There comes a time when you need to grab a friend and getaway. Yes, I mean leave the family behind.  No more meals, laundry, and everyday humdrum chores.  It’s “me” time – but with a partner in crime.  You could go solo, but why not share the adventure with a girlfriend?

I’m Not Making My Bed

Before the pandemic was even on the horizon, I escaped to Universal Studios Florida & Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Jurassic Park) with my pal Where to Lady.  My inner child was thrilled and looking forward to the wonderful worlds of Harry Potter, and the Transformers, my all-time favourites.

We stayed close to Universal at their fabulous 50’s style on-site hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Our adjoining rooms overlooking the multiple pools allowed us to pop back and forth and plan our escapades. With its Jetson’s vibe and splashes of colour this large, retro-themed property took us back to the iconic beach movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s. There’s an indoor bowling alley, many dining options, and a great fitness studio (which we definitely did not use). The rooms have colour-blocked and wood-accented furnishings, iPod docking stations, safes, flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet access, and small kitchenette (which we also did not use). Hooray for holidays! There are many choices of accommodation, including family suites that sleep up to six, overlooking Volcano Bay splash park.

Rooms at Cabana beach resort Photo Parm Parmar

Rooms at Cabana beach resort Photo Parm Parmar

Don’t You Know Who I Am?

A short free bus ride took us to the heart of all the excitement – Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and bustling CityWalk. We had a VIP tour scheduled, and our personal guide, Kelly K, gave us the complete ‘star’ treatment. We shared insider information, exclusive backstage access, and head of the line spots at amazing rides and attractions including Transformers and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The whole tour started with a walk-through of Universal Studios to see the Hollywood Studio Lot, where so many films have been made like Ocean’s Eleven, Van Helsing and Minority Report.

Hogwarts express Photo Parm Parmar

Hogwarts Express Photo Parm Parmar

I’m a big kid at heart and love all things magical, especially if they involve Harry Potter, and the magic appeared in all the creatures we encountered from the Harry Potter films. We rode the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade where we toured the school and drank Butterbeer.

Then it was on to one amazing roller coaster ride, “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts”. This is a head-spinning journey through cavernous underground passageways, around the grounds, and high above the towers of Hogwarts Castle.  It was good fun with some parts being pretty scary. Stash your phone in the free security lockers before you ride.

Diagon Alley Photo Parm Parmar

Diagon Alley Photo Parm Parmar

I’m Not Cooking Either

For a change of pace, we visited the Transformers on a wild 3D ride. This is a next-generation thrill ride, an ultra-immersive that makes you feel like you’re part of the movie. Then we took a breather and settled down with a delicious Greek lunch at Mythos Restaurant.

Afterwards, our adventure continued with a river ride through Jurassic Park – Islands of Adventure. This new ride should be on everyone’s list. It has thrills, chills and very realistic dinosaurs including a phenomenal T-Rex that tries to have you for lunch.

Optimus prime safeguarding humans Photo Parm Parmar

Optimus Prime safeguarding humans Photo Parm Parmar

One More Time

On the second day, we headed off on our own which saw us back in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With so many details to take in, we couldn’t get enough of the experience.  We walked through Diagon Alley in the early morning without the crowds, even venturing down the foreboding Knockturn Alley where curious little shops sell dark magical things.

In need of more thrills, we headed for the Revenge of the Mummy ride. This is a technologically sophisticated roller coaster in total darkness, with swarms of scarab beetles, huge fireballs, and an army of warrior mummies.   I kept my eyes closed because it was bumpy and scared the daylights out of me – reminding me why I’m not a fan of roller coasters.  My girlfriend, however, had a wicked smile on her face.

I’m Not Going to Bed Early

No trip to Universal would be complete without joining a Mardi Gras Parade  – and to ride on one of the Mardi Gras floats was like the icing on the cake. So that’s what we did, signed-up, rode the float, and tossed beads to the happy spectators until our arms couldn’t lift another string.

Universal Studio lots Mardi Gras Photo Parm Parmar

We capped off our adventure by exploring the shops at CityWalk. We found stores selling everything from skateboards to swimwear, sunglasses and tattoos.  It was fun trying on witches’ hats and school gowns worn by the Harry Potter crowd. CityWalk has plenty of bars and restaurants for a fun evening’s entertainment, with familiar names like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Things may be different this year, but that only gives us more time to plan our next getaway.


The author was a guest of Universal Orlando, but all opinions expressed in this article are her own.


By Parmjit (Parm) Parmar
A recognized and well-published lifestyle writer based in Toronto, Parmjit (Parm) Parmar specializes in Travel and Food. Her articles can be found on the web, in print, and on her blog