Thursday, February 24, 2022 – Our Second Day in the Parks
Written by: Mark Plante Published On: April 1, 2022

Simpsons Ride – Universal Studios Orlando

So after having a pretty good first day in the parks, we settled in for a good night’s sleep. Which we did. We woke up on Thursday, ready to hit the parks running.

All-American Breakfast

We started out by going to the Endless Summer – Surfside cafeteria, Beach Break Cafe, and ordering breakfast. It was a beautiful Florida morning so we chose to eat outside. The food was delicious and the atmosphere that the resort set for their outdoor dining area was perfect. Comfortable chairs and tables setup so that you were not bumping into other guests when you got up, but not too far apart where it reminded you that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. There was some light Caribbean style music playing in the background to set the perfect mood. My breakfast was delicious. I had ordered the All-American Breakfast that consisted of Scrambled edges, sausage, bacon, breakfast potatoes and a biscuit.

Now that are bellies are full, it was time to head over to the parks for early admission to Islands of Adventure. Again, we were on the bus and arriving at the park within 15 minutes (Try getting from the resort to Magic Kingdom in that time.).

The Security checkpoint at Universal had very short lines due to it being well before the parks officially opened. I understand that, in today’s climate, they are needed. Even so, they are a huge waste of time and a pain in the butt.

One thing that forgot to mention in our previous post (Our First Day in the Parks) was that Universal Studios has an option that they offer the Disney World does not. Universal offers a refillable cup that you can purchase which has a RF chip in the base that allows you free refills at all Coke Freestyle machines in the parks and most stands and kiosks. Once you purchase the cup, you do not have to purchase a new cup each day that you visit the parks, you may re-charge the cup each day of your stay at a lower amount. The only thing that you have to remember is that the cup can only be filled every 10 minutes to prevent someone buying one cup for their whole family. Myself, I drink quite a bit of Diet Coke throughout the day, plus adding in the Florida sun and humidity… This cup more than paid for itself.

As we were heading into Islands of Adventure, I realized that I forgot to pack my extra batteries and memory card into my small camera bag. This meant that I would only have about 10 – 15 minutes of video that I would be able to record before my batteries died completely. I can’t believe that I was that dumb.

So my wife and daughter went into the park to get on Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, which I was not going to go on, rather than me standing around waiting for them to get through the ride queue and ride, I would head back to the resort, get my batteries and memory card, and be back at the resort before they even got off the ride. Nice plan huh?

I headed toward the exit against a wave of people that were now entering the parks to be able to get in for rope drop. I now truly know what a Salmon feels like. I went back out to hop on a shuttle to get back to the resort… No shuttles waiting! Darn, my plan is blown! As I was standing there waiting for the next shuttle, a big white bus pulls up and the driver asks where I was going. I told him and he said, hop on, I’m heading right by there. I found out talking to him that he didn’t even work for Universal!!! He brought me to the hotel and dropped me off. I offered him a tip for helping me out and he refused. He said he was just glad that he was able to help me. I know in most instances people will complain about the horrible things that happen to them, myself included. But this gentleman went out of his way to turn a rough start to my day, into an incredible experience.

Security Line at Universal Studios Florida on February 24, 2022

So now I have my batteries and memory card and I hop on the shuttle back to the parks. I check the time and I should make it back in time for me to even get something to drink in my refillable cup.

What I didn’t take into consideration is that the parks are now open and this means that everyone now can gain access into the parks. This means that I have to go through security, again, but now with everyone who is trying to get into the parks… DOH!!!

It took about 15 minutes to make it through security and another 10 minutes or so to get through Citywalk, the line to get into Islands of Adventure, and yes, they did have trouble reading my ticket again! I then bobbed and weaved through the crowd in Suess Land and made it to meet my family just as they were coming off of the ride. I tell you, I could not have planned it any better.

We decided to head over to Universal Studios from Islands of Adventure and, of course, we went to Hogsmeade Station and rode the Hogwarts Express over to King’s Cross Station. Don’t get me wrong, Hogwarts Express was pretty cool, BUT… from all the hype that was on social media about this ride, I expected much more, much, much more. With that being said, it is nice to ride, but once you have done that, if Hogwarts Express has more than a 20 minute wait and you are just wanting to go from one park to the other… You are pretty much better off walking to the other park.

After we did Men in Black, ET and The Simpsons Ride we headed back over to Islands of Adventure and my wife and daughter rode Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls® which had just opened (I mean with 15 minutes) from the water rides annual refurbishment. Both my wife and daughter got SOAKED on the ride. WARNING!!! YOU WILL GET WET ON THIS RIDE is true!!!

One of the best experiences that we had, we almost walked right by it and missed it. In the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure, right near the Jurassic World VelociCoaster ride is an attraction called “Raptor Encounter”. Raptor Encounter is described on the Universal Orlando website as follows:

Brave a visit to the Raptor Encounter in its new location for a chance to see the most recognizable member of the park’s raptor pack: Blue. Here you’ll learn some interesting facts about the clever carnivore and her natural habitat. Then, if you’re daring enough, you can try to slowly approach her to snap a quick photo.

Raptor Encounter | Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ (universalorlando.com)

This is an exciting, scary, thrilling experience as one of Jurassic Park’s Raptor Handlers allows you to take a quick photo with “Blue” one of Jurassic Park’s juvenile Raptors that is supposed to be trained.

We spent the entire day bouncing back and forth from park to park all day. There was no rush to get on any ride, we did not have to return for a reservation for a specific time… It was just a nice relaxing stroll through the parks all day.

Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen – Jacques Specialty Milkshakes

As the parks closed, my wife and my daughter made their way over to The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen to try their Jacques Specialty Milkshakes. They have been drooling over this treat since we booked this trip and they had been waiting all day to try them.

Needless to say with the parks closing, it was quite a wait for them to get their order. When they did get their shakes, they were in awe… Being a Diabetic myself, there was no way that I could have had one, hell, my blood glucose went up by 25 pts by just looking at them. My wife ordered the Key Lime Pie and my daughter ordered the Cookie Jar. Both my wife and my daughter loved them, but admitted that they were quite sweet and that they are not something that you would want to have all the time.

At this point our night was over and we started to head back to the resort. We took the scenic route back by Islands of Adventures entrance and then through Citywalk. Islands of Adventure had closed early because a local company had rented out the park for the evening (I wonder if they are hiring?). They had the park and restaurants all to themselves for the rest of the evening.

Citywalk was jumping with a lot of nightclubs and restaurants still open and the music was playing. This seems as though it would be a really fun place to spend a Friday or Saturday night out.

As we got on the bus and made our way back to the resort I noticed that people we talking to each other and asking how each other’s day went. It was a very friendly atmosphere and made the short trip quite enjoyable. I had never experienced this on any of the Disney buses.

Pool Area at Universal’s Endless Summer – Surfside

Back at the resort we started to settle in. My daughter and I made a trip to the Beach Break Cafe for a late night snack and then we casually walked around the resort and the pool area before we headed back to the room. We had another wonderful day in the parks.

On Friday, our third day of our vacation, we are taking a crash day. We are sleeping in, a little. Once we get up and moving, we are going to take a trip over to Disney Springs. My daughter has quite a bit of “Disney Dollars” that she can use and wants to see what they have. After that, whatever happens, happens. We will probably spend some time in the pool, we’ll see.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. We will be continuing this series with “Our Third Day” and show if the vibe at Disney Springs is different or if Universal is just more laid back. If you haven’t read my post about our second day, click here.

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