Super Nintendo World launch review: Here's everything you need to know before booking a family-friendly holiday at the Universal Hollywood park complete with Virgin Atlantic flights and Sheraton Universal Hotel stay
Universal Hollywood has brought Super Nintendo World to the USA. My trip started aboard one of Virgin Atlantic's amazing planes. Virgin Atlantic offers a variety of seating options for this trip. Flying premium economy, for me being on the taller side, the extra room was amazing, not to mention the very generous 46 kilograms of luggage per person (23kg per bag).
I was welcomed by the cabin crew with a glass of bubbly and quickly settled into my seat for the next 11 or so hours. Virgin Atlantic is known for its exceptional service and the in-flight entertainment did not disappoint. There was an excellent choice of the latest movies, box sets and for the kids, games, box sets such as Bluey and Paw Patrol to keep them occupied. The flight flew by (if you pardon the pun). I particularly enjoyed the cream tea just before we landed at LAX. Thanks, Virgin Atlantic!
Our stay at the Sheraton Universal Hotel kicked off with a breakfast of champions
My hotel for the trip was the Sheraton Universal Hotel set within Universal Studios itself. First impressions were great and the room was perfectly suited for all, families and couples or a single person. The room had all the standard amenities, safe, excellent washroom facilities and even Netflix on the TV. After a quick drink and some food in the hotel bar (which was utterly delicious and very reasonably priced) I settled down for bed ready for Universal Studios the next day.
After a great night's sleep (the bed was super comfortable) and some breakfast in the hotel (American Pancakes Yum!) we set off to Universal Studios for the VIP tour. The VIP Experience is the most exclusive way to go behind the scenes at the world’s largest movie studio and theme park. It’s the ultimate way to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.
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The VIP tour is well worth the extra money over the standard ticket, not only do you get to queue jump but you get your very own tour guide who lives and breathes Universal Studios. We were welcomed by our tour guide and taken up into a private room where we had some great coffee and pastries before heading out into the theme park. Universal has a great variety of rides, simulators and movie related attractions.
Discovering the magic of Hogsmeade at Universal Studios
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash is perfect for the little ones, a thrilling ride through the streets of New York City with all the characters from the movie. However The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers the most to all family members, whether you are a die hard fan or new to the franchise this attraction has something for everyone.
Explore the mysteries of Hogwarts castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade, and see some of the wizarding world’s best-known establishments. Plus experience pulse-pounding rides and attractions that transport you into a world of magical thrills and excitement. This did not disappoint, it felt truly magical, however the rides are not for the faint hearted, and very much directed towards a more mature audience. To see the full list of attractions at Universal Studios please click here.
Once we had finished with the rides and exploring the park, the VIP experience included an excellent buffet lunch. Food choice (as with all American restaurants) offers all types of cuisines, from freshly prepared tuna sashimi to a variety of pastas, and for the children the ever reliable French fries.
Next on the itinerary was the tour of the movie industry’s busiest sets in a special trolley (Tram) where we disembarked to explore some of Universal Studios' famous outdoor sets. This truly was (in my own personal opinion) the best part of the VIP experience. Learning how the movie/TV industry films, what has been filmed and what is currently being recorded was very interesting.
Exploring this War of the Worlds wreckage was surreal
Exploring the wreckage of a real jumbo jet which was created for the Steven Spielberg movie War of the Worlds was very surreal, however, this would be a little mature for younger children, but to break up the tour you get to step into some great experiences and 3D movie simulations whilst seated on the Trolly, The Fast And The Furious and Jaws being the highlights.
Day two was all about the evening, after exploring LA, doing some shopping at the outlets and visiting the beaches before it was time for the opening launch party for Universal's latest and greatest attraction Super Nintendo World. Almost two years after it debuted in Japan in March 2021, the US version of the Super Nintendo World theme park opened its doors to the public.
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If the former’s launch was marred by Covid concerns, at the height of the pandemic, the opening ceremony at Universal Studios Hollywood in LA felt like an opportunity to celebrate the resort with the crowds and fireworks it deserves. The red carpet event was amazing, some of Hollywood's finest were there, Chris Pratt, Jordan Sparks and Keegan-Michael Key to name a few, however, they were massively overshadowed by the outstanding and truly magical Super Nintendo World itself.
For me, Nintendo, especially Super Mario, carries so much nostalgia. Growing up with Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach brings back so many happy memories and the new Super Nintendo World really puts the classic games into real life. On the stage of the official opening Mark Woodbury, Chairman & CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts explained: "This entire land is rich with interactivity, distinctive merchandise, inventive culinary treats and Mario Kart Bowser's Challenge, the first of its kind augmented reality technology which enables you to translate what generations of people have experienced with Nintendo games into an immersive ride that is unlike anything else in the world."
I could not wait to explore the park and that is what I did the next day.
Super Mario carries so much nostalgia
As Nintendo is all about the gaming experience to achieve this you can purchase an interactive 'Power up' wristband ($40 each) you are then tasked with saving the princess much like the video game. A series of challenges are littered throughout the land, where you can collect digital keys and coins which must be done before moving on to another section of the land.
The power bands have six designs and, when synced with the Universal Studios Hollywood mobile application, enhance the interactive elements of the land. You can "punch" certain yellow question mark blocks and collect digital coins. It keeps track of performance, especially for the land's main attraction, Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge.
The star attraction of the new world is Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge. To get to the ride, you must pass through the imposing Bowser's Castle. The queue winds through the corridors of his castle, showcasing Mario Kart trophies, memorabilia and evidence of Bowser's plan to defeat Team Mario along the way.
The 'Power up' wristband in action
This one of a kind ride allows you to experience a full Mario Kart race as you would if you were in the game. How have they done this you ask… well it's via (without getting too technical) using Augmented Reality (AR) neatly integrated into a Mario hat and visor. In essence, it allows you to feel like you have been projected into the race via the wizard of AR.
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The ride itself is so close to the game, shoot turtle shells, pick up speed with a power star and beat Bowser to the finish line. It was so much fun and would be for all the family (aged 5+), however, if you suffer from motion sickness approach with caution.
Other interactive games within the land include “Punching Blocks” to collect digital coins (just like in the game itself). They will discover a new dimension of Super Nintendo World via the interactive binoculars positioned within the land, employing augmented reality technology. You can also collect keys after winning the Key Challenges from Goomba Crazy Crank, Koopa Troopa POWer Punch, Piranha Plant Nap Mishap and Thwomp Panel Panic – collecting at least three keys will ultimately allow access to the final boss battle with Bowser Jr which is so much fun and suitable for every member of the family.
The Super Mario World attractions provide hours of fun for the whole family
The team at Universal Studios has tried to make every aspect of the new theme park as closely aligned to the game as possible, even the restaurant. Everything on the menu at the new Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood involves one key ingredient: Mushrooms.
"Mushrooms are in just about everything," Universal Studios Hollywood Executive Chef Julia Thrash said. "It either looks like a mushroom, tastes like a mushroom or draws inspiration from the Mushroom Kingdom. Everything on the menu has some nod to a mushroom in some way, shape or form."
Personally, I found the food delicious however the choices for vegans, vegetarians and children are very limited. Also if you are allergic/don't like mushrooms I would look to eat in one of the other restaurants in the theme park.
Once you are done collecting coins you can visit the gift shop which hosts lots of Mario merchandise. Pricing varies but be warned it’s not cheap, however, if you love Super Mario you can purchase some great exclusive products which can only be found within Universal Studios Super Mario World.
Mushrooms are on the menu at the new Toadstool Cafe
In summary, the trip to Universal Studios was amazing. Super Nintendo World is so much fun and would suit all members of the family. Ideally children 5+ would benefit the most as the interactive games require some strength and skill to play. The Power bands are definitely worth the purchase to get the full experience of the world however for a family of four, $160 for wristbands that can only be used in the park seems very expensive once added to the price of the tickets. The rest of the Park boasts some amazing attractions and rides but be warned it does get very busy especially around the weekends and without the VIP experience you could face some very long queues for the attractions/rides.
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The Sheraton Universal Hotel was the perfect location for the park. A ten minute walk or a free shuttle bus takes you right to the gates of the park, this also means you can visit Universal City Walk which boasts some great shops and restaurants which are open late so if you would like to eat out of and would like to have a cocktail or a beer without the worry of driving/getting a taxi this is perfect.
Virgin Atlantic Holidays packages:
Five nights in Los Angeles from £1,499 per person
Five nights in Los Angeles, with Virgin Atlantic Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to Los Angeles, five nights’ accommodation at the Universal Studios Hollywood buy a day, get a second day free special offer ticket. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a Traditional Guest Room with a King Bed and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 17 April 2023.
Five nights in Los Angeles from £4,350 for a Family of Four (two adults, two children)
Five nights in Los Angeles, with Virgin Atlantic Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to Los Angeles, five nights’ accommodation at the Universal Studios Hollywood buy a day, get a 2nd day free special offer ticket. The price is for a family of four, based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a Traditional Guest Room with two double beds, and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on 17th April 2023.
Virgin Atlantic Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859. Prices are correct as of 19th February 2023.