We spent a day at Universal as part of our stay in Florida. We went on Easter Sunday, which would normally be a family day, because we hoped to avoid some of the crowds that you can get in the park over Easter. I think it helped as whilst it was hardly quiet, we didn’t have to queue too long for anything really (in fact it often took as long to walk through the area where the queue would normally be as it took to queue for the ride itself) and we were able to get on a lot of rides over the day. Queues were shorter at either end of the day and there are boards which indicate how long the wait would be. A nice touch was the addition of water fountains in the queues so that you could always get water.
We arrived about 10 and found there was no queue for parking. We got parked up easily enough, but there was a fair walk to the resort itself. Luckily the security checks were quick as well as being convincing. We also had to give a fingerprint on entry. On the downside I didn’t think the toilets were that clean, even the ones we visited early in the day and I felt more effort could have been made by the resort management.
The area that was not quiet at all was the Harry Potter area. It was very busy here and this was the area where we had to wait the longest despite making it our first port of call in the park when we arrived just after it opened. It is a bit frustrating as a Harry Potter fan that to see all the Harry Potter themed attractions, you need to buy a ticket to both the Islands of Adventure park and the Universal Studios Florida park, in fact the Hogwarts Express joins the two parks and you need a joint ticket to go on it. We felt that a ticket to one park was expensive enough (a joint ticket costs more) and with only one day, there would be no way we could get around both parks properly.
We spent some time wandering around Hogsmeade, with its snow-capped roofs, and the highlight was visiting Ollivanders wand shop, which has great attention to detail. Naturally H had to pick out a wand from the vast selection. You can get special interactive wands (at extra cost) that can be used with the shops and displays of Hogsmeade and you will see people standing outside the shop windows doing this. We decided not to bother as we weren’t going to be there long enough to get value for money. We also enjoyed visiting Honeydukes Sweet Shop which is a great place to buy some souvenirs.
For lunch we went to the Three Broomsticks. We went early and avoided the worst of the queues, but we did have to wait quite a while. That said I did think it was a very slick operation. Once we had our food a place was found for us all to sit together (a party of six) and because you can’t sit down until you have your food, there’s no table bagging, in fact the staff are in charge of who sits where. The food was good and tasty (fish and chips were popular with our party), but I fear Butterbeer isn’t for me.
We went on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which is in the spectacular Hogwarts castle. You do need to put your bags into lockers. We sent one person off with all the bags, but that didn’t work because the lockers are very small, so you all need to go with your bags. The locker area is very cramped and they could do with rethinking this bit as it doesn’t work well. We spent time queueing outside which was a bit dull, but we kept moving. When we got inside the queue didn’t seem to exist anymore and we felt that we didn’t really get to enjoy the features because we were moving very quickly towards the ride. In fact, we’d have been happy just exploring the castle and missing out the ride. The ride involves a lot of movement and I felt quite dizzy during it. My son (just turned 9 at this time and on the sensitive side) found it a bit scary, in fact he was glad to get off.
There’s a lot to like about Universal and a lot of thought has gone into the organisation. In many ways I thought it was slicker in that respect than the Disney parks. Hogsmeade is spectacular and well worth a visit for any Potterhead.