Hard Rock with a Tween & a Toddler

JAMIESMITH

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
My family and I just got back from our first visit to Universal Orlando. This was our first family vacation since 2015 (Disney) and our first trip as a family of four. We spent five nights and six days at The Hard Rock Hotel with five day/three park passes purchased through an Undercover Tourist promotion. Luckily the baby was still free!

Some of our family and friends think our way of getting to Orlando is a little crazy, but it works for us. We drove three hours from our home in Decatur, MS to the Birmingham, AL airport so that we can fly direct with Southwest on Rapid Reward points. We did purchase early bird check in to ensure we would all be able to sit together. Our flight took off at 9:00 AM and landed at 11:30. It's only an hour and a half flight, but we did change time zones.

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Madilyn and Scarlett waiting to board the plane.

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Scarlett's first time on a plane!

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The flight down was very uneventful and we were glad to discover that Scarlett thought it was fun instead of scary. There were actually a lot of smaller kids on board and not a single one screamed or cried!

I had contacted Tony Hinds several months ago (our trip was originally scheduled over fall break in October, but Madilyn got hurt playing dodge ball at school so we postponed). Tony was waiting for us at baggage claim. I can't say enough nice things about him! We stopped at Publix and picked up some Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper as well as some snacks to keep in the room. Tony also pointed out a liquor store that was right by the Publix in case we wanted to stop there.

We checked into the hotel around 12:45PM and were pleasantly surprised to find that a room was ready for us.

My husband and kiddos waiting for me to check us in. The red balloon was given to Scarlett by our cashier at Publix.

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JAMIESMITH

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
I paid for our room through hotels.com using Capital One Venture Miles plus around $600 out of pocket. I booked the cheapest category which was a standard view. Our room number was 6051, on the sixth floor. It was very spacious and clean, and definitely a standard view.

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Our view for the week, but honestly we didn't book this room for the view, we booked it for the express passes.

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We were all starving as we had left home at 2:00 AM and none of us had breakfast. I had made a list of places I thought we might like to try and we decided to head over to Margaritaville for lunch. There was no wait for a table, which was nice. we were also happy to see that they offered sweet tea. Disney restaurants didn't offer it the last two times we were there. Scarlett fell asleep almost as soon as we sat down and slept straight through our meal. Don't worry, she filled up on crackers and a banana from our Publix stop.

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Honestly, this was one of the worst meals of our trip. I ordered the seafood mac & cheese, which was really bland. Madilyn had a chicken sandwich and fries and my husband had the Cheeseburger in Paradise with fries. Their sandwiches were okay, but the fries were really greasy. I have in my notes that this meal was around $70 plus tip.

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Last edited:


macraven

Proud Redhead
Moderator
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
A nice way to start the vacation by getting a room as soon as you checked in at HR
 
  • JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    The walkway from Citywalk to the hotel is truly gorgeous! These are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

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    We didn't have park tickets for our first day, so the girls and I headed down to the pool. Madilyn went down the water slide at least a half a dozen times and I tried it once. The water was warm, but the wind made us cold! The hot tubs were packed full of people so we decided to head back up to our room after only thirty minutes or so.

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    We took turns taking baths and settled in for a night of cartoons.
     

    DisneyLifePapioNe

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2017
    I paid for our room through hotels.com using Capital One Venture Miles plus around $600 out of pocket. I booked the cheapest category which was a standard view. Our room number was 6051, on the sixth floor. It was very spacious and clean, and definitely a standard view.

    View attachment 467906

    View attachment 467907

    Our view for the week, but honestly we didn't book this room for the view, we booked it for the express passes.

    View attachment 467908

    We were all starving as we had left home at 2:00 AM and none of us had breakfast. I had made a list of places I thought we might like to try and we decided to head over to Margaritaville for lunch. There was no wait for a table, which was nice. we were also happy to see that they offered sweet tea. Disney restaurants didn't offer it the last two times we were there. Scarlett fell asleep almost as soon as we sat down and slept straight through our meal. Don't worry, she filled up on crackers and a banana from our Publix stop.

    View attachment 467909

    Honestly, this was one of the worst meals of our trip. I ordered the seafood mac & cheese, which was really bland. Madilyn had a chicken sandwich and fries and my husband had the Cheeseburger in Paradise with fries. Their sandwiches were okay, but the fries were really greasy. I have in my notes that this meal was around $70 plus tip.

    View attachment 467910

    Following along.....

    Too bad about Margaritaville, that place is usually pretty good.
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Glad to see you’re trip report here!!

    Such good news Scarlett enjoyed her first flight......that can go either way lol.....but sounds like it all worked out! And the room being ready is sweet!

    Nice pictures but what a shame you didn’t enjoy Margaritaville......but, I’m happy your meals improve from now.
     
  • JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    Following along.....

    Too bad about Margaritaville, that place is usually pretty good.
    Thanks for reading along! Maybe a margarita would have improved our meal? :confused3

    Glad to see you’re trip report here!!

    Such good news Scarlett enjoyed her first flight......that can go either way lol.....but sounds like it all worked out! And the room being ready is sweet!

    Nice pictures but what a shame you didn’t enjoy Margaritaville......but, I’m happy your meals improve from now.
    We were pleasantly surprised by how well she did on this trip. She was patient about waiting in line and the rider swap rooms and she loved every ride she was tall enough for (and at least one that she wasn't :poop:).

    We definitely enjoyed most of our meals, but there were a couple of misses.
     

    GoingSince1990

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 31, 2018
    Margaritaville is kind of like Sci-Fi Dine In in that it’s more about the atmosphere and experience than high quality food.
     
  • JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    Margaritaville is kind of like Sci-Fi Dine In in that it’s more about the atmosphere and experience than high quality food.
    The atmosphere is probably better suited for a date night than a meal for a tired family fresh off a plane. It was so loud!
     

    JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    We had set our alarm for 7:00am on Sunday morning to make it to Early Entry at Universal Studios at 8:00am. I woke up first around 6:30 and everyone else was awake before the alarm went off. I made a cup of coffee and shared a package of strawberry Pop-tarts with Scarlett. Madilyn had a couple of s'mores granola bars. My husband is not crazy about breakfast, but he drank a Mountain Dew. We also stopped at his new favorite bench on the garden path, just past the boat dock for his first cigarette of the day. I so wish he would quit!

    After having our tickets scanned for the first time, I had the five day photo package, which I had purchased during a Facebook promotion, activated.

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    We got in the Express line for Minions. Scarlett just missed the height requirement, but we were expecting that, so I sat in the stationary seats with her while Madilyn and my husband rode. They said the ride was okay, but the stationary seats are too close to the screen and it was so loud! I meant to come back and ride in one of the moving vehicles, but never got around to it.

    I didn't realize that only some rides open during Early Entry. We waited about fifteen minutes for Rip Ride Rocket to open. A nice ride attendant let us take the stroller up in the elevator to the rider swap room.

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    Maddy rode first with her daddy and loved it! He said it was a bit much for him and he will always think of this ride when Motley Crue's Kickstart My Heart plays on the radio! Madilyn rode a second time with me, this time in the front row. So fun! I selected Limp Bizkit's Rollin' because it had been playing in the child swap room. I look like one of the trolls!

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    Later in the day, we noticed that they were only running two cars attached together instead of four. Anyone have any idea what that was all about?

    We watched Shrek, which was something Scarlett could enjoy with us, but it was a one and done for us.

    We headed over to E.T., which we all enjoyed. This was followed by two rides on the Woody Woodpecker coaster. This was Scarlett's favorite ride of the trip. It was also where I lost my lanyard. I pulled my backpack off to put in front of me and I must have pulled the lanyard off with it. The ride attendants looked for it, but never could find it.

    The Trolls were scheduled to come out at 11:05, so we got in line for that Meet & Greet. Scarlett loves the movies and the series that comes on Netflix. She was pretty scared of the characters, though.

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    We spent about an hour at guest relations at the front of the park having my ticket reprinted. Branden was super nice, but he had trouble finding my ticket, despite the fact that I had taken a photo of it. He said that Undercover Tourist bought four hundred tickets in their order from Universal and that he was having to go through them all manually to find mine. He was also nice enough to give me an express pass so I didn't have to make a special trip back to The Hard Rock to get a new room key. I guess some people need Magic Bands!

    We were all hungry by this point, so we headed over to Lombard's. We saw Megatron out, but we didn't stop. There was a 20 minute wait for a table, so we walked down the the lower dock to my husband could smoke another cigarette.

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    We waited a few more minutes in the restaurant for our name to be called. The girls threw a few pennies into the fish fountain inside the lobby. We could see the Knight Bus from the table we were seated at. We saw bread plates out on the table, but we were never offered bread, nor were any of the other people around us. Very, odd.

    My husband and I ordered The Fisherman's basket with fried cod, shrimp, oysters, calamari, and french fries. Madilyn and Scarlett had fish & chips, with Madilyn ordering off the adult menu and Scarlett of the children's menu. The food was very good, but none of us left feeling full. Our waitress was also a bit strange, almost rushing us. She seemed particularly annoyed that my husband asked for a refill of his tea after finishing his food. She brought us all a to-go cup. I would be willing to give this place another try, but my husband disagrees. This meal was $90 plus tip.
     

    JAMIESMITH

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2011
    After lunch we headed over to Fast & Furious. I know for a fact that Scarlett is not quite 40" tall, but no one stopped us from getting on with her, so we all got to ride. I had really low expectations for this ride, so I wasn't disappointed. We wouldn't go out of our way to ride it again, but we enjoyed riding anything all together and it didn't upset our stomachs after lunch the way some of the more aggressive rides would have.

    By this point Scarlett was worn out so we took turns going through the Express Lines for some of the bigger rides with one of the grown ups staying outside with the stroller. This strategy worked great!
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    First up was Transformers. My husband grew up playing with these and we've seen all of the movies. We all really enjoyed it.

    Madilyn and I rode The Simpsons Ride, but my husband skipped it for some reason.

    Then we went over to The Mummy. I think this was my husband's favorite of the trip, but we all really liked it.

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    I'm going to pause here with a few thoughts about Universal's photo service. I didn't get all of the ride photos. If there was a huge crowd around the photo screens, we usually skipped it. Universal's photo service is no where near as good as Disney's, in my opinion. There are very few actually photographers, a few photo stations scattered throughout the park, and ride photos that have to be manually added to the photo account. There's just no comparison. It was probably worth the $60 promotional price, but not the regular price.

    We walked back to the room around 5:00 PM. Jamie joined Scarlett in taking a nap. Madilyn had some homework to do for school and I'm taking a few online classes and needed to catch up on that course work.

    At 8:30 PM, we walked back to City Walk, in search of dinner. Islands of Adventure was closing at 9:00 and it was so crowded!

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    Bubba Gump Shrimp had an hour and a half wait and Toothsome had a two hour wait. We decided to walk over to Royal Pacific and see if Jake's was busy. We were seated there right away. We had a really good waiter, but I don't recall his name. We all started with sweet teas.

    I had the Herb Roasted Half Chicken which was served with asparagus and roasted potatoes. This was so good! I could have licked the plate clean! My husband got the B-1 Bomber Burger with fries which he said was also really good. He said it was juicy and had a steak-like flavor. Madilyn got a cheeseburger and a huge fruit cup from the children's menu. Scarlett got a hot dog and fruit cup. Scarlett ate maybe half her hot dog, but a lot of the pineapple, grapes, and strawberries. This meal came to $85 plus tip.

    This was our first truly great meal of the trip, so I'm glad we walked over to give it a try and see a bit of Royal Pacific. We were really happy at The Hard Rock, but Royal Pacific was gorgeous and just as close to City Walk. I would honestly choose the less expensive of the two for a future trip and be perfectly happy with either.

    We rode the boat from Royal Pacific to City Walk and then walked to Hard Rock. Scarlett loved the boat ride. I'm pretty sure this was her first time to be on one.

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    Horribly blurry cell phone picture.

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    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Glad you enjoyed Jake’s. It’s always a good choice for us.

    Shame about Lombards......but glad they sorted out your ticket without having to go back to the hotel.

    Nice pictures.
     

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