Are you planning a visit to Universal Studios Florida? This 1-day Universal Studios touring plan itinerary will help you enjoy all the best rides and attractions, and plan an awesome day at the Universal Orlando theme park.
Universal Studios theme park is one of the 3 Universal parks located at the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida. The other two are Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay (Universal’s water park).
It is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, Springfield U.S.A (The Simpsons), E.T. Adventure, Minion Land, and Transformers: The Ride.
One of the things I love about Universal Studios is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. It is so immersive and one of the best theme park lands I have ever visited.
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
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. Before you arrive you should become familiar with the major attractions and the park layout.
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.
An important thing to consider is crowd size. Are you visiting on a low, moderate, or high crowd day? If you are visiting on a high crowd day you may consider adding Universal Express Passes to your visit. Check out this crowd calendar.
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.
If you are visiting on a busy day the Universal Express Pass will save you from waiting in long lines. Read more in this article Universal Express Pass: Everything You Need to Know.
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.
Best Universal Studios Touring Plan
Be sure to purchase park tickets before the day of your visit. You will save time and money.
Before I visit a theme park I always download the app. Universal Orlando app has a list of all the rides, attractions, restaurants, and a park map.
Take a few minutes to check out the map and layout of the park.
This will give you a better understanding of the of the park and make it easier to navigate during your visit. It is what I always start with when creating our Universal Studios touring plans.
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.
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. This 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. The best way to ride this is to take advantage of early park admission on your Islands of Adventure 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. This does have us starting at Diagon Alley and then going 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.
Dining at Universal Studios Florida
At this point in our day we are ready for lunch. 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.
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.
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.
Best 1-Day Universal Studios Touring Plan (Sample)
This is a sample Universal Studios Florida itinerary we used when we stayed on-site at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
7:30am-7:45am: Leave our resort for Universal Studios. You can take the bus or walk. If you have small children I suggest taking the bus. They take the same amount of time.
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
- Escape from Gringotts
- 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
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 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley and spend a few hours walking around.
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.
On select evening Universal Studios has a nightly show over the lake at the center of the park. Check times and dates for this. The best spot to watch is in the Central Park area of the park.
One attraction I did not include in the list is the Hogwarts Express. 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.
Universal Studios Itinerary with Small Children
If you are traveling with small children you may want to save your visit for summer of 2024 when Dreamworks Land opens.
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.)
As more information is released about this area I will update. 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 Rocket, 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 Universal Studios helps you have an awesome day at the park and experience the fun of the Universal Orlando park.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.