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Old 04-12-2021, 06:49 PM   #81
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Old 04-13-2021, 10:26 AM   #82
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Default It's Universal Day!

Today started with very early mornings for all of us. We had a plan to divide and conquer once again. Aunt K and I were in the car on the way to Hard Rock by 0700 with hopes of picking up our hotel keys which also serve as Express Passes. Waldo and Nana were packing up the van, well Waldo was. The girls ended up going with Aunt K and me, and the boys were slow to get up (no surprise there!). My biggest concern was being locked out of the parks because of capacity issues. I think I was having flashbacks of NYE at Disney where you hope you make the cut. It turns out that the rush was for naught because the wonderful lady at the front desk informed us that if the parks (or when this week) reach capacity, hotel guests get priority to get in. She said if you have to wait, it would only be for a few minutes. As soon as other guests leave, we could enter. Well, we could have slept in I guess.

Ah well, for being in a bit of a hurry, the process was seamless. In fact, I was very impressed with the hotel and service from the get go. We took the keys for everyone but Nana and went downstairs for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. They kept Nana's key at the desk to give to her when she arrived. Nana needed a day off, and though she had to wait for a room, it was still better than trekking through parks. I had also asked for first available room for her and told them we did not need rooms close together.

Waldo and the kids met the rest of us outside eating breakfast. The weather was beautiful, and the coffee was good. When all were finished and passes were distributed, we headed off for the short walk to studios. I have said this was the kids first stay on property, and they were so pleased with the ease of access the hotel afforded to the park. No cars, no parking, just a leisurely walk through a pretty path. We made it through the entrance just fine, all annual passes worked and headed straight for the Hogwarts Express. I forgot to mention that while we were sitting at breakfast, the virtual queue opened for Hagrid's. Aunt K and I both scored 7 passes, and our first one was at 0930ish.


At King's Cross

Bear trying to get through to Platform 9 3/4...we have been teasing her because her want was broken in half. Told her she had been expelled...



On our way to Hogwarts...a motley crew for sure.



We arrived with plenty of time for our virtual line, and we were so excited to take the kids on this ride for the first time. Unfortunately, some of the excitement waned as the wait grew. I am not sure why there were such delays, but the wait ended up being 2 hours. I have frequently told the kids that I would easily wait an hour for this ride because I enjoy it soooo much. However, I would not wait easily two hours for anything, truth be told. Waldo and I had been to Universal in September on a whirlwind weekend getaway, and with all COVID precautions and virtual queue use, we never waited over an hour...and that included a breakdown.


Early in the wait...


Later in the wait...


We did manage a great pic of the castle which now populates my phone wallpaper...



We realized while in line that there was no way we would make our next virtual reservation, so I attempted to change it. This screen showed up, and I will confirm that we were able to get another slot at the 1100 release time.



We chose not to ride again because we had no desire to take our chances on another two hour wait. We had better things to do.



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Old 04-13-2021, 10:35 AM   #83
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I forgot to mention that while we were sitting at breakfast, the virtual queue opened for Hagrid's. Aunt K and I both scored 7 passes, and our first one was at 0930ish.

Congrats!

I hope you have a wonderful stay over at the "other" side. Looking forward to seeing your experiences at Universal, since we literally never go.
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Old 04-13-2021, 12:24 PM   #84
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Default Funny Pics

Aunt K sent these to me later, and it landed in my photo stream right in the middle of our Universal days...



It's a size 14, in case anyone is asking.



And she ALMOST kept her eyes open this time.
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Old 04-13-2021, 03:52 PM   #85
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My step sister and husband went to the Dark Side last week with her grandson and they had great time. She loved Hagrid’s. I hope you enjoy!
Fun!!!
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Old Yesterday, 09:01 AM   #86
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Default End of Universal Day 1

I have to say that it is much easier to tour the "Dark Side" right now with COVID restrictions. Of course, we had express passes from staying at Hard Rock. That makes a big difference. More on our trip during the COVID transition later.

If anyone here has spent any time in Universal (Studios and/or IOA), you may know that Hogsmeade tends to fill up as the day goes on. There are multiple attractions crammed into one section of the park with tight walkways. Lines were moving pretty quickly, but the crowds quickly become a bit much for me. We drank our beers (I had one off of the secret menu and the butterbeer for the kids of course), and rode the other two attractions "Flight of the Hippogriff" and "Forbidden Journey" with our passes. I have to say that I have not ridden "Forbidden Journey" since our first trip six years ago. During that trip I became so nauseous that I closed my eyes for half the ride willing myself not to lose my lunch all over my darling daughters. This time through I had Aunt K sit right next to me and tell me when to close my eyes. I just wanted to see all the things I missed the first time through. What ended up happening was I skipped all the screens. This was just fine, and I think I can add the ride back to my list in the future with the modification. (I ride FOP this way too, closing my eyes when we move fast.)

We then left Hogsmeade and headed to the Jurassic Park section to ride the water ride. Always fun, and we love the drop. The goal was for the kids to end up on the water rides in Toon Town, so we rode King Kong Skull Island on the way too. At this point, we sent the kids with Aunt K and Mama Bear to the water rides, and Waldo and I walked back around to the Poseidon area by Mythos to get lunch at FireEaters Grill. I had heard a review of the gyros and falafel and thought it sounded like a good and different park food. It was decent food for Universal and filling. I think we paid about $14 each and walked out with a large gyro, a side of pita chips and tzatziki, and another side. I had hummus with veggies, and Waldo had fries. We also reactivated and refilled our Freestyle cup. We have three at home and actually remembered to bring two of them back with us. I wanted to mention here that we had really great service again from a team member at the park. We had waited in a line at a refreshment stand for about 15-20 minutes to get this reactivated, and when we reached the register, we found out they could only refill not reactivate. She told me we could reactivate next door at FireEaters, and I told her that was fine but that I dreaded standing in line all over again. Well, she walked us right up to a window over there and had them reactivate our mug immediately. She did not need to do this, and they had many people waiting...so we truly appreciated the effort.

(We had mobile ordered at FireEaters, so we did not stand in line there or else we would have taken care of both food and drink at the same time.)

Aunt K and the kids had a blast, and she finally was able to recreate her favorite photo memory with Wigs.

(A little fuzzy, but it works for now...)



The kiddos were hungry after all the water rides, so we met up with them back on the Studios side. Wigs and T had been wanting to eat at Krusty Burger. Our kids love watching the Simpsons, so this did not surprise me. Mobile order was very similar to Disney except we were able to request a table and then order instead of having a ready order prior to entry. Krusty burgers all around.



We skipped the shakes in favor of additional butter beers in Diagon Alley. (Seriously, our kids will take forever to get over this gluttonous indulgence.) We walked from Simpson's land to Men In Black and told them all we had to get the suit. Last September, Waldo and I rode multiple times and managed to get the suit every time. Now it is a must. They all did great and we scored the suit again. A couple were frustrated and said they had trouble shooting over and over. I then let it slip that you can just hold down the trigger for a continual shot. We will have to ride again because they are all determined to use this newfound knowledge.

We returned to Diagon Alley and played with the magic spells and interactive wands. Waldo and I had a Dragon Scale each, and the girls and I went shopping. Bear had robes but wanted a tie. Her sister had neither. I ended up using the promotion they are carrying where you buy a $250 gift card and receive a free wand. It turns out they are getting rid of non-interactive wands completely, so they are giving away the leftovers. I will have to go look at them in the gift shops up front.



This never gets old...



Our last stop on the way out of the park was Rip Ridin' Rocket. I do not ride, but the kids and Waldo love it. We met back up with Aunt K there. She and Mama Bear had been eating and shopping while we were in HP land. They rode it twice before we called it a night.

Coaster hair...



We got back to the room around 1945, and I had made dinner reservations at the Kitchen. They sat us at an adults table and kids table, and it was fun. The kids ate so much food...appetizers, burgers, steak. I ordered a salad because I was able to pick off of everyone else's meal. It was perfect for me. We did end up with some leftovers to take back to our mini-fridges in the rooms. By the time we slid into bed, it was near 2230. Preliminary plans for the morning: Me, Aunt K, and the girls up for early morning hours in Diagon Alley (Bear needs a new wand!), and the boys and Nana catching up with us later after a little lie in. They all need the rest.
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Old Yesterday, 10:34 AM   #87
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I have to say that it is much easier to tour the "Dark Side" right now with COVID restrictions. Of course, we had express passes from staying at Hard Rock. That makes a big difference. More on our trip during the COVID transition later.

I have heard really good things about the Express Pass. Reminds of the Club 33 access to rides, but with a lower cost threshold.
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Old Yesterday, 10:54 AM   #88
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I have heard really good things about the Express Pass. Reminds of the Club 33 access to rides, but with a lower cost threshold.
It is sweet. The two times I've gone I stayed onsite which includes an Express Pass. Since it was at slow times anyway it was pretty much walk-on for most rides; only the Harry Potter ones were a short wait at worst.
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Old Yesterday, 02:36 PM   #89
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Originally Posted by tomandrobin View Post
I have heard really good things about the Express Pass. Reminds of the Club 33 access to rides, but with a lower cost threshold.
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Originally Posted by erikthewise View Post
It is sweet. The two times I've gone I stayed onsite which includes an Express Pass. Since it was at slow times anyway it was pretty much walk-on for most rides; only the Harry Potter ones were a short wait at worst.
We look at the cost of the room with express pass versus no pass or cheaper room plus the pass. For spring break, these passes were running $200 per person per day. We paid for two room for two nights at a total of $1400. While it seems expensive, we had express passes for 9 people for 3 days. It was a bit of a squeeze the first night before Aunt K and Mama Bear left, but the rooms were actually spacious enough that the roll aways had plenty of room without impeding foot traffic. The second night, we had no roll aways, and the beds were perfect. We had connecting rooms as well which probably lent to the spacious feeling. I could not do it long term, but for a night or two for the passes, worth it. We spent more time in the parks and at the awesome pool.
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Old Yesterday, 03:36 PM   #90
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That’s the only way to go at Universal. It’s awesome!!!
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