It’s funny how quickly you become acclimated to life in the Florida theme parks. And how quickly you begin to process the surreal as normal.
We were in Universal Studios this summer, minding our business on our search to find Scooby Doo and the gang – as one does.
As we worked our way along past the Minion Mayhem ride, towards the Today Store Café, out of the corner of my eye I saw a pop icon across the courtyard.
It was an icon as recognizable as King Kong, Elvis or even Guy Fieri. The red bow, the bright white, happy face, the kitty ears.
It was Hello Kitty.
I announced it to the kids, possibly a little too enthusiastically.
“It’s Hello Kitty,” I said, making the lady next to me jump.
When you’re in the Universal Orlando resort properties, you’ve got to keep your radar up, your head on a swivel. I’d made a classic blunder. I’d temporarily forgotten that the most famous of the Sanrio characters makes her home at Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando.
The truth is, Kitty and I are the same age. She was born in November of 1974, I was born two months earlier.
I don’t really remember when the Kitty character gained so much popularity, but suddenly she was everywhere. All over the United States and all over North America.
Fans of the Kitty cartoon character were all over the world.
Each school year we’d have Star Wars Trapper Keepers or GI Joes or Transformers and the girls would be decked out in Kitty merchandise. She became ubiquitous seemingly overnight.
And so, when I saw her walking along and Kitty’s signature hair bow bopping along the crowd, I got a little more excited than I expected. She is famous, after all.
The kids? Not so much. Though we don’t steer the kids to boy things or girl things, society does a pretty strong job of that on its own.
So, 10-year-old JP either wasn’t excited or was pretending not to be excited to see a character clearly designed for girls. Ainsley, who just turned 7, had not yet had a Hello Kitty phase. She was on a mission to find Scooby Doo.
So we waved politely and let Hello Kitty continue on her way.
Later, after we found Scoob and the gang and the little kids went off with their mom our eldest, Sofia and I visited the Hello Kitty Shop.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
To see a list of current area deals, discounts and offers!
What’s in the Hello Kitty shop?
The Hello Kitty Store features exclusive merchandise and a host of kitty-centric collectibles. The store is divided into four themed areas in three rainbow-colored rooms. Each room sells specialty merchandise and the Kitty Sweet Yummy Shop features sweet treats.
The four areas of the Kitty shop include apparel from the Sanrio line, plush toys – featuring other Sanrio characters as well – accessories and souvenirs.
It’s the perfect place to pick out a small gift to take home to the Hello Kitty fan in your life including mashups of Kitty with other Universal characters like Jaws, ET and Jurassic Park.
Guests can also explore the Hello Kitty lounge, featuring home goods and loungewear.
What if I want my own version of Kitty’s bow?
Sofia – who collects Mickey Ears from Walt Disney World – was particularly intrigued by the Kitty build-a-bow display in the Universal stores.
The customizable headbands looked like a lot of fun. You can build your own version of Kitty’s signature hair bow.
What if I’m a fan of other Hello Kitty characters?
The store has a nice selection of other Sanrio properties merch for Kitty fans.
Characters like Aggretsuko, Keroppi, Gudetama and Chococat are represented.
How do I meet Hello Kitty?
There’s a Kitty statue outside of the store all the time where you can pose for pictures. However, if you want to meet the signature creation of Kitty head designer Yuko Yamaguchi, she does makes special appearances.
Of course, a variety of characters make appearances throughout the day at Universal Studios in the Hollywood character zone.
Other familiar faces you might see in the zone include Scooby and the gang, Homer, Bart, Lisa or Marge Simpson, Woody Woodpecker, Marilyn, Doc Brown from Back to the Future and Betty Boop.
The character zone is active from 9 m to 5 pm. Somehow, I never quite got a good grip on the rotation. The best bet is to ask a cast member who has access to the daily schedule. We were hoping to find Betelgeuse but never did.
Tell me about the popcorn buckets
One of the really fun souvenirs at Universal Studios is themed popcorn buckets. We saw a really cool Minions car version that we almost purchased.
The popcorn buckets are not especially practical in that most of the ones I saw didn’t seem to be built to hold much popcorn. But as display pieces, they’re really cool.
The Hello Kitty Shop has a Kitty popcorn bucket that is essentially just her head but makes for a cute souvenir. I do think it would hold more popcorn than any of the Minion buckets I’ve seen.
They also have a Gudetama popcorn bucket. He is sitting in a little egg that’s so cute but it can be hard to find in stock.
It’s also important to note that the popcorn buckets do not come with popcorn and are not part of the Universal Studios Florida discounted refill program.
Basically, they’re not popcorn buckets, they’re cool, hollow display toys.
What kind of treats do they have at the Hello Kitty Sweet Yummy Shop?
From s’mores to fudge to cupcakes to a variety of candied and caramel apples, everything is themed to Hello Kitty and her friends.
I want some Hello Kitty merch but we’re not going inside Universal Studios. What do I do?
If you stay at a Universal-themed hotel, your hotel shop may have a small selection of Hello Kitty merchandise.
Also, if you go to the Universal Studios Store at City Walk, you may find just the thing you’re looking for.
But your best option will be to shop in the park. If you are staying at a Universal hotel, you can have your purchases sent back to the hotel so you don’t have to carry them around all day.
Are you a Hello Kitty fan? Let us know in the comments!