But, Universal Orlando is a totally and completely different experience in its own right that we couldn't stay away! It wasn't in our original plans, but it was something we could squeeze in! So we decided to do a quick Universal Studios with our initial three days to maximize our time at Universal Orlando.
Because we stayed onsite last time, I opted to choose an offsite hotel this time, so that I could compare against the onsite experience. I know exactly how expensive an Orlando vacation can be for a family, and as much as many would like to choose the onsite experience, many times it might not be in the budget to do so. And the price and options of offsite hotels are very attractive so I wanted to evaluate the offsite hotel experience this time.
We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando, the offsite hotel located closest to the entrance of Universal Orlando Resort, a large and comfortable hotel, that is within walking distance to the parks. Other hotels in the area would be the Holiday Inn Express and the Hyatt Place Orlando.
And while it is within walking distance to the parks.....it's about a 20 minute walk to the entrance....in August....in Florida heat and humidity. So you must be prepared for that.
Offsite shuttles - yes there are complimentary shuttles that take you to the park and they run each hour throughout the day (each hotel will have their own shuttle schedule). But are they convenient?? Not so much. At our hotel, we had to pre-book and pre-register for a shuttle everyday, by 7pm the night before. No biggie. We registered for our shuttle on the day of arrival for the next day. We arrived 15 minutes before the shuttle time and stood in line to get onto the bus. As the shuttle bus started to fill up, the bus was considered "full" with another family ahead of us in line so we were not permitted on this bus (even though we had pre-registered for this time). We were advised we had to either wait for the next bus (in one hour), our we could make alternate arrangements to get to the parks (Uber, Lyft, taxi or walk).
We ended up walking because we didn't want to wait until the next bus. The other family had a stroller and young kids so they chose to use a ride-sharing service instead.
And then we didn't end up using the offsite shuttle service at all because we were in the parks all day, and didn't return before 7pm each night to reserve our pick up times for the next day. So for us, the complimentary shuttles from the offsite hotel did not offer us any value or use during our trip.
Voodoo Doughnuts - nothing like a sugary sweet delectable treat to start your morning! Originally started in Portland, Oregon, the Voodoo Doughnut craze has been extended beyond to locations at Universal Studios Hollywood in California, and at Universal Orlando in Florida! We had walked by the California location last time so we decided to actually stop in this time to see what the craze was all about!
Verdict: Best Donut ever!!
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen is another cool experience to check out! It wasn't open yet when we were there last time so another "must do" on this trip, offering specialty milkshakes, sundaes and other savory feasts.
It was nice to stop and enjoy some treats in City Walk outside of the parks. Sometimes we get so focused on all the fun inside the parks, we forget to check out all the food, entertainment and shopping opportunities outside of the parks!
Whether you decide to stay onsite or offsite at Universal Orlando, it is definitely a destination in itself, and worth experiencing as its own destination over a day trip from Disney World. Though it may not require as much planning as a Walt Disney World Vacation, there are still lots of little tips and tricks to navigate the parks, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan! Let me know how I can help you book and plan your Universal Orlando Resorts Vacation!