Since we were so successful at knocking out all the Harry Potter stuff in record time, we spent the rest of our 2nd day hitting the highlights of the other areas. All things Harry Potter aside, here’s how we spent the rest of our time at Universal Studios.
I may have mentioned that we were staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, one of the on-site hotels. We recommend you do this because it will grant you early access to the parks, plus free bus rides to and fro aren’t too shabby either. The hotel itself had a magnificent retro vibe. The architecture, decor, music, food, etc., was all 50’s-60’s themed. The only time we actually ate at the hotel, we had a wide array of “diner” faves to choose from at their cafeteria style eatery – hot dogs, burgers, pizza, mac n’ cheese, swedish meatballs, tuna noodle casserole, etc. You can check out the Bayliner Diner menu HERE.
The room itself was of ample size. Everything had a clean, chic appearance with bright and vibrant colors. Light fixtures & decor are retro, and even the hotel soaps are too. By the way, this ties in perfectly with Mad Men winding down. That’s how the hotel felt to me. Mad Men era-ish. The bed was extremely comfortable, then again, it’s hard to give an accurate statement about a hotel bed when you’ve been on your feet for 10-12 hours when even a rock hard floor would provide comfort. Only downside we experienced, were that the walls were super thin. How do we know this? Well, even in our DEEP sleep from an exhausting day, we were awoken by people stumbling in late at night and generally being raucous. But hey, it’s Universal, people are having a good time, I won’t judge.After we wrapped up Harry Potter early afternoon, we took stock of the highlights and decided to hit up what we could. Since Islands of Adventure often closes earlier and we were already in Hogsmeade, we headed into the rest of IoA first. It seems there are fewer rides and more attractions & shops in Islands of Adventure. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in one area. We did peruse through the shops full of cutesy Dr. Seuss merchandise in Dr. Seuss’s Landing and went on The Cat & the Hat ride….which was clearly designed for wee ones. Easy going and devoid of any thrills or scares, it provided some nice downtime for us. I can say they definitely nailed the overall feel and wackyness of Dr. Seuss. We cruised through Jurassic Park and said hello to the T-Rex. Confession, I LOVE Jurassic Park. One of the best blends of action/drama/suspense/thriller. It’s a freakin’ classic. And the grand reveal of Isla Nublar during the helicopter ride with John Williams’ dramatic score? Amazing every time.The discovery center was okay. Dinosaurs, educational puzzles, some hands-on games. Again, geared towards the younger crowd. We didn’t stick around long, just sorta waltzed through.
While in Islands of Adventure, we also rode two attractions that we didn’t get pictures of (bad blogger bad!). Spider-Man & The Incredible Hulk were actually two of the best rides there. Spider-Man feels a bit dated, but it’s still a ton of fun while the Hulk coaster is just an old-fashioned twisty-turny steel coaster. Kara didn’t ride it, but I loved it. One of my favorites.
I snapped a pic of Blondie’s while in Cartoon Land because I have a childhood weakness for Dagwood.Sadly, I have a feeling Cartoon World may be on it’s way out. We were asked to fill out a survey while walking through there that was polling general interest in the area, which usually means they’re thinking about an overhaul. Gotta keep the park fresh!
We wandered back over to Universal Studios (via Hogwart’s Express of course) and had better luck finding more thrill packed rides.
One thing I noticed about Universal is all their waiting areas are unique and keep you winding through some interesting area. For example, the waiting area for the ride at Hogwart’s Castle is actually INSIDE the castle and you get to see different areas as you move along. Here’s the Transformers waiting area which included military briefings on hi-def screens, lots of metallic decor, and the all-spark encased in a nifty glass case.The Mummy was easily one of the better rides. Dark, fast, thrilling. We didn’t go in expecting much and came out pleasantly surprised. Beware of fire is all I’ll say.Minion Mayhem was the busiest non-Harry Potter ride. It consistently had a wait, even with how slow the park was while we were there. Unfortunately, we didn’t enjoy it very much. Lots of waiting, shuffling into one area and being talked to on a big screen from Gru, then shuffled into another area for some more big screen hijinks from Gru and a minion. Finally, you make your way into a very large theater with seats that vibrate and sway side to side while you follow the action on the giant IMAX screen. The young ones will no doubt insist on this ride due to Despicable Me’s current popularity, so take them along, it will certainly be fun for them. But for adults? Meh. But DO take your time through the gift shop for some pretty cute merch.One of the bigger, newer, and more colorful areas was Springfield – the new Simpsons Land. You can tell they put a lot of effort into this place. Every building is perfect down to a tee. The ride at Krusty Land was pretty solid. Played out like a wacky Simpsons episode. Again, Universal did a great job reflecting the feel of Springfield and representing all it’s characters accurately. By late afternoon we needed a late lunch/early dinner so we hit up Finnegan’s Bar & Grill for a spot of comforting Irish fare. They bring you some good old fashioned soda bread to munch on. We ordered the potato & onion web, which was a great appetizer. Thinly sliced onions interwoven with matchstick style potatoes and then deep fried together. Mmmm….
And we couldn’t pass up shepherd’s pie. All that walking on a cool, gray, rainy day and this Irish classic hit the spot. It was served up with Irish style steamed veggies – broccoli, carrots, and cabbage topped with a cheesy sauce.
We certainly made the most out of our two days at Universal. Naturally, the main draw right now is Harry Potter and it didn’t disappoint, but it’s nice to know that there’s quite a bit to do once you’ve had all the Wizarding World you can handle.Til next time Universal!