The Best 3-Day Itinerary for Universal Orlando

You know how in Wicked, Galinda and Elphaba sing about “One short day in the Emerald City?” (Just us? Are we the only Broadway geeks around here?) Well, take our word for it, they do… but that’s NOT you!

Universal Studios Orlando

You have three glorious days in Universal Orlando! With so much to see and do, it can feel like a mystery on how to prioritize it all, and still fit in some much needed relaxation and luxuriating. Leave it to us (and we’ll keep the showtunes to a minimum…maybe….) because we’re going to help you plan your BEST three days in Universal!

You’ve got three days in Universal Studios, and this might just be the most perfect allotment of time to experience all of the thrills, but also have that luxury of not feeling too rushed and even have a chance to revisit some of your favorite attractions and shows.

Discounted Universal Tickets

Let’s get a lay of the land. Universal Orlando Resort comprises the following:

The other big focus you must plan for is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Wizarding World is not its own park, nor is it entirely inside a single theme park. Each park, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, has its section of the Wizarding World. Hogsmeade  (in Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (in Universal Studios) — and you’ll need to visit BOTH parks to see it all!

Universal Orlando

Since this is going to be your BEST 3-day itinerary, we’re going to assume a few things (which may require a bit of a splurge, but we’ll toss in some budget-friendly options, too).

First, we’re going to plan for you to have the Park-to-Park access ticket, so you can easily transition between Studios and Islands of Adventure. To get the maximum freedom and flexibility, we recommend the 3-Park, 3-Day Ticket, which allows you to visit any (or ALL) three Universal parks (Studios, Islands, and Volcano Bay) all three days. These tickets start at $341.99 per person.

Universal Ticket

Second, we’re going to plan for you to have an Express Pass for the duration of your three days. If you’re staying at Universal Studios Premier Resort, the Unlimited Express Pass is included with your stay and lets you skip the standby line at any of the participating attractions throughout the day. If you’re not staying at a Premier Resort, you’ll have to pay for the Express Pass (or Unlimited Express Pass) separately. For this situation, we’re just gonna focus on the Express Pass, which lets you skip the standby queue at participating attractions once per day. The price of the Express Pass varies based on the day and the park, but starts at $89.99.

Universal Express Unlimited Pass

And finally, we’re going to assume that you’re staying at a Universal Resort because even guests staying at the lowest tier, Endless Summer, get Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Ok, you’ve got your hotel stay, you’ve got your park tickets, you’ve got your Express Pass, you’ve got your ruby slippers or flying broom…. ok, maybe not those last two… but you’re ready for your best three days in Universal!

You’re here!

To minimize backtracking and rushing all around the theme parks, we’re gonna focus on staying in primarily one park each day — but we have that Park-to-Park access, so you have that freedom to bounce between parks to catch some shows or revisit favorite attractions. It will especially be useful for riding the Magical Express between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and back again. So, let’s get started!

Day One: Universal Studios

Universal entrance

Your morning should focus on completing these attractions:

Catch your breath, take a breath, and grab a quick bite for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. Or, if you want a longer break, head over to Finnegan’s Bar and Grill.

Leaky Cauldron

Once you’ve fortified yourself, head back out for an afternoon filled with some great shows and entertainment, and that magical wizarding world!

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

By this time, you might be hankering for dinner. Whichever dining location you didn’t visit for lunch is what we recommend for dinner. Or you can wander out to CityWalk for additional options that suit your fancy.

  • Continue exploring the details of Diagon Alley & Knockturn Alley
  • Ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour
  • Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts or Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
If we just dress up as a witch or wizard, they’ll let us in, right?

This may seem like you’re racing through Universal Studios at a ragged pace, but remember — you’ve got Express Pass! So, many of those lines you can bypass to free up some time for a leisurely stroll to your next experience. You can take your time to enjoy the shows and entertainment throughout the park. And if those dining options inside Studios don’t feel particularly appealing, you can always wander out to CityWalk for something else that tickles your fancy. With Express Pass and Early Entry, you’ve got a bit of extra time to seek out some personal preferences.

Day Two: Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure

Your morning should focus on completing these attractions:


While you’re in Hogsmeade, grab lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and by grabbing it at an off-time, you’ll avoid the bulk of the crowds. Be sure to check out the Mobile Order option to reduce your wait even more. You can let your meal digest while you watch one of the Hogsmeade shows.

Mythos at Islands of Adventure

By now, you must be ready for dinner! We suggest a quick meal at Hog’s Head, or for a more relaxed experience, head over to Mythos.

After dinner, you can continue exploring the details of Hogsmeade.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

It’s never a bad time to ride the Hogwarts Express, so if there is a certain attraction at either park that deserves a re-ride, then Hogwarts Express is a fun way to traverse between the two parks. And the experience is different either you board from Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, so be sure to ride it both ways for the full experience.

Day Three: Volcano Bay & Revisit

Volcano Bay

Pull on the bathing suit, you’re in for a day of thrills of the water park variety! Visiting Volcano Bay is not like visiting the other Universal Parks — the water slides, giant wave pool, and lazy river may have given a hint about that. Universal Resort guests get Early Entry to Volcano Bay, too, so set your alarms because that means you can actually get into Volcano Bay as early at 8AM some days.

For optimum luxuriating, we recommend reserving a cabana or premium seating (just call 877-489-8068). This gives you a base camp to set your towels and things while you experience those water rides (lockers are available for your valuables). The cabanas can hold from six to sixteen(!) people, and come stocked with padded lounge chairs, a small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, complimentary fruit and snack basket, towel and locker service, plus concierge service with an exclusive menu of food and drink delivered directly to the cabana. There’s a premium price for this based on the size of cabana and the season, but it’s a great way to find that ultimate relaxation.

Volcano Bay cabanas

You’ll also need to snag a Tapu Tapu when you enter the park. This is how you join the lines at Volcano Bay. Just scan the wristband at the water attraction you want to experience, and then return when your ride time is ready. This saves you (and your poor tootsies) from standing on hot pavement in a line getting that classic Florida sunkissed looked while you wait to ride.

Tapu Tapu

Your morning should focus on completing these attractions:

  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Punga Racers
  • Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides
  • Taniwha Tubes
  • Honu Ika Moana
Maku Puihi

After you’ve done all of the waterslides, you’re brave enough to conquer; it’s time for lunch. Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club is a guest favorite, or The Feasting Frog. No matter where you choose to eat, be sure to use the Mobile Order option to save yourself some time. Now it’s time for a nice mellow afternoon. Spend some time on your lounge chair, flowing with the current in TeAwa The Fearless River, or wading into the waves at Waturi Beach.

Volcano Bay!

Plan to pack up around 3PM to head back to your resort to shower, cool down and spend your last evening in Universal’s parks. After all that sun and fun in the water, your crew is probably starving and ready for an early dinner. Head to CityWalk and dine at one of the many restaurants there. Antiojios Authentic Mexican Food is highly rated among our readers, or Hard Rock Cafe is popular for those looking for a solid burger or ribs. Both require reservations, though, so plan ahead!

Hard Rock Cafe

Now that you’re relaxed, cleaned up, and fed, you can head back into Universal to revisit any of your favorite attractions! You still have a few hours and that Express Pass, so you can squeeze in a few more rides, or just enjoy wandering through your favorite areas like Jurassic Park or the Wizarding World and soaking in the details.

Welcome to Villain-Con!

Don’t forget to stay for the nighttime shows, and you can even time it right and ride the Magical Express between the two parks to see them BOTH!

What a jam-packed three days! We fit in thrills, shows, food, magic, and also managed to have time to relax and re-ride some of our favorites! We did it all, and managed to keep the showtunes to a minimum!

How to Do a Universal Day If You’re Staying at Walt Disney World

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One Reply to “The Best 3-Day Itinerary for Universal Orlando”

  1. it’s just me and my husband with no littles (we’re empty nesters!) so I think we will skip the Dr. Suess rides but other than that this seems like a good itinerary!