FTC Disclosure: We were hosted as members of the media but were not compensated for our recap or review. All opinions (as always) are our own!
We had SO much fun at Universal Orlando last month that it actually took me a while to figure out how to even write about our experience! After talking about what we wanted to share and how to make it fun to read, I came up with our 10 W’s of Universal Orlando!
1. Where to stay:
There are some gorgeous “on-site” resorts at Universal Orlando but I have to say I fell in love with the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
We stayed in a family suite and they are SO well done – gorgeous and fun touches, plenty of room, a great sized fridge and storage for snacks, a place to watch tv that’s separate from the sleeping quarters etc.
The boys really loved the feel of the room too! The rest of the resort is just as well done. So many fun touches. They have a great pool area, outdoor games, a bowling alley, a Starbucks and some great choices for food (including plenty of gluten free options – just ask!) I actually wished we would have stayed a bit longer!
They also have Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens (valid theme park admission required) and complimentary shuttle buses and walking paths to both Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal CityWalk®
Which brings me to my next “W”.
2. When to go:
I am by no means an expert on when the best time to go is. Us desert dwellers wanted to miss the dead of the summer humidity since we prefer our heat dry, but I very highly recommend taking advantage of that Early Park Admission! That hour in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ really gives you a lot! Speaking of Harry…
3. What to see:
All. The. Things. I cannot tell you how excited we were to check out our favorite literary world and we were not disappointed!
Both Hogsmeade™ and Diagon Alley™ are so, so good. The details are amazing and we had so much fun just soaking it all in. But really, both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure have SO much to see. Our favorite is probably Hogwarts™ castle and Gringotts™. To finally see them in real life was so very cool. The boys loved a lot of the areas at the parks like Springfield!
Having tweens is the best! We rode all the “big” rides and crossed everything off of our list! Our favorites were Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ (which is one of the newest and SO good),Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ (the ride in the castle), Dragon Challenge™, Hogwarts™ Express, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit®, Transformers The Ride: 3D and Despicable Me Minion Mayem. There was lots for younger kids too, but since we didn’t have any with us we went big!
We didn’t watch any ride previews or anything before we went so we were even more excited to ride everything. Hogwarts™ Express, I think, was the most surprising for us. DEFINITELY go both ways when you visit!
6. Who to meet:
The minions are super fun to meet and take photos with, but we were starstruck when we got to meet and talk to Dre Head and Stan Shunpike (along with the Knight Bus) just outside of King’s Cross Station.
I also recommend meeting the wand keeper at Ollivanders™! You can watch someone get chosen by their wand and then walk through the shop to find out which one is right for you! We got an interactive wand that actually works around the park if you get the spells right 😉 Wingardium Leviosa was his fave.
Butterbeer! Oh butterbeer, it was better than we thought I think and I am NOT a sweet drink person. I don’t drink soda or juice almost always water or unsweet tea but I LOVED butterbeer! I think the frozen was my favorite but they were so close.
We also tried Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice which was quite good with the fun “salted” rim. We grabbed some pumpkin juice on our way out and were quite surprised at how much we liked that too! Honestly I thought I’d be “ok” with these but they were great and we ended up saving them to drink the next morning!
As little as possible. Many of the rides move you in such a way that you just can’t have loose items with you. There will be free lockers to use, but the less you have lugging around and trying to stuff in a locker – the better. Sunglasses, water, money and your phone for photos are must haves. I didn’t bring my “big” camera in with me and I’m actually glad I didn’t. Next time we visit I’ll plan a few hours to bring it in for photos and then take it back to my room!
8. What to eat:
Besides the amazing food inside the parks (they do have some good gluten free options like the delicious chicken sandwich at the Leaky Cauldron™) there are some awesome options at Universal CityWalk®. Even before we left home we were excited to try The Cowfish.
They really did have GREAT burgers AND sushi. I don’t know how you do both well, but they do! They were awesome at accommodating my gluten free needs and had such a fun and unique menu (like Burgushi® – a cutting-edge fusion of burger and sushi). If you haven’t tried it yet, definitely give it a shot. We will absolutely stop by again when we’re in town and that’s saying a lot!
9. What to watch:
For a perfect relaxing (but funny) end to one of your nights go see Blue Man Group! Their show is SO much fun and a really unique fusion of art and music. Everyone will love it and you might even be part of the show. If you’ve never seen it I think you’ll like it and it’s something the kids and grandparents should all enjoy!
Family, memories & the gift of your time with your kids. This was definitely a trip that we all had fun on and made tons of memories! (Now I can’t wait to go back!)
Check out Universal Orlando on their blog or social media to stay up to date on their news. Like the news of their latest project, to bring to life an entirely new water theme park experience! Called Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort, it will join Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure and become the resort’s third incredibly immersive park. I can’t wait to see updates on this because it sounds amazing!