Our First Time at Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure

This was our first time at Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We were provided with complimentary accommodations and theme park tickets in exchange for coverage of our stay.

Be sure to read Part 1 of our trip here!

Our first night was rough in the sleep department. We were all overly tired due to the time change and our super busy day but then had trouble falling asleep due to the movie at the pool outside of our room.

Then at 1 am Kye woke us up moaning. He said he had a bad headache and he felt warm to the touch. I mean it’s 1 am. In a hotel. I didn’t have a single thing to offer him to help, all I could do was tell him to go back to sleep.

Of course, that meant Zach and I were awake and struggled to fall back to sleep after the wake up. It was a tough start to a BIG day! Here’s how our first time at Universal Studios Orlando went!

Universal Orlando and the wizarding world of Harry Potter first time at universal studios orlando

Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links.

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: The Morning

A BIG perk of being an on-site guest at Universal Orlando Hotels is that you’re able to enter certain parks an hour before regular guests. This is a HUGE deal!

Our plan was to leave for the parks an hour before park opening to give us plenty of time to walk there and be at the gates before we were allowed in.

This didn’t really work out…first everyone was EXHAUSTED (that daylight savings time change is ROUGH) and second we struggled to figure out how to exactly walk from Cabana Bay Beach Resort to the parks.

The upside? It was a BEAUTIFUL walk and a BEAUTIFUL morning! March is always such a pretty time of the year to visit Florida!

first time at universal studios orlando

We ended up arriving to the park a few minutes after it opened.

I haven’t been to Universal Studios Florida since I was in middle school? Or maybe even younger. And Zach hasn’t been for that amount of time either. We obviously also haven’t ever been as a family.

We had a HUGE learning curve being first-timers and having no real plans. We found out about the trip only a few weeks prior to our travel dates so we focused our efforts during that time on reading through Harry Potter more than we did on park planning πŸ˜‰ #priorities.

I’m SO thankful for my AMAZING friend Rachel. She used Touring Plans to organize our day at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I’m FOREVER grateful to her!

She knew what our family likes and doesn’t like and helped us completely plan our day but also was SO supportive and helpful throughout the day as things changed too (more to come)!

first time at universal studios orlando
first time at universal studios orlando

Starbucks has deals with BOTH Universal AND Disney to be located inside their theme parks. Pretty crazy to me. I mean to negotiate those kinda deals is just proof that Starbucks is taking over the world!

It also SHOCKS me how people are ALWAYS lined up at Starbucks inside theme parks. I met a family that morning that had the early access to the parks for staying on-site and spent their extra time…AT STARBUCKS.

I just don’t get that!!! What a waste of time to be spending it in line for coffee. But, hey, that means less people in line for rides πŸ˜‰

first time at universal studios orlando

Our First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Our game plan was to head directly for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Going into our experience for the first time at Universal Studios Orlando we had a very, very open mind. As everyone knows, we are Disney people.

Disney is my happiest place. My favorite place. And nothing can come close to comparing to Disney for me. So going into a trip to Universal I could have put a wall up.

I went into the experience knowing it wouldn’t be Disney level for me… but wanting to appreciate it for what it is! Our local theme park, Wild Adventures, is pretty rough and we still love it so I’m not a total Disney snob guys πŸ˜‰

We didn’t get to look around much at Universal Studios Florida when we first got into the park because we had to rush to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

But right off the bat? We were BLOWN AWAY with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It had been hyped up BIG TIME to us by everyone we know and often when stuff is super hyped then expectations are too high and you end up being disappointed.

Not this time.


First let me say that you do need to read the books and see the movies before visiting. We were able to get through book and movie Year 3. I wish we’d been able to cover Year 4 as I have heard it’s got a lot of details in the park as well, but we had enough base knowledge to fully appreciate the Wizarding World and to understand all the details and elements of it!

We knew we weren’t going to be disappointed just by the entrance alone!

There isn’t any obvious signage or anything letting you know that you’ve arrived, it’s hidden behind a brick wall. It was REALLY awesome!

Everywhere we looked it’s like we were truly transported into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The details were amazing. We were all in awe! Hello Diagon Ally!

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: Ollivander’s Wand Shop

Our first stop was to Ollivander’s Wand Shop to see which wands would choose us!

The line to enter the shop was already wrapped around the building and it was only 8:10, still 50 minutes before the park was set to open to the public.

I knew in that moment that we were going to be facing MUCH larger crowds and MUCH longer wait times than we’d anticipated!

Waiting in line wasn’t boring though. We were able to look around at everything and got to watch the dragon on top of Gringotts Wizarding Bank as he breathed his fire! (Here are two videos: One and Two!)

Kye was being a trooper but was pretty darn miserable. I felt SO bad for him. When we got up that morning he felt warm to the touch and kept saying he felt chills. But what can you do???

I had some gel type of Ibprophen so I punctured one of the capsules and poured it into his mouth. It helped and he felt a little better!

I felt SO BAD for him. Out of our entire family, HE was the one I was THE most excited about this experience for. He’s the perfect age to enjoy Harry Potter and take full advantage of all the epic thrill rides Universal Studios has to offer!

Once inside Ollivander’s there was some sort of issue and we waited for over 30 minutes for the experience to actually start. (At least we got to watch this magical broom!) It was frustrating to know our entire day was going to be changed due to one issue at our first experience.

Some days everything just goes your way. Some days? Everything doesn’t.

And this day? Well, this day started off as the nothing-going-our-way type of day. Sick kid. Long walk. Late into park. Experience having technical issues.

The upside is Zach and I just kept laughing. I mean what else can you do?

Going into our first time at Universal Studios Orlando, I was the MOST nervous about how Zach and I would do together. He’s used to knowing his way around places we visit. I’m used to having a hardcore game plan and having such a large base of knowledge. Together we rock some theme park action!

But a place we’ve never been? Zach didn’t know how to navigate. And I didn’t know how to plan. Zero base knowledge.

I went into the trip nervous that we’d end up getting frustrated and bickering with each other. Since so much of the day WAS a total cluster…we rallied and got along PERFECTLY. We never had a single moment of frustration with each other.

We both had a TON of patience and realized early on that we were just going to have to make the best of the situation at hand and get through it all and try to find as much joy as possible in the experience!

The Ollivander’s walk-through goes through the process of meeting your wand and one child is picked to take place in the experience. It was neat. But after having waited SO long for it… it was a letdown. So if it’s your first time at Universal Studios Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter… I recommend skipping Ollivander’s.

You are able to find your wand at several locations throughout the Wizarding World. Yes, Ollivander’s has the largest selection but it’s also CRAZY crowded and SUPER hard to navigate.

If you do visit Ollivander’s be prepared to have very little help and to have a whole lot of confusion! None of the wands have prices on them and it’s hard to know which is which. You truly do have to let the wand choose you because you have no clue what you are doing πŸ˜‰

I found this area of framed information about the different types of wands and did a brief read through of them to see which type of wand would best fit each of our children’s personalities.

first time at universal studios orlando

All around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter interactive wands can be used to cast spells. It’s an awesome interactive experience and one I HIGHLY recommend taking part in.

However, the interactive wands are NOT cheap. I’m talking $60+ per wand.

Here’s my #genius tip: Buy ONE interactive wand per family. If you have more than one child, purchase the less expensive wands for them. The spells take up some time so it’s really much quicker to do them all together anyway, and if the other kids want a turn to cast a spell…just use the interactive wand above their heads so they think their cheaper wand is doing spell casting πŸ˜‰

The less expensive wands are tough to locate…you need to ask a staff member at Ollivander’s. I just asked for the cheapest wands they had πŸ˜‰ They were $28 each and light up so the girls were THRILLED about them!

We let Kye own the interactive wand (knowing he’d be the most into the spell casting) and his wand truly DID call to him! He felt drawn to a certain box, opened it, and said “this is it!”

first time at universal studios orlando wizarding world of harry potter

By the time we finished with Ollivander’s it was after 9 am. Meaning the park was officially open and officially CROWDED.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Escape from Gringotts

Our next plan was to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The line was already crazy long (like 200 minutes)- even the express line was long too and said 30 minutes to wait.

We went ahead and hopped in the Express Pass line.

Part of our package included Express Passes for our entire family and y’all they were AMAZING.

The Express Pass can be used on just about every single experience (I didn’t see anything that we passed by that didn’t allow it). Having it puts you in a much shorter and quicker line than those who don’t have it.

They have two options: The Unlimited lets you use the pass as many times as you want to for all experiences, and the regular pass allows you to access the Express Pass line for one time per experience. You can learn more here!

As I mentioned, it was crowded on our travel day. The lines were LONG. I truly cannot fathom how we would have gotten ANYTHING done without the Express Pass! In my opinion, it’s a must-have.

I had heard that it was best to go through the regular lines for the Harry Potter experiences in order to see all the cool details but with the long wait times we just used the Express Pass and still got to see a lot of the cool well thought out elements!

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a ride with a height restriction which meant Tess was too short to ride.

I heavily debated if I should ride it or not. Y’all know I’m a WUSS when it comes to rides so I was nervous but totally trust my sweet friend Rachel and she promised I’d be fine.

Since we had swap out with Tess I rode it first with Kye and Britt so I could experience their first time with them. When the ride first started out I thought “oh man I made a mistake.”

But then it got going and I was TOTALLY fine. It was very smooth and not a lot of quick action movement. Plus there were lots of stops to watch a little scene before starting up again. I didn’t feel sick at all and we all LOVED it.

Britt was so funny because she yelled “OH YEAH BABY!” Haha!

We were able to swap so right when I got done riding Zach was able to ride with Kye and Britt the second time and I waited with Tess. It’s very well thought out for the rider swap as they have a little room off to the side with Harry Potter movies playing. Tess wasn’t upset at all because she got to watch a movie πŸ˜‰

She and I headed over to the bathrooms while the rest of our crew were riding. At home I pretend to be a witch a lot and Tess LOVES it when I talk in my “witch” voice and play witch with her so we were excited to see the witch on the bathroom wall and played together while we waited.

We lucked out and found a fun animal shop by the bathrooms. Tessie is my animal lover so she was in Heaven looking at all the magical creatures!

Once we met back up it was time to find the Hogwarts Express to head over to Hogsmeade!

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

Zach and I were again just super impressed with all of the well thought of details in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Riding the Hogwarts Express: First Time at Universal Studios Orlando & Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

The Hogwarts Express connects the two sections of the Wizarding World – the Universal Studios Florida side as well as the Universal’s Islands of Adventure side. To be able to ride the Hogwarts Express you must have a ticket that grants access to both parks.

To find the train you have to exit the area and go back to the streets of London and enter in the train station and then find the access wall between platforms 9 and 10 πŸ™‚ Y’all gotta see how cool it was…check out this video of Zach and the kids accessing the platform!

It is such a genius design and so awesome! Waiting in line to ride the train wasn’t bad at all with so many neat details to enjoy!

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

Even the train ride was EXACTLY what you’d be expecting if you were riding the real Hogwarts express.

We were guided into train carts and out the window we watched different scenes taking place. Each told a little story and the ride was over in no time. So. Awesome!

I am just so obsessed with Britt’s purse! I scrambled to find themed outfits for our trip and had ordered her a Harry Potter shirt that didn’t arrive in time so I lucked out and she already owned the dress and I was able to find this cute bag in time. Her look ended up being my favorite!

Shop All Of Our Looks From Our First Trip to Universal Studios Orlando Here:

Strawberry Suit
My Shirt Day 1
My Shirt Day 2
Britt Day 2 Shirt
Britt Purse
Harry Potter Books
Zach’s Shirt
Harry Potter Glasses
Tess Shirt Day 2
Tess’s Shirt Day 1
Kye’s Shirt
Strawberry Suit
My Shirt Day 1
My Shirt Day 2
Britt Day 2 Shirt
Britt Purse
Harry Potter Books
Zach’s Shirt
Harry Potter Glasses
Tess Shirt Day 2
Tess’s Shirt Day 1
Kye’s Shirt
first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

It was such genius planning on Universal’s part to have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter divided between Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

You really do HAVE to visit BOTH sides so purchasing park tickets to both parks is crucial so you can have the full experience.

One of the rides is in the Universal Studios Florida side and the other two are on the Islands of Adventure side.

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter
first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter
first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

Flight of the Hippogriff

Yay for a ride Tessie was tall enough to enjoy! Hagrid is Tess’s fav and she was so excited to visit his home and to get to ride Flight of the Hippogriff.

Sidenote but I have a feeling Tess is going to have a thing for big muscular dudes. She is intrigued by wrestling, always talks about how strong Daddy is, and loves that her daddy can always protect her. I can just picture her being a little petite adult woman and marrying a tall muscle man someday!

Flight of the Hippogriff is a small coaster but I don’t do coasters so I walked through the line with them and then waited at the exit.

An interesting item of note about Universal…they clap. A lot. At the end of just about every ride everyone claps. It was kinda weird? I guess it’s because a lot of the theming of the rides is a goal of survival or defeating an enemy and they are clapping to celebrate making it out alive and/or defeating the bad guys? We were so thrown off by the constant clapping haha!

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

First Time Eating Lunch at Universal Studios Orlando: Three Broomsticks

Our original plans had us eating lunch at a restaurant in Seuss Landing. But at that point we were a solid THREE HOURS behind schedule.

Kye’s meds were wearing off and he was fading fast. We knew we just needed to SIT. Eat. Rest. And come up with a solid game plan for the remainder of our day.

We’d originally planned to do lunch in Seuss Landing and dinner at Leaky Cauldron. I looked up the menu for Leaky Cauldron and knew it wasn’t our style of food. Three Broomsticks looked much more our speed so we decided to just go ahead and grab lunch there.

We knew at that point in the day we probably wouldn’t be able to make it the full day at the parks anyway. For our first time at Universal Studios Orlando, we did want to experience at least one of the Harry Potter themed dining locations.

The food was not cheap but it was tasty! I went for a side of potatoes and corn on the cobb as my meal. Zach got fish and chips. The girls shared chicken tenders, fries and fruit and poor Kye just wanted something warm so he got Mac and cheese (it was tasty!). We all liked everything we ordered!

But most of all we LOVED the BUTTERBEER! It was THE thing that everyone said we HAD to try.

People have a lot of opinions on which type of butterbeer is their favorite. We got a frozen one and a hot one to share. Kye just really wanted something warm and it hit the SPOT!

Both were delicious but we actually all preferred the hot one over the frozen! If you’ve never tried it, be sure to pick one up on your next visit!

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

While we ate lunch I sent a text to both Rachel and Robyn. Rachel helped us in planning our day and Robyn had just recently visited Universal Orlando Resort with her class on a field trip. So both of them had a good base knowledge of the parks.

I knew with Kye being sick, the crazy crowds, and us being SO behind schedule that we’d NEVER get through our itinerary for the day. There was just no way it was possible.

So I asked them each for their top three “must do” items outside of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

At that point in our day we hadn’t even had a chance to walk around and SEE a lot of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas. Our family all agreed that THAT was our top priority.

Outside of that we didn’t have any real “must do” items so we trusted Robyn and Rachel and their advice!

We made a game plan for how the afternoon would flow and then headed for a little dessert treat to lift spirits and get us all excited for the rest of our day ahead!


Where better to get a sweet treat than from Honeydukes? I wanted to pick something up as a thank you to Rachel for her AMAZING help and thought a chocolate frog would be perfect πŸ™‚

Zach got a chocolate cauldron to share as a treat and I picked up some yummy fudge!

Our game plan was for Zach to take Kye and Britt to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey while I took Tess to Suess Landing. Then we’d meet there and I’d keep Britt while Zach and Kye went to ride The Hulk.

My Cutie Pie Little Wizard πŸ™‚

Tess and I ventured out beyond The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to head to Seuss Landing. There were lots of things I would like to have more time to explore. Tons of experiences and rides and areas we weren’t even able to really look at let alone experience.

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: Seuss Landing

I’d heard that Seuss Landing is a super cute area for the younger crew. Tess had been SUCH a trooper all morning and I was glad for some “us” time for a bit to explore something more on her level.

Don’t get me wrong…she LOVES Harry Potter. She’s even watched all three of the first movies with no bad dreams or fears (I have heard they get darker as they go on so I’m not sure if she’ll continue to watch with us or not).

Seuss Landing was a very fun themed and colorful area. It was the first place we really visited outside of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and there is a noticeable difference in the quality of theming in other areas of the park.

I know I have heard that Universal Orlando Resort is aiming now to move towards the more immersive theming with new additions but I’m interested to see if they make any moves to update the other areas. Seuss Landing could benefit from some updating for sure!

first time at universal studios orlando seuss landing

The Express Pass was great for the big ticket lines but it was also SO nice on the shorter line rides too. It’s a big advantage that it’s available on every attraction (or at least every attraction we encountered!) and it’s nice that no scheduling or pre-planning is required.

Our whole day was thrown out of the loop that if we’d had to pre-schedule our Express Pass experiences it would have lead to a ton of added stress and would have meant zigzagging across the parks to hit our ride times on time. It was GREAT to just use the Express Pass as we went through our day on a ride-by-ride basis!

Tess and I walked around a bit and then rode The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! It was cute and fun and made Tess feel special to ride something her siblings wouldn’t get to.

first time at universal studios orlando seuss landing

The First Aid station was located near Seuss Landing so I made a stop in to ask about Kye. They said their policy is that they can take his temperature and offer a single dose of Advil or Tylenol but that’s it. No diagnosis or antibiotics etc. Just a very basic first aid.

They directed me where to purchase Advil and I was SO thankful to have this!!!

We met back up to put on some sunscreen and for Zach to hand Britt to me for the boys to go ride The Hulk.

They all loved Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but agreed it was a one-time ride. I’ve heard it mades you SUPER sick SUPER easily and had zero desire to ride it myself!

One tip I wish I’d known in advance is to purchase a lanyard for your trip. We had to keep up with our room key (needed to enter the park early), park tickets (had to access them in order to enter park but also in order to ride Hogwarts Express between parks), AND the Express Passes (had to access them every ride). It was a LOT of cards to keep up with and would have been made easier with lanyards for sure!

Once we met up with Britt the girls and I were able to ride two rides before meeting back up with the boys: The Cat in the Hat and One Fish Two Fish Redfish Bluefish

One of my favorite moments of the day was riding One Fish Two Fish Redfish Bluefish. It was such pretty weather and so fun just the three of us. Plus it randomly got us SOAKED which was HILARIOUS and made it even more fun!

We were able to spend some time in a super clue playground area before heading out! A LOT of the rides and experiences at Universal Orlando Resort are geared towards older/taller kids so it was nice to have Seuss Landing for Tess to really enjoy.

Kye and Zach were on CLOUD 9 when we met up with them! They both said that The Hulk was the best rollercoaster they’ve ever ridden!

Kye said he felt better after riding it too which is pretty crazy…but Zach had a good point. The adrenaline from the rollercoaster probably helped override the fever and aches Kye was experiencing!

The celebrity-lookalike comments Zach gets most often are involving Captain America. Couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity!

first time at universal studios orlando

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: Riding Skull Island Reign of Kong

A must-ride on both Robyn’s and Rachel’s lists was Skull Island Reign of Kong. I was nervous as I didn’t have any clue of what to expect but they both know what I wuss I am and said I’d be fine.

The line was LONG. Even with the Express Pass we waited for over 30 minutes. It was at this point when Tess was done.

She started crying and said she didn’t feel well. And felt warm and was miserable. Yup. Another sick kid added to the bunch. Told y’all this was just one of those days where so many things just couldn’t seem to go our way! We just had to laugh at that point!

first time at universal studios orlando skull island reign of kong

Kong was my favorite ride of the trip! I LOVED it! I was just so impressed with how SMOOTH the rides were that I rode. It wasn’t jerky and didn’t make me sick and the graphics were so cool. I took off my glasses at the end so I could really see Kong and he was AWESOME.

Back to Hogsmeade

With Tess now fading fast we all agreed to head back to Hogsmeade. Have some time to see every single thing we could in that section of the park, and put the wands to use, before heading back to the Universal Studios side of things.

Islands of Adventure is a nice layout in that it’s a complete circle. Even though we couldn’t stop and ride anything, we at least got to SEE the entire park!

first time at universal studios orlando

I have to brag on Britt y’all. Bless her she was the only kid that felt healthy and she had to sacrifice a good bit due to the other kids. She dealt with their complaining and their not wanting to do things so well.

She was VERY easy going and understanding of the situation. She was patient and kind about it and understood when Kye and Tess needed to just ride in the stroller which meant Britt walking around the whole park. I was VERY proud of her!

first time at universal studios orlando

I am SO thankful for our Citi Mini Double Stroller. I did a little googling and it has a weight capacity of up to 100 lbs. Which meant both Kye and Tess could ride while they were sick and needing the break.

Tess slept but we did ask Kye if we wanted to get up once we were back at Hogsmeade. I knew he’d really love using the interactive wand and doing the spells and my plan was for us to do everything possible in Hogsmeade so we could just focus on Diagon Ally the next morning.

first time at universal studios orlando

When you purchase an interactive wand from Ollivanders (or one of the many wand carts throughout the areas) it comes with a special map.

This map is two sided and shows the locations of the spell spots as well as information you need to know regarding how to perform that particular spell. One side of the map is Diagon Ally locations and the other side is Hogsmeade.

There is a learning curve to the spells and we did have to ask for help from some staff members (who were super kind and patient with showing us).

I do think they should include a brief lesson when an interactive wand is purchased. For the price of the wand it would make sense for some time to be given to make sure guests really know how to use them.

Another thing to note about the wand experience is that lines can take awhile at the spell locations. People will keep trying over and over even when they can’t get the spell to work, I do think the locations should somehow tell people they have to come back to try again later once they’ve tried a certain number of times and haven’t been able to get the spell to work.

If you’re planning to play the game here are a few things to note:

  • Point the wand directly at the small camera before starting the spell. We heard this helps “activate” it.
  • Small motions are better than large ones.
  • Standing on the spell marker and keeping the wand closer to your body helps as well.
  • Many of the spell spots are a different spell variation each time which makes it fun to do them multiple times!
  • As I mentioned before, purchase one interactive wand and then let others in your party get the less expensive ones. The girls LOVED that their lit up and Zach had a great time casting their spells with Kye’s wand while they were “casting” them with their wands. We got TONS of compliments and comments about this strategy as well as how cool the girls’ wands were. Other kids were envious!

Britt’s face is SO classic…every sister everywhere can appreciate it πŸ˜‰

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

I took several videos of the spells:

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

We did every spell spot and walked through every shop in the entire Hogsmeade area of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We even got to see the biting book!

We didn’t leave a single part unseen. My goal for our stay was to cover every detail of the Harry Potter sections. I knew we couldn’t ride all the rides we’d hoped for, but even sick kids can handle looking at stuff πŸ˜‰

first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter
first time at universal studios orlando the wizarding world of harry potter

Once we finished up we hopped back on the Hogwarts Express to head back to Universal Studios Florida!

At that point Tess was the most miserable one. Kye had perked up a bit and Britt was still fine but Tess was pitiful and just over it ALL.

We decided to come back to spend time in Diagon Ally the following day so we just made our way to the park exit but took a different route to leave than we did on our way in. That way we were able to see more of the park on our way and make one final stop for an attraction on the way out too!

Anyone else not allowed to watch The Simpsons as a kid? I did recognize a few of the spots in the themed area but not a lot of them since it’s not a show I’ve ever really watched!

first time at universal studios orlando

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: Childhood Memories

I have only two memories from the time my family visited Universal Studios Florida when I was a kid. Both my parents are in the memory so I’m not sure if we either visited prior to their divorce (so I was younger than age 9) or if I visited with them separately after the divorce but just mentally lumped the memories together into one.

My first visit memory is the Back to the Future Ride. Omg it was AWFUL. It was closed into this vehicle that moved and looked like we were riding through different scenes from the movie.

My mom was panicking and I can still hear her screaming. I was also freaking out and remember my eyes being closed the entire ride. The only time I opened them was at the exact moment we “drove through” a Texaco gas station sign. I never looked at those gas station signs the same way again haha!


My second memory is a happy one. I remember riding E.T. and it being the end of the ride and hearing E.T. say “thank you David, Emily, Brandon…” I thought it was so cool he knew our names!

I’m thankful they no longer have the Back to the Future ride but E.T. is still there and it was my ONLY must do experience for myself.

Even though Tess was SO OVER IT I wanted to go ahead and get it done before we left so we didn’t have to worry about it the next day.

I didn’t remember much about the ride and the “thank you” portion was a let down because he was talking so fast I don’t even think we could understand our names! But it was still fun for the memories…

And so funny that our kids have NO CLUE who E.T. even is. I always felt a special bond with E.T. My initials were ETS growing up (Emily Theresa) so I felt connected to E.T. For some reason people would also call me Elliot at times. And I was often told I looked like Drew Barrymore in that movie.

I can’t remember how family friendly it is though as far as my kids watching it now…I need to check into it. Yall know how many of those early 90s movies were actually SO bad and we just didn’t even have a clue!

Tess cried through most of the E.T. ride and as soon as we got off we headed for the exit! Did a bathroom stop and then got outta there!

While I wish so much that all of our kids could have felt well for the day…we still made the best of it that we could and everyone left with happy memories of their time at the parks that day!

I will say I am SO GLAD we did NOT bring Spear. HUGE thanks to G-Mama for keeping him. I cannot fathom having a young toddler added into the mix of the already crazy day!

We finished up in the 4:00 hour and headed back to the resort. Originally our plans had us finishing EVERY RIDE and experience by 6:00 PM and then eating dinner at the parks.

Instead we were only able to do less than 10 rides and then just decided to eat dinner at Cabana Bay Beach Resort to save money and hassle.

Want to Read More About Our Trip? Be Sure to Read These Posts:

cabana bay beach resort
Universal Orlando resort travel guide
visiting universal's volcano bay waterpark: what to expect

Yay for Water Taxi ride back!

Riding the water taxi on the way back dropped us off at a neighboring resort so we just had a short walk to get to ours. It was still a GORGEOUS day and we didn’t mind the walk!

First Evening at Universal Studios Orlando

We had dinner at the food court area at the resort (you can read more details here). We were all SO tired and worn out and being able to just sit at the resort and relax and eat was so nice!

The menu had a ton of options which allowed us to get something for everyone.

All Tessie wanted was ice cream for dinner. After the day we’d had even Zach was truly down to let the kids get anything they wanted at that point!

We had pizza and froyo and it didn’t disappoint! Poor Kye and Tess were just pitiful at that stage of the day and Kye was FREEZING and just wanted to eat quick and get in the bed for the night.

We got to the room and had everyone bathed and in the bed before 7 which worked out so, so well. The froyo and bath perked Tessie right up and she was feeling much better and casting spells all over the room πŸ˜‰ (Video One and Video Two)

First Time at Universal Studios Orlando: End of Day and Final Thoughts!

The first night we had Kye and Britt share a bed and had Tess fall asleep in our bed and then Zach transferred her to the fold out couch once he and I went to bed for the night.

But with Kye and Tess both being sick we went ahead and had the two of them share a bed and moved Britt. It worked out well!

Even though Britt was still feeling fine we went ahead and loaded everyone up with some Children’s Advil before bedtime. They were all asleep around 7ish, well before the movie by the pool got going.

We all slept GREAT for night two and didn’t have any wake ups from anyone. It was some well-needed rest time for sure.

And we got to hear that Spear was having a super fun time with his Big Papa and G-Mama! Staying clear of the crud we were passing around and getting the sleep and care he needed to be at his best. They were loving having him!

Even though our day was a pretty rough one in many ways, we still had a great first time at Universal Studios Orlando! We loved experiencing a new-to-us theme park together and we were blown away by the magic of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I felt very content with everything we’d gotten to do on Day 1 and we were all excited for Day 2 at the parks!

1 Comment

  1. Morgan
    April 2, 2019 / 4:18 pm

    This is a great review of universal studios! One thing to note is that Disney and universal are both used often for make-a-wish trips, and those kiddo are often immuno-compromised. Having sick kids in the parks can be downright dangerous for those kids. Just something to keep in mind!

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