The purpose of this plan is to give families staying at a Universal Orlando on-site hotel a framework for the best way to experience Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – over the course of three days. This plan incorporates Early Park Admission, Express Pass access, park-to-park admission, and provides a break time in the middle of each day.
IMPORTANT If this is your first time viewing this page, we highly recommend that you learn our overall strategy and let us answer some of the most common questions regarding Express Passes and whether you actually need to be staying on-site to use this plan. To view this important information, skip down to the bottom of the page.
Finally, Universal features free resort-wide wifi and an updated mobile app that provides wait times if your device detects that you’re in the park. To download the app, follow these links: Android or iOS. You can also find published times for Universal’s shows on their website (keep in mind the times are only published approximately two weeks in advance).
For your convenience,
all attraction links on this page will open in a new window
Before we get to our tour, we need to chat a little bit about Early Park Admission. Throughout the year, EPA may be offered at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. The interesting thing is, now that Diagon Alley is open, it really isn’t necessary to visit Hogsmeade in IOA during Early Park Admission, because so much of the overall Wizarding World crowd is being drawn over to Diagon Alley at USF all day long.
Knowing this, we have a choice to make about Early Park Admission on Day 2. We can either use it again or we can skip it and sleep in an extra hour.
So, now you must decide.
1. Entrance to Islands of Adventure
If you decided to skip Early Park Admission, we recommend that you arrive at the IOA turnstiles 20 minutes before it’s scheduled to open to the general public.
Once you get through the turnstiles, be sure to pick up a park guidemap. Universal’s in-park guidemap covers both theme parks, and it includes times for the live shows and many of the character meet-and-greets.
2. Skull Island: Reign of Kong – Sr (single rider) Ep (Express Pass)
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 Marvel Super Hero Island.
3. The Incredible Hulk Coaster – Sr Ep
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: The best high-speed, outdoor roller coaster in Central Florida.
4. 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 3-D film, ride movement, and special effects for a completely convincing simulator ride experience.
5. Spider-Man photo op
Marvel Super Hero Island
Your favorite web slinger has his own indoor meet-and-greet space in the building directly across from the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction.
6. Dr. Doom’s Fearfall – Ep Sr
Marvel Super Hero Island
Restrictions and access: 52 inches; has Express Pass access. Summary: Sit back and enjoy as you are thrust up a 200 foot tall tower.
While you’re enjoying the attractions at Marvel Super Hero Island, make sure you spend a few minutes in the gift shops, where you’ll find some of the most unique and exciting merchandise in all of Universal Orlando.
7. Storm Force Accelatron – Ep
Marvel Super Hero Island
Restrictions and access: None (children under 48 inches must be accompanied by an adult); has Express Pass access. Summary: Marvel spin on the classic egg beater carnival ride.
Now it is time to go to Toon Lagoon and hit the 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.
8. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – Ep
Restrictions and access: 42 inches, has Express Pass access. Summary: Traditional raft ride – YOU WILL GET SOAKED.
9. 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.
10. 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. Wait times: As high as 75 minutes or longer on really warm days; on other days generally not longer than 20 minutes.
11. Free time
It should now be right around noon. Head back to your hotel to dry off and relax, or take another swim perhaps, maybe eat lunch, shop at Universal CityWalk, etc. If some people in your party wish to stay inside the park, we have these dining recommendations for lunch:
Mythos is an award-winning restaurant located in Lost Continent, and it’s considered by many to be the best full-service restaurant inside Universal’s parks.
Not interested in full-service? Thunder Falls Terrace, located in Jurassic Park, is the best quick-service restaurant at Islands of Adventure, excluding Three Broomsticks.
12. Return to Islands of Adventure
The time you return to IOA will be based on park hours. If the park is closing earlier, say, at or before 7:00pm, you will want to return by 2:00pm. If the park is closing after 7:00pm, you can return at 3:00pm.
Upon entering IOA, take a right and visit Seuss Landing.
13. Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear
*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map. It’s not necessary to arrive more than a few minutes before this show starts.
Summary: Dr. Seuss’s books come to life in song and dance as this small stage show invites us to read along. When the production is over, your little ones will have an opportunity to meet the characters.
14. 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.
15. High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! – Ep
Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access. Summary: The trolley takes you on a leisurely ride around Seuss Landing as you are entertained by fanciful sounds and effects.
Now it’s time to make our way once again to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hogsmeade Village. As with yesterday’s plan, depending on your family’s interest in Harry Potter, you should have three to five hours left before park closing.
Keep in mind that one of our goals is to embrace the Wizarding World’s one-of-a-kind “centrally themed, multi-park” experience. To do so, you see that we’ve essentially split our first two evenings between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. It’s our belief that doing so is the only way to fully appreciate how Universal has brought Harry’s story to life.
16. Sights & sounds of Hogsmeade
Just as we experienced with Diagon Alley, much of the amazement to be found in Hogsmeade is simply in admiring the intricate details of the land, from the sitting area behind Three Broomsticks to Ron Wealsey’s Ford Angelia in the Dragon Challenge queue. If you have the time, be sure to explore all the nooks and crannies you can, and keep your ears open for the live entertainment in Hogsmeade – the Triwizard Spirit Rally and the Frog Choir – which perform on the stage near Hogwarts Castle.
17. Interactive wands & 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 to participate.
18. Flight of the Hippogriff – Ep
Restrictions and access: 36 inches; has Express Pass access. Summary: Outdoor kiddie coaster that offers fantastic views of Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village.
Before we leave Hogsmeade, we have one more recommendation: if you haven’t already, take the “tour-only” line at Forbidden Journey. There’s never a wait, and you can bring your camera through this line for photos of the castle’s famous rooms. (Guests usually end up stowing their camera in the free lockers and therefore can’t get good photos inside the castle – well, the tour-only line solves that problem!)
Once you’re done, it’s time to experience a trip back to London on the Hogwarts Express!
19. The Hogwarts Express
Hogsmeade (Hogsmeade Station)
Restrictions: none; even wheelchairs and ECVs are allowed. Summary: the famous train takes guests on a magic journey from Muggle London to the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and back (note that each ride is one-way; guests wishing to return to IOA will need to exit the train, queue again, and re-board).
Exit King’s Cross Station and enter Diagon Alley.
We now have two possible goals: if you’ve already experienced Escape from Gringotts, you can proceed with simply enjoying the evening atmosphere of Diagon Alley. If you haven’t been on Escape from Gringotts, you’ll want to head directly to it.
20. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Restrictions and access: 42 inches; must stow loose articles in free lockers before the attraction’s entrance; usually has a single-rider line. Summary: impressive tour through Gringotts 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. Sights & sounds of Diagon Alley
Again or first the first time, catch the live entertainment in Carkitt Market – Tales of Beedle the Bard & Celestina Warbeck – taste the treats of Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor, and slink your way through the creepy corners of Knockturn Alley.
22. Dinner time – 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.
Our evening in USF ends at the lagoon…
23. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular
*Although this end-of-the-night show is usually scheduled once per day after park closing, please verify the schedule in your park map.
All around the lagoon at Universal Studios Florida
Summary: in celebration of Universal Studios’ 100-year anniversary, 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.
This brings us to the end of Day 2. It’s been spectacular, hasn’t it? As you leave Universal Studios Florida, start thinking about all the stuff at Universal’s parks that you want to do one more time. Tomorrow you’ll get that chance; plus, we’ll make sure you have the opportunity to see any of the attractions we passed on during the first two days.
Understanding our 3-day plan
Here we provide an explanation of our goals and the overall strategy of our 3-day plan.
First and foremost, it’s important to know that our 3-day plan is just that – a plan for three days at Universal’s theme parks. As such, one of our primary goals is to spread out the best experiences at Universal over this time period, so your second and third day can be nearly as exciting as your first.
Another goal of ours is to embrace the Wizarding World’s one-of-a-kind “centrally themed, multi-park” experience. To do so, you see that we’ve essentially split our first two evenings between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. It’s our belief that doing so is the only way to fully appreciate exactly how well Universal Orlando has brought Harry’s story to life across its two parks.
Adding to our desire to have you experience the Wizarding World at its best, we’ve also planned our visits to Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in the evening. It’s almost universally agreed – and certainly our belief – that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is even more magical in the evening hours.
Finally, because we’re able to spread our touring over three days, we’ve included free time in our plan, when you can return to your hotel or do as you please.
What if I don’t have Express Passes?
This plan is written for guests with Express Pass access. It’s likely you already know that unlimited Express Pass access is a benefit guests receive when staying at three of the four of Universal’s hotels. However, this complimentary benefit is not extended to guests staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort because of its moderate/value pricing.
So, can you still use this plan if you’re staying at Cabana Bay? Yes, you can, but with this extra condition: understand that during busier parts of the year, you will encounter long waits at Universal’s most popular attractions. During these times, in an effort to make our plan work best, and to help you really enjoy your vacation, we recommend that you consider purchasing Express Passes. The most convenient option is Universal’s PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS. You can learn about all of these in our Complete guide to Express Passes. In addition, you will also want to view these pages: our 12-month Universal crowd calendar and Attraction wait times based on crowd levels. Note: if you’re staying at Cabana Bay and visiting when crowds are forecasted to be moderate or slow, we do not consider Express Passes necessary to complete this 3-day plan – you might just need a little hustle in your step.
What if I’m staying off-site?
Yes, you can still use this plan if you’re staying off-site. Just keep in mind these important factors: first, depending on your travel plans, you may or may not have access to Early Park Admission, so you’ll need to adjust the plan accordingly. (If you’re not sure about EPA, see our guide.)
In addition, the same advice we offered to Cabana Bay guests regarding Express Passes applies to your situation: understand that during busy periods, you will encounter long waits at Universal’s most popular attractions. During these times, in an effort to make our plan work best and to help you really enjoy your vacation, we recommend that you consider purchasing Express Passes. The most convenient option is Universal’s PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS. You can learn about all of these in our Complete guide to Express Passes. In addition, you will also want to view these pages: our 12-month Universal crowd calendar and Attraction wait times based on crowd levels.
Finally, make sure you’ve coordinated transportation so you can arrive at Universal early enough to take advantage of the lighter morning crowds. If you’re parking and walking, allow yourself 20 minutes from the time you enter Universal property to walk to either park’s turnstiles.
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- Universal Orlando 3-day touring plan for on-site guests Day 1
- Universal Orlando 3-day touring plan for on-site guests: Day 2
- Universal Orlando 3-day touring plan for on-site guests: Day 3