I received tickets to Universal Orlando Resort for this review/feature. Opinions expressed are my own.
I have always been a theme park enthusiast. I love everything from the food to the rides whether they are thrill rides or not. Having been born and raised in Orlando and having a love for travel I have experienced many different theme parks so I like to think I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to tips and tricks. Last week I got to go to one of my all time favorite theme parks, Universal Orlando Resort. With their recently opened Wizarding Word of Harry Potty in Diagon Alley my muggle heart was so excited I thought I would explode.
When it comes to theme parks my first and most important rule is to get to the theme park at least a half hour before it opens. This is especially important at Universal. You park in a really large parking garage and then you walk a little ways to get to the turnstiles. This gives you plenty of time to get tickets and to get into the park first when the park is by far at its least crowded. Universal Orlando Resort is split into two theme parks, Universal Studios (US) and Islands of Adventure (IOA). In this post I will be talking about US and in my next post later this week I will write about IOA and the Blue Man Group show.
We immediately walked over to London as the newest attractions will almost always be the busiest and I like to get there before the crowds do.
Here in Universal Studios is Diagon Alley.? The Hogwarts Express takes you over to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade which is located at Islands of Adventure (more about that in my next post). You will need to make sure you have a 2 park ticket so that you can ride the Hogwarts Express since you are leaving one park and entering another. For now join my picture bombing post as I enter through the brick wall and into Diagon Alley.
I had read that Gringotts is the safest place for your money in the magical world, especially with all those goblins watching over it. The problem is that during our trip their was a slight dragon problem and for that we got on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. I won’t show you pictures from inside the bank because I feel like that part is best witnessed in person. Let me tell you that I felt EXACTLY like I was walking through the bank from the movies. It felt so very real!!!
While on the ride itself you wear 3D glasses and it is very dark.? Its not what I would call a roller coaster but with lots of sudden twists and turns it is still an action packed ride. My 5 year old loved the whole thing and was wanting more when it was over. She is an adrenaline junkie like her mama. Some children might find it scary so parents that know your kids don’t like scary stuff may want to have your kids wait in the child swap area. All rides with a height requirement offer child swap. That means that while part of your party is riding the ride the child that is too short or doesn’t want to ride will wait in a child swap room with an adult.? It is usually near the exit of the ride. When your party gets off the ride the person waiting with the child swaps out and can get right on the ride without waiting and so that person doesn’t have to ride alone they are welcome to bring another person from their party to ride with them. I have a toddler so I utilize this park perk all the time. The child swap rooms usually have a TV playing part of the movie from the ride and it always has plenty of seats.? I have to say that the ones at the Bank were some of the best I’ve ever experienced.
There are plenty of fun stores to shop at and we wanted to walk into every one of them because every inch of it is themed. I especially loved browsing the school robes and the candy. Do buy yourself some butterbeer ice cream. This is the only place in the world you can get it. I am not even an ice cream person and I loved it.
No trip to Diagon Alley is complete for a child unless they have picked up their very first wand at Ollivanders. If you wait in the line for the small in-store show then you get to witness a selected member from the audience find their first wand. My oldest daughter was the lucky chosen one in our group. She got to go up to the desk and we witnessed the magic as her perfect wand was found. You can then choose to buy that wand or go into Ollivander’s showroom floor and select another wand. My daughter wanted us to buy the wand from the show because as she said all day long and every day since then “the wand chooses the wizard and this wand chose me.”
You can buy a traditional wand or a interactive wand. Big Sis’s wand was an interactive wand. It includes a map to places where she can use the wand and create magic. The medallion she is standing behind is also a way to spot the magic spots. She very seriously practiced her Wingardium Leviosa spell until she got that feather in the window to float up. She LOVED it! There are also some secret spots for magic around that have no medallion and for those you will have to just look around and find them for yourself.
These pictures only cover a tiny fraction of all the amazing areas to see. There is even a Knockturn Alley for you to wander down for all you darker witches and wizards.
Be prepared to be sucked into the magic because I literally could have stayed in this area all day long. Everything is magical even to the smallest details. Rumor has it a small house elf appears randomly in the window of a certain house of the order.
There is a big sign for Pram parking in Diagon Alley. I found it much easier to park our stroller there and carry my toddler around this section of the park. All the shops are extremely cozy (small) and with lots of cool decorations to make it look exactly like it did in the movies and therefore strollers and their bulkiness are best left in parking. Just look for giant Pram Parking sign with the Pram in the window.
One of my favorite parts about theme parks is the fun and unusual food. A trip to The Leaky Cauldron is a must when visiting Diagon Alley.
This is one of their traditional Butterbeers. It is non-alcoholic and one of the most amazing drinks I have ever tasted. You absolutely have to try one if you go. I have never had anything like it ever!
I love trying new foods and although I have never been to England I did enjoy this British meal at the Leaky Cauldron.
For my family we love the unlimited refills cups that you can buy. You buy it and I think it uses RFID technology. When you place it on the Coke Freestyle machine, it lets you refill it all day at any of their freestyles. You have to wait 5-10 minutes depending on the machine to refill it again and yes the machine tells you if your cup has been used in the last 5 minutes.
I am a thrill seeker and the scarier and crazier the ride the more I want to get on it. Roller coaster are always fun and the Rip Ride Rocket is fast and furious and you even get to pick the music (from a select list) that you want to listen to while riding it as it comes from the speakers in your seat. I give it a heartfelt 2 thumbs up, 5 star review, a golden potty chart sticker and any other made up prize I can give it as it is that amazing. I also really like the Revenge of the Mummy ride and it is another don’t-miss ride for thrill seekers.
Big kids, like myself, can appreciate the Simpsons themed area. It definitely feels like you have walked right into the cartoon.
We did not get a chance to try the Duff Beer but we definitely will next time we go!
When traveling with small kids I find the most important thing to know in advance is height requirements for the different rides. This way you can let your children know ahead of time what they are tall enough to ride. This way there is no disappointment at the actual rides. I can tell you that your children will be height checked at each ride. If your child is too short don’t tell them you will try and sneak them on as it will not work and your children will only be dissapointed. I worked at Universal’s Islands of Adventure for nearly 2 years at the Incredible Hulk and I can tell you they are trained to check child heights and there is no sneaking your child onto the rides. If your child is literally millimeters from hitting that height requirement bar (that is at each ride with a height requirement) then I suggest really really thick soled tennis shoes and thick socks as I have never seen a child have to take their shoes off to be height checked.
I took the below information straight from their website. I added the Gringotts height information myself since at the time of this post it was not included on the list.
- *Revenge of the Mummy? – Must be at least 48″
- MEN IN BLACK? Alien Attack? – Must be at least 42″. Children between 42″-48″ must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster? – Must be at least 36″. Children between 36″-48″ must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
- The Simpsons Ride? ? Must be at least 40″. Children between 40″-48″ must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
- *Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit? – Must be at least 51″ and no more than 79″.
- E.T. Adventure – Must be at least 34″. Children between 34″-48″ must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Must be at least 40″. Children between 40″- 48″ must be accompaniedby a Supervising Companion. Persons under 40″ must experience this attraction from an adjacent stationary seat.
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D – Children between 40″-48″ must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion.
- *Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Must be at least 42″.
*These rides have “test seats” available so that guests can determine comfort and fit for themselves before riding. I find these test seats to be extremely important to my family. My husband is 6’9″ and with his height and bigger build he simply can not physically fit into some rides. Usually it is because his legs are legitimately too long to fit into the harnesses of today’s rides. He is too tall for Rip Ride Rocket and he could not ride Gringotts because the lap bar would just not go down enough on his legs to ride. Check out these test seats out in front of the rides in advance so you can see if an extra tall person in your group won’t fit. My husband had no problem waiting in line and chatting with us though as we enjoy the queue theming on all the rides. No worries if you have younger ones as Universal Studios has plenty of fun stuff to keep them entertained too.
For the Curious George area make sure to bring clothes or bathing suits so that your kids can get really really wet. There are water spouts, water canons and basically water everywhere so that your kids (and adults) can get cooled down. My kids always love playing in a splash area.
They even have a little playground that is completely shaded to play on.
My heart will always have a special place for the E.T. ride since I worked there for a summer after college. It is a super cute ride for younger kids where they sit on a “bike” and ride with E.T. to escape the people trying to capture him. You eventually ride all the way to his home planet.
Of course my favorite part of this park was Diagon Alley. I was one of those crazy people that would buy the books at midnight when it was released and then stay up reading it. I have recently introduced Harry Potter to Big Sis so I am hoping her love for it will only grow more. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly amazing!
I did both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day but I STRONGLY suggest you give yourself 2 or 3 days at the very least. One day is simply not enough to see all the amazing things to see. We were rushing through everything to see and do as much as we could but we skipped over a lot. Watch out for my next post to give you a better look at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the amazing Blue Man Group Show as both of which should be on your travel itineraries when hitting up Universal Orlando Resort.