Tips for Universal Studios Florida - Family Travel
Jun 2017
28

Universal Studios Orlando Florida Tips: It’s Not Just Harry Potter!

Note: Universal Studios Orlando provided two of our six tickets to the park. However, all words and images are mine.

Yes, I will admit it. Our original goal in visiting Universal Studios was 100% Harry Potter. We went with our Denver “framily” and all six of us are serious fans, including the newly-indoctrinated nine year old. With the lead up to the first book’s 20th anniversary, our Potterfever was at all all time high when we visited Florida for Spring Break this year.

What we realized: There is so much more to Universal Studios than Harry Potter. Here are some advice from all of us to make your trip more fun.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Orlando in Florida

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Family Travel

Balance your plan with being spontaneous

We went to Disneyland a few years ago, and it was a great trip, but I learned to not over-plan. Everyone just gets tired and cranky as you try and hit every. single. thing. However, since, like Disney, Universal Studios Florida is three theme parks and one entertainment district – thinking ahead only makes sense.

Look at their site and make a list of your must-haves. Roughly know which way you want to go through the park. (Here are their PDF maps: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, City Walk). Otherwise… let it go.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Family Travel

Go for more than one day if you can

As I mentioned, Universal is technically three parks now: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay (just opened), and City Walk (which is a shopping and nightlife district that does not require a theme park ticket). It’s important to realize there are two Harry Potter areas: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade – the former is in Universal Studios, the latter in Islands of Adventure. That is a WHOLE LOT TO DO! We were there from opening moment to closing bell – and still missed some things we really wanted to do.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Family Travel

Get the Express Pass

While these are not applicable to the Harry Potter rides, they are a lifesaver for the rest of the park. We purchased the “one-time” option since we knew we probably would not be riding over and over during our one-day stint but they were worth every penny to keep the fun moving.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Spider-Man Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - King Kong

Think About Your Age Groups

There are lots of things to do at Universal Studios Florida. Lots. But the sweet spot for the rides really was around 40-42 inches tall. Luckily our nine year old was well above that, so we had no disappointments in that area!

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Jurassic Park

Buy your Harry Potter Wand before You Visit

Our friend Danielle was super smart about this! She ordered her son’s interactive wand from the Universal merchandise site and had it shipped to her before the trip. So, while a visit to Ollivander’s to “let the wand choose us” would have been enchanting, we were able to start doing spells the minute we got to Harry Potter, with no waiting.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Go directly to your most important ride at park opening

Since Harry Potter is not included in Express Pass, we knew we wanted to go directly there first thing. We were at the gates before opening time and high-tailed it through the park, do not pass go, right to “Escape From Gringotts.” And while they make the wait quite enjoyable, only 10 minutes for such a cool experience was awesome!

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Overload on Butter Beer

Yeah, it’s that good. Especially the frozen variety on a really hot day. We also loved pumpkin juice.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Butter Beer

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Butter Beer

Try to catch the Dragon fire on film

It reaches 3,560 degrees and you can feel it! Clearly I failed at this endeavour… but imagine real flames coming out of that dude’s mouth.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Enjoy all the well-thought out details

You really feel like you are inside a Harry Potter movie in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Right down to Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter

Take the Hogwarts Express train between parks

You can’t take photos inside the train, but trust me. It’s worth the wait.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Hogwart's Express Train Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - Harry Potter Hogwart's Express Train

Soak in nostalgia all over Universal Orlando Florida

So, again – it’s not all just about Harry Potter! We were surprised how many beloved characters we found all over. My husband pretty much blew a gasket when he got to shake Scooby Doo’s hand. The 9 year old is a huge Woody Woodpecker fan. Our son grew up on Dora The Explorer. Mel’s Diner! There is Betty Boop and all those great old comics. And yes, I was/am/always will be a big Hello Kitty devotee.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

Understand the difference between virtual and “real” rides

We were blown away by Universal’s use of 3D and 4D in their rides. It’s pure genius! In some cases, you were barely moving, but felt like a cliff just dropped out underneath of you. They included smell, wind, water – all your senses – to feel immersed in a virtual world. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum were rides like The Hulk which physically spun us in loops over and over again. (I am still proud of myself for going on that one!)

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - The Hulk

Hang Out With The Simpsons

Whether you like the show or not – this area of Universal Studios is a total trip! And we all agreed that the Simpson’s Ride was our favorite non-Potter attraction – by far. Being immersed in a completely made-up cartoon world but feeling like you are really there? Bonkers!

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - The Simpsons

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida - The Simpsons

Skip The Meal Plan

It was confusing and only available at very specific places and you had to activate it at the gate (oops) and we were never at the right place to use it when hungry. When you have candy from Honeydukes, who needs real food anyway? {wink} We also carried protein bars which were super helpful in a pinch.

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

Make a reservation for dinner in advance

We hadn’t thought this through and ended up waiting quite a bit for dinner in City Walk, particularly because by that time – we were ready for a sit-down dinner (those aching feet!). Of course, it pins you down to a time, but you could make one for after the park closes?

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

We’ll be back!

Many thanks to Universal Studios Orlando for the fun day. All six of us agreed it was a highlight from our Florida trip and we look forward to the next time!

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

 

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3 comments

  1. Danielle

    Wow! My heart just got filled with happiness after reliving our Spring break adventure! Love traveling with my framily:)

    • Aimee

      Such a great trip! Where should we go next???

  2. What a fun trip!! We just went to Disney World for the first time in March, but we didn’t make it over to Universal Studios. It’s on our list for next time – especially after reading this post! Thanks for the helpful tips and the fun pics (I’m excited to hear that Butter Beer is good!)!