Universal Orlando Resort: March 16 – 19
Spring break – those words have changed meaning for me over the years. Back in my college days spring break meant trips to Florida, drinking beer, tanning on the beach, and trying not to get into trouble. Now spring break involves my brother and my nieces and a trip to Orlando. We’ve visited Disney as a family on two previous occasions: spring break 2012 and Thanksgiving 2013. I wrote a post about the Epcot visit. https://lifestyleofafashionista.com/2013/12/07/saturday-street-style-epcot/
The 2012 spring break visit we stayed at the Disney Polynesian Resort and visited the Disney Park. This past spring break we stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort and visited the Universal Orlando Resort. I was super excited to visit this park. I’d been to the other Orlando parks several times. Universal Orlando’s biggest attraction is the Harry Potter rides and area. I’ve read all of the books and seen the movies so I was looking forward to this part of the park. I didn’t know much about the park. I knew there were rides based on movies and thought there might be a Jaws ride. The park has changed over the years and the Jaws ride is long gone along with the Back to the Future ride. I love both of those movies so I was a little bummed about that change but it is good that the park keeps its rides up to date.
If you are thinking about taking a trip to Universal Studios, read this post to help you plan your trip. We visited the park over 3 days.
We stayed at the Cabana Bay resort. We checked in on Wednesday afternoon. We had a small suite with 2 beds and a pull out sofa. There was also a small kitchenette. The hotel had a fifties vibe and décor theme.
Some of the benefits of this resort included:
- Early Park Admission† to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens (valid theme park admission required)
- Complimentary shuttle buses and walking paths to both Universal Orlando® theme parks and Universal CityWalk®
There are several Universal hotels with different benefits. Here is the link to compare the resorts: https://www.universalorlando.com/Hotels/Hotel-Guest-Benefits.aspx
After unpacking, my niece Molly and I went to find the lazy river. This resort is quite large. There was a pool outside our room but it wasn’t near the lazy river. The lazy river was on the other side of the resort. We found it after a long walk then realized you need to buy tubes to float in the river. We purchased our tubes and took a couple of laps around the river. We wanted the rest of our group to join us so we called the room and told them to meet us. Once we had the group together we did a few more laps around. The sun was starting to set and it was dinner time so we decided to call it a day. We went back to the room, showered and then found a place for dinner.
There are a few dining options in this resort. We chose Bayliner Diner, a buffet restaurant. You pick up a tray, decide on a cuisine or make a salad in the salad bar. You can buy wine and beer and of course a kit to make s’mores. We had a nice dinner then made our s’mores at one of the fire pits.
After our dessert we went to the game room. You purchase a game card to use in all of the games then earn tickets at each game. Your tickets are stored on the card. At the end of your playing time you turn in your tickets for prizes. My nieces walked away with some sweet loot including matchbox cars, army soldiers, and other fun toys.
Thursday morning we got up early to catch the first shuttle to the park. Thankfully there is a Starbucks in the resort where we grabbed coffee and breakfast.
Navigating the Park
Day 1: Thursday
Outfit: dress and Adidas white high top sneakers, with a Le tote cross body bag. I also had some shamrock temporary tattoos on because it was St. Patrick’s day.
My brother found an app with a recommended park agenda we were going to follow. We got to the park for our 8 AM early admission. Not all rides are available for early admission so a plan was important. The app recommended going to the Despicable Me Minion ride first because the wait time for this ride gets long later in the day. We were first in line for the ride. It was an enjoyable ride. We had 3D glasses and went on an adventure with the Despicable Me characters.
Our next stop was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. There are two Harry Potter areas in the park.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Diagon Alley™, at Universal Orlando® Resort. Dine at the Leaky Cauldron™, shop at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and get ready for an adventure on the multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™. Plus, travel to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™ on the Hogwarts™ Express*.
Because of our stop at the Minion ride, the wait time for the Escape from Gringotts ride was 60 mins. I put my bag in a locker and then met the group in line. Most rides don’t allow bags but do have lockers near the ride to store your bag. It is free to use for about an hour a half.
The line weaved through the bank where you see some gringotts hard at work. This is an impressive area.
Right before you get on the ride you watch a short movie with the background story for the ride. This is another 3D ride with an elaborate Harry Potter adventure.
After the ride we walked around Diagon Alley. As a fan of the books and movies, this was a fun experience. You literally walk through stores that are in the book.
We participated in a wand choosing ceremony at one of the shops. If you want to purchase a wand, I recommend getting one that can perform magic in the Harry Potter areas.
After shopping, the group split up. My brother and niece Isabella went to the Rip Ride Rockit while Molly and I did more shopping and walked around the park. Molly and I aren’t into the more extreme rides.
We met for lunch at Bumblebee Man’s Taco truck in Springfield. After lunch we walked around Springfield then went on the Simpson’s ride.
The other rides we went on Thursday included Men in Black Alien Attack and The Mummy’s Revenge. Both were fun adventures.
That evening we dined again at Bayliner diner, made more s’mores and went to bed early.
Day 2: Friday
Outfit: Gap boyfriend jeans, Adidas top, and Adidas white high top sneakers, with a Le tote cross body bag. We all brought a change of clothes to use after we went on the water rides. I changed into shorts and changed my wet socks. We should have packed a small towel but we all eventually dried off.
I purchased these Adidas high tops before the trip and I was super happy with how they felt. They were very comfortable, I had no blisters, etc after walking over 40,000 steps over the two days.
Friday we decided to change our plan. We walked to the park at 7 AM. Two of us waited in the line by the gate, the other two went to Starbucks. When the gates opened we went right to the Gringotts ride and there was no wait. The wait was so short by the time I put my bag in the locker, I lost the rest of the group!
Our next stop was the Island of Adventure. We wanted to take the Hogwarts Express to that part of the park. We got in line and waited for the ride to open. The Hogwarts Express is just like taking a ride on the train with Harry and friends to Hogwarts.
Our first stop in the other part of the park was to the other Harry Potter ride: Harry Potter and the forbidden journey. I checked my bag and we waited in line for about 40 minutes. This line weaved through a castle and other Hogwarts areas. This ride differed from the other Harry Potter ride because your feet dangle as your car moves through the adventure. It was fun!
We all went on the flight of the hippogrift, a small roller coaster ride. Then Dave and Izzy went on the dueling dragons ride while Molly and I did some shopping. Molly got an interactive wand and performed some magic before we met up with the rest of the group.
We had lunch at thunder falls terrace near the Jurrasic Park ride. This is a great choice if you are a meat lover! The portions are quite large.
Our next stop was the water rides. We put our stuff into a locker including a change of clothes. Then we went on Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. You get into a giant round raft and float under several waterfalls. You will get wet! The group split again so Dave and Izzy could go on Dudley Do Rights Ripsaw Falls.
We all headed to the Jurassic Park River Adventure in our wet clothes because this was another wet ride. The wait was long for this ride but the ride was fun.
We changed clothes after this ride and walked around the superhero area. We went on the Spiderman ride and did some more shopping.
We also visited the Dr. Seuss area and rode the train ride.
We also had some fun in Toon Lagoon!
We decided to eat dinner in the Citywalk area. We ate at the Red Oven Pizza Bakery. We had the best service at this restaurant. You place your order at a counter but there are plenty of servers that will get you drink refills, etc. Note: the pizzas should be shared. We each ordered our own and had tons of leftovers.
Day 3: Saturday
Outfit: Jurassic Park t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.
I left for Boston early Saturday morning but my brother and nieces visited the park one more time before their afternoon flight.
The airport was busy and I found myself waiting in a long line again! Thankfully, the line moved quickly and I made it to my gate with time to spare.
We had three jam packed days with lots of walking, waiting in lines, going on rides, and shopping. Like I said earlier, a different spring break. We were quite tired at the end of each day, if you have more time I would visit the park over several days and take advantage of the amenities at the hotel as well. Of course, the more time you spend, the more money you will spend. Plan your trip according to your budget and available time.
I had a lot fun and would recommend a visit to this park with family or friends. If you have small kids there is a kid swap area so everyone can ride the adult rides. You can also go without kids. There are fast passes available but you have to buy them at about $90/day per person. We didn’t think it was worth that price. Some of the resorts include them in your hotel package.
I would recommend downloading the Universal Orlando app before you go. The app has a map of the resort, list of rides, and restaurants and a list of wait times for the rides. I only used the app on Friday and it was helpful to see the wait times. There is free wifi in the park if you sign in with Comcast xfinity.
Here are some links:
Planning your trip: https://www.universalorlando.com/Resort-Information/Vacation-Planning.aspx