Tuesday 10 October 2023

USA Day 9: Aventura Hotel & Universal Orlando Resort

We didn't have to wake up at 6.30am as we had done the past couple of days but we still awoke at 7.30am due to my usual morning alarm! 😅 We lazed around in bed and had a simple breakfast of eggs and instant noodles.

Since we had time, I headed to the pool for a final swim before checking out.

I had a great time soaking in the hot tub! We loved our stay at this Disney hotel (more details in my previous post in case you missed it)! 😊

We decided to drag our luggage from our room to the main lobby instead of calling for a buggy. Kinda regretted our decision as it was a super long walk! 😆 After checking out, we called for an Uber to Universal's Aventura Hotel, which was 1 of 8 official Universal hotels.

My initial choice was Hard Rock Hotel as it was walking distance from the parks and came with free Universal Express passes for each person, each day! I was really tempted especially since I'm a big fan of Hard Rock! However, we decided that the Express passes did not justify paying 3 times more because Universal was having a '5 consecutive park days for the price of 2' promotion! We should have enough time to complete our must-have rides without the need for Express Passes.

Aventura was the least like a theme park hotel as compared to other Universal hotels. However, it was relatively cheaper, newer and quieter.

We headed to our King Room after receiving our key cards. It cost us S$335 per room per night, which wasn't cheap for its size but we wanted the easy access to the parks and benefit of early park entry for hotel guests.

It was a simple room but had a nice view of the pool and nearby lake.

Bathroom was spacious but it didn't come with a bathtub.

Our themed hotel key cards seemed to be the only evidence that we had chosen an Universal Hotel! 😅

The amenities included the usual safe, iron and coffee machine. The most interesting was the tablet next to the phone that controlled the lights and TV. It was super convenient! I could scroll through TV channels easily and choose which one I wanted with a tap of my finger! 😊

Even though it was supposed to be our 'rest' day, we decided to head to the parks to maximise our park passes! Each pass (for 2+3 days) cost us US$373 (approximately S$520) and was the most expensive Universal pass I've ever paid! 😱 It was also pricier because of the Park-2-Park add on (I'd explain why later). Of course we had to make our money's worth! 😄

The bus stop to board the complimentary shuttle was located conveniently near the dropoff of our hotel.

We arrived at Universal Orlando Resort at around 1.30pm and the sun was blazing hot! It was our hottest day at the theme parks!

There were two parks: Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure. We could choose which one to enter from and decided to go with the latter.

As big Potterheads, the biggest reason for visiting Universal Orlando was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was located at the opposite end of the park!

Orlando is home to the biggest Wizarding World in the world! We were beyond excited! 😆

I immediately recognised Hogsmeade as it was similar to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan (USJ). However, unlike USJ, it's waaaay bigger here!

We wanted to ride Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey but both rides had very long wait times. Since we could possibly have shorter wait times for these rides when we utilise our early park entry the next two days, we decided to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff. The queue was 30 minutes but it was in the hot sun with very little shade! On hindsight, we shouldn't have queued as we managed to ride it the next day without waiting in line (more in the next post).

It was a fun baby coaster and we got to hear Hagrid's voice. There's something about his voice that immediately immerses you into the Wizarding World! 🧙🏻

We bought Butterbeer, which is a must-do for all Potterheads at the Wizarding World! It's like root beer, not real beer, which was unfortunate for some guests who apparently found it extremely appalling! 😅

We were excited to check out Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, and headed to Hogsmeade Station to board the Hogwarts Express. Unlike other replicas, this Hogwarts Express actually moves and links the two parks. You'd need a Park-2-Park to ride it, hence why we paid extra! We couldn't miss out on this unique experience! 😄

I can feel my excitement as we watched the train pull into the station. Each compartment onboard is an exact replica of the movies! It was super cool! 🤩

The 'window' was actually a screen that played different scenes of the Wizarding World and its characters, which gave you the illusion of travelling from Hogwarts to London! The 'doors' also flashed shadows of Harry, Ron and Hermione looking for something! Super impressed! Definitely worth paying extra! 🤩

We arrived at King's Cross Station in Universal Studios Florida (USF). The design of the station was like a cross between the actual King's Cross Station and Windsor & Eton Stations in London. However, unlike the actual King's Cross Station, there was no Platform 9 and 3/4!

The streets of 'London' felt very familiar to me, having been to London twice (2014 and 2017)!

You will not miss the triple-decker Knight Bus, complete with a talkative Shrunken Head just like the movies!

We almost couldn't find the entrance to Diagon Alley, which was intentionally hidden to stay true to the books and movies! I followed my intuition and walked through a doorway that looked like it didn't go anywhere but had crowds of people coming out of it. 

We were greeted with Diagon Alley! It was super cool! 🤩

We felt like we had entered another universe, like the set of a Harry Potter movie. The resemblance was so amazing that I re-watched all eight HP movies on my flights back just to feel like, "hey, I was there!" 🤩

Potterheads will recognise key landmarks of the books and movies, such as Flourish & Blotts and the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The latter was the exact likeness of the original in Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince! Super cool! 🤩

The focal point of Diagon Alley was Gringotts Bank, with with a fire-breathing dragon perched on top! 

The Ukrainian Ironbelly blew fire every 15 minutes and takes patience to capture it on camera!

We really wanted to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts even though the wait time was 80 minutes! I had to squeeze my backpack into a tiny locker as it wasn't allowed on the ride and I didn't want to pay for a larger locker. You gotta do what you gotta do! 😅

It was super tiring to wait in line for more than an hour but it was worth it! We enjoyed taking lots of photos in the waiting area, which was designed to replicate the movie sets! The attention to detail was spectacular! 🤩

We were especially impressed by the animatronic goblins that looked so realistic!

After taking a lift that seemingly brings us 'underground', we collected our 3D glasses. We had to queue to go up the stairs before it was finally our turn to ride!

There were a lot of special effects and one major drop so if you don't like drops, you'd have to decide if that's worth skipping this ride! We enjoyed it tremendously! Definitely a must-ride for Potterheads!

After our ride, we explored the rest of USF. 

The main attraction had to be the scariest ride, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I've watched videos of celebrities like Kevin Hart screaming his lungs out on this ride but it didn't hit me just how scary it really was until I saw it for myself! Yeah... no thanks! 😂

Instead, we rode The Simpsons Ride, which was a simulation ride that turned out to be better than we had expected!

We rode Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon next as it had a short wait time. I like Jimmy, The Roots and The Tonight Show so this ride was a must for me. However, the simulation effects were so-so compared to The Simpsons Ride. Not worth it if you have to queue for more than 30 minutes.

The wait time for Illumination's Villain-Con Minion Blast was just 30 minutes so we joined the queue. It was an interactive shooting game where you'd stand on a moving belt and shoot at screens.

The park was closing in 15 minutes so we decided to head back to our hotel after completing 6 attractions in just 5 hours! So much for wanting to chill on our 'rest' day! 😅 

We had to grab some cinnamon buns from the famous Cinnabon on our way back. They were really yummy!

We took the shuttle bus back to our hotel and cooked pasta for dinner.

We were so exhausted, we slept earlier at 10pm that night. We had to wake up and arrive at the park by 8am to take advantage of our early park entry for hotel guests.

It was a great start at Universal Orlando!


P.S: Here's the full list of my experience at Universal Hotels and Universal Studios around the world:

Universal Hotels

Universal Studios

Continue to >> USA Day 10-11: Hard Rock Cafe & More Rides at Universal Orlando
<< Back to USA Day 8: EPCOT, Disney World


Visit MADPSYCHMUM TRAVELS for the rest of my posts on Lexington & Orlando, United States of America as well as other travel itineraries

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