Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

If you've run into me at all the past month you've heard me talk about how excited I was for this trip. Jake and I both love rides and going on adventures together and we didn't think we were going to be able to this year. But we took four days and visited the Disney parks and both Universal Studios parks and it was just so fun to leave town for a while. I visited Orlando around 15 years ago and Jake hadn't been to the parks before so it was fun to experience it all together! Also, May is a great time to visit the parks they are not very busy!!

I did my homework before visiting and knew what rides to hit first and how to avoid lines so that we could do the most popular things at the parks. For instance, I read Harry Potter world at both parks is least crowded at park opening and 1-2 hours before close - this was very correct. Websites like Orlando Informer were helpful to plan, the Facebook Group "Universal Community" had some good info and updates, and the Universal App had wait times and maps to use when you get there.

We spent one day at Universal's Islands of Adventure and another day at Universal Studios . When you buy two days you get the third free so the day we arrived we went to the parks at 6:00p.m. and headed straight for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley (one park has Diagon Alley and the other has Hogsmeade and Hogwarts). It was one of our favorite times being in Diagon Alley when it was hardly busy and having the chance to explore every single detail in the shops. There was no wait for the Escape to Gringotts Ride Line (we rode it a couple times). The details in these HP areas are so well done and well-planned that looking in every window and every store shelf was so fun for us. We even pulled out all of the character's wands to have a look at what they picked for each person.

 We had dinner at The Leaky Cauldron, and then watched the firework/Cinematic Spectacular show over the water at 8:00p.m.

Above is the vanishing cabinet (used in the last book/movies)

Inside Gringotts

The next day we spent the whole day at Universal's Islands of Adventure. We headed straight back to Hogmeade/Hogwarts at this park when it opened and explored everything there and rode Forbidden Journey (their most popular Harry Potter ride - the ride goes through all the scary things in the books like the Whomping Willow, Chamber of Secrets, Forbidden Forest, etc). Forbidden Journey had no wait when we went in the morning, but we wanted to tour the castle so we rode it a couple more times (later in the day it had a 70 minute wait, Jake was glad I did my homework!).  The ride line runs through a big part of castle for you to tour (more than the Gringotts tour which was also cool), but you get to see a lot of your favorite rooms and statues and pictures from the book even the greenhouse! Of course all of the photos are interactive and move! 

Next, we rode all of the water rides and got soaked. Then changed our clothes, grabbed lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe right outside the park, and explored the rest of the park. The Hulk coaster was down, and The Reign of Kong was not open yet, but we still had a fun time exploring Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, Super Hero Island, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. 

I laughed harder than I have in so long when Jake went under the T-Rex (You can control just the head and eyes I thought) and lets out a HUGE ROAR (there was a microphone voice changer too - and he was just so loud!!). The kids taking pictures with the T-Rex couldn't see him underneath and the whole place clapped and all the kids' faces lit up because they weren't expecting it. He kept doing it and it was so funny. (Pics of what I'm talking about are below)

We ended the night at Hog's Head for drinks and another run through of Hogsmeade before it closed and then dinner at Vivo Italian in CityWalk.

Everything interacted with us and talked!

The Three Broomsticks

Chocolate Frogs!

Here's the T-Rex I was talking about that Jake was roaring in... .

The day we went to Universal Studios park, we slept in. We had visited three Disney parks the day before so we went to lunch at 11:00a.m. at Hard Rock and then went into Universal. Our initial plan was to go see some SeaWorld shows from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. and then do Universal Studios (we only had a few days - we wanted to squeeze it all in) but we were just too exhausted. 

We did not go to Diagon Alley right away this day (park opened at 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. was too busy). We explored the park until 4:15 and then went to a movie right outside the park (The Boss with Melissa McCarthy) and then did Diagon Alley all again until close from 6:30-8:00p.m. 

We went looking around the shops of CityWalk after the park closed and then had the BEST time at Pat O'Brien's with Dueling Pianos in CityWalk . They were so fun that night, we stayed late, but we went back the next night and....wasn't as fun with different performers. CityWalk was so fun you can carry drinks around and shop or just walk around the water and relax.

Overall we saw just about everything at both parks we did miss out on The Animal Show, Makeup Show, and WoodyWoodpecker's Kidzone but besides that we rode and watched all the rest!

Jake with the Knight Bus in the background

Loved the fire breathing dragon atop Gringotts. Warmed the entire street up with the heat!

Bell Clocks in Diagon Alley :) 

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