Birthdays at Universal - advice please

Discussion in 'Southern California Theme Parks' started by Sorcerer Jody, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    Does anyone know if Universal is similar to Disneyland in that you can ask for a birthday button even if it is not the date of your actual birthday? For example, if I give my child Universal as a birthday gift and then go two weeks later?
     
  2. dragonflycurls

    dragonflycurls DIS Veteran

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    yep! They have buttons you can get- we got ours at the store inside the park to the right that was all jurassic park themed- they also write your name on the button, no one asked when our birthday actually was.
     
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  4. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    So I have (almost) decided to take my son to Universal for his 10th birthday. He is a huge Harry Potter fan, and this is our only reason for going. I would love to go to Orlando, but we are too far away, being on the West Coast! I haven't booked it yet, but my plan is to fly into LAX and go straight to the Hilton Universal on Friday afternoon/evening. Then we will have two full days at Universal - Saturday is his birthday - before flying back home on Monday. I know I don't need that long to see everything, but we are coming too far to only stay one day. And we aren't staying long enough to go to Disneyland as well (and we don't have enough money). Also, my son does better when he doesn't have to rush - crowds can also be hard and he gets overwhelmed easily. My 9 year old daughter will be with us too. Does this sound crazy? Is the Harry Potter area really as special and wonderful as I hope, or am I wasting my money? Any tips for making this an amazing weekend? I really hope it works out!!!
     
  5. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    By the way, this would be mid December 2018.
     
  6. oakleycat

    oakleycat DIS Veteran

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    If he's a huge HP fan, it will be a great birthday trip. The area is amazing (though it doesn't touch Orlando's Diagon Alley) and the team members really stay in character and take notice of the birthday kids in our experience. We went to USH for my son's 11th birthday. He got a new robe and wore a birthday button, and everyone went out of their way to make his birthday special. He was told happy birthday by everyone, got a free birthday dessert and was given the secret password (every day there is a special HP password that will get you straight to the front of the line on Forbidden Journey and Hippogriff). It was really a magical day for him.

    That said, we are local and had passes at the time, so it was a relatively cheap birthday outing for us. If you're going to travel and do a whole weekend, make sure there is enough in the park for all of you to enjoy for two days so that you feel it's worth the cost. Early December before winter break is a great time to go, weather should be great and crowds should be pretty low.
     
  7. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    @Sorcerer Jody I don't think it's crazy... but then we're pretty much doing that this weekend for my son's 10th birthday! :) We are about a 6 hour drive away, though, so we aren't flying. Same exact reason - he's a big HP fan. We're way too far from Orlando to make that work, so we'll just have to deal with it being the smaller version. We're staying Fri/Sat and leaving late on Sunday, after 2 park days. It was only $20pp to get the 2 day vs 1 day pass, and I'd rather take it easy. We're going to browse around Citywalk too, eat at Hard Rock Cafe one night, shop around a bit. There is apparently a Universal store there with HP stuff, too. But mostly I want him to be able to re-do everything he wants and go nuts absorbing every detail. I am tossing around the idea of going to the Warner Bros Studio as well. I can report back on Monday and let you know how it went, if you want.
     
  8. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    Thank you so much for that information, oakleycat! I really appreciate it. :)
     
  9. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    That's so funny you are doing the same thing, cmph!!! Yes, being able to re-do everything and absorb every detail...that's exactly what I want my son to be able to do. I'm not sure when we'll ever go back - certainly not while he's a kid. I would LOVE for you to report back on Monday - thank you so much! What is at the Warner Bros Studio?

    Have a magical time and happy birthday to your son! :)
     
  10. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    Absolutely, I will plan to do that! And I'm glad you asked about the pins b/c I wouldn't have even thought to ask at Universal!

    Warner Bros Studio tour is apparently different every time, so you can't get a very clear list of what you'll see. It's a working studio, so things change. However, they have what appears to be a fairly permanent HP and Fantastic Beasts area with a sorting hat and green screen with a broom to "ride" on. (Also Batman and other superhero stuff, if your son is into super hero things too.) The only other thing that seems constant is the Friends set, which is of course pretty boring for 10yo boys, but I am thinking the HP and Batman vehicles will make up for that. Hopefully this link isn't blocked, but it's an LA tourism site that gives you a little more detail: https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/blog/guide-warner-bros-studio-tour-hollywood. It's a 2 hour tour and pretty pricey... $65 for adult, $55 for ages 8-12, and under 8 not even allowed (b/c it's a working studio). So that's why I haven't booked yet. All times for this weekend are still wide open for booking, so I'm thinking I'll just wait until we're there to decide.
     
  11. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    @Sorcerer Jody we are back from our trip, and we had a great time! One thing I'll say right off the bat - this was NOT a one-day park for us. It was open 9-6 yesterday, 10-6 today. We were on Hippogriff by 9:15 yesterday and stayed until 5:45 (the rides stopped letting people on at 5:30 b/c of the Halloween event), and we did NOT get to do everything. We didn't even repeat anything at all! We were there before the gates opened today but not by enough. SO crowded. We had planned to go straight to HP again but changed our minds b/c the wait time for Forbidden Journey was up to 50min by like 10:10am. It didn't hit that until the afternoon yesterday (Saturday). Sunday morning is just apparently a crazy crowded time, I guess? Anyway, the moment we walked into the HP area, DS's face just lit up. It was so worth it! We loved the Hippogriff ride, and everyone but me loved Forbidden Journey (I don't have the best stomach for rides). We put off Ollivander's until the wait time went down. I swear, people wait in that line who have NO clue what it's for. I knew exactly what we were in for, but $52 per interactive wand - yeesh!!! That was a painful 2-wand purchase. But, DS said today that he loved that he was in a place where everyone could just wave wands around, so again, worth it - but just barely LOL! We ate in Three Broomsticks (which was actually pretty good), shopped in every store, and had nearly every version of butterbeer they sell (cold, frozen, and ice cream - skipped the hot version). We did absolutely everything we could in the HP area. The only disappointment was that DS was waiting for the moment we'd enter Diagon Alley... um, that's only Orlando, thought he knew! I think he had watched videos on youtube that mixed it all up and had no idea. So we will have to go to Orlando at some point too. But the theming is great, and I'm glad we took advantage of a weekend trip to CA that wouldn't be possible for us with Florida as a destination.

    The studio tour was great, and was DS's next favorite part and what he kept talking about later. That's not in Orlando, so make sure you do that. He also really liked the 3 shows, especially Water World. Revenge of the Mummy was a hit, as was the Simpson's. I think he thought Minion Mayhem was a little boring after all the other things. No one wanted to go on Kung Fu Panda or Transformers (not sure why - but my stomach didn't entice me to push it).

    To break it down (time wise), on Saturday, we did: Hippogriff, Forbidden Journey, studio tour, Revenge of the Mummy, Ollivander's, Water World, animal actors show. With shopping (including picking out wands), lunch at Jurassic Cafe, and stopping for butterbeers - we literally were nonstop. So you can see how we really didn't get to everything within the constraints of the park hours! (Not that my kids would have lasted much longer anyway.) The longest lines were Forbidden Journey (at 25min early in the morning) and Ollivander's (bad luck as a bunch of VIP groups held the line up - at a standstill for a full 20min, turned it into a 45min wait). The rest were 5-15min waits. The studio tour is an hour tour, so that does suck up time (but is worth it). We lasted about 4.5h today (Sunday) and did: Simpsons, Minion Mayhem, special effects show. We ate at Three Broomsticks, had snacks (more butterbeer, giant Simpsons donut), shopped some more, and called it a day. Forbidden Journey got up to a 90min wait at one point, and we just couldn't deal with that. I'm sad we didn't get a chance to re-ride anything, but everyone was just too tired by 2:30 and didn't want to wait in long lines. Saturday was so much more pleasant than Sunday, crowd-wise.

    Any questions, let me know!! Food, rides, dietary (have a gf in the family), etc.
     
  12. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    Wow, cmph, you are so quick with your trip report! Thanks so much! I am so glad it was worth it. Did you get the birthday button, and if so, was your son given any special treatment? What hotel did you stay in? We have booked the Hilton. Did you get the 30 min early entry? Just wondered if that made much difference. I am planning to do Ollivander's first, and then Forbidden Journey. I hope it is not TOO crowded when we go - that will be hard for my son! We are planning on eating at the Three Broomsticks, too - did you happen to notice if they had any vegetarian items on the menu? I've heard the desserts are yummy! And what kind of animals were at the animal actors show? I think my daughter would like that. Thanks again for the report!
     
  13. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    I'm afraid I can't report on the button part, b/c my DS did not want one. I did see plenty of people wearing them, though! We stayed at the BLVD, which is a 5min walk from the shuttle stop at the bottom of the Universal hill. It was cheaper than the Hilton and had 2 king beds instead of doubles. The 30min early entry isn't tied to your hotel stay, as far as I can tell - you just have to buy your tix online direct. I didn't do that, chose to save money instead by buying from UT (I doubt I can type out the name of the ticket seller here). I would say I did have some regret that we didn't do that on Saturday, b/c we could have gotten a couple extra rides in, but still not sure it would have been worth dragging the kids out of bed 30min earlier and paying I think $20pp more. Also, I doubt that that would have helped on Sunday - if Forbidden Journey was up to 50min wait before official park opening, then there must have been a LOT of people with early entry. It's probably hit or miss, whether it's worth it.

    The animal show had dogs (a bunch of them, including a Buddy and the dog that plays Max for their Christmas grinch stuff), cats, guinea pigs, owls, a falcon of some sort, 2 other fancy birds (with plumes on their heads? crested somethings?), a rat, a pig, a porcupine... I'm sure I'm forgetting some!

    None of us are vegetarian, but they had mac n cheese on the kids menu, which came with fries and grapes. DS got that. The menu says ages 9 and under for the kids meals but no one asked or cared who it was for. They had a sandwich that was sort of a grilled cheese with tomatoes, bacon, and chicken - which I'd assume you could get a veg version of. They sold various sides too, lots of vegetables. I'm spacing on a veg entree, b/c I decided to get bangers and mash for thematic reasons. :) Which is funny, b/c it was the only meal I ate that was not vegetarian! (I eat less meat than the rest of my family but don't avoid it entirely.) The veggie burger in Jurassic Cafe was ok, a bit dry, but tasted fine. The Hard Rock in Citywalk had a great veggie burger, really tasty! We had dinner there one night, and at Margaritaville the other night. We got Voodoo doughnuts too, which was fun.
     
  14. oakleycat

    oakleycat DIS Veteran

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    Great trip report! Next time try the hot butterbeer, my family all agrees it's the best of all the options we've tried (hot, cold, frozen, ice cream, fudge).
     
  15. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    The hot butterbeer is the best?? I will admit we didn't even consider trying it! Mostly b/c it was warm out for a hot drink, but we also couldn't quite see how that would work. The regular cold kind is carbonated, and the frozen kind was like an ice cream float sort of. How does that work in a hot version? Is it just completely different - like a hot chocolate sort of idea?
     
  16. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the info! I am sure my daughter will love the animal show. Did you like the shops in Hogsmead? I am assuming I will be buying some Christmas presents there...
     
  17. cruisehopeful

    cruisehopeful Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.

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    We did something similar (but drove) for my daughter's birthday a couple years ago. She is a Harry Potter fan and only wanted to see the Harry Potter stuff. Her birthday falls during the Halloween Horror Nights and the park hours were cut short because of that. We truly did spend just about a full day in the Harry Potter area, which is very small but because it was so busy and so crowded that day, it took us a long time to get through everything. I think she spent an hour picking out a wand.

    You are smart to allow lots of time. You'll be able to see things more than once and go at your son's pace. It's nice to be able to take your time and not be rushed to hurry to make it to something in time.

    I can confirm that the hot butterbeer is the best. It's totally different than the cold drinks. It's like a hot butterscotch drink and had some white fluffy stuff top (could have been marshmallow cream, not sure what it was). It is very sweet and very delicious. When we drank it, we actually said we would come back to the park just to drink one and then leave.
     
  18. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    I'm not sure *I* liked them so much, but DS did, LOL! They had a lot of the same things, but not entirely. The big shop where Forbidden Journey dumps out had some unique things you couldn't find elsewhere (certain stuffed animals, some clothing items), but don't get stuck there if you're trying to get things done early in the morning. We went back in the afternoon when lines were crazy and shopping made far more sense. The candy store was a bit crazy, not big enough for all the people shopping, but it did have a few things we didn't see elsewhere plus the items in the case. Towards the entrance to the park, there are also stores that sell HP things. One had largely Christmas decor items that you aren't going to find in Hogsmeade (stockings, ornaments, ribbons, etc), so stop there. The other one was the biggest store in the park and full of tons of everything, and I didn't see anything unique in terms of HP in there, but it was far more open and less crazy than Hogsmeade - so if you're looking for a standard thing that's sold everywhere, it's easy. We also stopped at the store in CityWalk, which I'd recommend if you're looking for something you're likely to find anywhere, just so you don't have to drag it too long. We got chocolate frogs there. In the end, we ended up with a few types of HP candy, a Ravenclaw throw pillow, wands, a nanoblock Hagrid's hut set, and a snitch. Could have been far worse!

    Oh, and one word of advice: use the lockers for Forbidden Journey! Some people who thought they were too good for the rules and didn't want to delay getting in the line tried not to. They WILL pull you out of line and stop you from getting on, and it won't be until you're about to get on!
     
  19. cmph

    cmph DIS Veteran

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    Well, dang, the one of use who disliked butterbeer but loves hot chocolate and marshmallows might have really liked that! DD didn't like cold or frozen butterbeer and wanted a Simpsons donut instead. It was warm enough that we didn't even think to try it hot, and honestly, DS probably wouldn't have liked it (he dislikes hot drinks, even hot chocolate), but DD might have been swayed to the pro-butterbeer side. :)
     
  20. Sorcerer Jody

    Sorcerer Jody Mouseketeer

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    Well, it sounds like we better get the hot butterbeer! Especially since we'll be there in December. I am so excited! Two months to go! I'm going to tell my son a week before we leave.
     

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