I felt right at home when we visited Universal Studios in Orlando. O. M. G. it was absolutely the best time ever! Why? Two words... Harry. Potter.
Yeah, one known fact about me is my (slight) obsession with any and all things related to the boy who lived. I put together this guide to help you navigate and plan your trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Things I wish I knew beforehand.
GET THERE EARLY
Check online for hours of operation as they vary by week (holidays and whatnot) and get there at least 30 mins to 1 hour before the opening time. WHY? People. Tons of people. That's why. It's nice to be able to walk in the park when you know that not many people are ahead of you. That way you can head to your favorite rides before the lines get ridiculous.
GET THE EXPRESS PASS
If you can, get the Express Pass for Universal and Islands of Adventure. It's considerably more expensive but IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT! I mentioned lots of people, right? Well, with the express pass you bypass all the very, very long lines and wait times for express pass holders are a breeze. Wait 15 minutes instead of 3 hours in line? Yes, please. We almost didn't get it because of the price difference, but I'm totally glad we did. Plus, you can use it unlimited times on your favorite rides. Unlike Disney, where it only allows you to schedule one pass at a time.
GET TICKETS FOR BOTH PARKS
So Universal Studios is a SEPARATE park from Islands of Adventure; and even though they are connected (walking distance to each other) you won't be allowed to cross without the proper ticket. You can purchase just Universal, just Islands of Adventure, or a park to park (hopper) ticket that will allow you to visit both. I recommend both...WHY? Harry Potter.
So the WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER is a park within a park. I didn't know this, until we got there, but half of the Harry Potter World is at Universal Studios, and the other half, the good half, the half where Hogwarts lies, is at Islands of Adventure. Both sides have pretty much the same stores, BUT not the same rides.
The WORLD OF HARRY POTTER is, for lack of a better word, magical. You will want to stay and live there. When you go to Universal and into the world of Harry Potter you'll feel at home...well... if you are a Potterhead like me. Get your magic wand from Olivander's, and ride in the Hogwarts Express all the way to Hogsmeade! ...which is located in Islands of Adventure...so you WILL NEED A TICKET FOR BOTH PARKS IF YOU WANT TO RIDE THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS! See? I told you it was worth it.
STAY IN A PARK RESORT IF POSSIBLE.
We didn't do this part, as we stopped by Universal for a day after spending a week at Disney. Universal was our last day and boy I wish we stayed in Universal instead. WHY? There is soooooooo much to do! The Universal City Walk Orlando is FULL of restaurants, shops, bars, and entertainment for the whole family. From your hotel you can walk everywhere including the parks. With a choice of 6 different on-site hotels, you wouldn't want to stay anywhere else.
GO FOR A MULTI-DAY ADVENTURE.
So, I said it before, we experienced Universal and Islands of Adventure all in one day...and we had a lot of rides left behind. WHY? There is SO much to see and do! It is worth noting that you want to spend at least two days (minimum) if you want to take full advantage of your adventure. Besides the Harry Potter World, in which you could easily spend a whole day just doing that, Universal has dozens of amazing rides and themes to fascinate the entire family. Don't forget all the super heroes! The amazing robo-coasters (a combination of a roller-coaster with a simulator animation) are breathtaking. Made especially to make your adrenaline pump, these rides (and there are a lot of them) will make you feel like you are part of the movie. Seriously. With robocoasters, 4D rides, and simulators like Spiderman, Transformers, The Simpsons, Reign of Kong, The Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black, and many more, you will want to ride them over, and over, and over, and you will need more than one day to do so.
AS ALWAYS, TAKE A PONCHO.
Florida can be really rainy. With surprise showers brewing daily and coming down with no warning. Having a poncho handy is the best thing you can carry in your backpack. It will allow you to continue having fun, walk around, or wait in line for your next ride should you need to. It's also useful when you are riding a water ride. Trust me.
WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE RIDE IN UNIVERSAL/ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE?
Well, obviously I'm going to answer with "everything in the Harry Potter World", but that's too broad. I did enjoy the Gringotts Escape, and the Forbidden Journey (which is located inside the Hogwarts Castle). Besides that, I thought the Men In Black ride was quite beautifully done (although it's not fast and more towards very family friendly), King Kong, and Transformers.
AND...MY LEAST FAVORITE ATTRACTION?
I have to say that the Lost Continent area of Islands of Adventure is beautiful, and the decor is breathtaking; Poseidon's Fury has you excited to come see what all these broken giant statues are all about...well, don't waste your time. It was absolutely, hands down the worse show I've every seen. I think the reason for my disappointment lies in the fact that the outside of the attraction is so magnificent, that you think you are in for a treat. It's supposed to be a special effects show, but the special effects fall short of lame. I mean, I think the haunted house in my friend's garage had better special effects. Don't waste your time.
Overall, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is perhaps the funnest time I've ever had at an amusement/themed park. If you are going to Disney, or visiting Florida, don't forget to stop by Universal. You won't regret it.
Also, read our reviews of Disney Parks HERE! and let me know in the comments if you have any tips to share!