48 Hours in Universal Studios Orlando

In early December, my friend Heather and I spent 48 hours in Orlando, FL to see as much of Universal Studios as we could.

We did a lot of planning and learned a lot along the way – all of which we’re sharing below!

I hope you find this helpful, and most importantly that you ENJOY your trip. It is so easy to get caught up with trying to see everything that you enjoy nothing. And boy, is there a lot to enjoy at Universal Studios!

Packing List

First up, the packing list --

good socks first-aid kit hat flannel shirt sweatshirt
rain jacket tennis shoes phone charger watch charger portable charger
reusable water bottle snacks hair bands t-shirts shorts
leggings sunscreen hand sanitizer stamps pen
Sharpie journal sunglasses

Below is a bit of a break-down of what was most useful and what I could have left at home --

Most Used

Sweatshirt. During the day it was in the mid-70s but the night got a little chilly.

Rain jacket. Rain is a very common occurrence in Florida and you aren't allowed to wear ponchos on many of the rides.

Sunglasses. While you can't wear them on the rides, they're great to have as you walk around. I brought a free pair I got from an event!

Didn't Use

My hat. Granted I went in December and it wasn't too hot, but even on the day it rained I put my hood up on my rain jacket.

Stamps. I brought them to mail from the Owl Post, but you could only purchase postcards in packs of twelve.

Apps

There were a few phone applications that were helpful with getting around the park, keeping up with money, and making sure we were checking off all of the things on our list!

While it isn’t about seeing everything, we wanted to be sure we got the most out of our experiences.

Universal Studios Orlando

Universal has their own app which was incredibly helpful for seeing ride wait times, maps, and food menus.

Google Maps

Much like my other travel adventures, I put together a Google Map (see below)

To put on your iPhone’s home screen, simply open the map in Safari and select “add to home screen.”

Most of Universal Studios is labeled on Google Maps, so you should have no trouble simply searching for what you want on the spot.

Pinterest

Pinterest was invaluable in our search for the best things to do on our trip (if you’re here from Pinterest, hi!).

I did a search for Universal Studios Orlando and just opened up as many posts as I could. The big things I wrote down in our Google Doc or added to our Map, but most of the posts I just tried to soak in.

Splitshare

This app allows you to compile all of the charges each of you paid for (Heather paid X for the Lyft, Allison paid X for the Hotel) so that you have a ledger but don’t have to keep doing Venmo requests back and forth. You settle up at the end and it is very user-friendly.

Google Drive

We used a Google Doc to help us plan what we wanted to do and see, so I made sure to have the app saved so that we could pull up and reference.

Here we kept the following:

  • Park map
  • Hotel information
  • Park “priorities” (must see)
  • Ideal M&G
  • Souvenirs to keep on the lookout for
  • Food recommendations

It should be pointed out that we didn’t hit everything on this list. We mostly used the document as a brain dump for things we heard from friends/family and our deep dives on Pinterest. When we would sit down to eat or take a quick breather it would be something productive to pull out and reference!

Instagram

While posting content to our Instagram accounts was fun, this isn’t the reason why I’m featuring it here.

We both found that doing searches in the explore page for both locations and hashtags was very helpful.

Things as simple as “Universal Studios Orlando” or “#universalstudiosorlando” can give you suggestions for spots you may miss (or give you inspiration for your Instagram photos).

When you post to your own account, make sure to tag and add the hashtags to make sure you can help future park-goers (and gain added exposure).

Souvenirs

Here is the collection of items Heather and I purchased during the trip –

  • Hufflepuff Christmas Ornament
  • Slytherin Christmas Ornament
  • Platform 9 3/4 Christmas Ornament
  • Globus Mundi T-Shirt (Globus Mundi is the Travel Agency storefront in Diagon Alley that recently opened)
  • Ministry of Magic Mug
  • Toothsome Mason Jars (free with the purchase of the milkshakes)
  • Duff Beer Stein (small added cost to purchase of Beer at Moe’s in the Simpsons area)

Other good souvenier ideas we saw but did not purchase for ourselves –

  • Pins! There are so many pins to purchase throughout the parks and would have been a great item to collect.
  • Harry Potter Scarves

Food

Tip: We had breakfast each day at the hotel (included at the property we chose) which helped us save money and time!

Friday

Toothsome Milkshakesoutside Islands of Adventure. I had a chocolate brownie milkshake and Heather had the birthday cake flavor.

At approximately $13 per milkshake (and given their enormous size), we could have easily split one.

Saturday

Lunch

Allisonfish and chips at the Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure)

Heatherchicken tenders and fries at the Three Broomsticks (Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure) – per Heather, my chicken tenders at Jurassic Park were better

*the french fries were delicious!

Dinner

Bothcheese pizza at Luigi’s (Springfield, Universal Studios)

After a long day of walking, all we wanted was something easy. Honestly, the pizza was pretty good.

Snacks

HeatherIced Butterbeerper Heather, the “normal” Butterbeer is better than the “iced” variety, but I’ve heard conflicting opinions online. You might as well try them all!

AllisonDuff Beer at Moe’s Tavern (Springfield, Universal Studios)

Universal Studios Orlando Florida Milkshake Brownie

Sunday

Lunch

Allisonchicken tenders and french fries at The Burger Digs (Jurassic Park, Islands of Adventure)

Dinner

Allisonkid’s mini meat pie and french fries at the Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley, Universal Studios)

Heatherkid’s mac n cheese and french fries, Butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron (Diagon Alley, Universal Studios)

Snacks

HeatherButterbeer ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour (Diagon Alley, Universal Studios)

AllisonPink Sprinkled Donut from Lard Lad (Springfield, Universal Studios)

Rides

One of my biggest tips on the rollercoasters is the use of lockers. You may be tempted to bring a giant backpack (like me) to fit all of your things. The lockers that you have to put all of your items in are not big. I had to take out most of my items and shove my backpack into the locker. This isn’t easy when you’ve got a giant water bottle, jacket, souvenirs, and more in your bag! Keep that in mind when packing.

Another tip – use the single rider line! We waited about a third of the time that the “normal” line waited.

Could Have Passed On —

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall

Marvel Super Hero Island, Islands of Adventure

This ride that takes you up and down is incredibly short! I wish it was at least twice as long because you really get to go up what feels like two or three times.

MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack

Outside Springfield, Universal Studios

This opinion may mostly be because I’ve done this ride before and it hasn’t changed. It’s a cool scenario as a shooting game within a moving vehicle, but it isn’t anything I’d wait in a long line for. We waited less than five minutes and it got us out of the rain for a bit, so I felt it was worth it.

Worth the Wait —

Rip Ride Roller Coaster

Hollywood, Universal Studios

I’ve seen many blog posts mentioning the trick to get extra songs. Both Heather and I tried this, but it didn’t work. I didn’t get to choose a song in time and had a song randomly selected for me.

I would also recommend using the single riders line – this cut out wait time in at least half!

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Marvel Super Hero Island, Islands of Adventure

This ride is most similar to a true rollercoaster you’d find at a theme park with a huge loop.

They are very serious about the safety policies – don’t try to sneak your phone (or anything else) onto the ride!

The Simpsons Ride

Springfield, Universal Studios

The entire production – from the safety video to the “plot” of the ride – is incredibly well thought out. Each group of six is brought into their own room with their own “coaster” that follows along with the huge screen.

If you aren’t great with motion sickness this might not be your best bet, but I didn’t find myself too affected.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Marvel Super Hero Island, Islands of Adventure

I’d ride this ride just for the parts that you walk through before the ride!

Hogwarts Express

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

This train is such a convenient way to get between parks (as it connects Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade) and the queueing process is a great one with the detailed decorations and ambiance. Both train stations provide a unique experience, so I would recommend going both ways.

My only complaint – they didn’t dub the actors’ voices well (except for Fred and George which you actually see and hear).

Revenge of the Mummy Express

Hollywood, Universal Studios

While this ride may be a bit older of a ride (off a movie that is quite old at this point), the ride still holds up. It’s spooky, has a plot alongside the movie, and gets the screams.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Diagon Alley, Universal Studios

We had a giant line for this one, but it was well worth it.

You may feel a little queasy on this one, too.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park, Islands of Adventure

Following along with a “tour” of the park, this would be a great way to cool off from the summer’s heat! You don’t get too wet, but I’d recommend a rain jacket nonetheless.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Marvel Super Hero Island, Islands of Adventure

A great blend of a screen and an actual coaster.

Be careful – it takes a long time for your eyes to adjust when you first walk through the line.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure

This is another ride that could get you in trouble with motion sickness, but I didn’t feel too queasy.

Meet & Greets

We met quite a few people. We didn’t plan out any of these M&G but just happened upon people while walking around and jumped in line. For many of these characters, there was no line!

Here are the characters we met —

  • Puss in Boots (Entrance of Island of Adventure)
  • Madagascar Penguins (Kid Zone, Universal Studios)
  • Dora the Explorer (Kid Zone, Universal Studios)
  • Squidward Tentacles (Kid Zone, Universal Studios)
  • Scooby Doo & Velma (Hollywood, Universal Studios)
  • King Julian (Entrance of Island of Adventure)
  • Bumblebee (Production Central/Hollywood, Universal Studios)
  • The driver of the Knight Bus (outside of Diagon Alley, Universal Studios)

Below are a few of the pictures we got. The characters had a fun time posing and taking cues from how we acted (for example: Dora noticed we had backpacks and expressed with her hands that she wanted to take a picture of us all like that)!

Universal Studios Orlando Florida Madagascar King Julian
Universal Studios Orlando Florida Madagascar Penguins
Universal Studios Orlando Florida Knight Bus Driver Harry Potter
Universal Studios Orlando Florida Harry Potter Durmstrang Beaubaton
Universal Studios Orlando Florida Dora The Explorer

Experiences/Shows

There are so many things to do around every corner!

We did quite a bit of research to figure out what kinds of things we wanted to see, but I’d also recommend just keeping your eyes open to signs around the parks for more details.

When in doubt, check out the Universal Studios app with all of the date and time information.

Owl Post

Locations in both Hogsmeade (Island of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (Universal Studios)

I ended up not mailing anything but had the attendant stamp my journal. The family in front of me was mailing out their Christmas cards!

Ollivander’s Wand Ceremony

Hogsmeads, Island of Adventure

Thankfully we didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes for this (the lines tend to get fairly long!). Once they ushered us all into the small storefront, the staff member chose a member of the audience to have the wand choose them.

NBC Studios

Near Springfield, Universal Studios

NBC Studios has a program where they will pay you $30 (in Universal Studios gift cards) for spending about 1.5 hours watching a new show and providing feedback.

It is a great opportunity to get out of the heat (or in our case, rain) and get some extra money for food or souvenirs. We watched a pilot for Temptation Island and then had to fill out answers about our thoughts. It was quick and easy!

Holidays at Hogwarts

Hogwarts Castle, Island of Adventure

Duration: seven-minute presentation, every 20 minutes

This show is a light- and projection-show on Hogwarts Castle. It was incredibly well-done and was one of my favorite activities!

Horror Makeup Show

Hollywood Blvd, Universal Studios

Duration: approx. 30 minutes, every 45 minutes (see the exact schedule listed online or in the Universal app)

This was catered to people younger than us, but we still had a good time. I will say that many of the jokes used aren’t very politically correct but there are elements of audience interaction and video history that were very interesting.

Christmas Parade

Universal Studios, near the entrance

This wasn’t really what I was expecting (mostly because they didn’t have any of the Harry Potter Characters). It was mostly children’s characters and Santa closing out the show.

Since it is a fairly long parade, it’s easy to get a good spot (because every spot along the route is a good spot)!

Universal Studios Orlando Florida Harry Potter

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