A Novice Guide to Universal Studios Orlando

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Universal Studios in Orlando is becoming a stronger and stronger rival to Disney World everyday as it continues to expand to attract more visitors to its parks. While it currently has two main theme parks, construction is well underway on its third park. “Epic Universe,” as it’s called, is scheduled to open in the earlier half of 2025. It also features an elaborate water park deemed Volcano Bay, which allows for all sorts of fun in the sun. Most notably, perhaps, is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a land that spans both of Universal’s main theme parks that sweeps you into the magical world of Harry and his friends.

Overall, the parks feature tons of exciting roller coasters and thrill rides, in addition to more family-friendly options. If you want to see and do everything, it’s a good plan to spend a full day at each of its parks. If you’re just looking to hit the highlights or aren’t a big roller coaster fan, the parks can easily be covered in a single day if you grab a two parks per day ticket. Whatever you decide, here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your stay at Universal.

Attractions to Prioritize

Most guests want to prioritize Universal’s awesome roller coasters over its other rides, attractions, and shows. Relatively new rides like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Jurassic Park Velocicoaster are incredibly popular (for good reason) and garner long lines during the day. If your family intends on riding most of the thrill rides, you need to ensure you spend enough time at the park to cover all of them!

If your family has younger children that aren’t as interested in the roller coasters (or don’t meet Universal’s height requirements), your priorities will be far different than other guests. Universal still has family rides and shows available to everyone, even if the parks are a bit more adult-focused than its Mouse competitor down the street. Rides like the 3D Adventures of Spiderman ride or the Men in Black: Alien Attack are always family favorites!

Park Summaries and Example Itinerary

Universal Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure has a theme, appropriately, of excitement and adventure, and features six major lands (islands) themed to different franchises. These lands include Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Lost Continent, and the Suess Landing, the area designed after Dr. Seuss characters serving as the park’s kiddie area. Overall, the park features mostly adult-oriented thrill rides with a sprinkle of family entertainment here and there. If you’re visiting with little ones, you won’t spend much time in this half of Universal.

If you are visiting for the coaster, you should start your day in the back of the park for the two most popular rides: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Jurassic Park Velocicoaster. The rides are very different but both thrilling experiences. Hagrid’s coaster does not feature any inversions (no upside down), but keeps a high speed throughout the journey with sweeping turns and maneuvers. The ride also features multiple animatronics and a couple of surprising twists. Velocicoaster, on the other hand, contains no secrets: you can tell from the outside exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The coaster is fast and intense the whole time, flinging riders around loops and corkscrews. Since the ride restraints are only a large lap bar, it makes you feel like you can fly out at any moment, which adds to the thrill.

After you finish with the two big coasters at the back of the park, you still have one more to go: the Incredible Hulk Coaster. You will want to ride this one and the other two rides in the Marvel Superhero Island, Dr. Doom’s Fearfall and the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 3D ride. Both are interesting and well worth seeing!

The rest of your day can be spent exploring the rest of the park, being sure to visit each land to see what you might be interested in spending your time on.

Horror Makeup Show gives you a behind the scenes look at how special costumes can make a big different in the look of an actor. Finally, the Animal Actors Live on Stage show is a cute respite from the thrills of the rest of your park day.

If you still have additional time, or are wanting to focus more on the kids in your family, you might enjoy a ride on the Transformers 3D ride in the center of the park, the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3D show, and a jaunt around the Simpsons area. At the end of the day, Universal has a water projection and fireworks show that’s worth seeing if you’re still hanging around inside the park.

Special Food Items

Universal has many picture-worthy creations that are sure to hit the spot when you’re in need of a snack. For example, the Simpsons area is home to Duff Beer and the iconic pink sprinkled donut. Harry Potter areas are home to Butterbeer, a sort of cream-soda like beverage, which is served in 3 different ways.

How to Save Time

Depending on how much time you plan to stay at the parks, you may have a lot more time to do everything you want than you expected. Universal gets heavy crowds in the afternoons, but a lot of the long wait times are focused on its big roller coasters. If you plan on riding all of the thrill rides, it’s best to show up right at park opening in order to beat the crowds to quickly check off one or two must-do’s before the park gets busier. If you don’t mind waiting in lines, both of Universal’s parks are easily doable in a single day. If you are trying to cover everything from both as fast as you can, you could purchase Universal’s Express Pass, which allows you to skip lines and get where you need to go faster. Though the price is high enough where it’s not worth it for most visitors, if your vacation time is limited, it can be a great way to cover more ground in less time.

Make sure to plan out which shows you want to see. Since the shows are performed periodically throughout the day, it’s best to sit down and watch them when you need a break during the afternoon. Plus, it’s a great way to avoid the Florida heat!


Your visit to Universal is likely to be filled with thrill rides and roller coasters. However, if you’re visiting with younger kids, there’s a bit less to do – so you can likely cover both parks in a single day. Universal is filled with tons of small details, interesting shows, and picture spots that are well worth spending time exploring – especially the Harry Potter themed areas.

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