New Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plans

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Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans

2½ hours is considered a moderate wait at Gringotts! Be prepared with our new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

If you are planning to devote a day of your vacation to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll quickly discover that there is more to do at Universal Orlando’s park than can be covered in dozen hours. We’ve had a great response to our recently published Diagon Alley touring plan and one day/two park touring plans, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. But an even better way to experience everything Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure has to offer is with these new Universal Orlando two day/two park touring plans.

The good news for guests just now getting to Gringotts is that the ride is running much more reliably and with greater capacity than only a couple weeks ago; as a result, standby wait times are peaking in the morning at half their former 450-minute high-water, and dropping to 120 or less by late afternoon. There is still a rush to Diagon Alley every morning, resulting in a queue to enter London for early arrivers. But the return time tickets are rarely needed any more, and crowd control barricades around the area have been vanishing by lunchtime.

Note that these new two-day/two-park touring plans have been optimized to account for the recent reduction in operating hours, and should scale well with diminishing crowds as hours are reduced further this fall. As always, we’ll continue refining our plans using the latest data, and subscribers can edit and evaluate them for themselves by personalizing a copy of our premium plans. (Be sure to look for a link to Part 2 at the top of the plan, and make a copy of each part.)

These plans are designed for guests purchasing park-to-park tickets; those with single-park tickets should use our one-day/one-park plans. Also, while the plans are labeled “day 1″ and “day 2″ they may be used in any order; general admission guests who are eager to ride Gringotts may want to use day 2 first.

 

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for Early Entry

For visitors whose top touring priority is Harry Potter (or anyone who wants to experience Gringotts with less than a 2 hour wait), our #1 suggestion is to stay at an onsite hotel in order to secure early entry into the Wizarding World. This perk, which allows you inside select areas of the parks an hour before the general public, is worth its weight in goblin gold, especially since Universal Express passes (given free to guests of the 3 upscale onsite properties) aren’t valid for the Forbidden Journey or any new Diagon Alley attractions. It is also possible to book an offsite hotel package through Universal Vacations that includes early entry, but you’ll pay a premium for the privilege, and have to contend with getting to the resort early enough to make it worthwhile.

Early Entry is available to all eligible guests every morning at both parks, with no restrictions (at this time) on which hotel guests can get into Diagon Alley on any given day. The only attractions operating during the Entry Entry hours are the Wizarding World rides (including the Hogwarts Express), plus Despicable Me at USF and Cat in the Hat at IoA. [Note: On days when one park opens an hour before the other, the Hogwarts Express doesn't begin running until Early Entry starts at the second park.]

As a result, a substantial proportion of the guests in Universal’s 4000 hotel rooms descend upon Diagon Alley and Gringotts as soon as the gates open. Therefore, if you want to participate in Early Entry, you must be on a bus or boat as soon as the resort transportation begins operating, 2 hours prior to official park opening.

Note that this plan is designed for guests without Express passes, such as those staying at Cabana Bay. Guests staying at the three luxury hotels with free Express access will be able to deviate freely from the touring plan after completing the early entry steps, and should encounter minimal waits at most attractions.

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for Early Entry Day 1

  1. Secure your park admission at least the day before your visit, either online or at your hotel’s ticket sales desk.
  2. Be waiting for the first bus or boat from your hotel, which should depart 120 minutes before the published public opening time. If you are staying at the Hard Rock Hotel it is quickest to walk via the path from the main pool.
  3. Arrive at the front gates of Universal Studios Florida at least 110 minutes before the published public opening time, or 50 minutes before early entry begins.
  4. Line up at the shortest available turnstile queue; ask a team member if you’re unsure which ones will be open.
  5. Once admitted to the park, proceed straight past Despicable Me, showing your hotel room key card to the employees stationed there. You will be held near the Shrek attraction, then walked through World Expo to the queue outside Fear Factor Live. Be cautious while walking; barricades near Simpsons and MEN IN BLACK serve as “pinch points” and can be hard to see through the moving crowd until you are pushed up against them.
  6. Enter London through the gateway outside Grimmauld Place, and approach the entrance to Diagon Alley, disguised as the Leicester Square subway station.
  7. Once inside Diagon Alley, if Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is operating, get in line for the ride. You may be diverted to the right through Carkitt Market to avoid congesting the main thoroughfare; otherwise, make a beeline for the bank below the fire-breathing dragon.
  8. By the time you exit Gringotts, Early Entry should be nearly over. Exit Diagon Alley towards King’s Cross Station, then cross through San Francisco towards the front of the park.
  9. Get to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit just as the park is officially opening and be among the first to ride it.
  10. Exit Rockit towards the central lagoon and ride Transformers.
  11. Turn left out of Transformers to New York and ride Revenge of the Mummy.
  12. After exiting the Mummy, walk back towards Diagon Alley and continue past it to ride MEN IN BLACK.
  13. Head straight out of the MEN IN BLACK gift shop to The Simpsons Ride.
  14. Exit Springfield to the left and continue towards the front of the park to Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. This will be a long wait, but it isn’t much better minutes after opening, and won’t drop significantly until closing time.
  15. Return to Springfield and have an early lunch at Fast Food Boulevard. If you prefer a sit-down meal, try Finnegan’s in New York.
  16. Bear left out of Springfield into Kidzone, and experience The E.T. Adventure.
  17. Exit E.T. to the left and continue clockwise around the lagoon to San Francisco in time for the next showing of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up. (Switch with the next step if showtime is imminent.)
  18. See the nearby Disaster! before or after the Beetlejuice show, depending on the time.
  19. Return to the London waterfront area and ride the Hogwarts Express train to Islands of Adventure. If using Lines, switch to Part 2 of this plan.
  20. Head left from Hogsmeade Station through the Lost Continent, and explore Seuss Landing.
  21. Ride the Seuss Trolley.
  22. Ride the Caro-Seuss-el.
  23. Ride One Fish Two Fish.
  24. Ride The Cat in the Hat.
  25. Cross through Port of Entry to Marvel Super Hero Island and ride Storm Force Accelatron.
  26. Walk through Toon Lagoon on your way to Jurassic Park.
  27. Explore Camp Jurassic and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.
  28. Return to Lost Continent in time for a late afternoon showing of the Sinbad Stunt Show (or feel free to skip it).
  29. Spent some time chatting with the Mystic Fountain outside Sinbad stadium.
  30. Enter Hogsmeade and ride the Dragon Challenge if you dare.
  31. Have dinner at The Three Broomsticks.
  32. After dinner, explore the shops and windows of Hogsmeade.
  33. Ride Fight of the Hippogriff.
  34. Following your flight, walk next door to Hogwarts Castle and brave the Forbidden Journey inside. If this is not your first ride on Forbidden Journey, use the single rider line. Alternatively, request a “castle tour” to experience the queue, then exit or ask to transfer to singles.
  35. Enjoy the evening atmosphere in Hogsmeade, and explore the hidden details of the islands as you exit.

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for Early Entry Day 2

  1. Arrive at the front gates of Islands of Adventure at least 75-90 minutes before the published public opening time, or 15-30 minutes before early entry begins.
  2. Line up at the shortest available turnstile queue; ask a team member if you’re unsure which ones will be open.
  3. Follow team members directions through Seuss Landing to Hogsmeade, and ride Forbidden Journey again.
  4. Ride Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff again if you want.
  5. Return to the front of the park before official park opening, and ride The Incredible Hulk roller-coaster.
  6. Continue through Marvel Super Hero Island and experience The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
  7. Backtrack to ride Doctor Doom’s Fearfall using the single rider entrance in the arcade.
  8. Walk to Toon Lagoon and ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
  9. Assuming you want to get even wetter, ride Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.
  10. Enter Jurassic Park and complete the soaking series with the River Adventure.
  11. Cross the bridge to Lost Continent (or cut through Hogsmeade if it is closed) and see Poseidon’s Fury.
  12. Eat lunch at Mythos (make reservations in advance at opentable.com).
  13. After lunch ride the Hogwarts Express back to Universal Studios Florida, and switch to Part 2 of this day’s plan.
  14. Check the scheduled times for the Blues Brothers Show, Animal Actors, and Horror Make-Up Shows. Try to arrange to see all three, with the last performance starting around 5 p.m.
  15. Between the shows, see Twister, Shrek 4-D and Terminator 2.
  16. Return to Diagon Alley and explore the shops and sights, starting with Olivanders Wand Shop, and wait for the show inside. The experience is virtually identical to the annex found in Hogsmeade, but there are three performance spaces so the line should moves at triple the pace; you should rarely wait more than 10 minutes for a show. After the show, purchase an interactive wand if you want to play with the magical effects hidden around the Wizarding World.
  17. At a shop in Carkitt Market you can exchange your Muggle money for Wizarding bank notes, which may be spent throughout the resort. The interactive animatronic goblin in the queue makes this literally the world’s most entertaining and elaborate cash grab; the wait here is usually around 15 minutes.
  18. Head down Horizont Alley to find the entry to Knockturn Alley. Explore the shop Borgin & Burkes, and the other dark corners concealed therein. Be sure to look at the map that came with your interactive wand under the blacklight in here to discover hidden messages.
  19. Browse the other shops in Diagon Alley, starting with Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, Magical Menagerie, and Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. There may be queues for most of the stores, but you should be able to enter Wiseacre’s Wizarding Supplies at any time, since it serves as the exit to Gringotts.
  20. Be on the lookout for two live shows performing throughout the day. One is a musical appearance by magical jazz songstress Celestina Warbeck; the other is a reenactment of the “Three Brothers” fable from The Tales of Beedle the Bard (as seen in the seventh film), retold with Michael Curry-designed puppets. Showtimes are not posted, but the acts should alternate every half hour on the hour and half.
  21. Have dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. Eat an early meal to avoid crowds, but even at peak times the line moves swiftly.
  22. If you want ice cream for dessert, grab a scoop from Florean Fortescue’s. You may also want to try the elixir powders and gillywater sold in Carkitt Market, or the specialty beers and non-alcoholic cocktails at the Fountain of Fair Fortune and Hopping Pot.
  23. If you want another ride on Gringotts, get in the single rider queue before it closes for the night. This may happen as early as 2 or 3 hours before park closing, depending on how long the standby queue is.
  24. Once you’ve exhausted the entertainment in Diagon Alley, exit into London. Chat with the Knight Bus conductor and his shrunken heads on your way out of Diagon Alley. Also look for Kreacher in the window of 12 Grimmauld Place, and dial 62442 (MAGIC) in the red telephone booth.
  25. Revisit any attractions outside Diagon Alley that you skipped earlier or wish to repeat.
  26. Find a spot along the lagoon to watch the Cinematic Spectacular show five or ten minutes before the performances. Good vantage points can be found near London, Beetlejuice, Transformers, and in Central Park.
Crowded Gringotts Queue

A good Touring Plan may mean the difference between standing in this…

 

Empty Gringotts Queue

…or this!

 

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for General Admission

Diagon Alley will already be full of early entrants no matter what time offsite guests arrive. Early birds without Early Entry should therefore avoid the herd heading to queue outside London, and instead take advantage of lower waits in the rest of the park while saving Potter for the evening.

Note that this plan is designed for guests without Express passes. It therefore requires a lot of “bouncing around” and criss-crossing the park in order to stay ahead of the building standby queues. Guests who purchase Express access will be able to deviate freely from the touring plan after completing the early entry steps, and should encounter minimal waits at most attractions.

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for General Admission Day 1

  1. Secure your admission ticket before arriving at the resort, preferably online. If you purchased tickets though universal’s website, you may use a credit card to retrieve your tickets from the automated will-call kiosks outside the entrance. Whatever you do, don’t waste time on the morning of your visit lining up at the ticket booths.
  2. Arrive at the front gates of Universal Studios Florida at least 30 to 45 minutes before the published public opening time. Leave at least 15 to 20 minutes to park your car and walk through CityWalk from the parking garage.
  3. Line up at the shortest available turnstile queue.
  4. Once admitted to the park, the majority of day guests will turn right down Hollywood Boulevard to await entry to Diagon Alley. Instead, proceed straight past Despicable Me and ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit as soon as the attraction opens.
  5. Exit Rockit towards the central lagoon and ride Transformers.
  6. Turn left out of Transformers to New York and ride Revenge of the Mummy.
  7. After exiting the Mummy, walk back towards Diagon Alley and continue past it to ride MEN IN BLACK.
  8. Head straight out of the MEN IN BLACK gift shop to The Simpsons Ride.
  9. Exit Springfield to the left and continue towards the front of the park to Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. This will be a long wait, but it isn’t much better minutes after opening, and won’t drop significantly until closing time.
  10. Return to Springfield and have an early lunch at Fast Food Boulevard. If you prefer a sit-down meal, try Finnegan’s in New York.
  11. Bear left out of Springfield into Kidzone, and experience The E.T. Adventure.
  12. Exit E.T. to the left and continue clockwise around the lagoon to San Francisco in time for the next showing of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up. (Switch with the next step if showtime is imminent.)
  13. See the nearby Disaster! before or after the Beetlejuice show, depending on the time.
  14. Return to the London waterfront area and ride the Hogwarts Express train to Islands of Adventure. If using Lines, switch to Part 2 of this plan.
  15. Head left from Hogsmeade Station through the Lost Continent, and explore Seuss Landing.
  16. Ride the Seuss Trolley.
  17. Ride the Caro-Seuss-el.
  18. Ride One Fish, Two Fish.
  19. Ride The Cat in the Hat.
  20. Cross through Port of Entry to Marvel Super Hero Island and ride Storm Force Accelatron.
  21. Walk through Toon Lagoon on your way to Jurassic Park.
  22. Explore Camp Jurassic and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center.
  23. Return to Lost Continent in time for a late afternoon showing of the Sindbad Stunt Show (or feel free to skip it).
  24. Spent some time chatting with the Mystic Fountain outside Sindbad stadium.
  25. Enter Hogsmeade and ride the Dragon Challenge if you dare.
  26. Have dinner at The Three Broomsticks.
  27. After dinner, explore the shops and windows of Hogsmeade.
  28. Ride Fight of the Hippogriff.
  29. Following your flight, walk next door to Hogwarts Castle and brave the Forbidden Journey inside. If this is not your first ride on Forbidden Journey, use the single rider line. Alternatively, request a “castle tour” to experience the queue, then exit or ask to transfer to singles.
  30. Enjoy the evening atmosphere in Hogsmeade, and explore the hidden details of the islands as you exit.

Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plan for General Admission Day 2

  1. Arrive at the front gates of Islands of Adventure at least 30-45 minutes before the published public opening time.
  2. Line up at the shortest available turnstile queue; ask a team member if you’re unsure which ones will be open.
  3. Follow team members directions through Port of Entry to the left, and ride The Incredible Hulk roller-coaster.
  4. Continue through Marvel Super Hero Island and experience The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
  5. Backtrack to ride Doctor Doom’s Fearfall using the single rider entrance in the arcade.
  6. Walk to Toon Lagoon and ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
  7. Assuming you want to get even wetter, ride Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.
  8. Enter Jurassic Park and complete the soaking series with the River Adventure.
  9. Ride Forbidden Journey again, using the single rider line.
  10. Ride Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff again if you want.
  11. Cross the bridge to Lost Continent (or cut through Hogsmeade if it is closed) and see Poseidon’s Fury.
  12. Eat lunch at Mythos (make reservations in advance at opentable.com).
  13. After lunch ride the Hogwarts Express back to Universal Studios Florida, and switch to Part 2 of this day’s plan.
  14. Check the scheduled times for the Blues Brothers Show, Animal Actors, and Horror Make-Up Shows. Try to arrange to see all three, with the last performance starting around 5 p.m.
  15. Between the shows, see Twister, Shrek 4-D and Terminator 2.
  16. Return to Diagon Alley and explore the shops and sights, starting with Olivanders Wand Shop, and wait for the show inside. The experience is virtually identical to the annex found in Hogsmeade, but there are three performance spaces so the line should moves at triple the pace; you should rarely wait more than 10 minutes for a show. After the show, purchase an interactive wand if you want to play with the magical effects hidden around the Wizarding World.
  17. At a shop in Carkitt Market you can exchange your Muggle money for Wizarding bank notes, which may be spent throughout the resort. The interactive animatronic goblin in the queue makes this literally the world’s most entertaining and elaborate cash grab; the wait here is usually around 15 minutes.
  18. Head down Horizont Alley to find the entry to Knockturn Alley. Explore the shop Borgin & Burkes, and the other dark corners concealed therein. Be sure to look at the map that came with your interactive wand under the blacklight in here to discover hidden messages.
  19. Browse the other shops in Diagon Alley, starting with Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, Magical Menagerie, and Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. There may be queues for most of the stores, but you should be able to enter Wiseacre’s Wizarding Supplies at any time, since it serves as the exit to Gringotts.
  20. Be on the lookout for two live shows performing throughout the day. One is a musical appearance by magical jazz songstress Celestina Warbeck; the other is a reenactment of the “Three Brothers” fable from The Tales of Beedle the Bard (as seen in the seventh film), retold with Michael Curry-designed puppets. Showtimes are not posted, but the acts should alternate every half hour on the hour and half.
  21. Have dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. Eat an early meal to avoid crowds, but even at peak times the line moves swiftly.
  22. If you want ice cream for dessert, grab a scoop from Florean Fortescue’s. You may also want to try the elixir powders and gillywater sold in Carkitt Market, or the specialty beers and non-alcoholic cocktails at the Fountain of Fair Fortune and Hopping Pot.
  23. Get in line for Gringotts before the doors close for the night. This may happen as early as 2 or 3 hours before park closing, depending on how long the standby queue is.
  24. Once you’ve exhausted the entertainment in Diagon Alley, exit into London. Chat with the Knight Bus conductor and his shrunken heads on your way out of Diagon Alley. Also look for Kreacher in the window of 12 Grimmauld Place, and dial 62442 (MAGIC) in the red telephone booth.
  25. Revisit any attractions outside Diagon Alley that you skipped earlier or wish to repeat.
  26. Find a spot along the lagoon to watch the Cinematic Spectacular show five or ten minutes before the performances. Good vantage points can be found near London, Beetlejuice, Transformers, and in Central Park.

 

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Posted on July 31, 2014

11 Responses to “New Universal Orlando Two Day/Two Park Touring Plans”

  • …and this is why I’m waiting until 2016 before visiting the newly expanded Wizarding World.

  • Great info! I wish you guys would do an article on which rides have what drops, similar to the one you did on the Disney side of things. As a Disney fan, I know that Space Mountain is a “no” for me, but Thunder Mountain is a big “yes!” I plan to visit the Universal this fall for the first time and need to know what to skip!

  • I’m a little confused, I always assumed both parks would participate in early opening (every day) for onsite resort guests. What is going on???

    • Both parks do participate in early entry every day, but the operating calendar has USF opening an hour after IOA. Therefore USF will starting early entry at the same time that IOA is completeing theirs and opening to the public.
      I expect this staggered opening to be a test, hopefully short term.

  • What about those with more than two days? We are staying five days in last week in August. I had thought we wouldn’t bother with early entry, my plan was to go to parks right after lunch, ride non HP attractions in the afternoon (as we are staying at Portofino we will have front of line, so there shouldn’t be waits). And then do dinner and after dinner rides in the HP areas, as by then the lines will have dissipated. Do you think this will work?

  • Think the plan will work OK if we flip days 1 and 2? I don’t think we’re going to get in early enough on the first day, then we’re spending the night at Cabana Bay so we should be able to get there by opening the next morning. Should we do the “General Admission” plan instead? Thoughts?

    • These plans were designed for 2 full days in the park, from open to close. If you can only do early entry on one day and want to ride Gringotts, use it at USF.
      Depending on how late on the 1st day you are arriving, you may want to use a 1 day plan instead for your full day.

      • Thanks. We’re taking a shuttle from the Wilderness Lodge, but the earliest shuttle is 7:15am so I don’t think we’ll be able to get to the parks for early opening unless we’re REALLY lucky and check-in is quick. Either way, we should be able to get in reasonably early that first day.

  • What do you think of this plan? We are staying at HRH the second weekend in January. On Saturday (I think this will be the busiest park day during our visit) we will arrive at Studios for early admission and plan to go directly to the Hogwart’s Express and ride over to IOA and spend the day there since Forbidden Journey is a constantly loading ride so hopefully when we get there the wait won’t be too long. On the next day, Sunday, we will be there for early admission at the Studios and go directly to Escape from Gringott’s and spend as much time as we want in Diagon Alley. We also have a half park day on Monday and will probably go back to Studios and spend even more time in the newer area etc.. I was curious as to how the lines/crowds are for Hogwart’s Express if you try to ride it after spending a few hours in the respective Harry Potter area? I hope this post makes sense.

    • There should be no need to ride Hogwarts Express first thing, it usually has little to no line until afternoon, and rarely goes above 45-60 minutes at worst. If you want to ride FJ during early entry, go straight to IOA and ride the Express later.