I’m all muggle when it comes to Harry Potter, but I sure was impressed with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando. I still don’t think I’ll read the books or watch the movies, but pass the butterbeer and bring on the Forbidden Journey ride.
We spent two days at Universal’s two parks in Orlando when we were staying at Disney World – and I’m so glad we did. If you’re thinking about going, I’d say the two-day, two-park ticket is the way to go. We did everything we wanted to do in those two days – well, except ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, but it wasn’t open part of the time and the line was really long when it was.
We prearranged private transportation from our Disney resort to Universal and that worked out well. It was easy to navigate when the driver dropped us off. Like at Disney, we took in snacks in my backpack with no problem.
Other than being impressed with the details of the wizarding world Universal has created, here’s what else I loved about Universal:
- It wasn’t as crowded as Disney. Well, maybe Diagon Alley was, but it was still manageable and enjoyable. (It did rain for hours one of the days, and I could have done without that, but there are many indoor rides.)
- The child swap is EXCELLENT. Rachel couldn’t ride some rides (although she could ride a lot!) so we used the child swap system: We all would wait in line and then Greg would sit out with Rachel in a family room near the exit of the ride. The themes of the rides were incorporated into these rooms. They’d watch the movie playing or have a snack from my backpack and then when I got off the ride, Greg and the rest of our entire party (two big kids, two grandmas) would ride while I sat with Rachel. They only had to wait a few minutes at the exit. Rachel felt part of (most) the experiences and most of our group to ride it twice after waiting once.
- The food we ate was delicious. We ate breakfast and dinner at Disney because we’d already paid for the dining plan there, but we had two great lunches at Universal: Three Broomsticks at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure was delicious Harry Potter-inspired food and atmosphere. Richter’s Burger was an earthquake-themed restaurant in Universal Studios that had excellent burgers and milkshakes. Universal knows how to do simulation rides! We rode most everything and each ride was so well done and on theme. There were fog, heat, and water effects when appropriate. Movie stories and characters were incorporated so well. (Of course, now I need to show my kids the movie “ET” so they’ll have more appreciation for that ride.)
- The Dr. Seuss-themed area for little kids was so fun! I hung out here with Rachel while the rest of our group rode the Hulk roller coaster and I didn’t mind. (Plus, that’s where we got really large, fresh cotton candy.)
- Rachel loves Poppy and Branch from Trolls, so seeing her star-struck when she got to meet them was sweet. We also met the Penguin of Madagascar, which was a nice surprise. I’m sure we could have met more characters, but the trolls were the only ones we sought out.
Here are some mom confessions for y’all: I truly was only incorporating Universal into our trip because of my eldest child’s love of Harry Potter. I didn’t expect to want to go back. But I totally do. When it comes to amusement in Orlando, what I really want to do next time is spend a couple of days at Universal and then board a Disney Cruise ship.
Have you been to Universal? What did you think?
I shared an earlier post about the Disney portion of our trip, so be sure to check out that post if you haven’t already. If you’re thinking about going to Universal, my planner Jennifer Hart can help you with reservations there just like she can at Disney.