From Tracie: Two Magical Days At Universal Orlando Resort

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Magical Days At Universal Orlando Resort

I was invited to spend the weekend at Universal Orlando Resort for the opening day of their Holiday Celebration. They provided me with media tickets for this event. I already shared all of the fun things you can do to celebrate the holidays at Universal. Today I'm going to tell you about all of our non-holiday fun, and talk a lot about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando Resort The Adventure Begins

Day One: Friday
We checked into the Loews Royal Pacific Resort on Friday morning, and met up with the other bloggers and their families for lunch at the Navigators Club. While we ate, we got to see a sneak peak of the plans for the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort (it looks amazing) that is opening in 2014.

After lunch we went on a VIP tour of the parks. Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of two parks - Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. We started our tour in Islands of Adventure, where The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located.

First Taste Of Butterbeer

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the wizard town of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle. You can't read a Harry Potter book without wondering what Butterbeer tastes like, and wishing you had a big mug of it sitting on your table. Universal took that into account when they created the Wizarding World, and you can get Butterbeer at the Hog's Head pub or from street vendors selling it out of big barrels. It comes in frozen or fizzy, and Katarina chose the frozen.

Butterbeer at Wizarding World of Harry Potter

It is hard to describe the flavor of Butterbeer. It is kind of like a butterscotch root beer. That isn't a perfect description, but it's close. It is much sweeter than I expected, and very yummy.

We moved through WWoHP fairly fast during the tour, stopping to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey rides before our Butterbeer tasting. Katarina and I both agreed we needed to visit it again to really enjoy soaking in all of the little details in Hogsmeade and browse in the shops.

New Rides

During the tour, we were able to go on some of the new rides that have been added to the parks since my family visited Universal Studios a few years ago. We've been hearing about Transformers: The Ride 3-D since it opened last summer. It was one of the rides we were excited to try, and it did not disappoint. You sit in a car that seats four to a row. As your car moves along the 2,000 foot track, it spins and darts from scene to scene where giant 3-D screens make you feel as if you are a part of the story. It is very similar to another one of our favorite rides, The Amazing Spiderman, but the ride feels newer, and you can tell they have made improvements on the technology.

You can meet the Transformers outside of the ride. Bumblebee was being shy, and turned his head right as I snapped this picture. I still love him.

Bumblebee Transformer

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem was a huge hit with Katarina, and I enjoyed it, too. It is another 3D ride. The car you are sitting in is more stationary than the seats in Transformers or Amazing Spiderman, not moving from room to room, but it does tilt and lean, and gives you the sensation of falling and flying with the characters on the screen. We rode it at least four times during our visit, and stayed longer at the dance party at the end each time we rode. You have to love a good dance party.

Fun With Minions At Universal

Men In Black Alien Attack isn't new, but it is very fun. It is part ride, part game. You shoot at aliens with laser guns as you go through the ride. Our tour guides gave us some tips (look for Frank the Pug, who is worth a lot of points, and hit all the aliens hiding in trees, lamp posts, and the second story windows), and my car racked up a lot of points. We walked through the Alien Immigration area visitors overlook when exiting the ride.

MIB Alien Immigration

On our way to E.T. Adventure (the last remaining original ride in the park, and one of my favorites), we spotted the construction for the Diagon Alley Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion in Universal Studios Florida. Surrounding the construction area, they have a fence with old movie posters on it. I couldn't resist getting this shot of Diagon Alley behind the Jaws poster, as this is the location where Amity and the Jaws ride were located. It seemed fitting.

Diagon Alley Expansion Orlando with Jaws Poster

When the Diagon Alley expansion is finished in the summer of 2014, you will be able to access Diagon Alley behind the streets of London, just like J.K. Rowling first imagined it. You will also be able to travel between London in Universal Studios Florida and Diagon Alley in Islands of Adventure by riding on the Hogwarts Express. I can hardly wait.


Both of the theme parks close at 7:00pm, but CityWalk, which connects the two parks and is accessible without a park ticket, is open until 2am. We made great use of CityWalk both nights we were at Universal Orlando Resort.

Hard Rock Cafe Universal Orlando

On Friday night we ate at The Hard Rock Cafe. I had Twisted Mac & Cheese with chicken, followed by a piece of amazing cheesecake for dessert. The atmosphere was great, and I could easily spend hours in the restaurant looking at all of the rock memorabilia.

Blue Man Group

After dinner we walked next door to see the Blue Man Group.

Blue Man Group

You are not allowed to take pictures during the Blue Man Group show. It felt a little strange for me (a picture-crazed person and a blogger) to sit through an amazing experience without reaching for my camera a single time, but it was actually very refreshing. I thought the show would be all drumming and splashing paint, but it wasn't. There was a lot of improv, they pulled people out of the audience, and a sketch with giant ipads that had everyone laughing. They also did the iconic drumming and paint splashing. The show alternated between hilarious and amazing. I enjoyed every minute of it, and would definitely go see it again.

When the show ended, we were able to meet a Blue Man and one of the band members. Katarina told him she was going to make "a serious Blue Man face for our picture" so she could match him. The Blue Man motioned for the photographer to wait (the Blue Men don't talk), and he wiped some of the blue paint off of his face and put it on her nose for our picture.

Serious Faces with Blue Man

Before we walked away, I got the blue nose treatment as well. That made Katarina so happy, she couldn't hold on to her serious face, and the laughter broke through. It was awesome, and I am so glad someone captured the moment.

Laughing With Blue Man

Day Two: Saturday
On Saturday morning, Katarina and I took advantage of the opportunity to go to Islands of Adventure an hour before the park officially opens. This is a nice perk you get when you stay on-site in the Universal resort hotels.

Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

We did not get enough Harry Potter on Friday (because it is impossible to get enough Harry Potter), so we immediately headed to the Wizarding World after breakfast.

Hogsmeade Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando

It was fun to walk through all of the shops mentioned in the books. Zonkos had several of Fred and George Weasley's inventions for sale, and Honeydukes had Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans.

Visiting Hogsmeade really does feel like you have walked right into the wizard world from Rowling's books.

Tracie at Owl Post Hogsmeade

At the Owl Post, you can actually send letters, and Ollivanders sells wands. They have wands that will choose you according to your birthday or other special dates in your life, and they also have replicas of a large number of the character's wands. But the really exciting thing at Ollivanders is the interactive wand choosing experience.

Katarina and the wand that chose her

When our group went in for the wand choosing, Ollivander picked Katarina to be the wizard looking for a wand. She went through several wands, ringing bells and accidentally killing some flowers she was tasked with watering, before finding the wand that wanted her. It was an amazing experience. I took a very dark video of it (no lights or flashes are allowed in Ollivanders) that you can see on youtube.

Universal Studios and more CityWalk

After our visit to the Wizarding World, Katarina and I spent the rest of our morning with my good friend Lee and her family, who were also attending the Family Blogger Trip. I can not even explain to you how excited Lee and I got when we were walking down the street at Universal Studios and saw Shaggy and Scooby. It is possible we cut in front of a line of small children accidentally, due to our excitement, to get this picture. Scooby loves me. He really loves me.

Shaggy and Scooby with Lee and Tracie

We rode lots of rides with the kids, and Lee's husband and I snuck in a couple of roller coasters. The Incredible Hulk ride made my top three list of best roller coasters in America. It was that awesome.

Because we stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, we had complimentary express passes to use, and that enabled us to get through lines very fast. I don't think we waited more than five minutes for any of the rides on Saturday, even though some of the regular lines had waits of over an hour posted. You can buy express passes even if you aren't staying at an on-site hotel, and I would definitely suggest getting them on your next visit to Universal - they make a huge difference.

After we took part in all of the Christmas festivities on Saturday afternoon, we ate dinner by the hotel pool. It was nice to rest our feet and relax a bit, but we still weren't ready for the day to end, so we ended up at CityWalk's Hollywood Drive-In Golf at around 10pm.

I Can Not Mini-Golf

Something you might not know about me: I can not mini-golf. When I was ten years old I was actually kicked out of a mini-golf place after accidentally breaking three light bulbs. That was the last time I tried to golf...until this trip.

It was with great trepidation that I picked up a club on Saturday night. On the first hole I found that I had not lost my "special" golfing inability. The ball flew off of the green, jumped a wall, skipped down a stair, and almost hit another mini-golfer in the head. I decided one hole was enough, and quit, but Katarina had a blast finishing out the course.

Katarina Mini-Golfing

We finally crawled into bed around midnight, and slept hard until it was time to go home on Sunday morning. Then both Katarina and I took very long naps on Sunday afternoon to recover from our amazing weekend.

There were just so many things I wanted to tell you about Universal Orlando Resort, but I just couldn't fit them all into one blog post. It is a great place for a family vacation. If you plan to visit, I suggest wearing good tennis shoes, planning out exactly which areas you want to see and which rides you want to ride, and having an idea what souvenirs you are interested in buying before you arrive. You can use the vacation planner on Universal's website to help you customize your perfect adventure.

*I was given media tickets to attend the Universal Orlando Family Blogger Press Trip, and was not compensated in any other way. I was not required to write this blog post, say nice things, scream like a small child when I met Shaggy and Scooby, or skip through the streets of Hogsmeade singing Can You Dance Like a Hippogriff.


  1. I am so excited. I'm gripped here! I can't wait to go to Universal in only...five weeks! I think we'll leave the kids at home with my aunt for Harry Potter.

    1. Five weeks! Woot!! You are going to LOVE it so much.

      Leaving the kids at home for Harry Potter isn't a bad idea since they are so little (and haven't really caught the magic of HP yet), and you might want to spend more time there than they want to. But if they do come with you (and this is a good tip for most of the rides at Universal), they do have a system called Child Swap where you and your husband only have to stand in line for a ride once, and then can take turns riding it while the other other parent stays in a special area with the kids. It is really nice.

  2. Looks like you had a fantastic time. Our next visit to FL we plan to visit Universal! Checking out the Universal Planner. Thanks

    1. It was so fantastic. And I didn't even come close to sharing all of the fun things we did - it was really hard to cut it down to this length.

      The Universal Planner is really neat. It will be a huge help in your planning. I know y'all are going to have SO much fun!

  3. What an awesome Time! Love Universal!

  4. We just went to Universal for the first time in September and seriously couldn't get enough of Harry Potter!! Loved seeing your updates on the expansion! We're hoping to get back there sometime once it's completed, but not sure if that will happen! And, yes, wasn't butterbeer surprisingly good?!

    We only made it to Islands of Adventure so didn't see everything you posted about and now it makes me want to go back to visit both parks! Seriously, you've put the itch back in me!

  5. what an amazing holiday celebration you are having this year! i can't WAIT to see harry potter world with my family

  6. I was there last Spring, but now you have me wanting to back again! It was actually too busy for me to sample the butter beer and make a wand, so I kinda want to do that next time I go now!

  7. Looks like you had great fun and the park doesn't even look crowded, I love theme parks and rides. I live about 4 hours from Orlando, went to Disney in the summer but it was extremely crowded.

  8. I haven't been and your pictures make me want to go so bad! I'm hoping in a couple of years when all of the kids are old enough we'll take THE family vacation!

  9. This looks SOOOOOO FUN!!!! I am so jealous and happy for you at the same time!! YAY that you got to go and YAY that it was such an incredible experience!!

  10. Wow, this looks like the trip of a lifetime. What incredible photos! While they were all fun to look at, my favorite has to be the one with your Butterbeer 'staches. I am a huge Harry Potter fan and would love to have the opportunity to check this out!

  11. You got some really great pics! I love visiting parks like Universal during the holiday season.

  12. Great pics! Looks like you all had such a fun time!

  13. This sounds like such a wonderful time! We love butterbeer!

  14. Love the pictures! Looks like you had a great time! I would like to visit the resort too!

  15. Oh yum. That butterbeer looks absolutely amazing! I could use a trip somewhere warm right about now...

  16. These are wonderful pictures. We were at Universal a few weeks ago. We loved it!

  17. Sounds like you guys had a great time! I haven't been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet, but I would love to go someday.

  18. How much fun is that. We have read all the Harry Potter books so I bet we would love this too!

  19. Wow, this place looks awesome! I would love to vacation there with my family!

  20. That butterbeer sounds so good! Our daughter would love this place!

  21. Oh my, it looks like you had a great time! Of course, who wouldn't? It has been too many years since we have been. We need to go back soon.

  22. This is honestly one of my favorite places on the planet!


  23. my kids would love to stay here - I am so going to look into this - thanks!

  24. As I tried to read this Little Leo came up and saw Bumblebee and got all excited then he sees minions and gets excited again and just when I thought he had settled down he sees Scooby Do and is excited all over again. So thank you for making Little Leo so excited

  25. Looks like you had an awesome time!

  26. Seriously, she can't mini golf. It's not even funny. I feared for our lives. When she sat out I didn't even give her a hard time. I kind sighed in relief.


  27. OMGosh what a great time! It would be great to be in Orlando during the holidays.

  28. OMGosh that Shaggy cracks me up! Always wanted to see the Blue Man Group too. Looks like a great time!

  29. this seems like a wonderful place to go with the family for a few days.

  30. This looks like you had a great time. I can't wait to go to Universal Studios with my kids.

  31. LOVE!!! I can't wait to go! My brother is kidnapping my kids in May and taking them there. I'm so jealous!

  32. All the memories. I haven't been there since I was 17.

  33. We love Universal always soooo much fun and right now is the best time to come visit.. Loved your pictures looks like you had a blast