With traveling slowly opening back up, it was time to put that flight credit to good use and ring in the new year at one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people... Universal Studios! We originally had this trip planned back in April, but COVID happened and we were left without many of our planned trips, but December gave us a new opportunity. For those wondering about the travel restrictions to the United States, there are none - unless you are in Europe or recently traveled to Europe. You do have to make sure that the state you are traveling to does not require any sort of quarantine, because then you would have to plan accordingly. Florida does not require anything, no test and no quarantine, but please make sure you are healthy before flying anywhere.
On New Year's Eve, we went to Islands of Adventure and decided to get there super early because we had read reports that the parks were reaching capacity in the morning, and of course we did not want that. When we got there these were all the preventive measures we saw: You must wear a face mask at all times, except when eating, drinking, or taking a quick picture. At the entrance you get your temperature taken and your hands sanitized, and all throughout the park most people were practicing social distancing. Every ride has markings on the ground where you and your party can stand when you wait in line to go on. Single Riders line has been eliminated and you only sit with your party at each ride, and they give you hand sanitizer before every single ride. (Their hand sanitizer is the WORST KIND, smells horrible, it's super cheap, and it will dry your skin out.) We honestly did feel super safe at the parks, but there were people that took it to extremes - either being too paranoid of social distancing (why would you come to the parks then?) or not respecting the markings on the ground at all. So just take care of yourselves and you'll have a wonderful time at the parks!
We got there at about 7:30am and went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter since the newest ride, Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure, is still fairly new and everyone would be lining up for it. To our surprise, due to COVID, this ride had a virtual line. You had to download the Universal App and request a time to go on the ride. This was actually very annoying since there is a limited amount of passes and they go out FAST. Luckily, we were able to get one pass. Something to note: the virtual line is just to wait for your time to ride, you still have to line up for the ride and that was about a 46-60min wait. Lines are longer than usual if you want to go into the restaurants, get Butterbeer, and other activities around the area, but if you get there with enough time, you should be able to do everything.
As you can see from the pictures, we were all rocking shirts from the newest collection of KIWIBANANA! It seemed the perfect time to wear our Harry Potter shirts. We even got some people stopping us to ask us where we got our shirts!
The majority of the day was spent at the Harry Potter area, but after that we ventured to the other areas of the park to ride on some fan-favorites like the Jurassic Park River Adventure, the water rides at Toon Lagoon, and all the Marvel rides, of course! One new addition that I liked at the gift shops was all the cool face masks they had, I was so tempted to buy many of them.
On New Year's Day, we went to Universal Studios and once again went straight to Diagon Alley to go on the Gringotts ride and explore the magical area. One thing I noticed when trying to do spells, at both parks, was how hard it has become! Not sure if it's because our wands are a little old or if the sensors are not working so well lately. So expect frustration if you go around the area trying to master all the spells.
Once we completed Harry Potter, we went to the other rides and noticed that two more rides had virtual lines: The Mummy and Jimmy Fallon's ride. We were able to snag some passes but always check the Universal App before going to the parks to see what rides have virtual lines, which rides are closed, and the wait times on all other rides. Something different that we tried this time around was going later in the day to the parks - to give time for the early risers to leave the park. This proved super effective! We were able to sleep in, have a decent breakfast, and enjoy the parks a bit more.
Funny lesson time: Make sure your shirts do not have any sort of profanity... otherwise you won't be able to go inside the parks. I had to buy a shirt and leave this "restricted" shirt at the security office and come pick it up at the end of my visit.
If you have time, I highly recommend walking around Universal's City Walk and get some food and drinks. My party and I had one of the absolute best times just drinking by the water, talking, and enjoying the weather. Oh and get your drinks from Fat Tuesday... BEST DRINKS EVER!
A new restaurant spot that I tried was called, First Watch, and I have fallen in love with their breakfasts! Everything they have is fresh, organic, and tastes DELICIOUS! I recommend getting the Super Foods Bowl AM, it is one of the best chia pudding bowls I have ever tasted. This place was so good that we actually went there twice for breakfast.
On our final day, we decided to go to another favorite spot of mine, Disney Springs! This place always brings back beautiful memories and the stores and lego statues are always fun to see again. I recommend coming here ready to spend some money because you will want to each everything and get all the cool Disney merchandise!
It was the perfect start to the new year, and what better way to do it than at Universal with my favorite people? I had the time of my life and I cannot wait to go back - maybe during October if they open Horror Nights again!