Disney World and Universal Studios Recap: Top 10 Things you absolutely must do

I just got back from a magical trip to Disney World, and as always, I have recommendations for when YOU go next!

1. Dole Whip and the Electric Light Parade (Magic Kingdom)

A dole whip (pineapple and vanilla twist, to be exact) from Adventureland and a nice view of the nightly Electric Light Parade is a marvelous way to end a long day. Finding a spot away from Main Street is a good idea, since it is usually extremely crowded, as many people head for the exit when the parade is over. We found a great spot in Frontierland right when the parade started where there was plenty of room and a perfect view.

2. Baguettes from Epcot France: best baguettes I’ve eaten (that weren’t made in actual France). Also, if you know any French, the Cast Members there will be happy to test your knowledge (since they are actually from France).

3. Dinner on the Boardwalk at Trattoria al Forno (Boardwalk Resort)


I knew the Boardwalk resort existed, but this was the first time we got dinner there, and it was SO worth it. The Boardwalk is right on the lake (just a short ferry ride away from Epcot or Hollywood Studios) and at night, everything is lit up, there are street performers, and the food was delicious! We had mentioned a food allergy, and one of the chefs came out and talked to us about the menu and answered all of our questions. Not to mention that when I needed to move my reservation (twice!) due to a delayed flight, Disney Dining was incredibly helpful and so nice to talk to.

4. For the First Time in Forever: Frozen Sing-Along (Hollywood Studios) — I mostly went to this to see a friend who was performing in it, but I was enchanted by the kids singing their hearts out, and of course, as a musical theater actress, I joined them with gusto. Some fun spectacle in this show as well. Plus, who doesn’t want to sing “Let it Go” with Elsa as she makes it snow?

5. Lights, Motors, Action! (Hollywood Studios) – Ever wanted to see how car chases are made in movies? This is the perfect show for you. It has INSANE car stunts, motorcycle chases, and shoot-outs, along with information on how they modify the vehicles to their needs for filming, all seen on a gigantic, outdoor set. We were blessed by a cast member at the front of the attraction who randomly gave us a pass for the Director’s Chairs, a section front and center that is reserved! It was amazing!

6. Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios)

Easily the most amazing and spectacle filled show in the parks, Fantasmic is a 30 minute show featuring all your favorite Disney characters, insane special effects (fire, water effects, stunts) and topped off with Fireworks set to rousing music. I recommend getting a Fast-pass for this, but if you get there early, you can get great seats about an hour to 1/2 hour before hand. This is definitely worth the wait time. If I can recommend any one thing, it would be Fantasmic.

7. The Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom) – I’ve been meaning to get to this show, but I’ve never spent much time in Animal Kingdom. It’s incredibly fun, high energy, fun costumes, great singing, and pretty much like seeing a circus. Trapeze, flying, acrobatics, stiltwalkers, and then some audience participation thrown in, along with your favorite Lion King songs makes for a highly entertaining show.

8. Mt. Kilimanjaro Safari (Animal Kingdom) – 25 minute ride in an open air vehicle where you can get up close and personal with some of the animals. Led by an entertaining Safari Guide, the tour trucks are NOT on a track, and if an animal gets in the road, you have to wait for it to move! Go early in the morning if possible, because more animals are out and about at that time. A really fun way to see some amazing animals up close and not behind a fence!

9. Diagon Alley (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios)

Everything you’ve heard, all the glowing reviews, all the “you must see Diagon Alley” reports…it’s all true.

Even if you’ve been to Hogsmeade, you absolutely MUST find your way back to see Diagon Alley. You truly feel like you are stepping into the movie when you walk through the brick wall and find Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes and even Knockturn Alley. Everything is gorgeously detailed and they have added stations where, if you buy a certain type of wand, you can practice spells and make magic happen. Be tempted by a skiving snackbox (filled with nosebleed nougat, puking pastilles, fever fudge, and fainting fancies) from Fred and George’s shop, stop by Ollivanders to have a wand choose you, exchange your muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes, or get a robe from Madam Malkin’s. You can even buy some…darker merchandise down in Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley. We had lunch at The Leaky Cauldron, and it was delicious (not all park food is, so I was impressed). Jump onto the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station (after passing through the brick wall to get to Platform 9 3/4, of course) and enjoy a ride through the English countryside (but beware the dementor that boards the train) to get to Hogsmeade (and Islands of Adventure, the second Universal Studios Park). The trip on the Hogwarts Express is different each way, so going on it more than once is a must. Also, The Forbidden Journey ride in Hogsmeade is probably the most fun ride I’ve ever been on.

10. Transformers Ride (Universal Studios) – we didn’t have much time to spend at Universal, since we were heading to the airport that afternoon, and the main reason we were there was to see Diagon Alley, but we did manage to ride a few rides, the best of which was the Transformers ride. It’s part video, part animatronics, and you’re in a car (the transformer evac), which spins, jerks, climbs, falls, and pretty much just throws you around. Not really a roller coaster, but high speed and crazy fun.

As always, I could go on and on about being at Disney. A few honorable mentions to this list would be Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom), Minion Madness (Universal Studios), Star Tours (Hollywood Studios), the fact that there is now a Starbucks in all the parks (Except for Animal Kingdom) and they are the most well stocked, best run Starbucks I have ever been to.

What’s your favorite Disney (or Universal) Memory?


    • Jessica Nicole says:

      It was a great trip! And Diagon Alley is AMAZING. I almost cried when we walked in. It’s a must see for Harry Potter fans!

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