Our trip may have started out at Disney, but there was still more fun to be had. We spent the first 4 days visiting Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We spent the next two days (and our last two days) at Universal Studios.
Before going to Universal Studios, know that there are two different parks and you will need a ticket for both. There is also a water park (Volcano Bay – which we did not go to). You will enter the Universal City walk which is a lot of vendors and restaurants – we ate at The Cowfish and picked up some breakfast from VooDoo Doughnuts, which I definitely recommend. I got the maple bar and the fruit loop donut – both were great choices! I wanted to try everything they had!
Some of my favorite rides at Universal were Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York, Fast and Furious, Jurassic Park, The Mummy (we rode this THREE times in one day), and The Hulk. The only ride that was the same as my last visit from about 20 years ago was E.T. – which has not changed! The cool thing about the E.T. ride is you will get a card with your name before “boarding” and as you leave E.T. will say your name.
Jimmy Fallon’s ride was set up really cool, and made you feel like you were entering his studio in NYC. There are screens set up playing clips from his shows, H’s are definitely EW and baskets of puppies are not.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you are planning on doing all things Harry Potter at Universal know that it is split between the two parks. The wizarding world/Diagon Alley is on the the Universal side and you can take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade – this is where you can get your butter beer fix. I have now been to both the Orlando Harry Potter and London Harry Potter attractions and the butter beer at Orlando was better than in London, in my opinion. If you are looking to see the dragon at Gringott’s bank – Universal side. Looking to see Hogwarts castle (and the light show), that’s on the Islands of Adventure side. When taking the Hogwart’s Express from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade be sure to get your camera’s ready, they have a really cool feature that looks like you are walking through the brick wall to platform 9 3/4 – something I kind of wish I had done. You can also pick up an interactive wand that you can visit certain exhibits to test your magic skills.
Both Harry Potter themed rides, Escape from Gringott’s and Forbidden Journey are motion simulation rides with 3D/4D screens. They are not actual roller coasters, which I wish they had been. Hagrid’s motorcycle adventure was not open at the time of my visit, unfortunately.
Disney & Universal are complete Opposites
While it should be a given that Disney World and Universal Studios are two separate parks, it must be stated that they are not like one another in how they are ran. Sure they are both theme parks with a mixture of thrill rides and shops, but they are definitely do not give you the same experience. I do feel that Disney had a much cleaner appearance and did a much better job of getting single riders and fast pass holders on the rides quicker. At one point we felt like we were in the single rider line longer than we would’ve been in the stand by line and left so we could do something else. Universal Sudios does offer an express pass you can purchase for the day, where as with Disney it is not a separate expense. Was purchasing the express pass for a day at Universal worth it? YES.
One thing I was disappointed on is that most rides are becoming virtual reality/simulation rides. Some of these rides gave me headaches or made me feel dizzy afterwards. I wish that they had more coaster rides like the Hulk or Mummy.
Overall we had a great time visiting the park over the course of the two days. Getting the express pass for one of those days helped us ride more of the rides we wanted to quicker and to me was well worth expense. This allowed more time to actually walk the park and enjoy exhibits and shops more the second day.
Now on to the next adventure!