One of the biggest tips I can give anyone about visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter inside Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventures is to stay at an on-site hotel. Why? Because you’ll get early entry into The Wizarding World, an hour before the park opens. My family tested this out during one of the busiest times of the year – Spring Break Week.
We waited late to book a room onsite, and the only hotel left with rooms was the most expensive, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. We booked a one night stay, along with 4 two park passes, which ran around $1000 total for room and tickets. This is alot of money, and for this price, I expected a good bit from Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
We were on a family road trip and parked in the adjacent parking garage ($15 self park charge). There were carts available at the elevator for those bringing in large amounts of luggage. We arrived upstairs to the check in area and didn’t have to wait very long to check in. We were directed to our rooms and I stopped in the lobby area to pick up our Universal Orlando tickets which we purchased online. And we walked. And we walked. And we walked. Then we took the elevator to our floor. Then we walked. And walked. And walked. And we stopped to take a break. And then we walked even more before we finally made it to our Deluxe Room.
We booked a deluxe room, which was our only option at such a popular time of year. The room was spacious with two double beds, sitting area, and very large bathroom. The beds had 300-thread-count sheets. I was disappointed in the coffee pot, which was a Keurig, preventing me from enjoying my own Community Coffee (sigh). The bathroom had a soaking tub and separate shower. There were two sinks, which worked out well for our family of four. The bathroom fixtures were worn, with the caulking around the shower door hanging down onto the floor. There were bathrobes in the closet for our use and evening turndown service.
Once we checked in, we went in search of the swimming pool and something to eat since we had been on the road all day. The swimming pool is zero entry with a sandy beach area. There are waterslides and lounge chairs, but the pool needs some updating. We opted to stay out of the pool and decided to have a light dinner at the poolside bar and grill.
There are a variety of dining options onsite at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, but we only experienced Splendido Pizzeria, the poolside bar and grill. Our family ordered one pizza, a burger plus fries, hot wings, 2 soft drinks, a beer, and a specialty cocktail. It was edible, but not the best I’d ever eaten. Then we got our bill – over $100! We had no idea before we ordered that not only was 18% gratuity included automatically for oue family of 4, but also an additional 18% resort fee. After that bill, we decided to skip breakfast at the resort the next morning.
This Italian inspired resort is huge and spread out. There are actually other pools onsite, Mandara Spa, and little shops located around the bay area. After our expensive light dinner, we checked out the arcade for some family fun. We woke up super-early the next morning to take advantage of the early entry hours to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which began at 7am. We were checked out and had the truck loaded by 6:15 and went to hop onboard the complimentary onsite water taxi. The line was already extremely long for the water taxis and we would have to wait at least three cycles to catch one, so we opted to take the 20 minute walk to Universal’s Island’s of Adventure. Once we were directed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we went directly to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which already had an hour wait by 7:15am. Once we experienced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then entire family enjoyed the rest of the day riding rides and checking out the rest of Universal Orlando, which had hardly any lines since all the crowds were at WWoHP.
- Early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (priceless)
- Express Pass ($87 per person value/not valid at Wizarding World)
- Priority seating at select Universal Orlando restaurants
- Complimentary water taxi or shuttle to park (during regular operating hours)
- Price (unless you can find a deal)
- Hidden charges on dining (18% resort fee added)
- Property is spread out, which could be a pro, but for those with mobility options it may present a problem.
Overall, I do recommend this place if you have a Harry Potter fan in the family and want to get the most out of your time at Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a major splurge for my family, who usually travels on some sort of a budget. However, I had been saving up for over a year just to be able to take my teen son for this experience. For me, it was priceless to be able to provide this for my son, who rarely asks for anything.
If you are planning your own visit to Universal Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be sure to check out our other articles about Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.