Are you planning a visit to Universal Studios? Our one day Universal Studios itinerary will help you enjoy all the best rides and attractions, and help you plan your day at the Universal Orlando theme park.
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Universal Studios is one of the 3 parks located at the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida. It is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, Springfield U.S.A (The Simpsons), E.T. Adventure, and Transformers: The Ride.
What to Know Before You Go to Universal Studios
Before you plan your itinerary for Universal Studios Orlando, you need to consider a few things for your visit.
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.
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 Pass to your visit. Check out this crowd calendar.
Universal Express Pass is a paid upgraded ticket that allows guests to skip the lines at the most popular attractions. Express Pass is included in your stay at some of the on-site resorts 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?
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?
- What to Know Before You Go to Universal Studios
- Universal Studios Touring Plan
- Arriving at Universal Studios
- Universal Studios Itinerary: Where to Start
- Dining at Universal Studios Florida
- Should You Include Shows in Your Universal Studios Touring Plan
- Meeting Characters at Universal Studios
- Universal Studios Itinerary
- Universal Studios Itinerary with Small Children
- Universal Studios Itinerary with Older Children
Universal Studios Touring Plan
Before visiting any theme park I always suggest taking a look at the park map before you arrive. This will give you a better understanding of the layout 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.
You should check prices and purchase tickets before you arrive. Often you can find discounted tickets for Universal and special offers. Be sure to compare prices to find the best deal.
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.
Universal Studios Itinerary: Where to Start
As you enter the park the first attraction will be Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. This ride is a fun 3D Simulator attraction and the lines get busy. It is a good attraction but the long lines are more due to the fact that it is the first attraction 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.
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.
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.
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, Despicable Me, 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.
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 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.
On our last visit my husband became part of the Fear Factor Live cast. This is much like the original show where cast members face their fears with different challenges. Check out this article to read more about his personal experience with Fear Factor Live. (Some shows have been closed due to COVID)
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.
Due to COVID characters are still appearing but you meet them from a distance.
Universal Studios Itinerary
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
- 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
Afternoon Attractions at Universal Studios
- E.T. Adventures
- Any shows we want to see.
- Fast and the Furious
- Shrek 4D
- Meet Characters
- Kang & Kodos Twirl “n” Hurl
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
- The Bourne Stuntacular (Opening Spring 2020)
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.
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 Hogwart’s 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 will want to spend more time in KidZone. This is the kids play area at Universal and it includes a Curious George themed Splash Area and ball playground, Barney’s Playgound(indoors with air conditioning), and Fievel’s Playland(Climbing structure with water slide.)
The Barney show was announced last month to be closed. I am not sure the future of the play area but will update this when more details are released.
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.
I hope this Universal Studios touring plan helps you have an awesome day at the park and experience the fun of the Universal Orlando park.
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