From the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Beverly Hillshire Hotel we got to see what the sites might look like in person. You could sit down and enjoy a cup of tea (or coffee) while people watching. You could also head into the stores to do a little shopping.
Check the Weather
We'd forgotten to check the weather. I didn't realize it was going to be a somewhat chilly day in they typically sunny and hot Orlando, Florida. We went shopping for hoodies that said 'Universal Studios' on the back. They made our day far more comfortable than it would have been without them (in fact, we barely took them off for most of the day and night).
Biggest perk for me? The teen and I wearing matching sweatshirts. He is waaayyy past the stage of thinking that's cute, so I was delighted when he picked out one like the one I had in my hand. Of course, I did not make a big deal of it, lest the teen change his mind.
It's Mardi Gras Season at Universal
When we were visiting it was Mardi Gras season at Universal, so NOLA themes were everywhere. We enjoyed hearing the live music. Tasting the favorite culinary dishes of New Orleans was on the agenda. So was taking in the decorations and floats one might see in the city itself. Seems like everyone was wearing Mardi Gras beads. You could buy them in the stores if you didn't have your own.
Mari Gras season at Universal Studios, Orlando runs from February 4th to April 16th, 2023.
The Simpsons Land
My teen had the best time in Simpsons Land. Everything he was seeing was from the cartoon and each exhibit had him talking about what he'd seen in the shows. Of course, he purchased one of the giant donuts at Lard Lad Donuts (just under $10 and he said it was worth every bite). And his souvenir at the end of the day was a Homer Simpson stuffed doll (I love that this trip brought out the kid in him).
If my older kids are reading this, no regrets or apologies. LOL I didn't let them watch the Simpsons when they were little. I still think the themes are too adult for kids. Like many parents though, I relaxed a bit by the time my youngest was born.
Variety of Things to Do
Walk around and enjoy cultures from different countries. Enjoy the simulator rides (we rode the Transformers ride which was awesome and would be magical for an older small child or tween). Catch a thrill on one of the rollercoasters. There are so many things to see and do. Even though the space was smaller than I'd anticipated, there really was such a large variety of things to do.
Hogwarts Express Takes you Between the Two Parks
We played some games (I recommend purchasing the game pass). Then we headed on over to Islands of Adventure. We made our way to the back of the park where we found the famous train from the Harry Potter novels. The Hogwarts Express is a novelty and it takes you between the two parks seamlessly.
If you only purchased a ticket for one park, you can upgrade to have the two-parks-in-one day ticket; that's what we did. It took just a few minutes to do, and it was worth it to do so. I recommend just buying the two park pass from the get-go (or if you live close enough, why not get the annual pass because it's actually very reasonably priced).
Your two-park ticket gets you a ride on the train which leads you directly into Islands of Adventure (so if you upgrade, keep that paper ticket, you'll also need it to come back if you choose to do so, and to use the free lockers for the rides that don't allow carry-ons).
Tips for visiting Universal Studios
- Get their early to avoid long lines for the rides you most want to experience.
- Catch the live shows. We were there during Mardi Gras, so there was a lot of live music going on. We saw Jazz, Blues, construction workers (this was so good!) and a concert in the evening with Maren Morris (different artists were performing nightly).
- Get a map so you know where everything is (you don't want to miss anything!). You can pick up a hard copy or download the app.
- Check out the times of the parade and get a spot up front early. This will give you time to relax a minute and you'll appreciate the view when the parade rolls around.
- There is a light show and it got very crowded, very fast, on the day we visited. Find a more secluded spot further away and you can see the same show without the crowds.
- If you don't have a multi-park pass, upgrade to a dual park ticket. There are spots all around the park to do so. Then, catch the train over to Islands of Adventure half-way through the day.
- Take Hogwarts Express back and forth between parks (you need the two-park pass to do so).
- Check concert times during Mardi Gras season at Universal. The concert we saw was at the end of the night and it was not overly crowded. Still, you'll want to find a good spot early since portable chairs are not permitted in the park.
- It is a bit of a walk from the parking garage to the park. There are motorized walkways alongside sidewalks.
- City Walk stays open after the park closes (the area between the park and the parking garage) and it is jam-packed with things to do.
Universal Studios is a top Destination for Theme Park Enthusiasts
In conclusion, visiting Universal Studios in Orlando is worth experiencing. From the exciting rides to the immersive themed areas, there is something for everyone at this iconic amusement park. Whether you're a fan of Harry Potter, The Simpsons, or good live music, you'll find plenty to enjoy on your visit.
Even without Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios offers a wide variety of attractions and experiences that can easily fill a full day or more. If you wish to add on a ticket to the additional amusement park, however, it will just double your fun and it is literally, a short train ride away.
Overall, if you're looking for a fun-filled day with family and friends, a visit to Universal Studios in Orlando is an excellent choice. This was our first trip here, and I now see why this park remains a top destination for theme park enthusiasts from all around the world.