I was recently invited by Universal to experience the parks starting at sunrise while capturing as many Instagrammable moments as possible. The time spent in the nearly empty parks really helped me appreciate all the incredible details and sparked the inspiration to share this post. Universal truly has created some special magic in their parks and I feel so thankful for the opportunity to fall in love all over again. Below I'm sharing my highlights from the weekend that could also double as reasons I think you shouldn't sleep on these parks. (I'm looking at you Disney fans! Add a few days to your next trip and hop over to the Universal bubble...It'll be worth it.)
Highlights from the weekend:
Staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort! This is hands down mine and Scott's favorite resort. I know I know, that sounds crazy because it's just a value resort, right? Wrong! You cannot beat those amazing views of Volcano Bay Water Park (located walking distance next door.)
I feel like I'm transported to an exotic island in this room yet I'm only paying around $150 bucks a night- crazy!
In addition to the views: the retro theming is so immersive, the colorful decor accents are so vibrant, the food options are great, they have a Starbucks (pink drinks at the ready!), the amenities are fabulous and there's super easy access to the Universal parks. Circling back to the amenities, I'm talking about two massive sand beach swimming pools complete with water slide and lazy river, two outdoor bars serving up some of the yummiest frozen drinks as well as a retro bowling alley, just to name a few.
Highly recommend this resort but make sure you request a room in one of the towers facing the water park.
The first park we experienced during this media event weekend was Volcano Bay Water Park. This was my third time there and I was very excited to be back. I gotta tell you, this is NOT your average water park... it has some of the most thrilling slides I've ever seen and it has some really beautiful scenery as well. Universal has done an awesome job of making it feel like a tropical paradise where fun and relaxation flow in perfect harmony! Also some cool tech is utilized for the guests known as the "TapuTapu" system. This wearable band (similar to magic bands at WDW) lets you hold your place in the ride lines. After reserving your time slot for the ride of your choice, you can enjoy the lazy river, wave pool, eat, lounge, whatever you want instead of standing in a long line. Yes you are still technically waiting for the ride BUT you have freedom to do what you want while you wait. My very impatient self says THANK YOU AND BLESS YOU.
Our last morning we started in to Islands of Adventure around 5:00 AM and as soon as I stepped foot into the park my tiredness no longer existed. I was absolutely enamored with the magical sights around me. It may sound crazy to someone who has never been but you'll be pleasantly surprised by how perfectly themed this park is! I'm also a major sucker for cinematic music and you'll find lots of that here. Marvel, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Dr Seuss are some of the main sources of inspiration for the many lands you'll explore and they're all such fun areas to experience.
Our next stop was Universal (my favorite!) and admittedly we spent most of our time in Diagon Alley. I am not a Harry Potter fan but HI HELLO I'M A HUGE DIAGON ALLEY FAN! This area is small but makes a very impactful impression. The buildings, the walls, the signs, the sounds, everything is spot on with the story telling. Scott and I eat at The Leaky Cauldron quick service dining a few times a month because the fish n chips are so yummy. Of course you can get the famous Butter Beer in here but I always opt for ice-cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour! I remember visiting Diagon Alley soon after it first opened in 2014. I hadn't seen much online about it so I was in complete shock when I realized the dragon breathed real fire! From the amount of photos we took, you can see there are sooo many cool photo spots! Lots of little nooks and crannies to get that perfect shot.
I really hope you enjoyed this photo tour and recap of my Universal weekend. I love being a UO pass holder and visiting often so let me know if you'd like to see more posts dedicated to Universal. Also if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them. Thanks so much for reading and thanks to Universal for hosting me!
I couldn't finish this post without thanking my wonderful friend Emma for attending the event weekend with me and taking most of the photos. You can check her work out at Emma Anne Photography and book her for a session if you're in the Orlando area! I also want to thank Scott for allowing me to use some of his photos mixed in as well.