About us/why we went: We took DS to AoA on free dining when he was 2 for a nice, 5 day, Disney-only trip that was great. But my hubby and I LOVE universal, especially IOA. My 30th bday was an adults-only trip to the Wizarding World. Amazing. Now DS is approaching 5 and we recently found out #2 is on the way. I wanted to do something fun that my son would remember forever before baby and kindergarten and moving across the country in 2019 rock his world as he knows it. Problem is, with crappy maternity leave (read: no vacation time) and hip problems that get serious mid-second trimester w/ pregnancy and a husband that works most weekends, we have to do it now. Our next Orlando trip will probably be when #2 is 2ish, so, you know, years! AND kiddo is 44" tall with shoes, so let's go! We spent our arrival day in MK (not smart - read about that here) and were ready for some HP-grade magic Friday, March 2. Crowds were projected to be low, and we wanted to hit the highlights of both parks in one day, so we arrived before park opening. After an annoyingly long wait in line (we always manage to pick the slowest one), we were IN! First stop was a walk-on, no-line Despicable Me, which DS and DH loved. I sat in the stationery seating as recommended for preggos and thought it was fun. We skipped Shrek and went straight to Transformers. Again, no lines. DS & DH came out PUMPED, and DH (an MD) said “that wasn’t as bad as the turbulence on the plane. You can definitely ride.” So, with “my” doctor’s blessing, I rode transformers and watched my DS light up. He LOVED it. He was terrified of the bad guy (I forget his name) we took pictures with afterwards, but was quickly smiley when we happened upon spongebob’s show/parade thing. We watched the whole thing and decided to skip ET because of 30 minute lines projected and the fact that 1) DS hasn’t a clue 2) DH and I have ridden it multiple times. We headed to the simpsons, where DS and DH rode Kang & Kodos and where inappropriate jokes hopefully went over DS’s head at the Simpsons ride. The part where they squirt out the baby powder smell STILL has him talking. “I did not like that stinky baby ride. It made my tummy hurt.” DH, a huge simpsons fan who hadn't been to USF since that part opened, loved it. Then it was finally, FINALLY my time for HP world. DS has seen the early HP films (before they get too scary), and I had brought my wand from last time, so he was pretty excited. We watched for Kreacher and then went through the wall to Diagon Alley. It was 11 am and we had granola bars for breakfast, so we dipped into the Leaky Cauldron before the line formed. DH, who is not easily impressed and doesn’t love theme parks, was gushing about the theming. It really is THE best. He loved his frozen butterbeer. DS didn’t like that OR the fishy green ale, which I thought he’d love for the boba, but that was a wasted $6. Food was fine. We then waited about 10 minutes for Ollivanders, which scared my DS a little but he thought was very magical. He picked out Harry’s wand and we walked around doing magic tricks for a while. DS decided he wanted robes, and I tried to distract him. DH was like “why?! Get him some robes!” and then he saw the $115 price tag (he’s still in training for 15 more months, no MD salary yet and YEARS of loans to pay) and got in on the distraction game. Best distraction ever? Gringott’s. I have ridden and we were still in the “not sure if I should ride stuff” mode, so they hopped in line and I grabbed Florean Fortescue’s and a fizzy orange drink. DANG that orange drink was good. I ate about 1/3 of my cone and caught a few minutes of Tales of Beetle the Bard. Knockturn Alley is about the best immersive theme park experience I can imagine, and DH was impressed. DS was scared, which meant it was good! He definitely did not want to make the shrunken heads sing, but liked making the bird puffy and making the troll skeleton dance. We then waited in line about 20 minutes for Hogwarts Express. We had skipped so many good attractions in USF, but we were already approaching 1pm with a 7pm close for IOA. Train ride was of course fantastic. We hopped off and immediately snagged frozen butterbeers for us and lemonade for DS to beat the heat. When I was last in the wizarding world, I was with someone who couldn’t make the restraints work for Forbidden Journey, so I didn’t get to ride. I decided we would go through the line, child swap and let DH ride first. If I received the doctor’s blessing, I would ride. The castle is, of course, phenomenal. Every little detail is so wonderful. DH rode and declared it safe, and I finally got to experience the ride! DS loved the movies playing in the child swap area. Maybe I’m used to the craziness of stuff like the Hulk, but I also thought it was totally fine for early preggos (I’m only 14 weeks and not showing). While DS and DH rode the hippogriff, I got some no-melt ice cream (icing in a cup… yum!) at Honey Dukes and walked around window gazing and shopping. DS loved hippogriff and wanted to ride again, but that 30 minute line 2x was a no. I said goodbye to my happy place and we walked straight into JP. Now, I’ve seen that movie no less than 50x. A little obsessed. We explored the discovery center, DS got to help the dino doc take a baby triceratops’ heart rate (pretty sure he thought it was a real one), and, against my better judgment, hopped in line for the river ride. I thought it would be too scary for DS. Well, the ride went down before we even found the end of the line, so we backed out and headed to camp Jurassic. I rested while the boys had water fights and explored the whole place and loved it. The pteranodon flyers was virtual ticket only, so we skipped that. We had icees and a pretzel and headed to Kong. DH was not up for a half hour wait, I was convinced it would be too scary for DS, so we skipped it. Kinda wish we hadn’t, really. We had planned to let him run it out at Me Ship, the Olive, but that and the barges were closed for refurb. But, oh look, the log flume! Doesn’t that look fun! Don’t you want to ride it, mommy? No, no I do not. Well, DH didn’t really fit in those awful, awkward seats. Since the barges were closed, up the ripsaw falls we went. SOAKED. 100% head to toe just stepped out of the shower soaked. DS was having the time of his life. DH had a good laugh. While I took a potty break, betty boop and popeye tried to converse with DS. He had NO clue who they were but told them all about spiderman. I’m sure they’re used to being a path to Marvel world by now for anyone under 20. Off to Spiderman! DS loved the ride almost as much as transformers. Wait was almost nothing. We skipped the line to meet captain America, as the day was winding down and we hadn’t even hit Seuss world yet, which we knew he’d love. We did take a minute for DH to hop in the single rider line for Hulk, because Hulk is awesome. Boy did DS love Seuss. The only line longer than 5 minutes was the trolley, which DS declared “slow,” but red fish/blue fish, the caro-seussel, the splash play area, cat in the hat… He adored all of them, and we loved watching him have fun. While he played in the splash play area, I checked the Disney app for dinner reservations since we had over $100 left on a gift card, had missed the fireworks the previous night (see my WDW TR).. and lo and behold, 1900 Park Fare reservation at 730! We had an hour to get from right next to the dang entrance of Universal to the Grand Floridian… and it took all of that hour, because I4 is a moron magnet, apparently… there were at least 4 stopped cars in the 10 miles between parks. But the fireworks were worth it. Wish Universal had something similar... kiddo doesn't know what mardi gras is, though i'm sure the parade was great. Overall, we loved our Universal day better than magic kingdom and legoland by far. Next trip we will stay on Universal property and give it a full 3 days to experience both parks plus VB. Our hotel was the Best Western Gateway about a mile from the parks. It smelled like it’d been in Florida for 30 years without good ventilation… aka musty and moldy. Was otherwise fine, but I would’ve been mad had I paid cash instead of using points.