Home to the blockbuster holiday, Universal Orlando Resort draws in 22 million thrill seekers each year. Even our colleague, Chris, couldn't resist the call to adventure in the summer of 2022...
Learn more in this guide, including how to complete both Universal Orlando Resort theme parks in one day!
Determined to find the ultimate thrill, like a mad scientist he tracked his heartbeat on every ride and chronicled his every move at Universal Orlando Resort with Gru-like precision - all so that you could discover the most heart-pounding highs.
Know Before You Go
Squeezing two Universal Orlando Resort parks into one day is not as easy as it sounds. But having some insider knowledge can make all the difference. Here's how to maximise your Universal experience with Chris' advice.
Stay in a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel
As a Universal guest, you’ll receive exclusive theme park benefits. This includes free transportation to and from theme parks and breezing into them before everyone else with Early Park Admission - including to attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
A precious hour before the general public, you can roam on your favourite rides before the crowds begin to gather. I suggest using this time to head to the most sought-after attractions, like Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ - the queues are only a few minutes wait!
Grab a Universal Express Pass
When you stay at a Premier Universal hotel, you get Free Universal Express Unlimited, which means you can skip the regular queues at the most popular attractions. It’s available at all of Universal’s parks, aside from Volcano Bay
. If you're not staying at a Premier Universal Hotel, it's still worth getting to take the sting out of long waits. It can shave off more than half the queue time, which is very handy if you're determined to take on the most popular attractions.
Get there early
It's important to note that while you benefit from Early Theme Park entry, all guests of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels also enjoy this privilege. To ensure you make the most of your morning and have the opportunity to explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ without the crowds, it's best to arrive early and be among the first to enjoy the free reign. If you want to get a head start on the crowds then we'd recommend joining the queue about 45 to 60 minutes before the park opens at 8am for early access.
A lot of the rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure involve more twisting and turning and "upside-downing" than those at Walt Disney World. This means that you can't typically take bags on rides. Instead, for most rides you have to put bags in a locker. Small bags can be stored for free, but larger bags cost between $2 to $3 per locker. With this in mind, I advise packing light for the day.
Start the day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
If there’s one thing you can rely on, it's afternoon rainfall showers in Orlando. Due to Orlando’s heat and humidity, grey clouds hover over the world’s theme park capital in the late afternoon, providing a refreshing break from the heat. For this reason, it’s best to begin your day with adrenaline-pumping coasters at Universal’s Islands of Adventur
e, which is primarily outdoors. Then, when the rain rolls in, you can seek refuge in Universal Studios Florida's
indoor rides, which feature cutting-edge graphics and visual effects to keep you entertained and dry.
Use the Hogwarts Express between parks
This is an absolute must! Journey on the Hogwarts Express for an immersive train ride, watching your wizarding friends riding broomsticks on the screened windows as you connect between Universal Orlando’s parks. Remember that you need a Park-to-Park ticket to board the Hogwarts Express to travel between Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. And that while thoroughly entertaining, the Hogwarts Express is also a handy commute between the two parks, allowing you more time to explore.
Chris’ Morning at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Using the lingering jetlag to my full advantage, I woke up bright and early, ready to face a day of adventure and buzzing excitement. Having boarded the water taxi from Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
I was standing at the gates of Islands of Adventure by 7:15am with a group of other eager people as the queues were 10 deep already.
8:00 am - Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™
As soon as the gates opened, everyone headed to Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. It's a 10-minute brisk walk and luckily there it was just a 5-minute wait to get onboard. Get ready to hop on the motorbike, hold on tight, and be catapulted across the track with twists and turns and speed bursts of up to 50 miles per hour. The liberating weightlessness of a 17-foot drop before propelling 65 feet into the air - only to be pulled backwards - accelerated my heart rate to 95 beats per minute. It’s a ride of unexpected thrills and an electrifying adventure. I loved it so much that I wanted to do it all over again. Alas as soon as I came out the queue was already up to 70 minutes at 815am! Time to move on...
8:30 am - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™
Continuing to benefit from the Early Park Admission with only a 10-minute wait, next on my itinerary was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. Unlike the fast-paced previous coaster, this simulation ride spins, twists, and reclines 90 degrees, so you’re lying flat on your back. While incredibly absorbing, the thrill factor peaked at 80 beats per minute. Nevertheless, I'd recommend this immersive experience through Hogwarts Castle, which will leave you feeling like you’re flying high.
8:55 am - VelociCoaster
Taking full advantage before the crowds descended, I hastened to the nearby Jurassic Park to brave the highly-anticipated VelociCoaster. Eager to experience this award-winning roller coaster, the result speaks for itself. Measuring a skyrocketing heart-racing 120 beats per minute, VelociCoaster launches you 155 feet into the air before nosediving 140 feet at a hair-raising speed of 70 miles per hour. You’ll zoom, glide, and even spin upside down, feeling the incredible G-force of this powerful launch coaster.
9:30 am - Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Staying put in Jurassic Park, I wondered how the dramatic animatronic effects of Skull Island: Reign of Kong would affect my heart rate. I eagerly boarded the expedition vehicle, ready to explore the uncharted territory of Skull Island with my 3D/4D goggles securely fastened. The fear factor was intense, with a colossal King Kong battling dinosaurs within mere feet of the vehicle. A combination of digital and physical effects, the ride is wildly popular for its theatrics, raising my heart rate to 90 beats per minute.
9:45 am - The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®
I then made my way to Marvel Super Hero Island® to join Spider-Man on his web-swinging adventures in New York City. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man® simulator ride provided an immersive experience that made it feel like I was soaring through the city skyline. While it was entertaining, with a heart rate of 80 beats per minute, this classic ride didn't quite reach the same level of excitement as some of the other, newer attractions.
10:00 am - The Incredible Hulk Coaster®
Feeling prepared for my next surge of adrenaline, The Incredible Hulk Coaster® exceeded my expectations. Benefitting from my Universal Express Pass, I only waited 5 minutes, as opposed to 25 minutes. Whipping around countless bends and inversions, the G-Force is powerful, with speeds up to 67 miles per hour. As a result, my heart rate climbed to 91 beats per minute.
After two hours of non-stop fun, I figured it was time for a little roller coaster siesta. I took a leisurely stroll around the park to hunt for the perfect souvenirs. But who am I kidding? The lure of the coasters was too strong to resist. And before I knew it, I was back on VelociCoaster, my heart pumping at a respectable 115 beats per minute. I then decided it was time for another break and to search for food and restore my energy levels for the afternoon.
Chris’ Afternoon at Universal Studios Florida
In true Orlando fashion, the weather turned in the afternoon, so I was relieved that I’d experienced the outdoor attractions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Let’s find out how thrilling Universal Studios Florida rides are…
12:10 pm - Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
To start my afternoon adventure, I decided to whet my appetite with two motion simulations, the first of which was the delightfully bonkers banana land of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Eager to transform into a cheeky Minion, the mischievous yellow creatures took me on a journey through the streets and skies of Gru’s world. And with a heart rate of 85 beats per minute, it was an entertaining and enjoyable quest and a perfect ride for the younger crowd.
12:45 pm - Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
My curiosity then took over me, wanting to journey through the Big Apple with the Tonight Show anchor, Jimmy Fallon. Again, my Universal Express Pass came in handy, cutting my wait time from 25 minutes to 10 minutes. You’ll step into the 3D universe as you dice the bustling streets of New York City, avoiding a head-on collision by a hairline. The real-life visual effects place you right in the action, as you feel you’re flying through the skies and fireworks displays and diving underwater to encounter a larger-than-life shark. The fast-paced action and near-death encounters raised my heart rate to 96 beats per minute. And watch out for that speeding metro train that may just overrun you!
1:18 pm - Revenge of the Mummy
After the last ride, I craved a return to high-octane action, and Revenge of the Mummy was a perfect choice with its sudden drops, twists and turns, and immersive special effects. You can journey through the land of the Pharaohs to encounter the infamous mummies from the movie franchise. And as it turns out, being chased by a mummy is quite terrifying, as my heart rate raced to 103 beats per minute. Along with the heat of flames and the rush of the wind, this ride will leave you breathless but begging for more.
1:50 pm - Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Before the rain storm descended, I returned to Production Central to ride on the imposing Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit’s steel spiral. The vertical ascent at the beginning sets the tone for this extreme ride of heart-stopping drops and high-speed adventure and sitting at the front of the ride definitely added to the experience. You also get to select your own music track to listen to on the ride so I set off with ZZ Top's Gimme All Your Lovin' belting out and my heart rate spiked at 110 beats per minute.
2:15 pm - Fast & Furious - Supercharged
I then fastened my seatbelt for another highly anticipated ride, heading to the San Fransisco themed-area for a seat in Fast & Furious - Supercharged. A show of my Universal Express Pass and my waiting time was slashed by 15 minutes. The riveting street race zooms you across lanes, dicing and darting for a supersonic car chase. After the rip-roaring highs on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, my heart rate ticked at a steady 87 beats per minute, but my stomach was rumbling for its own adventure. An epic meal at Richter’s Burger Co. satisfied my appetite for what lay ahead.
3:05 - Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™
Now fully fueled, I stepped into the majestic halls of Gringotts Wizarding Bank on a wild journey through the underground vaults. You better hold on tight as you zoom through the dark, twisting passages, dodging curses and obstacles at every turn. You’ll then face a final showdown with Voldemort, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you narrowly escape his grasp. My heart rate spiked to 91 beats per minute - a respectable flutter for the 3-D motion simulator ride. What’s more, I also experienced a moment of magic with my Universal Express Pass, cutting 35 minutes off my wait time.
4:00 pm - MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack™
After encountering the evil Voldemort, the fight against aliens seemed like a piece of cake, so I buckled up for the intergalactic expedition of MEN IN BLACK™: Alien Attack™. Here, you can venture through the streets of New York City, where you'll encounter menacing extraterrestrial creatures lurking around every corner. Armed with your very own laser gun, you'll aim and shoot at the targets to earn points and defeat the aliens. Unfortunately, my rubbish attempts at fighting aliens did not help save the planet from a Martian invasion and possibly why my heart raced rested at 75 beats per minute as I accepted my sub-par status as a cosmic warrior.
4:55 pm - TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D
From aliens to robots, I then joined the epic battle between Autobots and Decepticons with a steady heart rate of 75 beats per minute. Hold on tight as you blast through the streets of Chicago, dodging explosions, missiles, and enemy fire at every turn. But it's not just the explosive action that makes this ride so special. The attention to detail is truly amazing, from the realistic animatronics to the intricate sets and props that bring the world of TRANSFORMERS™ to life.
5:10 pm - The Bourne Stuntacular
Ending my day with a bang, I witnessed the cutting-edge live-action of The Bourne Stuntacular starring super-spy Jason Bourne. With a seamless fusion of real-life stunts and 3D projection mapping with special effects, you’ll feel immersed in the action and fully entertained. A perfect end to my day of soaring on roller coasters and escaping into a virtual reality world of fun and fiction, my heart rate increased to 78 beats per minute.
To make the most of your day exploring two Universal Orlando Resort parks, here are my final thoughts:
Take a bottle of water with you for refills to stay hydrated.
Take a small bag and use the free locker
As emprically evidenced, in a totally-scientific experiment, here's the "official" top 10 thrilling rides at Universal Orlando Resort:
Ready for your own Floridian adventure? Discover Universally loved holidays here for 2023 and 2024 trips.
- VelociCoaster (120 and 115 bpm)
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (110 bpm)
- Revenge of the Mummy (103 bpm)
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (96 bpm)
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ (95 bpm)
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™ (91 bpm)
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster® (91 bpm)
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong (90 bpm)
- Fast & Furious - Supercharged (87 bpm)
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (85 bpm)