We love theme parks and have been going to them together since we were teenagers! We were delighted to find out that Universal Orlando Resort has three theme parks: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay. You can get different types of tickets; we opted for the 2-Park 1-Day pass with unlimited express.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was one of the biggest draw cards for us, and it’s actually spread across two parks. Diagon Alley and The Escape from Gringotts are in Universal Studios Florida, while Hogsmeade and Hogwarts itself are at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you want to get the full Harry Potter experience, it’s best to get a park to park ticket. You’ll also get to use the Hogwarts Express to travel between the parks which is an adventure in itself. Make sure that you ride the Hogwarts Express both ways because the experience is different in each direction – and magical!
The biggest tip we’d give to anyone wanting to visit both parks in one day is to get an express pass – Florida is extremely hot and waiting in lines is killer. You have two choices: the Universal Express pass (which allows you to skip the line once per attraction), or the Universal Express Unlimited pass. It’s a must if you’re trying to do both parks in one day – cutting down lines by more than half. We went on some attractions with a 75 minutes wait that only took us 20 minutes!
We went into the parks with a clear game plan – do everything that’s popular first. Since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still relatively new, it’s what attracts the biggest crowds. We started at Universal Studios Florida, hopped on the Escape From Gringotts ride and had a quick look at Diagon Alley. It seemed strange to then get on the Hogwarts Express and head to Universal’s Islands of Adventure – but we wanted to do all things Harry Potter first!
Ever since we were kids, there’s been one important question that’s been in the back of our minds: just what does butterbeer taste like? When Jeremy was a kid he found a recipe for butterbeer and recreated it at home, but nobody ever thought you’d be able to get your hands on the real thing. It was one of those mysterious inventions you thought would stay locked up in your imagination. One of the most popular reasons that people visit Universal Orlando Resort is actually for butterbeer, and it’s not hard to see why! The recipe was created especially for the parks, and taste tested by J.K Rowling herself.
You can buy either a frozen version (Rachel’s favourite) or the standard carbonated version (Jeremy’s favourite). Both come topped with a layer of foamy and sweet goodness – almost like whipped butterscotch ice cream, and the butterbeer tastes similar to cream soda. You can also purchase a souvenir mug which allows you to get $1.50 soda refills throughout the rest of the park.
We’d recommend grabbing a butterbeer at one of the restaurants, as they’re themed and help you really get immersed into all things Harry Potter! We had ours at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, and we went before the lunch rush so it was easy to find a table.
Wandering through Hogsmeade was an interesting experience. It’s covered with fake snow which glistens in the sun… but it was absolutely sweltering the day we were there. It was definitely magical and so fun to explore! If you have a chance you can stop by Ollivanders and be taken through a wand choosing ceremony. When we did it there were only 3 of us, so Rachel volunteered to find choose her wand…but the wand ended up choosing her, of course.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the other big Harry Potter ride, and it takes place at Hogwarts! It’s pretty fun and we did it a few times. Be aware that on most of the rides you’ll be required to put your bags in a locker, but they’re provided for free if it’s mandatory.
We could probably ramble on forever about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we can’t forget to tell you about all the other highlights of the parks! In Universal Studios Florida you can visit Springfield: Home of the Simpsons. You’ll find the famous giant pink donuts, and there’s even a special Duff beer.
There’s an awesome Simpsons ride, plus while you’re in the park make sure you check out E.T and The Mummy. The E.T ride is an older one, taking you back in time and on an adventure! It’s not high adrenaline, but the perfect one to pepper in when you need a break from the heart-racing coasters.
Over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, you need to head to Skull Island. Peter Jackson worked on the development of the attraction, and the theming is really awesome. King Kong (2005) is one of Jeremy’s favourite films, so it was so fun to experience it like this.
If you find yourself in the intense Floridian heat – definitely head to Jurassic Park. It’s a log flume, but not one of those ones where you get a little spray of water. You get absolutely drenched from head to toe. It’s super refreshing and helps keep you going!
To finish your epic day at the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks, make sure you’re at Hogwarts Castle for sunset. They have an excellent light show projected onto the castle topped off with some fireworks. During the show we watched, there was a proposal right behind us! You never know what might happen!
Thanks so much to Nicole and Amanda from Universal Orlando Resort for inviting us to experience the two parks. We absolutely loved our day out at Universal Orlando Resort! As always, our opinions are our own. Happy travelling!