Which takes longer? USF or IOA?

My family is arriving from Australia after around 24 hours of travel, arriving in Orlando Friday 6pm December 7, 2018. We are planning to do Universal Florida on the Saturday and Sunday, then heading to WDW.

I fear that my teenage children might sleep-in on the Saturday after the long flights, so we would miss Rope Drop and potentially several hours of park time. Thus I am expecting the Saturday to be a shorter day.

Question: Should I make the shorter day USF or IOA?

One child likes Roller Coasters, the rest of us do not.

Park hours are 9a-8p both days. Crowd levels are:

  • Saturday: USF 3, IOA 4
  • Sunday: USF 2, IOA 3.

No Express Pass, not staying on-site, using 1-park-per-day tickets. Early admission on both days is IOA (which we can’t use).

My Touring Plan selections are showing 163 minutes of busy time for USF and 86 minutes of busy time for IOA, so that would suggest USF should be the longer day, but those timings are just attractions and don’t include time spent looking at Harry Potter areas.

So, I guess it’s a matter of which park needs more time and also which park would benefit the most from a Rope Drop on the Sunday?

So, do you think I should make the shorter day USF or IOA?

I think US takes less time to do than IOA, but I could be wrong. If I was choosing a shorter day (not hopping both), I would do US.

However, if you’re going to spend a lot of your time in HP areas (not just the rides), I would spend the time in US Diagon Alley more than IOA’s Hogsmeade. So, in that regard, US would need more time.

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Agree IoA is a bigger park (actually has more rides), but that Diagon Alley really must be experienced with limited crowds. IF you choose to do DA first in am…could easily spend 2h there (getting wand, doing wand things). But you could also do at end of night/evening. Saturday should be busy whichever park you do. IoA depends also on how much you want to ride the water rides…you’ll get soaked and should plan accordingly. Or you may plan to eliminate these if you don’t want to have to change clothes. It also depends on if you do shows and things…we generally don’t, so that eliminates lots of time from the USF plan.

I will say that there is a big difference in motion simulator rides and regular coasters…love regular coasters but get sick on simulator rides, especially repetitive simulator rides (think minions, Simpsons, both Harry potters, Spiderman). Factor in spacing these out if you might have issues. Due to motion simulator issues, I actually do limited rides at USF so can get thru that park pretty quickly (or repeat favorites like Rip Ride Rocket).

Diagon Alley is incredible. It’s huge and immersive and you could wander around for hours.

Hogsmeade is great, but it’s on a different scale. The Castle is stunning to look at, but that doesn’t take a long time. You get to see the inside while you’re queuing for Forbidden Journey.

Personally I prefer Escape from Gringott’s as a ride. The banking hall is visually stunning, but the Castle interior has a lot more to look at.


Are you planning on doing shows? Smaller, kiddie rides? These would impact which park I would say requires more time. But, in general, I would agree that IOA probably needs more time if you are going to try and do it all, but Diagon Alley demands more time to truly experience it.

I highly recommend getting park to park tickets, which eliminates the need to decide now which park to do which day. Plus, it allows you to experience Harry Potter and the Hogwart’s Express in a single “session”. You CANNOT ride Hogwart’s Express if you do not have park-to-park tickets.

We actually, overall, like Universal Studios more than Islands of Adventure, but it is hard to necessarily short-change one for the other.


i agree with park to park tix. it gives so much more flexibility and it’s great to be able to go back and forth b/w the HP attractions

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I think more time in US. If your kids are teenagers, US has more grown up rides. IOA has the Seuss area which I think is more little-kidish.

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Contrary to most of the answers here, I ALWAYS find IOA to be a quicker day. Yes, it is bigger and more walking, but I find I finish earlier in the day there. US seems to have more attractions packed in a smaller space. Maybe it depends on what you do but…I have visited Universal 3 times and have always gotten IOA done quicker than US. So I would choose IOA for your shorter, sleep-in day! (And welcome to America from Australia!)


I would recommend the Park to Park tickets.

I also recommend you check out this article https://orlandoinformer.com/universal/which-theme-park-is-better/ . It has information on everything, theming, children’s areas, food, thrill rides.

I only just found the orlandoinformer website but so far I am very impressed with the articles and pictures - there’s even an in-depth article on parking and transportation with pictures of everything! https://orlandoinformer.com/universal/parking-transportation#

I would also like to say I used to think I didn’t like roller coasters. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s and accompanying my sister’s family on their trip to WDW that I discovered my love of rollercoasters! My nephew has numerous disabilities but he loves the thrill rides and he needs help to ride them, getting on and getting off. So anyway, I accompanied him on Big Thunder Mountain Railway because I love him and at the time this was a once in a lifetime trip :slight_smile: And now I ride everything. Except Star Tours - Sean doesn’t like that one. So long story short - give the rides a chance - Hippogriff in IoA is a nice introduction, only a minute long I think. Here’s another article to give you food for thought https://www.tripsavvy.com/universal-orlando-guide-for-wimps-4164774

Have a great time!


I know you said 1 park tickets, but grab the park to park. One, now you don’t need to worry which one you picked… two, the express railway is awesome. It’s theming alone is amazing, then there is a ride!

Been three times since that was added, and I’m still more then happy to buy a park to park ticket

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