Universal Studios wasn’t even on the radar a few weeks ago. However, in the middle of packing to move 3000+ miles away, we found ourselves tired and in heavy need of some fun. With our daughters birthday quickly approaching, we wildly decided “hey, wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate our daughters bday with a trip to Universal Studios Orlando?” and on a whim the trip was booked and we were on our way.
To tell you the truth, the last time we descended on Orlando was promptly 4 years ago, when our daughter turned 8, and we took her to Universal Studios for the first time. Honestly, it was probably one of the best trips I’ve ever had. During this time, she was just discovering her love of Harry Potter, and roller coasters, and I was already full on obsessed (needless to say, I had a blast!). So fast forward to now, and she’s a full blown Hufflepuff who was ready to grace Hogwarts for the 2nd time. The excitement was at an all time high! So we purchased 3 day passes and got 2 extra days for free. What a deal!
Day 1 in Orlando: Disney Springs
After a 3 hour flight into Orlando, we decided to do early check-in, unpack, rest, and head out for a nice birthday dinner. We didn’t want to cash in our park ticket with only half of a day remaining, so after dinner, we decided to take the rental and drive out to Disney Springs. (this qualifies as the beyond part)
I was completely in awe, because it’s grown exponentially since the last time I was there. (which was 10 years ago, when we took our first trip to Disney)
They had a Cirque Du Soleil show, new restaurants and shops, and it was just beautiful. We arrived at night time, and every corner that we turned there was live music. And so may yummy places to grab a snack. Hands down my favorite place was Everglazed, because I think their donuts are simply THE BEST. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit, that we went back to Disney Springs 2 more times, just to indulge on the donuts. (and catch the Cirque Du Soleil show, Drawn to Life.) There’s no shame here.
Also, can we take a second to appreciate the lego store?! Wow, the lego installations were legendary. And some honorable mentions? The Coca Cola Around The World Sampler (beware, the taste of some, might shock you).
For the first night in town, we had so much fun, and we really enjoyed our nice stroll at Disney Springs. Oh and another great thing about this place, FREE PARKING. (enough said)
Day 2: Islands of Adventure
I was so surprised when we walked into the Universal Studios Park on a Tuesday morning, because there wasn’t as many people like I was expecting (compared to last time). Then again, it was a school day, and our kid is homeschooled, so it could have explained it. But I wasn’t complaining. We asked our daughter what the game plan was because this was her party.
Without hesitation, the VelociCoaster was number 1 on her list. So off we went into Islands of Adventure to brave the roller coaster ride. It was an easy 15 minute wait (putting our phones and fanny packs in the locker ate up about 5 minutes of that), and then we were strapped into the ride. There are only a few words to describe this ride, thrilling, legendary, and incredibly fast! Our adrenaline was pumping for at least an hour after the ride. It was incredible. We explored the Jurassic Park area, met the sweetest Velociraptor named Sierra and then quickly made our way over to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.
The very first thing we did was grabbed a Butter-beer which comes in a variety of forms. We grabbed a frozen one, and set off to enjoy some rides!
We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a virtual thrill ride. This ride is known to cause severe motion sickness, so from past experience, my husband decided to not ride it. But my daughter and I braved it, and we really enjoyed it. We are both roller coaster girls, and if you can handle a lot of fast movement with 4d visuals, you should be ok. But be warned, there was a lot of people turning green, and having to lay down afterwards. Just saying…
Also, just walking through Hogwarts is incredible. The details, WOW, it feels so real. Universal really went all out with this.
Of course the highlight of Hogsmeade is all the shops with their interactive wand installations. My daughter got to bring her collectors wand from 2019, and partake in all the spell casting fun! I was having major FOMO, so my daughter let me borrow her wand from time to time to cast my own spells!
After Harry Potter world, It wasn’t long until my daughter declared she was ready to call it a day. So, as we made our way out of the park, she chose a few more rides, like King Kong and Spiderman. Both really great virtual thrill rides. As a bonus she found some comic books she’d been looking for in the Spiderman shop and it was a win-win all around.
We headed back to the hotel for a quick little rest, and then went out for another birthday dinner at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. The service and food was top notch. A+
Day 3: Universal Studios
We started the day a little later than we wanted, but during breakfast at the hotel we made a game plan. My daughter wanted to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure which is located at Islands of Adventure, and then she wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express over to Kings Station at Universal Studios to make her way into Diagon Alley.
So, we hit the ground running. We parked, walked over (briskly) and checked the wait times on the app. The app said 65 minutes for Hagrid’s ride, and only 5 for the Flight of the Hippogriff, so we rode that one twice, back to back before grabbing another butter-beer and then waiting the 65 min wait.
Call it luck, but 65 minutes turned out to actually be 35 minutes and off we were! I forgot how incredible this ride is. I was so sure the VelociCoaster would be my number 1 but after riding Hagrid’s again, I was unsure. They’re both deadlocked for number 1.
We then headed over to catch the Hogwarts Express, but not before stopping at Honey Dukes to pick up some cupcakes and chocolate frogs to snack on the train.
Kings Crossing – London – Diagon Alley
After a fun and quick interactive train ride, we made our way to Kings Crossing. We got out of the tunnel, and hung out around the “London” area for a little while before embarking on a quick trip to Diagon Alley. We knew we’d be back the next day with nana and poppie, and wanted to make sure we didn’t do too much without them.
At Diagon Alley, we rode Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts, another fun but virtual thrill ride. We also drank some potions, and used our interactive wand. It was short and sweet, and then off to Krustyland we went.
I grew up on the Simpsons, and to tell you the truth the l last time we were here we didn’t really explore that side of the park. So getting to spend time there was a treat. We rode some rides, ate at Krusty’s and then we decided to call it a day. On the way out, we squeezed in the transformers ride (which is a classic).
Disney Springs (Again)
We swung by the hotel, did a quick wardrobe change, picked up nana and poppie and headed over back to Disney Springs to catch the Cirque Du Soleil show called Drawn to Life. I’ve been to a few shows in Vegas, but this was my daughters first. She LOVED it. It captivated her from the very beginning. I was overwhelmed with emotion with how incredible the show was. Every single act was OUTSTANDING. After the show, we caught a late dinner (just in time to watch the Rangers win the World Series) and then we grabbed a donut from Everglazed, because duh, BEST donuts!
By the end of the night, we were all exhausted. It was time to hit the sack.
Day 4: Universal Studios + Diagon Alley
Nana and poppie joined us today, and so we started at Universal Studios. Right as we walked in, we bumped into Bumblebee from the Transformers. It was so cool to see him up close! Of course, we had to snap a pic!
We also decided to ride the Simpsons ride all together, since we had put it off the day before. It was actually pretty fun! We also rode Men in Black before making our way over to Diagon Alley.
We actually ended up spending more time here. My daughter showed off her wand skills. We picked up some Hufflepuff gear, and grabbed some Butter-beer ice cream. Afterwards we rode the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure so nana and poppie could experience it. Once we arrived, we actually had to make our way over to the exit ASAP. So we wouldn’t miss out on our early dinner reservations.
We ended up driving immediately over to Disney Springs to make our reservation at the Boat House. When I tell you the level of customer service at this place is top notch, I mean it. It was incredible. The food, the staff, the views, all of it. Perfect 10.
This ended up being an early night. By this point we were EXHAUSTED. We technically had 2 more park days, but we decided that we’d only go one more time.
Day 5: Final Day at Universal
We played catch up on our final day. We rode the rides we missed out on, and re-rode the rides that we LOVED. You can bet that VelociCoaster was one of them. We shopped for more gifts, got Henna, and my daughter surprised me with my very own wand. SHES THE SWEETEST! We ended up taking our time, and we really got to enjoy it before calling it a day. We ended up having early dinner at City Walk at Vivo Italian Restaurant, another A+ place on our way out.
Day 6: Back to reality
On our final day, we indulged in a late checkout. We had a nice big brunch, and then we caught a movie before heading to the airport to catch a flight back home. We realized this trip actually ended up being just the thing we needed to get our minds off our big move.
As always, we’ll keep you updated. Until then…