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Trip Report Last Minute Quick Orlando Weekend

I really enjoyed sharing my Disney wedding with y'all so I thought I'd try again with a more "normal" trip :)

When: May 2022
Where: Universal Orlando Resort & Walt Disney World
Why: Girls Trip!
Resorts: Universal's Aventura & Hilton Orlando
Main Characters: It's mostly me in this one - Maci - 32, foodie, Disney Lover, Cat Lady
Supporting Cast: Sarah and Julie - coworkers of mine

I'll start with some backstory. Julie was always slated to go to this conference in Orlando. Sarah got an invite as well. (I did not as my boss was going to represent our team.) We debated the idea of going down a few days earlier and exploring the theme parks before they had to do conference things, but flights were expensive and I had a LOT of other things going on this year so I decided to pass this time. Well, I had a lot of FOMO and checked the flights one more time about a week before the trip and was able to get a great deal by splitting between Spirit and American instead of booking round trip.

Just like that, I added myself to their little getaway and was ready to have some great times with my friends!
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday - Day 1, Part 1: Hello Universal!
Introducing Julie and Sarah as my travel companions this go around. If you followed along on my Fairytale Wedding trip report, they may look familiar. Julie was a bridesmaid and Sarah was just about as close to a bridesmaid without having to stand and wear the dress lol. We all work together (although not directly on the same team anymore) and we've been friends for about 8 years now! Crazy how time flies!

They flew down Friday morning and hung out by the pool and at Citywalk once the weather turned, I flew down Friday night after work so they were already in bed by the time I got there which is why no hotel pics. We stayed at Aventura for this part of the trip! Please enjoy my late-night-flight face. I was HP ready though!

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We were up bright and early Saturday morning to hit Islands of Adventure at opening for early entry! The line to get into the park was super long so we hopped on in. I took a detour up to Guest Relations to get the Universal guest assistance pass. I'd never used it here before because normally I stay in the hotels with the Unlimited Express Pass, but that just wasn't in the budget this trip. I had no issues getting it and in no time I was rejoining them in line.

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We headed into the park with the masses and made our way over to Hagrid's which of course already had a massive line. We got a return time and went over to Velosicoaster instead - a first for me! I really enjoyed the ride but I think Hagrid's is still my favorite.

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We headed back to the Wizarding World and rode Forbidden Journey, really taking in the details in the queue as we went.

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We decided to stop at the Three Broomsticks for some breakfast. There was a bit of a line but it wasn't too bad. The food was good but a bit pricey for what it was. We shared two entrees (one adult breakfast platter and one kids fruit plate) between the three of us since our appetites weren't huge and got some pumpkin juices.

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MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday- Quick Orlando Weekend Day 1, Part 2: More of Hogsmeade

We headed out to ride Fight of the Hippogriff next and then stopped at Hogs Head for some Butterbeer and Firewhiskey while we waited for our Hagrid's return time. We enjoyed a little break at the back tables and then hopped on the motorbike adventure!

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Real talk time: I hit my heaviest weight ever this summer right around this trip, and was honestly super nervous about fitting on some of these rides since it was pretty close already the last time I had visited. All the thrill rides there was definitely some "suck it in" and really pushing those safety bars down, but I'm happy to report I was able to ride everything I wanted! It was definitely close and something I hope to never have to face again.

We had done everything we wanted to here so far so headed over to the Hogwarts Express to head to Diagon Alley!

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We enjoyed our ride on the Hogwarts Express, it is just such a fun way to get between the two parks! I do miss the days of getting a car to yourself, but it was still a nice break from the heat for a little bit (it was HOT today!)
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Following along!
Booking a trip at the last minute is so exciting!! Following along!!

Love the “mimosa” shirt😍

Harry Potter Applause GIF by HBO

Yay for more @MagicalMaci adventures!
Agree on both!!! Tagging along!

Welcome aboard everyone! (See what I did there, cause we are on the Hogwarts Express!) :cool: And yes, last minute trips are exciting, they just hit different! No time to plan and obsess, just figure it out when you get there!
 
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MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday- Quick Orlando Weekend Day 1, Part 3: Diagon Alley Time!

Once we got to Diagon Alley, Julie found a spot on the stairs and was hard pressed to get her to move again. Sarah and I got some drinks while she people watched and were getting hungry again.

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A ride on Gringotts was enough excitement to get Julie off her perfect spot and away we went! The line was quite long inside but we were committed.

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Sarah and I wanted an actual restaurant for a good solid break and were able to get a reservation for Finnegan's in about an hour.

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We said farewell to the Wizarding World and made our way back into the rest of Universal Studios Florida.
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday- Quick Orlando Weekend Day 1, Part 4: Our Late Lunch

We made our way over towards Finnegan's and there was a huge kids group in there being a little wild while their parents were at another table not paying attention... but other than that it was a nice break.

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We started with the pretzel and cheese app, then I went with a salad and the girls split a burger.

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Guinness Warm 3 Cheese Dip(V)- $9.95
Fresh baked soft pretzel sticks served with Guinness cheese dip

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BurgerGrand Ole Burger* - $16.95
Half pound all beef burger on a toasted bun with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, with your choice of cheddar, Swiss or American cheese

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Celtic Chicken Club Salad - $15.95
Grilled chicken breast, bacon, aged cheddar cheese and diced tomatoes over a bed of lettuce garnished with Finnegan's Potato & Onion Webb.​

Everything was good and filling, nothing amazing but solid lunch for sure. There was a threat of rain in the forecast so we also timed it so we'd hopefully miss it, and were in no rush to leave if if did rain, but I don't think it rained in the afternoon. Julie decided to go back and take a nap after lunch but Sarah and I knew if we went back, we weren't making it back out. We grabbed a to-go drink since the bar here is so great and ventured back out into the park.

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We headed off for a return time to Minions and enjoyed that cute ride! While we waited for our return time, we popped in the shop and explored. When Jimmy and I had come in June 2020, he got a Harry Potter mug for his coffee that he has since used every single day. The handle broke a few months prior and I was happy to see it was still for sale! I asked if he wanted to change it up but he wanted the exact same one so I purchased that for him and he now uses it every day again
🙂
(the bottom one in the photo)

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We were hot and a bit worn out at this point. We had done most of the rides we wanted to do and didn't care to make the effort to go back for the others (Mummy was still being refurbished and I think we did hit MIB between some things).. We decided we'd head to Citywalk for a little bar crawl before dinner to keep us going but also give us a break.
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday- Quick Orlando Weekend Day 1, Part 5: Citywalk Bar Crawl

We changed our focus to Citywalk. We went on a mini bar-crawl to get some variety, keep things interesting and engaging so we'd stay awake, but also keep us out of the heat! We started at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food since Sarah is a big fan of margaritas. The bar was pretty empty so we had no issues finding a seat. We got margs and they were tasty, but tequila always makes me want to have some nibbles so I ordered us some taquitos to share. They were... not good. They weren't hot and therefore kind of soggy? Just really not enjoyable. We finished up and headed on our adventure.

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Next up we stopped at Big Fire, this is more my kind of place for sure. We ordered beverages at the bar and watched them make a fun smoking drink for some other customers. There was a little boy and his mom at the bar next to us, and he was playing Pokemon Go. Sarah and I are also both avid Pokemon Go-ers so she asked him about it and we both friended him and sent him gifts and traded with him. He was really enamored with Sarah and they chatted quite a bit.

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We were there for a while so we ordered a second round. I ordered the same cocktail but it was definitely different. A different bartender had made it and I guess they both interpreted it differently? It wasn't bad either time - just different. When we went to settle our bill, we were a bit confused because it seemed oddly low, and we realized we were only charged for two drinks! The boy's mom had bought our first round as a thank you for being so nice to her son! It was so thoughtful but so unnecessary as he was a sweetheart who was just excited to have someone upgrade his Pokemon skills!

After our time at Big Fire we made our way over to Toothsome.
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Saturday- Quick Orlando Weekend Day 1, Part 6: "Dinner" At Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

We had a reservation for dinner so we checked in and let them know we'd be at the bar upstairs waiting. We had an AMAZING bartender here who was a ton of fun! There were some other guests at the bar having a great time so it was easy to get caught up in the great atmosphere here.

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We each got a cocktail and in no time Julie had found us again, refreshed and rearing to go! But we still weren't called for our reservation, so we ordered another round of drinks and the bartender made us some shots. (I think the other party was having shots so we were inspired.) We were having a great time at the bar so we weren't too worried, but it had started to be a really long time since our reservation. Eventually our new BFF the bartender called the host stand on the radio... they somehow skipped/forgot/misplaced us? I don't really know, but eventually they sat us at a table. We would have just eaten at the bar, but we only had two seats.

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We ordered a few apps/small plates to share. Everything was pretty good, but I've definitely had better here before. Our server was a bit lackluster so I don't think that helped the situation.

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But here's the kicker of the evening... the rain finally started. It was storming HARD out there (and I hate storms so I was moderately freaking out a bit.) But it was raining so hard, the roof started leaking. I was so surprised for a nice place to just have people sitting in a dining room with the ceiling leaking next to them.

We tried to wait out the storm with one final round of drinks but it was not letting up. Thankfully we had umbrellas, but it was so so so wet outside. I ended up having to take off my shoes as we walked through Citywalk back to the bus stop to catch the shuttle back to the hotel. We were soaked and exhausted and ready for bed (well, Julie would have gone back to the park but the weather changed that plan!) I was actually glad Aventura had a bus and not a walk/boat situation with this weather.

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I had ordered us a little surprise from an Ear For Each Other Vendor to thank the girls for letting me tag along last minute, but also so I could vet some options for client gifts. We got a treat box but I think we were too full to dig in tonight.

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MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Sunday - Quick Orlando Weekend Day 2, Part 1: Flower and Garden Festival

I couldn't not go to the Flower and Garden Festival since we were so close. We packed up our room and hopped a ride over to the Hilton Orlando where it was crazy busy! MegaCon was at the convention center and it seemed like it was the last day so there were a ton of check outs ahead of us while we were waiting to check in. Of course our room wasn't ready so we just stored our luggage and went on our merry way.

We got a Lyft over to the Beach Club where I was really surprised we were questioned about our drop off. Normally as long as you aren't parking, they don't give you a hard time. Since I used to work here, I always love stopping by though, I feel at home and love the lobby scents!

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I just LOVE Epcot during Flower and Garden. Everything is so beautiful and I think it's some of my favorite food booth options. I'm going to have to try to remember all that we tried. We headed towards the UK as Sarah's friends who live in Florida (she's from Florida) were going to meet us today, so we needed to head towards the front of the park to meet them! The Cider House was the first stop since Julie is a huge cider fan and I was excited by the new scone menu item. The scone was fabulous! A highlight of the day.

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Cider House - BLT Scone with Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, sundried tomato, and basil and Cider Flight​

We explored the topiaries and I grabbed a drink from Joffrey's. So refreshing! The drinks are always tasty here and if you like, the double shots are a great deal.

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MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Sunday - Quick Orlando Weekend Day 2, Part 2: Let's go to Paris

It was time for our Remy's Ratatouille Adventure return time so we headed back that way. Julie is a HUGE Remy fan and was in her element getting to ride it! She wasn't able to join us in Epcot back in December so this was a first for her. I loved the Remy topiary with his cute little details.

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We continued on with our food adventures with stops at Fleur de Lys and the Ice Cream Shop in France (another hot day out there!) France food booths always are so good!

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Fleur de Lys - Beignet Caramélisé, Fourré Crème Vanille, Glacé au Caramel Fleur de Sel: Caramelized Beignet filled with vanilla cream and glazed with caramel fleur de sel​

We tried arepas from La Isla Fresca and were disappointed. Everyone had wanted to try them and were looking forward to them, but they were super dry.

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La Isla Fresca - Arepas topped with melted queso fresco & Coconut Tres Leches: Vanilla cake soaked in oat milk, almond milk, and coconut milk with toasted coconut​

We hit the Tangerine Cafe in Morocco as it's always a favorite of mine. I can't remember if we got chicken or lamb skewers, but they were tasty. Julie and I headed into the shops area and found the new little sangria bar. We split a white sangria (they are all portions for two?) but she didn't love it so I ended up drinking most of it. This addition is super hidden but a nice little break from the crowds.

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Tangierine Cafe: Flavors of the Medina - Grilled Kebab — Lamb or Chicken Kefta with Carrot-Chickpea Salad and Garlic Aioli & Pomegranate Mimosa
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erstwo

Well-Known Member
That is such a sweet story about the little boy/ Pokemon/ his mom! What a great trip memory. Looks like you had an all around great day at Universal.

I wonder if they are getting a huge amount of drop offs at Beach Club for folks who want to start at the International Gateway instead of the front of the park and that's why they questioned you?

I was about to say I'm going to try to remember all these food booths and then I remembered these are Flower and Garden and not food and wine booths! :( But still fun to see the pictures! That scone looked so good.
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Last minute trips sometimes turn out to be the best. Looks like you lovely ladies had a great time. Did you drive from TX ?
Thankfully, not this time (I would have been in a car longer than in the parks basically!). But we have for spring break before when flights were stupid expensive!
That is such a sweet story about the little boy/ Pokemon/ his mom! What a great trip memory. Looks like you had an all around great day at Universal.

I wonder if they are getting a huge amount of drop offs at Beach Club for folks who want to start at the International Gateway instead of the front of the park and that's why they questioned you?

I was about to say I'm going to try to remember all these food booths and then I remembered these are Flower and Garden and not food and wine booths! :( But still fun to see the pictures! That scone looked so good.
I assume they must be, or even Skyliner rides now that that is open? I can't remember if I did a blog post for Food and Wine last year... but I'll be going for that again too in a few weeks! :) However, some of these (like Morocco and China) are suuuuper similar to their F&W counterparts!
I'm caught up! All of the food that you tried looks so good!
What is the ice cream in the martini style glass?
I didn't order it so I'm not 100% sure but I think it was chocolate chip or mint chocolate chip with vodka.
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Sunday - Quick Orlando Weekend Day 2, Part 3: Time for a Break

After we finished exploring Morocco we headed over to Japan. The shop is always so fun to explore here! I ended up getting a cute luggage tag for my mom and lots of anime merch our kids are super into.

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Italy was next. I love the Lady and the Tramp topiary here. I love how they surrounded it with so many flowers this year too. Just beautiful! Not sure why I love it so much, it's a cute movie but not my favorite or anything, but maybe I just love the Italy Pavilion? However, the food booth is always terrible here so we of course skipped that.

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Since Tutto Gusto is still not a lounge, we ended up getting a table at Tutto Italia for a sit-down break in the AC. We had reservations for Nine Dragons but cancelled them the day prior because we wanted to "enjoy the festival" but we should have known we would want the mid-day break. Julie and I split some bubbly and it was so refreshing. We took a really dorky boomerang but I haven't figured out how to put videos in here so, sorry :( There were also some wine flights enjoyed and cocktails as well. However, while I normally love Tutto Italia, my food was not great today. I ordered the ravioli at our server's recommendation and it was just, blech even though it sounded right up my alley. Everyone else enjoyed theirs, so I must have just ordered wrong this time.

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Ravioli
Grilled chicken ravioli, ricotta, mozzarella, green beans, cream and pesto sauce

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Fettuccine
homemade fettuccine pasta, parmesan cream sauce​
 

MagicalMaci

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
Yes
Sunday - Quick Orlando Weekend Day 2, Part 4: More World (Showcase) Exploration

The AC was just the refreshment we needed to continue on around the world! We hit Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market (Germany) for some potato pancakes and pretzel bread and continued on to Lotus House (hiding in the China quick service these days) for some crab wontons.

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Potato Pancakes with house-made applesauce
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Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with black forest ham and melted Gruyère cheese

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House-made Cheesy Crab Wontons​

We were able to get a return time for Frozen as well and that ride is definitely more enjoyable without a super long wait!

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