Orlando

Look, I have a young kid. And that kid has older cousins who are ripe for Disney and Universal Studios. This trip wasn’t just about a theme park, it was about the Harry Potter world inside of a theme park. It was a focused trip. My girl and I like to get the lay of the land no matter where we are, but this trip was about Potter, so I felt honesty right up front was best!

Orlando itself is rad. They have many pedestrian friendly areas, but especially they have a downtown area with a block or so that is always closed to traffic (right around church street), and a much larger area surrounding those blocks that become pedestrian only at night. You do that anywhere, and you are after my heart. I’ve never understood why everyone doesn’t do this. The people will come. Oh yes, the people will most definitely come.

We went to a number of bars, had dinner at a super popular taco shop (Gringo Locos), and finished off at a bar that has an assload of free video games and staff dressed up in serious cosplay (awesome sauce). They even had a VIP area with a Goonies theme that made me fall in love for life…Joysticks…check it out. Well done Orlando.

Now onto Universal:

I love movies. I love movies very very much. So naturally I love Universal studios. Theme park rides with movie themes with some of my favorite move characters is about as good as it gets when talking about amusement parks. Universal spares no expense. They do an amazing job at every turn. As odd as it sounds and as an opening sidebar, Minions was one of the best rides there. Truly amazing what they can do with a little motion and a giant screen. Truly amazing.

Now Harry Potter world is in a class of its own. I don’t care whether you have read a single book or watched a single movie, when you walk through that secret passageway and get onto Diagon Alley you will gasp, just as we all did. It is that amazing. I loved it. I love it still. You could spend all day there and the next day you will still see new things.
Hogsmeade has the better Potter ride, but the area itself is far inferior to the Diagon Alley area (The Hogwarts express is a fun ride and each way is different, but it grows kind of old quickly…a bit claustrophobic).

As far as resorts are concerned proximity matters most! Even their best resort (I think we were in the 2nd best on their hierarchy, and they are building more currently) is not going to blow you away. At the end of the day they are all very family friendly theme park hotels…so proximity can make all the difference. Not only could we take a very convenient and quick boat ride to the city walk area (both parks connect to city walk), but we could walk there along a path that hugs the water. Both ways were easy and so helpful.

Notes to self:

-If you don’t get an express line pass you shouldn’t go at all. You should probably never go anywhere again. It’s that important.
-We didn’t do the water park, but at least islands of adventure and the original park are a must, doing just one makes no sense
-Hulk ride is bad ass but I mainly went on it because I couldn’t cower in front a 9 year old niece! Didn’t have to do the crazeballs rockit ride because it stopped for hours mid ride with people on it while we were there…F that S!
-Butter beer is cream soda and kind of a waste of money.
-They are building a gigantic addition to harry Potter world, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I kind of want to go back and see it.
-The City Walk is actually pretty nice. Obviously it’s chainy and contrived, but you can walk around with drinks, and there are plenty of patios, and you can see the parks, and etc etc etc. It’s a nice rest from the parks.
-Watch out for the parades and events at the parks. If you find yourself on the wrong side of one you could be screwed for quite some time!
-Yes I bought a wand, what’s it to you!


Hotels

Loews Royal Pacific (Jan. 2018)