If you’re planning an Orlando vacation, you could have an additional day to fill, or multi-day park tickets are simply not in the budget. Perhaps you’re planning a last-minute trip to Universal Orlando Resort and will be arriving later this week to enjoy the best things! You’re undoubtedly asking, “Can Universal Orlando be done in one day?” for whatever reason. Follow me to learn How to Make the Most Out of Universal Studios Orlando in One Day and spend the best time ever.
Can Universal Orlando Be Done In a Single Day?
Sure! Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure can both be visited in one day. The fact that the two parks are located next to each other makes park hopping at Universal Orlando a breeze. You can either walk from one park to the other’s entrance or have the best rides in the Hogwarts Express! When you’re attempting to see as many popular attractions as possible with young kids, the close proximity of walking distance between the two parks is really beneficial. You won’t have to worry about finding another way to get about or relying on other modes of transportation. You’re also hitting two lily pads in one leap because the Hogwarts Express is an attraction in and of itself.
We knew Universal Orlando Resort.™ was going to be a long day for us considering we had two theme parks and Universal Citywalk™ to check out. With two boys under five-years-old, we had to have a plan. We took into consideration a few things:
First, it was October and they were having Halloween Horror Nights. Both boys do not like big, animated characters walking around, especially if they are scary. So, we knew that we were not going to be participating in that. Because Universal Studios would be closing early for Halloween Horror Nights, we decided to do that theme park first.
We also had to consider dining options because we wanted to experience a restaurant in Citywalk™ but knew the kids would be too tired to go to dinner. So, we planned on late lunch. I researched some restaurants and planned our entire day. But as you know, if you have small children, nothing ever goes as planned. We planned around our plans! Here’s how:
Get the Universal Express Unlimited Pass™
You must get the Universal Express Unlimited Pass™ if you would like to spend a great time! You can fit in two more rides or an extra activity by using it at Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.™
Plan your rides
Remember that your plans don’t match up to your kids plans and although they might say they want to go on the amazing Minion ride (and have not stopped talking about it), they could change their mind at the last second, like ours did. Just have an idea of what rides are important to you. Then plan to take at least one.
My kids love Transformers. So, what a treat when on our way, we saw Megatron taking pictures with visitors. It is absolutely amazing the realism. It was like seeing the real thing (except in smaller).
As we walked in the excitement started and we went on the Transformers 3-D Ride. I would not recommend it for children under three. My two-year-old was a little scared but loved seeing Bumblebee and Optimus Prime up close. He is obsessed!
If we were to do another ride, it would have been the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride as we have heard great reviews on it. If we had older kids, I am sure they would have wanted to do more rides, like the Hogsmeade Village, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, The Simpsons Ride, but they were very happy walking around, taking it all in. There is so much eye candy.
Definitely if your kids are older than mine, don’t forget to check special effect shows such as Secret Life of Pets, Walking Dead, Kung Fu Panda, and Dead Attraction. But of course the main attraction is Super Silly Fun Land! Kids will definitely appreciate it!
The kids loved the Curious George play area.
Some of it is shaded so that helps getting out of the heat a little. It’s great for all ages and we could sit and watch them play for a while.
After Universal Studios,™ we decided to take a late lunch in.
Plan For CityWalk
Spend a third of your time there. It’s worth it. As we were leaving and masses of people were entering, I felt the energy around me. It was a different experience.
People were full of life coming into CityWalk™ where restaurants and entertainment come together. This is the definition of nightlife. There’s also an amazing pub, Moe’s Tavern, which is a recreation of The Simpsons’ iconic bar.
Plan on two or three restaurants that you would like to eat at when visiting CityWalk.™ One out of the three was closed. The second one had a two hour wait time and with kids we couldn’t risk it. We picked CowFish because the menu was great and there were no wait times and long lines. Don’t get me wrong, it was busy. The kids loved it!
The ambiance was amazing and we had a really great time!
You can sit outside with a view of the Hard Rock and downtown CityWalk.™.
Oh, and the Parmesan Bacon Truffle Fries are ridiculous.
You might ask, “why chicken in a place that clearly specializes in sushi and beef?” Because I can, that’s why. The crusty burger was delish. But in case you prefer pizza, then check Luigi’s Pizza Menu for the best Italian pizza!
Oh, and the Hand Spun Milkshakes…yum. This is the Gimme More S’more Milkshake. We didn’t leave a drop!
Now rested and with a full stomach, we headed to Islands Of Adventure.™
Islands Of Adventure™
Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls!
We loved Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls! There were people in line with rain coats on that clearly had done the roller coaster ride before. If we had to do it all over again, we would still go in and get totally drenched! That’s what makes it so much fun!
Now, I will admit that it is the first ride I have been on in probably 30+ years that I had to close my eyes, the drop was so crazy! My five-year-old loved it and wanted to go again.
We walked all over Islands Of Adventure.™ Since we did not want to separate the kids to avoid drama, there are a few rides we could not go on as my two-year-old did not make the cut for the height restriction. Unfortunately, we were not able to go on the Jurassic Park River Adventure (Jurassic World),™ Reign of King Kong,™ or Harry Potter, but they looked amazing.
The Harry Potter Castle is like taking an instant trip to an old city in Europe. The decoration is so realistic that you are truly transported into a fantasy world. It’s the perfect place if you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, and holding and interactive wand to feel the real Hogwarts atmosphere!
I have not seen the Harry Potter movies (I know, Gasp!), but after walking through those streets, I feel like I must rent the movies.
Seuss Landing™ Shops and Dining.
The whole family loves Dr. Seuss! My mouth hurts sometimes from reading his books to the kids, haha. “Read it again!” they say.
It’s like you’re in Dr. Seuss’s world. This is what it would be like to be a character in his books.
This is where you will find anything and everything Dr. Seuss, from The Grinch™ to The Cat in the Hat.™ such as baby apparel, character glasses and mugs, toys, souvenirs, novelty hats and wigs.
We spent a lot of time just hanging out here and the kids loved looking through the windows and sitting on the ledges.
As we walked around and saw so many things to buy, it gets overwhelming and I suggest choosing one place to finish your shopping. We came across this awesome shop called The Island Market and Export.
It had so much to offer, from souvenirs to fudge! The fudge was amazing!
As you can see, this all can be done in a single day, however, I recommend staying at one of the Universal Hotels like the Sheraton Universal Hotel to experience each park on a separate day and finish with a different restaurant in CityWalk.™
Top Tips on Spending the Day at Universal Orlando
If you have enough flexibility to choose when you’re going, avoid peak times for the sake of VIP experience! Peak season, holidays and spring breaks are busy days starting from the park entrance. You should also look at opening time, which is normally advertised for about a month in advance.
One park may stay open an hour later than the other, or the parks may close earlier in the evening if you visit during off-peak hours. Finally, weekdays tend to be less congested than weekends. Also, keep in mind to have the best place at parking lot: it’s better to secure a spot at front gate parking than at general parking.
Buy Park Tickets in Advance
The first line of the day should be more thrilling than waiting in long lines to buy park tickets at the park gates. Not only will walking straight to the turnstiles save you time, but it will also save you money if you buy your tickets in advance. Check the ticket options: if you want to visit both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, acquire the 1-Day Park-to-Park ticket.
Download Useful App
It’s a good idea to download the official universal studios Hollywood app before you go. The Universal Orlando app contains a wealth of useful information, including park opening time, maps with wait times, and best tips. You may also order food and drinks from your phone using the app.
Consider Buying Express Passes
The express pass gives you fast pass access once for each ride. There’s also a more expensive Universal Express Unlimited Pass that gives you unlimited ride access.
If you don’t want to pay for the express passes and your kids are old enough to ride alone, consider the single rider for rides where it’s available. People in that line ride with strangers to fill in a row. You won’t be riding together, but you won’t have to wait a long time for everyone to finish.
Skip the Butterbeer
I know it’s fun to say you’ve tried butterbeer, the favorite drink of wizards and witches. But it’s a hot ticket at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. That means you have to wait in long lines so you won’t be able to see as much of Universal in just one very busy day. It’s not the best way to spend your day!
Stay on Property If You Can
While there are other hotels near Universal Studios Florida, staying at an official Universal hotel might provide a significant advantage if you only have one day to spend in the parks. This is why:
Early access: This hotel bonus entitles you to an additional hour at one of the parks as well as priority access to certain rides. Early entry is available for Islands of Adventure in November 2021 for lower and upper lots: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Revenge of the Mummy, and of course the Ollivanders.
If you just have one day to spend in the universal park, this is a major time saver for studio tour because such attractions have the longest waits.
Bring Snacks and Eat During Off-Peak Times
Eat before or after the peak meal times if you don’t want to deal with the crowds during lunch and dinner. Bring small snacks with you to tide you over until it’s time to eat. Outside food and beverages are permitted… to a certain extent.
Bottled water (up to two liters), non-heated snacks, food necessary for medical reasons or particular dietary needs, and baby food are all acceptable items. However, you are not allowed to carry glassware, alcohol, hard-sided coolers (or large soft-sided bags), or picnic meals.
On our next visit to Florida we will make reservations at the new The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.™