Universal Here We Come - Planning Help Needed

I know I have already gotten great advice from the Universal News and Planning thread - which is a great resource. But now as I am getting down to it, I realize that it is useful to have all my information in one place instead of spread out over a very active thread.

First about me and my family. We love amusement parks and we love theme parks. It is me, my DH and my DD13. We are frequent visitors to Disney, we take family trips, mother daughter trips, and I take solo ones. Now that DD is older, we are going to start adding Universal into the trip rotation. I already can’t wait for Epic Universe to open.

We all love roller coasters with a few caveats - none of us like really rough ones (especially if they bang your head into the shoulder harness), I can’t handle major g-forces (I grey out, but Maggie may still ride these while we wait), and we have some size constraints (I use a Facebook group run by a Touring plans travel agent to get great resources on this; plus DH and I have lost enough weight to minimize the issues).

Our trip:

We are going into the mouth of the beast. We will spend four days at Disney and then two days at Universal, the week before Easter. Our Disney days will be laid back, so that our Universal Days can be packed full.

We will check out of BRV early Thursday morning and head to Royal Pacific Resort to check in for one night, but still be in time for early entry. On Friday, after spending the day at Universal we will head to the airport and spend the night at the Hyatt because we have an early flight the next morning. This seemed the most cost efficient way to get express passes.

My first round of questions, if you don’t mind helping (there will be more questions!)

  1. If you had four meals to plan for lunch and dinner where would you go? I need at least one table service - with as busy as it is, I would like a guaranteed seat for a meal or two. Especially because we won’t have much access to our room. Assume lunch in the parks, but dinner can be at City Walk or the RPR.
  2. Any recommend breakfast places?
  3. Any tips for early entry on a check-in day?
  4. Finally, can you help me get a sense of the resort size and what it takes to navigate it? I know it is much easier to than WDW. I have been DLR, so maybe that is the best reference point.

Thanks for kicking this off! I will have questions about rides, shows, express pass in the future!

  1. Here’s the data we pulled for the highest rated restaurants from 2023.

If you’re potter fans then you will deff wantt to hit Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron, too.

  1. Breakfast is weak in the parks, I recommend having a snack in the room before hand. Lots of people buy Voodoo Donuts for the room for breakfast. I’d suggest eating at the hotel and having an early lunch.

  2. Not particularly, use Express.

  3. UOR is like DL in many ways - from size to layout. CityWalk is the main dining district, like Downtown Disney, where the parks branch off. You can walk, ride a bus, or take a boat to CityWlak from RPR.


Thank you for this! I saw Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron had breakfast, which made me wonder. I know we plan on using early entry to be in Diagon Alley on day two while it is relatively empty (if it is open for EE on Friday). We should have a wand by then. I thought that might be a good excuse to eat at the Leaky Cauldron (a bit later), but then again all morning hours are precious, so maybe not.

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We’ve never eaten breakfast in the parks, so can’t speak to that.

As far as lunch, one of our favorites (not so much because it is amazing…but we like it, and it generally fast/convenient) is at USF with lots of seating. Louie’s Pizza. They have pizza, obviously, but salads and I think meatball subs, etc. We try to get there right when they open.

We tend to want to eat at Leaky Cauldron more than Three Broomsticks.

The Crepe place at USF is also good for something different. Forget what it is called…but not too far from the Simpson’s area.


Best TS - based on popular opinions of Liners & myself

IOA - Mythos or Confisco Grill (tie)
USF - Finnegan’s
CityWalk - Antojitos

Honorable Mention - Hard Rock Café
Personal Favorite - Mama Della’s

Best QS - based on popular opinions of Liners & myself

IOA - Three Broomsticks
USF - Minion’s Café / Crepe Stand
CityWalk - Breadbox Handcrafted Sandwiches

Honorable Mention - Thunder Falls Terrace
Personal Favorite - Green Eggs & Ham Tots

Try the hotel restaurant - The Islands

Every meal I’ve had at the premier hotels is always a winner. I’ve never eaten at RPR, but have at all the other hotels. The breakfast menu there looks delicious!

The breakfast options in the park are slim.

I believe Toothsome’s is offering a breakfast. (I’m not a Toothsome’s fan).

Best Breakfast

USF - Today Café
IOA - Green Eggs & Ham Tots
CityWalk - Cinnabon / Croissant Moon Bakery

Honorable Mention - WWOHP
Personal Favorite - The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel - full buffet

Just start using your Express (UXP) as soon as you enter. You won’t need to worry about early entry or even a “plan”. Your waits shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes - usually less.

DLR is a perfect example… Everything is so easy to walk to and navigate. This map is a little “cartoon-ish”, but should give you an idea of the resort layout

Any time you want to go to the parks or CityWalk from your hotel, you’ll do security screening / metal detection right at your hotel dock. From there, a water taxi will take your to the middle of CityWalk. You can go right to USF or left to IOA while being surrounded by stores & dining. The boat dock is on the side of the lagoon that has NBC Grill and The Universal Store…

Finally… this is my personal rankings of every place in the parks & CityWalk. I have included the hotels, that Ive tried & VB as well. This is my personal tastes - of course! For example - You may love VooDoo Doughnuts while I don’t care for them at all!

  1. With the very high crowds and long days since you won’t be taking a mid day break, definitely book a TS res. each day. Not only to secure a table without waiting, but to get a 1 hour+ rest. Agree with @darkmite2 on the park TS ranking. If you happen to be switching parks (via main entrances) at a TS meal time, Toothsome/Hard Rock Cafe is a great choice with no extra walking. What is your preferred meal times? And are you willing to eat at an off-time to ensure a short wait for your QS meals? If the parks close at 10pm, is dinner afterwards at CityWalk or the hotel restaurant still an option?

But answering your question about what 4 lunch and dinner meals. For in-park, I personally would pick:
#1 QS: Minion Cafe (table delivery)
#1 TS: Finnegan’s
#2 QS: Leaky Cauldron or Three Broomsticks
#2 TS: Confisco’s

  1. Early before parks or like a brunch?
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While I have a special place in my heart for Antojitos, it did score the second lowest ratings last year. The only worse restaurant in CityWalk was Margaritaville.

Croissant Moon was the best counter service at UOR last year, so good choice for breakfast. Same for Today Cafe.


I find it to be on par with my local “Tex Mex” place at about the same prices. IME - It’s consistently good. . Only one or two things that stood out, but I’ve never had a “bad” thing there.

I used to like Margaritaville a lot. I would go there for the nachos. However, the price has gone up enough that it’s not a “value” anymore to draw me there. I’ve always enjoyed my meals there though!

My wife isn’t a theme park fan or morning person. Croissant Moon is the thing she “has to have” if I get her to go to the parks early! She really like the pastries

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[quote=“heathernoel, post:1, topic:97621”] 1.
If you had four meals to plan for lunch and dinner where would you go?

Leaky Cauldron is our favourite for lunch. We also really liked Today Café. If you’re willing to head into Citywalk for lunch, we love Bend the Bao.

For table service our go-tos are Antojitos and Cowfish. You might be able to book reservations for them already.

[quote=“heathernoel, post:1, topic:97621”] 2.
Any recommend breakfast places?

We enjoyed breakfast at Three Broomsticks. It’s nothing unique, but you can get pumpkin juice and butterbeer. We did a walk up near the end of Early Entry but you can sometimes get vouchers with a time.

[quote=“heathernoel, post:1, topic:97621”] 3.
Any tips for early entry on a check-in day?

If you’re not going to be in time for rope drop, I would leave Hagrid’s for your second day. You can ride Forbidden Journey and Hippogryph with pretty much no wait. Since you’ll have Express Pass, I wouldn’t worry much about Early Entry unless you’re aiming for Hagrid’s.

[quote=“heathernoel, post:1, topic:97621”] 4.
Finally, can you help me get a sense of the resort size and what it takes to navigate it?

Everything in the parks and Citywalk is within an easy walking distance of each other.

You’re going to have a fantastic time!

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Thank you all for this information! Its very helpful.

Particularly its good to know that if rope drop on check in morning isn’t super successful, we’ll be okay.

I am mostly thinking brunch for a post rope drop break. Most likely will ise it as a reason to eat at Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron - whichever we aren’t doing for lunch on a different day. Then we will be clear to do Hagrid’s during lunch and eat lunch later.


That sounds good. And then a late lunch/snack will be better to avoid the peak lunch time crowds.

If you do a late dinner after your park day, besides the CityWalk options, Strong Water Tavern at Sapphire Falls is highly rated. You could take the Water Taxi there, then after dinner it’s a short 5 min. walk back to RPR.


This is a great idea. Maybe even for our last njght before we head to our hotel at the airport. I had not seen much at City Walk that is appealing after a week in the parks (that satisfies all of us).

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Strong Water is very good! We had tapas & tacos with our drinks. The pork tacos were a highlight of our trip! Beware! The drinks are incredibly strong! We liked ours, but couldn’t finish them. We were pretty tipsy after 1/3 of the drinks! :rofl:


I absolutely love strongwater! Supper yummy food and great drinks. Highly recommend! Cowfish used to be high on my list but last time I went in October it was blah at best. If you want a splurge bice at Portofino is excellent but might be too heavy for Easter week

I like thunder falls terrace for lunch. The Harry Potter ones are ok. Definitely a must do if you haven’t been before for ambiance alone! One of them has a ploughmans platter (bread and cheese) so can never go wrong with that.

I don’t really ever do breakfast in the parks. RPR actually has decent breakfast burritos to go in their quick serve in the lobby (or did last time I was there over a year ago). I’d usually eat that and drink my coffee on my walk to the park. The kitchen at the hard rock has a great brunch but I believe it’s only on weekends? That would be a 5-7 min walk from USF.


Part two since I forgot the rest of your questions:

You can check in pretty early at the hotel. They used to send out a precheck in email to expedite the process but I haven’t gotten that in my last two trips. Walking from RPR to IOA is like 10 mins? Prob 15-18 to get to USF

And everything is close! You can walk between parks in under 10 mins.

Have so much fun! I really do love it there. The express passes just make everything so seamless so very little planning besides dinner rezzies is needed.


I find this to be true about UOR even without Express Passes! It’s what won me over the last couple years. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :rofl:


Thank you for these suggestions - I feelnlike I am getting a better sense of the possibilities and options!

We will probably check in very early and head to the parks. Do I need to check in for the express pass to work? Thank you!


We will definitely take your advice and wait for day two. We may start with Diagon Alley so we can be there with fewer crowds.

Do you recommend Hippograph even of we are 13yo and up? Just for the themeing? Or is it a skip?

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Yes, your room keys (everyone gets one) double as your express passes.


Very important information. Thank you!