Travel: Universal Orlando Resort {Day 1}

When travel is one of your favorite things and you haven’t done it in over a year, sometimes you just have to say screw it.  Pandemic or not, it was time.  My sister, daughter and I chose our destination purely for the fact that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando has been on our list for a while, and the price was right.  We had our masks, were ready to socially distance, and were equipped with hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes.

We ended up flying Southwest and everyone on the plane was masked up, but FYI, if being socially distanced is important to you {it is to me, mainly because I hate strangers invading my personal space} there is zero social distancing at the airports or on the plane, obviously.

Once we landed, we took a cab from the airport to the hotel, also masked the entire time.

Universal Orlando the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Where We Stayed

Endless Summer Resort, Dockside Inn & Suites– This is one of the newer hotels at Universal Orlando.  We were told it opened in November 2020.  We believe we may have been the first people to stay in the room because it still smelled brand new and there wasn’t so much as a scuff on the wall when we arrived {wink, wink.}

When we entered the hotel, we were temperature checked and given a wrist band.  We were told to come down and follow the same procedure daily during our stay.  The wristband assured we wouldn’t be temperature checked at any other check point throughout the resort.

We stayed in a suite, so our room had a small kitchenette and dining area, main room with two double beds, a separate room with its own bed and one bathroom, of course.

For a budget and family friendly resort, we thought it was great.  It was clean and had a bar, and a Starbucks in the lobby.  What more can you ask for?  We didn’t really eat at the hotel, but there was also a food court which we utilized to buy water and snacks.

What We Did

Once we unpacked our bags, we headed to the bar and had a drink.  Then, we boarded the bus {they assign you a seat and it’s all socially distanced} and went to Universal CityWalk for dinner.

Hard Rock Orlando

We made our dinner reservations about three weeks in advance not knowing what to expect.  Restaurants have socially distanced tables and masks are worn anytime you aren’t sitting at your table.

This night, we ended up eating at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.  It’s kind of a steam punk/chocolate themed restaurant with a menu similar to The Cheesecake Factory.  Ella and I ate Fettuccine Alfredo which was actually delicious.

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium Orlando

Universal Studios Florida

Our main purpose for this trip was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

We had passes to both parks, so on the first day, we chose to start at Universal Studios Florida. We arrived around 8:30 a.m. and it opened at 9 a.m.

Universal Studios Orlando

The parks are running at 35 percent capacity but it’s a bit deceiving.  Universal doesn’t take reservations, and they cut off admission to the parks once they reach capacity.  So, if you’re in Universal Studios Florida and want to head over to Islands of Adventure, you might not be able to.  And once you leave the park, you may have to wait to get back in.

Some rides still have long lines, especially the popular ones.  Be prepared if you think 35 percent means it will be empty because it won’t be.

Daigon Alley

We made our way to Daigon Alley and figured out this was where at least 28 percent of the park was hanging out.  We started at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes where I bought a deck of cards, and then we headed over to The Hopping Pot where we immediately drank a Butterbeer for breakfast. It was delicious.  Cream soda and butterscotch whipped cream.  Yum!

Daigon Alley Orlando

 

Butterbeer

We then stood around and waited for the dragon on Gringotts Bank to breath fire thing before we got on the Hogwarts Express and headed to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure.

Gringotts Bank Orlando

Just a quick note – of the five rides in Harry Potter World two are virtual.  My sister and I both get motion sickness so we didn’t get to ride everything, which means Ella didn’t get to ride everything.  So, we didn’t ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in Daigon Alley, which was a bummer.

Also, as part of their COVID safety procedures, you get a squirt of hand sanitizer right before you ride any of the rides so you have clean hands.

Hogsmeade

The train was very cool and because of the safety restrictions, they only seat one party to a cabin.  Hogsmeade was a little more crowded than we expected.  Again, at least 28 percent of this park were also hanging out in Harry Potter World.

Hogwarts Express Orlando

We naively thought we were going to get in line for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, but boy were we wrong.  By the time we got to Hogsmeade at 11 a.m., this ride was on a virtual line for the remainder of the day and we were never able to get on it.

They use the virtual line to keep the crowds down.  You are assigned a time to ride the ride within a half hour window.  We planned better for the second day.

We ended up riding the Flight of the Hippogriff which is a kid’s roller coaster and was pretty lame, and we shopped in the Hogwarts gift shop.  We couldn’t ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey {motion sickness}, so we admired the castle from the outside only.

Hogwarts Orlando

Three Broomsticks

It was about 11:30 a.m. and we weren’t super hungry, but there was barely a line to get in here and we decided to take advantage.  We waited about 15 minutes and got a table without any issues.  The menu and ordering are all done via the app, and the food is delivered to your table.

We ate fish and chips, beef pasties, and for dessert we got Butterbeer Ice Cream.  The dessert was so good.  The rest of the food was decent, not great, but a step up from traditional theme park fare.

When we were leaving, the line to get in was huge!

Pool

We left the park around 1 p.m. and headed back to the hotel for some pool time.

We didn’t have to wear a mask while sitting at the pool, unless you were walking from one place to another.  There were no servers, so you had to go to the bar to get your own drinks and it took a really long time.

Dockside Inn & Suites Orlando

Universal CityWalk

After our pool time and a little rest, we headed for dinner at Universal CityWalk again.  This night, we ate at a restaurant called Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food.  I ordered tacos, but really wasn’t that hungry and I didn’t think they were great.  Ella ordered tostadas and she thought they were the greatest thing she had ever eaten.

The atmosphere was good and there was a mariachi band playing for your entertainment.

Antojitos Orlando

Jurassic Park River Adventure

After dinner, we went back to Islands of Adventure and rode the Jurassic Park ride.  It said the wait was an hour, but we got on in about 15 minutes. Ella was happy she got on a thrill ride and she thought it was amazing that I was the one in our group who got drenched.

Jurassic Park Orlando

They were testing the new VelociCoaster and running it empty that night.  It looks very cool and opens this summer.

We ended our day picking up a mobile order of Voodoo Donuts on our way back to the bus.  It was a fun end to the day.

Overall, we felt safe. We didn’t feel we were at risk of getting sick and we had a really great time!  Everyone was masked, socially distanced {spots were marked out in the lines} and hand sanitized.

We used the app for ride times, virtual lines and as a map.  It’s not the most user friendly {instead of one map of the entire resort, you have to select which area you want to see and you can only look at things in that area}.

Personally, I’d say they’re doing a great job of keeping people safe and staying operational.

Stay tuned for Day Two!

 

 

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