black pudding they have at the Leaky Cauldron. black pudding! do you know what that is? google it. I.can’t.even.

Get your kids some robes. not Slytherin though. are you sure? yes. anything but Slytherin.
Random fun fact: Luna is one of my FAVORITE characters.
as a side note, THIS is how a Harry Potter book should look…

AND LASTLY….have fun and STAY SILLY!!!!  (or stay, silly)

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites