by Michael LaPaglia | Jan 1, 2017 | Castles, Travel, Universal Studios
Universal Studios Orlando Trip Report and Review
We were thrilled to spend a few days (pre-Thanksgiving) at the Universal Studios Orlando Resort. Visiting the second iteration of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley at the Universal Studios Theme Park was our primary objective.
Islands of Adventure
A few year ago, we visited the Hogsmeade area at Islands Of Adventure. At that time, we were impressed and delighted by the first phase of the Harry Potter themed lands. Family vacations to Europe, a Southwest USA road trip, and of course, Walt Disney World excursions had delayed a return to Universal. We were anxious to experience the second phase of the Harry Potter attractions. Guess what? The wait was worth it!
Loews Royal Pacific
Outstanding and beyond my expectations pretty much sums up my impressions of not only Diagon Alley, but the overall experience of our second stay on Universal property. Since I was pleased with our prior stay at the Loews Royal Pacific resort, we chose to stay a second time for a variety of factors: the ability to have the Universal Express Pass included as part of our guest experience at the hotel, the extremely convenient location, and the charm we found there a few years ago.
Loews Royal Pacific
The Royal Pacific has recently undergone refurbishment, and based on some chatter in the Theme Park blogosphere, maybe to mixed reviews. For me, the renovation was more than adequate with clean and comfortable rooms. Certainly, the modern/contemporary decor can be construed as somewhat mismatched to the Pacific Island theme. Although not comparable to the theming at many Walt Disney World resorts, it’s still a nice room in a well-designed and pleasant resort. I would not only recommend the Loews Royal Pacific to others, I would certainly consider staying there again. Twice charmed at this point!
CityWalk at Universal Studios Orlando
The convenience of being able to obtain an Express Pass shortly after checking in might only be second to the incredibly pleasant walk along a beautifully landscaped waterway towards the Theme Parks. In about 10 minutes, the entrance to CityWalk interrupts the path, and then it’s only a short jaunt to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios, with Islands of Adventure being first along the left-hand side.
The shopping and dining area called CityWalk is cool, but for me, pales in comparison to even the pre-Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney) area at Walt Disney World. CityWalk is long on food and drink options, but significantly short on charm, with one new exception, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen.
Up Next: steampunk theming and Diagon Alley rocks it
Share your thoughts on a Universal Studios Orlando stay!
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Dec 14, 2016 | Castles, Florida, Travel, U.S. Travel, Universal Studios
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.
- 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!
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 is an incredible adventure!
- Plan an early lunch to avoid long lines.
- 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!
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.
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!
Even on a crowded day, Hog’s Head is dead at the end of the night.
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.
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.
South Seas Decor
Some of the resort’s highlights:
Beautiful walk from Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the parks and CityWalk
- The Beautiful Walkway to and from the parks
- Convenient Hotel Parking (at a price though)
- Easily Accessible to CityWalk and both parks
- Beautiful South Seas Atmosphere
- Easy Check In and Ticket Redemption
- Friendly Staff
- Nicely appointed rooms
- Proximity to restaurants
- Lagoon Style Pool
- 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!