One day, two parks; exploring Universal
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I’ll be honest, we weren’t sure whether to visit the Universal parks at all. It seemed like a lot of money for me to visit the Harry Potter bit.
But we booked our tickets at the last minute because there was no way that I was not going to do the Harry Potter bit. Let’s face it, we were always going to go.
To keep costs to a minimum we booked to go to both parks in one day and paid for the park-to-park tickets so that we could ride on the Hogwarts express.
This meant that we had an action-packed day. Check out what we did:
First stop was to Seuss landing in the Islands of Adventure park. And a great first stop it was. The colours and the characters got the kids majorly excited and they instantly wanted to go on everything.
I took Emily on One Fish, Two Fish, which is a roundabout ride where you go up and down (there are loads of these in Disney). It said we might get wet, but we were clever and avoided and splashes.
Next up was a ride on the Cara-Seuss-el. A standard carousel but with whacky creatures for you to ride. Emily loved it. Alice not so much.
Alice loved exploring this area and trying on the funny wigs in the shops. She was mesmerised by the creativity behind it. It was good that she was happy just walking around though as she was too small for most of the rides at Universal.
After leaving Seuss Landing, we powered through the next area, whatever that was, and headed straight for Hogsmeade. There was a brief stop en route to give Puss in Boots a cuddle though.
So Hogsmeade is great! Like really great! The shops have been made so well, parts that move and come alive to make it feel truly magical.
There’s snow on the rooftops and cobbled streets to walk along. Along the paths are people sell drinks and food all themed into the wizarding world.
We popped in several of the shops and Honeydukes was our favourite. We had a look around and the children chose a treat each. I wanted to buy everything but exercised some great self-restraint.
Butterbeer at Orlando is both gluten and lactose-free. Woohoo! That was all I needed to convince me to get one so that’s what I did.
You have two options for your butterbeer: cold or frozen. I opted for the cold because frozen butterbeer sounds wrong. I necked that whilst watching a display from the students of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.
Hogwarts Castle sits on hill way above Hogsmeade. You can’t miss it as it looms over the village. From the age of 11, I dreamt of going to Hogwarts so it was quite emotional to see it up close.
By far the best bit of the whole Universal complex is the Hogwarts Express. This train takes you from one Universal park to the other and I totally recommend that you ride it in both directions.
At each end, the stations are made up to look like either the Hogsmeade station or Kings Cross. We had to queue for a while to get on but the train comes frequently enough that you won’t be waiting too long.
The train ride itself is phenomenal. You will sit inside a little cabin just as they do in the films. Then as you travel along you will see the landscape pass by exactly as you would expect travel from Hogsmeade to London and vice versa.
On top of that, you will see the silhouettes of activity in the corridor. This includes conversations between your favourite characters as well as visits from dementors.
If you are visiting Universal, do not miss out on this experience. It was truly amazing!
After hopping off the Hogwarts Express in London, you will have to find your way into Diagon Alley. It’s not hard but it is concealed like it is in the books.
With a whole other magical world to explore, I was too excited and gave myself a headache. Probably should have drank more water.
You will get to walk along Diagon Alley and see all the well-known shops, including Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Ollivanders. At one end, you will Gringott’s, complete with a fire-breathing dragon on the roof.
You can also stop off at the Leaky Cauldron was some fish and chips and other food typically found in London.
We watched ??? perform in the street to a large crowd and then took a quick trip down Knockturn Alley. I didn’t buy anything, I promise!
After leaving Diagon Alley, we headed to the Simpsons area. The children haven’t really seen the Simpsons so it was a bit wasted on them but they enjoyed the colours and the characters.
Emily went on another of those up and down, round and round ride again. This time with an alien theme, Kang and Kodos if anyone is a Simpsons fan. Alice and I hung around the arcade games and pretend that we were playing them even though I was too tight to pay.
Shrek 4D Show
We hadn’t taken the kids on a 4D ride before and figured that Shrek might be a good one to start with.
This ride has moving seats, but given that we were a bit nervous as to how the kids would react we opted for the static ones. Turned out to be a good shout.
It was an OK ride, but Emily found the 3D video a bit scary and kept dodging all the things that came at her. Like rocks and arrows. It was pretty sweet, but I understood that she must have been worried.
We did all have a laugh when Donkey sneezed and we all got wet. Urgh! Donkey bogies!
As left the Shrek show, the parade was just about to pass us. Unlike the Disney parade, we were able to get front row seats.
This meant that we got lots of waves, high fives and interaction from the characters that went by, which meant that we all loved it.
We saw minions from Despicable Me, the animals from the Pets movies and Spongebob Squarepants.
Final thoughts on Universal Studios
As much as I enjoyed the Harry Potter bits, we really did only need the one day there. There’s not a huge amount for really small children to do and even for bigger ones, it is limited.
Many of the characters are aim at older audiences, so if your kids are 8+ then they will probably have a better experience.
We had a good day though and we are glad that we went. I’d love another butterbeer though, so if anyone wants to grab me one that’d be great!
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.