Traveling with the family is great, but traveling with your girlfriends is necessary, says Candid TravelingMom Patty Holliday. She recently traveled to Universal Orlando with two besties, leaving the kids and the mom-guilt behind. What they found at a family-focused theme park may surprise you: it’s not just for kids! Moms looking for pampering, shopping, fantastic dining, and a few thrills need to check out this girlfriend’s guide to Universal Orlando.

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

You can’t miss the fire-breathing dragon that lives on top of Gringotts in Diagon Alley. It’s AMAZING. Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid TravelingMom

Universal Orlando for Girlfriends

Orlando is one of my favorite travel destinations. Southwest Airlines should pre-fill my destination every time I open the app because it’s a safe bet I’m on my way. I tend to visit the City Beautiful a lot. And yes, most of those trips do revolve around one particular Mouse.

In recent years, I’ve been sneaking over to Universal to visit my boyfriend, Harry. Don’t judge: he’s totally of age now. I’m ready to make our relationship known far and wide: I adore everything at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

While I started visiting Universal for the butterbeer, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and the Three Broomsticks, I’ve quickly become a fan of all things Universal (on both coasts!). In fact, I think in many ways it can be better than Disney.

I’ve been dying to share this love with some of my best girls!


A Girlfriend’s Guide to Universal Orlando

The last weekend in February consists of my annual girls getaway. Moms, if you don’t have an annual girls getaway planned, please consider doing so! I think moms need to get away with their girls, and I have five reasons why you should go too.

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

We may be moms, but that doesn’t mean we don’t follow the trends on Instagram. Garage door selfies are a thing: and we posed for a good one in Diagon Alley. Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid TravelingMom

When we planned this weekend, it was with a particular care for one member of our party. My girlfriend, Amy, recently started treatment for breast cancer. Cancer is a big ol’ jerkface, and we needed to get her mind off the “fun” things that come with it like surgery, scars, chemo, and basically feeling like crap.

Hey, cancer blues: we’ve got a short-term cure for you. We’re going to Universal!

Stay Onsite With Your Girlfriends at Universal Orlando

Staying onsite was an easy decision. Universal Orlando’s hotel guests get some sweet perks including early entry to one of Harry Potter sections every morning. Starting this summer, that will extend to early entry at Volcano Bay, the new water park currently under construction. (And OMGEEE I cannot wait to see this one!).

The hard part was choosing which hotel to check out.

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

BLUE LAGOON – Lush tropical landscaping accentuates the South Seas mood of the luxurious Royal Pacific Resort, a Loews Hotel at Universal Orlando. Photo Credit: Universal Orlando.
© 2001 Universal Orlando. All rights reserved.

Universal Orlando has five distinct resorts to choose from to meet every budget and type of vacation. From the family friendly option of Cabana Bay Beach Resort to the high-end Loews Portofino Bay Resort, you really can’t go wrong.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort Is Perfect For A Girls Getaway

We chose to stay at the mid-range Loews Royal Pacific Resort (hey, we’re moms who like the finer things – but on a budget!). We were captivated from the moment the valet took our keys. That’s right, ladies: valet and bell services were helping us from the get-go.

We were feeling pampered already- something I know Amy needed!

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

This South Pacific pop of coral greeted us in our room at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid TravelingMom

Our room was lovely, with two queen beds and a separated bath area. The whole property gives off a South Seas vibe, and I was feeling it, y’all. Since I haven’t made it to an island in the Pacific just yet, this will have to do!

From the window in our room, we all drooled over the stunning pool below.

And maybe some of us picked out our lounge chairs from there.

You know, the ones closest to the bartender at the poolside Bula Bar & Grill Grille. .

Because this was absolutely happening.

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

While Tania attended to some work in the room, Amy and I attended to the pool bar. An hour of chatting in the sun with some girlie drinks was just what the doctor ordered! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid TravelingMom

You will find the staff ready to cater to your every need at this resort. We had exceptional customer service from everyone we encountered and would recommend the Royal Pacific for family stays as well as adult only stays.

Tour the Parks at Universal Orlando With Your Girlfriends

Remember when I said staying onsite offers some nice perks? Not only do you get a head start on the offsite guests with early entry, but you can also score free Universal Express Unlimited passes.

If you ever want to feel like Wayne & Garth with backstage passes, this is how you do it!

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

Get the most out of your Universal Studios Orlando trip with park to park passes. Add the Unlimited Express Pass, and you’ll be on your way to see it all! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid Traveling Mom

Three of the five hotels offer this perk, and it’s often worth the hotel upgrade from a strictly financial sense.

It’s always worth the hotel upgrade from a time-saving point of view.

With Express Passes, you can cut out most of the queue of each ride. This means a 60-minute wait might fall to 15 or so. When you are moms on a mission, this is how you want to roll!

I’m sure the Express Passes saved us valuable time in line over the course of the two days. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: we were laughing and talking so much we lost track of time and just enjoyed being together. This wasn’t movie magic either; it was friendship and relaxation and just what we needed. (But, man, flashing the Express Pass sure made us feel good!).

Don’t forget to upgrade to the Park-to-Park tickets. Since the parks are so close to each other, it makes it super easy to hop back and forth between them. And if it’s important for you to ride the Hogwart’s Express (and, duh, of course, it is!) then it’s a must.

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

All aboard the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade Village photo credit: Jennifer Greene Last Minute Traveling Mom

Take Your Girlfriends to Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando

I can’t leave out the food portion of this escapade. We ate a lot of yummy things, and much of it we found in CityWalk. Oh my word, was it all delicious!

Most guests will travel through the CityWalk district to get to the parks from the parking garage. Take notes as you do: you will find delights you won’t want to forget about later!

The vibrancy, dining, and shopping options are off the chain here. Day or night, you are bound to find something to do here, eat here, drink here, or buy here.

We made a quick stop into Toothsome Chocolate Emporium because we heard it was a must-see location. Inside we became literal kids in the candy store. The girls narrowed things down, and walked out with a Salted Caramel Milkshake.

Yes. It was as good as it looks!

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

Amy girl, you better back off that milkshake! You know Tania doesn’t share her snacks. Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid Traveling Mom

The big winner, however, was the night we dined at Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. The menu offers sushi or burgers or a combination of both.

I’m still dreaming a little about the fried pickles and crab rangoon dip. Picture Homer Simpson when he thinks about donuts, and you have an accurate picture of us during this meal.

Come Back To Universal Orlando With Your Family

Even though we were on a girlfriends only trip, well, we never truly stop being moms. With 11 kids between us, we are hard-wired that way. We spent a lot of time talking about what our families would enjoy the most.

Universal and Islands of Adventure parks have attractions for all ages. Your young kids may not know ET, but they will love traveling with him to help save his planet. Your older kids will be amped on adrenaline after a spin on The Incredible Hulk Coaster. And everyone will delight in becoming a Minion.

And of course, there’s the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an experience that has no comparison in terms of theming or immersion experience at any theme park I’ve ever seen. I do love me some Harry!

The Girlfriends Guide to Universal Studios Orlando: it's not just for kids!

Girlfriends Guide to Universal Orlando tip number 1: don’t (totally) forget the family. Amy picked up wands for her kids and made plans to bring them back to use them! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday, Candid TravelingMom

Did we have a fantastic time without our kids and husbands? You bet. Did we need this for all kinds of reasons? Absolutely. Will we be back? Oh, you know it! And we hope this Girlfriend’s Guide to Universal Orlando will help you visit as well.

All three families have plans to return to Universal Studios as a direct result of this girlfriends getaway research trip.

Universal Orlando isn't just for kids! Come along as these girlfriends visit Harry (Potter, that is) and find out where to stay and what not to miss on your girlfriends' trip to Universal.

Yeah, research trip! That’s what it was, honey, I swear!