Last year we escaped winter for a few days by visiting a friend in Orlando. We took a late night flight on a Wednesday after work and arrived early on Thursday. If you recall, this is how we like to travel — late flights that allow us to maximize our vacation time.
After getting to our friend’s place, we crashed and spent Thursday by the pool. In the evening we enjoyed the food at Hunger Street Tacos and spent some the time catching up with our friend at Krungthep Tea.
Friday was spent at the Mall at Millennia, which is within walking distance of our stay. Once our friend returned from work, we went off to explore the bars and restaurants of downtown Orlando. There is a block party in Wall Street Plaza on Fridays and Saturdays, from 9pm-2am. We hopped clubs until 3:30am, and didn’t make it home until 4-5am. Almost as if we were young again!
On Saturday we explored Universal Studios. It was my first visit to Universal. The last time I was in Orlando, I only went to Disney World. As Roman had never been to Orlando before, we did both Universal and Disney. For Universal, we got the pass that allowed us into both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They have a third park, Volcano Bay, which is their water park, but we decided not to go there.
The two parks were incredibly fun! For those of you who don’t know, this is where you’ll find the Harry Potter rides. Harry Potter is actually split between the two parks. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios, while Hogsmeade (the wizard village) is in Islands of Adventure. The Hogwarts Express is a train that connects the two parks — ingenious planning on the part of Universal, as fans will surely want to see both parks and ride the train.
To be honest though, I think the train was quite boring. I love the construction of the two locations, and my favourite ride was Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (located in Diagon Alley).
Some other rides I enjoyed in this park: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Revenge of the Mummy. Revenge of the Mummy ride was probably the one we liked the most out of all the rides we did that day.
After the rides closed for the day, we settled in front of a stage as Macklemore was going to be performing for Mardi Gras entertainment at the park. Our friend joined us for this event. We saw a parade and then actually enjoyed Macklemore, quite unexpectedly. We were surprised at how many songs we knew and how wonderful it was to see him live.
On Sunday we woke up and drove out of the city. By the time we arrived in St. Pete, there was thick fog over the area. Still, we enjoyed the sun and waters at the beach before getting dinner at Hawkers. We walked down the main street, got some ice cream and then called it a night. We needed our rest as we would be spending another full day at a theme park on Monday; this time at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Okay, let’s start with how I do not like the changes to Disney’s FastPass+ system. We had a fast pass for Universal and it was worth the price, I’m not kidding. It’s not cheap going to these parks and then the fast pass is an additional cost, but it was SO WORTH IT at Universal. Disney, however, has changed their system, so you can only choose 3 rides that you get to cut the line with a fast pass. You want to do this as soon as you can (I believe you have a period of 30-60 days to pick depending on if you’re an annual passholder or not). You choose your 3 rides either online or on the app. After you have redeemed these 3 rides, you can make additional selections, one at a time. So, here is where things get really tricky. If your last ride is at redeemed at 4pm, you can only make selections after that, and it’s based on availability. So there might not be any rides at all, or it might be 3 hours later. And due to the popularity of this park, and likely others in Disney World, all three of those hours might be spent in line for 1 other ride.For a single theme park per day, you can make up to 3 FastPass+ selections in advance either online or using the mobile app and you may change or cancel your selections any time.
This park was so jam packed with small children, the lines were incredibly long and most of the rides were for a younger demographic. The only ride we really liked was the last one: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Then it was time to go find a spot for the fireworks show.
The Happily Ever After fireworks show is actually the very best part of Disney World. Okay to be completely honest, I’ve only ever been to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, but it’s definitely the best part of the Magic Kingdom. It happens every night, and it’s approximately 20 mins long. And it’s magical. Roman absolutely hated every part of the Magic Kingdom, but even he said that the show was worth it. We will probably never return, but if you get the chance to watch this fireworks show, I promise you, it will not disappoint.
After the show, I picked up some cute doughnut mouse ears and we headed to our beds. The next day was our last and again we spent it by the pool, soaking in as much sun as we could. That evening we had a fancy sushi dinner before going to the airport and flying home.