Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in One Day

How do you plan a visit to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in one day? It is a lot to accomplish but with these tips you can plan an awesome day at the Universal Orlando theme parks.

Universal Orlando has the convenience of having two of its theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure within walking distance to each other.

Logistically this should mean you can do both parks in one day but it is going to mean a lot of walking and a long day.

If you have two days and this is your first visit to Universal I suggest planning one day at each park to see and do everything.

How to Do Both Universal Parks in One Day

If your vacation plans only allow for one day at the Universal parks you need to do the following to maximize your time:

  • Arrive 30-40 minutes before park open. Stay on-site to take advantage of early entry hours.
  • Purchase tickets before you arrive. You will need a park-to-park ticket.
  • Research and make a list of your top priorities at both parks. More on that below.
  • Expect to stay at the parks from open to close.
  • Start your day at the park that opens first, end your day at the park that is open latest.

Want more details? Read on as I share all my tips and tricks for visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day.

universal studios and islands of adventure in one day view from men in black
View of the lagoon at Universal Studios Florida.

If you need an overview of Universal read this post: Full Guide to Universal Orlando Parks and Resorts

Universal Orlando Resort is not part of the Walt Disney World resort. If you are unsure which theme park to visit read this: Walt Disney World vs Universal Orlando | What Theme Park is Best for Your Orlando Vacation

How Much is a One Day Pass to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

Expect to pay more if you are doing both parks in one day. Tickets are sold on a sliding scale of “the more you play, the less you pay”. If you purchase a 3 day ticket you will be paying less per day than a one day ticket.

You will also spend more for a park-to-park ticket over a one day ticket. The table below gives an estimated idea of ticket cost.

One Day Ticket (Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure)$119.00/day
Park to Park Ticket (USF and IoA)$174.00/day
3-Day One Park Per Day $255.99/total
3-Day Park to Park $315.99/total
These prices vary depending on season, price changes, date of visit.

If you are trying to accomplish as much as possible in one day and you have it in your budget, I recommend purchasing the Universal Express Pass. It is an expensive add-on but will allow you to skip the lines and most attractions.

Guests staying at premier hotels receive express pass for free. This may be worth pricing out. Learn more: Universal Hotels with Free Express Pass: Is it Worth the Upgrade?

Do I Recommend 1-Day for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

Honestly-I don’t. 🙁

You won’t be able to see and do everything. You will have to move at a more rushed pace than I recommend for the parks.

But-if you have one day, and that is it, do it! The parks are so much fun. The rides and attractions you do get to see will make for an enjoyable day.

universal studios and islands of adventure in one day blondies
Islands of Adventure Toon Lagoon

Tips Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in One Day

Now that you have decided to do both parks in one day lets get into some tips to plan your day.

Stay On Site at a Universal Orlando Resort

The biggest benefit to staying on-site at Universal is early entry. Guests staying off-site can still experience everything but you may have long lines. All Universal hotels include early entry into the park.

I have reviews of Hard Rock Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Endless Summer: Dockside, and Endless Summer: Surfside. Each is in a different price tier to give you an idea of what to expect.

cabana bay beach resort outside
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort

Use Single Rider Line

To minimize wait times we arrive early, ride the most popular attractions first, and take advantage of the single rider line.

Single rider line will split your group up. They use single rider line to fill in the empty seats. Discuss this with your kids if you are thinking about taking advantage of this.

We have used it and it does save time, but some attractions are more fun to ride as a family.

hogwarts castle at the wizarding world of harry potter.
Hogwarts Castle is at Islands of Adventure

Check Theme Park Hours

Theme park hours can vary and I recommend checking them before you arrive at the parks. Often Islands of Adventure stays open later than Universal Studios.

For this reason you may want to finish your day at Islands of Adventure.

Have a Plan

It is important to have a flexible plan when visiting the parks. We always talk as a family about expectations.

Some questions you might want to consider:

  • What rides are a priority for everyone?
  • What can you skip?
  • Do you want to sit down for meals?
  • Do you want to watch shows?
  • Are you going to want to meet the characters at the parks?

A family vacation to Universal can feel overwhelming. Setting everyone’s expectations will help it go smoothly.

Purchase Tickets Ahead of Time

If you want to do Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in one day you must purchase a park-to-park ticket.

Always purchase your tickets online before you arrive at the parks. This will save you time and money.

What to Expect at Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida used to be “step into the movies” theme park. Now it is a little bit different but still has rides and attractions around your favorite movies.

It is not a huge park so walking around and visiting Islands of Adventure is not a huge hassle.

Rides at Universal Studios Ranked from Most Popular/Busiest Wait Times

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Universal Express Pass & Single Rider)
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (Universal Express Pass)
  • Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (Universal Express Pass)
  • Transformers 3D (Universal Express Pass)
  • ET Adventure (Universal Express Pass)
  • Hogwarts Express (Universal Express Pass)
  • Men in Black (Universal Express Pass/ Single Rider)
  • The Simpsons Ride (Universal Express Pass)
  • Illuminations Villain-Con Minion Blast (Universal Express Pass)
  • Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon (Universal Express Pass)
  • Fast & Furious Super Charged (Universal Express Pass)
  • Kang & Kodos Twirl n Hurl (Universal Express Pass)

Our favorite rides at Universal Studios are Escape from Gringotts, The Mummy, E.T. Adventure, and Men in Black.

Check out these helpful Universal Studios planning posts:

transformers 3d at universal studios orlando

Hogwarts Express Train

The Hogwarts Express is a train ride that takes you between The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley(Universal Studios Florida) and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade(Islands of Adventure).

Guests wanting to ride it must have a park to park pass. Wait times ebb and flow throughout the day. The line moves a bit slow as well.

If wait time is long and riding is not a priority, it is often faster to exit the park and walk to the next park. Hogwarts Express does not save you time transferring between parks.

One thing to note about Hogwarts Express is that the experience is different depending on which direction you are going.

universal studios vs islands of adventure hogwarts express
Entrance to the Hogwarts Express in Islands of Adventure

What to Expect at Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is divided into different lands that surround a lake. The biggest issue with getting around Islands of Adventure is there is not a cut thorough. You have to go around to get to each part.

The lands are Marvel: Super Hero Islands, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Seuss Landing.

Rides at Islands of Adventure Ranked Most Popular Rides/Busiest Wait Times

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (Single Rider/NO express line)
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong (Universal Express(Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure (Universal Express/Single Rider)
  • The Cat in the Hat (Universal Express)
  • Hogwarts Express (Same as Universal Studios)
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (Universal Express, water rides: crowds depend on weather)
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges (Universal Express, water ride: crowds depend on weather)

Hagrid’s is the most popular ride between both Universal parks. I checked wait times as I am writing this at 9:30am on a random Monday at it is already 80 minutes.

universal studios and islands of adventure in one day jurassic park

Hagrid’s is a family friendly roller coaster. If you can use early entry for this ride take advantage. If not consider single riding it.

Hogwarts Castle at Hogsmeade has a nightly projection show debuting June 14, 2024 called Hogwarts Always. Check day/times on the Universal Orlando app.

Seuss Landing is one of my favorite areas to explore. Lines will start to grow as the day goes on. It is a great area to visit in the evening.

Another thing to consider when planning your day is that Islands of Adventure has 3 water rides. Jurassic Park will get you the least soaked followed by Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Adventure, and Popeye’s.

You will want to plan your day around these rides. Being soaked at the start of your day is not fun.

Check Out These Helpful Islands of Adventure Posts:

the cat in the hat at seuss landing
The Cat in the Hat ride.

Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure One Day Itinerary

There are so many factors that go into planning a day at two parks. Crowds, weather, ride breakdowns, and other unforeseen things can throw off even the best made plans.

When I am planning on one day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure this is the itinerary I plan before we arrive and then keep it flexible once inside the parks.

Arrive 30-60 minutes before park opening. If you are using early entry at 8:00am arrive at the parks around 7:20am.

This may seem early to wait around but there are times they open the gates early and let you line up at the attraction.

These aren’t posted and you never know what their operational procedures will be during your visit but it will help you avoid crowds.

If Islands of Adventure has early park admission we go straight to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and then Velocicoaster. All attractions are not open during early entry.

universal studios and islands of adventure in one day velocicoaster
Velocicoaster is an intense roller coaster.

After those attractions we usually check wait times to determine our next direction. We will try to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Jurassic Park, The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man in that order.

Then we will walk over to Seuss Landing and ride The Cat in the Hat. If it is lunch time we will eat at Circus McGurkus in Seuss Landing or Thunder Falls Terrace near Jurassic Park.

I share my favorite places to eat in this post: Best Restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort with Kids

In the afternoon I would head over to Universal Studios. I suggest starting with attractions that have short wait times and using single rider line.

If single rider line is not something you want to do plan on seeing a show, exploring Diagon Alley or DreamWorks Land (opening June 2024).

In the afternoon/evening hours at Universal Studios I would keep an eye on wait times and plan my day based on that.

ET Adventures, Escape from Gringotts, and the Minion Villain-Con attraction are popular. Also Men in Black, Revenge of the Mummy, Transformers, and for coaster fans Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it.

When planning 1-Day at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure you want to be sure to prioritize the attractions you and your group want to experience.

If you are traveling with young children you may not want to ride the more intense attractions. We travel with teens so we like to ride the thrill rides first.

Expect to get most of your rides done during the early morning hours and the evening hours. Save the middle of the day for shows and to walk around at your own pace.

Overall you can have a great time at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

Read Next: Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure (Best Universal Park)

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