1-Day Universal Studios Itinerary

Are you planning a visit to Universal Studios Florida? This 1-day Universal Studios itinerary will help you enjoy all the best rides and attractions, and plan an awesome day at the Universal Orlando theme park.

Universal Studios Florida is a great place for a theme park vacation. The best part is you can do Universal Studios in one day, with a little planning!

When planning your itinerary for Universal Studios Orlando you should know that there are 2 theme parks at the Universal Orlando Resort. They are Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Each of the parks have different rides and attractions. You will need a park-to-park ticket to visit both parks in one day.

Planning a Universal Studios Itinerary

  • Research the most popular attractions and prioritize the ones that are important to you.
  • Download the Universal Orlando app to check wait times, ride information, and dining options.
  • Purchase Universal tickets before you arrive at the parks to save time and money.

Basic Itinerary Universal Studios Orlando

If you want the basics for planning one day at Universal Studios you want to arrive early, have a general idea of the rides you want to accomplish first, and enjoy the day!

Want more details? Read on for how we plan our day at Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Studios is not part of the Walt Disney World theme parks. If you are trying to decide which parks to visit check out this article: Walt Disney World vs Universal Orlando | What Theme Park is Best for Your Orlando Vacation

Entrance to Universal Studios Orlando Florida
Entrance to Universal Studios Florida.

Overview of Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida has the feel of a “studio lot” but over the last decade it has gotten away from the “studio” vibe. Instead it has leaned into immersive areas, like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, as well as rides and attractions inspired by the movies.

Universal Studios Lands and Areas:

Below is a list of the areas at Universal Studios along with the most popular attraction.

  • Illumination’s Minion Land: Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Hollywood: E.T. Adventure
  • San Francisco
  • New York: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Transformers 3D, Revenge of the Mummy
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Springfield: The Simpsons Ride
  • World Expo: Men in Black Alien Attack!
  • DreamWorks Land (Opening Summer 2024)

Check wait times on the app a few weeks before you arrive to see what rides have the longest wait times. Those are the ones you will want to prioritize the first few hours the park is open.

What to Know Before You Go to Universal Studios Florida

If this is your first trip to Universal you want to know what to expect to plan your day.

Universal Studios can be done in one day. Even with a mid-day break you should be able to experience all of the best attractions at the park. It is a full day park. If you are visiting during peak season expect long wait times.

Take advantage of early park admission if you are staying on-site at a Universal hotel and use the single rider line for the most popular rides.

universal studios bus

An important thing to consider is crowd size. Are you visiting on a low, moderate, or high crowd day? School breaks, spring breaks, holidays, summer vacations, and weekends are the busiest time to visit.

If you are visiting on a high crowd day you may consider adding Universal Express Passes to your visit.

Universal Express Pass is a paid upgraded ticket that allows guests to skip the regular lines at the most popular attractions. Express Pass is included in your stay at some of the on-site resorts, we took advantage of this at Hard Rock Hotel, or you can purchase this as an add-on.

The next thing to consider is what attractions you want to experience during your Universal Studios Florida itinerary. Are you traveling with young children or teens? Do you get motion sickness easily? Is it your first time visiting?

I go into detail about the rides at Universal in this article: Universal Studios Ride Height Requirements and Scare Factor.

One last thing to consider when planning your best itinerary for Universal Studios Orlando is the weather. Do you plan on spending the entire day at the park or take a mid-day break at your resort? If the heat and humidity is a lot for you consider taking a break during the afternoon.

map of Universal Studios florida
Map of Universal Studios Florida before the arrival of Minion Land. They no longer provide paper maps to guests but this is gives you a general idea of the layout.

Arriving at Universal Studios

Arriving at Universal Studios is fairly easy. If you are coming from a Universal Orlando Resort you will use their bus or boat transportation to get to the park.

If you are driving yourself you will park in the one parking lot on-site for Universal Orlando Resort.

This parking lot is for all guests visiting Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and City Walk. As you begin your walk to the park you will go through security and bag check.

From there walk through Universal’s CityWalk and head to your right to Universal Studios.

Typically I suggest arriving around 8:20 am for a 9:00am opening. This will usually allow you to be one of the first in the park.

If you are staying on-site at a Universal Resort you may be able to enter early with early entry hours. This is offered at one of the two theme parks daily. Learn more here.

Our favorite on-site resorts for families are Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal’s Surfside Inn and Suites. If you are looking for a resort that includes express pass check out Hard Rock Hotel.

Universal Studios Itinerary: Where to Start

As you enter the park you will find Minion Land. This has two attractions: Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Both rides are very popular attractions.

The long lines are also due to the fact that it is the first attractions as guests enter the park. On a recent visit we found Villain-Con Minion Blast to have 15 minute wait times throughout the day.

The most popular area of Universal Studios is The Harry Potter area-Diagon Alley. This has my personal favorite ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Escape from Gringotts is an indoor family friendly roller coasters.

A great way to start your day is to visit Diagon Alley first. This is one of the best places to explore when the crowds are low.

I suggest as soon as you arrive at the park to head straight to Diagon Alley, ride Gringotts, explore a less busy Diagon Alley, and then start riding other attractions.

If you are wanting to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure it is not at Universal Studios. It is at Islands of Adventure park. Read this for how to do both parks in one day: How to Do Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in One Day

This Universal Studios itinerary will involve a bit of extra walking to spend less time waiting. You can also follow the natural order of attractions through your day if you prefer to walk less.

If you have Universal Express Pass you can really tour the park any way you would like and still avoid long lines and wait times.

When we use this Universal touring plan we prefer to ride the most popular attractions before lunch. We start at Diagon Alley and then go back to other attractions we passed.

The most popular attractions at Universal Studios are Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, Villain-Con Minion Blast, Men in Black, and Transformers. Check out this article for our picks for best rides at Universal Studios.

Best 1-Day Universal Studios Touring Plan (Sample)

This is a sample Universal Studios Florida itinerary we have used for visiting the park and staying on-site at Universal.

7:30am-7:45am: Leave our resort for Universal Studios. You can take the bus or walk if your resort is close enough.

8:00am-9:00am: Park, go through security check, walk to front gate to Universal Studios. Usually we will eat a granola bar or piece of fruit for breakfast while waiting in line.

9:00am: Park Opening!!

Morning Attractions at Universal Studios

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Transformers
  • Villain-Con Minions Blast
  • Despicable Me
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
  • Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon
  • The Mummy
  • Men in Black
  • The Simpsons

Lunch: Springfield U.S.A Home of the Simpsons or Minions Cafe (We loved Minions Cafe and recommend it!)

Afternoon Attractions at Universal Studios

  • E.T. Adventures
  • Any shows we want to see.
  • Fast and the Furious
  • Meet Characters
  • Kang & Kodos Twirl “n” Hurl
  • The Bourne Stuntacular (Really good stunt show. It is very loud so be aware if you have someone in your group sensitive to loud noise.)

At this point it may be mid-afternoon. If you are staying on-site you may want to go back to your resort to relax and head to the pool. We like to do this, especially on hot days, and then return around dinner time.

If you follow this touring plan for Universal Studios Florida you will be able to see most rides and attractions without feeling rushed.

You may or may not be able to accomplish all the most popular attractions before lunch. This is where the Universal app is important. Use it to plan your next attraction by checking wait times throughout your visit.

Evening Activities at Universal Studios

For dinner we like to visit a sit down restaurant either at CityWalk or inside the park. Finnegan’s Bar and Grill is inside Universal and a good choice for a sit down meal.

After dinner return to your favorite rides to ride again or go to explore Diagon Alley at night. There are many shops to see, and the entire area is so immersive. It is worth taking your time to explore, even if you are not a Harry Potter fan.

Currently Universal Studios Florida does not have a night show but there are rumors of a new one coming soon. I will update when I learn more.

One attraction I did not include in the list is the Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station. This is the Harry Potter themed train that takes you from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure.

You need a park-to-park ticket to ride, and it is not part of our 1 day at Universal Studios itinerary.

That is the basics for planning one day at Universal Studios Florida. Below I have shared a few more things to consider for your visit. This includes dining options, characters, and shows.

Dining at Universal Studios Florida

We have a few favorite Universal Studios restaurants but often we pick a place depending on where we are in the park.

One of my favorite meals is the fish and chips at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. This is counter service dining and you do not need reservations.

Springfield U.S.A. is another option that has pizza, burgers, chicken, and more choices. There is also Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck that has great tacos and nachos.

Minion Land has opened a Minion Cafe at Universal Studios Florida. We loved this restaurant during our visit to Universal Studios Hollywood and would definitely include it in our Universal Studios Florida trip. Update: We love the Orlando Minion Cafe too!

You can also leave the park and walk to CityWalk to have lunch. It is a short walk and they offer many sit down restaurant options.

leaky cauldron for lunch
Fish and Chips at the Leaky Cauldron at Universal Studios.

Should You Include Shows in Your Universal Studios Touring Plan

There are a few live shows at Universal Studios that are a great choice after lunch. Animal Actors on Location is cute for families and the Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show is a good pick for older kids.

The Bourne Stuntacular is a special effects action packed show that is a must see. It is very loud so be aware if traveling with young children.

There are also a few shows in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that can’t be missed.

The Tales of Beedle and the Bard is a must see, especially for Harry Potter fans. Ollivanders is another show that you can be the wizard chosen by “your wand”, and if you choose it back you can purchase it.

Meeting Characters at Universal Studios

The one thing we love about visiting theme parks is interacting with the characters. Universal Studios has so many different characters to meet.

From chatting with the Knight Bus Driver at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to posing with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop, there are characters to see all day long.

Some characters, like The Transformers and Trolls have set times, but often you will find characters randomly walking around the park. For more information about characters check out the 65+ Characters to Meet and Greet at Universal Orlando.

characters at universal orlando shrek
Shrek is receiving his own area to meet guests at the Shrek’s Swamp coming summer of 2024 in the new DreamWorks Land.

Universal Studios Itinerary with Small Children

If you are traveling with small children to Universal you may want to save your visit for summer of 2024 when DreamWorks Land opens.

DreamWorks Land will feature Shrek, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda attractions, rides, and shows.

This is replacing KidZone that used to include a Curious George themed Splash Area and ball playground, DreamWorks Destination(meet and greet, indoors with air conditioning), and Fievel’s Playland(Climbing structure with water slide.)

Currently I suggest visiting Island’s of Adventure because of the Seuss Landing area if you are visiting with young kids.

Universal Studios Itinerary with Older Children

If you are traveling with older children you will want to spend more time on the thrill ride attractions like The Mummy, Men in Black, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, and Escape from Gringotts.

My older kids also enjoy E.T. Adventure so be sure to include this classic in your visit.

I hope this itinerary for one day at Universal Studios helps you have an awesome day at the park and experience the best of the Universal Orlando park.

Read Next: What to Do at Universal Orlando: 25+ Can’t Miss Things to Experience

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