Universal Studios & Our Florida Escape

Oh, hey! I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit since I update The Good Food daily, but I miss having more personal chats! Let’s catch up, starting with our Wizarding World of Harry Potter Trip.

You guys…WE HAD THE BEST TIME. Universal Studios was great of course, but if I’m being honest, my favorite part of the trip was our hotel (which was a resort property) and the time we spent just hanging out.

Since our trip was so short (Friday evening through Sunday morning), we really didn’t think we’d have much time to spend doing anything other Universal Studios, let alone swim or hang out at the hotel. We somehow ended up making the best possible use of our time, though – starting immediately after we checked in to the hotel, at which point we headed directly to the bar, luggage and all, and ordered cocktails. We took our drinks to go and briefly explored the hotel, which included a bowling alley, several bars, multiple restaurants, two huge pools (one of which had a water slide, and I didn’t even see it until right before we left), a lazy river, a huge outdoor jacuzzi, and an arcade. We went up to our rooms to finish our drinks and change, and then headed out to explore City Walk and grab some dinner.

Saturday was (obviously) our Universal Studios Day, and since we were staying at a resort property, we were allowed to enter the park an hour early. Much to Jeff’s distress, we ended up losing about 15 minutes of that time due to a miscommunication about breakfast (he figured we’d eat at the park, whereas I refused to leave the resort on an empty stomach – typical me), but we still ended up easily beating the crowds. It was a chilly day in the low 60s, but coming from frigid Delaware, it felt pretty comfortable by comparison and we were both fine in t-shirts without jackets in the sun.

Upon entering the park we discovered that Jeff had accidentally bought Fast Passes in place of actual tickets – at Universal Studios, fast passes are extra (they actually cost the same amount as the ticket itself, so it’s a pretty steep add-on), but you literally get to skip the line (or rather, you get to walk past the line into a separate queue towards the entrance of the ride). The ticket taker told us we could either keep the fast passes and buy tickets from the ticket sales kiosk, or we could exchange them for actual tickets at the customer service desk. We originally intended to exchange them since this was an over $300 mistake, but the line for the service desk ended up being too long and we decided to suck it up and just buy tickets and keep the fast passes.

Welp…this ended up being the BEST DECISION EVER. Seriously. By the time the crowds arrived at the park, lines for some of the more popular rides were 3+ hours, but with our fast passes, we were on them within 10 minutes. We decided that from here on out, we’d be building fast passes into our budget any time we visit Universal Studios. Highly, highly recommended – especially if you only have one day. We ended up being able to enjoy every attraction we had interest in, with time left over.

The park was pretty much everything we imagined – both Harry Potter worlds were perfect, like walking right into the movies. The rides were great – much more intense than I had predicted, but very thrilling and full of incredible affects. My favorite rides were the virtual reality rides – the indoor ones where you’re strapped in and the drops and spins are simulated. We ate lunch at one of the Harry Potter restaurants (the food was fine, but the standout of the day was the hot butterbeer – I’m still dreaming about it), and ended up leaving the park completely exhausted an hour before close (I think the park closed at 8, so we left around 7).

According to my iPhone, we had walked over 10 miles over the course of the day, so our feet and legs were killing us…but we were determined to make the most of our trip, and rested in our hotel room only briefly before heading back out for dinner. Our original intention was to go back to City Walk for a sit-down meal, but we noticed that despite being pretty chilly, the pools were all open and there were quite a few people in each of them, so we decided to take a quick dip before eating. Well…one thing led to another, and we ended up at the pool bar, talking to some other guests. The pool cocktails came in souvenir plastic tumblers, and we found out that not only could you bring your drinks into the pools/lazy river, but there was a huge hot tub (we hadn’t discovered this yet). Obviously we couldn’t pass up a huge hot tub with cocktails on a chilly night, so we ended up spending several hours in the hot tub, and deciding to order room service for dinner. After retiring from the hot tub (several cocktails in and trying to avoid the hangover of a lifetime for our 6 AM flight), we went up to our room and Jeff ordered pizza while I ventured out into the hotel in search of additional junk food (which I found at the bowling alley snack bar in the form of soft pretzels and mozzarella sticks). We feasted in our room and immediately passed out.

As silly as it may sound, that evening was the most fun I can remember having on vacation in a long time – just being spontaneous and not feeling like we had to follow an itinerary, and relaxing and enjoying each others’ company and chatting with fellow resort-goers. I almost want our next trip to be to another theme park, just so we can stay at a resort property (haha). All in all, it was a trip for the books and I’m itching to plan our next getaway.

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And we’re off!

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View from our room (pardon the glare)

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City Walk at night

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