Whilst in Orlando, you will want to visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure but what if you’re short on time? Here is our guide to seeing both parks in Universal Orlando in one day.
Tips for visiting Universal Orlando in one day
- Start early – the best way to see both parks at Universal Orlando is to leave early. The parks open at 9 am but get there for 30-minutes before opening time.
- Wear comfortable shoes – you will be doing a lot of walking!
- Book your tickets in advance to save time on arrival and save money. We use this website to get the best price ticket from a reliable site. Print the tickets before leaving home or the hotel too.
- Remember to bring sun lotion, a hat and a refillable water bottle.
- This itinerary presumes you and your party are taller than the height restrictions but alternate options are included for families with young children.
- Remember to take advantage of the single rider queue if you want to maximise the number of rides you experience in your one day.
Morning – Universal Studios
Start with Universal Studios.
Universal Studios is the more popular park so it is best to start with this park and head straight to whichever island takes your interest first. If you want to fully experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then head straight here after the park opens.
We recommend starting with Diagon Alley, beginning with the Gringotts ride then moving around the theme park and ending back up in the Wizarding World.
Universal Studios have a range of different rides and attractions to explore, so we have shared our recommended guide around the park to include some of the best things to do in the park. However, it doesn’t include every ride, you would need the park to be very quiet to attempt to ride every ride in one day.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts – This is perhaps the most innovative rides at the park with a roller coaster train moving you through motion-based 3-D projections, live-action and animation sequences.
- Explore the shops in Diagon Alley – Ollivander’s includes an interactive demonstration which is a great option for young children whilst there are lots of great photo opportunities inside Diagon Alley and outside, as you walk past Kings Cross and the Knight Bus.
- If you are more of a foodie than a rider, try the breakfast options at The Leaky Cauldron for a themed fun dining experience.
- Once leaving the Wizarding World, head towards San Francisco, moving around the park in an anti-clockwise direction.
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged – this is a fun ride and ideal for those who dislike rollercoasters. If the wait time isn’t too long, it is worth a ride but can be skipped.
- There are restaurants in this area including the San Francisco Pastry Company if you are looking for a grab & go snack or breakfast.
- Rides – Rollercoaster lovers should jump on the Revenge of the Mummy ride; an enclosed dark coaster ride, whilst those looking for a fun, tame ride, jump on the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
- If you’re still in New York at 11 am (perhaps there was a long queue for Gringotts, you had a leisurely breakfast or you opted for both rides in this area), The Blues Brothers Show starts at 11 am and is a fun show to break up your day of rides.
- Pick me up – It is worth noting that their is a Starbucks in this area if you are looking for a mid-morning coffee!
- Rides – thrill-seekers head to the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, an invigorating rollercoaster partnered with thumping music and located in the production centre.
- Families – the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction is a great option for families as is the Shrek 4-D; we like both so unless you desperately want to meet the Minions, opt for the attraction with the shortest wait time.
- Early lunch? – If you want an early lunch by this point, there are two options. You are near the exit, so you could exit the park and head to one of the restaurants in City Walk or you could choose to eat at Mel’s Drive-In; a fun, traditional American style diner.
- Apart from the restaurant options, the main attraction here is Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-up Show, which starts at 11.30 am and runs every hour throughout the day. If you are interested in stage makeup and behind the scenes, then this attraction is worth it but you won’t miss too much if you decide to keep walking.
Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone
- This land is perfect for those travelling with younger children.
- E.T. Adventure – a suspended dark ride in the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone which is a good option for families but does have a height restriction of 36″.
- If you aren’t travelling with young children, skip Woody Woodpeckers and head straight to Springfield.
- The Simpsons Ride – a fun 3D ride taking you through a narrative with your favourite Simpson family. This is worth a ride if the queue isn’t too long and is one of my favourite rides in Universal.
- Lunch – If you haven’t already had lunch, Springfield is the perfect place to eat. The Fast Food Boulevard is a themed canteen area with a variety of options including pizza, burger, fried chicken, sandwiches and wraps, milkshakes and even Duff Beer.
- This area is home to the Men in Black ride and Fear Factor Live.
- We often choose to skip both but young children may enjoy the Fear Factor live show and it is a good chance to sit down and rest, escaping the heat for a little while.
Getting to Island of Adventures (Afternoon)
After walking around the whole park and ending back at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you are now ready to travel to Island of Adventures – Via the Hogwarts Express!
The attraction takes you from one park to the other on the famous train whilst scenes play out through the train window.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
- Now you have arrived in Hogsmeade, there are a few ride options. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures is the most popular ride across all the parks because it is the newest, so if the queue time is under an hour, then it is worth the wait.
- Alternately, we suggest you head inside of Hogwarts to enjoy the interactive queue system in the castle itself, ending in the immersive Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. If you are travelling with anyone who isn’t a fan of rides, you can walk through the castle to see the interior then exit the castle before riding the Forbidden Journey.
- Flight of the Hippogriff is also a great ride for Potter thrill-seekers.
- If you aren’t fussed about queueing for rides, use your time by exploring the Hogsmeade area. Universal have filled this area with detail and magic, with every shop and window worth looking into.
- O Hog’s Head pub is my favourite place to enjoy some air-conditioning and cold Butterbeer (or alcoholic beverage).
- After leaving Hogsmeade, many people will keep walking forwards towards The Lost Continent but I would recommend turning right (you’ll see why later).
- Jurassic Park is another well-themed land which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
- Rides – Jurassic Park River Adventure is a classic ride that should be on your list to of must-rides. For a faster-paced ride, jump on the Pteranodon Flyers.
- Camp Jurassic is an area to walk through, covered in greenery with hints at the films. This can be missed unless you have movie fans with you.
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the only ride in this area – this is a tram-style ride which moves you through a story and includes a few twists and turns but is a fairly tame ride.
- This area offers some great photo opportunities but can be quickly moved through
- Rides – If you enjoy water rides, this is the area for you – try the Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges for a rapids style experience or jump on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls for a log flume styled ride.
Marvel Super Hero Island
- If you love rollercoasters, I would recommend skipping past Skull Island and Toon Lagoon and spend the extra time in this superhero-inspired land.
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster is said to be the best rollercoaster across both parks.
- Storm Force Accelatron is a spinning family favourite.
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall is another exhilarating ride with a drop tower style experience.
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a motion-based 3D ride, giving you the sense of being thrown around on a coaster.
Port of entry
The reason I have highlighted this section is to give you an option – for many, you maybe tired by now and are feeling the Orlando heat. The remaining lands to explore are Seuss Landing and The Lost Continent, both of which are nothing spectacular and can be missed.
If you need a break or want to end your day here, leave the park at this point. You could always head over to City Walk for a snack/drink/dinner then return to the park later if you wish to.
For those that are still going, keep reading!
- This is a themed land-based with a few calm rides and cafes.
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride is a gentle journey which moves you around the area on a track above the land.
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a calm ride for families with moves you up and down whilst circling around and occasionally spraying water at riders.
- The Cat in the Hat is another gentle colourful dark ride moves you through The Cat in the Hat story, scene by scene.
The Lost Continent
- The land isn’t the most exciting area and can be visited briefly.
- See The Mystic Fountain for a cool splash of water or ride Poseidon’s Fury; an undersea adventure leading you deeper into a temple.
Return to the Wizarding World
By this point, you have two options. You could stay in the Hogsmeade area, enjoying a meal at The Three Broomsticks before watching the Hogwarts Castle light up (selected dates only). Or, you can jump back on the Hogwarts Express and experience the journey in the opposite direction; the scene outside is different each way.
Evening at Universal Studios
The parks stay open until 9pm (sometimes later depending on date), so you can use the time you have left riding your favourite rides again or just taking in the theming of the lands at night.
The Simpsons area is a fun place to explore as the sun sets, with the carnival attractions and beer garden (DUFF) being a great place to unwind after a long day.
We enjoy heading towards City Walk and eating at one of the many restaurants there too; food is often cheaper and tastes better whilst restaurants are quieter than those inside the park.
Summary – Universal Studios Touring Plan
|9am||Universal Studio Park opens – head straight to the Gringotts ride OR visit Diagon Alley and try the breakfast|
|10am||Explore Diagon Alley, taking in the details and shops|
|10.30am||Walkthrough San Francisco and choose a ride in New York|
|11am||Watch The Blues Brothers or keep walking towards Production Central; choosing an attraction or two, depending on wait times.|
|12pm||Take some photos in Hollywood and explore Springfield|
|12.30pm||Enjoy The Simpsons Ride (queues are quieter during lunchtime)|
|1.15pm||Head into The Fast Food Boulevard for a quick lunch break|
|2pm||Head through World Expo to catch the Hogwarts Express across to Islands of Adventure|
|3pm||Choose a ride or two in Hogsmeade; Hagrid’s is the most popular but Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is just as magical and will have a shorter wait time. Take time to explore Hogsmeade too.|
|4.30pm||Head to Jurassic Park and ride the River Adventure|
|5.30pm||Walkthrough Skull Island, Toon Lagoon, then choose a ride in the Marvel island.|
|6.30pm||Continue moving around the park, visiting Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent before returning to Hogsmeade|
|7.30pm||Explore Hogsmead at night or head back over to Universal Studios via the Hogwarts Express|
|8.15pm||Walk towards to exit of the park, taking in the theme park at night whilst jumping on one last ride!|
And this is a plan on how to spend one day at Universal Orlando; taking in the best of both parks! Let us know your favourite ride in the comments below!
Heading to Universal Studios Orlando? Make sure you read our Universal Studio Orlando Tips before you go.