The Ultimate Universal Orlando Itinerary: How To Have An Epic Day!

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When we told our kids we were going to Orlando on vacation, the first thing they said was “Can we go to Universal Studios?!”

Or course, visiting Universal Studios in Orlando is a no-brainer. Its reputation proceeds it, and even though there are five Universal Studios all over the world, the one in Orlando is one of the most famous.

But Orlando has over twenty theme parks and so you might only be able to allocate one day to visiting Universal Studios, and in which case, need to know how to maximize your day and make the most of the experience.

Well that’s where we come in. We have shared our ultimate one day itinerary for Universal Studios in Orlando, so you can have one incredible day and make the most of the experience.

The Ultimate 1 Day Universal Orlando Itinerary

family posing in front of Hogwarts Express, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando

To make the most of your day, make sure you wake up and get to the gates for opening time.

Get your ticket and express pass before hand so you can skip the queues!

Morning

Begin your day at Univeral Studios Orlando. In the afternoon, we’ll head over the Universal Islands of Adventure for part two.

  • 8:00 AM – Arrival at Universal Orlando
    • Enter the park and head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
  • 8:30 AM – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
    • Explore the magical streets of Diagon Alley, visit Ollivanders for a wand experience and to choose your wand, and then hop on the thrilling Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride.
  • 10:00 AM – Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
    • Feel the rush as you rock out to your own soundtrack on this unique roller coaster experience.
  • 11:00 AM – Revenge of the Mummy
    • Descend into the ancient tombs and face the wrath of Imhotep on this high-speed indoor roller coaster.

Afternoon

In the afternoon, head over to Universal Islands of Adventures for more thrilling rides!

  • 12:00 PM – Lunch at Three Broomsticks
    • Take a break and enjoy a delicious lunch at the Three Broomsticks in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
  • 1:30 PM – The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
    • Head to Marvel Super Hero Island and join Spider-Man in an action-packed 3D ride to save the day.
  • 2:30 PM – Skull Island: Reign of Kong
    • Venture into the heart of Skull Island for an immersive and thrilling expedition.
  • 3:30 PM – Jurassic Park River Adventure
    • Embark on a river raft adventure through the prehistoric world of Jurassic Park.
  • 4:30 PM – The Incredible Hulk Coaster
    • Make your way to Marvel Super Hero Island and experience the high-speed, adrenaline-pumping ride on The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
  • 5:00 PM – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
    • Conclude your day by immersing yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of Hogsmeade, savoring butterbeer, and enjoying the magical ambiance under the starry night.

This is our suggested itinerary for visiting Universal Orlando Florida in one day, but you can make your own itinerary by following the suggested tips below…

Tips For Spending One Day at Universal Orlando

With Hedwig at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando

I love Universal Studios Orlando, especially because of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Hulk roller coaster, so I was happy to dedicate one day to visiting Universal Studios Florida.

However, it’s a big park and you could easily spend a few days going on all the rides and seeing all the attractions. In fact, most people aim to spend three days at Universal Studios Florida, but we know we’re not all blessed with time.

To help you make the most out of your one day at Universal Studios, you’re going to need to do a bit of pre-planning.

First, you need to buy your ticket in advance so you can skip the queue. We purchased a park-to-park hopper ticket, which allows you entrance to Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure over two days; one park for each day.

The second thing you need to do is figure out what you want to see the most, as you’re going to need to pick and choose. It’s not possible to see it all. Our kids are Harry Potter fans and wanted to see Harry Potter World in full, which meant visiting both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

As we had visited Universal last year, we already had a good idea of what we wanted to see and do. This saved us a lot of time and even allowed us time to relax over lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Universal City Walk with friends.

It meant that we had a very relaxed and enjoyable time at Universal.

How to Choose the Main Universal Theme Park You Want to Visit

woman and child walking into Universal Orlando resort

While you’re deciding how to spend your day at Universal Studios, think about which Universal theme park is the right one for you.

Do you want a lot of shows, characters, and simulator rides? If so, Universal Studios may be the best choice for you.

Do you want more thrill rides and water rides? Then Islands of Adventure will be for you.

Do you just want a day of relaxing by the water and doing a few rides? Then Volcano Bay water park will be the best Universal Orlando theme park to visit.

Go at the Right Time of Year

dragon looking over Diagon Alley, Universal Studios Orlando
Relatively quiet in Diagon Alley, Universal Studios

Another way to maximize your day at Universal Studios is to choose the right time of year to visit.

We’ve visited the theme parks in Florida twice in November, and have been very fortunate to have fewer crowds.

On our most recent visit, we went the day after Halloween, which I highly recommend. The crowds were so low and the weather was still warm!

It event meant an Express Pass (fast pass) was not necessary!

Our longest wait time was 10 minutes and we were able to ride our favorite rides multiple times. Some of our party even went home before closing because we had done everything!

It’s quite easy to get all your must dos done at Universal if you don’t have high crowds.

If you do go during the low season like this then I recommend the next tip

Get a Park-to-Park Ticket

people walking onto a train
Boarding Hogwarts Express which takes you between the two parks!

A park-to-park ticket is a ticket that allows you to hop from park to park and move between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. You can even get a three park hopper, so you can also go to Universal’s Volcano Bay.

To be honest, I think doing three parks in one day would be very challenging.

The best reason to purchase a park hopper ticket is because it allows you to see the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter as this world is split in two.

The Harry Potter Diagon Alley section is in Universal Studios, and the Harry Potter Hogsmeade/Hogwarts Castle is in the Islands of Adventure theme park.

The good news is butterbeer can be purchased in both!

Diagon Alley is my favorite section of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Diagon Alley is not in Universal Studios Hollywood where we visited just a few weeks before.

We wanted the Park Hopper ticket so we could experience casting spells in Diagon Alley one more time.

I wish they would create new Universal Orlando tickets that let you access just both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter instead of having to pay for two parks if you only really want to visit one.

Stay at One of the Universal Orlando Hotels

girls looiking out over balcony over pool at Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Cabana Bay Beach Resort

If you only have one day to spend at the Universal Orlando theme parks, then I recommend staying at one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels.

The good news is there is a hotel to suit every budget. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Beach Hotel last year and it was reasonably affordable.

Here’s why you want to stay at one of the theme park hotels:

  1. You are located right near the theme parks, which makes it easier to get in.
  2. You get free shuttles to the parks and for some of the hotels you can even walk straight in. This means no expensive parking fees for you, which are about $22 a day.
  3. You get access to early park admission in the Universal theme parks. This will definitely help you see and do everything you want to in one day. The extra hour means nearly no lines on your favorite rides. I would head straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as this tends to be the busier. Gringotts and The Forbidden Journey can be the busiest rides in Universal Orlando Resort.
  4. For some select Universal Hotels you get free Universal Express passes. Fast passes will be vital if you intend to do Universal in one day during the high season. So you might find some good savings by staying at one of the Universal hotels.

Below are the current Universal Resort Hotels to choose from (in order of Budget to Luxury):

Be Time Efficient

girl drinking out of a cup
It’s never too early for Butterbeer!

Know the Universal Orlando opening hours, especially if you have a park hopper!

Time your visit on a day where the opening hours are longer. This usually happens on a Friday or Saturday. (Note this does mean crowds will be larger.)

We visited on a Thursday. Islands of Adventure hours were 9-8pm, and Universal Studios were 8-5pm (closing early as their Halloween Horror nights were still running)

Here’s how to be efficient:

  1. Get there for opening hour
  2. Schedule in any shows you want to see
  3. Do all the busy rides first around your show schedule
  4. Tackle one land at a time if you can to avoid wasting time walking back and forth.
  5. In the spaces between you can cast your spells, drink butterbeer, have lunch, meet with characters, go shopping, and check out any of the other random things to look at
  6. Catch the light show over Hogwarts Castle
  7. Go home at closing hour
hogwarts castle with laser show lights
Light show over Hogwarts Castle in Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure

Be sure to have a quick and easy lunch. Don’t do a full serve restaurant if you only have one day at Universal. It will take up quite a bit of your time.

If you have food allergies you can bring in your own food, which will make things so much more efficient and affordable.

As we had the park hopper, we could go into Universal Studios at 8am, where there were virtually no crowds, and do Diagon Alley and ride Gringotts.

And then head over to Islands of Adventure to meet with our friends, riding the Hogwarts Express to get there.

As we had done Universal Studios before, and prefer Islands of Adventure, we didn’t do anything else in Universal Studios.

However, we would have had plenty of time to fit in a few of our favorite rides over there. I regret not doing the Rip Ride Rockit one more time and not trying out the new Fast and Furious ride.

Get a Universal Express Pass

two girls on Pteranodon Flyers ride, Islands of Adventure
Pteranodon Flyers ride, Islands of Adventure

Yes, a Universal Express Pass will increase the cost of your trip to Universal Orlando Resort, but, you are already investing a lot of time and money to visit Orlando so I’d consider putting a little bit more into the cost of a fast pass.

The last thing you want is your memories of your dream Universal vacation to be of you waiting and waiting and waiting in lines.

A Universal Express Pass may turn a regular hour long wait into fifteen minutes.

Just think of how many more rides you can experience by jumping the queue…legally.

Universal Express passes start at $40 (theme park admission required).

You can always upgrade your ticket to Express Passes once you are inside the park, that way you can first scope out what the crowds will be like in case they are really low and express passes are not so valuable.

It’s also worth mentioning there are single rider lines. If you’re not visiting as a family or you’re going alone, you can opt to queue up as a single rider and this allows you to join another group or take up a spare seat. It’s another great way to skip the long queues and avoid waiting for hours.

Use Child Swap

Many of the rides have the child swap area where one member of your family can wait with the little kids while the rest of your party rides.

Once they are off the ride, you swap places and whoever rode on the ride can stay with the kids while the adult(s) who sat out get the opportunity to enjoy the ride.

This is how you can save time and have more than one turn on your favorite ride.

Eat at the food trucks

You can save a lot of time by choosing to eat at the food trucks, which tend to have shorter queues than the restaurants.

Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck is a popular one with quick meals.

Alternatively, you can pack a picnic and find a bench to eat your lunch on.

Pick your rides in advance

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges ride, Islands of Adventure
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges ride, Islands of Adventure

Knowing what rides and shows you like can help you plan better. You can use the Universal app to see what the ride wait times are, as well as any times for shows, or where your favorite characters may be.

One thing that makes doing the theme parks in one day in Orlando possible is that many of the rides are simulator rides, like the Simpsons ride and Spider Man.

After a while these rides tend to be repetitive and cause motion sickness for me!

So perhaps choose the one or two you most want to do and skip the rest.

Best Rides at Universal Orlando Resort

To help you plan which rides to choose at Universal Orlando, here are some of our favorites. The rides you choose depends on what you like.

Islands of Adventure Rides

The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Islands of Adventure
The Incredible Hulk coaster, Islands of Adventure
  • Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey – lines will be long here, so make this one of your early morning stops.
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – the wait time is usually way above 90-minutes, so think carefully about this one.
  • Ollivanders Wand Shop – usually you need to queue for about 45 minutes for this attraction, but you should also factor in the time spent in the shop and choosing a wand, which if you have kids, can take AGES.
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster– this is a fast moving ride, so lines generally move quickly. You can save this for the busy times. This is my favorite roller coaster ever!
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall – This one can be a slow loading ride, so you might want to do this early (or later) when the lines are low.
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – River run ride lines often move quickly. This was one of the most fun river rides we’ve done. We got soaking wet and bumped around quite a bit. This ride is perfect for those hot days.
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train – perfect for younger kids like our Savannah and those who are kids at heart. Colorful, rhythmic, relaxing and offering great views of the park.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – a simulator ride with a wait time of around 30 minutes on average.
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong – another popular rollercoaster at Universal’s Island of Adventure. The average wait time is around 40 minutes.
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure – this is an unmissable ride that takes you into the Jurassic World. This water-based ride passes gigantic robotic dinosaurs and has a thrilling 85 foot drop. It’s a popular one but the wait time is usually only about 40 minutes or so.

Universal Studios Rides

Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster Universal Studios Orlando Resort
Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster, Universal Studios
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – another popular ride with long loading time due to the pre-ride entertainment (just put me on the ride!!) So go here early as it’s popular.
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – fast paced roller coaster like The Hulk so the line can move pretty fast. Don’t forget to choose your favorite music.
  • Transformers the 3D ride– we didn’t do this ride at Universal Studios Orlando but did at Universal Studios Hollywood and liked it. It’s popular, so time it right!
  • Revenge of the Mummy – Always a fun roller coaster in the dark. Can be a busy ride, although lines move fast.
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – the wait time is usually about 30 minutes for this one.
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – another short ride with a short wait time. On average, wait times are around 20 minutes.

Volcano Bay Rides

volcano next to swimming pool at volcano bay

Universal’s Volcano Bay has a great ride reservation service that is available for free to all park ticket holders.

You can time your rides and avoid queues. It makes for an effortless and relaxing day at Universal.

  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Ohyay and Ohno Drop Slides
  • TeAwa the Fearless River
  • Ko’kiri body plunge, Kala & Tui Nui Serpentine Body Slides

Don’t forget to drink lots of butterbeer and cast many spells with your interactive wands – I think these two things to do at Universal Flroida.

Enjoy your one day at the Universal theme parks. I promise it will be worth it and your day will be filled with many lifelong memories.

Tickets for Universal Orlando

Get your Universal Orlando tickets via Undercover Tourist, who provide authentic attraction tickets at discounted prices!

See all Universal Orlando tickets here. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, this is how you can spend one day at Universal Studios in Orlando and make the most of your day.

We hope this itinerary helped you plan your day and gave you some inspiration for your own amazing adventures at Universal Orlando!

Universal Orlando Resort Video

Need more tips for Universal Orlando Resort? Check out our video!

More Florida Travel Tips

Planning to visit other parts of Florida? Check out these other helpful guides…

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Have you been to Universal Orlando? Do you have any further Universal Orlando tips to share? Share in the comments below!

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