Universal Studios Orlando Resort is a super fun trip at any time of the year, but I have to say that Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure was so great in the Fall because it wasn’t overcrowded! We managed to avoid the masses, ride all of the rides, not wait in insanely long lines, and not waste money.
First things is first, Universal is not Disney World, so if you’ve been to one and not the other, they are completely different theme parks. However, there are similarities being that there are multiple parks, different themed areas of each park, and of course the movie-themed rides.
Universal Orlando Resort has two parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures (and a water park called Volcano Bay, but for the sake of this article I’m sticking with the theme parks). Within each park, there are different worlds or lands such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Dr. Seusseland.
Today, I’m sharing my best tips for visiting Islands of Adventure in Universal Studios Orlando. Let me know if I missed anything in the comments below!
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Best Tips for Visiting Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Orlando
When we booked our trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures, we did so very strategically. For comparison, we ended up at Disney World during spring break this year, and it was packed. So for this trip back to Florida, we booked the weekend after Labor Day in hopes it wouldn’t be as hot at mid-summer, and we’d end up missing the crowds since it’s the first month of school. In addition to the month, we also chose to go in the middle of the week to further avoid kids and the rest of the masses.
Our strategy totally worked! Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures park weren’t crazy busy, there were almost no lines for rides, and we weren’t overwhelmed with the crowds. When we spoke with our concierge at the hotel, he said that May and September are the slowest months for tourism in Orlando overall. He even said they call it “no pay May” because so few people come to town!
Choose Your Park(s)
After booking our trip dates we had to choose a park. We ended up choosing Islands of Adventure, due to the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Marvel Superheros. We were only spending one full day in Orlando, which we chose to spend at the parks, however we did decide not to cram both Universal Studios Orlando parks into one day, though, you definitely could!
Do NOT Purchase an Express Pass Online
You can never predict how long the lines will be, but the last few times I have been to the Universal Studios parks, September 2019, and December 2015, there have not been crazy long lines for anything except for the brand new Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, which opened June 2019. Even that line was “only” 90 minutes. (I say “only” because almost all of the roller-coaster-like rides were 90+ minutes at Disney World, granted it was a different time of year.)
You can purchase an Express Pass at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for anywhere between $70-140 depending on the date. It’s important to note that not every ride is eligible for fast past use. However, if you go in the offseason, like we did, in September or May, I would wait to see what the lines look like when you get there to avoid purchasing one unnecessarily.
Rides ineligible for Express Passes: Fievel’s Playland™, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Pteranodon Flyers
Take Advantage of Single Rider Lines
If there is a line, there is a trick to move slightly faster which is the single rider line. In this line, you’ll head up to the front of the line where you’ll wait for an uneven group to crash and ride with. After waiting around an hour in the Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure, Kale and I jumped ship to the single-rider line and got on (by my estimation) 45mins – 1 hour earlier than we would have had we waited.
Dress Comfortably and Don’t Wear a White T-Shirt
In September, it’s still hot all day and all night. Wear something comfortable and cool! I recommend not choosing a white top since there are quite a few water rides or rides you can get wet on, and you’ll definitely want to hop on with the heat!
Walking shoes are a must because the parks are big and you’ll be walking or standing most of the day. I prefer shoes with some support, so I usually wear my Adidas Superstars. Definitely wear breathable fabrics, I prefer cotton, but if you’re a sweat-wicking person, you do you.
Kale and I chose to be that couple and wore matching Captain America tees to the park! Much like Disney, you can easily be cheesy and wear themed outfits and be in good company with the other thousands of other people in the parks.
Don’t Forget These Essentials
Just like for Disney, I prefer to carry all of my belongings in a small backpack while I’m at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures! This Parkland bag is awesome because it’s lightweight, breathable, and made from recycled water bottles!
Use my list below to make sure your bag is full of all the necessities!
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitizer
- Portable phone charger
- Extra Hair Tie
- Wallet with ID and Cash
- Park Passes
Eat Before/After You Go to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures
OK, I’m going to level with you here. The food in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures parks stinks. The only thing I actually liked was the Auntie Anne’s pretzel I grabbed after almost passing out on the Hulk ride. I’d recommend eating before or after on the City Walk where there are tons of great options!
We did stop at Three Broomsticks for a beer and Hog’s Head for lunch in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it was lackluster and extremely mediocre. Don’t expect great meals at any of the park’s food halls. However, many places serve beer which is nice, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has some really fun HP themed drinks and snacks. Just be forewarned that you’ll be paying a premium for that pumpkin juice and gilly water.
Don’t Miss These Rides for Adults at Islands of Adventure
We got super lucky and ended up walking straight onto many of the rides in the park. I think the longest we waited for all but one ride was only 15 minutes! Of course, the newest Harry Potter ride is the most popular and therefore has the longest line. That ride had about a ninety-minute wait, but you can always head into the single rider line for a shorter wait if you are ok with being separated from your party.
I’m personally not a fan of 100% virtual rides and have a hard time doing more than a couple on a trip due to motion sickness, so for that reason, you won’t find many on this list. Universal Studios park has more of these rides than Islands of Adventures, which is a large part of why we chose that one on this trip.
The Hulk is the biggest, baddest, greenest roller coaster in the park. It’s huge and long but also really fun. From the time we walked into the park around 11am, we walked straight onto the ride.
I made the mistake of riding this ride while dehydrated and greyed out after the first loop. I was miserable for the next hour, while Kale watched me guzzle water and choke down a pretzel, so seriously be careful to ride this and any rollercoaster when you are well-hydrated.
*You will need to drop your bags and ALL items in a free locker before entering the ride. Make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets because you’ll also pass through a metal detector.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
This one is a classic, and one of my absolute favorites. I love the Spiderman ride because it combines 3D virtual reality with real sets, which helps offset my motion-sickness from the virtual reality. You’re a journalist following Spiderman around on a night of crimefighting, just watch out for the villains!
Skull Island Reign of Kong
On this ride, you sit in a big Jeep that takes you into the jungle where you encounter a T-Rex and King Kong! You’ll wear 3D glasses to see Kong battle the dinosaurs, just watch out, it gets messy when they jump on the Jeep!
Jurrasic Park River Adventure
Let me start here. You will get wet, but not from the drop like you think. We actually didn’t get soaked on this ride, though we also didn’t sit in front. I think the wettest part was the puddle I sat in when I boarded the flume! This was a fun and exciting riverboat ride taken “off course” into the dinosaur cages all the way to an 85ft drop at the end. When it was built, it was the tallest drop on a water ride.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
This was the only ride we ended up waiting for. The line was estimated to be about 90 minutes, however, while we were in line, the ride was paused for more than forty minutes (after we waited more than half an hour already) extending our wait. Finally, when they ride started back up again, they also re-opened the single-rider line, so Kale and I chose to hop over to single-rider and ride separately. It was worth it.
This was such a fun ride, in my opinion, the best in the park. It has the speed and excitement of a rollercoaster, magic of Harry Potter, surprises, and more. It’s long, and it’s more than just a ride, it’s an experience, so I think that makes the wait worth it.
*You will need to drop your bags and loose items in a free locker before entering the ride.
**This ride is not eligible for the Express Pass.
While not actually a ride, I’m including this interactive show on the list. If anything, it’s a good 20 minutes out of the sun. Even in September, it’s still hot in Florida! You travel in a large group led by an archeologist through underground ruins to help Posiden get his trident back and save the day.
Overall I had a great time at Universal Studios Orlando Islands of Adventure. I do love amusement parks and great rides, and this park is definitely geared more towards adults, which is great!
I would definitely recommend attending Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures parks in the offseason which is May, or September so that you can skip the rides and avoid the crowds!
Have you ever been to Universal Studios? What did you think? Tell me below!