Universal – Islands of Adventure {Day 1}

As usual, January has been crazy busy on the Bay Bush.  We spent a week in Florida and I’m still playing catch up.
We decided to visit Universal Studios this time around since we all love the Harry Potter books and movies.  I debated about how many days of tickets to buy because a lot of the reviews said that the parks were smaller than Disney and wouldn’t take as much time.  They were running a promotion when we went for buy 2 days get 1 day free so that was the route we went.  But more on the tickets later.
We got a late start that morning and made it to Universal Islands of Adventure around 11am.  Let me warn you if you haven’t been.  There is no tram or monorail to get you from the parking lot to the park at Universal.  You walk.  You walk through the parking deck…then through a tunnel…then through bag check…and flat escalators…and through the City Walk…and then you go left for Islands of Adventure and right for Universal Studios…and then you give them your tickets to get into the park.  Maybe it’s because I was almost 6 months pregnant…but it seemed like a lot of walking to me.
We all grabbed a map and got our plan together once we finally made it into the park.

We headed towards Seuss Landing since it looked like it had the most rides for smaller children.  (As you can see, the park was still decorated from Christmas as it was the week after New Years.)

We hit the Cat in the Hat ride first.  It was Avery’s favorite.  I’d say its comparable to the Winnie the Pooh ride at the Magic Kingdom.

We made our way through Seuss Landing and rode the carousel since it had no wait at all.

There is a fun little hands-on play area where the girls enjoyed running wild for a few minutes.

The girls loved seeing the Lorax’s house.

There happened to be face painters set up by the carousel and the girls conned their Daddy into getting their faces painted in no time flat.  You know what they say about little girls wrapping their Daddy around their finger???  Completely true here.


After we made our way through Seuss Landing we headed toward Hogsmeade (aka Harry Potter World to the girls).

This is the entrance to the Hogwarts Express ride.  It runs from Hogsmeade (in the Islands of Adventure park) to London (in the Universal Studios park) and vice versa.  You can only ride the Hogwarts Express if you have the park hopper ticket option.  This was really the only reason we got park hopper tickets for Universal.  Otherwise, I would have just gotten the base tickets.

Hogsmeade was crazy crowded.  The park on the whole wasn’t that bad on the day we went but it seemed like everyone and their brother was in Hogsmeade.  You could hardly move and navigating through the crowd with a double stroller was nearly impossible.

We managed to make our way to the Owlery to mail a couple of postcards back home.  The postmark says Hogsmeade!  They sell stamps there too but I brought my own.

The girls were too small (and I was too pregnant) to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey so we skipped the line and opted for the castle tour instead.  We just walked up to the gate and told the attendant we wanted to do a castle tour and we completely bypassed the line.  I only took a couple of pictures in the castle.

We got to see the talking paintings just like in the movie.

We got to peek into Dumbledore’s office.

By this time, it was 80+ degrees and the crowd was too much in Hogsmeade so we decided to head back to the entrance.

We did stop and meet Spiderman on the way out.

We headed back to the house and the girls mustered up just enough energy for a swim before bed.

And that wraps up our first day at Universal!

A few quick tips…

  • You have to have Park-to-Park tickets in order to ride the Hogwarts Express.
  • You have to walk about 20 minutes just to get to the gate at Islands of Adventure.
  • Islands of Adventure has a lot of roller coasters and intense rides.  They have awesome reviews.  I just really didn’t get to ride any of them because I was pregnant and my kids were too small for most of the rides outside of Seuss Landing.  I would love to take them back in about 5 years when they are big enough to ride everything.
  • Time your visit to Hogsmeade for either first thing in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Disney gives you 3 Fastpasses for free each day (plus more when those are gone).  Universal has a version of this where you go to the front of the line on almost every ride but you have to pay for it.  When I priced it for our 3 days at Universal it was going to cost an additional $90 per person…so we passed on that.  It really would not have been worth it for us as the rides my kids could ride all had 20 minute or less wait times anyway.  If you were only going to be there for one day and wanted to cram as many rides as possible into the day then I could see where it might be worth it.
  • We ate lunch at Fire Eaters Grill (hot dogs and chicken tenders)…the food was mediocre at best.  I wish we had eaten at a sit down restaurant (like the Three Broomsticks) instead.

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