Theme Park Expert: Here Are My Top Tips For Universal Studios Orlando

Image

This site is reader supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may receive a commission. Read More

Key Points

  • Get the basics down with you preparation. This includes packing light, bringing motion sickness medicine for the rides, and remembering where you parked.
  • Check your kids’ heights before going. Universal has height requirements that are generally more strict than Disney’s.
  • Be sure to enjoy the many shows at Universal, including the Bourne Stuntacular and the Horror Makeup Show. If you’re there during Halloween, can can visit the Halloween Horror Nights.

Universal is sometimes overlooked as Disney’s little brother in the theme park realm, but they have been consistently improving their parks over the recent years, making new and exciting additions. 

The chief draw for many is the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed areas, though there are plenty of great reasons to visit. There is a third Harry Potter area on its way as part of Universal Orlando’s third major park, Epic Universe, slated to open in the summer of 2025. 

With so much to see and do, you need a bit of a game plan to make sure you accomplish everything you want to do.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your visit to Universal Studios Orlando.

Tip #1: Know which rides you want to prioritize

To make the most of your trip, you need to know what your family wants to ride. Take a quick look through the attractions at each park to have a list in your head of what’s most important to you. 

At Universal Studios Park, that might be The Mummy roller coaster and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. At the Islands of Adventure Park, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Velocicoaster are usually at the top of people’s “must do” list.

Tip #2: Arrive at the park first thing in the morning

Crowds at Universal can vary drastically depending on the time of the year, so if you’re visiting during a busy time such as a holiday, following this tip is crucial. 

Many visitors don’t arrive at the park quickly, which means wait times are very low during the first couple of hours the park is open. This can save you tons of time waiting, especially for the most popular rides!

Tip #3: Check your children’s heights

Universal has many thrill rides and simulator attractions that have steeper height requirements compared to Disney. Before you get your kids excited about riding every attraction, be sure to confirm they are tall enough to ride.

Tip #4: Harry Potter is Split Between Two Parks

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between Universal’s two parks. Universal Studios Park hosts Diagon Alley, which includes the Gringotts roller coaster, the Weasley twins’ shop, and the Leaky Cauldron. Islands of Adventure is home to the Hogsmeade area, and includes Hogwarts Castle, Hagrid’s motorcycle roller coaster, and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. 

The Hogwarts Express train connects the lands together but requires a park-hopping ticket to ride. Therefore, you’ll have to purchase the two-park per day ticket to experience it all. If you visit each park on a separate day, you cannot ride the train.

I generally recommend the one park per day ticket to most visiting guests, since at the end of the day, the Hogwarts Express is primarily a way to travel from park to park. It includes interactive elements and many great photo opportunities, but those are not worth the additional cost of the tickets. 

Tip #5: Be aware of Harry Potter Food Items

Both parts of the Wizarding World are the best themed lands at Universal. As such, they include some details that may not be the most welcoming for all guests. For example, you cannot purchase typical sodas in the lands, as all the beverages fit the Harry Potter theme. 

Food items are the same, focusing on British favorites potentially at the expense of pickier eaters. I have a friend with a dairy allergy who cannot buy a Butterbeer since Universal is contractually obligated to add a dairy foam to the top of every drink.

On the plus side, this means there are some unique and interesting flavors to try out. Most famously, the Butterbeer is worth the money – especially if you get it hot (only available in the winter months). I also love the Earl Grey and lavender ice cream at the shop in Diagon Alley. 

Tip #6: Bring motion sickness medication

If you are prone to motion sickness, you may struggle at Universal due to all of the screen-based rides. Be sure to bring your preferred method of dealing with this so you don’t get slowed down at the parks!

Tip #7: Don’t skip the shows at Universal Studios

At the Universal Studios Park, there are numerous shows well worth your time. My favorites are the Jason Bourne Stuntacular and the Horror Makeup Show

Both are interesting, unique, and great to visit during the middle of the day. In terms of other shows, the park is also debuting a new parade during the day and a projection/drone show at night.

Tip #8: Don’t get too wet

Islands of Adventure features two water rides that can get you absolutely soaked: Popeye’s Bilgerat Barges and Dudey Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. 

Both attractions are incredibly fun, but the fun may not be worth it for you when you end up sloshing around in wet clothes all day. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly! 

Tip #9: Decide for/against Universal Express Pass

Universal Express Pass is their “skip the line” addition to admission tickets. They cost an arm and a leg but are extremely effective in saving you time. However, this is typically unnecessary, especially if you have a whole day at each park. 

Express Pass may also be added to your ticket as a complimentary bonus if you stay at certain Universal resorts. Be sure to consider the best option for your group!

Tip #10: Visit Halloween Horror Nights

If you happen to be planning a trip in September or October, be sure to plan a visit to Halloween Horror Nights. The park is open late at night and includes tons of haunted houses, scare zones, and special events in addition to most of the rides still operating. 

It’s a very fun event and a great value if you stay the whole night. Keep in mind the event is not for kids, though!

Tip #11: Remember where you parked

If you’re visiting Universal, you may be surprised by the massive parking decks used to get people in and out of the parks. The decks have 5 different levels, and it’s easy to lose where your car was if you didn’t write the area and row down when arriving.

Also be sure to plan out 20 minutes to get from the parking lot to the parks themselves, since it’s a quite a long walk!

Tip #12: Pack light

Universal requires visitors to put their belongings in lockers prior to many rides, and even requires you to go through a metal detector before getting on some coasters. It’s a pain when compared to Disney World but is understandable. 

Be sure to pack as light as possible to ensure your bags can easily fit into the small lockers provided outside of the rides. Also be sure to remember your locker number!

Tip #13: See the Berlin Wall (and other secrets)

YouTube video player

Universal has numerous hidden details scattered throughout the parks. Adam Kubert, a Marvel artist, has his name included throughout Marvel Superhero Island. You can hear Moaning Myrtle in the Hogsmeade restrooms. 

My personal favorite is that a piece of the Berlin Wall is displayed behind the Hard Rock Café, towards the Universal Studios Park side. If you’re interested in more of these secrets, be sure to search for them before your visit!

Tip #14 Save money and don’t buy a wand

If you’re a Harry Potter fanatic, you can ignore this tip and enjoy exploring the land with your wizarding robes, wand, and hat. For everyone else, save yourself money and simply watch others cast their spells at locations throughout the lands. 

They’re cool effects to see, but it’s not worth the money for most people (especially if everyone in your family will beg for their own merchandise).

The Bottom Line

Universal Studios Orlando is a great spot to visit, especially if you keep these tips in mind while planning out your visit!



Subscribe

* indicates required

Intuit Mailchimp