Tips for Parents: Taking Kids to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World

Tips for Parents: Taking Kids to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World

Disney Springs Tips for Parents: Taking the Kids

Whether you’re visiting Walt Disney World for a week-long stay or passing through Orlando on a jaunt to the Space Coast, Disney Springs deserves a spot in your itinerary! Yes, even with little kids in tow. Let’s look at some Disney Springs tips for parents…

Fun for Kids

For starters, you’ll want to visit at a less busy time and since those little ones are known to be early risers, I would suggest getting to Disney Springs by the 10am opening time. Visit some of our suggested stops, then choose a place to dine for lunch.

What’s the attraction? Well, there are LEGOS to build, boats to transport tired feet, a carousel to ride, splash fountains for cooling off, and Mr. Potato Head figures to create! And you’ve barely opened your wallet for those activities.

Tips for Parents Taking Kids to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World / If you want to take the kids to Disney Springs, but you’re not sure what to do there, then this post will help you! It includes tips for parents to survive a trip to Disney Springs, even on a strict budget – yay! Click through to check out all the activities and tips.

Ride the Marketplace Carousel

Strict budget? Spell out the spending limits before you set foot in Disney Springs. Click To Tweet

Tip: If you know your child won’t be satisfied playing with the LEGOS without buying a new set that isn’t in your budget this time, then skip it and continue to a less stressful activity. You know your little one best!

Amphicar

I always want to write amphibicar for this attraction. But no, it’s an amphicar. Everyone loves to stop and watch these totally adorable vehicles make their way from dry land to splashdown in Lake Buena Vista.

Actual rides are pricey but it’s free fun to watch. Boat tours run 10am to 10pm, weather permitting. For $150, you’ll get a 20-minute voyage. Sorry, a captain drives the boat; you’re just along for the ride. Ask about the $25 off special for those lunching between 11am and 3pm. Lunch and launch!

AmphiCar: Tips for Parents Taking Kids to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World / If you want to take the kids to Disney Springs, but you’re not sure what to do there, then this post will help you! It includes tips for parents to survive a trip to Disney Springs, even on a strict budget – yay! Click through to check out all the activities and tips.

Don’t you want an amphicar? I do!

Grab a nearby Gelato at Vivoli il Gelato and enjoy the view!

Gelato at Vivoli il Gelato

Why choose only one flavor of gelato?

Disney’s Pin Traders

If you have a freshly-minted pin collector, a die-hard trader, or a little one that likes browsing shiny things, Disney’s Pin Traders is a stop the whole family can enjoy.

Disney's Pin Traders

Mecca of shiny pins

Pin collecting can be fun for the whole family.

Disney pins

Find your favorite pins

Build Your Own Lightsaber

Star Wars Galactic Outpost and Once Upon A Toy offer a fun diversion for padawans.

lightsaber station

Stop by and build your own lightsaber

Both locations boast create your own lightsabers at kid-friendly stations.

Build Your Own lightsaber

Play time for padawans

Most of the time, I see kids playing here for a bit and then leaving. I’m not sure real little ones even know they are available for purchase. This could be a budget-friendly stop if the “this is just a play station approach” works for your family.

Characters in Flight

I’m not fond of heights but if you are a-okay at 400 feet up in the air, this ride on a tethered helium balloon affords tremendous views of the area (or so I’ve been told).

Characters in Flight

Ascend 400 feet

Current prices are $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Kids under age 9 must be accompanied by an adult 18 or over.

Coca-Cola Store

You can ride the elevator if you have small kids in strollers, otherwise I recommend taking the ramp walkway to the top. Tire out those kids; that’s what I’m thinking. Up top, you’ll have a fantastic view of Disney Springs.

Coca-Cola store

View from the rooftop at Coca-Cola store

Water Taxi

It’s free. And it’ll save you some steps from one end of Disney Springs to the other. Three docks are available: Marketplace, The Landing, and West Side. Plus, a soothing boat ride could result in a pleasantly sleepy child. 😉

Sassagoula River Boats WDW

Sassagoula River Boats

Tip: For a longer voyage, take the Sassagoula River Cruise over to Port Orleans French Quarter. We recommend stopping by the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory for a shareable treat of beignets.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Make an appointment 180 days in advance for the very popular Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your royal offspring ages 3-12. Girls love the glittery princess makeovers and boys enjoy showing off their knight or pirate transformations.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Magical transformations take place inside

When I see a little princess shimmering, I can’t help but tell her how beautiful she looks. Say “Hi Princess” and enjoy the smile you’ll get in return.

Save a bundle by packing a princess-like dress or other costume from home. Packages begin at $59.95 for princesses and rise to $199.95 if you purchase one of their gowns. Knights run $19.95.

Music Concerts and Dance Parties

Look to the Fountain Stage for musical entertainment.

Marketplace Stage

Musical groups perform at Disney Springs

Grab a nearby snack and take in some music by school-age performers. I’ve seen many little ones dancing at the Marketplace and Fountain stages; it’s a great place to burn off some wiggles before heading back to your resort for a mid-day rest.

DJ Dance Party

Get up and dance

LEGO Store

For YEARS, this store was a must stop for our family.

LEGO Store

Playing at LEGO table

From life-size LEGO figures to build your own creations, this store is pure eye candy for LEGO lovers.

Lego Store

Indoor and outdoor fun at the Lego Store

Stop by for great photo ops.

World of Disney Store

Toys, stuffed animals, character crayons, and more pull the weariest of shoppers into the World of Disney store. And that’s just the merchandise. The décor is also amazing in this world’s largest Disney character shop! Go early; it gets insanely crowded.

Shopping at Disney Springs

Fun with birthday funds

Once Upon A Toy Store

Yes, this toy store is fun to explore.

Once Upon A Toy Store: Tips for Parents Taking Kids to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World / If you want to take the kids to Disney Springs, but you’re not sure what to do there, then this post will help you! It includes tips for parents to survive a trip to Disney Springs, even on a strict budget – yay! Click through to check out all the activities and tips.

It’s fun exploring Once Upon A Toy

Plus, you’ll find hands-on activities (build your own lightsabers, droids, and Mr. Potato Heads); purchasing these creations is optional.

Mr. Potato Head

Build your own Mr. Potato Head

Don’t forget to pose with Buzz Lightyear in front of the store.

Once Upon A Toy Buzz Lightyear

Buzz is so cool

Food is Fun

You’ll want to have a pretty good idea before you arrive Disney Springs as to what you want to spend for snacks and dining.

Mickey dome Cake

Mickey Dome Cake at Amorette’s Patisserie

Once there, you’ll be inundated with tasty temptations.

Disney Springs Food trucks

Food trucks are fun

One of our favorite hang-outs is Goofy’s Candy Co.

Treats

Look for fun and tasty treats at Goofy’s Candy Co.

Here, the bakery case is filled with delightful treats. Wander in a bit further and you’ll find some make your own creations available.

Movies

If it’s a rainy day, we recommend catching a movie at AMC Disney Springs 24. For extra points with the kids, choose one of the Dine-In Theatres.

AMC Disney Springs 24 with Dine-In Theatres

See a movie on a rainy day

Bowling

Whether you venture inside to rent a lane or find an outdoor seat to sip beverages out of a souvenir bowling pin, Splitsville is an entertaining venue.

Splitsville offers indoor and outdoor entertainment

Plus… there’s so much more at Disney Springs! Keep an eye out for the T-Rex Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, Sprinkles Cupcakes, a small train ride, splash fountains, a Marvel Super Hero Headquarters store, gorgeous lake vistas, and the list goes on.

Note: All prices are subject to change. Tax is usually additional.

What does your family enjoy at Disney Springs? Share in the comments below.

 

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News: Universal Orlando Resort Constructing Budget Hotel

News: Universal Orlando Resort Constructing Budget Hotel

Universal Orlando Announces Budget Hotel

Universal Orlando Hotel Rooms

Watch for more Universal Orlando hotel rooms at a new budget resort

Nearly three months ago, Universal Orlando began demolition on the old Wet ‘n Wild property. We can now confirm that Universal Orlando plans to add a 4,000 room hotel to that site! Upon completion, this new hotel will boast a thousand more rooms than Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter/Riverside resort.

While Universal’s Florida resort already offers guests five different hotel options, this new hotel will fill the need for budget rooms priced $100-$120 per night. The price will likely be appropriate considering that guests will need to travel from the opposite side of I-4 in order to access Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks and Universal CityWalk. Transportation options have not been announced yet.

Will you stay at Universal with this new budget option? We can’t wait to follow further developments. Stay tuned to The Castle Concierge.

Source: WFTV


Ten Benefits to Sending Your Child to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama

Ten Benefits to Sending Your Child to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama

Ten Benefits to Sending Your Child to Space Camp

At the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, kids ages 9-18 can take part in Space Camp. If you are an adult yearning to go to Mars, opportunities for adults (and their families) are also available.

Through these doors…

Our son had a long term interest in going to Space Camp. After a move to Nashville, TN, we were within an easy drive of “Rocket City” and thus, we soon found ourselves making the drive to One Tranquility Base.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

We sent our child to his first Space Camp (he’s now been to Space Academy and Advanced Space Academy) so that he could explore his passion for space exploration. There were so many other benefits that we had not anticipated.

Moving in Day at Advanced Space Academy

Here’s ten of them:

Making Friends with Kids from around the World

During Nic’s visit to Space Camp, he bunked and/or went to activities with kids from across the globe. Some of the kids he interacted with were from Dubai, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. Since they have unique cultural backgrounds, keeping in touch via text and social media has been fun.

Meet students from around the world

Boasting attendees from all 50 states and more than 60 foreign countries, your child will certainly get to meet a diverse group of peers with like-minded dreams. This exciting aspect of Space Academy enriched his experience — both during and after camp.

Investment in your Child’s Future

If your child is dreaming about a future as an engineer, medical professional, scientist, etc., then Space Camp will provide an excellent opportunity for classroom instruction and hands-on training in an inspiring and unique setting.

Bunk bed

Habitat rooms are small but campers are exhausted by lights out.

Presentations by NASA professionals may help your child find their career path.

Astronaut Jerry Ross

Nic shakes hands with Astronaut Jerry Ross

Currently, Nic is looking at colleges where he can study aerospace engineering. Update: Nic will be attending Auburn University on a partial scholarship. And he now volunteering at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to earn hours for National Honor Society and Science National Honor Society.

Also, students see the Space Camp Alumni Wall of Fame that includes NASA and European Space Agency astronauts, engineers, scientists, and technologists.

Team Building

A successful day at Space Camp involves lots of teamwork. In order to complete a mission, trainees must work together and embrace individual strengths.

Successful missions take team work

Working together, students tackle space missions, rocket building, and science experiments.

Personal Growth

Previously, Nic had flown alone to see extended family, however this was his first overnight experience where he didn’t know any other adult or peer. The experience of sharing a room with peers, meeting instructors, having to go to Sick Bay for medicine, etc. was a tremendous chance for personal growth.

Habitat

Space Camp Habitat

As parents of an only child, it also helped us to see Nic as a maturing individual. By putting himself in what was at first an uncomfortable situation, he was able to reach his goal of becoming a Space Academy graduate. In doing so, he had so much fun that I’m sure he would be happy to become a permanent resident!

Leadership Skills

Nic returned from his first Space Camp extremely proud of his accomplishments. In one particular outdoor activity, he was chosen to be the leader. During this team building exercise, the team needed to work together and communicate effectively in order to “survive”. Basically, if they fell off a board, they were doomed. 😉

Space Camp

Space Camp Team Building and Leadership

I believe this experience laid the foundation for Nic wanting to pursue more leadership opportunities. In Nic’s 11th grade year, he was co-section leader of the trumpets in his high school marching band. For his senior year, he was promoted to Brass Captain.

Adult Role Models Boost Self-Confidence

After two Space Camps, there is no doubt that the trainers picked to inspire the trainees are chosen carefully. Nic talks fondly of his trainers and as any excellent teacher, their inspiration has stayed with him. These adult role models boosted his self-confidence by cheering him on, placing him in a leadership role, chatting about their interests, and possibly, demonstrating that you can be a space nerd and still be “cool”.

Space Camp Graduation

Space Camp Graduation

Creative Problem Solving

Problem solving is a task that was greatly encouraged at Space Camp. Around every turn, creative solutions needed to be presented in order to succeed in mission control, rocket building, and other areas.

Problem solving is made fun at Space Camp

Nic has shown great determination in finding a way to solve a problem rather than wasting time on the frustration of its complexity. With the help of two Space Camps and his academic pursuits in high school, Nic has greatly matured in his time management, study, and problem solving skills. This has been most apparent in his recent ACT scores!

Character Building

Space Camp brings students together who have similar passions. One of your child’s team members may be obsessed with rocketry; another may want to pilot airplanes. All of the trainees look to the sky with fascination. It’s an incredible setting that can bring together students that otherwise may not hang out with each other in high school. Football players mingling with marching band students? Yes, it can happen at Space Camp. Once there, individuals find the value in being both a follower and a leader while their previous high school labels are left at home.

Space Camp Mission

Building character through missions

As a parent, you’ll appreciate that Space Camp is a true character building environment that embraces natural ability rather than popularity. Indeed, individuality is encouraged in order to be successful at the given missions.

Promotes Fitness

Daily exercise and fitness is promoted during a five-night stay at Space Camp. It’s never a bad thing to get a kid away from technology in order to discover the fun in the outdoors or indoor pool. At Space Camp, fitness is often paired with a team building activity. It’s a win-win lesson for all trainees.

Space Camp Activity

Fitness combined with problem solving and team work

Real World Applications of Math and Science

Knowledge is priceless; sometimes a high school student can’t grasp that concept while sitting through a boring math lesson. However, when a student sees the real world applications that have been utilized by rocket scientists, for example, algebraic equations become a bit more magical. State-of-the-art simulations of space missions inspire students to pursue more challenging math and science classes. Nic is currently taking his second AP Physics class!

Mission Control

Real World Math, Science, and Technology at Space Camp’s Mission Control

Space Camp Information

Rocket Scientist, Dr. Wernher von Braun, believed there should be a place to encourage students to experience the excitement of space exploration. With that mission in mind, the first Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Edward O. Buckbee, founded Space Camp!

Celebrating Advance Space Academy graduation

Mission Accomplished!

U.S. Space & Rocket Center
One Tranquility Base
Huntsville, AL 35805
1-800-637-7223

Does Space Camp interest your child (or yourself)? Let us know in the comments below!

Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

Cape Canaveral, Florida is one of our favorite locations in the United States because it’s home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a cruise ship port, and the beautiful Atlantic ocean. Most recently, we visited for a rocket launch!

Rocket Science

Rocket Science

View a Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

We’ve toured the Kennedy Space Center and taken several cruises from Port Canaveral. One of our most memorable trips — a cruise and rocket launch — on the same day!

Prior to boarding the Disney Wonder on January 19, 2006.

While NASA has launched rockets from the Cape for over sixty years, we’ve only witnessed two of them in person. We’ve tried several times to see more launches, however, timing (work and school), weather (Florida thunderstorms!), and technical issues have interfered.

New Horizons Rocket Launch

On January 19, 2006, Michael, Nic, and I embarked on the Disney Cruise Line’s ship, Disney Wonder. We were excited to board the beautiful ship and head out to sea. After boarding, we learned we were in for a special send-off. NASA was launching New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe, with a planned Pluto Fly-by for July 14, 2015!

Instead of heading to our stateroom to settle in, we found a great location up on deck to view the launch. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.

At 2pm, New Horizons lifted off!

New Horizons lifts off at Cape Canaveral. Rocket Launches from Cape Canaveral are amazing.

New Horizons lifts off

New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder ship

New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder

New Horizons rocket launch

Launch of New Horizons

New Horizons rocket launch

New Horizons blasts off from Cape Canaveral

The fun continued for years. We kept track of New Horizons throughout Nic’s childhood. Finally, when Nic was 15, New Horizons made its historical flight past Pluto.

Atlas V Rocket Launch

After several missed launches the past couple of years, we found ourselves at the right place and time for an Atlas V rocket launch. On the morning and afternoon of November 19, 2016, we had a scheduled tour for Nic at Florida Institute of Technology. In the evening, we took the easy drive from Melbourne to Cape Canaveral; still amazed by our good fortune.

Nasa Parkway East, Banana River, Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Nic and Michael waiting for rocket launch

We found a great parking spot along Nasa Parkway East (a strip of road in the middle of the Banana River) and facing Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41.

Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kenney Space Center from across the Banana River, Nasa Parkway East

Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Typical of rocketry, we were in for a tense wait. During the hour-long launch window, the timing was pushed back numerous times. When there was one last chance to launch by 6:42pm, the Atlas V finally lit up the sky!

Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

Thankfully, it was a successful blast-off of United Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying a next-generation weather satellite. And we were there to see it!

Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral

Cape Canaveral History

Cape Canaveral wasn’t America’s first launch site though. In the 1940s, many of the first U.S. rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range situated in the New Mexico desert. While this desert location is plenty remote, larger rockets required a site that would be less dangerous to the general public. So, on July 24, 1950, Cape Canaveral launched its first rocket over a safer spot — the Atlantic Ocean.

White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missile Range

Cape Canaveral Future

Rocket launches can be viewed from many public areas as well as with reserved tickets at Kennedy Space Center.

We hope to watch future launches of the new Space Launch System. And with SpaceX and Blue Origin continuing to bring their rocket launches to the area, the Cape is sure to be an uplifting place to visit!

Have you seen a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral? Share with us in the comments!

Tips for Planning a Unique Road Trip in the United States

Tips for Planning a Unique Road Trip in the United States

Planning a Unique Road Trip

Whether you have a week or 2 months (jealous!) to cruise down the open roads, we have some quick tips for planning the ultimate road trip. You’ll start with getting out your calendar and move on to looking up weather and seasonal crowds. Next, you have to start mapping out your must-see attractions. Read on for more details!

Road Trip Planning Tips for the United States.

Check Your Calendar

First, you’ll need to look at your calendar and see when the family can get away. Afterward, pin down the maximum number of days that you can escape from work, school, and other at-home commitments.

Consider the Weather and Seasonal Crowds

Do you want to go to Yellowstone National park? If it’s not the peak of summer, be sure to check for road closures due to snow. Got your heart set on the Grand Canyon? Plan to be there in the early morning during holiday weekends like Memorial Day.

Yellowstone covered in snow with high snowbanks in early June 2011,

It’s early June?!

You’ll want to look up the historical weather information for each place that you plan to visit. Even states that you only plan to cross, may have weather concerns. Yes, we once had to hide out in a McDonald’s to escape a tornado. I kid you not. And don’t get me started on the ice storms that we had to outrun or got stuck in when traveling the Eastern Seaboard in the winter.

Back on the road after an ice storm.

Look up seasonal crowd information for the places that you want to tour. What are the busiest and least crowded times of the year, week, or day to visit? Don’t waste your precious family time waiting to get in a national park when you could have drove right in by arriving a bit earlier.

Figure Out Your Mileage

Only you know how many miles in your vehicle per day are doable for your family. Got an antsy toddler? Plan for less miles and more roadside stops. Take your miles per day and times it by your number of vacation days. Then, split it up — half to get to your farthest destination and half to get home! Plan different routes for your outbound and inbound travels.

If you have a young child, take more breaks out of the car on long road trips.

Take a break out of the car!

Know that the journey is equally important to the destination. You’ll make priceless memories on the road if you allow for spontaneity.

Get Out a Map

I like roadtrippers.com. This tool lets you see what’s really feasible for your road trip. Start by adding in your home location and your farthest destination. Then look for places of interest along the way. Add in all your stops of interest.

If you prefer, get our your paper atlas and/or map. Figure out your mileage between destinations by using your favorite online calculator.

Veer Off the Beaten Path

Yes, plan some road miles that are not on the interstate. You’ll be amazed at what you find. Although sometimes, you’ll wonder if you’ve left civilization for good, especially when you’re hungry and haven’t seen a restaurant in a couple of hours. 😉

Go off the beaten path on road trips to find unique towns and attractions

Somewhere in Texas

Refine Your Places of Interest

This is where you have to get tough. There’s a multitude of places to see and things to do along your chosen route. Keeping in mind your mileage concerns and maximum allowable vacation days, this is where you’ll have to do some crossing out.

A unique attraction — the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico

Tip: Mix it up. A combination of natural wonders, museums, all-day attractions, and shorter stops will keep everyone longing for the next activity. A quiet but mind-boggling evening visit to an observatory can precede the next day’s arrival to bustling Las Vegas. If your family veers toward museums, allow for at least one outdoor activity. If you generally visit natural parks, add in a museum. Allow for the quirky too — in one road trip through South Dakota, we drove by the Corn Palace and stopped to stretch our legs at Wall Drug Store.

Stop at Wall Drug Store for roadside fun in Wall, South Dakota.

Having fun out of the car at Wall Drug Store.

Fine-Tuning Your Route

Start on Day one and determine your departure time. Calculate the number of miles to your first stop. Is your first stop an overnight to rest from driving or a “through visit”?  Consider any place that does not involve staying in a hotel overnight as a “through visit”. Note that sometimes you’ll need to arrive a road stop and tour your interested attraction the next morning. For example, we arrived in Flagstaff, AZ in late afternoon and continued to the Grand Canyon early the next morning.

Early morning in the Grand Canyon

If you can drive the miles to your first stop, see your first attraction, and still get some driving miles done to your hotel stop, do it. But don’t go over your maximum miles per day unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you’ll be driving through a lowly populated area, you may need to drive a bit farther to get to your hotel.

Here’s an map of our 5,000 mile road trip this past summer. At first, this map included stops for many other attractions but in the interest of time and sanity, we had to do the tough job of crossing out some interesting places. We allowed more road miles on our first and last days.

This map shows our Southwest road trip of 5,ooo miles.

Southwest Road Trip Map

Finalizing Your Route

If you haven’t done so already, check the hours for each attraction. Some attractions like Space Center Houston will require many hours to tour. Other stops (taking a picture at a Continental Divide sign) will be less involved. Make adjustments to your route and sightseeing plans accordingly.

Take a picture at the Continental Divide sign near Riddle Lake, Wyoming close to the South Entrance to Yellowstone.

Kim at the Continental Divide near Riddle Lake, Wyoming.

Tip: Plan to stay at at least one location for more than a night. You’ll all be thankful for the time out of the car!

Prepare to NOT See Everything

Inevitably, there are roadblocks on any adventure. You run into a massive traffic jam right after you pass the most convenient exit (hate that!). Or someone in the family gets sick and needs an unplanned day of rest. On that Southwest Road trip above, our son got sick and we had to cut out two attractions and one hotel stop. (We’ll discuss in another post how to deal with last minute adjustments.)

We’ll be back with lots more road trip tips, along with in-depth reviews of hotels and attractions. Plus, we can’t wait to share some of our hilarious traveling mistakes and um, mishaps, with our readers.

Unique Road Trips

What are your suggestions for planning a road trip?

 

How to Make the Most of a Two Night Stay at Universal Studios Florida

How to Make the Most of a Two Night Stay at Universal Studios Florida

Why Stay at Universal Studios Florida®?

It’s not as overwhelming as a trip to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can actually have a fun-filled time with only a two night stay at Universal Studios Florida.

Here’s How to Create a Two-Night Stay:

  • Plan your getaway. You’ll need to be within easy driving distance the morning that you plan to check in to your hotel. As we had toured Florida Institute of Technology, the night before our stay, we were only about 45 minutes away. Don’t forget to pre-order your tickets and make a reservation at an onsite hotel.

Universal Studios Florida

  • On your first touring day, arrive early to your resort. We had reservations at Loews Royal Pacific resort. Park, leave your luggage in your vehicle, bring your pre-paid ticket voucher, and Check In. Your room will likely not be ready but that’s okay. Your goal is to get your tickets and head to the parks! Check In is a breeze here. With your admission tickets in hand, your next stop is the Universal Express kiosk in the hotel lobby. Here, you’ll get your picture taken and once your card is in hand, head to a park for early admission.
  • Review the early park admission calendar to personalize your plans. This is the best time to get pictures of the intricate details of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!
Diagon Alley

Immerse yourself in Diagon Alley

  • After Harry Potter, visit other popular attractions like Skull Island: Reign of Kong™ before the crowds begin to pour in. Then start to visit the less visited attractions.
Skull Island Reign of Kong

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is an incredible adventure!

  • Plan an early lunch to avoid long lines.
Monsters Cafe

Monster’s Cafe

  • Plan a time for an afternoon break, once you receive a text that your room is ready. When you arrive back at the hotel, bring in your luggage and rest a few minutes. The ease of walking from the parks to Royal Pacific avoids any transportation struggles.
  • Plan to dine on your return to the hotel or your way back into one of the parks. The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™ is a great choice! We’ll be back with a review soon!
Toothsome

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen

  • Tour the less visited attractions when crowds are still thick in the early evening. This is a good time to head to Seuss Landing™ as parents are beginning to take their kids to dinner and head out of the park.
Seuss Landing

Visit Seuss Landing in late afternoon or evening

  • About two hours before closing, you can start to watch wait times for the more popular attractions. This is also a great time to visit any of the Harry Potter attractions, especially the Interactive Wand exhibits. We absolutely love hanging out at the Hog’s Head tavern in Hogsmeade and toasting to our vacation with butterbeer!
Hog's Head Tavern

Even on a crowded day, Hog’s Head is dead at the end of the night.

Frozen Butterbeer

My favorite beverage at the tavern is Frozen Butterbeer!

  • After park closing, visit CityWalk for a snack or return directly to your hotel.
  • For your second day, take advantage of early park admission, and repeat the day one tips. You’ll want to get to any attractions that you missed the first day as well as return to your favorites.
Diagon Alley

Explore the nooks and crannies of Diagon Alley

  • Finally, don’t try to see and do everything. Take your time and really savor the attractions, shows, and restaurants that you do visit.

On-Site Theme Park Hotels

The advantage of staying at a hotel onsite is that you’ll get a few benefits that are extremely important towards a stress-free vacation.

All official hotels at Universal Studios Florida offer a one-hour early admission benefit. This is a great way to get ahead of the lines. When you complement that advantage with the Universal Express Pass, you have a strategy that will allow stress-free touring.

Select a “deluxe” hotel –Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, or Loews Royal Pacific — and you’ll get the Universal Express Pass free. This saves $89 per person per day so figure that savings into your hotel budget. It worked out cheaper for us to stay at Loews Royal Pacific. A stay at Cabana Bay with the added cost of Universal Express passes was definitely more expensive. Skipping the REGULAR LINES with Universal Express SM Unlimited ride access* in both theme parks is imperative to a relaxing visit, especially if you tour during a crowded time period.

Tip: Crowds will be present any time kids are out of school. And since our son is now in high school, we have to travel when school is closed. Don’t judge – we used to take him out of school from Kindergarten through 8th grade so that we could travel during the off-seasons. If school is in session, then your travel location (especially to Florida) will be cheaper and less crowded!

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

As mentioned above, we once again chose the Loews Royal Pacific Resort for our Universal Studios stay. We were there for a quick visit so familiarity with the resort aided in our plan to have fun at a relaxing pace despite the pre-Thanksgiving crowds.

Loews Royal Pacific

South Seas Decor

Some of the resort’s highlights:

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

Beautiful walk from Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the parks and CityWalk

      1. The Beautiful Walkway to and from the parks
      2. Convenient Hotel Parking (at a price though)
      3. Easily Accessible to CityWalk and both parks
      4. Beautiful South Seas Atmosphere
      5. Easy Check In and Ticket Redemption
      6. Friendly Staff
      7. Nicely appointed rooms
      8. Proximity to restaurants
      9. Lagoon Style Pool
      10. Nice amenities such as free lemon water

I highly recommend a stay at Universal Studios in Florida. And I can’t wait to return. I’ve got our interactive wands at the ready!

What hotel do you stay at when visiting Universal Studios in Florida? Should we try a different hotel on our next stay? It’s your turn to share!

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