I saw a commercial today for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios . Our family spent two weeks in Orlando at Christmas time and learned a great deal. The commercial brought back those memories and brought back all of the lessons we learned.
We were lucky enough to be in Orlando for two weeks and visited Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and all four Disney Parks. By going to the variety of parks we were able to compare and learn the ins and outs.
1) First of all, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still very popular. If you want to get in, get there early. The fire marshal has set maximum numbers for all of the parks and during Christmas most parks were closed to guests by noon. There were days when we got to Harry Potter just a half an hour after it opened and it was already closed. You can get a time pass but even then you have to stand in line and wait for clearance to enter. This was also the case for Magic Kingdom. I heard one tourist say that is why Disney has so many parks in Orlando, so the tourists have some place to go when Magic Kingdom is maxed out.
So to simplify #1, know which park you want to attend and get there early. If you are there to vacation at the parks, sleeping in is not an option.
2) If you are going to eat in the parks, make your reservations well in advance. You can go online for any of the parks http://www.universalorlando.com/OverviewPages/Dining/50greatrestaurants.aspx, http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining/, http://www.seaworld.com/sitepage.aspx?PageID=544. If you do not have reservations in advance, you may not get in. We made the mistake and tried to get reservations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the day we visited and there was nothing open.
Granted, we were there at Christmas but I tried to make reservations before Thanksgiving and found that some of the restaurants at Epcot were already full. We were unable to get reservations on Christmas Day at the Rose and Crown. I know we had many problems getting to the most popular restaurants (the restaurants in Italy or France) While we had not initially planned on eating in Germany or Japan, the food was very good.
Synopsis – make dinner reservations prior to arriving in Orlando. This will help set your schedule because you will know what park you need to be in on what day.
Note: Remember that you may not want to leave the park if you have dinner reservations. We were lucky in that we made reservations at Mythos at Universal. We left to see the “Blue Man Group” and the park just happened to open up again right before our reservation time. Once you are gone from the park, they will not “save your place” even if you have dinner reservations.
The manager at one of the restaurants at Magic Kingdom told me that the staff at Disney train 50 weeks for the two weeks at Christmas time. In the two week time period, there are as many guests as 5 weeks of Spring Break. Be prepared to stand in line! If you do not want to stand in line, you may not want to visit any of the Orlando parks. You will stand in line for up to 120 minutes for a 4 minute ride.
My children love SeaWorld! It is an amusement park/zoo. You can see some fabulous animals/mammals/sea creatures and ride some great rides. It was the less crowded of all of the parks but well worth our time and money.
While we were there at Christmas time, there were no water parks open. That of course is a great option when the weather is warmer. But once again, be ready for crowds.
This is part one of various blogs I will deliver on traveling in Florida. This was fairly brief but hopefully helpful for your planning. Look for future blogs going in to more detail.