Universal Orlando Resort Trip Report

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This Universal Orlando Resort trip report covers my first visit to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade areas opened. Actually, my first visit in a long time.

Not to date myself, but my last visit before this was shortly after Islands of Adventure first opened, and when my must-dos at Universal Studios Florida consisted of the likes of Earthquake: The Big One, Kongfrontation, Back to the Future, JAWS, and…well, you get the idea. It had been a long time, and parts of the parks were virtually unrecognizable from what I remembered.

Expect a lot of Disney comparisons and “Walt Disney World v. Universal Orlando” type stuff, because Disney is what I know, not because I have some oddly misplaced sense of loyalty to Disney and refuse to accept the fact that any other theme park could possibly be as good as Disney. (I know, I know…nobody can touch the themed masterpiece that is Dino-Rama…)

This Universal Orlando Resort trip report will also include a lot of photos of the new Diagon Alley area of Islands of Adventure, as that’s probably where I spent 50% of my time during my days in Universal. I’m not even a Harry Potter fan, but I was absolutely blown away by this land, which I consider to be Tokyo DisneySea caliber (for those who don’t follow my Disney postings, that’s basically my highest praise). I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though, I’ll be gushing over Diagon Alley enough in the subsequent posts on the trip report.

I’ll be posting it in several parts over the course of the next couple weeks. If you’ve read my Walt Disney World trip reports in the past, the format here will be somewhat familiar and somewhat different. I intend upon doing “break-out” posts for certain subjects within this trip report (I mean, I could write 10,000 words and share almost as many photos of the greatness that is E.T. Adventure alone!), so I’m not going to fixate on anything too much, and instead just share some photos, and general impressions.


Click on the links below to view each installment of the trip report. Links will become active as new installments are posted:

Part I  – Rope Droppin’ Diagon Alley
Part II  – Night Photographin’ Diagon Alley
Part III  – Christopher Walken=National Treasure; Michael Bay=America’s Butt Pimple
Part IV  – Overall Impressions and Random Musings

If you just can’t get enough of the photos here in this Universal Orlando Resort Trip Report, “Like” the TravelCaffeine Facebook Fan Page to see more photos. I will be posting preview photos there, plus “outtakes” that don’t make the trip report!


I’ll level with you–after not being too active with this blog for a while, I’m trying to kickstart it again and post here on a regular basis. If you enjoy this trip report, the photos, whatever, I would greatly appreciate it if you’d share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc., via the social media buttons on each installment to help spread the word. I also love reader comments offering any type of feedback, questions, or thoughts you have…it lets me know people are reading, and everyone loves comments, right?!

14 replies
  1. Katie
    Katie says:

    Tom, I feel like at some point I read comments you made about Universal and motion sickness (specifically that Sarah had issues with some rides), but now I can’t find it in your archives. I’ve done enough research to realize that a majority of their rides have the potential to make people queasy, but what are your thoughts? I don’t normally have an issue, Expedition Everest has proven the only exception at Disney for me, but the mixed comments I read on some of Universal’s headliners (Forbidden Journey for example) have me nervous. Our first Universal visit is coming up soon. Thanks!

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      “Expedition Everest has proven the only exception at Disney for me…”

      That’s the same for Sarah and, unfortunately, she has an issue with motion sickness on many of Universal’s attractions. Forbidden Journey is not too bad for her, but doing it a few times (or that plus Transformers and Spider-Man) does pose problems.

  2. Tricia
    Tricia says:

    TOM! you NEEEEEED to go see the new London side at Universal Studios in Orlando. The detail is even more amazing, dark and sinister in Knockturn Alley and the London Train station is amazing. The Hogwarts Express between London and Hogsmeade was entertaining. I am a longtime Potter fan, but this new land absolutely blew me away, by any standard. I had breakfast at Be our Guest the next day, and I have to say, I think this experience was on par. The new Gringotts ride is my favorite ride, ever, even up against Space Mountain! Go. See. Feel all the Feels!

  3. Tina Griego
    Tina Griego says:

    Which would you suggest for Universal & IOA the week of the 4th or Christmas week are either of these at all a little less crowded than the other?

  4. Amber Dana
    Amber Dana says:

    Awesome! I read your Disney blog religiously–it was invaluable in planning our first trip to WDW this past October. We are going again in October 2016 (yes, I am a mad planner!) and will be doing 3 days at Universal this time. I have 3 boys who love all the Marvel stuff, and we are all huge Simpsons and Harry Potter fans…can’t wait to study up on your posts for our trip!

  5. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    We are planning a trip to both Disney & Universal in September and am loving your posts, I need to book accommodation for the Universal section of my holiday – any recommendations? My daughter is a mad HP fan and this whole holiday is planned around 3 days for her at HP World she is very excited and we just want to give her the best experience ever. Any help would be appreciated

  6. melissa
    melissa says:

    When we were in Orlando in October, we spent 5 days at Disney and 3 at Universal ! (3 was a bit much, 2 would typically be adequate, but we are huge Harry Potter fans and wanted to spend as much time soaking up Diagon Alley as possible). Before Diagon Alley was added, we thought of Universal Studios as an after-thought to planning a Disney vacation. Now we will, without a doubt, plan on spending a day or two at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure on every Disney World trip we make. I cannot adequately explain how impressed I was with the entire set up of Diagon Alley, and would reccomend it to everyone; even non-Harry Potter fans. Do not miss an opportunity to check it out for yourself!

  7. dawn
    dawn says:

    we too just got back from Universal-our first time. I can sum it up in 2 words-LOVED IT!!! My kids read all the Harry Potter books, watched the movies, etc. I did NOT. I highly recommend this park to anybody-it is amazing! I loved the train ride from the 2 parks, as I am a puker and cannot ride the roller coaster & 3d/4d rides. My girls and mil all did & loved it. Another plus is that they have a dining plan that you can purchase right in the park, even if you don’t stay on property (unlike Disney) which saved us a TON of $$.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      I know NOTHING about the Universal dining plan, but am planning on doing a lot of research into it to see it’s for me before the next visit. Any pros/cons tips with regard to it?

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Thanks so much! I love your Disney stuff and since we are looking at planning our first Florida (as opposed to CA) trip we are thinking of at least one day at Universal as well. (I love Harry Potter)

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      The added cost of a day at Universal (especially if you wouldn’t otherwise rent a car) is high, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan, it’s probably well worth it!

  9. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    i can’t wait to read about your trips to universal! My family is talking about a trip down to DISNEY at the end of the summer and my husband wants to make one day at universal!


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