A couple of weeks ago, my 8-year old son finished reading all of the Harry Potter books, and we thought, what better place to go than to the Wizarding World itself?! So we loaded up the car and headed to Universal Studios Orlando for a quick one-night stay at the Hard Rock Hotel and an EPIC surprise for the kids! (They have been asking to visit Universal since we moved to Florida a year ago!)
The Hard Rock Hotel was amazing! It felt clean and airy, and we loved the one-time temperature check upon arrival. You pass the temperature check, and then they give you a paper band to wear all day – one and done! It was incredibly convenient to not have to be stopped every time we came back into the resort. The room was pristine and we loved being able to walk to City Walk, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure!
As always, Wizarding World did not disappoint. It was my kids first time there, and even my 5-year old (who has had limited Harry Potter exposure besides from her brother) was in awe. Diagon Alley in Universal was breathtaking, and we loved our journey from Kings Cross in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
Don\’t forget, you need a park-to-park ticket in order to ride Hogwarts Express enjoy both sections of the Wizarding World! We spent a lot of time exploring, casting spells with the interactive wands, and drinking frozen Butterbeer to cool off. (You can take off your mask while enjoying the Butterbeer!) The highlight of our Harry Potter experience was when Hagrid\’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure re-opened after being closed for a few days prior. What an amazing ride!
We also enjoyed our time in the rest of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. We visited on a Sunday to a Monday, and it was pretty crowded on Sunday. We were so glad to have the Unlimited Express Pass since we were staying at the Hard Rock! Monday felt much less crowded, and social distancing was easier that day also.
Overall, the parks felt clean, and we loved that they supplied (and required!) you to put on hand sanitizer before boarding every attraction. We witnessed a lot of Team Members cleaning the rides and the high-touch spaces around the parks. The attraction seating was well thought out with sufficient space between us and any other parties.
On little bit of a down side- mask usage was spotty, especially compared to how impressed we were with visitors at Disney. Team Members were continually reminding guests to pull up their masks, and we had to be much more conscious to steer clear of those not wearing masks. Universal does not require guests to remain stationary when eating or drinking which probably contributes to lower proper mask usage. Again, Monday was much better than Sunday, though, in regards to masks! Crowd levels overall have been much higher on weekends there, so keep that in mind.
One of the best parts of our trip was seeing all of the characters! They were out in abundance – it seemed like every corner we turned, there were more! They were dancing and waving and having a blast. My kids loved seeing them all, and it was definitely a highlight. We also came across numerous parade floats, at random times… super fun!
We ate mostly in the Wizarding World restaurants and appreciated that it was all mobile-ordering. A Team Member met you at the door, walked you to a socially-distanced table, and then you submitted your order via the Universal App. It did seem to take a long time to receive our food, but we enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurants while we waited. We also ate at CowFish in City Walk, and it was the best of our meals! We enjoyed a patio seat with an amazing sunset view, and the food was delicious!
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our quick visit to Universal and felt that it was safe & fun! We purchased the amazing Florida resident deal they have going on right now (Buy 1-day, get entrance into the parks until December 24th), so we will be returning soon! We have some Volcano Bay days in the works as well as returning to Universal and Islands of Adventure! We cannot wait to return to Universal Studios!
Guest Blogger: Kristin Van Osterom
Kristin is a mom to two kiddos, a Military spouse, and theme park aficionado! She is a Florida native and has been attending the theme parks since she was a baby – something she passed along to her kids, as they, too, have been in the parks since they were tiny. After living all over the country, she\’s very happy to currently be back in her home state – and able to head to the parks whenever she can! In her spare time, she enjoys reading, swimming, boating, and catching up on all the latest theme park happenings. 😉