We recently had the pleasure of visiting Universal Orlando Resort, an American theme park and entertainment complex in Orlando, Florida. We’re huge fans of roller coasters and also couldn’t wait to check out the newest addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Diagon Alley). Whether you prefer more mellow shows and attractions or stomach-dropping roller coasters, there’s fun for all members of the family at these spectacular theme parks!
Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of three parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. We visited the first two; Universal Studios Florida has fantastic rides and attractions based on pop culture icons, Hollywood blockbuster films, and hit television shows, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure features innovative rides and attractions on spectacularly themed islands. For Harry Potter fans, Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade is located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Hogwarts Express train connects the two parks and is a fantastic attraction as well!
Here’s what you need to know as a Muslim traveler before you visit:
Where can I pray? We recommend the following spots for prayer in each park. When we visited in early December, both spots were totally empty and private. Note that there may be music playing nearby.
Universal Studios Florida – There is a quiet space in the Central Park area near the lagoon – take the side path instead of the main path
Islands of Adventure – There is private, quiet space behind Mythos Restaurant facing the lagoon.
Here is a map showing the exact locations for prayer.
What can I bring inside the theme park? The parks allow bottled water, small snacks, any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements, any food for special dietary needs, baby food/baby formula, and soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5 inches wide, 6 inches high and 6 inches deep. Full picnic lunches and food that requires heating or refrigeration are not permitted.
Where can I find halal food? We were excited to find out that the #1 theme park restaurant in the world, Mythos Restaurant, serves halal lamb! The restaurant offers a mix of Mediterranean, Asian and American fare and serves many seafood and vegetarian options as well. Note that you may need to make a reservation for this restaurant if you plan on coming during peak lunch hours or peak times for the parks (weekends and summer/winter holidays). Mythos Restaurant is located in Islands of Adventure close to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
Here’s a picture of the cavernous interior of Mythos Restaurant. The ambiance definitely makes for a unique dining experience!
Here’s the tender and juicy lamb burger we tried. The staff cooks the meat to the doneness you prefer (we asked for medium-well done). The feta-olive aioli drizzled on the lamb was the perfect topping and overall, the meal was excellent. Another halal option is the Mediterranean lamb meatball appetizer. You can view the full menu for Mythos here. If you dine here, be sure to thank the manager for offering these halal options!
Another great option for halal food is NBC Sports Grill & Brew. All of the burgers, the 12 oz. New York Sirloin Strip Steak, and the 10 oz. Top Sirloin Steak are made with Creekstone Farms beef which is certified halal. The restaurant is located in Universal CityWalk right outside of the parks. You do not need an admission ticket to access this restaurant. Beautiful views, especially at night!
Here is a picture of the menu stating that they use Creekstone Farms beef which is certified halal.
Here is the full menu with all the burgers available!
Another halal option for Harry Potter fans in Universal Studios Florida is the fish and chips served at the Leaky Cauldron:
A true Harry Potter experience!
In addition to the halal meat and plentiful seafood options available throughout the park, Universal Orlando Resort also provides kosher menu options which include chicken, Salisbury steak, and salmon. You can find more information on how to request kosher meals here.
And finally, the chefs at the restaurants throughout Universal Orlando Resort are very accommodating. All you need to do is tell your server of your dietary restrictions when ordering and they will offer plenty of options and information.
Other tips for visiting Universal Orlando Resort
Get there as early as you can to beat the crowds.
At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, keep an eye on the dragon atop Gringotts – it breathes fire! Hint: The dragon will growl three times before it spits fire, giving you just enough time to grab your camera. The timing is usually every 10 minutes starting at noon, unless the winds are too strong.
Be sure to try the delicious butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever had before and is the #1 activity that people do when they visit! No alcohol, we promise – it’s a butterscotch-flavored drink.
We also loved the butterbeer-flavored ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley. Again, it’s alcohol free and was absolutely divine!
If you are going to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and want to ride the three wet rides, make sure you bring an extra pair of clothes or wear quick dry clothing. You will get drenched on some of these rides!
Should I get a 2-park 1-day pass or a 2-park 2-day pass? We recommend two days to experience both parks fully at a leisurely pace. If you are tight on budget and can plan well, then you can get a 2-park 1-day pass to experience both parks, but be sure to focus on the attractions you are most interested in and also get an Express Pass to minimize your wait times. Here are some of our favorite attractions at both parks:
Universal Studios Florida
Revenge of the Mummy
The Simpsons Ride
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
The Hogwarts Express – It’s also a great way to get between both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Be sure to travel both ways for a different experience each time!
Men in Black: Alien Attack – Interactive ride!
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Jurassic Park – You will get wet, but not drenched.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Skull: Reign of Kong
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The Hogwarts Express
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – You will get drenched.
Flight of the Hippogriff – Good for children.
Pteranodon Flyers – Good for children.
Storm Force Accelerator – Good for children.
NOTE: Many rides do not allow bags to be taken inside the line. You do get free lockers for a limited time to place your belongings in.
Should I get an Express Pass? Yes, if you are coming at peak times – summer/winter vacation and spring break are the most crowded times. An Express Pass not only lets you skip the long line but also provides the best seats for that particular ride. For example, the best way to experience the Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride at is actually in the back seats!
Where is the best halal food nearby outside of the park? If you are willing to drive, we recommend Hot Krust Panini Kitchen. It’s owned by a Muslim brother from Trinidad, and everything on their menu is halal except the chili. Be sure to try the variety of homemade sauces they offer. The staff was friendly and the service was quick. Note that this restaurant closes early (8PM most nights).
We also highly recommend Flame Kabob. The cook is from Jordan and the owners are Palestinian so you know this food is authentic! The staff was friendly, the service was very quick, and the portions were generous. The food itself was excellent. It’s open late, too.
We also recommend Merguez for halal Moroccan food. The food is fantastic and the prices are very reasonable. We enjoyed the kefta tagine and chicken bastilla (a sweet and salty chicken pastry which we’d never tried anywhere else before). It was excellent!
And that’s a wrap! Everything you need to know to have a great vacation at Universal Orlando Resort without having to worry about finding halal food or prayer spaces. For more information on Universal Orlando Resort, visit www.universalorlando.com.
Thank you Universal Orlando Resort for the complementary tickets to your theme parks. All opinions are our own.