How to do Disney World and Universal Studios

For those of you who know me, or even loosely follow me on social media, you’re well aware that I am obsessed with Disney World and Universal Studios. I’m a total kid at heart, which is probably why I’ve dedicated my life to making pancakes. So like we try to every year, Ryan and I went to Disney World for five days with his amazing parents (literally best parents-in-law ever) and we had the time of our lives! Susan, Ryan’s mom, is probably the greatest photographer of all time, and some of the following photos are hers, so I can’t take credit. Anyway, cute fact: Bruce and Susan hadn’t been there since their honeymoon, pre-Epcot, so I was thrilled to be their personal tour guide throughout Disney World and Universal Studios. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardHere we are, Susan and I wearing our Minnie Mouse Ears and Bruce and Ryan wearing their hats! Hats = great idea to avoid sunburns!

So I wanted to write a lengthy article (or three) about how to do Disney and Universal right, like what to wear, where to eat, where to stay, 15 secrets about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you get it. And I also wanted to clue you in on some awesome websites where you can purchase the greatest clothing and accessories ever to prepare for your Disney trip. By the way, this article will be loaded up with a bunch of photos from various Disney vacations over the years, which will include my bachelorette bash! Yup, this is where I spent my final fling before the ring, and it was like, soooo innocent and wonderful.

Okay, first I want to tell you about my most recent trip to Disney World and Universal Studios. We went from February 10th – 15th, which was surprisingly cold, but it was fun being there on Valentine’s Day (though quite crowded, so be sure to make reservations weeks/months in advance if you plan to go around this time)! That first day, we stopped by Disney Springs and grabbed lunch at The Boathouse, which is like . . . the most delicious spot ever! That area, by the way, is so lively and fun. At night, multiple bands play in various areas, and you can stop by to catch a show or eat outside and listen nearby. [One night, we ate at an irish pub located in Disney Springs and enjoyed live music from an Irish woman who looked and sounded exactly like Jewel. Ryan and I were her biggest fans. We also enjoyed some Irish dancing, competition style.] Anyway, after binge eating a hamburger at The Boathouse and like, everything else on the table, we went to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It was such a blast. Because it was too cold to ride splash mountain, we spent our time riding Space Mountain instead and watching a show. We also got some amazing hot chocolate. Tomorrowland Disney World. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardThis is Ry and me walking toward Space Mountain. Actually, we were practically running (not ashamed). Magic Kingdom Parade at Disney World. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardMagic Kingdom Parade. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardDoesn’t this show look amazing? They don’t cheap out at DW, do they?Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Later, in Epcot, we bopped around the world. Here we are in (I think) Germany. Doesn’t Ryan look so handsome? Uhhh, be still my heart. PS my family is from West Virginia. Check out that West Virginia bag in the background! Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.That first night, we ate pizza in Italy. Best. Pizza. Ever. This was us pre-pizza and wine, though. Post pizza, it was so cold we were racing for a cab! Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.But isn’t Epcot beautiful at night? 

Our second night, we visited Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Oh my gawsh, best spot ever! I think Susan and Bruce were in awe, and Ryan – who hadn’t seen Diagon Alley yet – thought it was pretty magical. Universal Studios. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.The view before entering the parkHogsmeade. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Entering HogsmeadeHogwarts Castle. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Yup, the castle is that tallDiagon Alley Dragon at the Wizarding World. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.While there, try to catch a sneak peek of the dragon’s ankles and legs. You’ll notice chains and scratches, a tribute to the final Harry Potter movie where the dragon broke free of imprisonment at Gringott’s. 

The last three days, we basically repeated what we did the first two days (with no apologies). Third day, we went to Hollywood Studios and Epcot, which we would also do on the fifth day. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardUs getting ready to leave the hotel on Valentines day. He’s my minion.

On our fourth day, we returned to Universal Studios and Epcot, but this time we were joined by Susan’s brother and sister-in-law. Where to eat at Universal Studios and City Walk. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Here we all are, grabbing lunch at NBC Sports Grill & Brew

So basically, we had such a blast! Ah, Disney World and Universal Studios already. And as always, I learned more about Disney World and Universal Studios during my trip than ever before. The creators behind the theme parks continue to shock and awe. For instance, did you have any idea that Disney World is building an Avatar Land? What about a Frozen ride in Epcot? Or Universal Studios . . . have you heard of Skull Island? Yeah, it’s all things King Kong and it looks pretty nuts. I imagine the Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t done just yet, either.

Anyway, now let’s talk how to do Disney the right way. You really can’t do Disney the wrong way, but because I’ve been there so many times, I do have quite a few suggestions that I think will really, really make your trip all the more perfect. This includes Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as well. I would love to share with you all of my favorites places to dine and what to eat, how to dress depending on the time of year, and some little tricks along the way, so stick with me.

PS the following pictures are going to be from my bachelorette bash, that one time Ryan and I randomly went to Disney World and Universal Studios, a trip with my mom, cousin Shannon and Ryan, and my most recent trip with my wonderful in-laws and hub! Oh, and maybe even a few from my childhood . . .

eat disney

  • Epcot Mexico – San Angel Inn
    • Beverage: Avocado Margarita
    • Appetizer: Queso Fundido
    • Entree: Polo a las Rajas or Arrachera con Chilaquiles
    • Dessert: Pastel de Queso con Cajet or Churros

Mexico in Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Mexico in Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Saint Angels in Mexico at Epcot. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.FYI: This is my favorite place to dine in all of Disney World and Universal Studios combined. Note: The above photos are from three different vacations! Think I like it here? 

  • Epcot Japan – Teppan Edo (The Hibachi Restaurant)
    • Beverage: Saki
    • Appetizers: Wafu Ribs or Sushi Sampler
    • Entrees: Asakusa (steak and shrimp) or Filet Mignon // Noodles
    • Dessert: Green Tea Cheesecake
  • Epcot Italy – Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria 
    • Beverage: Red Wine or Italian Beer
    • Appetizers: Calamari Fritti
    • Entrees: Any Wood-fired Authenic Pizza Napoletana
    • Dessert: Tiramisu
  • Magic Kingdom – Be Our Guest Restaurant (plan to make reservations well in advance)
    • Breakfast: Croissant Doughnut
    • Beverage: Dessert wine or beer
    • Appetizers: French Onion Soup
    • Entrees: Sautéed Shrimp and Scallops
    • Dessert: Lemon Meringue Cupcake or Triple Chocolate Cupcake
  • The Boathouse – Disney Springs 
    • Beverage: Orange Breeze
    • Appetizer: Dock Side Bucket – Coconut Baja Jumbo Shrimp
    • Entrees: Steak Sandwich, Gibsons “Sandwich King” Award Winning Burger, New England Lobster Roll, Maine Lobster Mac N’ Cheese
    • Dessert: Gibsons S’mores Baked Alaska

The Boathouse at Disney Springs. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.

  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – Hollywood Studios 
    • Beverage: Godiva Chocolate Martini
    • Appetizer: Crispy Onion Rings, Spicy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken
    • Entrees: Build-Your-Own Angus Burger, Sci-Fi Angus Burger
    • Dessert: Warm Glazed Doughnut, Out-of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake

The Sci Fi Diner at Hollywood Studios Disney World. Where to eat at Disney. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.The Sci Fi Diner at Hollywood Studios. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.I must have been 8-ish here, waiting to eat at our favorite restaurant, the Sci-Fi Diner. Back, my little sister Madison and my cool dad. Front, me in the orange bow and my older sister Morgan in those oh-so-stylish glasses

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Others restaurants to try: Chefs de France (Epcot), 50’s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios), Nine Dragons (Epcot), Tutto Italia Ristorante (Epcot)

Must-have on-the-go snacks/desserts: Funnel Cake Cart, Gaston’s Tavern (cinnamon roll)

eat universal

  • Emeril’s – City Walk
    • Beverage: Wine
    • Appetizer: Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread
    • Entrees: Grilled Angus Filet Mignon, Pan Roasted Bell & Evans Chicken Breast, Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop
    • Dessert: Milk Chocolate + Banana Bread Pudding, Vanilla Creme Brûlée, Red Velvet Cake
  • Hard Rock Cafe – City Walk 
    • Beverage: Irish Kiss (Dessert Drink)
    • Appetizer: Classic Nachos, Artisan Fries
    • Entrees: Famous Fajitas, Twisted Mac, Chicken & Cheese, The Texan
    • Dessert: Fresh Apple Cobbler

Hard Rock Cafe Orlando City Walk. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Hard Rock Orlando City Walk. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.

  • Mytho’s – Islands of Adventure 
    • Appetizer: Wood Oven Flatbread, Spanakopita
    • Entrees: Crab Cake Sliders, Mytho’s Signature Hamburger

Mythos Islands of Adventure. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.

  • The Leaky Cauldron – Universal’s Diagon Alley 
    • Beverage: Frozen Butterbeer
    • Appetizer: Ploughman’s Platter
    • Entrees: Fish & Chips, Fisherman’s Pie
    • Dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Photo prop: Jordan Bosstick from Miss American Made, my bachelorette bash

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Also try: Margaritaville (City Walk), Confisco Grille (Islands of Adventure), Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food (City Walk), The CowFish (City Walk), Finnegan’s Bar and Grill (Universal), 

On-the-go: Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, Butterbeer (obvi), Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour (Universal’s Diagon Alley – try Harry Potter’s favorite ice cream), Beverly Hills Boulangerie (Universal – Breakfast Croissants, Sandwiches)

hotel disney

  • Saratoga Springs: Near Disney Springs, Saratoga is a less expensive option for Disney Resorts, offers amazing tree house villas that are literally canvased in trees (where I stayed on my bachelorette bash), has convenient transportation buses to and from the parks, and has all of the perks of other Disney resorts (magic bands, which act as your room key, credit card, and park tickets. Also, use your magic band to make reservations for restaurants and fast passes for rides days/weeks/months in advance).
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: If you’re willing to spend more money, the Grand Floridian is, in my opinion, the most beautiful and luxurious of the Disney hotels.
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club and Yacht Club: Conveniently located on Disney’s Boardwalk, these resorts are so close to Epcot you could walk, and surrounded by awesome restaurants, shops and a very cute piano bar.

All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardAll you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard

hotel universal

  • The Hard Rock Hotel: One of the best decorated resorts in Orlando, the Hard Rock is a fun and lively resort located near Universal. HR Visitors are awarded early entrance into the Harry Potter parks (an extra hour every morning).

rides disney

The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.The exterior of Tower of TerrorRock'n'Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.The exterior of Rock’n’Rollercoaster All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardAbout to walk on Space Mountain

  1. The Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)
  2. Rock’n’Rollercoaster (Hollywood Studios)
  3. Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
  4. The Test Track/Tron Legacy (EPCOT)
  5. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
  6. Soarin’ (EPCOT)
  7. Star Tours (Hollywood Studios)
  8. Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom)
  9. Buzz Lightyear (Magic Kingdom)
  10. Mission: SPACE (EPCOT)
  11. The Great Movie Ride (Hollywood Studios)
  12. The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom)
  13. Spaceship Earth (EPCOT)
  14. Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom)
  15. It’s a Small World (Magic Kingdom)

rides universal

Diagon Alley Dragon at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardDragon on top of Gringotts Bank (Escape from Gringotts, Diagon Alley)                                  The Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Hogwarts Express (Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley)Gringott's Bank at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.In line at Escape to GringottsThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.In line at The Forbidden Journey The Forbidden Journey at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.And again on my bachelorette (pulling a Miley)All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl StandardOutside Dudley Do-Right’s

  1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  2. Revenge of the Mummy
  3. Tranformers 3D
  4. Harry Potter Escape from Gringotts
  5. The Hulk
  6.  The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  7. Jurassic Park River Adventure
  8. Dragon Challenge
  9. Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls
  10. Men in Black Alien Attack
  11. Hogwarts Express

Check out my other blog posts about Disney World and Universal Studios, such as What to Wear to Disney World and Universal Studios and 15 Secrets about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Finally, I think you should all see how talented my older sister is. Look at what she made for my bachelorette bash! She’s a web designer, a logo designer, and a whiz at photoshop. Check out her company, Butter Sites. Bachelorette party at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney World. All you need to know about your vacation to Disney World and Universal Studios by Skinny Girl Standard.Hermione, lookin’ real classy, gurrl.

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