This December, my husband and I were frazzled from all the holiday planning and wanted to enjoy a quick getaway without heading too far away from home while on a budget. Living in South Florida, Orlando is only about three hours away and promises a variety of entertainment options, from theme parks to dining, that we were looking forward to. This time around we decided to make our “staycation” in Florida all about Universal Studios, being as how the theme park offers a variety of entertainment options that’s not just child-centered, as well as nearby resorts with plenty of great amenities. And how do you make a Universal vacation fun for two adults with no kids in tow? Below are my top three tips as to how my husband and I enjoyed the popular theme parks Universal has to offer, as well as all the fun options way past closing time.
#1 Stay Close to the Action
This time around, we stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Rates starting at $79 for Florida Residents). Not only was the resort affordable, but besides being family-friendly, it also offers an adult-friendly pool area and room tower. The hotel also offers a lazy river, bowling alley with a full bar where bartenders can mix up your favorite cocktails and a shuttle to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure where you can even get early admission to the park and beat the crowds at 8 am. The hotel is also vintage-inspired and its colorful decorations will flash you right back to the 1950s. Don’t forget to take many pictures with the vintage cars on display right outside the lobby before you check out. At night, once you’re back from exploring, enjoy a glass of wine or a whiskey drink at the classy lobby bar known as Swizzle Lounge, where drinks are served in beautiful vintage glassware.
#2 Leisurely Explore the Parks
To us, the best part about a Universal vacation for two is the fact that you can embrace your inner kid and have lots of fun in the process. Taking advantage of the early shuttle to Universal Studios, my husband and I obtained two-park passes (For Florida Residents, $136 per person) that admitted us to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Once we got there at 8 am, we went directly to the very-popular Harry Potter Diagon Alley and were able to enjoy a butterbeer and ride the “Escape to Gringotts” attraction without having to fight the crowds. After exploring Diagon Alley, we took the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure, which we found to be an entertaining and air-conditioned way to get to and from both parks. Another great tip if you want to beat the lines as a couple is to go in as a single rider to the most popular rides. While wait times might be 45 minutes to over an hour for most rides when it’s very busy, the single rider option gives you a chance to fill empty seats and get through the lines quicker. While you might be separated for a bit, you will shave off some time when it comes to rides. After riding some of our favorite attractions such as Transformers and Men in Black in Universal Studios, my husband and I headed over to the Simpsons-inspired area, where we grabbed a seat in the outdoor beer garden and enjoyed a Duff Lager and some lunch at Moe’s Tavern. A fun fact regarding this experience is that Universal Studios is the only place where you can enjoy these brews, which gives you definitive bragging rights when you head back home.
#3 Stay Up Late
Universal not only offers theme parks, but it has nightlife, entertainment and dining options at Universal’s CityWalk. After we got back to Cabana Bay Resort and changed into our finest for the evening, my husband and I took the complimentary shuttle to this entertainment district and explored the area for the night after enjoying dinner at Vivo Italian Kitchen. CityWalk offers a 20-screen movie theater, a variety of casual and even fancier dining options as well as shops for those seeking to take a souvenir home. I recommend visiting the Hard Rock Café for a bite and some good music, grabbing a margarita at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and ending the night dancing up a storm at the groove, or belting out a tune at Rising Star, where you can karaoke with a live band to back you up. CityWalk also offers a party pass that you can purchase for a flat fee ($11.99, or $15 with movie access), which shaves off the cover charge at many of the area’s establishments, making lounge and barhopping a breeze. Once you’re done for the evening, you will be thankful for a day spent exploring Universal a different way and for making it your own adult experience.