Our Favorite Kid Rides, Shows and More: A Day at Universal Studios + Islands of Adventure, Orlando – with Kids ages 5 & Under – using the Park to Park Pass

When I was doing research for Universal Studios with kids, I had such a hard time finding blogs or reviews about how much there would be to do for the younger kiddos. Having a 5.5 and almost 4 year old traveling with me during our time in Orlando – we’ve been to Disney a few times and I wanted to change things up a bit. I thought Universal would be a great way to spend a day, personally having wanted to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for years now – but would there be enough for my two young sons to enjoy? Would it be worth the cost of the tickets?

I am SO GLAD I took the chance and spent a day here at Universal with my boys because it was insane how much there was to do for the younger ones – maybe even more than a day at a Disney Park, dare I say!

Since I was so blown away by all the fun, rides, entertainment and more for my kids 5 and under to enjoy, I wanted to put together a blog post to share just how much we did together in one day at Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure in Orlando! I know so many friends and family are already planning Fall + Winter trips to the area, so throughout it would be fun to share!

So first things first – I sprung for the Park to Park ticket. This means we had access to Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure {two separate parks, side by side} – the main reason for this was that getting this ticket is the ONLY WAY to ride the Hogwarts™ Express between Hogsmeade™ Station {at Islands of Adventure} and King’s Cross Station {at Universal} with a Park-to-Park Ticket. Without this ticket, you can’t ride the Hogwarts Express between the parks – its about $50 more to each ticket to access both parks in one day and to ride the train. We ended up riding it 4 times during our day here and the boys LOVED IT. It’s a different experience going from Hogsmead to Kings Cross and from Kings Cross to Hogsmead – so it was like two separate rides each time.

Aside from wanting to experience the Harry Potter Magic myself, I knew that since the boys wouldn’t be able to do all the rides {because of height restrictions} I wanted to be able to make the most of our day at the two parks and knew there was things on both sides that they would want to see, favorites including –

/ at Universal: Despicable Me, Transformers, Curious George

/ at Islands of Adventure: Spider Man, Jurassic Park, Seuss-world

Just a few things on each side that made me want to make the day a little crazy and do both parks in one day! In the end it was COMPLETELY worth it!

Let’s Start with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Because it’s my favorite part!

So there are two separate {and different} Harry Potter themed worlds in each of the parks – one at Universal and one at Islands of Adventure. Having never been to either of these two parks before, I was slightly confused about it all at first, but now I totally get it.

At Islands of Adventure – you get to experience Hogsmeade and my favorite – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Even more beautiful in person. It’s breathtaking.

While we were here I enjoyed a Butterbeer {non-alcoholic – and sort of gross. Way to sweet for me, but I had to try one!}

The boys and I also got to ride Flight of the Hippogriff – which is a family friendly roller coaster right outside the castle. They LOVED it. It was great for all ages and a fun coaster ride for sure.

As mentioned above, the main reason for the Park to Park pass is to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express. This has two rides on each side, which we got to see each of them twice – one which takes Harry from London to Hogwarts for the first time and one where he is coming back from Hogwarts to London and You Know Who is on the loose! It was beautifully done and a great way to get out of the heat and go from park to park.

On the Universal side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is London + Diagon Alley. Here you get to see Gringotts, The Knight Bus and everything else that comes alive in Diagon Alley.

Here I was lucky enough to be able to go on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts {which was incredible!} and we went to Olivander’s to see the wand selection process, which was just like the movie and really neat for kids!

So that’s just a taste of all the Harry Potter amazingness I got to experience. The boys were complete fans after everything too and ever since we’ve been home we’ve been reading the books and watching {the PG} movies together. It’s been so nice to bring back one of my favorite book series for my kiddos. And if you aren’t a HP fan, I’m sure most of what I just wrote made zero sense to you!

So, onward!

Next I want to break it down by park all the rides and shows we got to experience in the 12 hours we were there, because it was so much for the kiddos, I’m still impressed with it all!

At Universal Studios:

  • 1- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • 2 – Shrek 4-D
  • 3 – Transformers The Ride: 3-D
  • 4 – The Simpsons Ride
  • 5 – Kang & Kodos’ Twirl & Hurl
  • 6 – A Day in the Park with Barney
  • 7- Curious George Goes to Town
  • 8 – Fievel’s Playland
  • 9 – Universal Superstar Parade
  • 10 – Transformers Meet & Greet: Optimus Prime + Bumblebee
  • 11 – Nighttime Spectacular Show

Also adding Gringotts + Hogwarts Express to this list as previously mentioned!

At Islands of Adventure:

  • 1- Camp Jurassic
  • 2- Pteradon Flyers {which was incredible!!}
  • 3- Me Ship, The Olive
  • 4- Spider Man Meet & Greet
  • 5 – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • 6 – High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Ride
  • 7- The Cat in the Hat
  • 8 – If I Ran A Zoo
  • 9 – Flight of the Hippogriff

So we ended up going to Universal / Islands of Adventure the week the Orlando schools went back in session, which is very close to back to school for most of the rest of the US. This ended up being timed completely by accident but made our visit to the parks even more amazing because we didn’t wait in any lines! It was incredible and made the day so much more enjoyable – so if you are looking for a great time to go, I would most definitely recommend the second week of August during the week!

I did not expect between the two parks for there to be so much for the younger kiddos to see, do and enjoy. I always assumed that Universal was for older kids and Disney was for the younger ones, but I swear the boys went on more rides and shows between Universal and IOA in one day than they ever did with a park hopper at Disney! And while we will always love Disney – being able to see Spider Man, Transformers, the minions, Spongebob and more was such a treat for them, because they are super into all of these characters at almost 4 and 5.5 years old.

So I was blown away with the ride options, but even more so, the massive play areas at each park – we LOVED spending time in A Day in the Park with Barney, Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland {which was awesome because it had a super secret water slide!} These areas were large and contained and a great way for the kids to get some wiggles out – where I feel some other parks are lacking spots like this!

Seriously, how fun does Fievel’s Playland look in this photo?

We LOVED the Universal Superstar Parade and we all stayed up WAY past our bedtime for the nighttime spectacular water + fireworks show as well, which was beautifully done. I wish we had time to see the nighttime show on the Hogwarts Castle, but we couldn’t fit everything in with timing.

All of this post to say – we had an incredible time at BOTH parks and I’m so happy we took advantage of the Park to Park pass and were able to enjoy both sides and everything it has to offer. I was scared there wasn’t going to be enough for my boys to do and enjoy but I was so wrong about that and so pleasantly surprised with everything they were able to do!

If you have kiddos on the younger plus some older kids that want to try out some more thrilling rides, both parks have lots of those too! I’m so happy we carved out some time to try something new during this ‘Disney’ visit because I’m not sure when we will get the chance again and it was so worth it!

Thanks so much for following along this lengthy post, but I hope it helps if you are planning a Universal/IOA trip anytime soon! And if you’ve been before, I’d love to know your favorite ride – Please share!

Life Update + Catching Up

It’s been a little quiet around here the past few weeks. The end of summer caught up with me QUICK. And then we had Brooks’ First Day of Kindergarten, and then Graham turned 4 and then we had Graham’s First Day of Pre-K – and then I got hit with the most awful case of poison ivy ever through most of that. Needless to say, its been a crazy month – I can’t believe summer is over, school has started and routine is the new normal. Something I totally have to get used to.

So let’s get caught up on everything that’s been going on over here since September started.

First Up – Brooks started Kindergarten.

He has taken to school BEAUTIFULLY. He loves the bus, he loves his teacher and he has made some good friends already. What I thought would be such a big adjustment for him, was no big deal. He went from going to preschool 3x a week for 3 hours to 5x a week for 6.5 hours! I am so happy that he is so happy and handling it all so well and I hope he continues to love school for years and years to come!

To go along with Brooks’ first day and having so many teacher friends, I know how important the parent & teacher {and child!} relationship is. I know how hard they work for our kids – and they definitely deserve more than they get for teaching our youth.

As a new mom to the Kindergarten + school system world – I want to stay on top of it and give our educators a little more love whenever possible. During his first week, Brooks and I put together a little Back to School treat for his teacher. What’s inside: a Target gift card {since you KNOW teachers are spending their own money on supplies for our kiddos}, a Burts Bees Lip balm, a pocket sized natural hand sanitizer, some tic tacs and a little Love Bugs Notes ❣️

Here’s a look at what I put together for his teacher and bus drivers:

After Brooks’ started school, we had Graham’s 4th Birthday!

Since we had the party at our new house, it was a birthday + housewarming of sorts. I wanted to do something special for the kids and the weather was perfect for some water fun. I scored this amazing double water slide on super sale at Target post Labor Day { similar one here} and it was the best decision ever. All the kiddos had an absolute blast and I can’t wait to bust it out again for summers to come!

Graham’s party was a Ninja Turtle Theme and it was really fun to put together for him. He was the most excited about his Leonardo piñata!

To go along with the Ninja Turtle Theme….Pizza Wrapping Paper!

After Graham’s Birthday he had his first day of school. Since we moved he had to change preschools and because of his birthday we moved him up in classes to a Pre-K program. So far so good, and fingers crossed he continues to enjoy it!

And while all these First Days of School + Birthdays have been going on, I’ve been battling a massive case of Poison Ivy. I’ve been doing a TON of yard work over the past few months and apparently we have it growing in the perimeter of our yard. I must have wiped my glove on my neck at some point and that’s where it all began.

Started really nasty on my neck and by my right eye – since then it’s made its way all over my legs, right arm and stomach. It’s gnarly and slowwwwwly getting better. But now the bigger problem is getting rid of it in the yard so the kids, dog and I don’t get it {again!}

Poison Ivy is the WORST.

In other, news – not poison ivy or kid related – I’ve been swimming. I’m not a swimmer. But I’ve been swimming. And it feels good. My goal each swim has been 40 laps – nothing crazy but definitely a challenge.

And it feels good.

I’m looking forward to keeping this up through the winter months and excited to see how my body continues to react!

So there you have it, my end of summer + so far in September life update. It’s craziness over here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve got SO MUCH to fill you in on from August and through the rest of this month. So many travels and fun things we’ve done that I defiantly want to share. The next few days might be a bit of catching up from all that, but I hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for the next!

Dinner & A Tournament: A Visit to Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey with Kids

I have so much of our summer fun to catch you up on, it’s insane. I always take a little time off social media and blogging around this time each summer. There’s always so much going on, so much summer left to soak up and so much to get ready for with the new school year – and this year is even that much more crazy with our move and the start of Kindergarten for Brooks. Time is flying!

If you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you know I’ve been sharing all our fun all summer long. But with all our travels and all the cool things we’ve been up to, I always love to share a little more in depth of all the fun!

I’m going to be playing catch up a little bit with the posts since we’ve been all over the place this summer, but today we are going to start with our most recent adventure – a visit to Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

This was our first experience at Medieval Times – It’s something I had looked at before, but didn’t think the boys were old enough a few summers ago. When I was contacted by their team and invited to a dinner & tournament experience – it was the perfect time to give it a try!

When you walk in to Medieval Times, you are assigned a Knight to root for – we were given the Blue Knight, which my boys were pumped about!

It’s first come, first serve with the seats, so the earlier you get there, the better chance you have at getting a good seat. But from what I could tell, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. Every seat had a great view!

We were told to get there a little early because there are some festivities before the tournament that I wanted the boys to see – like a Knighting Ceremony!

Before we knew it, it was time to check out our seats.

When you sit down in your seat you are greeted by your waiter who takes care of you through the show since you will also be having a meal while watching. While everyone is coming into the show, we were able to enjoy hot tomato basil soup with garlic bread. Both of which were delicious!

Another fun thing at Medieval Times – there are no utensils! So you have to use your hands to eat your meal, which I thought was really fun and the boys loved!

Then it was time to start the show !

I was BEYOND impressed with the entertainment and all the different levels in the show. There were so many different things going on – falconry, beautiful horses, weaponry, jousting and more!

Needless to say, the boys were very entertained in this two hour show!

While we enjoyed the show, we enjoyed a feast: Along with the garlic bread and tomato bisque soup – delicious roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, herb-basted potatoes, the dessert of the Castle, coffee and beverages! All the food was SO GOOD.

Brooks – 5.5 and Graham – almost 4 had an absolute blast watching the fighting, eating their food and enjoying the tournament. They were both prime age to go to something like this – and I know there are locations all over the place! There were also TONS of people there celebrating special occasions, events and having a blast with a group – would be so much fun to enjoy with tons of family or friends to celebrate!

We had a fabulous time – the boys are still talking about it a week later. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, family outing! The boys and I are already talking about meeting up with friends at the Baltimore location in the coming months!

Thanks so much to the team at Medieval Times in New Jersey for having us!

Now I’d love to know – Have you ever been to Medieval Times? What did you think?! Please share!

VIDEO: Family Friendly Hiking in Lake George, NY – Shelving Rock Summit, Shelving Rock Falls + Pilots Knob Preserve

Back with another video to share with you from our time in Lake George. I did so much filming that I have way to much content. Trying to figure out how to break it all down in a way that makes sense to share.

If you are getting caught up:

Adirondack Extreme Adventure Kids Ropes Course + Zip Line

Road Trip – 8 Hours in the Lake Placid Area with Kids

Today I wanted to share with you two {and a half!} of our favorite hikes we did during our week in Lake George, NY with two little kids – aged 3 and 5 – in tow !

Here’s the video! Check it out to get a better idea of all the trails and all the fun we had – and let me know what you think of our adventures:

First up, Shelving Rock Mountain.

We are starting here because it was my favorite one. It’s hard to give the footage or the photos justice because it was even more beyond beautiful that you can imagine.

The hike was around 1.7 miles up – 3.4 miles round trip.

It’s a great hike for families because the route was wide had a pretty easy incline that was great for my entire family – aged from 70 to age 3 – the whole way up.

The summit was GORGEOUS. A perfect view of Lake George as far as the eye can see.

After we made our way down from the summit, we continued going down the mountain to check out the Shelving Mountain Falls. It’s about a 1/2 mile from the parking in the middle of the mountain to the falls – so a quick 30 minute hike to the bottom, but you could walk all the way down to Lake George if you wish!

Shelving Rock Falls is a 50-foot cascade – It is an easy hike with a wide, unmarked dirt trail that leads straight to the waterfall. It was the perfect place to cool off after a day of hiking – the boys got in and LOVED it!

This was beyond beautiful!

Our next hike – Pilots Knob Preserve.

We did this towards the end of the week and did it was the perfect way to start the day with a quick and easy hike for the kids. I love that there are so many great options for families to hike in Lake George, it’s something great to promote for healthy living starting at a young age!

This was a quick 30 minute hike to the top that my 3 year old basically ran to the top. The top of this didn’t have as amazing views as Shelving Rock but it had a sweet gazebo at the top and I would definitely recommend it.

Nothing beats a Lake Georg View!

We did a few other smaller hikes on our trip that I hope to share with you in another post – but these were defiantly my two favorites!

If you’ve been to Lake George and done any hikes before, I’d love to know – which ones did you do?!

Thanks so much for following along this post and let me know what you think of the latest video – and be sure to subscribe!

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