GUIDE to Universal Studios and Island of Adventure- ALL RIDES IN ONE DAY?

This past March we went to Florida to visit my father and this gave us the chance to have a date night and spend time together as a couple. While we love spending time with our son and he is our complete world…he just isnt going to cut it for the height requirements for the roller coasters at Universal Studios.

I would say I am quite the Harry Potter fan as well, so visiting Diagon Alley and the icon Hogwarts Castle replica was something I was really excited about. Not only that but my husband had been previously and I heard great things…

For myself, I would say theme parks are probably one of the best places to have a date. It allows you be adventurous, re-spark or spark any romantic flame though fright, good food and a laugh is always a win for me!

We booked our hotel at The Cabana Bay Beach Resort- that gave me all the 50’s Vintage ‘Meet The Robinsons’ vibes, and if you manage to get a room with a view of Volcano Bay its almost like you are transported to your own personal island. I’ve researched Cabana Bay Hotel before booking and seen that the whole ‘environment’ of the hotel was my kind of style. The decor was mid century mod meets futuristic dessert model.

HOW TO RIDE ‘PRETTY MUCH’ EVERY RIDE AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS AND ISLAND OF ADVENTURE IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA

This is possible if you skip the smaller kiddie rides and grab yourself a fast pass.

Lucky for us, we got free fast passes because the first two rides we rode that day broke down.

Taking full advantage we skipped the smaller rides and hit THE BIG STUFF.

Since the Diagon Alley is the busiest and most talked about part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter since it opened, a visit to Universal Orlando has become iconic to fans of the series. This is the place to go first. If you are staying at one of the Universal resorts you will get early park access and will able to go straight in, but no matter how hard and exciting the whole park looks at first- keep walking. If you want a less- crowded Instagram picture when Diagon Alley is basically empty go there first. After get in line for Escape from Gringotts Bank because the wait times for this attraction can go up fast.

Over in Island of Adventure (after you take the Hogwarts Express in ‘London’), the newest attraction to open is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is a roller coaster in Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The wait can get up to a 600 minute, but has died down to 3-4 hour wait times since….yah. Best not to take the smaller kids in line unless you plan on doing a switch out.

So here is what you need to know if you plan on visiting, or planning your own date night there…

WHEN YOU SHOULD GO:

We went during Mardi Gras, which meant there was special food vendors, music and a carnival inspired parade. As a BIG foodie I was all about the beignets and gumbo. My husband enjoyed his first potato spiral ‘on a stick’ and enjoyed the very American way of eating street food.

Of course its common knowledge not to try to go during school holidays, but this is often harder as your children become older…and is something we all just have to deal with.

But if you like a FRIGHT- Halloween season at Universal, namely Halloween Horror Nights. This is a hard ticket event in which you step onto the set of some of your favourite horror movies, and walking through those sets as actors attempt to scare you. This event is not for children under the age of 13.

HOW MANY DAYS SHOULD YOU GO:

The possibility here is endless, it depends on what you want to do and also how long you want to do it for.

You have to conciser how large your party is to the type of attractions that are prominent at Universal Orlando Resort, namely, roller coasters and screen-based simulators. That’s reductionist, and there are many more things at Universal than those types of rides, but if your party is averse to either, doing more than 2 days at Universal is going to be tough.

If you love coasters or have teens, you can easily spend 3 days or more at Universal Orlando.

Islands of Adventure also has a Jurassic Park area, it’s an enjoyable area to explore. In other words, there’s plenty to do if you’re an “fan” at the Universal parks.

Then, there’s also the question of how much “extra” vacation time you have. Assuming you’ve already allocated your time at Walt Disney World and are looking at “other stuff” to round out your trip to Florida, I’d probably look to spending more time at Universal than other parks, as we found one full day ENOUGH but two for a slower more relaxed enjoyment.

We enjoyed a full day there and we did most rides at both Universal and Islands of Adventure.

EXPRESS PASSES
Express Pass is Universal Orlando’s version of FastPass (a way to skip the lines), with the key difference being that you either have to pay for Express Pass or stay in an eligible Universal Orlando hotel and have it included with your stay. With us we ended up lucky because both Escape from Gringotts Bank, Jurrasic Park and King Kong broke down in the morning and we headed to the information desk, explained our situation, negotiated a bit and scored both my husband and myself Express Passes to use for the rest of our day.
If something happens like this, a ride breaks down or you are delayed they normally hand out passes to ride the attraction again or use on a different ride.

This made it possible to sit back and enjoy the park a bit longer because we spent less times in the lines!
GET AN EXPRESS PASS IF YOU ARE GOING FOR A SHORT TIME.
WHERE TO STAY:

MAIN QUESTION: Do you want ‘free’ Express Pass by staying at an eligible Universal Orlando hotel? Do you want to stay at a Walt Disney World hotel for the duration of your trip, or change hotels? Do you want to stay an an off-site hotel in the general vicinity of both Universal and Disney to save money?

Aside from the Unlimited Express Pass available at all of the on-site hotels except Cabana Bay and Endless Summer Resorts, all other Universal hotels offer early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands. You will want this if HP is what your a fan of!

WHAT TO EAT

There are some good restaurants in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, but as a whole. Diagon Alley (Leaky Cauldron) and Hogsmeade (Three Broomsticks) and the table service restaurant, Mythos, which is a great value.

Obviously, you’re going to want to try Butterbeer–perhaps all three varieties (frozen, hot, and regular).

CHURROS AND MORE CHURROS….

I ate these like wild fire on the go and we didn’t have a main meal until we finished. We ate supper at Hard Rock when heading out of the park. This was fine, because our goal was to ride the rides…and eat a meal later. Try the iconic and themed treats throughout the park that a bit more to-go style dining and sit down and relax for a meal if you plan to spend a short amount of time there like us.

One thing you might want to consider is purchasing a refillable Coke Freestyle mug. I’ve done this, but I can really put down the Cokes to make it worth the money. These Coke Freestyle machines located throughout the parks are also a convenient way to get free water that’s cold!

RIDES!

HEAD TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FIRST

I recommend visiting Universal Studios in the morning and heading to Islands of Adventure in the afternoon.

Either way, I recommend visiting Universal Studios in the morning when the crowds are quieter. If it is raining, most of the rides are indoors here, so you will be protected from the weather.

HEAD TO THE BACK OF THE PARK FIRST AND WORK YOUR WAY AROUND TO THE FRONT ENTRANCE

When we got to Universal Studios at 9:00am, took our iconic picture near the entrance and got into line. Headed for Diagon Alley first so you can either take your chances by going early or visiting this area later before leaving the park.

Some rides provide free lockers for you to use while on the ride (you use your finger print to open the locker so you don’t have to worry about losing a key).

PLAN THE NEXT RIDE YOU WANT TO GO ON WHILE WAITING IN LINE AT YOUR CURRENT RIDE- OR BEFORE

Once we got the map of the two parks, we would plan our next stop or ride we wanted to go on while we were waiting in line at our current ride.

For example: If you are waiting in line to ride The Mummy, pull out the map and look at the rides around you and decide which one you want to visit next. This helped us save time instead of wondering around the park looking for something to do next.

Accept that you will not be able to ride every single ride or see every single show at the two parks in 1 day. So we skipped most kiddy rides and rode THE BIG MAMAS.

For older teens and adults, chances are you will not be interested in riding the rides made for small children and vise versa — young children will probably not want to ride on the large roller coasters.

For example, we walked through the Dr. Seuss area at Islands of Adventure to check out the place, but we didn’t end up riding on any of the rides there since they were mainly for younger children.

Overall, it was a great day and in the evening we were able to head back to Universal Studios to catch the parade and ride a few rides a second time around. We ended up going on Jimmy Fallon- RIDE THOUGH NEW YORK late at night as an unplanned ride and was quite surprised about how fun it was!

THOUGHTS:

Just do you, see what will work best depending on how long you plan on staying, what you plan on doing, the time of year and what you want out of your trip!

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