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Universal Orlando 3-day touring plan for on-site guests: Day 3

The purpose of this plan is to give families staying at an Universal Orlando on-site hotel a framework for the best way to experience Universal Studios Florida (USF) and Islands of Adventure (IOA) – and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – over the course of three days. This plan incorporates Early Park Admission, Express Pass access, and park-to-park admission, and it 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 stay on-site to use this plan. To view this important information, skip down to the bottom of this page.

You can review Day 3 below, or skip back to Day 1/skip back to Day 2.

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Day 3 of our touring plan looks much less like a traditional touring plan. Instead, we are going to make sure you’ve had a chance to experience all the attractions in each park, see all the shows, and visit the lesser-known spots.

The first thing you must decide is whether you are going to take advantage of Early Park Admission at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Since you’ve now visited Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley twice, we feel confident that you know the routine. Just remember: if you want to use EPA for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, on busy days it’s best to arrive at the USF turnstiles 45 minutes before Early Park Admission is scheduled to begin.

Now that you have decided what you will do for Early Park Admission, let’s take a look at the rest of the day. We didn’t include every show and attraction in our Day 1 and Day 2 plans because we wanted to be able to take a break in the middle of our touring. So, now, let’s cover the attractions and shows that we skipped. You don’t need to worry about a touring plan for these because they all either have Express Pass access or will not have long lines, anyway.

These two lists work out so that you can visit one park in the morning and one park in the evening. Keep in mind that you certainly can pick and choose from these lists as you see fit, and you can add additional visits to the rides and shows you loved.

What we skipped at Universal Studios Florida

Fast & Furious – Supercharged – Ep Sr
San Francisco

Restrictions and access: 40 inches; has Express Pass access and a single-rider line. Summary: join the Fast family by perusing their new base of operations and by facing off against their big villain.

Shrek 4D – Ep
Production Central

Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: standard 3D movie experience with 4D in-the-theater special effects.

Horror Make-Up Show – Ep
Hollywood

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.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the gift shop attached to the Horror Make-Up Show is likely the best store on Universal property (excluding the Wizarding World, of course). In it, you can find merchandise ranging from Star Wars to The Walking Dead. Even if you skip the show, do not skip this shop!

Hollywood Hills photo op
Hollywood

Kitty-corner from the Horror Make-Up Show theater, on the edge of Central Park, you’ll find a surprisingly easy and effective camera trick. It lets your family have their photo taken in front of the Horror Make-Up Show theater, and, with a little Hollywood magic, the top portion of the photo will be “filled in” with a view of the Hollywood Hills. This is super quick and makes a great souvenir – but you have to provide the camera.

Note: the Hollywood Hills photo op isn’t available during Halloween Horror Nights or other select times of the year.

Regarding the next two stops, please note that they may open at 10:00 am or later depending on how busy it is when you’re visiting. It would be best to check out a, in-park guide map the night before, as any delayed opening times will be noted there.

Animal Actors on Location
Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone

Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: see the animal stars of Hollywood perform in Orlando.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone
This area inside USF is the main center of activity for younger kids. There are two play areas (Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playground), another ride (Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster), and a live show (A Day in the Park with Barney).

As you walk through Springfield, USA on your way to Kang & Kodos, we’re giving you one more opportunity to try the Brain Freezin’ D’oh-Nut Sundae from Lard Lad’s Donuts.

Fear Factor Live – Ep
World Expo

Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: a true-to-the-TV-show live version of Fear Factor, where USF  guests volunteer to compete in scary and gross tasks. Please note that, if you want to volunteer to be a contestant, you need to arrive at the theater 70 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Universal’s Superstar Parade
See Universal’s park map for the parade route

Summary: Universal’s first-ever daily parade brings guests face-to-face with their favorite characters, larger-than-life floats, and dozens of street performers, all set to a high-energy soundtrack.

*This is a live performance and the parade time may change – verify the schedule in your park map.

The parade is a challenge to include in our touring plan because its timing changes throughout the year. If it happens to run during the day, and you can catch it without disrupting your touring, your kids might appreciate it. Keep in mind that the parade stops once in New York and Hollywood for an extended song-and-dance performance. However, if the parade only runs in the later evening when you’re supposed to be at the Wizarding World, we do not recommend leaving Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade to try to see it.

The Blues Brothers Show
New York

Summary: street party that brings you face-to-face with the bad boys of blues, Jake and Elwood.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map. It is not necessary to arrive at this show ahead of time.

Marilyn and the Diamond Bellas
New York

Summary: Marilyn Monroe is filming her latest movie on the New York backlot, and she wants you to join in.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Sing It
New York

Summary: a cappella singers face off in a Pitch Perfect-esque competition.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Beat Builders
New York

Summary: this construction crew builds beats instead of new rides. Think Stomp, and you’ll know what to expect.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

More stuff you may have missed…

Recognizable buildings in the New York backlot

The purpose of a backlot is to provide film crews with realistic backdrops for outdoor scenes without having to actually shut down a busy city block. The New York backlot in USF is an example of this purpose, and, as such, it’s home to several recognizable building facades. See if you can find the Metropolis Tribune from the Spider-Man stories, the Ghostbusters’ fire station, the Cosby home from The Cosby Show, a certain Italian eatery from The Godfather, and more.

Characters at Universal Studios Florida

The third day of your visit also offers a great opportunity to specifically plan on getting photos with characters that you may have missed during the first two days. In USF , most of the character meet-and-greets happen near the entrance to the park or along Hollywood Blvd. Some of these are scheduled, so be sure to check your in-park map for times and locations. However, several of them aren’t scheduled, so be sure to keep your eyes open as you stroll around. See our characters at Universal Orlando page for more information.

Dining at Universal Studios Florida

If you are in USF around a meal time and want additional quick-service recommendations, consider two more of our favorites: Mel’s Drive-In (in Hollywood) or Universal Studios Classic Monsters Cafe (in Production Central). Although not necessarily our favorite, if you’re looking for a more comfortable experience, we should also mention the second USF full-service restaurant: Lombard’s Seafood Grille (San Francisco).

This would also be a great time to consider trying a restaurant at Universal CityWalk. Our top recommendations based on food and theming: for lunch, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Ktichen, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, or Emeril’s Orlando; for dinner, VIVO Italian Kitchen, NBC Sports, Toothsome, or Red Oven Pizza Bakery. To see menus and learn about making reservations, click here.

What we skipped at Islands of Adventure

Starting at Seuss Landing and working counterclockwise around IOA , here’s the stuff you might have missed.

If I Ran the Zoo
Seuss Landing

Restrictions: none. Summary: this interactive play area is filled with fanciful Dr. Seuss animals and contraptions. There is a world of fun to be had here with a little imagination.

Caro-Seuss-el – Ep
Seuss Landing

RRestrictions: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: this is a traditional merry-go-round dressed up with Seuss characters.

Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish – Ep
Seuss Landing

Restrictions: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: Universal Orlando’s answer to Dumbo at Magic Kingdom, this ride lifts guests up and down and circles them ’round – with the extra element of water being thrown in.

Poseidon’s Fury – Ep
The Lost Continent

Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: indoor walk-through attraction, mixing live action with tons of special effects.

The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show – Ep
The Lost Continent

Restrictions and access: none; has Express Pass access. Summary: this is a traditional stunt show similar in concept to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

*This is a live stage show and the showtimes will vary – verify the schedule in your park map and try to arrive 15 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin.

Mystic Fountain
The Lost Continent

Summary: the Mystic Fountain delights younger (and, if we’re being honest, older) guests as it talks, sings, and squirts them with water.

Camp Jurassic
Jurassic Park

Restrictions and access: none. Summary: a truly gigantic play area with everything from slides and climbing nets to caves and water cannon.

Pteranodon Flyers
Jurassic Park

Restrictions and access: 36 inches; no Express Pass access; guests taller than 56 inches must be accompanied by a guest between 36 and 56 inches. Summary: meandering, outdoor gondola-style ride designed for kids.

Me Ship, the Olive
Toon Lagoon

Summary: Me Ship, the Olive is a multi-story play area for kids tucked against the lagoon’s edge. Don’t miss the free water canon at the top for spraying guests on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges and the secluded pathways below the ship.

Hidden areas at Islands of Adventure

As alluded to in our Me Ship, the Olive description above, each island at IOA has its own (somewhat) hidden spot near the lagoon. To find these areas, just follow the walkways along the interior perimeter, as close to the lagoon as you can get. These spots offer a perfect break from the crowds, and they also offer superb views of the park. Don’t have time to look for them all? Be sure to visit the one in Toon Lagoon and the one in Jurassic Park, behind the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.

Characters at Islands of Adventure

The third day of your visit is a great time to specifically plan on getting photos with characters that you may have missed during the first two days. In IOA, most of the character meet-and-greets happen in Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon. Some of these are scheduled, so be sure to check your in-park map for times and locations. However, several of these meet-and-greets aren’t scheduled, so be sure to keep your eyes open as you stroll around. See our characters at Universal Orlando page for more information.

Dining at Islands of Adventure

If you are in IOA around a meal time, we honestly don’t have any other quick-service recommendations outside of The Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade) and Thunder Falls Terrance (Jurassic Park), both of which you may have visited during Day 2 of our plan. For this reason, we recommend that you consider a full-service restaurant at IOA: Mythos (The Lost Continent) or Confisco Grille (Port of Entry).

Or, as we mentioned earlier on this page, this would also be a great time to consider trying a restaurant at Universal CityWalk. Our top recommendations based on food and theming: for lunch, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Ktichen, NBC Sports Grill & Brew, or Emeril’s Orlando; for dinner, VIVO Italian Kitchen, NBC Sports, Toothsome, or Red Oven Pizza Bakery. To see menus and learn about making reservations, click here.

Understanding our three-day plan

Here, we provide an explanation of our goals and the overall strategy of our three-day plan.

First and foremost, it’s important to know that our three-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 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 once the sun goes down.

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 Passes are a benefit guests receive when staying at three of the six on-site hotels. However, this complimentary benefit is not extended to guests staying at Cabana Bay Beach ResortAventura Hotel, or Sapphire Falls Resort because of their value/moderate pricing.

So, can you still use this plan if you’re staying at those three properties? 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, which you can learn all about 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, Aventura, or Sapphire Falls and visiting when crowds are forecasted to be moderate or slow, we do not consider Express Passes necessary to complete this three-day plan – you might just need a little hustle in your step, is all.

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 Beach Resort, Aventura Hotel, and Sapphire Falls Resort guests regarding Express Passes also 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, which you can learn all about 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.

Can you believe our three-day trip through Universal Orlando’s theme parks has come to an end? We had so much fun touring with you! 

After you’ve returned home and had time to get back to your routine, we would sure appreciate if you could spend some time reviewing your favorite (and not so favorite) attractions and restaurants at Universal. These reviews help our readers make even better decisions about which rides to visit, etc., and sharing your experiences is a great way to re-live the ones you loved. To get started, visit our real guest reviews page.

Otherwise, you can skip back to Day 1 or skip back to Day 2.

Do you have a question about the information on this page, would like to provide feedback, or did you spot an inaccuracy? Join us in our Facebook Community and let’s talk about it!