How to Have a Successful Weekend in Universal Studios Orlando

How to Have a Successful Weekend in Universal Studios Orlando

I am a Disney girl through and through, but when it came to a 30th birthday trip with my sister, we decided that we should try something different. Thanks to Harry Potter, Universal Studios Orlando is now a heavyweight competitor with Disney, and as self-proclaimed Pottheads, Universal has been calling our name for years. So, we booked a quick weekend getaway, and started planning! I learned so much being a first-timer in Universal, and now it’s time to pass my knowledge onto you! Here’s how to have a successful weekend in Universal Orlando:Universal StudiosStay at a resort on property

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Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando

Similar to Disney, Universal Studios has major perks for guests that stay at their on-property resorts. There are a few options, but we ended up choosing Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, which is the highest tier of the resort choices (and the most expensive, unfortunately). It has a very upscale feel and is meant to mirror the Italian town of Portofino, nestled right on the water. The price held it’s value; the room was spacious, the pool was absolutely glorious, and we were able to enter the park an hour before regular ticket holders.

Make an Itinerary… even if you don’t stick to it

I spent hours creating a beautiful, perfect itinerary for our brief 72-hours in Orlando, and although we deviated from the plan about 8 minutes into our first day, I’m still really glad I made it. A structured itinerary encouraged me to research rides, restaurants, and wait times, and I felt confident going to the parks after I had a plan in mind. I linked my personal itinerary below, take a look, it worked really well!

Link for 2-day Universal Studios Orlando Itinerary

Hogwarts Express

Buy the Park-to-Park ticket (and buy it online ahead of time)

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Hogwarts Castle!

The best value for tickets is the park-to-park ticket online (you save $20 versus buying it at the gate), and trust me, you’ll want the park hopper option. With the park hopper, you have access to ride the Hogwarts Express between both parks, and the experience is definitely worth the money. Be sure to print out the tickets ahead of time so as soon as you get the gate, you’re ready to go.

The food, overall, isn’t that great, so plan ahead

Yes, I consider this a tip because I wish I would have been prepared. The food is just… ok, in my opinion, especially compared to Disney. One perk is that the value is definitely there. A hot dog is the price a hot dog should be, a bottled water is $2.99 (a little expensive but still not sporting event expensive), and snacks will only run you a few dollars. However, there just aren’t a ton of options available for dining, so I recommend doing some research ahead of time and looking at specific menu items to see what you may be interested in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Considering I purchased 6 Butter Beer drinks/ice cream cones, I personally recommend those signature snacks!

SISTER TIP: Our favorite dining spot was actually at the Simpsons Fast Food Blvd. It offered a variety of food options, cold Duff beer, and the most amazing face-sized donut I’ve ever tasted for only $5.99! That’s $1.20 each for dessert for a family of five. Great deal. Check out the video below (side note – how amazing is her ring?!)

Play along with the characters

In Harry Potter world, many cast members are just as big of fans as we are, and they’ll love to play along with you. We heard many statements (“I’m late for potions, move out of my way!”) and taking a few minutes out of your time to talk with them will make your day. Stan from The Knight Bus offers a great photo op, and the dinosaur handler in Jurassic Park took her role very seriously. [See video below].Triwizard

Head to Harry Potter World first thing in the morning

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Diagon Alley… complete with dragon

My last tip is to head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter ASAP, like literally, first thing in the morning. There are two different ‘worlds’ – Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure). Both were amazing, but you’ll find you probably prefer one over the other. We absolutely loved the attention to detail in Diagon Alley; it was as if we stepped into the books themselves, so we started our morning there both days. I recommend grabbing a spot in line of your favorite ride first thing, as well, as the lines get longer as the day progresses. Remember, if you stay on site, you get to enter the park an hour before other ticket holders!Universal

Keep your eyes out for a Harry Potter World tips post in the next week! Until then, comment some tips you have below! 🙂

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