Tuesday, October 27, 2015

So you're going to Universal Studios??


I have some tips for you!

(I began writing this post MONTHS ago.  Scott and I visited Universal in early March.  I just finally got more of my pictures off of my phone for sharing.)

1) Wear sneakers.
Yes, I know it's hot in Florida.  Yes, I know that you may not like to have your feet stuffed inside socks inside of shoes when it's upwards of 80 degrees.  But trust me on this.  Your feet, legs, back, and entire body will thank you.  And me.

2) Make sure you grab a map.
On our first day there,  we left the parks a few times.  Every.  Single.  Time we left, we said, "We need to make sure we grab a map when we go back in."  Not until the end of the day on the first day did we remember to grab a map on our way OUT.

3) Speaking of which, that map will help you to do this step: Make a plan.
We had park to park passes for Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure.  I had an idea of what I wanted to see HARRY POTTER WORLD .  I had been to Universal before, 14 years ago, and wanted to revisit some attractions that (recent high school graduate, me) enjoyed before.  However, it would have been helpful that first day to know where all of those things are actually located.  This would have saved us probably at least a couple of thousand steps and maybe would have helped (at least a little) my nearly dead body after walking around in flip flops our first day.  (See #1)

By the end of our first day, my FitBit stats had me at just under 20,000 steps.  If I could have moved at all, I probably would've taken a walk around the Marina where we were staying to hit that awesome goal.  

4) Two days is plenty.
We had park to park passes for two days.  Universal was running a deal that if you bought tickets for two days, you got the third day free.  We did not go back the third day.  The Universal parks are MUCH smaller than Disney's parks.  We actually did most of what we wanted to do on the first day (which we figured out after we looked at our map when we got back to our room....see #2), but there were still a few things we missed.  Some we missed quite literally.  In Universal Studios, we actually missed an entire section of the park!  Others we didn't want to wait in line for the first day and decided to hit up the second day.

It is possible that if you have kids, you may need that third day.  We were two childless adults so parts of the park (like the Dr. Seuss area of Universal Islands of Adventure), did not really have anything for us.  (Although, I would've ridden The Cat in the Hat ride if Scott wouldn't have made fun of me.... ;) )

5) Harry Potter World is CROWDED.

That's me.  With my interactive wand.  It's a replica of Hermione's.

Ok, you all know that I'm a Harry Potter nerd.  I thought that some of the hoopla (especially for the Hogsmede park, which has been open for quite some time) would have died down by now.

I was wrong.

These small sections of the park are fascinating, breath taking, and exciting, and you can barely move or do anything without someone being in your way.

In Diagon Alley (the dragon escaping from Gingotts)

Diagon Alley shops

It would also have helped if Scott appreciated it as much as I did.  He enjoyed the rides. (We rode Escape from Gringotts in the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Hogsmede in Universal Islands of Adventure.)  While he rode terrifying roller coasters, I was able to go back and explore the shops a bit on my own...again, hard to do with the insane number of people crowded into these small spaces.

This is the entrance to Dumbledore's office.  It is in Hogwarts in the Hogsmede Park as you wind your way through Hogwarts to the broomstick ride.

Gringotts chandelier as part of the line for the Escape from Gringotts ride.

6) Sometimes, it's worth being a "single rider."
Universal does offer express passes.  BUT you have to purchase it.  They do not offer an express pass for individual rides.  You pay an extra $80 for two people, and you can get right on rides.  I'm sorry, Universal, but after I paid you over $300 for tickets, I'm not giving you more money.  I'll stand in line thank you.

I tend to be a scaredy cat.  So even though I love all of those rides that make you feel like you are in the thick of the action, fun, and danger, I tend to jump and scream like a kid.  I am not a huge fan of riding a ride for the first time alone.  After I know what to expect, I'm much better.  So when we went back to ride a few rides for a second time, we took the single rider line.  This cuts down wait times tremendously.  We essentially got right on a couple of rides.  The single rider line helps the ride workers fill rows.  For example, if the ride seats a row of three and two people are riding together, a single rider will fill the final seat in the row.  Scott obviously used this option when he went on the roller coasters, too.

If you're not a big baby, and you don't like waiting in line, go for it!

7) There really is something there for everyone!
While these parks seem to be geared more toward adults, they do have areas and attractions that are great for kids.  If you do have kids, be sure to check size recommendations before you get their hopes up.  (I have a student who went to Hogsmede when she was in third grade and was not tall enough for the Harry Potter ride...).

I am NOT a roller coaster person, as I have already stated, but they do have a couple of (what looked to me) like absolutely terrifying, death defying roller coasters. So Scott was happy.

We both LOVED the Transformers ride.  Our first day, we walked in, and the wait time was only 10 minutes.  We actually wanted to ride it again before leaving the park, but our first day, it was shut down for the day when we went back (it was near closing time), and the second day, the wait times were insanely long.  They didn't have a single rider line, or we obviously would have taken advantage of that (see #6).

So there you have it!  My super expert tips to maximize your enjoyment of your Universal vacation!

Have any of you been to Universal?  Any tips or favorites things to share??
Don't forget that your Pumpkin Swap packages should be mailed to your partners today!  :)


Sarah Alway said...

Oh man, I would love to go here one day... I LOVE theme parks!

Jen said...

I can't believe I'm only just seeing this! We went to Universal 2 years ago and LOVED it! I researched like my life depended on it beforehand and planned to hit the popular rides really early in the day before they got busy. As it happened, when we visited it was quite quiet and the queues were fairly short anyway. The longest we waited for anything was 30 mins for the Despicable Me one. Universal is definitely home to some of the best coasters I've ever been on!

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