We woke Monday morning tired. This was our first day dealing with the 3 hour time difference. So our 8am wake up call was really a 5am one. We took turns showering and getting dressed. We also broke out the long john’s Anthony had picked up at Target the night before our trip. They proved to be a trip saver! Layered head to toe, we headed downstairs for the free breakfast.
The free breakfast wasn’t bad. Several favors of yogurt, bagels, toast, english muffins, juices, assorted cereals & hotel brand coffee. The popular item as the fresh waffles, which we skipped on the first day. The breakfast room was very empty, perhaps 3-5 other people, it was a hopeful sign to us that we would have the park to ourselves today.
We finished breakfast and exited out the side door to our rental car. It was then the weather introdused itself. HELLLOOOO ANTHONY AND JOSH, I AM COLD, YOU CAN CALL ME 49 WITH A 20 MPH WIND. Which at that point we both decided even in our layers to drive and park and pay rather then walk over to the park.
After parking our first stop was to the second floor Starbucks in Citywalk, where they didn’t seem to know what Soy milk is. After picking up 2 Venti caffeine/hand-warmers we walked down to the park walk way. We stood at the split where you walk left for Islands of Adventure/Harry Potter or right for Universal Studios we paused and judged the crowds. 95% were heading left, so we of course headed right.
Universal Studios was EMPTY, we arrived about 30 mins after rope drop. Parts of the park were not open yet and the park staff had parts of the street closed off. The whole park was decorated for Christmas and looked great. We did every single ride as a walk on, no waiting at all. Men in Black, Mummy Ride, Simpsons Ride and Shrek all ZERO wait.
The best part of the day came when we rode the Men in Black ride. The theming of the ride is very cute. It’s setup as a copy of a 1960’s world fair attraction, you enter and start to hear a tape play back of an announcers welcoming you to the worlds fair, the lights go out and the taped voice garbles out and you find out that you have been selected for Men in Black testing and a hidden door opens and you travel through. Now the funny point came from the Universal Studios cast member. His job is to drop the rope and make sure we all move into the hidden door way. Well, as the lights dropped and the taped annoucer voice trailed off. The cast member said in perfect dead pan monotone voice “The lights….gasp.”. We both burst out laughing. The first thing that ran through our heads was, you really should not read stage direction out loud. “The lights….gasp” became our mantra for the whole day.
By noon we had done the whole park so we decided to walk over to Islands of Adventure and see how bad the lines were for the new Harry Potter ride. We wandered up though Islands of Adventure and did a quick walk through of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Themeing was AMAZING, it’s like being on the set of any of the Harry Potter movies. What was a downer was the crowds, the Harry Potter land area is VERY VERY small, In fact of all of the themed areas in the Islands of Adventure this felt the smallest and did not absorb the crowds at all. Long lines for the wand shop 3 min show (which we skipped).
Hungry, we skipped the 50 wait for the main Harry Potter ride and walked over to an adjacent land “Jurassic Park” and had some fake garden burgers for lunch. It was during lunch we had our first encounter with what we called “Abandoned Grandmothers”. Right across from our table was a little old lady in her wheelchair, clearly left behind by her family because she could not kept up. It was one of the saddest things we saw over and over again during our trip. The senior most member of the family unit, stuffed off to the side ALONE to watch the bags as everyone else had fun. Over the course of our trip we saw it again and again and kept saying, “Oh there’s another abandoned Grandmother…” We even joked that we should take photos to make a shame on you website. The worst was a case of this was on our final Sunday in Orlando. Grandfather in his wheelchair, in the freezing cold, placed alone at the head of the standby line for Candlelight processional at 11:50am, (first show is at 5:45pm). Come on people, what are you thinking?
After lunch and our first abandoned grandmother we decided to bit the bullet and stand in the cue for Harry Potter and the forbidden journey. First impression of the cue line…. WOW. We hit the line with posted 20 min wait which stretched to 40ish minutes due to the ride breaking down. But wow the theming in the cue line is amazing. You walk under Hogwarts castle, and then out to the gardens then back in, past moving and talking portraits, the headmasters stairway and finally run into Harry, Ron and Hermione who explain the story line premise of the ride to you. Harry and the gang are NOT animatronic, they are video done in such a cool way that you swear they are standing there.
After Harry and the gang you then get on the actual ride itself, which is not a roller coster as much as it is super high tech dark ride. You ride most of the time on your back facing the action, movies and animatronics. The seat/bench your on is at the end of a robotic arm that moves you up, down and side to side. There are no inversions and you do not travel upside down. The story is a bit cheesy and they try to pack a bit too much content into the ride, but it was fun. We both did come off the ride feeling a bit light headed and woozy, so be warned.
We spent the rest of the afternoon over in the Islands of Adventure. Joshua loves the Hulk roller coster which Anthony refuses to board. About 5pm we left and headed back over to the Universal Studios park for the Macy’s Holiday Parade. Which we ended up watching twice. Once as it came down and then a second time as it did a loop onto itself. After the first viewing we tried to get around it to get to the mummy ride and ended up stuck on the wrong side of the street across from the Parade termination end point. So we got to see the parade twice.
For dinner we left the parks and drove a block to the Cracker Barrel. We had never eaten there before, but we like country cooking so decided to give it a try. The pick turned out to be a good one, we loved it! We even liked the southern waitress that non-committally served us.
After dinner we stopped off at Walgreens and picked up some snacks for the room and some lotion. Both of us had wind burn on our faces from the constant all day cold wind. Our faces looked like we had been skiing all day. Once back at the hotel we curled up in bed and watched an old movie “Guess who is coming to dinner”, before passing out for the night.
The next morning was also our last day at our hotel. We packed put our bags and headed downstairs for a late breakfast. Having skipped trying the waffles the day before, they were top of our list. Unfortunately, we got cut off by a rude staff member. Anthony headed over to the SELF SERVE waffle bar and begin to make 2 waffles, one for himself and one for Joshua. Anthony got the first one loaded and the staff member walked up and shoved herself in front of Anthony, which took some doing as he was standing 3 inches from the hot waffle makers. The staff member then proceeded to make a waffle for another hotel guest. WE both got a bit vocal about how rude she was and we gave up on the waffles. It was pretty clear how steamed we were as retreated to our table. So after she made the other guest waffle for him at the SELF SERVE waffle bar she them made another one for us. You know to do us a “favor”. She was the only negative thing really about this hotel.
Day two at Universal Studios was another cold one, but not as windy. So it felt much warmer even though it was colder. We left the hotel and it was in the high 30’s. Having done everything multiple times the day before with no lines, it was shocking to see crowds. We had to wait for 4 or 5 mins for several of the rides. We did Harry Potter again and also tried butter beer. Anthony says it tasted like the uber-cheap generic diet cream soda his father would get when he was little kid. They fill the butter beer glass with the soda and then squirt some foam on top to make it look more like beer with a head on it. The foam is very gassy, the one tablespoon they squirt on top foams up quite a bit and in turn made us both burp quite a bit. It was good, very sweet tasting, kinda pricy but worth it for the experience.
We left the parks about 3:00 pm and headed down to Disney to check into our hotel and to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.