Travelin’ & Universal Studios Part 1

Hey heyyy!! Oh man, am I ever excited to share this trip with you all! I have taken a few days to even get this post out because I wanted to get my final exam done before any blogging. I finished up my semester yesterday & all went very well 🙂 One step closer to that Doctorate degree!! So let’s jump right in because we have got a lot of ground to cover (I mean quite literally, these parks are MASSIVE!! So glad I brought my walking shoes ;)). This will take several parts, no doubt. This vacation was with DJ’s side of the fam to celebrate many birthdays (including Mickey’s 90th, of course) and to just all be together in one place. We rarely can get everyone together for a few hours, nonetheless a few days! This was such a treat and truly a vacation of a lifetime. And before I start I have to shoutout my Mom-in-law for planning this absolutely spectacular vacation & making it all possible!

Back to the beginning…in the evening of December 3rd I meal prepped a bit for the plane. I can’t go a few hours without having a snack, but buying snacks at the airport is pricy. So I made overnight pumpkin oats with cranberries and yogurt and a salad with protein crumbles & hummus. I also had grapes and apples and protein bars to munch on.


I put everything in my Pack It lunch box in my carry on. It keeps it nice and cool the whole flight since there are built in ice packs!


After getting through security, you know the first place I went (even though it was in the opposite direction of our gate, hehe)…


Breakfast & study time!


On the plane I studied a majority of the plane ride, enjoyed my salad & protein bar, and sipped on some seltzer water.


We arrived in Orlando in the evening around 5:30 pm, and headed directly to the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort to meet up with the family. This hotel lobby is just breath-takingly stunning, but also fun & exotic!


After getting the family all together we headed to The Boathouse.


If you are going to the Boathouse for dinner a reservation is a must!! This is a popular spot and rightfully so. The decor from the moment you step in is exactly what you would anticipate- fish, boats, netting.. it is a sundry of all things nautical!


They have some awesome unique drinks too- even their lemon drop martini is served with a rock candy stick.


They started us with some melt in your mouth rolls- so good!


For the table we shared a couple rounds of oysters- some Rockefeller and some regular.


I had never had Rockefeller oysters before- and although they had bacon in them I tried a little nibble of just the creamed spinach and oyster, and it was an explosion of flavor. The regular oysters were the definition of “fresh”.. mmm mmm!


I ordered the cedar plank salmon for my main dish & DJ had the Maine Lobster and pasta skillet- holy maloly it was all so scrumptious! I would recommend the pasta skillet over the salmon though!


^^ Perfection.

& The decadently delicious desserts all around…

Key lime pie in a Mason Jar


Macadamia Turtle Pie


Double Chocolate Bundt Cake


I probably don’t need to explain how good those are, huh?

Walking back to the hotel we passed some beautiful Christmas decor lit up in the evening. It was wonderful catching up with everyone & just chatting the night away. I kept feeling like I needed to squeeze everything into one conversation, but then remembered we still had several days ahead of us to chat and hang out!


Despite getting up so early, I was not tired one bit. It was technically only about 7 pm Pacific time once we returned, so I decided to go run to wind down from the traveling day. I actually was able to get my studying done that I had planned for the next day, so that felt productive!


I loved the workout room- they had a separate smaller room where you could choose HITT routine programs, and they even had a punching bag.


Time to hit the hay! I actually couldn’t fall asleep until about 5 or 6 am, and we woke up around 7.. hence, the sleep was very minimal that evening. Jet lag always throws me off no matter how tired I am. When I went to India I couldn’t sleep for over 48 hours straight (and melatonin does nuthin’ for it for some reason!).

Anywho- this was a gorgeous view to wake up to!


I grabbed my protein bar and headed downstairs with DJ to get some coffee before heading out for the day’s festivities!


There was a little place in the lobby called “fuel” that had just anything and everything you could want food/drink wise. Their coffee shop was SO good. I loved the cafe au lait I had there.


I paired it with my No Cow bar in the morning to get a protein boost before getting the day started.


Time to head to Universal Studios!


We rode a bunch of rides to start out the day- the Minion Ride (such an insanely fun virtual reality ride!), Rock It Hollywood Rollercoaster, & the Shrek Virtual Reality ride. I was blown away by the detail, high technology, and deep immersion of it all.


For a little pick me up, I grabbed a cup of jo at Boulangerie.


This place was super cute, but their coffee was awfully bitter!

We continued along in the park and passed another mammoth Christmas tree.


We were so taken aback when we saw this sign below. There is actually a faux “San Francisco” in Universal Studios. We laughed saying we traveled across the country just to end back up in San Francisco.


They recreated notable spots in SF pretty darn well!


I mean there was even a “Ghirardelli Square”.. too funny


And it was located right on the water- how perfect.


I’ll end here. In the next post we head to Harry Potter World (eeeek!!!!!!). It was a day to remember, I’ll tell ya that much! Can’t wait to share. But for now I will leave us in San Francisco… And you thought you were getting a travelin’ post, eh? 😉

Question for you:

  • Highlight of your week so far?

xo <3


80 thoughts on “Travelin’ & Universal Studios Part 1

  1. Oooh, nice! I love these peeks into your travels … and you have fed my Disney fiend! The resort looks so fab! as does the food you’ve had so far. Can’t wait to see more! Thank you for taking the time to share all these goodies with you so we can enjoy vicariously!

    1. Hi, Ju Lyn! Thank you so much 🙂 I’m really glad to hear you enjoy these posts!! Hope you are having a wonderful week!

  2. We have plans to stay at the Dolphin sometime next year! I will be taking notes on where you eat! We have been to disney and universal a few times but I look forward to your harry potter ppst!

    1. No way!! How fun! We ate at almost every restaurant on site- so I will be thorough in my posts to give you the low down 😉 Happy your are excited to read the HP post.. I’m not sure I have ever been so excited to share a post!! it was a dream come true visiting there!

    1. We only visited one other hotel’s lobby while we were there. Is there a reason for hotel hopping? Always a reason to return!

      1. all of the Disney Hotels deck their lobbys to the max at the holidays. Grand Floridian had a life size gingerbread house. They all have huge trees that reflect the hotel’s theme. one of my favorite things to do at Disney during the holidays and it is free

      2. Ahhhhh oh man, we definitely missed out on that! Okay next time for sure 🙂 Thank you so much for letting me know!

  3. Packing snacks for a flight is a must. Even if it’s a short flight I have to have snacks prepared. The double chocolate bundt cake looks absolutely incredible. I could eat it now and it’s only 8:03 am.

    Melotonin doesn’t work for me either!! It really stinks so if you know of anything to help let me know! Alex, my family and I are going to Europe in 2 weeks so I’ll need something to fight jet lag.

    I have never been to Universal but I think Alex and I would love Harry Potter world so I can’t wait for that recap.

    The highlight of my week was an extra night with Alex. He was supposed to be gone all week at late meetings and work events but his scheduled changed and he worked from home an extra day. Happy Friday Eve Mackenzie!

    1. agreed!! What are some of your favorite snacks to pack?
      lol! I crave chocolate so much in the morning sometimes, and really what’s the difference between a little cake and a pancake?! 😉

      What!! That is SOO exciting you are going to Europe!!! I wish I had some suggestions- but basically I just have to wear myself out over a couple days then I finally line up with the timezone. Ah, I am soo excited for you! Where are you all going?!

      Aww that’s awesome! Isn’t unexpected time like that together just the best? Thanks for stopping in, Maureen 🙂

      1. I always pack Just Fruit bars from Trader Joe’s and some sort of protein bar. Most flights I take are 2 hours or less so I don’t need anything too big.
        That’s a great point!

        We’re going to Germany and I’m sooo excited! Hopefully walking around the cities will be enough to wear me out. Jet lag is not joke.

        It really is! I hope you’re having a great weekend 🙂

      2. Ohhh I need to pick up a couple when I’m there next time!

        Oh man I am just psyched about your trip! Can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

  4. Nice photos and post, Mack! Orlando is always a fun place to visit. We went about four years ago. We stayed at Disney World. I wish I could try Peets coffee. I’ve seen it at the grocery store but not the actual place. I like Starbucks though. I’m going to San Francisco for business soon. I got another job and their training/headquarters is in San Francisco. I’m thinking I go in January or February. They haven’t told me the exact date yet. ❤

    1. Hi, Lisa!!! Thank you so much 🙂

      Although Peet’s is okay from the store, the actual shop has the good stuff 😉 Keep an eye out in airports when you travel! They have them in Texas I think some places (mainly Dallas & Houston I believe).

      Oh my gosh!! You are visiting SF?!? Oh well then you will absolutely have the chance to try some Peets 🙂 Keep me posted & let me know if you need any recommendations, although I’m sure you will be busy going to mostly business dinners and such! <3

  5. All of the teal in that hotel lobby rug is gorgeous!! What an exciting trip with family! I’ve been to Disney World three times, but I feel like I was too young to fully appreciate it + it and Universal Studios have become so much better! One day I’ll need to return. It would be Matt’s first trip. Please share any tips, if you have any, on saving money with stay and park visits. 🙂 Can’t wait to read about more of your experience!

    1. Yessss!! I hope you can return soon! I was the same way- I had only been once or twice when I was very young and for only a couple hours when I was a teenager… It really is even more fun as an adult! Especially Epcot- oh my gosh, I can’t wait to share that with ya- it’s a foodie’s paradise. Oh and for a cost saving tip- I would highly recommend staying at a specific Disney hotel/park. They have buses that are free to jump from park to park. It saves on getting a rental car, dealing with parking, etc. So easy to figure out too. Thanks for stopping in, Kori 🙂

  6. I do the same when I see family I don’t see often and end up speed talking!

    I’m so glad y’all had a smooth trip there and amazing first dinner! Jet lag is a drag tho! Can’t wait to read your next post! Also, congrats on doing so well in school!

  7. What a loaded post of good things to eat and fun stuff to do Mackenzie – they sure recreated San Francisco – amazing! The Christmas decor was beautiful too – even the Christmas decor on the desserts! The dinner on the night you arrived … the pasta skillet looks so scrumptious as do all the desserts. I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    1. Didn’t they do well with SF? It was tripping my brain out a bit! hehe.

      The pasta skillet was phenomenal!! Thanks for stopping in, Linda 🙂 I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

      1. Yes, I was amazed too Mackenzie and I recall that the first thing I saw in your post was the sign how many miles to each City, (like San Jose I think was one) and then you said … a mock-up of San Francisco. Very clever. Was there sour dough bread and dungeness crab at Fisherman’s Wharf too?

        That pasta skillet looked wonderful – it lured me even more than the desserts, though I wouldn’t pass them up. I got a late start today – we had a foggy morning and will be that way tomorrow morning as well.

        My friend Evelyn finished her last online exam and submitted a paper this morning – no school for a month and she is ecstatic!

      2. Yesss! you have a good eye 🙂 I didn’t actually see what was available food wise (darn, I should have!!), but I would bet they did!

        And the pasta skillet was just tremendous…. however I have an EVEN better mac and cheese dish coming up next post. Stay tuned!!

        Sometimes foggy mornings are the signal that it’s okay to take it slow- that’s what I say ! Hope you had a restful weekend, Linda!

        Congrats to Evelyn!! Such a well deserved break for her after all her hard work.

      3. I will look forward to that Mackenzie – it’s nice to have comfort foods around the holidays and the Winter … and I love anything with cheese. I left later due to the fog and it was to my advantage – the heron was fishing in the Park and I would have missed it – don’t know about any good shots, I’ve not looked yet. I’ve got quite a few pictures to share and was trying to squeeze in a few Christmassy ones and only a week more to do so. Evelyn is excited – still waiting for her other grades. She is bummed as she has to have 600 volunteer hours before graduation and can’t find a placement – she has all kinds of “feelers” out to get on board with an institution. You’d think volunteer work would be easy to find takers? She may have to wait until August to graduate, rather than May.
        You’ll get your well-deserved break and some nice family time to enjoy. 🙂

      4. I totally agree 🙂

        How awesome you got to see the Heron with the fog- I bet that was a stunning sight.

        That’s so crazy she is having a hard time finding placement for that! Is there a specific role she needs to find? Like a type of organization?

        Thank you tons & tons, Linda! Same to youu!

      5. Yes, it is a beautiful sight Mackenzie – I wish that there were not so many bushes that block your view somewhat … I can’t get close to the shoreline as it is an embankment and don’t want to lose my footing … the water is really murky. As to Evelyn it has to be an approved geriatric institution, as I understand it, doing administrative work in a large nursing home/assisted living facility. She is from South Carolina originally – her mom was in an assisted living facility (Bishop Gadsen … really a nice place, fine dining and saw their menus – very fancy) … anyway, this place has offered her a position for internship, possible long-term position. She would love this as she misses Charleston, still has friends there – her husband has an issue with moving from Richmond, VA. But Bishop Gadsen would extend a position to her at the completion of school. She interviewed for this volunteer position last week and the head of the institution said he really did not have the resources to have a volunteer on staff. She is looking at other options – this is what happened to me. I was in my last year of school at Wayne State University. There were so many students went into the journalism field (more print journalism then broadcast journalism) … this was after Watergate and Woodward and Bernstein … everyone wanted to be investigative reporters. But when it came time to place us in our 12-week internship, the last trimester of school before graduation, there was nowhere to place us. I was put into a P.R. internship writing wire shorts for a wire-short service for the City of Detroit. It was a waste of time as my major was not marketing. It made it difficult to find a job. I think she is going to do some visits to institutions on her month off and see what she can do. For years Evelyn used to volunteer at a nursing home; this was at night after work every other Tuesday, teaching the residents knitting. I told her to ask if she can parlay that volunteer position into something with them, even if just for her 600 hours of volunteering, so she’s going to look into that. She had to stop as she had class on Tuesday nights. At least she has a month off to try to get a volunteer position lined up.

      6. oh man that is so many moving pieces and parts 🙁 I am sure it will all come together, but I know it’s stressful in the meantime. Praying all things fall together soon for her- she obviously has such a big heart & cares deeply for people!

      7. Ah, this was the thread we had – I couldn’t remember and wanted to tell you she got the call – must’ve been some folks put their heads together and said “free help – 600 hours of an intern … go for it!”

    1. Right?!?!? I was blown away by everything. I mean literally anything and everything we tasted was just amazing. Thanks so much, Shan! xo

  8. What a treat this post is! I love your pictures, and all the food and drinks look amazing! I can’t wait to read about the rest of your vacation!

  9. Wow! You guys really had so much fun! ❤ love all those Christmas trees, so beautiful 😍😍

    It’s so cool that you are allowed to pack your own food into a plane. In my experience, I have to leave my water bottle during the security check uggh.

    1. So you can’t take liquids, but you can take food!! I just found this out a few months ago because I didn’t think you could take anything but like protein bars, so this has been a lifesaver! Thanks for stopping by, Mich!! xo

  10. What amazing pictures! All of the food looks absolutely delicious! I always love when a drink has a rock candy stick in it. It just makes the drink so much better (& sweeter!).

    Good for you for getting a run in! I always love when a hotel has a nice workout area. It seems like this place had a great area!

    Enjoy your weekend!!

    1. Hi, Emily!! Thanks for stopping by, girl.

      I agree! It’s just so fun with the rock candy!

      Yesss- it may have been the best workout facility in a hotel I’ve ever seen. It was motivating for me too!

      Hope you are having a lovely weekend 🙂

  11. I love Universal Studios, so this was such a fun post to read! I recommend the Forbidden Journey ride at Harry Potter World- it’s truly a one of kind ride! All of the food looks delicious- my mouth is watering!
    I hope the rest of your trip is amazing!

    1. Hey, girl!!! Aww I am so happy you enjoyed this post 🙂 YESS we did the Forbidden Journey and it was a blast ! Have you rode Gringott’s?! It’s the new ride, and man, it’s like Forbidden Journey on steroids! I was amazed.

      Hope you are having the best weekend 🙂

    1. Aw, oh my gosh, thank you so much, Chloe!! You are too sweet, girl. The pasta was next. level. delicious. Mmmmm mmm!

  12. I love that you include all of your snacks and coffee pics of when you travel, because I am such a foodie… and I appreciate all this content so much. Ha, ha!!
    I love Peet’s coffee!!

    1. Tehe well of course 😉 I sometimes only have food pics from a single day and then am like “I could have swore we did things besides eat” lol. So glad you enjoy! And Peet’s is the best <3

  13. Congratulations on finishing up the semester & getting that much closer to your degree, Mackenzie! I’m so happy to hear that everything went well!!

    The hotel lobby is so fun & absolutely gorgeous! Boathouse looks so delicious & it still blows my mind that you always fit in exercise & just how in the heck do you multi-task so well!?

    The treats at Boulangerie are so dang adorable!! Can’t wait to read your next post. 😄

    1. Hey, giiirl! Thank you tons !! It’s such a relief. Time to rest the old noggin before jumping back into the books in January. Haha- I have been studying on the treadmill since high school, so I think I’m just used to it. I actually have a hard time studying sitting still now. Even when reading sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood- although I have almost hit street lights a few times hahah.

      Thanks so much!! <3

  14. So far it looks like you all had an absolutely wonderful vacation!! That lobster pasta skillet looks to DIE for, oh my gosh! Can’t wait to read about your Harry Potter week! It sounds like December is such a fun time to go to Disney.

    1. Hey Courtney!! I think the lobster skillet was one of the favorites of the week for sure. TOO tasty. And I would HIGHLY recommend Disney in December. Magical is the only appropriate word to describe it all. The week was the closest thing to perfect that it could be 🙂 Have a very Merry Christmas, girl! Hope it’s the best yet! xo

      1. I just had the chance to order lobster mac & cheese from Red Lobster and the whole time I just kept thinking of this pasta skillet, lol! I don’t know if it was the same, but it sure was tasty! I definitely couldn’t pass it up after seeing this, haha.

        Thank you, and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!! <3

      2. ahhh yayyy! I am so glad you got to try it & more importantly- liked it! woohoo!!! xox

  15. Awww I am glad Mackenzie you got to Orlando for vacation! I am happy the doctorate is getting closer for you. Such a cute cup of Peets! Oh my gosh the hotel lobby is Amazing. Oh that is some view to wake up to , so pretty. Mackenzie, I just love the photo of you holding the no cow bar you look so cute and I love the manicure! How nice to get back to SanFrancisco in Orlando!! I was thinking of you last night as I watched the parent trap with SF and Napa featured! replying with highlight of the week 11 days later: Christmas shopping done! Happy Sunday, Terri xo.

    1. Hi, Terri!! Thanks for sharing in our fun adventures with us 🙂

      Awwww! I am so bad at doing my nails, so thank you for saying you liked the manicure!

      Okay I haven’t watched the Parent Trap since we have moved here, but I neeeed to!! I just am so honored that you watched and thought of us 🙂

      Have the most wonderful Christmas!! xoxo

      1. Thank you so much!! My friend Rachel always laughs at me because I usually destroy my nails before they have the chance to dry. I mean, how do people sit still for so long?!

      2. hehe- aw I bet!! That’s because I’m sure you are just non stop all day every day 🙂 You deserve it! For me all I do is sit and study it feels like so when I have a spare moment I just wanna move!!! 😉

  16. Omg the lobby of that resort is phenomenal! I could probably never afford it!! 😭😭😭
    All the food looks amazing but I’m more intrigued by the desserts lol!!
    I love how they had a little SF there!! I’m so excited to read about Harry Potter World! It’s my dream to go there lol!

    1. Hey, girl!! Aww I bet you could! Something to remember is you don’t have to pay for transportation when you are on the resorts associated with Disney which helps a ton!!

      Isn’t it so funny they have a little SF? I was cracking up. Ahhh HP World IS a dream. I honestly could have spent a good few days prancing around there haha.

      1. I’ll have to save up but that’s good to know. I’ll be sure to look more into it once CL is much older. I had planned on going to Disneyland in LA sometime soon but he probably wouldn’t do well so I’ll wait a bit longer. I’m itching to go to SF first! Lol.

      2. Yay!! Oh Disneyland in LA is basically the same thing and would probably be much cheaper to fly to being on the West coast too! Oh girl- yes- I can audibly hear SF calling your nameeee. lol

      3. Oh okay great! Thanks for letting me know. 🤗 I know its taking a bit longer than I wanted, but it will happen. Even if it takes me a bit longer. Lol.

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