Travel to: Orlando, FL

I’ve been trying to get this post together for awhile and it’s finally done!  A re-cap of our vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida in September 2013. We had flown into Orlando from Philly on a Saturday evening, had a taxi take us to our hotel (since we weren’t going to pay an extra fee for a rental since neither of us were 25 yet), wandered around the resort, but couldn’t really see anything since it was already dark, and then headed back up to our hotel so we could wake up bright and early for day 1 in at Universal Studios!

We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort (1 of the 3 resorts at Universal and the mid-priced one).

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^elevator picture, the night we got to our hotel

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^a picture I took later in the week, near the entrance to our resort

Lobby of Lowes Hotel

^a small portion of the lobby

The next morning, we had a wonderful but expensive breakfast at a restaurant in our resort hotel and hit the ground running Sunday morning. We were at Universal Studios when the park opened so it was practically empty.  Which meant we got to really enjoy wandering around, very short lines, and no crowds! Forest coordinated his apparel very well on this trip. He wore his ET shirt this day and the first ride we went on was ET. We spent some time in Springfield with the Simpson’s, killed some aliens and helped save the planet on the MIB ride, met Bumblebee (eek!), had a dance party with some minions, talked Forest into ride the **rewind** coaster (the guy at the entrance was a big help in making Forest feel more comfortable riding it), faced some high winds and flying cows in the Twister simulation, moseyed around the streets looking at buildings, ran from disaster on the Mummy ride, watched a parade while we ate dinner at Mel’s drive-in, watched a horror make up show, rode the Transformers ride, and stuck around for the “100 years of moving making” water and lights display.

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^view from the boat that took us from our resort to the entrance of the parks

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^see what I meant by empty!

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^MIB entrance

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Monday was spent poolside.  We just relaxed and played a lot  of ping pong (there were 2 ping pong tables outside near the pool).  We hit up City Walk (just outside of the Universal parks; there are a ton of stores and restaurants and a movie theater, it is open to the public, and it’s super easy to just walk there from the 3 Universal resorts) for dinner at Margaritaville and dessert at TCBY.

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Tuesday was my birthday! And since we stayed at a resort, we got access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 1 hour before the general public! Again, it was empty so there were no lines, no crowds (we got to ride the Dragon Challenge back-to-back and the second time we were the only two people on the train!), and we could really appreciate everything about the area – I could honestly talk forever about the awesome-ness that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Forest and I agreed that it didn’t even feel like we were at an amusement park. They paid so much attention to all the details and it was extraordinary.  We spent a couple hours there riding the rides, checking out the shops, taking pictures, etc. before we adventured into other parts of Islands of Adventure – Jurassic Park, the comic book and super heroe sections (Forest wore his Spiderman shirt this day) – and then had lunch at The Three Broomsticks. Shepherd’s Pie + butter beer was hands down the best food I had the whole trip. We walked around for a little bit longer, nibbling on our chocolate frog and bravely trying Bertie Bott’s every flavor jelly beans, before heading back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We ate at an Irish pub, got a free ice cream dessert, and spent the rest of the evening at a piano bar. Seriously one of the coolest birthdays and a totally awesome way to welcome my 25th year.

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^Olivander’s had the loooongest line but I heard that it was totally worth it

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^Honeyduke’s candy store

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^Zonko’s joke shop

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^Hagrid’s hut in line for Flight of the Hipogriff

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^parade of super heros

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PicMonkey Collage

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^it’s hard to see this one (cell phone) but it’s inside Hogwarts

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^in Dumbledore’s office

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 Wednesday was all about baseball! We rented a car in the lobby of our hotel (and they didn’t charge a fee since I was 25 years-and-1-day old now) and drove just about an hour to St. Petersburg, FL. We walked along the water-front, through the town of small stores and ice-cream shops, and just as we got back to our car to drive to the stadium, it started raining. Luckily Tropicana Field is covered and it stopped juuuust as we headed inside anyway. The game was tied at the top of the 11th inning so we decided to leave since we still had an hour drive back to Orlando (as we turned on the game in our hotel room we saw that the game was just finishing – I think the Rays lost…).  Forest got to check another baseball stadium off of his list and we had a great time exploring St. Pete’s.  (Short story – there was a family of 4 sitting in front of us at the game and the little boy, just as the family was getting ready to leave, in the 8th inning or so, said to his parents “This is the best day ever because of so much baseball and so much food.” Too cute!).

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On Thursday we headed back into Universal Studios and hit up all of our favorite rides and restaurants –

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^we adopted an elf. ;)

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I could probably write 10 more paragraphs and add 50 more pictures but I’ll spare you. ;)

Bottom line, Universal Studios should be on your list of places to vacation.  Especially now that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so much bigger!

 

Until next time — Cindy

 

*All images are original to A View from the Shore

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