A Universal Adventure: First Timer’s Guide

My recent trip to Universal Orlando was truly an unforgettable experience. Venturing into the parks for the first time, my husband and I, who have quite distinct activity levels, dove headfirst into the magic Universal had to offer.

A Tale of Two Walkers
While I tend to be more sedentary, tipping the scale at over 220 lbs, my husband is the athletic type. Surprisingly, walking 6-10 miles daily around the parks wasn’t the challenge. It was the prolonged standing that took a toll on my legs.

Footwear Matters!
Men’s double wide Skechers Go Walk sneakers became my best friend. With foam inside, they cushioned each step, making the endless walking manageable.

Tackling The Attractions Without Express Pass
Despite not having an express pass, we managed to cover almost everything. Universal Studios held our attention for the first two days, where attractions like Gringotts and the underrated Jimmy Fallon ride wowed us. Notably, the Bourne Stuntacular was a stunning blend of stunts and cinematics.

On our third day, we entered the Islands of Adventure late, opting for Jurassic Park activities and the Marvel attractions. The following morning, early entry allowed us a quick dive into Harry Potter’s magical world. Waits were minimal, and the rides were pure magic.

Toon Lagoon: A Pleasant Surprise
Taking a detour to Toon Lagoon was the best decision. The splash zones were ideal for cooling off, and Cathy’s ice cream? An absolute treat.

Farewell, Universal
Although we missed a few things, we plan to catch up on our final day, including the Horror Makeup Show. Throughout our journey, Universal felt expansive and feature-rich, especially compared to Islands of Adventure. However, the latter impressed with technologically advanced rides.

A Stay at Dockside
Endless Summer Dockside was our choice of stay. While affordable, it’s crucial to note the noise level – the absence of soundproofing was evident. However, daily housekeeping was impeccable. The shuttles made transportation to and from the parks a breeze. There were no sit down style restaurants in this resort. They do have a Starbucks and a cafeteria. Our next stay will be at Portofino for only $100 more a night, 8 restaurants, live entertainment and those free express passes which alone cost $150 if not included in your hotel package.

Final Thoughts
Disney always held a special place in my heart, but Universal has now carved its own niche. There are areas of improvement, especially in ticketing and in-room amenities. But for the price, it offers incomparable value.

For anyone planning a visit, a five-day stay feels just right. And if you can, consider staying at places like Portofino for added benefits like express passes.

Universal Orlando, you’ve been a joy. Until our next visit!