My first two days in Florida are described in my blog post, “How I Spent 5 Days in Florida – Part 1.”
Sunday – Universal Day 2
We woke up bright and early and headed back to Orlando. Today, our plan was to do Universal Studios. Miss Tina had said that she preferred Islands of Adventure, so our tentative plan was to do IoA two days, and only do Universal Studios for this one day, unless I absolutely loved it.
It’s not that I didn’t love it, but IoA had more rides that I liked, so that’s why we ended up back there on Monday, as well. But Universal Studios is cool in it’s own way! Naturally, upon entering the park, I had to take a picture of the iconic Universal globe.
It was another ridiculously hot, September, Florida day. We had barely made it into the park when I started seeking out air conditioning. We ducked into the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show store because a) I love Jimmy Fallon, and b) we needed air conditioning! From there, we decided to check out The Mummy ride.
Miss Tina had not done it, and I hadn’t heard anything about it when I researched the parks. So we weren’t really sure what to expect going into it. All we knew was that it was NOT a virtual ride, we made sure to triple check. I think I didn’t like Universal Studios because almost all of the rides there are virtual. IoA had more options for someone like me, who can’t necessarily do the virtual rides.
The Mummy ride is dark. Literally dark. The line is downright dangerous. You can’t see, it’s very dimly lit, and there are stairs and all sorts of other “obstacles”‘ that you’ll have to contend with to get onto the ride. That’s the one and only downside of the ride.
Man, this was such a cool ride! While I’m writing this and thinking back on it, I wish we would’ve done it more than the 3 or so times we did! It was just totally unexpected and really awesome. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
Not far from The Mummy ride, we found this restaurant, and of course I had to take pictures with it! I am a Richter, after all. I wish I could claim that it is named after me, but nope. After checking it out, we have established that it is named after the Richter Scale. Which is also not named after me.
From there, we kept walking around the park. And all of the rest of my childhood dreams came true. I got to visit Diagon Alley. If I could squish the two parks together, I would give Diagon Alley and the Mummy (also maybe Rip Rockit) to IoA, and let Universal Studios have the virtual rides from IoA. That would be a dream.
Honestly, I could have spent hours exploring Diagon Alley. But, Miss Tina is not a Potterhead, so I tried to keep my nerding out to a minimum. One of the coolest things was that we were perfectly in time for a story. They told the Tale of Three Brothers, and it was absolutely amazing. They actually do multiple “shows” throughout the day. We caught Celestina Warbeck singing, as well.
Diagon Alley was absolutely my favorite thing. And as you can see, we had the perfect time to go! Everything was deserted.
While in Diagon Alley, we also got to go into Ollivander’s for a show. This was pretty cool. It’s kind of hard to find. And unfortunately, it’s not something that you can video/photograph. But it’s definitely worth doing if you’re going to be there.
After we left Diagon Alley/the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I had Miss Tina snap a picture of me in front of Twelve Grimmauld Place, and then we were back to exploring the rest of the park.
The next ride we did was the Men in Black Alien Adventure. This one was pretty cool! I always loved the Men in Black movies, and it was really fun. The theming as you walk through the line to get to the ride is excellent and very spot-on with the movies. I wished I would’ve brought my phone along and been able to take pictures of it all, but this was another ride where you had to stow your belongings in lockers.
The theming and everything for Men in Black was great, but the ride itself was a bit lackluster. It also didn’t help that it’s set-up like a contest. You shoot aliens and get points. Somehow, by the time the ride ended, Miss Tina had like 67,000,000 points, and I had about 38. I think me “losing” so badly contributed to my not loving the ride. Also, this ride is not great for someone who gets motion sick or has migraines, because at one point in the ride you’re spinning in circles while strobe lights are going off.
So, I didn’t love Universal Studios for the rides. But I will acknowledge that they had some really cool stuff! Also, it was like Disney. I met a lot more “characters” at Universal Studios than we did at Islands of Adventure.
We both embraced our inner children in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. Universal Studios definitely didn’t have as much for us to do, so we did go to the KidZone, and yes, we did ride the kids roller coasters. We also absolutely played in the Curious George play area!
Miss Tina had never been to a place like The Ball Factory in the Curious George area. We used to go to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells, and they had a place just like this. It was amazing as kids! I had a blast showing her how everything worked. And because it was so empty, no one was judging two adults playing by themselves in the KidZone. In fact, we had the whole place to ourselves for the majority of the time we were in there.
After we had our fun in the KidZone, we wandered back out to the main path around the park. There, we met even more fun characters!
It was getting really hot out. We happened to walk past and see that Universal’s Horror Make Up show was about to start. We knew nothing about it. But it was air-conditioned, so we decided to check it out! We ended up being really glad that we did.
We had no clue what to expect going in, but it was hysterical! When I said that we really did not have as much to do in Universal Studios, I meant, we really did not have as much to do in Universal Studios. We actually ended up going BACK to the Horror Make Up Show later that afternoon simply because we had nothing else to do/see, and we needed air conditioning! The second show had a different set of actors, and unfortunately, it wasn’t as funny the second time around.
The girls assured us that it was improv when we met with them… That definitely wasn’t the case, as the show was basically performed verbatim when we saw two guys putting it on later that afternoon. Oh well. I later googled it and found out that the show is pretty much the same, every time. They always choose a specific type of person out of the crowd, and it always goes pretty much the same way. The first time when we didn’t know what to expect was awesome. But hey, we got an extra half hour of air conditioning when we went for the second show.
We also looped back around to the KidZone. When we had left it earlier, we just missed the Trolls! They’re only allowed out for 15ish minutes at a time due to the extreme heat. So I took note of when they would be back out and was able to get a picture of myself with Poppy, Branch, and Guy Diamond. I did it for my little sister!
And, when we walked back around the park, we also checked out Diagon Alley one more time. This is when we caught Celestina Warbeck. I wanted to try butterbeer ice cream. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted it right at the moment. I was going to see if I could get it at Islands of Adventure the next day.
We ducked into Florean Fortescue’s to see if I could ask if the ice cream was served in the other park. We didn’t even get into line (and there was a significant line), I simply leaned over the counter and asked an employee. She informed me that they did not sell butterbeer soft serve in the other park, and that this was the only place that you could get it.
I resigned myself to paying the $8 and went to stand in line. She called me back over, though, and goes, “Sh. It’s on the house!” and she gave me a soft serve ice cream cone for FREE. I didn’t even have to wait in line! She made my entire vacation.
Another cool thing that we saw while walking around the park was the fountain show! Neither of us knew that it was a thing, we were completely taken aback when we were walking through Central Park and all of a sudden the fountains started going.
It’s similar to the Bellagio. It’s a fountain that is synced up to music. It’s pretty cool! Besides that, we also got to meet Popeye and Olive Oyl. He asked me if I ate spinach, to which I replied, “of course!”. I also got to take a picture with Everest. Abominable had not even come out in theaters yet, and I knew nothing about it other than that my brother wanted to see it. So I took a picture with the guy for him. And I’m glad I did, because Abominable is one of the best kids movies that I’ve seen in a long time.
After that, we closed out our day with a ride on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. We had made a deal that was similar to our virtual rides deal. Miss Tina had ridden Hulk and Rockit last time at the parks and gotten killer headaches. I had not ridden a legitimate roller coaster in 6 years. Hagrid and The Mummy were roller coasters, yes, but there were no loops or crazy corkscrews. I wasn’t sure how my head would handle it. So we agreed to make it our last ride of the day.
Man, I wish we would’ve done it sooner! It was insane. I truly think it was the first “legit” roller coaster I’ve ridden. Yes, I’ve been to Six Flags. But I haven’t been there since they added on the crazy new roller coasters. I never rode Raging Bull or V2, or anything like that. I was too scared. Rockit was such a thrill! And neither of us felt sick afterwards. I should’ve ridden it more than once. Oh well, just another reason to go back!
From there, we had actually booked an Airbnb close to the parks for the night, so that we did not have to drive all the way back to Bartow. We checked into our Airbnb, which was in a nice gated community, and headed over to the pool.
After sunbathing and swimming for about an hour, we decided to head over and check out Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs, but whatever). I remember loving Downtown Disney as a kid, but going there as an adult was a totally different experience! I realize now that our parents never let us see the whole place. It was a lot more walking then I remember, and a lot more upscale then I remember. I remember playing around with Legos and splashing in the fountains. This trip? It was all about checking out the high end stores. Such a difference.
Monday – Universal Day 3
The last day at the parks was bittersweet. I wanted to stay for the Hogwarts light show, but I knew that neither of us was really up for a twelve+ hour day at the parks. And since we were staying close, why not have a relaxing morning?
We checked out of the Airbnb and headed back over to the pool. We spent a few hours laying in the sun and relaxing by the pool, which was a perfect way to start the day. From there, we decided to save money by going to Dunkin for breakfast on the way to the parks. That way, we didn’t have to pay whatever exorbitant prices the parks would charge for food.
We went back to Islands of Adventure for our third and final day at the parks. I thought that it had been really hot the three days I had already been in Florida? No. This was the hottest day, hands down. We entered the park with the intent of heading straight back for Hagrid to enjoy the air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day. We had agreed that we didn’t mind the wait! And it was actually only at 90 minutes. By the time we got back to Hogsmeade/Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was disgustingly sweaty. I cannot believe how hot it was.
We were absolutely shocked. When we got in line, the wait was 90 minutes. We were on and off the ride in less than 45. Because of that, we decided to go again. About 30 minutes in line. Then, one last time, just for the heck of it. Another 30 minutes in line. It was so easy! And that ride gets better every time. The theming is so on point, you notice something different each time!
After exhausting ourselves on Hagrid’s, I decided to ask if I could walk through the line for Forbidden Journey. I had no desire to ride the ride again, but I did want to see if I could just walk through and take pictures of the inside of Hogwarts. The employees were super nice about it, so I’m really glad I asked.
From there, we looped around and rode Jurassic Park several times. There was about a 20 minute wait for the ride, BUT, if you did single rider, you could walk on. So we did single rider about a zillion times, because it actually is a pretty great ride.
After we got nice and damp from the Jurassic Park River Adventure, we decided to head over to Ripsaw Falls. I wanted to do it again. This time, when we got on, I decided to put my bag underneath my feet. Bad, bad, bad idea.
We came off the ride absolutely SOAKED. But I begged to do it again, one last time. We might as well do it while we’re already wet, you know? So we got right back on, and got even more soaked. When we got off the ride, we were dripping wet. This was maybe at three o’clock in the afternoon. When we left the park at nine o’clock at night, I was still not completely dry. And that’s with the Florida heat and sun.
Unfortunately, because I had put my bag by my feet, it meant that not only was I soaked, but everything in my bag was drenched, too. We ducked into the Toon Lagoon Cafeteria where I stole tons of napkins to try and dry myself and all of my stuff off a bit. But it was so worth it! I’m glad I rode the ride twice, and I probably would have done it more times if I had been dressed more appropriately. Birkenstocks are not good shoes if you plan on getting soaked, and wearing a wet backpack all day is 0% fun.
From there, we rode Doctor Doom probably 5 times? There was no wait, so we would get off the ride, then stroll back and ask, “hey, there’s no line, can we get back on?”, so we just kept riding it! We did end up getting in trouble when we did this. At one point, we just stayed on the ride because no one had come to take our spots. The employee did NOT like that. Oops!
We took our time strolling around the park and I got to meet Thing 1 and Thing 2. I only let myself buy one souvenir on my entire trip, and it was a Thing 1 stuffed animal. I don’t care that I’m an adult, it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, and I will never regret that $16 stuffed animal.
We also rode the little kids roller coaster in Seuss Landing, because we needed some other way to kill time before the light show at Hogwarts! It actually was fun, and provided great views of the entire park.
After we rode that roller coaster, we headed back to secure a good spot to view the light show from. We got there really early, and still barely managed to get a good seat! But it was really fun to see.
From there, it was time to leave Universal. We stopped for popcorn on the way out, and then we realized. We had just enough time for one more ride on Doctor Doom! And thus ended my days at Universal. It was time to drive home to Bartow!
Tuesday – Time to go home.
We slept in and relaxed on Tuesday morning. Then, we headed to Tampa for lunch. We went to Eddie and Sam’s for lunch. The pizza was delicious! After scarfing down a slice, we headed to Dough Nation. Man, I wish there was a Dough Nation up here! They serve cookie dough and ice cream. I just got a serving of cookie dough.
But, after that pizza, there was no way I could finish the whole thing. I didn’t want to waste it. So I asked the guy if it would make it home to Chicago with me. He took it from me, wrapped it up, and offered to keep it in their fridge while I explored Tampa. He assured me that when I came back and picked it up, that it would make it home to Chicago with me. And it did!
While my dough was chilling at Dough Nation, we walked down to the river. It’s a really beautiful area. We just enjoyed the sunshine and people watched. It was a really good ending to my trip. From there, we went back and picked up my cookie dough, and Miss Tina dropped me off at the Tampa Airport (TPA), and that was that.
I had the best time on this trip! I got to see my Mame and Papa, my aunt and cousin, and Miss Tina! On top of that, I got to finally go to Universal Orlando, I got to spend time in the pool and the sun, and I got to eat delicious food. What more can a girl ask for? I hope to make it back sometime soon!