Trip Report

Universal Orlando

September 14-21, 2013

A (mostly) Universal Orlando trip report and photo highlight from September 14-21, 2013.

A few days ago my girlfriend and I returned from our week-long vacation to Orlando, Florida.

Instead of focusing on the Walt Disney World theme parks, this time around we spent four days in Universal Orlando, hopping back and forth between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.  Why Universal this time and not Disney?  The main reason is that we scored an awesome ticket deal for the Universal parks.  I haven't been to Universal since July of 2009, and my girlfriend's one and only visit to Universal was in June of 2010.  Unfortunately, her visit lasted for only a couple of hours.

Despite being die-hard Disney fans, my family and I have done a couple of non-Disney trips to Florida in the past.  Granted, those trips were only a couple of days at the most, and they involved visiting Downtown Disney and the Disney resorts, but it still worked.  Barely.  This week-long trip to Orlando without stepping foot inside of the Disney theme parks was actually going to be more challenging than originally believed.

Anyway, we left Atlanta, GA extremely early on Saturday morning.  The drive down to Florida was relatively easy, and there weren't any speed traps.  The only snag during the drive was a MASSIVE traffic jam on I-75 south between Ocala and the Florida Turnpike.  It turns out that the traffic was the result of a very nasty wreck that occurred earlier that morning.  One of the moments in traffic had us next to a semi truck carrying what looked like a hundred bee hives.  It was . . . interesting watching the bees flying around the truck while we triple checked that our windows were fully secured.

After an hour in traffic we finally passed the site of the wreck, and the police and fire department were still clearing away some of the wreckage.  Once we were past that spot, the rest of the drive on I-75, the Florida Turnpike, and toll road 429 went smoothly.  We stopped for lunch, went to a car wash to clean the thousand or so number of dead love bugs plastered on the front of the car, and then checked into our condo.

The general plan for this trip was to spend Sunday cruising Downtown Disney and some resorts, being in Universal Orlando for Monday and Tuesday, taking a break on Wednesday, and then more Universal Orlando on Thursday and Friday.  As fans of Universal know, this past Friday was the first day of the annual Halloween Horror Nights festival.  If my planning was correct, during that week we'd have nice and warm weather and very low crowds in the theme parks.

Downtown Disney - Halloween items for sale

Daytime highs were in the upper 80s, lows were in the low 70s, and the longest of wait times barely touched the thirty-minute mark.  The majority of rides had little to no wait times.  On top of that, Halloween decorations were already on display.  One could say that it was perfect.  Hooray!

Let's take a look at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, and see what's new in those areas.