Universal Orlando – All You Need to Know!

*Gifted tickets to Universal Orlando

If you already follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that we’ve recently come back from a two-week holiday in Orlando, Florida – where we spent two days at the amazing Universal Orlando visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Being a planner and someone who doesn’t want to miss a thing, I spent weeks organising our trip and making sure we had a list of everything we wanted to do, see and try over the two parks. After all, Florida is a long way for us ‘Brits’, so I wanted to make sure we got the most out of our visit. The first thing I did was download the Universal Orlando Resort App, which is packed full of information on rides, shows, opening hours and much more. I found this app incredibly useful when planning our trip – and while we were there!

Now, if you’re planning your own trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, keep reading – as I’m going to pass on my planning tips and tricks that can help you save money, avoid crowds, choose where best to eat and fully plan your Universal Orlando trip…

The Park Tickets

We got (*gifted) a two-days, two-park ticket, which allowed us to wonder between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This is important because Universal have split-up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter between the two parks, using the brilliant Hogwarts Express to take you from Diagon Alley in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure (and vice versa). Without a two-park ticket you’d end up missing half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and you would not be able to ride The Hogwarts Express, which is pretty special in itself.

Tip: make sure you experience this train journey both ways as they are different! One way you leave London and travel to Hogsmeade and the other way you leave Hogsmeade and arrive in London. The attention to detail on these journeys is just outstanding.

Express Passes

Express Passes are a way to jump the lines (and considerably reduce your wait times), which you either have to pay for or receive for free when staying at an eligible Universal Orlando hotel.

All rides (with the exception of the new ‘Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure’ ride) are now included within your express pass, which means that you can experience all the rides at both parks within two action packed days. For this reason I personally think the extra expense is worth it. However, if you’re visiting at a quieter time of the year (during term time for example) this may not be necessary. We were there during the school summer holidays so the express passes came in very handy! And allowed us to experience all the rides on our wish list.

Where to Eat

There are some great restaurants in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure with some brilliant theming. For me the highlights were the ‘counter service’ restaurants in Diagon Alley (The Leaky Cauldron) and Hogsmeade (The Three Broomsticks Pub).

We also ate at the Circus McGurkus Cafe in Seuss Landing, which was fun for the little ones and offered some healthy options. There’s also the Fast Food Boulevard in the Simpsons area, which we liked less. The theming here was still fantastic (especially if you’re a big Simpson’s fan) but it was incredibly busy and difficult to understand the ordering process.

Of course any Harry Potter fan will also want to try the famous Butterbeer and experience the delicious ice-cream from Florence Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, which I must admit we loved!

Tip: I would recommend buying a refillable drinks cup/mug. We shared a few cups so as you can imagine we got our moneys worth out of the $18 cup quite quickly. Once you’ve got the cup, you can buy subsequent days of free refills for $9. Believe me this is well worth the price, especially during the hotter summer months.

The Main Attraction – The Rides

This is of course why we go to Universal! The rides are out of this world and bring so many of our favourite movies to life. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big believer in having a solid plan and knowing what rides and attractions are most important to us as a family. As I knew we only had two days to cover the two parks I wanted to make sure we had a realistic itinerary that allowed us to see and do everything on our wish list.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share with you the itinerary we followed over the two days. Bearing in mind we’re a family of five with a nine, six and three year old – so we had to split up for some of the rides as our three year old was too short to ride some of the bigger/ scarier attractions.

Day 1 – Universal Studios

  1. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  2. Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
  3. Transformers
  4. Revenge of the Mummy
  5. Fast Furious – Supercharged
  6. The Simpsons Ride
  7. ET. Adventure
  8. Men In Black
  9. Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
  10. The Hogwarts Express over to Island of Adventure
  11. Watch the Hogwarts Light Show

Day 2 – Islands of Adventure

  1. Cat in the Hat
  2. The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  3. The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man
  4. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (wet ride)
  5. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (wet ride)
  6. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  7. Jurassic Park River Adventure (wet ride)
  8. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  9. Flight of the Hippogriff
  10. The Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios
  11. Watch Universal Studio’s Cinematic Celebration show over the lake

Tip: Bring a change of clothes if you plan on doing any of the water rides in Islands of Adventure. They’re all great fun and not to be missed but oh my goodness I’ve never been so wet in my clothes!

Our Thoughts…

I think all these pictures speak for themselves – we had the most amazing time at Universal Orlando. The theming is simply incredible and the attention to detail is fantastic. Each ride offers something different and magically transports you to the heart of the book, film or TV show in question. Iris, our youngest loved the ET ride and Seuss Landing, where she was able to enjoy all the rides.

Poppy, who’s six loved all the water rides and getting wet. While Lili our eldest and I loved the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and my husband was all about the big roller coasters.

We spent a long time in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as there is so much to do and see, as well as the amazing rides. For example, we spent time choosing wands in Ollivanders, had a delicious ice-cream sundae in Florence Fortescue’s and watched the different shows including; the Triwizard Spirit Rally, which was our favourite. We also, took pictures with the Night Bus and of course walked through the magical wall at Platform 9 ¾, which simply amazing!

In short, we loved Universal and can’t wait to go back!