Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your week so far. If you read my last post, you may have noticed that I completely ignored my entire trip to Universal. I did this so I could make an entire post dedicated to Universal Studios and all of its glory!
My family and I arrived in Orlando Sunday night (after driving from St. Augustine), checked into our hotel room, went for a dip in the pool, and then hit the sack to save our energy for our 3 days at the parks.
My Monday morning wake up call was about 5:30 (thanks dad) so that we all could shower, eat, and chug some coffee and still get to the park at 8am when it opened (we got early entrance because we stayed on a Universal resort… highly recommend!!)
The first thing we did was head to Diagon Alley to ride Escape from Gringotts. Another thing I would totally recommend doing first thing in the morning (honestly just do both Harry Potter Worlds first because it gets SO crowded later in the day) because the line was a breeze so early but we went back later and the line was much MUCH longer.
Since we were running to the roller coaster, I wasn’t fully able to appreciate Diagon Alley in its glory, however, when we emerged from the ride (as a changed woman I might add because it was INCREDIBLE) I was completely in awe of Harry Potter world (and was still in awe each time we came back after). The attention to detail, how interactive the whole park was, and how I actually felt like I was getting ready to go to Hogwarts; after I bought my books, wand, and robes of course.
After we had thoroughly explored Diagon alley (don’t you worry we come back 2 more times), we took the Hogwarts express to Universal’s Island of Adventure, which held Hogsmeade. Just as Diagon Alley had done, I felt submerged in Hogsmeade. They captured everything, from the snow and icicles adorned by each building, to the various characters, to Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom, everything felt, looked, and smelled real.
There were 2 rides in Hogsmeade, The Forbidden Journey and the Flight of the Hippogriff (nothing special… just your typical kiddie ride). We rode the Forbidden Journey first. This ride navigates you through Hogwarts, where you can see Dumbledore in his office, moving pictures, the Gryffindor common room, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione sharing a bit of information about what the ride will entail. Once aboard the ride, you begin soaring through Hogwarts (you’re told that you’ll be watching a Quidditch match), battling dementors, seeing dragons, dodging the Whomping Willow, and getting an earful from Draco Malfoy. This ride is pretty much stationary, tilting you up, down, and every which way, moving when scenes change to shake it up with real-life figures (dementors, trees, etc.). Finally, you make it through the ride where Dumbledore and the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team thank you for helping them with the game. This ride was my personal favorite across the 2 parks because of the tilts, turns, movie screens along with actual moving parts.
Once we mustered up the courage to leave Harry Potter World (you wouldn’t want to either… trust me) we explored the rest of the Islands of Adventure park, riding the Jurassic Park water ride (kinda cool kinda scary and I didn’t even really get wet), seeing lines quickly getting longer before we decided to just ride the rest of the rides in this park early the next day, grabbed lunch, and then heading back over to Universal Studios.
Once back at Universal Studios, we explored LA, New York, London, and San Francisco (the park is divided up into cities) before going on the Race Through New York ride (hosted by Jimmy Fallon), a 3-D ride where you literally do not move but it 100% feels like you’re bouncing around New York streets, rocketing to the moon, and falling from 75 story buildings. To finish off this day at the park, we went on the Shrek 4-D ride where Lord Farquad somehow comes back to life ????? and we have to kill him again ???? before retiring to our hotel, grabbing dinner, waited for the pool to reopen post lightning scare, and then hitting the sack early for a long day ahead of us.
Tuesday was definitely the longest day of activities for us (I walked more Monday though because of all of the exploring we were doing). Our day started out once again at 5:30-6:00 with our assembly line of showers, teeth brushing, getting dressed, coffee drinking, getting HYPED for my birthday, etc.
For my birthday, I requested that we eat at Harry Potter World (because if you’re going to have your birthday at Universal, you might as well have it at the best part) so we ate at the Three Broomsticks at Hogsmeade. We had a cute little bird join us for a few minutes, who finally left after she figured out we weren’t going to feed her. I tried pumpkin juice for the first time (very good BUT SO SUGARY) and enjoyed a nice first meal of my day.
Right after breakfast, we hurried around the park trying to get in all of the rides we wanted to ride but didn’t want to wait long for. These included the Kong, Fast and the Furious, and Hulk rides. The Kong and Fast and the Furious rides were basically the same just different plots. You’re on a bus, there’s a conflict, and the driver and you have to save the day. Neither were that great to me. Had we waited 85 minutes for the Kong ride the day before, I would have been highly disappointed. The Hulk coaster was definitely very cool. Your standard roller coaster: first drop, upside down, corkscrews, a photo taken at the WORST second, etc. It was nice to ride a real roller coaster in the midst of all of the CGI and 3-D features.
We were then taken back to our childhood days as we visited Dr. Seuss’ world. We rode all 3 rides (carousel included), visited all of the shops, and reminisced about the good old days. We were the only group there without a kid under the age of 10 but we didn’t care.
By this time today, our feet had begun hurting again so we took the Hogwarts express (the only way to get from park to park without leaving) to head back to Universal Studios.
There, I had my first legal drink in San Fransisco at a wharf-style restaurant, before returning to our hotel for some more drinking and a dip in the pool.
Once we were feeling up to it we headed back to Universal’s city walk for dinner. We ate at the Cowfish (contradictory since I’m vegan I know), a restaurant with the most amazing black bean burger and veggie sushi I’d ever had! My mom then proceeded to tell the wait staff (without my knowledge) that it was my birthday so I was sung to in front of the whole patio of people. Was I embarrassed? Yes. Will I remember it forever? Also, yes. Happy 21st birthday to me!
With much chagrin, my time in Universal had to come to an end. That morning, after packing up our car and checking out of the hotel, we got into the park early so we could ride Escape from Gringotts again only for it to break while we were on it (we got to ride it again). We took the Hogwarts express one final time to Islands of Adventure where we ate at the Three Broomsticks again (my mom bought us a meal plan for the trip and we’d only used half of it so we had to spend it all today and that restaurant accepted it), rode The Forbidden Journey again, explored the rest of what we hadn’t seen, including a SpongeBob store and an E.T. ride (which was actually super adorable). We completed one final lap of the park, grabbed some Ben and Jerry’s and a few trinkets before making our way out of the park.
Have you ever been to Orlando? What parks did you visit?
❤ Alicia ❤