Here are our favorite things from visiting Universal in Orlando Florida!
We love Universal and have been only twice, but we have some things that we just have to recommend if you are planning a trip! Below are some of the things that we determined were worth our money, wait times, and made memories!
We’ve broken this down based on days in the park and at the bottom are some helpful resources as well.
One Day – One Park
So you only have one day in the park? No worries! There is so much to see! If you are only able to go to one park, we recommend going to Islands of Adventure. However, if you can get a 1 Day – 2 Park Pass this will allow you to access BOTH parks in one day.
Ride the Veloci-coaster
If you want a thrill ride, you have to ride the Velocicoaster. This ride is almost always open when the park first opens, so be sure to head there first to beat the crowds who will come later in the day. If you are a Single-Rider, DO NOT use the single-rider line. The cars only hold 2 people so your odds of getting put on the coaster are slim. Just go through the faster main line and make another single-rider’s day. 🙂 ( The main line looks longer, but moves MUCH faster)
Go to Hogwarts
From the Velocicoaster make your way straight to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts Castle. The line is much shorter at the beginning of the day. This ride uses an indoor arm system with screens and animatronics. If you get motion sick, dramamine will help a little, but there are points where the ride seems like it is trying to make you sick. I recommend going through the line to tour Hogwarts, then waiting in the Parent exchange area for your group while they are on the ride. If you have questions, the Hogwarts students are happy to help. 🙂
This ride is a top-tier 100% worth the 2 hour wait in my opinion. It is an outdoor rollercoaster with animatronics and goes forward and backwards in parts. TIP: The wait isn’t always 2 hours! Be sure to download the Universal App to keep an eye on wait times and skip over there when the wait is shorter. It tends to be shorter around lunch time. Speaking of lunch…
Grab some lunch at Three broomsticks
And a butterbeer too! When you are hungry Three Broomsticks has a great selection of food for everyone and you can get a butterbeer with your meal! I always recommend not going right at lunch as the lines are crazy long, but if you can wait until 2 or 3 the line is perfect and there is plenty of seating.
Get your wand from Olivanders
Going to the wand show is SUCH a magical experience. The wait in line is totally worth it and if you can get a spot close to the front, your kiddo has a higher chance of being chosen to participate in the show. If you are doing the 2 park pass, I recommend going to Diagon Alley to do this for a more “authentic” Harry Potter Experience. TIP: Try to do this mid morning at some point so you have time to do all the magic spells around Hogsmeade!
1 Day – 2 Park
Now if you have a 2 Park pass for your trip, I recommend the above with the addition of the below ideas. After the VelociCoaster and Hogwarts, be sure to…
Ride the Hogwarts Express
This is a magical experience and only accessible with a 2 park ticket. The ride to Diagon Alley is different than the ride to Hogsmeade so try to sneak in a second ride if you have time. Once in London…
Find your way to Diagon Alley
The cast members here are so into character that they will not tell you exactly where the secret entrance is to the Wizarding World. There are plenty of videos (I have linked some down below) that will show you how to get there. Be sure to stop at the Knight Bus and #12 Grimmauld Place on your way!
Ride Harry Potter and the Escape from gringotts
After exploring the shops, getting your wand, and another butterbeer be sure to check out Diagon Alley’s version of the Hogwarts ride. Another screen/dark ride, but this one is much better for motion-sick riders. It operates on a more normal coaster track so there is less swirling and swinging. The tour through Gringotts is such fun and worth the time. If you aren’t going to ride, tell a cast member and they will let you walk through the ride and tell you when you need to get out of line before the ride.
If you have the 2 park pass I recommend skipping eating at Three Broomsticks (still go look at the decor of course!) and eating at the Leaky Cauldron. It is such a cozy place and there are even more food options. Again, be sure to hit it at an off meal time to beat the lines. 🙂
Explore Knockturn Alley
Want a break from the heat? Check out Knockturn Alley. It is cool, shaded and has some fun and spooky spells. You can also find Dark Arts style merch at Borgin and Burkes.
If you have more time…
If you are staying longer than a day and want to explore more we recommend a couple other spots in the Wizarding World:
- Do all the magic spells – use your map in your wand box to find them all!
- Exchange money at Gringotts Money Exchange – here is a video about that!
- Try the fun snacks – Honeyduke’s has a ton of candy options!
- Get a robe or quidditch gear
- Get a trick or pygmy puff at Weasley Wizard Wheezes
- Try a new form of butterbeer – Check out all the options!
Tips and Tricks!
There are so many things you can do to help your day go a little smoother and have more fun. Here are some based on our experience that helped us out a good bit.
Get the App
We know that being on your phone is the last thing you want on your trip, but the Universal App is so helpful! It shows line wait times in real time to help you know what to do next and provides an interactive map! You can even filter based on what you want to do ie: eat, roller coaster, water rides, etc.
Get a fanny Pack
For real. You don’t have to check your bag into the lockers if you have a fanny pack. The only ride that makes you check everything is the VelociCoaster. (Lockers are FREE!) Note: Wand boxes do fit in the larger lockers.
Make a plan
It is easy to want to just go with the flow when visiting the park. We are just going to be honest and tell you: you HAVE to make a plan. Theme parks, especially bigger ones, are not places to “go with the flow”. The long line times, heat, and everyone’s differing expectations can make your magical trip turn sour fast. Be sure to check with your group and vote on the top 5 things you all want to do this trip. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so try to hit the highlights and know that those are good enough. 🙂
Like I mentioned earlier, meal times are the worst times to eat. The lines are so long and there is no seating anywhere. Lean-in to the vacation life by eating snacks to hold you over to a later lunch if you can. The snacks are super great at Universal so there are plenty of options besides just fries and chicken tenders. Not sure where to start, this video as a lot of the snacks!
Do your research
Some of the best tips I learned were from creators who go to the parks often.
Miss Wizarding World has the best website and Instagram. She is an expert!
The Potter Collector has the best playlist on Youtube for the parks. These are some of the more helpful ones for planning:
- The Three Broomsticks Menu
- The Leaky Cauldron Menu
- All the butterbeer options
I love preparing for a theme park trip by getting my outfits together. I found some great stores who make fun merch not available in the parks. There is very cool merch in the parks too of course 😉
Note: Some of these links are affiliate codes where I make a small commission.
Triwizard Personalized Jersey – $40
Triwizard Tournament Subtle T-Shirt – $19
Subtle House Shirt – $10
Borgin & Burkes Shirt – $17
House Fanny Pack – $30
Harry Potter Earrings – $40
Hedwig Mini Backpack – $80
Hogwarts Letter Lanyard – $10
We hope you have a great trip! Is there anything you would add to our list?