Adult Dream Trip: Disney World/Universal Studios Trip Report

Day 13: Universal Studios, Toothsome dinner

This was another mostly freeform day. I booked Toothsome for dinner based on recommendations but otherwise it was hit the parks and go cat go!

First, an update to day 12: I don’t know how I forgot to mention this, but I rode the Velocicoaster and it gave me FEELINGS. L took one look at that beast and was like “yeah, that’s a hard, hard no from me. But I’m happy to wait here while you go.” So I handed her everything but my lanyard and made my way to queue for this very, very intimidating coaster. The theming on this is top-notch, including the conceit that it’s been installed within the raptor enclosure as a thrill ride. The line videos and animatronics are spectacular, extremely immersive and very funny, exactly what the rest of the JP section aims to be.

I have never been so terrified by a coaster in my life. The restraints made this feel like I was practically standing during the many airtime moments, and without a harness to keep me in place I genuinely felt like I was going to slide right out. I’m sure this is by design, and there’s no way it’d really happen, but the fear was real. I have never gotten off a coaster and been more afraid of it afterward, until now. L would have had a full system shutdown.

To be clear: I absolutely loved it. This is by far the best coaster I’ve been on, but I genuinely wasn’t sure if I’d ride it a second time. I wanted to, but just felt terror when I thought about it. And this frames today well.

We took the morning off, L and I doing some reading and playing games. After lunch, I got ants in my pants, so I went to explore the pools of Portofino Bay. This really is a pretty hotel, and the quieter pool played a big part of our vacation in the next couple of days.

L encouraged me afterward to head to the parks solo while she chilled for the afternoon, and then meet up by the entrance to US to walk over to dinner. I hit a few highlights: The Mummy, Spider-Man, and, as you probably guessed, Velocicoaster. It remained both excellent and terrifying in equal measure.

Then the time was upon us for dinner at Toothsome. I was excited, but didn’t know what really to expect, except that they had great milkshakes and were all steampunk themed, something I’m a fan of aesthetically. It was… fine? I had a Peach Smash, L had the Chocolate Cherry Mule, and we started with the Potato Croquette, followed by a May Contain Bacon burger and a Tour de France burger. The drink was excellent, the food was fairly tasty, but nothing particularly special. For dessert, I had the Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding and L ordered the Black Magic Milkshake, which was very fun.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I feel like the whole place felt frenetic and there wasn’t anything particularly special about anything, the decor, the food, though the milkshake was a hit.

A mostly quiet day, and a bit overfull from dinner, we went back to the hotel for the night to watch some TV and pass out early. This reminds me: at Disney, the TV was set properly, without smoothing or anything turned on. At Universal, this was not the case, and totally ruined the enjoyment of anything we watched. Doesn’t anyone at Universal care how movies look? Grr.


I’m noticing a grimness in my reports that is much more front-of-mind than it was at the time. Hindsight has harshened my criticisms of Universal a bit, but note that in the moment everything felt amazing and fun and exciting. Neither of us are actually upset at the time or money we spent at Universal, not at all. :smiley:


Day 14: Halloween Horror Nights

The plan: HHN is totally new for both of us, and given that we’ve only got one night of it, we got ExpressPasses. We’re going to hit Volcano Bay in the morning, and maybe nap in the afternoon to get the late-night energy we need!

At this point, we’d not actually ridden any of the Harry Potter rides, partially because we were unlucky with timing and the rides were down whenever we had time/space opportunity. So, we decided to rope-drop Islands of Adventure today and get on Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure.

As someone who loved and mourned the loss of Duelling Dragons, I’m really impressed with what replaced it. The queue was great, and even included some Easter eggs for those of us who knew what it once was. We waited about an hour, our longest by far, and probably the shortest the line was all day. As a motorcycle fan, L took the motorbike position, and I was in the sidecar. I wish I had a photo of her, as her face was pure joy. :smiley: With the exception of how cramped I was in the sidecar, I loved the ride. It’s the best use of the drop gimmick I’ve been on, and because neither of us knew what to expect it was a total surprise. I’d hoped that I’d get a chance to do the motorbike in a subsequent ride but never got the opportunity.

We then did Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The queue for this is gorgeous and really makes good use of projections and screens. The moving portraits were very convincing. I was able to squeeze into the car, and off we went through the most harrowing and nauseating experience of our trip. I feel like the design of the ride is super clever, but between the 3D and the motion, it made us both feel like we were going to throw up. We both needed some time afterward to just let the nausea pass, and decided against doing Escape from Gringott’s as it was also described as motion simulator,3D/4D. I don’t think we’d have enjoyed it at all.

Nevertheless, we took the HE back to Diagon Alley to get a good photo of the dragon fire. I wish you could see the Live Photo version of this shot, it looks great!

We wandered around a little bit, and decided that the FJ really put us off riding anything else and thought we might hit somewhere in CityWalk for lunch. We went to Margaritaville. I got the fried chicken, it was alright but a very large portion. We then headed back to the hotel to nap in order to prepare for Hallowe’en Horror Nights.

I was feeling a little off all day, but I chocked it up to the unsettling ride this morning and generally being excited for HHN. We unwisely decided to get to Universal Studios around 4:30 to line up during the transition to HHN, in the sun, with no good place to sit and no shade. We baked in the sun for over an hour before making our way to Legends Collide. I was feeling worse, but that was mostly because of sitting in the sun so long, I thought. I unwisely had forgotten to get some water, so I was really thirsty, too. No matter, I’ll drink something after we do this first house.

I barely remember the house, because by the time we got out I felt really, really bad. We got some cold bottles of water and found a quiet place to sit and nurse them. The smell of deep fried food was inescapable and every time it wafted by I felt worse, like I was going to throw up. Finally, I told L that I was really sorry but we need to leave, right now, that this wasn’t as simple as being dehydrated or a little motion sick. I basically walked trash can to trash can, stopping occasionally to let my stomach settle from the walking. Literally as soon as I got out of the park I popped, luckily into a nearby trash can. It was really bad, and some kind cast members got me some paper towels to clean myself off a little.

This was almost certainly some food poisoning of some kind, I’m not sure if it was from the chicken at lunch or from dinner last night, or even a bit further back, but I managed to hold it together on the boat ride back to the hotel, where was watched another movie made to look like a soap opera and went to sleep.

I didn’t even get to see HHN at night, the sun was still up when we left. I’m so disappointed, I really was looking so forward to this. Stupid meatsacks, being all fragile. :frowning:


Day 15: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure

No specific plans today, mostly freeform!

I woke up feeling better, but still fragile from the night before. L suggested we spend the day by the pool, in the shade, and it was the best idea ever.

That was it, that was the entire day. We enjoyed poolside food service, and shifted ourselves to the chairs beside us every hour or two as the sun moved the umbrella shade. We did nothing but read, drink cold water, eat light food (that fruit plate was such a great idea) and relax.

We grabbed better than expected pizza and sandwich from Sal’s Market Deli, the quick service restaurant at the hotel, and had an early night.


Day 16: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure

Once again, no plan!

Before heading to bed, we thought it’d be fun to do the water rides at Islands of Adventure without worrying about being wet all day. So, after breakfast we put on swimsuits and crocs and made our way to do Jurassic Park River Adventure and Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. Unfortunately, Dudley Do-Right was closed for extended maintenance.

Jurassic Park was so great, just as I remember it. I’d heard it’d fallen into a bit of disrepair, but I didn’t notice anything obviously broken or malfunctioning. I love how the narration continues down the path you were “supposed” to take as you veer into the raptor containment area. :joy:

And the barges! That’s such a fun ride when you don’t have to walk around soaked for the rest of the day. It’s the best ride of its type I’ve been on, with White Water Canyon being long but not exciting, Kali River Rapids having one exciting moment but the rest is pretty boring and it’s super short. This was long, exciting throughout, and just plain fun. We went on it twice, soaked to the bone.

Before we left, I wanted to check Velocicoaster to see if it had a reasonable line (it didn’t), and went on Kong, just because I’d never done it before. It’s basically a better themed Fast and Furious, like Transformers is a worse-themed Spider-Man.The queue was amazing, though.

Finally, on our way out, we stopped at Green Eggs and Ham to get some Who Hash. Delightful and delicious and whimsical! Then back to the hotel to repeat yesterday’s poolside chill, though this time I had some Prosecco to set the mood.

For dinner, we decided to go back to Antojitos. This time I had the chimichanga, and the horchata with whiskey in it, which was the best idea ever.

And that closed out our last full day at Universal. We still have some parktime planned tomorrow, as our flight isn’t until the evening.


Amazing dragon pic! I’m so sorry you were sick and missed HHN. That really sucks.


It’s really a shame because while I felt exactly the same way as you on FJ, Gringott’s doesn’t bother me at all! It doesn’t even make it on my Barf Bag Rating Scale.


Yeah. Even though I suspected it wouldn’t be nearly as bad, the negative reaction from FJ was overwhelming. Maybe one day. :smiley:


Right??? I love it so much!

1 Like

How far in advance should I make reservations (week before Christmas)?

You can make them now. Don’t have to guarantee reservations, so no real downside to grabbing if know what you want.

1 Like

Day 17: The Journey Home

The plan: Check-out, leave our bags with the concierge, do some time in the parks and then leave for the airport around 2pm, to catch our flight at 6:25pm.

After waking up, we repeated the packing-obsessive checking as when we left the Polynesian, making sure our bags were as stuffed as possible. Neither L nor I are big collectors, so while we each bought a t-shirt and I had a new pair of dress shoes, we didn’t actually have a lot of new stuff to bring with us and it all packed up just fine.

As planned, we checked out and left our bags with the luggage services team, then walked over to Universal Studios for the final time. There were a bunch of little things I was hoping we’d do that we’d not really explored. First up: the Horror Makeup Show! I love this show, it’s always good for a laugh, and the hosts really leaned into it all. L was skeptical about it, but was absolutely charmed by it, and we left with big smiles on our faces.

Afterward, we headed toward ET, and I can’t lie: being in the area we were in at HHN when I was feeling so ill really did a big of a number on me. I had that kind of nervous nausea that was mostly in my head, but was genuinely worried I was getting sick again. I wasn’t, but there was that moment.

E.T. is so charming. Everything seems to be working, and we even got our personal goodbye. :smiley: Both L and I really enjoyed it.

After that, it was mostly wandering around. We took the HE back to Hogsmeade, had a butterbeer, then went to Thunder Falls Terrace for some chicken, corn and potatoes. It was fine, a bit dry, but it hit the spot. We watched the splash zone of JPRA for a bit while we ate. I finished early, so I ran over to Velocicoaster to see what the wait was like, but it was too long for a third go.

We decided to wander back to CityWalk and get some doughnuts from Voodoo (overrated!) and chilled out with some cold water in the shade and people watched for a bit.

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel, call a cab and go back to the airport for our return to civilization! Some Auntie Anne’s mini pretzel-dogs kept us company in the lounge until boarding, and it was a smooth flight back to Toronto. A couple of days later and I wore the only real souvenir I got.

So that was my whirlwind vacation! Complete with actual whirlwind! I’ll write up some finishing thoughts a bit later, now that I’ve finished the actual report. Thanks so much for following along with your kind words. This was a lot of fun to do, and I need to remember next time to bring something with a proper keyboard because using my phone to post things like this is crazypants.



GREAT trip report! Thanks for sharing!


Great trip report Tim! I was there about a week before you and share many of the same thoughts: 1) loved VC (and the wife also did not ride), 2) I miss Dueling Dragons but also love Hagrid’s, 3) FJ made me unexpectantly nauseous, 4) Mythos was a great lunch, and 5) PBR was very nice (although I thought the Starbucks was actually good)


This!!! 100% this! Got off Hagrid’s 30 minutes after park was closed and spent another 30 minutes trying to get the bar code of our Hagrid’s photo.


We waited for 25 minutes to get through a line of 15 people at the Starbucks in Portofino Bay. That would never happen at a real one, it should have been 5 minutes, tops. It was super frustrating, luckily we were usually up early and able to skip the 15-person line for the 6-person, 12 minute line. :sob:

Like, at least let me mobile order ffs.

1 Like

Sorry for the lateness of this, I meant to write it up weeks ago but life got in the way! :smiley:

Final Thoughts

So here I am, a little over two months later, reflecting on the trip as a whole. There were for sure some surprises, some absolutely thrilling moments, and some crushing disappointments, but overall this was just such a delightful trip. I’m so glad that we went, L and I both were thrilled. It was the right mix of relaxing and busy, and juuuuuuust long enough that we desperately wanted to go home at the end of it.

Disney vs. Universal

“Disney Rival Six Flags Adds New Rollercoaster!”

“Universal’s Epic Universe Is Coming — Should Disney Be Worried?”

“10 Reasons Why Disney Is Getting Its Ass Handed To It By GenericPark2000!”

Headlines like these seem to be all over the place the last couple of days, and I can’t help but wonder if there is too much cocaine in the cornflakes of the theme park press.

Disney doesn’t have a true competitor in their space. Universal, Six Flags, Cedar Park, none of these companies are in the same business as Disney. They’re all in the rides business, Disney is in the experience business.

I spoke a bit about this during my post for Day 11, but I wanted to elaborate a little bit on things. My background is in technology, but I’ve built a number of businesses and built expertise around ensuring customer delight, both in the digital world and the real one, so I might be hyper-sensitive to things around that. Be warned.

When I was doing research for my trip, over the last 4 years or so, I started following a lot of blogs and YouTube channels built around Disney. Many of them breathlessly wondered if Universal Studios was going to gasp overtake Disney, and if Disney had something to fear from the juggernaut of the coming Epic Universe.

No, Disney doesn’t have anything to fear. The experiences are so night-and-day different.

When we returned, L and I were talking to family about our trip, and she said something that has really stuck with me: she thought that Disney was going to be like a better version of Canada’s Wonderland (our local rollercoaster park here in Toronto, it’s fine, but it’s like a 6 Flags or Cedar Fair, mostly about thrill rides and not really about ambience or theming). What she realized was that was actually the way Universal Studios was, and Disney was much more experiential.

Universal Studios (and the other parks) won’t “win” because they don’t care about the little interactions, only the big ones. They have giant rollercoasters that turn you inside out, and they have some really gorgeous theming, but that’s where it ends. The Harry Potter areas are a great example! Sure, they look pretty great, but every time I bought a butterbeer it was from someone who was working for Universal Studios, but when I bought a Coke from a similar vendor in Galaxy’s Edge, I was buying it from a vendor who lived on Batuu, and they engaged with me as such.

The food at Universal is what you’d expect at a theme park: mediocre with some nice highlights. Disney consistently thrilled us, even quick service places.

There are legitimate reasons to go to one over the other: if you primarily care about biggest, fastest, most thrilling, Universal is the way to go. If you’re looking for something uniquely available at Universal (such as Harry Potter or Jurassic Park), then it’s a no-brainer. Money: that’s totally legit. But if you’re going to judge your time based on the experience as a whole, the more subtle hits of joy that come from mundane interactions being delightful, Disney is going to blow you the fuck away.

I’m planning to do the Galactic Starcruiser in 2024 with another partner, and after discussions with L, we’d both consider going to Aulani over some other Hawaii resort, simply because our interactions at Disney World were so top-notch.

The Perils of Aging: Motion Sickness

Imagine my horror when I realized a few years ago that I was starting to get motion sick on rides. As a life-long thrill-seeker, it hurt my heart to discover many of my favourite rides made me sick. I started using the ear-patches, but those little miracles were discontinued in March this year, and neither L nor I had any left by the time we realized. :sob:

I wish we’d looked into taking Gravol, to see if it’d help and not make us too groggy, but we decided to tough it out with mixed results. L was far more affected than I was, but it was still hard at times.

Real bad: Star Tours, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers 3D, generally most screen-based rides especially if they were 3D (I’m looking at you, 60% of Universal’s rides!)

Not great: Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run (I was mostly ok, L was not).

Mostly OK: Cosmic Rewind (after 2 rides, L was done for the day, but would ride it again; I was 100% fine), Space Mountain (a little rough for multiple rides)

A+ would ride again: Rise of the Resistance, Runaway Railway, Rock’n’Rollercoaster, Slinky Dog Dash, Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-rat Barges (dress for it, but SO FUN, no motion sickness at all!) , Velocicoaster (L didn’t go on this, but motion sickness didn’t affect me at all).


Whoa. Some of the best meals of my life were at Disney World. Victoria and Albert’s is in the top 5 meals of my life and I strongly recommend it. Sell your kids or an organ, and indulge. Other highlights: Jiko, Nomad Lounge, Ohana (that bread pudding!), Skipper Canteen, and California Grill. Nothing at Universal was notable, though butterbeer is excellent.

Food at Disney requires a bit of research, I found the Disney Food Blog YouTube channel a pretty helpful resource, their blog itself is a mess that’s impossible to find anything good on. I also found their guides pretty terribly formatted and hard to use.



Theme Park View, Club Level. This was an amazing hotel stay. Club Level was worth it for us, primarily because we had separate food service from the rest of the hotel during the hurricane, which meant no long, long lines. After a day or two, I was worried it was mostly too much money for too little benefit, but the power of nature increased the value significantly. It was also handy to grab and go something quickly whenever we wanted, often for breakfasts on park days. However, I don’t think I’d do club level again.

The theme park view was absolutely worth the price. We stayed on the third floor, with a view that can’t be accurately be replicated in photos (the castle always looks far away in photos; in reality, it looks much closer). I know this isn’t the most accessible stay for many people, but in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Our room was perhaps a bit loud, we could often hear families in the hall laughing or fighting, and the fireworks music and light parade on the lake were often pretty loud, though we were often sleeping by the time they started.

We watched a fair amount of TV, what with the hurricane and all, and it was really good. Nice that we could easily connect our phones and stream Disney+.

Portofino Bay

Quieter, and very nice to have a king-sized bed at last. The room was pretty plain, and the view was fine, looking over the bay with the boats in it.

At night we watched TV a bit, and the goddamned picture smoothing was on, with no way to turn it off. This is another benefit of staying at Disney resorts that are run by Disney: they care about details like this. You’d think that Universal Studios would care about the movie-watching experience in their hotels, except they’re NOT their hotels, they’re Lowes, who evidently doesn’t give a crap about how anything looks or sounds.

The whole check-in, then go to another place to get your tickets process is ridiculous, another terrible experience that I assume is because Universal doesn’t operate the hotel.

I’ve previously stayed at the Royal Pacific, and preferred it to Portofino. I didn’t go there this visit because I didn’t want a direct comparison to the Polynesian, but that happened anyway. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


This really was a dream trip. For all my kvetching and whinging, this was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Both L and I had a really great time, it wasn’t too negatively affected by the weather, aside from a brief hurricane, and really taught me a thing or two about crafting great experiences.

Using BG1 was a serious boon, like having a super power. I can’t recommend it highly enough. So much Cosmic Rewind was had because of it. So much.

What would I do differently?

  • No club level
  • Universal first, for a shorter amount of time
  • Gravol experiments
  • Research restaurants at Universal more closely. I’m sure there’s some goodish ones, I just never found them

Thanks for following along with my nonsense for so long. I hope to do this again when I go with B to do Galactic Starcruiser and a shorter, moderate hotel stay in 2024.


Love your write up and final thoughts!! Hard agree about the difference between Universal and Disney. Also, I feel your pain with the motion sickness (though I’m not completely sure my issue is motion sickness but just feeling off ??).


For motion sickness
The reliefband was a lifesaver for me as the ear patches gave me cotton mouth. I’ve ridden things with the band that I had vomited on in the past.


I always say that the difference between Disney and other parks is you could not set foot on a ride all Day at Disney and still have a marvellous day!