Need major advice for Universal!

Ok, so my husband and I are taking our (blended) family to WDW for Christmas. We’ve decided to add one day to visit Universal at the end of our trip. This was a bit of an afterthought and now I know we should have planned for more than one day, but it’s done now and one day is all we have.

So I really need some recommendations on what to do. My husband and his two kids were there many years ago but my kids and I have never been. Kids ages are (24, 23, 18, 17, 15, 14, 14, 10).

Getting a one day park to park with Universal Express was going to be $350 per person which was a big no go for us after Disney, so I’m wondering if we should do the regular 1 day park to park pass or just do a one park pass since it will be crowded and we may not realistically be able to visit both parks.

I know basically nothing about Universal Studios or IOA, so I am really hoping you guys can shed some light. We don’t have any huge Harry Potter fans, but it seems like a waste to go and not be able to go to both HP worlds. Thoughts?

Also, what are the best attractions for our group. I checked out the ratings on here and they were pretty helpful, but I think I need to narrow things down if we’re going to try and visit two parks.

Is it even realistic to try both parks? I’ imagine we’ll be pretty darn tired at that point in our vacay, but I don’t want to waste the opportunity to see all things Universal because who knows when we’ll be able to do this kind of vacation again.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated! Thanks!


It will be quite subjective as to which park is the better park to visit. I do agree it will probably be so busy that you aren’t likely to be able to visit both parks fully. You might be able to hit highlights from both. So, then it depends on the kind of rides you are most interested in.

If I were to pick only ONE park to go to, it would be the Universal Side, but I could easily be swayed to the IOA side.

Top rides for us at Universal:

  • Rip Ride Rocket (which to me, is a better coaster than Hulk on the IOA side)
  • The Mummy
  • Men in Black (basically, like Buzz Lightyear at MK, but better/more fun.)
  • Gringott’s
  • The Simpson’s: The Ride
  • Despicable Me

BUT, here are the top rides at IOA:

  • Skull Island (Kong)
  • Hulk (though, again, not as fun as RRR)
  • Forbidden Journey
  • Spider-Man

Of course, there is more to do/see at both parks than what I’ve listed. Just showing my preference.

If you are only going to do one park, I would pick IOA. Forbidden Journey is my family’s favourite ride in all of Universal and Amazing Spiderman is a close second. Plus, my coaster lovers all prefer Hulk to Rip Ride Rocket.

If you can do both parks, I would try to pick 3 or so rides in each park that you think your family would like best, plus, of course, Hogwarts Express. Our picks in US would be Gringott’s, the Mummy and Men in Black.

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I think if you already know that you won’t be able to see everything, then no matter what choice you make, you won’t be disappointed. My family being big fans of Diagon Alley, would do Universal if only given a choice of one park. However, IOA is just as good as US, and if you have to pick a park in December, I would pick IOA because of the longer hours. Also, IOA is the only park with water rides, not sure if the weather is cooperating or not when you go, but they are fun. Also, Spider-Man, Hulk, Dr.Seuss land, Hogsmeade, JP, are all fun to enjoy and ride. I hope this helps.

This is going by the past spring hrs where IOA closed later than US.

Thanks everyone! This info is super helpful! I’m feeling like I have a pretty good grip on things and you all helped with that!

Also for what it’s worth, if your family likes water/thrill rides, my kiddos’ favorite rides in all of Universal were the two Popeye water rides (you get soaked on both) and Jurassic River, all at IOA.