This plan is written for guests with and without Express Pass access. However, to accomplish everything on this list during busy days, we highly recommend that you consider purchasing Express Passes. You can learn more in our complete guide.
It’s important to understand that, for most of the year, it’s simply not possible to do everything in both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida in a single day – so we have selected the fan-favorites for this touring plan. However, especially with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley in summer 2014 and Volcano Bay in spring 2017, we strongly recommend that you consider giving your family at least three days (if not four) to experience everything Universal has to offer and at a pace that gives you time to have fun, too. If you can do this, then we have a special three-day touring plan just for you.
Finally, Universal features free resort-wide wifi and an updated mobile app that provides wait times. To download the app, follow these links: Android or iOS. You can also find published times for Universal’s shows on its website (keep in mind the times are only published approximately two weeks in advance).
For your convenience,
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Islands of Adventure
1. Entrance to Islands of Adventure
We recommend that you get to the turnstiles 45 minutes before the park opens for the best chance to jump-start your touring day.
Once you get through the turnstiles, be sure to pick up a park guide map. Universal’s in-park guide map covers both theme parks, and it includes times for the live shows and many of the character meet-and-greets.
Why are we starting at Islands of Adventure? Simply put, in the early morning hours, most guests are drawn to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. So we’re going to skip that crowd by waiting until the evening to visit USF .
2. Skull Island: Reign of Kong – Ep (Express Pass) Sr (single rider)
Restrictions and access: 34 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: board a large expedition vehicle and travel deep into Skull Island in the search for King Kong.
Upon exiting Skull Island, it’s time to visit Hogsmeade.
3. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – EP Sr
Restrictions and access: 48 inches; loose articles must be stowed in the free lockers inside Hogwarts Castle; no Express Pass access, but there is a single-rider line. Summary: the first part is a tour of Hogwarts Castle’s most iconic rooms. The second part is a revolutionary flight simulator.
We’ve now experienced the big attraction inside Hogsmeade. Note that we’ll be skipping Ollivander’s Wand Shop at this time because we’ll visit the location in Diagon Alley later.
Let’s head to Marvel Super Hero Island!
4. The Incredible Hulk Coaster – Ep Sr
Marvel Super Hero Island
Restrictions and access: 54 inches; loose articles must be stowed in free lockers; has Express Pass access; also has a front-row line. Summary: possibly the best high-speed, outdoor roller coaster in Orlando.
Alternative 4. Doctor Doom’s Fearfall – Ep Sr
Marvel Super Hero Island
Restrictions and access: 52 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: Dr. Doom needs fear, and you have agreed to provide him with an unlimited supply by going on this launch tower attraction.
5. Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Ep Sr
Marvel Super Hero Island
Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: combining 3D film, ride movement, and special effects for a completely convincing simulator ride experience.
Now it’s time for Toon Lagoon and its water rides! Ideally, you will go on the next three rides in a row because you will get soaked, for sure, on the first two and, most likely, on the third.
Warning: especially-warm weather may drive up the wait times at the water rides. If you encounter this and are concerned about time, skip Dudley Do-right’s Ripsaw Falls.
6. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – Ep Sr
Restrictions and access: 44 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line; there are lockers nearby for convenience. Summary: flume ride on steroids – you will get soaked.
7. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – Ep
Restrictions and access: 42 inches. Summary: traditional raft ride – you will get soaked.
8. Jurassic Park: River Adventure – Ep
Restrictions and access: 42 inches; has Express Pass access. Summary: boat ride that ends with a plunge – will get you wet depending on where you are sitting.
Now we have some choices. You’re likely to be getting hungry by this point. If you can fend off hunger for a while longer and it’s before noon, you can enjoy a little more of Islands of Adventure. Depending on your family’s interests, we offer these two additional attractions. Please note that you should only attempt to do one or both of these if they can be accomplished before noon.
9. Camp Jurassic
Summary: a truly gigantic play area with everything from slides and climbing nets to caves and water cannon.
10. Cat in the Hat – Ep
Restrictions and access: 36 inches; has Express pass access. Summary: dark ride that takes you into the Cat in the Hat story. Entertaining enough for everyone in the family.
Around noon, it’s time to leave Islands of Adventure and continue our touring at Universal Studios Florida.
Because you have park-to-park admission, you have the opportunity to ride the Hogwarts Express. Assuming it has a wait time of 30 minutes or less, which it almost certainly will in the first half of the day, get in line and head over to USF. Alternatively, you can walk to USF, if you please. Note: there are no restrictions to ride the Hogwarts Express (strollers and ECVs are welcomed), and the train does sport Express Pass access.
Either way you arrive at USF, head for Springfield, USA…
Universal Studios Florida
11. Lunch time – Fast Food Blvd
World Expo/Springfield, USA
This quick-service dining venue offers the widest variety of food in a single restaurant, not to mention some pretty wacky theming (huge hit for Simpsons fans!). If you’re not quite up for fried food, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck right down the way is just as good. Not interested in eating? Then go for drinks at Moe’s Tavern or Duff Brewery.
A word of caution regarding Fast Food Blvd: it’s a very popular destination for lunch at USF. If you’re visiting when it’s really busy, it may be in your best interest to stop at Mel’s Drive-In in Hollywood instead. While Mel’s doesn’t offer the variety or novelty of Fast Food Blvd, it’s classic Universal Studios and still one of our favorites.
12. The Simpsons Ride – Ep
World Expo/Springfield, USA
Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access. Summary: motion-simulator ride chalked full of characters straight from the show and generous portions of Simpsons humor.
13. Men in Black: Alien Attack – Ep Sr
World Expo/Springfield USA
Restrictions and access: 42 inches; must stow loose articles in the free lockers adjacent to the attraction’s entrance; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: Men in Black is a shooter ride where you are the newest MIB recruit.
We’re going to walk by the London waterfront of Diagon Alley now. We know it looks amazing – trust us, we’ll be getting back here soon!
14. Revenge of the Mummy – Ep Sr
Restrictions and access: 48 inches; must stow loose articles in free lockers adjacent to the attraction’s entrance; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: a not-to-be-missed high-speed, indoor roller coaster.
We’ve reached another point where you may need to make some decisions about what you want to visit most.
Here’s the scoop: you want to give yourself two or three hours for Diagon Alley, depending on your interest in Harry Potter. So, you’ll have to do a little math and determine what time you need to be at Diagon Alley given USF’s closing time. Then, based on that calculation, you know how much time you have to fit in one, two, or all three of the following attractions (they’re listed in our priority order):
15. Transformers: The Ride – 3D – Ep Sr
Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: as a NEST recruit, jump into this intense, 3D simulator experience and prepare for battle alongside Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
16. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem – Ep
Restrictions and access: 40 inches to ride the motion simulator – otherwise, there are stationary platforms available; must be 48 inches to ride alone; has Express Pass access. Summary: join Gru and the girls in this family-friendly 3D simulator ride featuring an all-new storyline, new animation, and plenty of Minion shenanigans.
17. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – Ep Sr
Restrictions and access: 51 inches; must stow loose articles in free lockers just past the attraction’s entrance; has Express Pass access; usually has a single-rider line; also has a front-row line. Summary: high-speed outdoor roller coaster where you pick your soundtrack.
If you miss any of these three attractions, you can try again at the very end of the night. We just want to be sure we leave two or three hours for Diagon Alley, since it really is the most impressive theme park land in the world.
Should you be lucky enough to have more time than you thought you’d have at this point, then we have two more recommendations:
18. Horror Make-Up Show – Ep
*Verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.
Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: just as much of a comedy routine as a behind-the-scenes look at horror effects.
19. Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon – Ep
Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access; often has a virtual queue (return-time system) – in the last few hours of the day, it will have a standby queue. Summary: a simulated race through New York with talk-show host Jimmy Fallon and popular characters from The Tonight Show.
The time has finally arrived: prepare to enter Diagon Alley. Remember, depending on your family’s interest in Harry Potter, you should be arriving at this point in the touring plan with two or three hours left before park closing.
Before we enter Diagon Alley, we need to explain our mini-plan for this land. Essentially, the only attraction inside Diagon Alley with a significant wait time is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but this can be as high as an hour or two.
So, when you head into this area, you need to look up the Gringotts wait time and decide, exactly, how you want to spend your evening. It’s worth noting that Escape from Gringotts does have a single-rider line, but it skips the entire bank tour and pre-show, which are just as impressive as the ride (for the record, the single-rider line is usually a quarter to a half of the posted standby time).
Given the explanation we just offered, we’re going to list Escape from Gringotts next. Keep in mind, the later you can get in line, the shorter the line will be… but you will be missing out on the Wizarding World at night. The other stops in Diagon Alley may be done in any sequence.
20. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Ep Sr
Restrictions and access: 42 inches; must stow loose articles in free lockers before the attraction’s entrance; has Express Pass access; usually has a single-rider line. Summary: impressive tour through Gringotts Wizarding Bank followed by a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory 3D track-based motion ride (remember, single-rider line skips the bank tour and entire pre-show).
21. Ollivander’s Wand Shop
Restrictions and access: none; does not have Express Pass access. Summary: meticulously-themed boutique where the wand chooses the wizard.
22. Interactive wands and spell-casting
Summary: display your wizarding talents with your new interactive wand as you magically affect the displays in various storefronts and, possibly, other secret areas. Note: you’ll need to purchase an interactive wand at Ollivander’s or Wands by Gregorovitch to participate.
23. Dinner time – The Leaky Cauldron
Taking quick-service theme-park dining to its pinnacle, The Leaky Cauldron offers a variety of British fare set in a beautiful dining hall full of whimsical, wizarding decor.
Remember earlier when you might have skipped Transformers, Despicable Me, or Rip Ride Rockit? Now would be the time to check the current wait times and see if you want to try again. However, if you’re perfectly happy staying inside Diagon Alley and you still have more time before the end of the evening, there’s so much more to see…
You can catch the live entertainment in Carkitt Markett (Tales of Beedle the Bard and Celestina Warbeck), taste the treats of Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor, and slink your way through the creepy corners of Knockturn Alley. And before you leave, make sure you’ve seen the sights of the London waterfront, including the Knight Bus with its conductor and interactive shrunken head, and 12 Grimmauld Place (keep an eye out for Kreacher!).
No matter how the final hour of your night unravels, this is how we want to end the day:
24. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular
All around the lagoon at Universal Studios Florida
*Although this end-of-the-night show is usually scheduled once per day after park closing, please verify the schedule in your park map.
Summary: in celebration of Universal Studios’s 100-year anniversary (which actually occurred in 2012), this nighttime lagoon show presents the most iconic movie moments in Universal’s film history on state-of-the-art water curtains, together with dazzling fountain effects, fireworks, and an incredible soundtrack. For the best viewing experience, head into the Central Park area (between Hollywood and Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone). Alternatively, if you’re coming from Diagon Alley, the viewing area in front of the London waterfront works just fine.
We hope you’ve had an incredible day at Universal Orlando Resort!
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