This might have been our ‘Walt Disney World’ honeymoon but that doesn’t mean we were going to stay in the land of the Mouse the whole time.
When in Florida, you’ve got to make the most of it – whether you are there for the weather, the nature, the culture, or the theme parks. I’m not afraid to say we were there for the theme parks. So let’s jump in to some Universal Studios fun!
PS. Remember to catch up on Part One and Part Two if you haven’t already!
Day Seven – Universal Studios
This was the first time we had to arrange our own transport whilst in Florida – in the Disney bubble, you’ve got boats, buses, and monorails around every corner. But if you want to go anywhere else, ride sharing or taxis are the way to go. So with another early morning under our belts, we hopped in an Uber, and made the twenty minute trip from Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort to Universal Studios. We had purchased a three-park ticket for Universal Studios Orlando Resort, which included access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and their water park, Volcano Bay. The best bit? We could park hop throughout the day. Also, just like Disney has their Disability Access Service, Universal has their Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP), so we made sure to get one of these before queuing to get in the park.
It was an unseasonably cold day for Florida, settling at a spring-like sixteen degrees, instead of the scorching twenty-seven degrees that greeted us the week before. Reader, I disappointed myself. I pride myself on being prepared, a true tourist maverick, with a Mary Poppins bag on hand at all times filled to the brim with items for all occasions. But for this trip to Universal Studios, I failed. I didn’t bring a jumper – and this would be my greatest downfall.
Once we got into the park, we aimed to ride the music themed, thrill coaster Hollywood Rip Ride Rock It. But it was closed ‘due to cold’. I’ll admit, I was a wee bit chilly due to my vacation attire and lack of jumper, but I wasn’t cold. And in my mind, if Alton Towers can stay open until November, then Florida coasters should be able to handle sixteen degrees. But it wasn’t meant to be. So we meandered across the park and rode Fast and Furious: Supercharged, a screen ride based on the film series. Both my husband and I are not screen-based or 4D ride kinda folks (coasters forever, baby!), but it was enjoyable nonetheless. After we exited the ride, we noticed two things. Firstly, the rain had started. Gently at first, but raining all the same. And secondly? Those weekend and Thanksgiving crowds were starting the build.
We chose to hide from the rain by ducking into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and hiding in the doorway of Eeylops Owl Emporium. Walking into this area of the park is always breathtaking and evokes the most beautiful sense of childhood nostalgia. However, I found the magic to have lost some of its sparkle due to J K Rowling’s disgusting and obtrusive comments regarding trans folks. I don’t stand for TERFs and their views on this blog or in real life.
After getting a return time on my AAP for Escape from Gringotts, a thrill and 3D coaster based on the Gringotts caper in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, we stopped for a (nut-free!) ice-cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, explored the dark streets of Knockturn Alley, and watched families using their wands at interactive magic points. Once we had ridden Escape from Gringotts, the rain really started coming down. And it was cold, heavy rain.
After ducking into the shooting based dark ride Men in Black: Alien Attack to escape the downpour, we made the choice to park hop. Whilst Universal Studios is a staple theme park and a must-do for any film lovers, a lot of the rides are now 3D, 4D, or screen-based and it is not a whole day visit for someone with motion sickness, like my husband. If you do have a ticket that allows you to park hop, you don’t have to walk out of Universal Studios and around into Islands of Adventure – you can take the Hogwarts Express.
Once we arrived at Islands of Adventure via train journey, there were two immediate stops on the list. Stop one – Hagrid’s Magical Creature’s Motorcycle Adventure for a return time on the AAP, because the stand-by line was 150 minutes long. Stop two – the brand new VelociCoaster. With this ride only having a forty minute wait, and my conditions behaving well, we thought we’d give the queue a go. Forty minutes is nothing, right? And most of it is inside, right? WRONG. Most of the queue was outside in the pouring rain. And little old Rosie was jumperless. Yes, my husband offered me his but as I am a stubborn and independent woman who needs no man, I suffered it out. Plus, forty minutes when you have sciatica is not ‘nothing’ as I learnt the hard way. Still, rollercoaster junkies that we are, we braved it out.
Fifty minutes later, we were in the dry at the front of the queue, when the ride had to be stopped due to weather. We used this time to plonk my butt down on the floor and rest, as people started to file out, disgruntled. But, stubborn British people that we are, we waited. Thirty-minutes later, we were secured into the ride vehicle, getting hurtled around a velociraptor enclosure at seventy miles per hour. Opened in 2021, this is a new breed of coaster. The spins, the turns, the drops?! Two launches, rolls over water, and going over an eighty-degree angle drop?! It was impeccable. Whilst not my favourite rollercoaster, I can honestly say it is the best, smoothest, and most thrilling coaster I have ever been on. So much so, we could only ride it once for fear it may do our brains some damage.
But then it was time for my favourite coaster – Hagrid’s Magical Creature’s Motorcycle Adventure. No coaster cars here, you are sitting on the famous motorcycle. You can choose to sit either on the seat or in the sidecar, and you are taken around an outdoor Care of Magical Creatures class that goes slightly wrong. With drops through an old cathedral and speeding through the Forbidden Forest, it is unequivocally fun, even if the downpour started again mid-ride.
After being drenched to the bone again, and with my conditions starting to flare up due to that queue for VelociCoaster, we made the choice to head back to the hotel. A word of warning for any fellow Uber users on a Florida trip – if you leave at a busy time, when a lot of other people will be leaving, the price of an Uber can be extortionate. Our Uber back to the hotel cost almost double the price of the trip there. Still, we made it back to the hotel, filled up on hot chocolate in our refillable cups, and settled in for an evening of American TV and The Princess Bride.
Day Eight – Islands of Adventure by day, Animal Kingdom by night
For day eight, we went back to Islands of Adventure! After only riding two of the rides on offer, it just made sense. If you are a ride-fiend, like me and my husband, this is the park for you. Like the day before, we Uber’d over and got in the queue to enter the park.
First stop was an area of the park called Marvel Super Hero Island. Nowadays, we tend to associate Marvel with Disney, but this land is firmly comic book based and a treat for any Marvel fan. We got an AAP return for The Incredible Hulk Coaster and walked onto The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It’s a 3D track ride, where you have been given the task to get pictures of Spiderman, from J Jonah Jameson himself. It’s wild fun, and you don’t need any understanding of Spidey or Marvel to enjoy it. Whilst this is a 3D ride, the track aspect really helps to minimise motion sickness, which served both me and Rory well. Then it was time for The Incredible Hulk Coaster. Inversions, drops, and spins – it’s a classic.
By the time it got to 10am, the queues were enormous. This was the week of Thanksgiving and it felt like anyone who had time off was in the theme park. With the AAP, we managed to ride VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s again, as well as fitting in Jurassic Park River Adventure – a water ride around Jurassic Park where, of course, things don’t go to plan and you end up getting very, very wet. The queuing problem even extended to lunch. We chose one of the more quiet spots for lunch, and I ended up having to queue for forty minutes to get two pizzas. Yeah, my sciatica hated me.
Then, we did something that I still regret to this day. We went on a water ride at Rory’s request. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges to be exact. Reader, I was in a great outfit that day, complete with the denim shorts of dreams – I’m a big, booty gal and I had zero chub rub in these shorts. It was only when we were stepping onto the ride vehicle that I saw how wet people were when they were leaving this ride. It was like someone had taken a hose and doused them for twenty seconds. It was too late to turn back and save both me and the outfit. I used my chequered overshirt to try and direct any water off me, but to no avail. The ride had drops, waterfalls, and spray cannons, and we got wet via all of it. We exited the ride and I could feel it immediately. Ladies, I’m sure you know what happened. Water and denim do not mix and I got chub rub. I stood outside the ride like a drowned rat for twenty minutes trying to dry off. Sure, there were drying machines for you to stand in but I wasn’t paying twenty dollars for something the sun could do.
After complaining for what seemed like forever, I shut up, and made an effort to enjoy a few more hours of the park. But goodness me, I suffered with a level of chub rub and denim burn that I hadn’t had in years. After five minutes, it was hurting to walk and I could feel the burning. We agreed to get a final AAP return for Hagrid’s and get a butterbeer whilst we waited, but you would have thought I was severely wounded or acting like a shot deer. We could walk a few yards, and then I had to sit down immediately. Damn Rory and his choice of cotton shorts. Still, we made it on Hagrid’s for a final ride, took an excruciating walk back to the Uber rank, and Uber’d back to the hotel.
Reader, my top tip for packing is to always bring an emergency kit with you. Sudocrem saved my life that day. Well, it saved my thighs that day. After a few hours of being a true lady and sitting around in my pants waiting for the redness to go down, I slipped on some Snag chub rubs shorts, a cute dress, and we went out to Animal Kingdom for the evening.
Even if I was walking like John Wayne, this evening was a highlight. We jumped on one of the last Kilimanjaro Safaris and watched as evening hit over the savannah. Animal Kingdom in the dark is just beautiful. It already has the reputation as the most beautiful Disney park, but it seems to have different theming for darkness as it does in the day. Candles seem to float and the lights move overhead; the background noises feel like it is midnight in the jungle. We booked a return time for Expedition Everest on the DAS, and watched the sun set over the mountain. In actual fact, we managed to ride Expedition Everest three times in an hour thanks to the low crowd level which was so much fun.
On my honeymoon bucket list, I had a food location in Animal Kingdom down as a must do. Yak & Yeti is one of the famed sit down restaurants but they have a sister quick service window – this is where I wanted to go. We decided to head there for some dinner, but when we checked the menu on the Disney app, there was a heart shattering moment when the app told us it was already closed for the day. That was until we walked by and it was open. I’ve never ordered something so quick in my life. I had the renowned Honey Sesame Chicken with white rice and vegetables, and Rory had the Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich with kimchi, honey sauce, and fries. It was perfect. I’m salivating just writing this and I’m not even exaggerating. We both sat in the Florida heat announcing ‘oh my goodness’ and ‘this is unreal’ with every bite. If you are going to Disney World (and aren’t vegetarian of course), you need to put this on your bucket list.
We ended our night at Animal Kingdom with a spectacle – Pandora: World of Avatar in the dark. As you walk towards the land, the floor changes and spots of glowing ‘bioluminescence’ appear, before the land erupts before you in blues, pinks, and greens shining in the dark. When you first see it at night, it is a memory that will stay with you forever. We grabbed a Rum Blossom (a delicious frozen drink made of apple and pear limeade topped with rum and boba balls) and sat in the dark, watching the lights and water move around us. Then, just before the park closed, we managed to ride both Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage, before trekking back the buses; tired, full of food, and full of utter joy.
If you haven’t followed along yet, make sure to do so you can be one of the first to know when Part Four of my Honeymoon series is up and out! Writing these posts bring me such joy and nostalgia, and it also makes me happy that there are folks out there who are enjoying it too. Part Four will be out in two weeks, where I’ll tell you how we spent Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World and how to avoid all of the Thanksgiving crowds…
Thanks for reading,
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