Want to visit Universal Studios Orlando without missing anything? Make the most of your visit with a bit of planning and some advice from a theme park pro. There are two parks within Universal Studios Orlando, not counting the new water park, Volcano Bay. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are each unique, but they are both filled with exciting adventures that you are going to want to experience during your time there.
Here are 17 tips for visiting Universal Studios Orlando:
1. One day plan
Unless you are traveling with really small children, you can do both parks in one full day, although there’s plenty to keep you busy for 2 or more days of fun. You will just need a Park-to-Park pass as well as an Express pass. Universal recently opened the Harry Potter rides up for Express Pass users. Yay! The only ride that does not have it is Pteranodon Flyers at Islands of Adventure.
2. Don’t see only half of Harry Potter
You need a Park-to-Park pass to see all the Harry Potter attractions and rides. They are split between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando. You will also need a Park-to-Park pass to ride the Hogsmeade Express, as it travels between the two parks.
3. Plan ahead with the Universal Studios App
Make sure that you check out the map of the parks online before you go so that you can plan everything ahead of your visit. This will also allow you to plan for activities based on the ages of your family members. The best bet is to download the Universal Studios Orlando app. It will give you custom maps, wait times, access to your Express Pass, location of restrooms, and more.
4. Arrive at the parks early!
You are going to want to check the park hours prior to your arrival, as they do change according to the time of the year and sometimes the day of the week. You will want to arrive at the gate about fifteen minutes prior to opening so that you can get to where the rope is a few minutes before the park opens. There are times when they drop the rope early and you will be ready to be on your way ahead of the rest of the crowds.
5. Go see Harry Potter first!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is always the busiest part of the parks, so you will want to go there first to avoid the huge masses of visitors! Even without an Express Pass, the wait times early in the morning can be less than five or ten minutes if you are really prepared.
6. Test Your Magic
While Ollivander’s is fun to check out, with its stacks of wands, it is often crowded and the wait even to pay for your wand can be pretty long. You can order interactive wands for the kids to bring with you on your visit, with both deliveries and package pick-up available. Be ready to make magic upon arrival in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade village.
7. First things first
You may want to hit the Forbidden Journey ride at Hogwarts Castle at Islands of Adventure as close to opening time as possible. This is the flagship attraction in this section of Harry Potter World, so it’s always busy.
8. Old and new
Sadly, Dragon Challenge is no more. On the bright side, the dual-track roller coaster has been decommissioned to make way for a highly anticipated new Harry Potter-themed ride, scheduled to open in 2019. You can try out the Flight of the Hippogriff, a much tamer family-friendly rollercoaster.
9. Hit these rides quickly
Since you’re over in Islands of Adventure, you might as well see the rest of it from Seuss Landing to Spider-Man and Doctor Doom. You’ll get wet on the Jurassic Park River Adventure and the Ripsaw Falls, but you will have plenty of time for everything as your Express pass will get you on every ride quickly. Once you have completed Islands of Adventure, you can hop back on the train to Diagon Alley
10. Quench your thirst
While in Hogsmeade, you will need to have a Butterbeer or two. You will be able to find it everywhere, as there are multiple carts selling it. Here’s a helpful hint…if you see a long line at one end of the cart, go to the other end. There may only be two people on that side and you’ll get your Butterbeer much faster. The regular Butterbeer is delicious, but there is also a frozen version that you must try.
11. Take the Hogwarts Express
While it is possible to walk in between the two parks, there really is no point when you can hop on board the Hogwarts Express. Travel from King’s Cross Station Platform 9¾ in London in Islands of Adventure to Hogsmeade Station in Universal Studios Orlando. A Park-to-Park pass is needed to board this slow-moving train and you will watch videos playing on your train car window throughout your ride. The videos are different depending on which direction you are taking the train, so you will want to take it both ways.
12. Great goblins
Plan on taking your phone through the line for the Escape from Gringotts ride, as long as you have a pocket to put it in, as the line is quite photogenic. You’ll pass through the grand lobby, and down through the caverns to reach this exciting combination of the roller coaster and 3D motion simulator.
13. Minions are worth the wait
After Diagon Alley, you need to visit Minions Mayhem. It gets very busy here and the lines are very long, even with your Express pass. You will still find yourself waiting about twenty minutes with your pass, but it will be worth the wait.
14. Did I mention donuts?
Lard Lad Donuts is a must-try place within the Simpsons area. You must get a pink donut that is the size of your head and split it with everyone in your family. As soon as your donut is gone, you can go on The Simpsons Ride, Men in Black, ET, and more.
15. Express pass lets you ride all the rides
Your next stop is Transformers, which is similar to the Spider-Man ride. The Revenge of the Mummy, Twister, and Rip Ride Rocket are all close by and your Express pass will work on all of them.
16. Souvenirs can wait
There are numerous places to shop within the two parks, but if you do not want to carry things around with you all day, you can also make many of those same purchases in the souvenir store as you enter CityWalk after leaving the park.
17. Feeding the crew
After a full day in the two parks, you are going to be very hungry. Luckily, CityWalk offers amazing restaurants of all types, but VIVO Italian Kitchen is highly recommended. The sautéed mushrooms and calamari are the perfect start for any meal, while the Cacio E Pepe and Risotto are delicious and filling. If you have any room left for dessert, then you must get the cannoli.
These seventeen tips will assist you in surviving Universal Studios Orlando while seeing and enjoying everything. You will have an amazing time in these two parks and will be planning your next trip there before you even leave!