I think I speak for all monogrammed-passport-cover-owning, airplane-cabin-face-masking, Instagram-content-planning travel aficionados when I say that this year has been hard for a lot of reasons. For anyone who places immense value on traveling to new destinations and experiencing new cultures, a year without those adventures has been a difficult one. Luckily for us, Universal Orlando Resort is here to give us the exact travel we’ve been craving — Instagram photos and all.
From one jet-setter to another, here are all my recommendations for getting your wandering fix.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Portofino, Italy
There is a REASON why Italy frequently tops any and all bucket lists. For seasoned vets, Italy will always be a country where hospitality (/red wine) flows and loose pants are needed for the aggressive amount of carbs consumed in an hour. For first-timers, Italy is a country where every single sense is working overtime and after the first 24 hours, you’ve already fallen in love with a place. Whether you’re a penne pro or a rigatoni rookie, you can recreate that magic at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
At Portofino Bay, you can stroll through one of the piazzas with a gelato in hand (order pistachio for authenticity and remember that in Italian “ch” is pronounced “k”) or have an Aperol Spritz at a cafe table overlooking the water. With Portofino Bay resuming operations in December, it’s a perfect time and the perfect weather to plan your daily step count around the insaaane amount of Italian food you’ll be consuming during your stay. And if you’re looking for the best pic to give off those authentic La Dolce Vita vibes, I’d suggest a pair of oversized sunnies and a stationary Moped to reach peak follower FOMO.
Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar – Costa Rica
I have now reached the tropical and adventurous portion of this list, and I’m not sure it gets more adventurous than a beautiful paradise that may or may not feature Velociraptors. 12/10 would recommend this place for both the scenery AND the content opportunities. If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, you know that the island vibes are a complete and total feeling, and you’ll have plenty of chances to recreate them within Jurassic Park at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Never-ending foliage and tropical treats are key to enhancing this island experience. Make sure you stop by The Watering Hole and order a Prehistoric Punch to really get into vacation mode. If you’re more about the adrenaline than the beverages, JUST WAIT until summer 2021. The Jurassic World VelociCoaster is coming and will provide far more thrills than a casual jungle zipline ever could. Looking for immediate thrills in the meantime? Check out the Jurassic Park River Adventure. If you go as far as to even pack for this experience, a daring cross-body bag means style AND function and will really sell the photo of you under those iconic Jurassic Park arches.
Royal Pacific Resort – The South Pacific
Who among us hasn’t drooled over a Fijian beach or even leapt at the opportunity to make the sixteen-hour trek from MCO to Nadi International? Great news — Loews Royal Pacific Resort doesn’t take said sixteen hours or involve a questionable puddle jumper. You can have all of the luxuries of a South Pacific vacation, right here in Orlando.
Clearly, the pool will be the centerpiece of your visit. Basically your own blue lagoon, the pool area was designed to keep you smiling in the sun with a tropical cocktail in hand from the Bula Bar & Grille. You could quite literally spend an entire day lounging here with your out-of-office on, and I would highly recommend it. If sushi is as much your thing as it is mine, hit up Orchid Court for dinner (bonus points for flower-in-the-hair theming). The views are just as good as the rolls and you will 100% want a solid chopsticks cheers-ing Boomerang with a very Royal location tag.
Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley – The United Kingdom
So you’re ready for a change in locale and looking for an incredibly charming location featuring snow, scarves, and beautiful historical buildings? Right this way to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Whether you want to start in a quaint Scottish village or a busy London street, you will get your Anglophile fill in either Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure or Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. You can even get your required red phone booth shot.
There are SO MANY things to do in these incredible locations, it would take another blog to explain. Good thing we have exactly that – A Guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort! But if you’re looking for my quick tips to make your trip feel like a U.K. excursion, I do have a few. Start your day with a full and complete traditional English breakfast in Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron and pretend it’s just a bit colder outside. Make a stop at Sugarplum’s Sweet Shop and enjoy the colorful English Wizarding wold candies — take note of those extra “u” inclusions in treats like Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans. Then head to King’s Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express train and take in the beautiful countryside views as you journey to Hogsmeade. Once you’re there, revel in every second of snow-covered roofs and the sounds of the Hogwarts Express conductor greeting you. Complete your travel experience with the most photogenic spot you could hope for — Hogwarts castle. After you get the perfect shot, head into the castle and take a journey high above the Hogwarts grounds on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
New York Streets – New York City, New York
We’ve made it back around to domestic travel options that still aren’t as easy as they used to be. I LOVE to visit New York City for any occasion, so a trip to New York Streets at Universal Studios Florida definitely helps satiate my desire for The City That Never Sleeps. Even if we do have a closing time.
The ambiance is what makes NYC wonderful, so I love to just spend some time hanging out in the New York streets and taking a break from ride-hopping. I’d suggest grabbing a drink from Finnegan’s Bar & Grill and people-watching in the Gramercy Park area. You might even be able to catch some street performances that put Times Square to shame, all in the shadow of that famous skyline. Once you’re ready for a ride, look no further than Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. It’s a far faster tour of the city than a taxi and will leave you hungry for a slice from Louie’s Italian Restaurant. Just make sure you fold it before you eat it or run the risk of really looking like a tourist.
Hollywood – Los Angeles, California
Cool, so you know how above I talked about how much I love New York? I totally do. I just REALLY LOVE L.A. Thanks to a husband who happens to be an L.A. native, I definitely think of Los Angeles as another home. Not being able to visit as frequently as normal this year really has me loving a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard at Universal Studios Florida and longing for the days of constant 75-degree weather and random celebrity sightings on the Westside.
Make sure you wear a great pair of shoes (I prefer a chic pair of kicks for a park day) and take a photo with your favorite star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can check out the Walk of Fame after you exit the TODAY Cafe, a location that can satisfy your Malibu-inspired cravings for avocado toast or an acai bowl. Want to dive into the magic of movie-making without an hour-long commute on the 405 to Studio City? That’s exactly why you should check out either the new stunt show, The Bourne Stuntacular, or the incredible Horror Make-Up Show at the Pantages Theater. If you love the West Coast as I do, this is all a must-do.
Three continents, five countries, and seven cities OR a three-park one destination travel extravaganza? I think the choice this year is pretty clear. Jet on over to Universal Orlando Resort to give these ideas your passport stamp of approval. And if you have any other tips for traveling around the globe while at the Globe, share with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Must be 21 years and older with valid identification to purchase or drink alcoholic beverages.