Best Day of the Week to Visit Universal Orlando Resort

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We at TouringPlans.com have long been fans of the Universal Orlando Resort. The entertainment value of the attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is on par with that of Walt Disney World, although some feel that the Universal parks lack the attention to detail that gives Mickey’s Kingdom that Disney Magic. Still, many of our readers venture off Disney property to experience the Universal attractions, especially since the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. When they do, they look to us for advice about when to go and how to beat the crowds.

Which days of the week are best for Universal Studios?

1. Sunday

According to Visit Orlando (Formerly the Orlando Visitors and Convention Bureau) Saturday is the most popular day of arrival for an Orlando vacation, which makes Sunday the first day in the parks for most visitors. The biggest draw for the first day is Orlando’s flagship theme park, Magic Kingdom. This is corroborated by the fact that Magic Kingdom has long been the park to host Evening Extra Magic Hours on Sundays. What this all means for Universal visitors is that Sunday is, by far, the best day to visit. Wait times are lowest on Sunday by a margin of 10-15%.

2. Monday

For the same reason that Sunday is a good choice for visiting Universal, Monday is your next best choice. Wait times will generally be lower on Mondays when compared to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

3. Saturday

Surprisingly, Saturdays are a relatively good choice for visiting Universal as well. Wait times on Saturdays are 5% lower than average. So a general rule of thumb for crowds at Universal Orlando is that weekends are a good time to visit.

Which days of the week are most crowded at Universal?

1. Thursday

With four parks to visit at the Walt Disney World Resort and with the most popular arrival day being Saturday I suppose it makes sense that the fifth day of the average trip, Thursday, is the most popular day to visit Universal. Wait times are significantly higher (15%) on average on Thursday. If you can avoid going on a Thursday, we certainly recommend doing so and picking another day.

2. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday

There is no discernible difference between the wait times on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. In general, wait times on these days will be about average.  If you cannot go to Universal on a Sunday, Monday or Saturday any of these three days will do.

These recommendations are based on wait times collected at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure since 2006. The recommendations are identical for both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. These recommendations are generalized over all days of data collected although the crowds may vary during any given day.

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Posted on July 24, 2011

37 Responses to “Best Day of the Week to Visit Universal Orlando Resort”

  • by Brian Noble on July 24, 2011, at 9:49 am EST

    How about that…I was just coming to look this up! I assume Sea World follows a similar pattern?

  • by Rob Stevens on July 24, 2011, at 10:31 am EST

    Thanks so much, Fred! Luckily, we’d already had Monday penciled in, so no more mucking around with the schedule! :)

  • Thanks for posting this. I was wondering which days would be the best to visit Universal, and I assumed that the weekends were the busiest, but this post explains why they aren’t. One thing you don’t mention though is how locals affect the wait times, wouldn’t they be more likely to visit at a weekend?

    • I am a local and what we like to do is go Sunday morning. Some days we have ridden 7 different things on either side of Universal by noon and are able to head out before it gets too crazy. We have Disney passes too and obviously mornings are best crowd-wise at every park but this seems to be more so the case at Universal. I would recommend an early start to your Universal day then enjoy a nice dinner away from the park.

      • I read on dan’s website that 10am – 3pm are the most busy at all parks. having said that, if it is a quiet day anyway then althugh 10-3 will be busier than rest of the day, it could still be quiet.

  • by Dennis heinle on July 24, 2011, at 11:38 am EST

    Thanks for posting this. We are headed to universal on our next trip in November. It just happens Sunday and Monday works perfect for us!

  • by Jackie Horvath on July 24, 2011, at 12:05 pm EST

    Thanks for posting this info. Just checked my schedule and am happy to see I already planned for a Sunday visit to Universal parks! Lucky planning :o)

  • by Cindy Turner on July 24, 2011, at 12:16 pm EST

    Hi Fred, does this plan hold true for the beginning of December as well, when most locals go on the weekends? Or is this just for the summer months when everyone converges on Florida? My family & I are heading down to WDW from Dec 5-12 and want to take in one day at Orlando Studios.

  • Cmon, try googling “statistics”. Fred means over an entire year. Just like their WDW data…it’s all relative. I believe his days a rule if thumb.

    • by Brian Noble on July 24, 2011, at 2:58 pm EST

      Of course special events play a role—e.g. HHN/Hell Weeks. Obviously, LeakyCon would be one of those.

      Weather plays a role too.

      But, absent special events, you may as well play the odds. That’s all this is, advice on playing the odds. More often than not, the odds are in your favor.

    • Thank you for your responses. I didn’t know about the events in Universal that cause large increases in crowd size. I am interested in going there in the future. Now I know that I need to research special events there, just like WDW. (I realize this makes me sound like a moron that I didn’t already realize that.)

  • Thanks for the info. This is helpful, but I’m sure I speak for others that we would love to see more detailed info for Universal like we do for Disney. My family go to both Universal & Disney (usually based on who has the best deal). If I lived close enough I would volunteer to help collect the data, but unfortunately I don’t.

  • I just want to say that as a local who has been going to Universal Studios for years now (a passholder for about 10 years now) I agree with Orlando Informer. I know what stats are (economics major), but I also have seen just how much Potter has changed the “standard” of crowd schedules. Orlando Informer has put together a very thoughtful, and I believe, important response.

  • Unless Touring Plans comes up with a Universal Parks crowd calander, this information is the best we have got. I must say that I have found the weekends to be a very pleasant time to tour the Universal Parks- even since the addition of the Wizarding World. It should be common sense that nobody is guaranteeing that your visit will be uncrowded. However, if you got to pick a day, you might as well pick a day that averages less crowded then others and then hope for the best.

  • Thanks for the insight. We are coming to Disney in August and plan to spend a Monday at Universal.

  • OrlandoInformer, you make some excellent points! This post was meant to be a general guideline for visitors to Universal Orlando Resort. Although the data come directly from 250,000+ wait times collected at Universal parks the results are NOT intended to be a hard and fast rule for how to beat the crowds. I absolutely agree that there are several other factors that you have to consider before deciding which is the best day. These results were posted for general interest.

    Incidentally, the results of this analysis are the same before and after the Wizarding World addition.

    Perhaps this is a good time to recite our TourignPlans.com motto. The number one single best way to beat crowds is to follow an optimal touring plan. Doing so is 5 times more effective than choosing the right day of the week. The best answer to the question “What day is best to go to Universal”? is “Any day, just get there at park opening and follow a touring plan”.

    Thanks for your great comments!

  • by Dennis Heinle on July 25, 2011, at 11:14 am EST

    So, where do I find a touring plan for Universal? Or do I even need one for the middle of November if we get there at opening? Or better yet stay on property?

  • I have been following the prices of Universals Express Plus Passes on the Universal website. I would assume that the days the passes cost more is because they are expecting higher crowds those days.
    For example of Sunday Aug 21 a pass for Islands of adventure is $39.99 while on Monday it is $25.99. That leads me to assume that Monday will be less busy than the Sunday???

    • I personally believe the express passes have somewhat of effect on attendance (just minor). I have been to the parks mostly off aseason and have stumbled upon numerous guest who decided to go Monday for the cheaper express pass. Most end up regretting their purchase. I find it a little amusing actually.

      Also I have personally found the express lines dont move as fast during moderate attendance on weekdays as it does weekends. It made me notice that on weekends the hulk might have 3 cars while on a weekday they may have one and only add another later on in the day. Oue wait went from the posted 5 mins to 25.

  • So I had a question about these recommendations. Why are they different than what is in the 2011 Unofficial Guide? On page 622 the Guide says Tuesdays are the best days for both Universal Studios and for Islands of Adventure. Thanks.

    • We have spent of lot of hours collecting wait time data in the parks since developing the recommendations for the 2011 Unofficial Guide. Also, at the time it was unclear what the affect of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would have on the crowds.

      Tuesdays are still a good choice! As many have mentioned above, make your choice not just from these general recommendations but also from the specific details of your travel dates.

  • We went to Universal this year on Mon Feb 14th (just so happened to be Valentine’s Day). Since this was pre-President’s day week, crowds were low and we were able to visit IOA and Universal all in one day. We also managed to ride Forbidden Journey 6 times. Highly recommend the Single Rider! Thanks Fred and all those at Touringplans for keeping us informed on those parks that we visit for one day when we can manage to leave Disney!

  • We will be in Orlando over Thanksgiving 2011 and are trying to choose between Thanksgiving morning (11/24) or Saturday morning (11/26) for our Harry Potter visit. We will not have early entry and there will only be 2 of us. Know it will be crowded, just trying to pick lesser of 2 evils! Thanks.

  • Another thing that would help when making touring plans for Universal would be if Universal would kindly post their park hours more than 4 months in advance. We’re are arriving in early Feb of 2012. As of this writing (10/27/2011), none of the Feb 2012 dates are posted, which make planning WDW dining reservations a little frustrating…

  • Our family is thinking of a combined spring break trip to both universal and disney. We have never been to either over Spring Break (4/8/12-4/15/12) TouringPlans.com crowd calendar for Disney so helpful, definitely looks like better to hit Disney at the end of the week. But what about Universal? Will it be an absolute zoo @ Easter? If yes, we may wait and go when our kids get out of school in June. Appreciate any feedback

  • I am so grateful for these comments! We are coming to Orlando in April and we were considering changing our plans to visit Universal on Sunday instead of our original day of Wednesday due to the advise originally given. I was a bit leery as I found out “grad bash” is that weekend with free concerts on Friday and Saturday and felt the park would still be inundated with hoards of teenagers on Sunday as well. After reading this very informative and “updated” blog, I think we will stick to visiting Universal on Wednesday and take our chances with crowd levels! (P.S. – I also subscribe to touringplans.com and have been reading their 2012 “Unoffical Guide” to prepare for our trip and would highly recommend it.)

  • by Chris Legg on May 3, 2012, at 12:14 am EST

    You have very good touring plans for the Disney parks. Can you direct me to a touring plan for the Universal parks. We are going over Labor Day week 2012. This will be our first time to Universal. Thanks.

  • Why are there no touring plans for Universal on touringplans.com, no app to be seen for it?? Is everything you have in the annual Beyond Disney book? Sounds like you know more… but I don’t see any links?

    Thanks!

  • I am member of touringplans.com. Are there Universal touring plans on the website or Lines?
    Thanks

  • I swear I saw a touring guide for Universal in one of the books. It even told about early entrance strategies. Any idea?

    • I used the IoA Touring Guide that’s found in the back of the book. We went on a Thursday in May and arrived just after the gate opened. My fiance and I rode everything several times, saw the shows, and had a wonderful time.

      Remember, it’s Islands of Drowning, and you will get wet.

  • Do you have a option to create a plan for universal and island ?

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