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7 Things to PACK for your TRIP to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Orlando!!!!!!

YAY!!!! Your trip is booked and I’m so excited for you!!! 🙂

I wanted to share some packing tips that I have specifically for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando as I hope they will help make your trip even more easy and enjoyable!

For some awesome GENERAL packing tips, especially for things like jewelry, and make-up and hydration items, check out my 9 minute vlog: PACK NIGHT! and a couple of AWESOME travel & packing tips !!! 

The video covers some cool tips, but THESE recommendations below are specific to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure:

  • TIP 1: PACK THE MOST COMFORTABLE PAIR OF SHOES THAT YOU OWN!!!! You will be walking 5 to 15+ miles a day, and you don’t want blisters!

 

 

My top pick for comfort are some worn-in Vans, OR Skeechers memory foam shoes -as long as they fit perfectly snug so that your foot doesn’t slide, which also causes blisters.

  • TIP 2 ( and my FAVORITE tip): Get a LANYARD!!! These things are so helpful!!!

If you’ve heeded my advice from my other blogs about visiting Universal Studios ( Random Tips for Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter  or HOW TO: A Harry Potter fan’s “Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” Guide! ) then  you will have an on-site hotel key card, which is ALSO serves as your UNLIMITED EXPRESS PASS  if you stay at Loews Hard Rock Hotel, Portifino Bay, or the Royal Pacific,  AND you will have your park ticket that shows that you have a park-to-park pass, which you’ll need to show when boarding the Hogwarts Express.

Wearing a lanyard makes navigating the rides soooo much easier, as you don’t have to fumble to pull out park tickets and/or your Express Pass every time you board a ride or the Hogwarts Express!  You can also store other cards in it if you’d like.

They sell Lanyards at the parks, BUT you can get them cheaper and have them ready ahead of time if you buy them on Amazon.

Check out one like MINE (in pic above) or this Hogwarts one, Gryffindor one-or THIS one, or Ravenclaw one! (click on highlighted styles for the links…but note, that some don’t have the card case, so you’d have to buy that separately)

 

and if you want to get REALLY fancy, you can add this badge holder

  • TIP 3: BRING YOUR SUNGLASSES!!!!! and for extra fun pix, wear the reflective kind, so you can take cool pictures of the sights in the reflection of your glasses!!!

I am SO taking a pic of myself with the Volcano at Volcano Bay in the reflection of my glasses next time!

  • TIP 4: If you are prone to burning, bring Sunscreen

I LOVE these little travel-sized ones that can go in your carry-on and are TSA approved sizes.

  • TIP 5: BRING A  WATER BOTTLE WITH YOU ON THE PLANE AND INTO THE PARK, so you can refill it at the water fountains and stay hydrated (as well as staying hydrated on the plane, because planes are very dry)…you can store it in your little backpack (see Tip 6).

  • TIP 6: BRING A SMALL BACKPACK…to carry your water bottles, wands, snacks, sunscreen, any medications needed, phones, portable chargers, a selfie stick, etc.

Lockers  are provided at all the thrill rides and roller coasters that don’t permit backpacks and are FREE for the duration of the ride.

The lockers aren’t HUGE, so that’s why I say a “small” backpack.

It can be something as simple as THIS (that the kids can wear, too):

and this one is inexpensive, but super cool and comes in 30 different awesome designs and colors!

…and finally (last, but not least…or last, for that matter!)

  • TIP 7: Consider bringing  a portable charger.  Nothing is worse than your phone dying right in the middle of taking an awesome video, or cool pictures of the AMAZING Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!!!!!!

My absolute FAVORITE (and I’ve tried 5 different kinds so far) is the Jackery.  The Jackery charges your phone QUICKLY and you can get about 3 full charges with this size.

Some other tips:

  • In preparation for RAIN or WATER RIDES, if you already have thin rain ponchos at home (ones that would fit in your little backpack), consider bringing them, so you’re not stuck buying overpriced ones at the park during a storm.  Plus, they are great for wearing on the water rides.  Also bring storage baggies to keep electronics, etc. dry,  and maybe an extra pair of socks, if you wear them (I typically don’t), because they will get wet during a rain storm or water ride.
  • OF COURSE, bring ALL your Harry Potter shirts and jewelry and paraphernalia!!! or Minion, Spider-man, Transformers,  Hulk, Simpson’s, King Kong, The Tonight Show…etc.  shirts!  One day I’ll post pix of my 8 Harry Potter shirts 😉
  • on ETSY, you can find some amazing Harry Potter jewelry, shirts, etc….they even make adorable Gryffindor “Mickey Ears” that are perfect for a park so close to Disney World!
  • If you are prone to motion sickness, FORGET Dramamine, which makes you sleepy, try SEA-BANDS, all natural accupressure nausea relief bands. I use them for Jimmy Fallon’s ride, the Minions ride, Simpson’s ride and Forbidden Journey rides.  Everyone’s different, but those are the only rides that I need them on.
  • Volcano Bay does NOT provide Towels!  I just bring a towel from my hotel’s pool to Volcano Bay, but if for some reason this is not possible, you might want to consider packing towels for Volcano Bay.
  • I’ll probably think of more later, and have to update this blog…

I HOPE that this list was helpful for you, and please leave a comment if you have ANY other questions, and most importantly ENJOY YOUR TRIP!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Weekend Universal Studios and VOLCANO BAY trip!

 

My friend, Lisa, and I took a quick weekend trip to Universal Studios/Adventure Islands/Volcano Bay, arriving Friday evening, June 2nd (a week after Volcano Bay’s grand opening), and leaving Monday morning.

YAY~ for GIRL’S weekend!!!! What a wonderful way to reconnect with a lifelong friend. 🙂

FIRST, a couple of tips specific to Volcano Bay:

  1. Stay onsite and get early admission to Volcano Bay in order to ride Krakatau as early as possible before the wait gets too long (~ over 2 hours, but I’ve seen it as long as 545 minutes).
  2. Yes, you CAN use your Tapu Tapu to hold your virtual place in line for Krakatau and most of the other slides BUT you can only wait in one virtual line at a time. If you are in line for Krakatau and try to tap into another line it gives you the option to cancel your Krakatau place and get in the other line, or just stay in the Krakatau line (or whatever other virtual line you were initially in).
  3. While in virtual line, there are tons of OTHER things to do: the lazy river, the wild river, the wave pool, Runamukka Reef,  eat or drink beachy cocktails, take pictures at the Tiki photo spots, or go shopping, or just lay out in the sun and work on your tan.
  4. As of June 2017, the park was not completely finished and had quite a few rough spots to smooth out. The employees didn’t know where all the padded lounger premium seating was, which wasted time and caused food orders to go to the wrong seating creating as much as a one hour wait for food!!!  There are many kinks to work out, so I imagine that by late summer/ early fall everything will be running much more smoothly.  ALSO, not all slides were open.
  5. You can DEFINITELY enjoy a FULL, ENTIRE day in Volcano Bay, so the NEXT TIME I go, I will plan to stay in Orlando 3 full days, and when I get down there, I will look at the forecast and plan to spend the sunniest, hottest entire day at Volcano Bay and the other two days between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

We had two full days to play at the parks and my work offered a great deal on a 3park 2-day pass, so we took advantage of that.

We stayed at the Royal Pacific Hotel, which is the least expensive on-site hotel that also offers the Unlimited Express Passes for everyone and early admission to the parks. The parks that allow early admission to onsite guests vary, depending on the time of year.

On our trip, Adventure Island and Volcano Bay were open one hour earlier for onsite guests.  During Peak Season, I believe ALL parks open 1 hour early for onsite guests.

The park was AMAZING; absolutely gorgeous landscaping, with so much attention to detail and the theming was on point!   We also got very lucky weather-wise on Saturday morning; Blue skies and almost warm enough to not freeze to death.  I was extremely happy about that, because the forecast was not looking great the entire weekend!

We had reserved premium seating which consisted of a set of padded loungers with a cover, a locker that we could open and close with our Tapu Tapu, and our own server.  We shoved some flip flops and clothes in our locker and immediately took off to eat breakfast at Whakawaiwai Eats, which was healthy and delicious, then we rode Krakatau, which, that early had no wait (we didn’t have to use our tapu tapu, but could just get right on in line instead!!!!)

NOTE: if you are vegan or vegetarian, the salad below is a WONDERFULLY DELICIOUS option!!!!

Krakatau was AWESOME- the most fun on a waterslide everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…the downhills were fun, but the BEST part was how FAST we were launched UPHILL every time.  My butt came up off the seat a couple of times when we reached the top of the hill because it popped us up and over so fast!!!

Next we rode Taniwha Tubes which was so incredibly fun, although it didn’t feel like it lasted very long!

Before taking a break, we rode Maku which was SO amazingly exciting as it vaulted up steep sidewalls.

Everywhere you turn in the park, there were amazing details, statues, fun little animals, etc. so after those slides, I wanted to walk around and capture some of the magical theming with my go pro, only to find that it had accidentally turned on during our flight and so the battery was completely dead.

Since we had a 3 park pass, and lots to see, including my beloved Wizarding World, I decided we should go drop the go pro off at the room to charge it, and head to Universal Studios and Diagon alley for lunch and fun rides.

At Universal, we hopped in the singles line of Escape from Gringotts to save time.  I recommend doing the regular line once, if you’ve never seen it, but after that It’s best just to ride in the singles line so there’s more time to ride all the tons of other fun rides!!!

Next we rode the Mummy, which is SUCH a SUPER fun, almost hidden, gem.  It’s a MUST ride every time I go.  Added bonus, the Express line is always super short!!! I’ve never waited more than the time it takes to walk the line plus 2 minutes to ride. 

(I cannot say enough how much an Unlimited Express pass is SO WORTH IT- ideally you could stay at the Royal Pacific to get your Express Passes included)….then we rode my FAVORITE roller coaster, the Rock-it, which allows you to pick your own music to listen to during the ride which REALLY makes the ride so super fun.

Next stop; Hogwart’s Express to go to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure!

 

Once there, we rode Forbidden Journey and then it started raining.  It rained and rained the entire rest of the night, so we never went back to Volcano Bay that evening.  So, sadly, we only spent 2.5 hours at Volcano Bay on Saturday….

Sunday, we decided to take advantage of the early admission to Islands of Adventure and hit Hogsmeade and ride many rides.

Somehow, between Saturday and Sunday, we were able to ride all the following rides, ranked in order from my ABSOLUTE TOP #1 favorite down:

  1. Transformers
  2. Escape from Gringotts
  3. The Mummy
  4. Skull Island, reign of Kong
  5. Spider-Man
  6. Rock-it
  7. Jimmy Fallon’s race through New York.
  8. Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey
  9. ET
  10. Shrek 4D
  11. Flight of the Hippogriff
  12. The Hulk- albeit fun, this one shortens my life span a little every time 😉

On Sunday, we got to Volcano Bay at about 2 or 3PM and made yet another VB mistake: Krakatau was so fun and our favorite, so we decided to get in the 120 minute virtual line to ride it, versus checking out some of the other many, many slides that we still hadn’t ridden.  While in virtual line, we did one lap on the lazy river, and then ordered drinks and food from our premium seating.  Unfortunately we sat and waited a full hour for our food, watching our ride time come and go, because our food was sent to the wrong padded loungers!!!!  When we finally got our food and finished eating, a cold front had moved in with some sprinkles and it was so cold we didn’t want to get wet at all.  I will say, though, that the food (also from Whakawaiwai Eats), was DELICIOUS and healthy.

So, Volcano Bay was awesome although they still had a lot of kinks to work out and the weather did not cooperate with us, AND I wish we would have dedicated an ENTIRE (ideally hot and sunny) day to it.  But I can NOT WAIT to go again, it is, without any shadow of a doubt, the BEST water park I have ever been to.

Another absolute FAVORITE food place from the trip was Toothsome’s Chocolate Factory—we ate there twice and didn’t even have dessert because we filled ourselves on DELICIOUS apps, entrees, and their amazing chocolate bread.

This is how silly we were on the plane, btw….

I ALSO *HAVE* to add the following, because it cracks me up so badly!!!!

We are old ladies, just having a silly good old time, and it was our FIRST TIME using a selfie stick, and these pix are hilarious to me!!!! The first pic is practically right after getting off the plane and to the resort:

(TIP: How NOT to use/hold a selfie stick……DOH! how embarrassing)

How to: A Harry Potter fan’s “Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter” guide!

OK, if you’ve read the books 3 times, and watched the movies more times than you can count….what’s the next thing any logical muggle must do?

Go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, of course!

And here’s how to do it!

(As of June, I’ve made the trip more times than I’ve read the books :-O! (4))

Tip #1:  Stay at Hard Rock Hotel, the Royal Pacific Hotel, or if splurging, the Portofino Bay Hotel—these hotels are within walking distance from the park, or you can use the free water taxis, aaaaand they offer BOTH early admission to The Wizarding World AND give all their guests Express Passes.  To top it off,  the hotels are really nice, too!

I’ve been to all of them, and finally, most recently, Portofino Bay- the most expensive of all the onsite hotels.  It’s very nice, pretty cool, and super nice to have Starbucks so close to help you wake up for those early admissions!!!

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The restaurants are decent, though not my favorite, the room and bed amaaaaazing, and it’s nice to have the Mandara spa right there, BUT now that I’ve finally crossed the “trifecta” (Hard Rock/Royal Pacific/Portofino Bay) off my list, I still think that my favorite is the Hard Rock Hotel, and the Royal Pacific is a very close second.

Hard rock hotel:111 the-pool

 

Royal Pacific hotel: 11BB_lrpr_overview_650x302_tcm13-21129

I have only stayed at the Hard Rock, Royal Pacific, and Portofino Bay Hotels, because they are the only ones that offer a complimentary Express Pass to all guests in the room.  Cabana Bay, and even the newest hotel, Sapphire Falls don’t offer the Express pass, although you can certainly purchase one separately, for an extra $85 per person, no matter where you stay.

Even if you aren’t staying at the Portofino Bay Hotel, you can still check it out and go to the spa, or go to the restaurants if you’re craving Italian.  It’s just a short walk from Hard Rock Hotel, or you can hop on the water taxi to Portofino Bay from CityWalk.

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Tip #2: Harry Potter rides (Forbidden Journey & Escape from Gringotts) do not have Express lines, SO you’ll want to stay at an onsite hotel, and get EARLY admission and get there first to avoid lines.  Take advantage of the early admission!!! We took this picture as soon as we arrived in Diagon alley…One of the perks of early admission, see how empty it is?!?!?

PERK OF EARLY ADMISSION

Tip #3: If you can’t stay at those super awesome and convenient hotels, you must at least get an Express pass so that you are spending your time RIDING versus waiting in longer lines!!!

Tip #4: you MUST get a park-to-park pass which will allow you to take the Hogwarts train from Diagon Alley, which is in Universal Studios, to Hogsmeade, which is in Adventure Island…this is a MUST.period.or just.don’t.even.go! (I feel most strongly about this)

During high volume seasons, the park offers early admission to BOTH Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade for people staying at the onsite hotels.

Ideally, you’ll arrive In Orlando in the afternoon or evening, and check out CityWalk and all the fun stores, restaurants and bars it has to offer, then start fresh and early the next morning at the main parks!

DIAGON ALLEY

The “purist” muggle way to start the day is by going to Universal Studios and visiting Diagon Alley first, the way Harry did, of course!

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If you get to the entrance of the park at 10 minutes before the early admission (so, if early admission is 8AM, get there at 7:50 at the latest), you should be totally set to be among first in line at “Escape from Gringotts”!!!

If you want to avoid lines in this ride, head straight to Gringott’s first, versus stopping in the Red Phone booth (which is the alternate entrance to the ministry of magic) and dialing 62442 to connect to the Ministry, or stopping at the Knight bus to talk to the Stan Shunpike and the shrunken head….you can save that for later!

Once you’ve entered Diagon alley, head for Gringotts bank with the dragon on top…that’s where “Escape from Gringott’s” is!!! It’s a super cool ride!

beautiful dragon

Afterwards, there’s lots to check out in all the shops in the area…walk EVERYWHERE around there…so much DETAIL in every nook and cranny!!! And don’t forget Knockturn alley!  Borgin and Burkes has many props from the movies, including the vanishing cabinet and a Bogart stuck in a trunk, to name just a few. And the people working in the stores know EVERYTHING there is to know about Harry Potter, so quiz them for fun.

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In the Magical Menagerie, there are animals that I thought I never saw in the movies/read in the books, but the people working there will explain where each of them came from.  Also, don’t forget to pick up some Love Potion at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!

 

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If you don’t want to get an interactive wand, no worries, just watch all the other people do the spells to see what they do.

Be careful walking by the water fountain with the Mermaid on it…one of the spells shoots water at people!

There are a couple of spells that will get unsuspecting muggles wet 🙂

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Florian Fortescue’s ice cream shop has butterbeer ice cream.  Get it in a waffle cone….it’ll knock your wizarding robes off!

OH….and if you start to hear rumbling & grumbling outside, GO OUTSIDE of the shops to watch the dragon shoot fire (looks SUPER cool at night, too!)

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After leaving Diagon Alley, check out London (phone booth, Knight bus, etc.) including Grimmauld place!!! If you have patience, Kreacher peeks out of the curtains of Number 12 Grimmauld place about every 5-10 minutes!

kreacher up close

knight busThere are a bunch of other rides that are super awesome at Universal Studios:  Transformers (Thee BEST ride of all, in both parks), The Mummy (super FUN, and usually short lines!), Rip Rocket (my #1 favorite roller coaster…don’t forget to pick and play music while you’re on it!!!).

Other notables: the Men in Black is REALLY old, but can be super fun because you get to shoot aliens and get scored on how many aliens you shoot, so you can compete against your companion and make wagers for whoever wins! 😉  ET is also old, and a little cheesey, but we enjoyed it after margaritas at the pool 😉

I am not a huge fan of rides like the Minions, Simpsons, etc. because I get motion sickness on the movie-like 3D rides in which what you are feeling doesn’t quite match up to what you are seeing, but if you are not prone to motion sickness, check them out!

There are a bunch of other rides on the Universal Studios side at are definitely worth checking out, BUT in keeping with the Harry Potter Theme, which, of course, is crucial, get your butt over to King’s Cross Train station to take the Hogwarts Express to school!

 

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The station is uber authentic, even including live performers, and a notable billboard from the movie!

There’s also a little off-license store or (as they say in London) an “offie”, where you can buy British Ale or Hard cider for the train ride, as well as many other authentic British snacks !….wth, when in London….and if it’s early, remember, London time is 5 hours later than Orlando time, so….

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There’s an opportunity to go through Platform 9 and 3/4s before you get on the train as well….one person has to stop and take a pic while the other person goes ahead.IMG_2400

The train is MAGICAL, with a “window” that shows the trip from London to Hogsmeade, with a few extras!!! Tip…when the window makes it look like you are going through a tunnel, turn and look at the door, as scenes are played out in the hallway as well!

The “show” is different going in the other direction, so make sure you ride from Hogsmeade back to London, which is my favorite!

*side note, if you REALLY want to avoid lines, go straight from Gringotts to the train station to get on the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade and head straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts castle…this will allow you to ride both the train and the Forbidden Journey before the park opens up to general admission.  Waits for all other rides can be shortened using your Express Pass!

HOGSMEADE

Head to the Forbidden Journey (inside the castle) and check out the wait time for the line!  hogwarts pigIf it’s under an hour I’d go for it, as the line is very entertaining as it wanders through the inside of the castle!!  Once in the castle, you may recognize the one-eyed witch statue, IMG_2430that sits just in front of the secret passageway to Honeydukes (from Prisoner of Azkaban), and a bajillion other details!  It’s fun just picking out which movie the props are from as you walk through the line, and who is who in the talking portraits (Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Salazar Slytherin to name a few).

hogwarts sign

The ride is really cool, you hop on this hanging, rotating 4 person cart, everyone facing the same direction, and go along the track into various areas/scenes.

If you are prone to motion sickness, however, there’s a part of this ride that may make you feel pretty nauseous when you get off: the part where you are following Harry on his Broomstick; you go fast and drop and swoop really fast, and the coaster you are in moves, but not in perfect harmony with what you are seeing, so it effs me up every time, and I have to close my eyes during that portion of the ride or I get sick.   Fortunately, there’s plenty other cool stuff on the ride!

There are two roller coasters in Hogsmeade—the flight of the Hippogriff, which is for kids, but do it, do it, DO.IT! just for fun, because you get to see all the cute props and they take Express Passes for this ride!

The other one is the Dueling Dragons.  Super fun!

If you want to wait in a ~15 minute line, you can visit Ollivander’s, where the wand picks the wizard.  If they don’t pick you for the demonstration, don’t worry! After it’s over, you can go up to the wand master and he’ll help your wand choose you.

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The Hog’s Head sells beer and butterbeer (non-alcoholic, butterscotch cream soda, with this heavenly layer of butterscotch cream on top).  You can either get the soda, or a frozen butterbeer, which is the more popular of the two.

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dragon beer tap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And whether the urge calls, or not, you must go to the bathroom in Hogsmeade and visit Moaning Myrtle!

Also in Hogsmeade are a bunch of cool shops and opportunities for spells, and tons of little details.

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One of the spells dumps a cauldron of Cornish pixies!

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Leaving the Wizarding World…

To the left of the castle is a bridge leading out of Hogsmeade and into Jurrasic Park, home of Universal’s newest cool ride: Skull Island, Reign of Kong.  It’s a must check out, and the line is AWESOME!  I won’t spoil the surprise that ~80% get to enjoy in line, but I hope you love it!

Oh, and the line moves QUICKLY for this one because the vehicles fit TONS of people!

If it’s hot, Adventure Island has tons of shade, and WATER rides!!! (3 to be exact, including the Jurrasic park ride).

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There’s also a very cool, very good restaurant called “Mythos” that wins awards every year for being the best theme park restaurant, so that’s a must try if you can (wait times can be uber long during peak hours though, so shoot for a late lunch maybe?).

This is Mythos at night:

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Another pic of Mythos from the backside of the restaurant…and OMG, you MUST see the interior of this place! coolest restaurant interior EVER!

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There are tons of other awesome rides, etc. like Spider-Man (probably my third favorite—it really is an EXCELLENT ride, similar to Transformers, and another MUST DO) AND the Incredible Hulk!

Another popular treat is the Lard Donut.  This HUGE Homer Simpson donut, that we wanted to try so badly, but decided to good.

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There are just SO MANY excellent state-of-the-art rides, in both parks, and so much to do, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is SO amazing that you definitely want a TWO day park-to-park pass!!!  And… take me with you, tooooooo! 🙂