Orlando, Florida is a hot vacation destination for most families. With so much to do there, I am not surprised. From Seaworld to Disney World, to Universal Orlando there are endless possibilities. We visited Universal Orlando in 2018 for 2 days and it did not disappoint. I can say however that it was a jam-packed 2 days. I am going to give you some tips on How to Conquer Universal Orlando in Two Days.
With attractions like Harry Potter and Minion Mania, Universal Orlando has something to offer the entire family. I will admit that fitting in all that Universal Orlando has to offer into two days is difficult but it is doable. I would suggest extending your stay a few days if you have the time so you can enjoy a more leisurely vacation. Here are some tips to get it done:
Get the “lay of the land” before you go.
Universal Orlando does a great job with their website and you can research the heck out of everything before you even step foot in the parks. It is basically comprised of two separate parks: Univeral Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
Both parks have their own unique attractions, but I would say that Islands of Adventure has more thrill rides while Studios has more sit-down movie themed types of rides. If you are a huge Harry Potter fan, both parks do have Harry Potter rides and attractions.
*Tip: Download the Universal Florida app before you go. It will help you find your way around and gives you up to the minute wait times for all the rides.*
Staying at a Universal Orlando on-site resort has so many advantages. You are super close to the theme parks so getting there right when the gates open is even easier, plus if you stay on-property you get an extra hour each morning with paid admission to enjoy the parks before the crowds arrive. This alone can be invaluable during peak times when wait times can be insanely long. The majority of kids get up at the crack of dawn anyway, might as well be constructive with your time!
*Tip: Bring a stroller! Even if you think your kids have outgrown a stroller, bring a lightweight one anyways. Universal Florida is HUGE! Even adults will be tired with all of that walking, never mind tiny little legs. You will thank me later when you don’t have to carry a kid around for 1/2 the day.*
Another benefit of staying at a Universal Resort is the transportation that is provided to and from the parks. You never have to worry about driving anywhere during your stay. This is great for families that might like to separate during the day. For example, one parent goes back to the resort for younger children to nap during the day while the other parent stays with older children to enjoy some thrill rides.
We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and we loved it. It is considered one of their “Prime Value” hotels. To be honest with you, with only two days in our itinerary we were barely at our hotel. We just needed a comfy and clean place to crash at the end of a long day and Universal’s Cabana Bay definitely fit the bill.
Buy the right ticket.
With only a 2 day itinerary, it is wise to choose a park-to-park admission ticket. This will allow you to visit both parks on the same day if you like, as well as ride aboard the Hogwarts Express (a highlight for Harry Potter fans).
I also suggest purchasing a Universal Express Pass if it is within your budget. This allows you to bypass very long lines on select attractions. There are two types of Express Passes: one that lets you cut the line once per attraction and one that is unlimited. This is both helpful if you are time restricted as well as if you have young children who have trouble waiting in line.
Remember I mentioned researching ahead of time. Well, this is something you should research as well. It is a lot of money for a family to buy tickets, let alone adding another fee on top of that. Check out your options and see what attractions this is offered for and if you are even interested in those rides to determine if the extra cost is worth the convenience for you.
Factor into your itinerary the time it takes to actually get into the park.
To get to the actual Universal Theme Parks there is a long walk through Universal’s CityWalk before you get to the park entrances. Arrive extra early to factor in this time. Also, there is usually a traffic jam at the security area that can take some time to get through.
When you are leaving the parks, this long walk can seem to take forever when you are exhausted and your feet are throbbing so bear that in mind as well.
The ideal itinerary starts in Universal Studios with the Minions.
I think the best two-day itinerary starts at Universal Studios on Day 1. Once you enter the park, head straight ahead to the Production Central area of the park. Your 1st stop should be the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Then come face-to-face with Transformers in the TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D. These two attractions are extremely popular and the wait times get extremely long towards the end of the day. There is also the Shrek 4-D and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in this area.
*Tip: almost every single ride in both theme parks involves some sort of motion aspect so if you are prone to motion sickness make sure you take some anti-motion sickness medication before you go. As a pharmacist, I will tell you that once you are sick the medicine does not work so prevention is the key.*
Next stop on your itinerary is New York.
Being an East-coaster, my favorite area of the park, as far as the look of it, is definitely the New York area. It really totally looks like they plucked New York out and placed it in Florida.
In this area, take in the Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon attraction and the Revenge of the Mummy. The Revenge of the Mummy is dark and scary at times. Even if your kids meet the height requirements, take the scariness factor into account.
Head on over to San Francisco.
It’s like you are traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast in a matter of minutes. In San Francisco is the Fast & Furious – Supercharged ride. For car-loving kids and adults, this is the ride. It can be a little intense and fast, but we loved it. I will say that the wait can be insanely long, but the line is out of the direct sun which can be a nice break on a very hot day.
All Aboard the Hogwarts Express.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a magical experience within itself without even riding any of the attractions. You will feel immersed in the movie itself.
I suggest not taking in any of the attractions here today and getting right on the train heading to Islands of Adventure. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy their famous Butterbeer along the way.
*Tip: Get the frozen version of Butterbeer for a frosty treat.*
You might wonder why I don’t suggest just doing Universal Studios one day and then Islands of Adventure the other. Well, the Hogwarts Express is why. This is one of our favorite attractions in all of the parks and if you plan your itinerary this way then you get to ride the train twice! By the way, the experience is different each way the train rides so that is even more reason to ride it twice.
Step off the train into Hogsmeade.
Once you arrive in Islands of Adventure, ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Beware, this one is an intense motion ride and I got a little queasy even with motion sickness medication. The rest of the family loved it though and had no problems at all.
Wander through The Lost Continent and spend some time in Seuss Landing.
The Lost Continent area has a lot of water rides that you are guaranteed to get wet on. Seuss Landing is great for the little kids with very family friendly rides and attractions. It is a nice way to end your day.
Start the day in Islands of Adventure with some Super Heros.
My son is a huge Super Hero fan so this area was his favorite of all. He is a total daredevil that loves thrill rides so this is totally his thing. There are so many thrill rides in the Marvel Super Hero Island that we could not choose our favorite.
There is the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall which is pretty intense. My son loved it and rode it 3 times while mommy waited on the sidelines because I was too chicken!
There is also the Storm Force Accelatron and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Not to mention, tons of photo ops with Super Heroes.
Head over to Toon Lagoon and Skull Island.
Toon Lagoon is full of water rides so it is a great place to cool off on a hot day. Skull Island has the Reign of Kong attraction with is not great for small children. Kind of dark and scary.
Next up is Jurassic Park.
Experience dazzling dinosaur adventures here. There is the Pteranodon Flyers ride and Jurassic Park River Adventure among a few more exciting things.
This is also a great area to grab lunch with a lot of places to choose from. Try out one of their famous giant Turkey legs.
Start your 2nd visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Today is the day to immerse yourself in everything Harry Potter. Stroll through the cobblestone streets, grab a Butterbeer, and experience all there is to offer.
Ride all of the attractions in Hogsmeade. Make sure you stop in Olivanders. This is where witches and wizards go to get all their wizarding gear. You, of course, will spend a pretty penny on this gear, but if you are a true Harry Potter fan this experience cannot be missed.
It is at Olivanders that you can purchase an interactive wand and cast spells around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both theme parks. It is really a magical experience not to be missed. I will warn you that it is very time consuming but lots of fun for kids of all ages.
There you have it, you conquered Universal Studios Florida in 2 days! Did you have time to sleep? I’m not sure. Haha. You can do as little or as much of this itinerary as you like. Skip the rides that don’t interest your family or make the most of single rider lines if only a part of your family wants to ride. Simply accept that you might not get to see every single thing.
On your way out of Universal Studios stop by Cinnabon for the most epic cinnamon roll you will ever eat in your entire life!
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- Royal Caribbean Cruise – Day 1 and 2
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- The 4 Best Family Activities on Marco Island