Is it really worth your time and energy to spend 1 day at Universal Studios? Yes. If you know what to ride and what to skip. Keep reading for the best tips for seeing Universal in 1 day.
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How to Spend 1 Day at Universal Studios, Florida
Spending one day at any theme parks seems like a stretch. Most visitors plan a week or more to see and do everything they want to do. Sometimes, however, unexpected travel opportunities arise, and of course, you are going to take them.
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Recently, I had the chance to spend 1 day at Universal Studios, Florida without my girls (thanks, mom and dad!), and it was quite the experience. Visiting any theme park without kids is very different than visiting one with kids. I was grateful to spend some quality time with my husband and work up just exactly how to spend 1 day at Universal without kids.
TravelingMom Tip: After playing in the park, relax over a great meal at one of CityWalk’s restaurants.
Have a Plan
Just like any other theme park, you need to have a plan for Universal Studios. Because we only had one day to spend, my husband and I opted for the Studios over Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay. We chose Universal Studios because we planned to spend most of our time in Diagon Alley, but we also wanted to check out a few rides we’d never been on before.
Don’t be afraid to use great resources like this site, the Universal Orlando site, and other trusted resources you like to plan your day, including TravelingMom’s Complete Guide to Universal Studios Orlando. Familiarize yourself with the park layout by printing out a map to circle and mark on old school style or download the Universal Orlando app for easy access on your mobile device.
Stay on Property (If You Can)
One perk of many that come with staying on property at Universal Orlando is early park access. Guests that stay on site can have early access to the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts rides. This is a huge time saver if you only have one day to spend at the park because those two rides typically have the longest waits.
In addition to early access, you’ll be right there in the middle of the action when you wake up. No early rising to travel to the resort. No searching high and low for a parking spot close to the entrance.
Split stays between Disney and Orlando can be very time and cost effective if planned correctly. Universal Orlando even offers transportation between its resort and Disney’s! How awesome is that?
Consider Using Express Pass
Another consideration to your plans is the addition of the Express Pass option. I had no idea there were two choices to Express Pass until I did a little research. The Express Unlimited Pass allows guests to skip the regular lines an unlimited number of times at participating rides and attractions each day the pass is valid. The Express Pass allows guests to skip the regular line one time per ride at participating rides and attractions each day that your pass is valid.
My husband and I found the prices of each pass a little too cost prohibitive for us, so we opted out of them this time. We also knew we would be OK if we didn’t ride every single attraction in one day.
Sometimes, though, buying an Express Pass online can be a costly mistake. Here’s why.
Head to Diagon Alley Early
To begin our day, we went straight to Diagon Alley first. Because Harry Potter fans tend to be tween-age and older, our experience has been that it becomes more crowded at night. On our way to Diagon Alley, we did stop at Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon to confirm we did the right thing (booking our ride time through the Universal Orlando app), and then we were off.
Our longest wait of the day was for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but, honestly, waiting for that ride is half the fun for me. Universal Studios has done an excellent job of making the Wizarding World consistently themed throughout, and there are lots of touches in the ride queue that fans will appreciate.
Traveling Mom Tip: If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express, you’ll need a park-to-park ticket that includes Islands of Adventure. You cannot ride the train with a 1 day, 1 park pass.
Hit Thrill Rides During Lunch
If you can swing it, try to have a late lunch and hit the thrill rides during everyone’s lunch hour. Even families with young kids who are tall enough to ride the roller coasters often take a midday pool break, which makes the lunch hour a great time to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Revenge of the Mummy.
Traveling Mom Tip: No loose items are allowed on any of the roller coasters, so you’ll have to put them in a locker. Rent the locker for the day or use it for the length of your ride at no charge.
What to Ride
There are fifteen rides and attractions throughout Universal Studios that will keep your day full of fun and excitement. Plan your day just right, and you might be able to conquer them all! There are some, however, that I think can be skipped for the sake of time if need be. Not every attraction was a great one, and some even made me motion sick, so use your judgment accordingly.
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Rip Ride Rockit
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Transformers the Ride 3D
- Men in Black: Alien Attack
- E.T. Adventure
- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
Need help planning your Universal trip? Join our Universal Orlando Tips & Planning Facebook Group!
What to Skip
Seriously. It’s OK by me if you miss these, especially if you are prone to motion sickness.
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
- The Simpsons Ride
- Shrek 4D
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
TravelingMom Tip: What’s my biggest tip of all? Realize you might not be able to do it all in one day. Vacations are supposed to be fun, not stressful! That’s why we plan return trips, right? However you spend your 1 day at Universal Studios, make it a fun one!
Where to Buy Discounted Universal Tickets
Traveling Mom recommends purchasing your Universal tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. If you call to make your purchase be sure to mention TravelingMom!