New Years at DTD & IoA...a Super Long Trip Report!
JGH's Trip Report for DTD (12/31/12) and IoA (1/1/13)
Welcome to my first trip report!
First, an introduction! My name is Jessica and I went on my mini-trip with my father and brother (who didn't do the parks) and my fiance! I hadn't been to Universal in about 6 or 7 years and my fiance has never been.
My father and brother were attending the football game held in Orlando on New Years Day, so my fiance and I decided it would be a perfect time to finally go see Islands of Adventure (or...really Harry Potter ;) ) since we always do Disney.
We left home with an 8 hour drive ahead of us on New Years Eve around 8am. We arrived at our hotel in Orlando (a Comfort Inn) around 5pm. We unpacked and sat down for about 10 minutes and then we booked it straight for Downtown Disney. My dad decided to drop us off for this trip. As many times as we have been to the parks, this was my fiance and mine's second time at DTD! We went once in October and then on New Years Eve. Surprisingly the crowds on New Years Eve were MUCH, MUCH more manageable than they were in October...so much so, that we actually got to see ALL of Downtown Disney for the first time. In October, we only braved the way from the bus stop to the Lego Store...and decided there were too many people so we pushed our way back! We were hoping to find a cake topper at the World of Disney...we did find some wedding figurines, but no cake topper unfortunately. We decided to order this online...what we DID come about, however, were the "Just Engaged" (we were engaged a month ago) and "Happily Ever After..." buttons for our wedding pictures/Disneymoon! :) I was super excited about this find and we wore the "Just Engaged" buttons our whole trip (we got SO many nice congrats...from Cast Members AND IoA Employees). We decided to eat at the Rainforest Cafe...which was very FUN! Neither of us had eaten there before, and we were pleasantly surprised at how yummy the burgers were! We also got phenomenal seats right beside a fish aquarium! We finished walking around DTD and headed back to the hotel around 10:30 to wait for midnight (we aren't party-folk). The parking lots in front of the World of Disney were beginning to fill at this point, and traffic was pretty bad coming IN to the parks, but going out it was a breeze. Downtown Disney was still emptier than it was when we went in February when we left for the night.
Our "Just Engaged" buttons.
Dinner at the Rainforest Cafe
The next morning we went downstairs early for breakfast and to purchase our tickets at the hotel (Universal Partner Hotel). Before we ate we took our light luggage back out to the car (we stayed only one night). The sign said the lady would be at the desk at 7:15am...and at 7:45 when there was still no one there we were a little frustrated. Apparently the person who was to work the booth had slept in. We just decided to go ahead and go. We left our hotel at 7:45am and arrived at the park just before 8am. We were dropped off at Guest Pickup and walked straight into Citywalk and down towards Islands of Adventure. We knew we would have to sit for an hour because they were only open to resort guests at 8 and everyone else at 9am. We went ahead and purchased our tickets...and wow! They just let us go in right at 8:10am! :)
We had decided early on that we wanted to spend a lot of time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (in fact, that's the main reason we decided to do IoA instead of Disney this time) so instead of going straight there, we did Spiderman first (fiance is a huge Marvel fan). It was like a deserted town...you could tell everyone went straight to Harry Potter (kind of like the mobs at Epcot going straight to Soarin). Spiderman was walk-on. We didn't do any of the other rides in this area as we aren't big thrill-ride seekers and we weren't planning on doing them anyway.
(Deserted streets of Marvel Island at 8:20am on New Years Day)
From there, we looped back around and went through Seuss Landing and the (a CM said we couldn't go through Toon Lagoon yet, it was closed) and went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The first time we walked into Hogsmeade my mind was blown. It was amazing...the detail and time put into the buildings was phenomenal. I thought it very fitting that the first thing you see is the Hogwarts Express. We decided to walk straight to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey...and we're so glad we did. When we went through, it had a 10 minute wait (which was actually about 20 minutes) and when we came out it was up to 45...and only went up from there all day. We put our bag - along with our phones (so no pictures) - into the provided lockers and walked to the line. I thought the queue for the line was absolutely great! Walking through Hogwarts was one of the highlights. We both thought the ride was phenomenal. The flying sequence (over Hogwarts) was as breathtaking as Soarin' (with a little more...oomph)...I was dissapointed it didn't last too long!
Hogsmeade at 8:30am on New Years Day
At this point we jumped in line for the little show that they do at Ollivanders. We waited about 25-30 minutes. It was a very neat little show (the little boy that was in line in front of us got chosen to participate). Fiance thought it was a little cheesy. :) After the demonstration we walked into the store portion of Ollivanders (which is SUPER TINY!!! :worried:). I understand that they want to stay true to the theming...but sheesh! You could barely look at or get to anything. Fiance picked out a replica wand (Voldemort) and I picked out an Ollivander's wand (the Birch Collectible Wand). I originally wanted to get a Hufflepuff bag (https://www.universalorlando.com/Mer..._Backpack.html) but in person the quality felt AWFUL (wouldn't have paid $2 for it, much less $20!). So instead I purchased a Hufflepuff Patch (https://www.universalorlando.com/Mer...est_Patch.html) which I will put onto the Hufflepuff scarf that I'm working on crocheting. Fiance got the same patch, but got Ravenclaw. After we were done at Ollivanders we walked around and explored Hogsmeade a little more. I found a small booth outside of Ollivanders and purchased a well-priced Hufflepuff lanyard (hey...we probably won't come back here for a while...so let's make the most of this Hufflepuff stuff!). Honeydukes was neat, but the candy was way overpriced ($10 for a chocolate frog?!...). I thought Zonko's was a bit strange and wondered if people actually buy the things in there. :laughing:
Hooray for wands (and the Hufflepuff lanyard)!
Next we decided we needed to try Butterbeer. Can you say...yum?! We waited and waited and waited in line for this stuff...EVERYONE was walking around with it. The first go-around we both bought the frozen butterbeer (which, in our opinion, is the better of the two option). The second time, fiance tried the soda and I got the frozen again. We both agreed that the soda version was very much like cream soda? The frothy stuff on top was very good.
The picture shows our second batch of butterbeer...one frozen, one soda. Two butterbeer's were all we could handle for the day. We used the butterbeer cups continuously all day for free water refills, which was nice.
We headed over to Jurassic Park after our first butterbeer. We had already decided that, as much as we wanted to ride Jurassic Park River Adventure we really didn't want to get wet and have to walk around the park with our legs chaffing all day...it wasn't like a Disney day where we could simply go back to our hotel and change...all our luggage was at the football stadium! So, instead of that, we headed into Jurassic Park Discovery Center. I thought it was pretty neat...we played around with a few of the machines down there and headed back upstairs.
After our second (and last) butterbeer of the day we headed over to see the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show. Neither of us had heard of Sinbad really? We weren't sure if it was a TV show or a movie possibly, but decided we would watch the stunt show anyway. I walked away from it slightly dissapointed, though I believe my fiance enjoyed it a bit more than I did. I felt like Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Lights, Camera, Action at DHS were much, much better. I had heard the show was good...but I guess I didn't get the hooplah. :confused3 I did like the bleachers more than Disney's...they were contoured...more comfortable...is that weird? :thumbsup2 I was super sad with the lack of shows in this park.
After the stunt show we did lunch. Originally we had said we would eat in the Marvel Cafe, but we later decided we wanted to do the Three Broomsticks. The line to order food was quite long (we ate around 1:30pm)...it took about 10-15 minutes to get through. I got the Fish and Chips and the kids Mac n Cheese (just wanted a small side...but they didn't offer that). Fiance got the rotisserie chicken with potatoes and corn. I got the Mac n Cheese hoping it would be like Disney's (my FAVORITE) but it was actually rather disgusting (super dry, cold, bleh)...so we never really ended up finishing it. We both really enjoyed the Fish and Chips (though the chips were fries...? Haha). Fiance said that his meal left much to be desired, so we shared some of the fish. Overall...we thought the Fish and Chips were good, but that's all we'd order if we went back to the Three Broomsticks ever again.
Next we went back through Hogwarts and walked around the park again (back through Marvel...etc). We decided there wasn't really much we wanted to do at Toon Lagoon (too wet...) and the lines for Spiderman had skyrocketed (as well as all of the rides for Harry Potter...). We walked back around to Seuss Landing and decided to try the Cat in the Hat. Boy, I was dissapointed with this one. I was expecting something like a dark ride in Fantasyland...it just wasn't the same. I thought it was entirely weird that they didn't even try to hide the track with lighting. Whereas at Disney, I get this complete immersion feel to their dark rides, it wasn't the same with the Cat and the Hat. We did enjoy the spinning. :) We waited 30 minutes for this ride. At this point we were cranky and tired :) and we were starting to compare everything to Disney...uh oh.
Next we decided to try Poseidon's Fury...we actually had NO idea what it was other than a tour...we were hoping it was like The Great Movie Ride...where you get to sit...aaaand of course not (the CM at the front of the line was super busy...so we just decided to try). :faint: At this point we were both exhausted and our feet were killing us...we were kind of irritated with having to stand for an attraction so we didn't really get immersed in it...I thought it was interesting...a little strange. As soon as we got out of here we went and SAT DOWN for a good 20 minutes.
We explored Hogsmeade one last time and actually found Hagrid's Hut (which you can only see the back of) and the Weasley's car...which I thought was super awesome! The ride lines were too long at this point and we were too tired to even try.
We then decided that this was a once every 5-8 years kind of park...and that since this was the case we needed to go get some Hogwarts "House" sweaters since we won't be coming back anytime soon...;) We braved our way back into the main part of Hogsmeade (which was really the only part of the park that was actually crowded) to try to find sweaters. Ollivanders and Dervish and Banges were crazy crowded, so we ran up to Filch's Emporium, which is a little larger, but it was still packed with people coming out of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We did find sweaters, but neither of us liked how they fit (we loved how they looked...but they fit CRAZY weird...too tight in some places, too long in others, and too loose in some places). So...we looked around for the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw shirts and saw none. Dissappointed, we decided to walk up to the Port of Entry. I had thought I read somewhere that there was a big gift shop there (we didn't really stop or look around here on our way in to the park). Voila! We found the big gift shop! It was SO much better shopping for Harry Potter merchandise in there...much more open and they seemed to have a bigger selection. We were able to find our House t-shirts and we were SO excited about that! As we were shopping in here my father sent me a text saying the game was over (it was around 5 or 5:30 that we left), so we checked out and slowly made our way back through Citywalk and back to Guest Pickup to head home!
Overall, I don't think we enjoyed Island's of Adventure as much as we do Disney (but then again, that's why we're DISNEY fans!). I learned that Disney's Fastpass system is the most amazing thing in the world. I have been spoiled with not having to wait through every single line like you do at Universal. I hate that you have to purchase the Express Pass for SO MUCH money and, even then, it's not on every ride (for example, it's not on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey...?). We were rather dissapointed with the amount of attractions and especially shows and felt like we had pretty much seen everything by noon. I really hope they expand Harry Potter because it's way too crowded in there, and it'll be good for the park to have more attractions. We were very happy that we finally got to see Hogwarts and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we won't be going back any time soon. If they do another Harry Potter expansion, it'll probably be about 2 years after it's open that we will return...just to see that. It's Disney all the way for us!
Great trip report! Congrats on your Engagement! :goodvibes
I can't believe DTD was deserted on New Years Eve!
It's always been crazy when I've been there in September and March.
My first visit to Harry Potter *ahem* IOA was in March of last year. It was awesome! We always do Disney, too and had never even
considered Universal/IOA because I'm not big on thrill rides....until Harry Potter went in.
Like you, we spent most of our day at that part of the park. We walked around the other parts and saw the (2) shows and rode the rides at Seuss Landing.
I felt IOA is sortof a letdown compared to Disney. It was too expensive for not enough. Harry Potter is the best thing about it and even that could've been bigger. I totally agree with you on the whole experience. It was great, but not a place I'd go year after year like Disney.
Butterbeer is amazing though! I liked the frozen one the best, too! :0)
sorry you didn't enjoy the rides or park.
but, you did get wands so that must have made your day!
congrats on your engagement!!!
Thanks for sharing your report and congrats on the engagement.
Maybe next time you'll spend some time at the Studios...which is where HP2 will be located. You might enjoy that park better than IoA.
Thanks everyone! We did enjoy ourselves, but we just feel like you get more from Disney for the money (it's $1 more for a one-day one-park ticket to Disney).
Interesting that HP2 will be in Universal? Why aren't they adding onto the HP that they have now?
As far as HP2 being at the Studios...there's more space to build and since Jaws was very dated and was having lots of issues, they decided to replace Jaws with HP2.
While at IoA we felt that there just wasn't as much for us there. We don't enjoy intense roller coasters, so The Hulk and Dragon Challenge were out. As for thrills, that also put out Dr. Doom's Freefall. We didn't want to walk around the parks all day wet (we had no changes of clothes and no hotels to go back to), so unfortunately Jurassic Park River Adventure and Ripsaw Falls ended up being out...though I remember Jurassic Park River Adventure being very fun from the last time we went. Overall, we had felt like we'd seen it all by early afternoon and we were longing for our all-too-familiar Disney parks.
Who knows...maybe we would have enjoyed Universal Studios a bit more. All I remembered from my last visit was the Mummy (which was fun!), Men in Black and Back to the Future (which I was upset to learn got replaced with the Simpsons). Maybe we'll try again when they finish the new HP and Transformers. I think it's an interesting idea that they might connect the two parks by Hogwarts Express!
Sounds like you love your Universal time as much as I love my Disney time! ;)
I have to say hi because I bought the same Hufflepuff lanyard during our December trip, AND we also got engaged so I had the same button :) Congratulations!
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