2018 isn't shaping out to be the carefree marital bliss Evan and I hoped for when we kissed as Mr. & Mrs. Meyers on December 30th of last year. Evan has been traveling for work and working late nights in the office far more than we expected, the house (including 2 bathrooms, all showers, and our master bedroom) has been gutted to the studs, and finances seem more front of mind and stressful than ever. Needless to say, we've been 'adulting' hard. And it sucks.
As luck would have it, we were given a pair of 2-day, 2-park passes to Universal Studios by Evan's parents for Christmas. Not only were able enjoy weekend of living out childhood dreams with no work stresses, house headaches and no adulting, but I truly believe we found the secret to tackling one of the world's most congested tourist traps without killing each other (or any small children) and without breaking the bank.
HOW TO DO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS IN A DAY.
Once you are among the first ones in the park, SKIP THE MINIONS. This family-loved attraction is the first ride, and like a fly trap, catches eager families prepared to wait in a 60-minute line right out of the gate. We were able to go through Jimmy Fallon's Race through New York, Transformers, The Mummy, ET Adventure, *break for a giant donut in Springfield*, and The Simpsons rides all before 11am (in that order and at a leisurely pace). You can probably squeeze in Men In Black, as well, but we had already done it the night before. Around 11am, however, the park is filling up and all lines are 45+ minutes without the $150 Express Pass.
So let's chat about the Express Pass : it is DEFINITELY worth the price if you can afford the park pass + Express pass, however we weren't willing to shell out the extra $300, and instead purchased the after 4pm Express pass for one park for only $50 each. See below for how this was A GREAT choice and key to your 1-day experience.
So back to the timeline, you've just breezed through 4-5 rides (two of my favorites, but read more about that below), and now, the time has come : Harry Potter World!!!!!!
***Here I remind you that we actually spent 2 days in the park, and on Day One I ran straight to Harry Potter because I couldn't wait a second to be immersed in the world that I dreamed of for so much of my adolescence. I recommend patience if you are only spending one day, however, because it is ALWAYS busy. Starting at 9am, lines were already 45+ minutes and all of Diagon Alley was crowed, so you might as well enjoy other areas while they're empty before joining the masses.
Once in Diagon Alley, join the sea of 9-year-olds and look around, go in all the stores, take all the pictures, drink all the butterbeer (highly recommend the frozen one! Evan liked the Dragons Scale ale, too). Gringotts ride is worth a 45 minute wait, but I recommend the Single Rider line - you bypass the exterior line where there isn't much to see, and the cool part of the line experience is inside where both lines walk side-by-side.
After you've soaked it all in and completed the ride, head on over to Kings Cross Landing's Platform 9 3/4 to take the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmead Village. Go straight for the Three Broomsticks pub and wait in line for lunch. Sadly, it could be a 30-45 minute wait, but trust me - you don't want to get hangry, and all restaurants throughout the park have waits right now.
Once well fed, make your way to Hogwarts Castle. This hour-wait isn't going to be fun, but if you are going to wait anywhere, this is where you want to do it! The entire line is so well designed, you start in the botany greenhouse and then make your way inside the castle. Every wall inch of the space is Hogwarts, so just enjoy the hour inside. Along the way, you meet the 4-founders through their talking portraits; Harry, Hermione, and Ron as they sneak around under the Invisibility Cloak; Dumbledoor in his office; and even the Sorting Hat!
Pick your favorites in both parks to reride while lines are short and single ride lines are open. Don't forget Island of Adventure closes at 8pm and you need to take the Hogwarts Express back to Universal, which doesn't close until 9pm. Be careful, however, as they often have parades or light shows that attract lots of people and crowd the exits. We slipped out of Island of adventure before the Harry Potter light show and out of Universal before the parade and were so happy we did.
It was a perfect experience and we cannot wait to go back to see some of the new attractions when they open!
Stay tuned for my reviews on all the rides and plan your next trip to escape adulting soon! Trust me, you'll be glad you did.