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13 Must-Read Tips for Universal Studios Orlando First-Timers

13 Must-Read Tips for Universal Studios Orlando First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando for the first time and don’t know where to start? Check out my top things to know before your first trip to Universal Studios Orlando!
This list of tips for Universal Studios Orlando was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

We recently got back from our first trip to Universal Studios Orlando and it was SO much bigger than Universal Studios Hollywood!

We thought we were pretty prepared since we had visited the California theme park but we were so wrong.

Keep scrolling to hear about our mistakes and the Universal Studios Orlando tips I wish I had known before our trip!

How to Plan Your Visit to Universal Studios Orlando

Visiting Universal Orlando Resort for the first time is super exciting! Here’s how you can plan your trip to make it awesome:

Buying Tickets

It’s a good idea to buy your tickets before you get to the park. You can buy them online from the Universal Orlando website. Sometimes, they have special deals, so keep an eye out!

Image of Marcie Cheung and her son dressed in Hogwarts robes in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Sees the Days Photography
If you get a park hopper ticket, you can take the Hogwarts Express to travel between the parks! Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography

If you want to visit more than one park on the same day, think about getting a ‘park to park ticket’. This lets you hop between the Universal Orlando parks easily. The coolest way to do this is by taking the immersive Hogwarts Express!

We always buy our Universal Studios Orlando tickets through Get Away Today. They usually have the best deals and their customer service is unsurpassed.

Park Hours

Check when the parks open and close on the days you’re visiting. This is really important because sometimes the parks have special events and might close early or open late. You can find this info on the Universal Orlando website or the Universal App.

Download the Universal Orlando App

This app is super helpful! It has maps of the parks, so you won’t get lost. Plus, it shows you how long the wait times are for each ride. You can also use it to find places to eat (and mobile order) and restrooms.

Understand the Park’s Layout

If you’re a first-timer at Universal Studios Orlando, understanding the layout of the parks is super important. There are three main parts: Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay, which is a water park.

Image of two boys dressed in Hogwarts robes doing a wand battle at Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography
Diagon Alley is located in Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography

Universal Studios Florida

This park is all about movies and TV shows. You’ll feel like you’re on a movie set! It’s perfect for fans of films and fun rides. Don’t miss out on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, where you can hop on the Hogwarts Express!

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

This park is more about thrilling rides and adventures. It also has a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. If you love roller coasters and action-packed attractions, start your adventure here!

Volcano Bay

If you’re visiting during hot weather, you might want to cool off at Volcano Bay. It’s a water park with awesome slides and pools. It’s a great place to relax and have fun in the water.

So, where should you start? If you’re a big Harry Potter fan or love movies, start at Universal Studios Florida. If you’re all about thrills and adventures, Islands of Adventure is your go-to. And if it’s splash time you’re after, head straight to Volcano Bay.

Each park offers something unique, so choose based on what excites you the most!

What to Wear to Universal Studios Orlando

Visiting Universal Studios Florida can be the adventure of a lifetime, especially if it’s your first time! To make the most of your trip, here are some favorite Universal Orlando tips about what to wear for a comfortable and fun experience.

Image of Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland and her family posing with Simpsons characters at Universal Studios Florida.
It’s always a good idea to wear layers at Universal Studios Florida in the winter. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

What to Wear to Universal Studios Orlando in the Summer

Orlando gets pretty hot and humid in the summer. You’ll also likely encounter some rain showers. So, it’s key to dress for both the sun and the rain.


Since you’ll be walking a lot, wear comfortable sneakers or supportive sandals. Don’t wear new shoes! Blisters are the last thing you want!


Opt for lightweight and breathable outfits. Think shorts, tees, or even airy dresses.


Don’t forget your sunglasses and hat to shield you from the sun. And always, always have sunscreen on hand.

Rain Gear

A lightweight poncho can be a lifesaver during those unexpected summer showers.

What to Wear to Universal Studios Orlando in the Winter

Believe it or not, Florida can get chilly in the winter. So, be prepared for varying temperatures.


A lightweight long-sleeve tee with a sweater, jacket, or hoodie on top works great. Bring a heavier jacket if it’s really cold. We saw a LOT of people wearing ski hats in December.


Jeans or wool leggings are perfect for keeping you warm and comfy.


Stick to comfortable sneakers that can handle a day of exploration.

Universal Themed Clothing

Part of the fun at Universal Studios is showing off your fandom! Whether you’re a Harry Potter wizard, a Jurassic Park dinosaur enthusiast, a Simpsons fan, or into Marvel superheroes, themed shirts and accessories add to the excitement. Dress up as your favorite character and enjoy the magical atmosphere!

So, when you’re packing to visit Universal Studios, remember these tips to stay comfortable and enjoy every moment, whether you’re exploring the water park, wandering through Harry Potter’s world, or enjoying the other amazing attractions.

Remember, the right outfit can make your adventure even more memorable!

Prioritize Must-See Universal Orlando Attractions

Visiting Universal Studios Florida for the first time is super exciting! To make the most of your trip, here are some tips and tricks, especially for first-timers.

Image of a boy wearing Hulk hands in front of the Hulk rollercoaster at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography
My son LOVED the Incredible Hulk Coaster! Photo credit: Sees the Day Photography

Top Attractions

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This is a must-see! From Hogwarts castle to thrilling rides, it’s a magical experience. It’s laid out in two parks: Diagon Alley is in Univeral Studios while Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure. I recommend getting a park hopper ticket to do both AND ride the Hogwarts Express.

Roller Coasters

If you love thrills, don’t miss out on rides like the Incredible Hulk Coaster. My 9-year-old is a huge roller coaster fan and he said that the Hulk tops his list.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

This ride is perfect for the whole family. It’s the same as the one at Universal Studios Hollywood and it’s quite possible that you’re kids will want to ride it multiple times.

Managing Time

The parks can get crowded, especially near popular rides like Harry Potter. To avoid long waits, try to visit these rides either early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s less crowded.

Remember, the two parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, are walking distance from each other. Plan to visit attractions close to each other to save time.

Use the Universal Orlando app to check wait times and plan which ride to go to next.

These tips should help you prioritize and enjoy the best Universal Orlando attractions without getting bogged down in bottlenecks.

Use the Universal Express Pass

If you’re a first-timer at Universal Studios Orlando, you should definitely know about the Universal Express Pass. This is a special pass that lets you skip regular lines at most rides and attractions. It’s a game-changer, especially on busy days!

What is the Express Pass?

  • It’s like a fast pass to get you to the front of the line quicker.
  • You can choose between different types of Express Passes. Some let you skip the line once per ride, while others, like the Unlimited Pass, let you skip as many times as you want.

Is it Worth It?

  • If you hate waiting in long lines and want to see as much as possible, it’s totally worth it.
  • Prices start at $79.99 for Universal Studios Florida and go up depending on the park and pass type.
  • Think about how much time you’ll save. More time means more fun!

If you want to do the Express Pass, book it as soon as you can. We checked the prices while we were in the park and it was about $300 for the Unlimited Pass for same-day.

Remember, you need to buy your theme park ticket separately. So, if you want to make the most out of your visit to Universal Studios Orlando, consider getting the Express Pass. It could turn a good day into a great one!

Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed

When you’re having a blast at Universal Studios Orlando, it’s super important to stay hydrated and not get too hungry. Here’s a tip: carry a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated as you explore the parks.

For food, there are lots of cool places to grab a bite. If you’re in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ve got to try the famous Butterbeer. It’s a sweet, frothy drink that tastes like magic!

Image of Marcie Cheung with a Krusty Burger at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
The food at Krusty Burger wasn’t half bad! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My kids are huge Simpsons fans and they totally geeked out when we had lunch at Krusty Burger. The food was actually better than I expected.

Universal has many restaurants and snack spots. You can find everything from quick bites to sit-down meals. Remember to take breaks and enjoy some unique park treats. They’re part of the fun experience at Universal Studios!

Take Advantage of Early Park Admission

Here’s a super cool tip for first-timers at Universal Studios Orlando: If you stay at one of Universal’s hotels, you can get into the parks early! This means you can enjoy some of the coolest rides before the regular crowd rushes in.

Image of two hotel keys at Universal Studios Orlando. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung of Marcie in Mommyland
Our hotel keys for Loews Sapphire Falls got us early entry into the parks. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For example, while we were there in December, hotel guests could enter Universal Studios Florida up to one hour before it opened. You could ride popular attractions like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

At Universal Islands of Adventure, you can enjoy Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ or the thrilling Jurassic World VelociCoaster an hour early too!

And at Universal Volcano Bay, you get a 30-minute head start to enjoy slides like Krakatau Aqua Coaster.

Make the most of this extra time. Plan to hit the most popular rides first. This way, you can enjoy them without long lines. It’s a great way to start your exciting day at Universal!

Explore the Wizarding World During Off-Peak Hours

Here’s a wizardly tip: visit the Wizarding World during off-peak hours to dodge those massive crowds. The best times are usually right when the park opens or later in the afternoon.

This way, you can explore Harry Potter’s magical world more comfortably and get on those awesome rides like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts without the long wait. It’s like having a magic wand to beat the crowds!

Stay On-Site for Added Benefits

If you’re planning a first-time visit to Universal Studios Orlando, think about staying at one of their resort hotels. There are lots of perks!

Image of the water taxi in front of Loews Sapphire Falls in Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
We loved the convenience of the water taxi at Loews Sapphire Falls. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

First, you get into the park an hour earlier, which is awesome for beating the crowds. They have free transport too, so you can get to and from the park easily. We thought the water taxis were super fun!

There are different types of hotels, from more affordable options like Universal’s Endless Summer Resort to fancier ones like Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Sapphire Falls. These hotels have cool stuff like pools, dining options, and even a rooftop bar at Universal’s Aventura Hotel!

Plus, if you stay at a Premier hotel, you get a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass to skip regular lines at most rides. That’s a huge bonus!

And, you can have any stuff you buy in the park sent straight to your hotel for free. Super convenient, right? These hotels make your Universal Orlando trip extra special and hassle-free

Stay Updated on Shows and Parades

When you’re at Universal Studios Orlando, don’t miss out on their cool shows and parades. They’ve got some awesome stuff like ‘The Bourne Stuntacular’ – it’s full of amazing stunts that’ll wow you.

Image of the exterior of the Bourne Spectacular at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
We thought the Bourne Stuntacular was amazing! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If you’re curious about how they make movie special effects, check out ‘Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show’. It’s not only educational but super fun too!

For music fans, ‘The Blues Brothers Show’ is a must-see. And if you love Harry Potter, ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ in Diagon Alley is magical. Make sure to find a good spot early for these shows – they’re popular and get crowded fast!

Prepare for Weather Changes

When you’re heading to Universal Studios Orlando, be ready for sudden weather changes. It’s smart to pack a poncho or a light rain jacket, especially if there’s rain in the forecast. Wear clothes and shoes that can handle getting wet, just in case you’re caught in a shower.

If it looks like rain, start your day at Islands of Adventure. It has more outside attractions that might close in bad weather, so you’ll want to check those out first. But don’t worry, there are plenty of cool indoor rides too!

Image of the Cat in the Hat ride at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
My 7-year-old LOVED riding the Cat in the Hat over and over again! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Over at Islands of Adventure, you’ve got The Cat in The Hat and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, among others.

At Universal Studios Florida, you can enjoy indoor rides like Revenge of the Mummy, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride – 3D, and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

These rides are perfect for staying dry and having fun, even when it’s raining outside!

Save Time for Shopping and Souvenirs

At Universal Studios Orlando, don’t forget to save some time for shopping and grabbing cool souvenirs! Each area in the park has unique shops filled with awesome merchandise.

Image of Simpsons souvenirs at a gift shop at Universal Studios Florida. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung
My kids loved checking out the Kwik-E-Mart gift shop in the Simpsons area. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

First-timers will love visiting Ollivanders in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for a magical wand, or the Universal Studios Store for t-shirts and hats. You can find almost anything, from cool Jurassic Park gear to fun Minion toys. It’s the perfect way to remember your amazing trip!

Universal Orlando Resort FAQs

What’s the Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando?

The best time is usually during spring or fall when it’s less crowded and the weather is nice. Summer and winter holidays can be really busy.

Do I Need Tickets for Each Park?

Yes, you need separate tickets for Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. You can also get a park-to-park ticket to visit more than one in a day.

Can I Bring My Own Food?

Small snacks and bottled water are okay, but big meals and coolers aren’t allowed.

Is There a Way to Skip Lines?

Yes! The Universal Express Pass lets you skip regular lines on most rides, but it costs extra.

What’s the Best Ride?

It depends on what you like! Thrill-seekers love The Incredible Hulk Coaster, while Harry Potter fans adore Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

Is There Stuff for Little Kids?

Absolutely! Seuss Landing and Fievel’s Playland have fun rides and play areas for younger kids.

How Do I Get from One Park to Another?

You can walk, or if you have a park-to-park ticket, take the Hogwarts Express train.

Can I Meet Characters?

Yes! You can meet characters like the Minions, Spider-Man, and even Harry Potter characters.

What Should I Wear?

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes because there’s a lot of walking. And don’t forget sunscreen!

Where Should We Eat?

There are lots of places! From quick snacks to sit-down restaurants, like the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter’s World or Mythos Restaurant at Islands of Adventure.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips Wrap-Up

There are SO many cool things to do at Universal Studios Orlando! It’s super important to plan and prioritize your top attractions for a seamless first-time experience.

I hope you soak in the magic and have an epic family vacation!

Looking for more Universal Studios Orlando content? Check out How Many Days Do You Need at Universal Studios Orlando?, Universal Studios vs Disney World: The Ultimate Family Vacation Showdown, Is it Worth Visiting Universal Studios Orlando at Christmas?, and Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure: Which Orlando Park is Right for You?

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