Arriving Friday mid-day, what park would you do first?

Hi - we will be at Universal in early October, staying on site with Express passes. We arrive around noon on Friday, with Friday afternoon, Saturday & Sunday in the parks. We leave Monday for some quality time with the in-laws at that Mouse-themed park… We have 4-day Universal tickets, so technically we could return for a day the following weekend, just without express passes.

What order should do you think we should do the parks, given the late Friday arrival? I was thinking Studios first, then take the train to Islands when we are being ushered out for HHW.

Thanks for your help!

We would do IOA first because it’s got the best rides for older kids

But depends what you are looking for?

And would avoid going on Harry Potter rides that day but do all the other big rides. Then maybe just walk around the theming of the HP world in IOA and then get Hogwarts express to Universal and maybe do a ride or two on the way out of universal

Because I think HP world is best to do early with your early entry and fastpass

One tip is do olivanders first thing a even with express pass you have to queue for that later in the day

We did it before even going on a ride and were the only family in there and both are kids were automatically chosen to test the wands

It was like a personal VIP Experience for us

It works because everybody else is rushing for the rides

And the queues for the rides with express pass just after that are non existent anyway

You will do everything you want and more in a breeze due to your express passes and having 3 days there

You won’t need to go back without those passes - it won’t be as good if you do

Best rides IMO


Best restaurant in the park - Mythos (for lunch)

Best in Citywalk - cowfish although we really enjoyed Bob Marleys as well for the taste

Best Universal Hotel restaurant - we recommend the steak and lobster celebrity one in HRH (forget it’s name)

Reminder you need park hopper tickets to do hogwarts express

They are a must to get the most out of your stay IMO as every day you should park hop and do the best rides on the way in and on the way out

For the touring plan app focus on least walking rather than waiting as you won’t wait long for anything at all with fastpass

That’s what we did and it worked a treat

Thanks for the reply. The wife & I have been to Universal several times, but we have not taken the kids before. They are 5, 7 and 9. They are now tall enough for most of the rides, with a few exceptions.

After I posted this last night, we actually talked ourselves into the same plan you laid out. We will have “Grampy” with us on Saturday, so it will probably be good to get the thrill rides taken care of without him. He can watch the kids while we ride the couple things that the kids can’t. :slight_smile:

We do have park hopper tickets. Shades of Green has a terrific deal, 4 day, 3 park passes for the cost of about 2 days.

Thanks again!

So the thing I LOVE about Universal is that we did NO PLANNING. To put that into perspective - I plan like a fool at WDW. Hmmm I wonder why I now like Universal better - let me think.

So there are many ways to slice this pie (mmmm pie) and it come down to what you / your group likes and also the weather. The great thing is that that parks are SO CLOSE together - that you can change your mind no problem. Also - is Volcano Bay (or whatever it is called) part of your tickets - I think it is - so don’t forget about that.

Also the onsite hotels are VERY CLOSE so getting back to the hotel is not a hassle at all and the boats are always running.

A few thoughts

1 - You can do all the WATER rides - Jurasic park, Popeye’s, etc and then head back to the hotel if the weather is warm. I HIGHLY recommend that if these rides are on your list - you lump them all together (luckily they are all close together) at the end of your day and then not worry about drying off. They do have dryers - but there is a line and they are $$ and you still have soggy underbits. You WILL get wet - it doesn’t matter how much you close your eyes and grip tightly - you still get wet, soaked, drenched. But they are fun.

2 - The express pass is awesome - we didn’t plan a thing other than getting to HP first thing. Although now the Express Passes work there as well - so take advantage of it. We just started at one place and worked our way around. We didn’t want to do Sues Landing - but once we got there we did it and it was fun. With you age kids they will like it

3 - if you like a ride - ride it again. We did MIB like 4 times in a row (saw a lot of the plebes in line a few times - ha)

4 - we just started at point A (usually HB) and worked our way around the parks.

5 - Take Hogwarts Express both ways

6 - Try Mythos for a meal. Our first day we had lunch at Woody Woodpecker’s crap O’rama counter service - ok that wasn’t the name - but it should be. The next day we wondered into Mythos. OMG - what a difference - it was SO much nicer - and not any more expensive. Now this is not a quick in / quick out. Service was good - but not super fast. But it was a nice meal, reasonably priced and we had a moment to sit and talk as a family (yuck!!!). No it was nice and it is right outside of HP on the IOA side.

7 - Make time to meander - especially in HP. Go to Olivanders in Diagon Alley and do the wand ceremony (if the line isn’t too long). Grab Butterbeer soft serve and cop a squat on the steps and Muggle watch. ENJOY the atmosphere there. It is amazing. We actually did the LONDON STUDIOS tour (which was awesome) but kept comparing it to universal studios. In London you got to see the “real” stuff - but in US - you were in the middle of it all.

So a long winded answer to your short question.

To summarize - just follow your nose and enjoy the time with your kiddies.


Awesome reply, thanks.

Good idea about lumping the water rides together, than might be a good way to end the short day, and go directly to the pool at the resort. :slight_smile:

99% sure we are going to pass on Volcano Bay this trip. We are going on a Disney Cruise that week, so I think they’ll get their fill of water, and we are lucky enough to live near a huge water park back home. I know it won’t compare, but we can save that for next trip. Maybe we go and sneak a peek, or use that as a weekend activity AFTER returning from the cruise if we need it?

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One of the best things we have ever done in Orlando was a day at discovery cove

In case you’ve not done or thought about that yet

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have fun on the cruise - treat yourselves to PALO. Kiddies will LOVE the kid’s club (you will have wished you were a kid as well). But PALO is wonderful - get the lava cake (or better yet - get two!!)

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We brought swim trunks and cheap flip flops to IOA and changed into them before we rode the three water rides. There are lockers and bathrooms nearby that make changing very easy to do. You can put all of your things in the locker and then enjoy being utterly drenched. Seriously, there is no other water ride that can prepare you for the level of soaking you will get on Bilge Rat Barges!


they literally tell you ten time - you won’t get wet - you will get drenched - people still ask “will I get wet” :frowning:

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I’m going to offer some advice somewhat against what other people have told you. First of all, if you have a huge interest in Harry Potter, you may actually want to devote that entire first day to doing only Harry Potter things. The express pass should help you to be able to do it no matter the time of day. Every time I take a trip, I arrive around noon and spend my entire first day covering all the Harry Potter things in both parks. If you don’t want to do that, I would start with Universal Studios because they will be closing earlier than Islands of Adventure due to Halloween Horror Nights, and, as you pointed out, you can just do Islands of Adventure after Universal Studios closes.

Do you not think that a guest staying onsite in the Hotel’s should take advantage of being in HP each morning they are there when the have the early entry

I realise they won’t see everything in those first hours each day

But by having done most of the other rides on the first day outside of HP they can keep visiting HP first get hogwarts across and back etc but then pick up second rides on their favourite rides outside HP on their way back to their hotel etc?

Personally, I have found the HP areas to be extremely congested during EE, as everyone staying onsite is going to those same areas. When I went in July two years ago, I waited longer for FJ during EE than I did the entire rest of my trip. Of course, with those rides now accepting EP, that could be a game-changer. But I have always had the most luck in HP areas at the end of the day, not the beginning.

Also, because I am a huge HP fan, I like the idea of an entire half of a day dedicated to staying within the Wizarding World. It’s like its own little bubble and you can get lost in the details.

That having been said, to each his own. Our family has always been the type to close a park, so late is our time, anyway! :slight_smile:

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Virtually no queues at all with express pass in the first hour and you can walk straight in Olivanders if you do that first

But for sure by the end of the first hour HP world’s are full or people as many do head their first (onsite guests and normal guests)

But we blitz the rides look in some of the shops etc each morning then head elsewhere

You can get a lot done in those early hours in the mornings with express pass and get in the shops and out again

But we always head back to the other HP world again at some stage during the day on one of the trains and do a bit more there before we leave the park in the afternoon

Staying on site we do the parks in the morning, pools to recharge in the afternoons and often back in the parks in the evenings

It’s all so easy with the Hotel express passes

In fact I remember now that in July when we were there this year other parts of the park weren’t open before 9am. We actually tried to come out of HP before 9am and go elsewhere on our touring plan but the half of the park we wanted to go to was cordoned off to us so we went back in??

Thanks for the reply. I would say our interest level in HP is not “Huge.” The wife and I aren’t fans, but our oldest son is a huge fan, middle son is reading the books and youngest daughter likes it because they do.

That being said, we’ll probably take advantage of early entry to walk around and at least be positioned in the park early. :slight_smile:

My wife and I have been, and I will say that Diagon alley was pretty empty in the time leading up to HHW. (which we won’t be doing this year… BOO!)

I’ll reply to this thread an let everyone know! Less than a month away!

I do like the EP at universal so much, I am thinking that we may be able to play it by ear. Meaning, the kids will probably want to see HP stuff immediately. If so, we will. If not, we won’t.

Definitely will hit IOA the first night, though, which was what I wanted to learn from this thread in the first place. (THANKS)

We are also the type to close the park. My wife likes to get “value for the money.” I just don’t want to get back to reality any time soon.

Thanks. Great point about blitzing the morning and pool mid day.
Can’t wait!

You will have an amazing time, no matter what you do! I hope you have a fantastic trip. I will be there October 21 through 24, so I won’t be far behind you!

You’ve got universal fast passes - you can’t go wrong whatever you choose to do

Hope you love it all as much as we did!!

Don’t miss the ice cream parlour in HP world - the ice cream is incredible

I recommend the salted caramel and the apple crumble!