See Universal Studios in One Day!
If you are traveling, staying, visiting or happening to stay in Orlando for a day or some good hours, your visit absolutely cannot be complete without seeing Universal Studios in Florida.
Every time we have visited Florida, we said that we would take the time to take on Universal Studios but, somehow, we never did. First-timers here? If you’re like us, you could use some tips so that you can truly enjoy your visit, see both parks and make the most out of your time at Universal Studios.
Where to Stay:
Universal Studios attracts families, young and adults alike so I totally recommend that you stay at their retro-themed Cabana Bay Beach Resort on-site. It has everything from big pools, waterslides and beach-inspired sand area for kids and volleyball.
Plus, you get perks for staying on-site like free transportation, Wi-Fi, early admission into the parks every morning and lot more. You can check out our stay at Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Plan Your Day!
We woke up well rested and to a gorgeous day with clear skies and ready to take on Universal Studios. The plan was to see both parks in one day, so that meant planning out everything we wanted to do, choosing a route and sticking to it.
Since we stayed on property, we were able to head out early on the bus to the Island of Adventure and when you stay on property, you get early admission to select parks on certain days. So, that alone is an advantage already.
Universal Studios has their Official Universal Studios Resort app, a useful app that you can download before getting to the park, you can even buy tickets through it. It can help you plan out your route with detailed maps, see wait times in real-time, get alerts when it is the best time to get in line and you can connect for free when you’re at the park.
Here’s the advantage that we had and an absolute must if you want to see and do everything on your list in one day. The allure of making it sound like a secret is appealing but, in reality, not everyone knows that this is available. When you purchase your tickets, add on Unlimited Express Passes.
Believe me, for the added fee, it is well worth it. You’ll be thanking me later when you’re at Universal Studios and you’re zipping through the express lane to the front of the line while others are waiting.
TIP: Add Universal Express Unlimited passes to your tickets and skip the regular lines over and over again.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are more rides than you can possibly go on in one day. Plus, with two parks, there are TONS of things to do. Even with the Express Passes, there are some rides that they won’t work on like some of the Harry Potter rides. That’s where prioritizing comes into play.
Use the Universal Studios app and take a look at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida and take note of the rides that you absolutely want to go on at each park. That’s the beauty of Universal, there is something for everyone and your plan of seeing both parks can be the same or much different than mine.
Oh the Things You Can Find, If You Don’t Stay Behind!
We made our way through the Island of Adventure and followed the path to Seuss Landing. Since Mimi is younger, she was looking forward to exploring this area and since Hubs, Gabs and I grew up on Dr. Seuss, we were looking forward to it too.
It did not disappoint, the bubbly and colourful world of Dr. Seuss is all throughout this area and there is so much to see and do. You will even see Truffula trees and so many characters you know and love! Since we had the Express passes, we wanted to hit up some rides.
What to Do in Seuss Landing:
There’s definitely rides here that the kids will enjoy. Especially the Caro-Seuss-el which is a merry-go-round but Dr. Seuss style. Some of the characters you can ride include elephant birds from Horton Hatches the Egg, cowfish from McElligot’s Pool, Mulligatawnies from If I Ran the Zoo, and more.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was tons of fun. You get inside a flying fish and you go up and down and over fountains. These fountains squirt water in time to a musical rhyme. Make sure you pay attention to the words and do what they say or you just might get wet.
TIP: Plan to see some characters on the way, they make great photo ops. We saw the Lorax, Cat and the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and even The Grinch.
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride was awesome. You have a chance to go on one of two different tracks. One tells you more about the story of the Sneetches, while the other takes you through the ABCs of your favourite Dr. Seuss stories. We even got to ride inside Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous and were able to see people below having a meal. Just wave hello and you’re on your way!
The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
For thrill seekers, this one is for you. It goes up to 67 miles per hour, so be prepared! Check out those twists, turns, and loop de loops!
About the Ride:
Step inside a high-security research compound commanded by General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. You’ve bravely volunteered to be a test subject for a (potentially life-altering) science experiment based on Dr. Bruce Banner’s research. At the General’s word, your group is blasted with gamma radiation.
Suddenly, you feel unstoppable.
Before you can blink, you’re catapulted out with the force of a fighter jet. Hulk-like power propels you upside down into a weightless zero-gravity roll, racing faster and faster down the track. Hang on with superhuman strength as this high-speed, red-line rampage smashes its way through the sky.
Next, we headed to Marvel Superhero Island. The thought of being a superhero is something we all wish for sometimes. So, heading to check out heroic rides and characters, was a no-brainer in our plan. The girls were excited to see Rogue and Storm just hanging out being all powerful and awesome. Such fun photo ops and Cyclops was right around the corner too! How cool is that?
Since we were seeking more thrills, we checked out Doctor Doom’s Fearfall which is a tower that propels you towards the sky. Darasak and Gabs were feeling brave and they took on Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall. If you could hear the screams, well, it is the sound of the fear being sucked right out of them.
About the Doctor Doom Ride:
One of Marvel’s supreme super villains needs to test his latest invention, a machine that sucks fear out of people. His plan? Use the fear he collects as a weapon against the Fantastic Four.
How, you ask, will he get this fear out of you? By having his henchmen strap you into a seat, blast you 185 feet into the sky and then—without a second to catch your breath—hurl you back down with a face-melting force stronger than gravity itself.
TIP: Universal Studios offers Parent Swap, a waiting area where you can send your other half to take the ride and wait to swap out. That way both parents can enjoy the ride!
Mimi is a little peanut but, she was tall enough for most of the 3D rides here. Let me tell you, they are amazing and so REAL. Since we had the Express Unlimited passes, we were able to go back to back as many times as we wanted.
About the Spiderman Ride:
The villains of the Sinister Syndicate have stolen the Statue of Liberty and it’s up to Spidey to save the day.
You’ll face a cast of Marvel characters as you soar above the streets, scale skyscrapers and battle bad guys left and right. The high-definition 3-D graphics are so vivid, you might catch yourself counting the stitches on Spider-Man’s gloves. Just watch out for the 400-foot freefall.
The girls loved The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, having the pass here was so helpful as the lines were long. We just strolled in and at one time, they let us go through twice. Man, I screamed like crazy on this one and it was SO FUN.
Welcome to the Jungle!
We ventured to this area of the park to see the king himself, King Kong that is! Mimi was a bit apprehensive to take on King Kong and Skull Island: The Reign of Kong. But, once she went through the mysterious island with us. She wanted to go again!
You head into the heart of the jungle where prehistoric predators and creatures will come at you from every direction. Your guide for the expedition can only do so much. While you are being attacked, a HUGE ape will come to the rescue. Foe or friend? You will have to see but, one thing is for sure–this is home.
TIP: Use your Express passes for this one, it is so fun!
If you love the Jurassic Park franchise, you’ll love this part of the park. We grew up on watching them and the girls have watched it too so it was cool to actually see a park that is reminiscent of the actual Jurassic Park itself.
Here, you will find the Jurassic Park River Adventure. You glide along a raft and soon enough, you’re bumped off course and thrust into the ominous “restricted area” of Jurassic Park. This is where they keep dangerous creatures. Then, a T. rex stands before you. What do you do? Find out when you ride!
TIP: Make sure you get to the Pteranodon Flyers ride early to avoid lines!
There’s also the Pteranodon Flyers that is great for kids! You can take flight beneath the 10-foot wings of a Pteranodon, a prehistoric flying reptile. While you soar, you can see all the theme park excitement below. It is great for park goers who aren’t ready for the big thrills.
Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This is an absolute must! You will be able to experience Harry Potter in both parks. If you started off in Islands of Adventure, you’ll be able to step inside the village of Hogsmeade. Here you will be immersed in Harry Potter culture.
TIP: Don’t forget to try the Butterbeer. You can have it cold, iced or hot!
Whether you are a muggle or wizard, you will want to spend time here. There are fun rides to experience and of course, you can travel from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley via the Hogwarts Express. You can read more about our experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Escape from Gringotts: The ride starts with you entering the Gringotts bank under the fire-breathing dragon. You pass through the bank’s grand marble lobby with goblins working. Then you strap in for a multi-dimension 3D thrill ride with Voldemort and Harry Potter.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: This ride in the Hogwarts castle is terrifying for young children. It is certainly fun for older children who don’t scare easily. There are flying dark dementors and lots of creepy sounds and noises.
- Flight of the Hippogriff: Enter the Care of Magical Creatures grounds and pass by Hagrid’s hut. As you make your way onto the ride, Hagrid gives instructions on the proper way to approach a Hippogriff. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a family-friendly roller coaster that spirals and dives around the pumpkin patch and swoops past Hagrid’s hut.
- Dragon Challenge: Climb aboard one of two dragons—an aggressive Chinese Fireball or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail. Then hold on tight as they twist and loop in a roller coaster ride across the sky. Each “dragon” is a completely different ride.
- Hogwarts Express: With a Park-to-Park admission ticket you can board the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station in London at Universal Studios Florida and travel to Hogsmeade Station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, or the other way around. Additional restrictions apply.
What to Eat:
There are so many interesting eating places to try out. Pizza is always a safe bet for kids and we needed to refuel. Nothing a large pizza, soda, and salad can’t fix. While at Universal, you should definitely try out the giant-pink iced sprinkled donut of The Simpsons TV series from Lard Lad Donut.
TIP: In Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, you will find Butterbeer stands. It is non-alcoholic so you can enjoy it anytime. A MUST for any Harry Potter fan. Among other fun options are the
Among other fun options are the NBC Sports Grill & Brew with the loud and lively environment and built-in foosball tables. Monster’s café has a creepy setting that kids simply love. Rest assured, at Universal Studios and CityWalk, you have plenty of options for dining.
Transformers, Roll Out!
Head to Production Central to get up close and personal with your favourite Transformers and I mean really up close. As a family, we can all agree that this part of Universal Studios was our favourite. We rode Transformers: The Ride 3D a few times because it was
We rode Transformers: The Ride 3D a few times because it was AWESOME. If you love Transformers, this ride will make you feel like you are actually inside the movie and that the Transformers are as real as can be.
TIP: Make sure you check the Universal app to see the character appearances. We were able to meet Optimus Prime. It was LEGEN, wait for it, DARY!
You will board your N*E*S*T* vehicle and join Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in an ultra-immersive, next generation thrill ride. You’ll fight to keep the AllSpark out of Megatron’s hands in an explosive battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Roll out!
Parades are a Must!
If your kids want to see their favourite characters all in one place, you have to catch the Universal’s Superstar Parade. Plus, the Characters Party Zone! You can meet the Minions, Gru, Edith, Agnes and Margo from Despicable Me; and Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick, and Squidward; Dora, Diego, Boots and Baby Jaguar.
We saw so many of the characters we love and man can they dance. I yelled at Squidward like a total fangirl and he waved stopped and posed for me. How cool is that?
This was one of our favourite character encounters. Why? Well, Donkey is quite the character. Donkey asked us where we were from and once he found out we were Canadians, he went to town.
He asked us for maple syrup because he knows we Canadians carry it around. The lovable Donkey told us to rendezvous around the corner in 5 minutes. He was a hoot! Shrek was ever the ogre and just shook his head at Donkey. It made for a great experience for the kids.
Catch the Shrek 4-D movie, it’s like no other and you’ll love it.
About the Movie:
Behold the mini movie that takes place after the first Shrek and before the second. Lord Farquaad has returned (in ghostly form) to Far Far Away. He’s kidnapped Princess Fiona, and Shrek and Donkey are hot on his trail. You’re along for the ride, watching it all unfold from your cozy seat.
But this is no ordinary movie. With your OgreVision glasses (and a few special effects), you’ll see, hear and feel what’s happening, pulling you into the story like never before. It’s a fun, funny, multisensory adventure the whole family will love.
The Minions and Gru and the gang are the girls’ faves. I have to say, I’m in love with the thought of Minions and they are super cute too. So, I wouldn’t mind having a couple dozen of them. Though they tend to be more mischievous than helpful.
The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is an awesome experience. So realistic and filled with Minions, your heart will delight. On the ride, you are recruited by Gru for his latest scheme, one that will turn YOU, yes YOU, into a Minion. But, in true Gru fashion, things don’t go as planned and an adventure ensues–you’ll be joined by Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes and a slew of Minions. Enjoy!
Plan Your Visit!
As you can see, there is plenty to do. Even if you only have a day or two at the parks. All you have to do is use the handy tools that Universal offers and plan out your day. Head to the rides you want to see and best of all, have fun.
You’ll find that as you walk through the parks, something will grab your attention–don’t be afraid to veer off your plan. There is fun to be found around every corner at Universal.
Hope you enjoy your first visit to Universal Studios and Orlando, Florida!
Which part of the parks do you think you enjoy the most?
Let me know, til then–cheers m’deres!
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Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela and partner and best friend to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.