- Crowds make everything worse
- Always check what the ride it before you get on it
- Family Holiday’s = COMPROMISE
- We need to eat less McDonalds
First and foremost, today was Lee’s birthday. 36 doesn’t seem to bad when you get to spend it in Harry Potter world, right? We booked our Disney passes earlier this year and (as I mentioned in this post) we really didn’t know what we were doing when it came to booking a Florida vacation so Universal was an afterthought and pretty pricey as an add on. Very luckily, Attraction Tickets Direct offered us tickets. I wish we’d known about their combo ticket when we booked because it just makes so much more sense to do it together if you’re going to do both.
Because Disney had taken up so much head space and Universal needed no pre-booking (fast pass wise) I really hadn’t looked much in to the parks there at all. I rocked up this morning with little to no information/expectations and it was refreshing. I knew we wanted to do Escape From Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express and I wanted a Duff beer.. but that was about it.
We found ourselves at Spiderman first which set the tone for the whole day. It totally blew me away, how much better they are at the 4D stuff than Disney. If you’ve been on the Ratatouille ride in Paris then you’ll know they can do it but this was like that on acid. Moving on from there we did Skull Island, a King Kong ride that we mistakenly thought was Jurassic Park themed. That. Was. AMAZING. Again, to compare it to the Pandora Navi River Journey where you are supposed to feel like you’re in another world.. if this technology is available, why aren’t Disney using it? It 100% felt like we were there and yet it wasn’t so thrilling that it scared me. The perfect balance.
The park was quiet, we weren’t queuing for anything, the vibe was a lot less rushed than our other days so far. We weren’t anxiously trying to work out when we had to be where or what we could manage to ride in the meantime. Maybe that’s why we weren’t paying attention when we jumped in the queue for the River Adventure. There was no time to think, we knew there was a chance we’d get wet but as the boat moved away we recalled a rather large log flume we’d spotted on our walk there and my palms started to sweat.
I hate log flumes, Ella really wasn’t happy. There was nothing I could do.. but wait. An 85ft drop and several hours later we’re all (just about) ready to laugh about it but it took quite some time for my heart to find its way back it’s normal position. We decided to take a break from the rides and make our way to Hogsmead. The castle and the snow capped village were cool but it was missing something for me. I don’t know if it was just because it was so busy there or if I’d expected it to be grander (or that I was still pretty shaken up from my near death experience) but it wasn’t quite as impressive as I’d imagined it would be. We waited in line for Olivanders to see a wand choose a Wizard, we skipped the Butterbeer as none of us actually like it and Lee rode the Forbidden Journey.
We took the Hogwarts Express over to King’s Cross Station and walked over to Krustyland (is that what The Simpsons bit is called or just the ride?) for lunch. We bought a $15 cup with unlimited refills and I’d say we got our moneys worth between the 4 of us. I had tacos from the truck, Ella had a giant corn dog, Lee & Milo had Chicken Thumbs and I was denied my Duff because I didn’t have physical ID. This is worth noting as in Disney everywhere has accepted a photo of my passport but Universal wanted the document itself. Luckily Lee got served and my Duff dreams were realised.
The theming in this area is really cool and I’m dying to go back for a Flaming Moe (I saw someone carrying one and it bubbled and ‘smoked’) but we decided to go back and queue for Gringotts. As we were in line (at least 60mins, I’d guess longer) we saw some signs that troubled Ella and she decided not to ride. Truth be told, I would have liked to have ducked out too but Lee hasn’t been on all that much in the way of thrill rides thus far and Milo has held up pretty well so I didn’t want to discourage him. He may end up being the theme park partner Lee always wanted.
There’s a pretty sharp drop at the start and some very zippy parts it’s more of a roller coaster/4D hybrid. Milo claimed to have enjoyed it but I’m still on the fence about whether he’s just looking for Lee’s approval or actually likes the rides. Either way, he’s braver than I am. We wandered around the San Francisco themed dock and rode The Fast & The Furious on the recommendation of two of our friends. It was very similar to that Kong ride where you’re riding a bus and the screens around you, combined with some simulator action immerse you in another world. As a bit of a rollercoaster scaredy cat, I can’t get enough of these rides.
We had planned to do Epcot this evening but it was raining off and on and after already paying £25 to park, we didn’t fancy paying it again to potentially have the light show called off due to weather. We had a Frozen fast pass but we’re getting pretty used to queuing at this stage so I think we can handle it another day. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m probably not going to see another firework show while we’re here. Kinda sucks cause I love them but you have to know when to call it a day.
We decided to stick around a little longer since we had nowhere to rush off to once the decision to nix Disney. We did Men In Black (awesome! everyone loved it) and then a teeny Alien ride back in Krustyland before wandering back to the car. The whole vibe of this park is more relaxed and the walk back through the neon Hollywood streets was really cool. People told me the rides were better and that they preferred it to Disney but I thought they just weren’t ‘Disney people’. Now I can honestly say, as a ‘Disney person’ that this was our best day so far. Harry Potter had that ‘OMG SO MANY PEOPLE’ feeling you get in the Magic Kingdom but the rest of Universal was just so much quieter. We didn’t do any of City Walk and we have a bunch of other rides we still want to do so I think we’re going to make time to go back before we leave.
Because it was Lee’s birthday and because I’m the best wife ever, I got him to take me to take me to Bath And Bodyworks on the way home so I could take advantage of the $4.95 single wick deal. I know, I know, I’m too good to him. After a very rainy drive home via McDonalds (what can I say at this point?) we’re getting an early night to hit Magic Kingdom (in theory) for opening in the morning.
Wish us luck!