It’s time for the final post in the My Trip to Florida series! To see what we got up to in the first half of the trip, including Walt Disney World and Islands of Adventure, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. But now, let’s move on to the last few days of our trip, including what we got up to at Universal Studios and the rest of Disney World.
Sunday 10th November – Universal Studios
It was time for another bright and early Uber trip across the freeways to get to Universal Studios. Compared to our trip to Islands of Adventure on Friday, the park was really quiet. Perks of going off season I guess! As we were let in a little bit early, none of the rides or food places were open, so we had a nice meander around the park, spotting little references to films and film props, like The Blues Mobile. You really do feel like you are on the set of a film in most of the park, which contrasts so differently to the immersion you get at Disney parks. It’s not a slight on Universal at all, both concepts work so well!
We made our way over to what was really our main event; Diagon Alley (once a Harry Potter fan, always a Harry Potter fan). I had such a childlike jolt of excitement when I walked through the ‘wall’ and into Diagon Alley itself! We made our way through the shops, and held on tight to our dollars when we walked through Ollivander’s and Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop. We then hopped in the queue for Escape from Gringotts. Heavens, the theming in here was sublime! Through the queue, we made our way through Gringotts and saw the goblins at work, before descending into the offices and then the vaults. The ride itself is a steel coaster, but uses motion-based vehicles, projections, and special effects to makes it so much more than a normal coaster. The story of this ride follows a section of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to break into and then escape Gringotts Bank. Along the ride, you meet Bill Weasley, trolls, dragons, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Lord Voldemort himself, whilst dropping, tilting, and rolling around. Whilst I prefered the other Wizarding World rides at Islands of Adventure, it was still so much fun, from the queue system to the ride itself.
After Escape From Gringotts, we explored the dark magic infused Knockturn Alley and stepped into Borgin & Burkes. They even had a Vanishing Cabinet in there, and when you press your ear against it, you can hear the bird that Draco sent through the cabinet singing away! On the way out of Diagon Alley, we stopped at the famous Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour to see if they catered for those with allergies. Based on past experiences, I was expecting a big ol’ ‘nope’, but I was happily wrong! I came away with an Earl Grey & Lavender ice-cream, and Rory had a Salted Caramel Blondie ice-cream. They were so so SO delicious.
After filling our boots with dairy that we would inevitably regret later, we moved on through the park. We rode Men In Black: Alien Attack (extremely good fun, even if I am awful at aiming), walked through Springfield, rode The Simpon’s Ride (which made us feel a little sick thanks to the 3D aspect), and then ended up back at the front of the park. It was still quite early in the day which meant the lines weren’t too large, so we rode Hollywood RIp Ride Rockit. This is a huge steel coaster where you pick a song to play as you go around. I remember riding this as a child and it took the Pre-Teen Rosie prize of ‘Best Roller Coaster in Florida’. This time, I blasted No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good’ as we sped around, and left the coaster feeling beaten up and holding my head. I guess it was a lot bumpier than I remember. Still, it was a lot of fun, if a little shaky.
We looked through the lists of rides, and decided there was only one more we were interested in; Revenge of The Mummy. The rest of the rides were solely 3D/4D based, and as Rory gets motion sickness after a while, it wasn’t worth the risk. So, we headed over to the final coaster. The queue itself is enjoyable, as you move from a museum to an semi-interactive archeological dig site in an Egyptian tomb. The ride synopsis is simple; you are trying to escape Imhotep whilst he scares you with all kinds of nasties, like beetles, fog, and fire. It features drops and jolts, and is just the perfect indoor rollercoaster.
Before grabbing an Uber back to the hotel, we settled down for lunch, and I chose a place full of personal nostalgia; Mel’s Drive-In. As a child, I remember getting caught in a Florida thunderstorm and diving into the diner with my family to stay dry. We grabbed some burgers and fries, soaked in the fifties vibes, and headed back to the hotel.
After our usual rotation of jumping in the pool and napping, we decided to head to Disney Springs for dinner and window shopping! This was also the day I bit the bullet and bought the overpriced but lovely blue Spirit Jersey I had my eye on. I was adamant that we try Blaze Pizza, despite the queue that was coming out of the restaurant. As it’s a quick service restaurant, we were only queuing for about 20 minutes before we got served, and it was so worth the wait. To put it simply, Blaze is a Subway for pizza. You pick your base, sauce, cheese, and toppings, and it gets made right in front of you. It was also completely nut free, even the pesto, which was mind boggling to me. The food itself was delicious, and it’s no word of a lie to say it’s the best quick service on Disney property. After Blaze, we went on an expedition to do some window shopping, and to find some nut-free dessert (I’ll save you the debacle of how long that took – check out my post on allergens and Disney World to see how hard it was!).
Monday 11th November – Hollywood Studios
We both felt a little wave of sadness on this day; it was officially our final week at Disney World. Still, that was soon forgotten about when we turned up to mini-golf again. After some Mickey ice-cream sandwiches, and Rory getting the highest daily score of the Fantasia golf course, we hopped on the ferry, and headed for a long afternoon at Hollywood Studios.
This was another sticky and hot day Florida day (and I made the mistake of wearing a mesh style top, meaning I ended up with some interestingly printed tan lines). To cool off, we visited the new BaseLine Tap House for a drink. We sat outside, soaking up the sun and the atmosphere, and I enjoyed a Blood Orange Cider. After, we rode Star Tours, visited Galaxy’s Edge and walked around the park to kill some time before our dinner reservation.
We had booked a table at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant; a 50s themed restaurant showing clips of old B-movies, where you sit in actual classic cars! Whilst the food was pretty good (think upmarket burgers), this place was all about the theming. From the fifties to space, we headed back to Galaxy’s Edge for one more ride on Smuggler’s Run, before walking through Toy Story Land to get to our FastPass for Fantasmic. This was our first evening show of the trip, and was a lot of fun. The FastPass meant we got priority seating so we had a great view of the stage and lake set up. The show itself celebrated the cinematic achievements of Disney, and featured boats, pyrotechnics, and water projections. It had a great soundtrack, the crowd loved it, and the puppetry work was amazing; what more can I really say? The only downside was getting out of the arena; everyone leaves at the same time, your feet ache, and then the buses back up due to the numbers. We got back to the hotel much later than expected, but in all honesty, we didn’t mind one bit.
Tuesday 12th November – ECPOT and the Drink Around the World Challenge
We had a very lazy morning planned at the hotel, because we were gonna need it. At around lunch time, we headed off to EPCOT for our FastPasses for Livin’ with the Land and Test Track; both very different rides but just as enjoyable as each other. Normally, we mosy around the parks, going on rides, taking it all in. But today, we had a goal; EPCOT’s Drink Around the World Challenge (not an official Disney challenge, just a fun idea that’s been making its way on the internet).
It’s essentially an eleven country pub crawl, made all the better by the fact it was the Food & Wine Festival! Our Drink Around the World adventures were so much fun that I’ve already written all about them; you can find that post here.
Wednesday 13th November – Park Hopping
Once we returned from our EPCOT adventures the night before, we rang up the reservations board to nab a cheeky morning reservation for Oga’s Cantina. Rory was adamant that we return so he could buy his big merchandise piece of the trip; a beer flight board. So we got out of bed, actually very fresh and hydrated despite Drink Around the World, and began our day.
At Oga’s, I decided against an alcoholic drink and went for the Carbon Freeze; essentially an energy drink with popping and boba balls. Whilst I was bouncing off the walls thanks to the sugar, Rory got the Rancor Tooth Beer Flight. You can either buy the flight just to drink, or you can buy the actual flight itself, and that’s exactly what he did. Now ladened with a bulky box, we decided to head back to the hotel to drop it off, but not before stopping off to get some food I’d had my eye on.
In Toy Story Land, there is a quick service location called Woody’s Lunch Box, where they serve ‘totchos’. Oh daaaaamn. It’s essentially crispy potato barrels, topped with chill, cheese, queso, and nachos, and was one of the best things I ate at Disney World. It was greasy, very bad for you, but just delicious. We dropped off the beer flight at our hotel, and made our way over to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon. We walked through Maharajah Jungle Trek and had our second FastPass for Kilimanjaro Safaris. However, the main event was to see Pandora at night and to ride Flight of Passage.
Nighttime is truly when the theming comes alive for Pandora. The whole place is lit up in bioluminescence, and the air is filled with the sound of bugs and creatures. Whilst waiting for our FastPass to start, we sat amongst the rocks and plants and just awed at the place. The air was sweet and warm, and I was in a beautiful place with someone I love; it was a sickly sweet memory moment for sure. Then, it was time for Flight of Passage. This ride is a flying simulator, and is essentially an amped up and more thrilling Soarin’. Before going on the ride, there were a lot of warnings about motion sickness, and we had a horrible memory of riding Mission: SPACE at EPCOT. However, we had no real need to worry; it was a completely different kind of ride. The premise of the ride is that you link up with your own Avatar and get to ride on the back of a Banshee through Pandora. You are given 3D glasses, then you sit on what looks kind of like a motorbike; this simulates the Banshee, and you can actually feel the rise and fall of its breath as the ride goes on. The room and gigantic screen moves with you to really make you feel like you are flying. It was unreal. Flight of Passage is now top of my list for the best ride I’ve been on, and is tied only with Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure.
After a final ride of Na’vi RIver Journey, we darted off to the third and final park of the day; Magic Kingdom. Word to the wise – if you want to get a good spot for the fireworks, get there well in advance; I mean, an hour at least. Already running late, we went and got macaroni and cheese topped hot dogs (I know, but we were in America) from Casey’s Corner and and instantly the fireworks started. We couldn’t find a good spot so we watched most of it behind the branches of a tree. Despite this, it was still a beautiful and emotional experience, and I wept, unashamedly. We finished off the night by taking advantage of the Extra Magic Hours of Magic Kingdom, with short lines and everything sparkling in the dark.
Thursday 14th November – Final Full Day
And then it was here – our final full day. We had such a jam packed holiday and wanted to take some more time to relax, so we utilised our time to lie in, jump in the pool, and spent some more time at Magic Kingdom. Along with riding whatever had short lines, we had FastPasses for Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Talking about the latter, something amazing happened. As I mentioned earlier in the series, My Disney Account had noted us as celebrating our anniversary. When we left Space Ranger Spin, we had a notification to say our photos and videos were ready from the ride. The video was in fact a message from Buzz and Woody saying congratulations on our anniversary. We both found this utterly hilarious (and sweet), and couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of our time in Magic Kingdom. With the evening now in full swing, we decided to head to Disney Springs to pick up gifts for our families and work colleagues, and headed back to the hotel to slowly and sadly pack our bags.
Friday 15th November – Goodbye Florida
We had very little time to really mope about leaving today, as Extra Magic Hours were happening at Magic Kingdom in the morning. We hopped on the earliest bus and made it to the park for rope drop. With everything packed up, we hadn’t bought our ponchos with us. And this was the day it decided to rain almost non-stop. Still, we weren’t phased; we were at our final day at Disney World for Heaven’s sakes! So, we hit our favourite rides, visited corners of the park as yet unexplored, and left just before lunch. Yes, I did cry again.
We picked up our bags from the room, got changed into dry and more British winter friendly clothes, and went for our final lunch at the End Zone Food Court. We strolled out of the lobby, and waited for the Magical Express to pick us up. In my mind, it was no longer the Magical Express; it became the ‘I-Don’t-Want-to-Go-I-Want-To-Stay-Longer-I-Feel-Sad Express’. We were swiftly dropped at the airport, waited in queues for TSA, and then stepped on our flight home. We were tanned and relaxed, had spent our budgeted dollars, and were feeling like the luckiest people alive. It truly was the holiday of a lifetime.
So, we have reached the end of my three part series about my trip to Florida! I hope you enjoyed reading it, and maybe it has even helped some of you out there who are looking to book your own trip. I’ve had a few people ask about how much planning it takes to do a holiday like this, so I may even write a blog post on the trips and tricks I have built up. Let me know if you’d be interested!