Universal Orlando is a large resort complex. It consists of two gated theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure with the CityWalk nighttime entertainment complex in between. There is literally something here for everyone! And so much to do that those visiting for a week would find plenty to keep them entertained. Nonetheless, if you have only one day it is still possible to see the highlights of either park.
Universal Studios Theme Park is Universal’s movie park. Guests at Universal Studios Florida have the opportunity to “Ride the Movies” as they go inside exciting scenes from some of Universal’s most well-known films. It would be physically impossible to see every single attraction in the course of one day, but armed with a touring plan, you will be able to see the majority of rides and shows.
When buying your Universal Studios tickets consider purchasing a Universal Express Pass. You will need one pass for each person in your party. The pass allows you “front of line access” (in reality, a separate, much shorter queue) to each major attraction once during the day. The price of the pass varies according to season and park capacity, but is worth the investment if you have only one day to visit. With an Express Pass, you can generally expect to wait no more than fifteen minutes in line, although this is never guaranteed.
Stay at a one of the hotels near Universal Studios and wake up early, at least 30 minutes prior to park opening. If you plan to purchase the Express Pass, you can do so at the Guest Services window located outside the park gates. You may also want to consider the Universal Meal Deal. The Meal Deal enables you to pay one reasonable price for a wristband that then entitles you to unlimited meals at a variety of counter service restaurants throughout the park. On each restaurant visit, you can get one entrée, one side, and one dessert, and you may visit as many times as you like. Add a refillable mug for unlimited fountain drinks. With the Meal Deal, you can stop whenever it is convenient for you.
Get a park map/show schedule when you arrive. You will want to partially plan your day around show times. Be sure not to overbook on shows; however, or you will miss the amazing rides. Exactly what you choose to see will, of course, be based on your individual interests. It can be difficult to make decisions based simply on the short park map descriptions, however, so here is a list to use as a jumping off point. Remember that this guide is simply this author’s opinion of the must-see attractions, and your own tastes may vary.
Shrek 4-D – An absolute must see attraction, whether or not you have seen the hit films. Be sure to read the signage on the walls in the preshow theater, which pokes good natured fun at Universal’s neighboring park down the street.
Revenge of the Mummy – Housed in the old Kongfrontation building, this high speed roller coaster takes you inside The Mummy’s tomb. The storyline is excellent and the coaster, while thrilling, is tame enough for anyone who meets the health requirements to enjoy. See if you can spot the Kong statue in the Treasure Room. Free lockers are provided just outside the entrance, and all bags and handheld items must be stored.
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue — Hosted by Beetlejuice himself, this campy and irreverent show turns four classic Universal Monsters into rock and roll stars. Catch this one at night if possible.
Jaws – This ride puts you in the water with the menacing shark himself. Definitely best at night, but worthwhile at any time of day. You will get wet and you may get soaked.
Fear Factor Live! — Based on the hit television series, this show gives you the chance to be in the middle of the action. If you are over 18, arrive an hour prior to showtime for a chance to audition. Compete in three physical stunts for real prizes. Or just sit back and watch the action from a great seat in the bleachers.
Men in Black – Compete with your friends for that elusive million point perfect score as you shoot aliens in a ride through the famous film.
Woody Woodpecker KidZone
Animal Actors on Location! — Thrill to the action with some of your favorite animal stars live on stage. Audience participation is an important part of the show, so raise your hand high in the air.
E.T. Adventure — Who doesn’t love E.T.? Enjoy this bicycle flight to E.T.’s home planet and watch the magic unfold.
Universal Horror Makeup Show — This hilarious and informative show takes you behind the scenes as you learn the secrets behind special effects makeup for legendary horror movies. The show is rated PG-13 for gore and sometimes crude humor.
Terminator 2:3D Battle Across Time – An amazing blend of live action, film, and special effects takes you inside the classic movie.
With an Express Pass, or without one on slower days, you should easily be able to visit all of the above listed attractions. You will probably be able to add some other attractions in as well. One of the best parts of a Universal Studios Orlando vacation is simply wandering through the park enjoying the various sets and backlot areas, so be sure to leave some time in your schedule for exploration. By working your way in a circle around the park, you will have a productive and enjoyable day.