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Mickey on the Move
Yo, Mouse, check it out!
By Mickey Charles, Roz Charles / Travel Editor, Photojournalist

World of Dr. Suess
The world of Dr. Seuss awaits all youngsters, from nine to 90 at Universal Orlando.
Orlando, FL - Universal Studios, now dubbed Universal Orlando, is no longer "that other park in Orlando," the one you might go to if your schedule permits and you have nothing else to do after you have seen Disney, had the mouse up to here and are tired of waiting an hour or two on lines. Universal is now a great vacation destination, complete with two incredible theme parks - Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios along with Universal CityWalk, a 30-acre dining, shopping, club and live entertainment venue. There are also luxurious resorts right on site and an additional focus on the marketplace that Universal believes has been ignored by Disney - teenagers and young adults.

But, shake it up and down, turn it around, spin it, toss it in the air and it still lands on kids. That is what Disney and Universal are all about. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Daisy, Cinderella and who knows how many others were there first but Woody Woodpecker and his friends have not been hibernating all this time. Hardly.

There is definitely more than enough room for two kids to play on this block.

Like some soldier of fortune or swashbuckling seafarer, you are likely to begin your explorations at Universal Islands of Adventure, where some of the world's greatest myths are depicted and waiting to be experienced?just in case they were actually real at one time in the history of the planet. Legends abound and there are stories waiting to be told on five wonderful and enchanting islands.

You start with Port of Entry, a theme park delight that is brimming over with activity, and Universal's cast of inventive characters. The Lost Continent, that mythical marvel where your dexterity allows you to dodge giant fireballs hurled by warring gods, Poseidon and Zeus. While there you might as well see the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad, a stunt show for visitors to The Lost Continent.

Roz Charles and Elwood Blues
Roz Charles enjoys a moment with Elwood Blues (of "Blues Brothers" fame).
Jurassic Park awaits, as does a glimpse into the past on the exciting Jurassic Park River Adventure where your nerves are tested by encounters with some of the most fearsome creatures to ever roam the Earth. If you plan on going to Toon Lagoon, a change of clothes, bathing suit and towel might be the order of the day. Survive that and you can head for the action-packed Marvel Super Hero Island, home to Spider Man's 3-D experience, far and away the best ride in any park, roller coasters aside. This is a must do for everyone.

And, if you are really daring and bold, you will head right to Dueling Dragons, the world's first dual racing roller coasters. Do it and be sure to tell us how much you enjoyed it. That is the only way we have been able to find out just how great a ride it is. No, we are not getting on with you. Survive this one and the Incredible Hulk Coaster is next. If you plan to do one, or both, the best advice we can offer is to pass on lunch?that means not having any as opposed to passing it.

Don't forget Seuss Landing, where all of Theodore Geisel's books spring to life, and is there any among us that has not read them to our children and grandchildren? You'll have a whale of a time taking them anywhere else once they've been on "The Cat in the Hat" ride. Now, this one we can handle easily.

Hard Rock fountain
The fountain at the entrance to the Hard Rock Hotel conveys it all...with 42 bronze guitars-- Gibsons and Fenders-- swirling skyward.
If you want to know how they make the marvelously exciting movies that you see on the silver screen, visit with the folks that make them. Universal Studios takes you inside the sets and shares some of its timeworn secrets with you.

Terminator 2:3D, Twister, Back to the Future, King Kong (Kongfrontation), Men in Black, Jaws, Earthquake:The Big One - they are all there with each one better than the other. MIB is a must for everyone. And, for the kids, there is Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and Nuthouse Coaster. Nor can any kid, young or old, afford to miss the ET Adventure.

Universal Studios CityWalk is, truth be known, the answer to Disney's Boardwalk. It is a multifaceted and diversified grab bag of shops, restaurants and entertainment from dusk to dawn.

Get your CityWalk Party Pass and head for a night of fun with more than enough restaurants to cater to every taste and shows to fill the evening. Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, the world's largest Hard Rock Caf?, Emeril's Restaurant Orlando, Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom, are just a few of the delights that await.

It's really kids during the day, maybe at night.

Hulk Hogan
One of the luminaries at the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel was none other than Hulk Hogan (center).
While the Grand Floridian over where the "other guys" romp and roam is a first class property, Universal offers the Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews operation that is, in a word, spectacular. They have taken the charm, quiet elegance and romance of the seaside village of Portofino in Italy and transplanted it here in Orlando. The metamorphosis is a delight to behold and, in Disney's own description of so many things, it is magical. Whether you avail yourself of the butlered service available in 26 of the hotel's Villa Rooms and Suites, or just choose to savor the atmosphere on your own elsewhere at the resort, the degree of pampering to your whims, tastes and needs is all that separates one form of reservation from the other. It is a continental journey that does not require a passport and is still walking distance from the great Escape.

Having said that and indicated that there is an option, the fact of the matter is that you absolutely must indulge yourself at Portofino. Go for the extra few quid and get the butler. Find out what it is to live in the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It would be an injustice to do otherwise. Prepare yourself for an imaginative and fabulous journey overflowing with fanciful luxuries for every Don Quixote among you. Put your head into the clouds of the poetic and live what you have only dreamed of to date. You deserve it.

The Hard Rock Hotel is also now open and everyone with a musical bone that stays here, able to carry a tune or not, honestly expects Elvis to get on the elevator at any moment. This is what rock 'n roll is all about, Universal style. The memorabilia on display is probably worth more than the property. Well, almost with $31 million worth. They have it all - costumes, guitars, shoes, glasses, autographed photos, paintings by performers that you did not know could hold a brush?e.g., portraits of famous artists by Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood. Walk around and don't be surprised to see Matchbox Twenty, Blink 182 or U2 going in the same direction or coming at you.

Hard Rock drummers
Some of the hundreds of drumers that gathered at the Hard Rock Hotel opening to set another Guinness record.
The gala opening of the hotel was accompanied by the appearance of stars that ranged from Hulk Hogan to Brian McKnight and Mickey Dolenz of Monkees fame. It was topped off by the appearance of more drummers at one occasion than had ever been done before and, yes, Guinness was there to record it, as were staff members with headsets to cover our ears and soften the sound somewhat.

It is, without question, a Hard Rock experience as classic rock, pop, rhythm & blues and popular music of all sorts come at you from hundreds of speakers located in the public areas and throughout the grounds. You have just checked into the biggest, most comfortable rock concert on the planet.

Here is one of the great perks for staying at a Universal Orlando property - Universal Express recognition so that you can enjoy early there park admission (an hour before the flood gates are opened) and do not have to wait on any lines for attractions, rides or just about anything at the parks. Nice, very nice. Just show your room card key and your admission ticket. Need a reservation for one of the character dining experiences with the kids? You are a priority as a guest. And, you get first available seating at all of the restaurants offering table service at Universal Orlando. Left your cash, credit cards and wallet in the safe? Use your room key and charge it - food, merchandise and tickets to any of the entertainment. Don't feel like carrying around all the gifts and goodies? They will be delivered free of charge to your room.

Micky Dolenz
Micky Dolenz of the Monkees shows that he has not lost a beat over the years.
When Universal and Disney go at it all the benefits of each flow in your direction.

Loews is stepping up to the plate again in the summer of this year when it opens the Royal Pacific Resort where new meaning will be given to the word "exotic." With 1,000 rooms this southern Pacific themed resort will be the largest of the three on site presently. All are conveniently connected to one another and to the theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, as well as the CityWalk entertainment complex, by a chain of waterways and paths for the more athletic and energized.

Universal, as you can see, is nolonger "that other place down the road." They have created a formidable theme park that, like Topsy, continues to grow and grow and grow. It is Woody Woodpecker versus Mickey Mouse. The nice part is that it is all being done to entertain you. Go on, take advantage of it. Get yourself to Orlando as soon as you can. It's a fantastic experience no matter how old you are.