Can You Do Universal Studios and Island of Adventures in Just One Day?

If you’re heading into Universal Studios and wondering if you could do two parks in one day (without rushing), I’ve got an answer for you.

Yes, you totally can.  With some pre-planning!

A trip to Universal Studios is no small chump change.  A one day, one park ticket at Universal Studios or Island of Adventures will set you back about $115 USD per adult.  A one-day park hopper ticket (access to both parks) will cost you $170 per adult. If you are going as a family, those numbers add up very quickly.

While the average daily cost of admission goes down the longer you stay due to package deals and promotions, a two-day park hopper ticket jumps to $260 per person.

Since I planned the trip around the Harry Potter experience (and we couldn’t miss the Hogwarts Express Train), we opted for the park hopper ticket.  The questions become:  Is there a way to save on ticket prices? Is one day enough to see everything?

All About Pre-Planning

The good news is:  “Everything” depends on your interests. For us, they were the Harry Potter attractions.  Once we narrowed down our interests to a shortlist, the idea of visiting two parks in one day didn’t seem daunting. To maximize the time at the parks, I booked an on-site hotel which comes with extra park perks including Extra hour and Unlimited Express Pass.

A Sample Itinerary

Universal Studios

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride (Extra Hour)
    • We visited this attraction during the Extra Hour.  There was very little wait and we were done long before the 9AM park opening hours.
    • Tip:  Guests that can’t ride the attraction can still walk with the line to explore Gringotts and the props.  You can exit towards the end of the line, before the ride.  A couple of people did.
    • Also, items must be stored in lockers.

Escape from Gringotts in background

You know, staff at Gringotts.

  • Visit and walk around Diagon Alley (Extra Hour)
  • Men in Black interactive ride (that was a mistake, some of the spinning on the ride got me super dizzy)
  • Headliner 3D movie, Shrek (short wait, with Express Pass)
  • Transformers:  This was not on the shortlist, but we decided to make use of the Express Pass.  It reminded me of the Escape from Gringotts ride.  Already dizzy from the MIB ride, this was a dud for me.  More of the same 3D action ride.

I don’t know what he’s called, but he’s a good transformer.

  • Despicable Me:  On the shortlist but I passed on it. Long lines. We decided to do other things despite having the Express Pass.  I needed a break from the 3D rides.
  • ET attraction:  Easy in and out.  No wait time for us.
  • Live Shows:
    • Animal Actors on Location!
    • Horror Makeup Picture Show

Animal Actors on Location! Live show

We did all of the above in a fairly leisurely pace.  The Express Pass absolutely helped to get to the rides quickly.  We watched two live shows and even had time to snap pictures with characters (the Simpsons, Dora and Diego).  There was a short line to take pictures with Shrek and Donkey so we passed on it.  By the time we were done with the shortlist, it was only in the early afternoon (1:30pm ish).  We decided it was time to take the Hogwarts Express over to Island of Adventures and grab some lunch.

Island of Adventures

  • Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure

A well-known signage.

  • Had a relaxing lunch at the Three Broomsticks:
    • I wasn’t sure what to expect, but everything was orderly.  A staff takes you to a table after you picked up your order.
    • If you’ve been itching to try a Butterbeer, you can order at the restaurant.  (Tip: The Butterbeer is overrated, but it’s a novelty item.  If you must go for it, opt for the frozen Butterbeer. It tastes slightly better than the regular).

Frozen Butterbeer

  • Walked around the shops at Hogsmeade
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:  Still recovering from dizziness, I actually decided to skip this ride.
  • Checked out the Ollivanders Wand Shop:  It’s a short but cute performance.  We got in line just after another group had just gone in, so it was a good 10-15 minutes wait.
  • Wandered around the Jurassic Park area.  The weather was getting uncomfortably warm and crowd size has noticeably picked up.
  • Watched a good portion of the Triwizard Spirit Rally:  Martial arts and dancing demonstrations.  The performers did well.  It’s tough to be in costume and dancing/performing in the heat.

By the time we were done wandering (leisurely) around the park, it was well past 5pm.  Tired, we retreated back to the on-site hotel for a short break. We decided to come back for the light show after dusk. If we hadn’t stayed on-site, I’m not sure we would have headed back just to watch a 5-minute show.

It’s not fair to compare, but I must say that the Hogwarts Castle Light Show is not close to the caliber of Disney fireworks.  Still, it was a good light show and it was a lovely way to wrap up the visit to the parks.

Without looking it up online, can you tell which school is being featured in this picture?

Final Thoughts

Yes, it is totally possible to do two parks in one day, with plenty of time to spare.  That said, if you don’t have the Express Pass, the lines for some of the popular rides are long.  The wait will eat up your time at the parks.  So, either opt for the Express Pass, or temper your expectations and only focus on the select rides and attractions you want to see.


Others posts in the Universal Studios Series:

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Source: Travel Gadget Reviews

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