Again, the rules here are the same: This is a perfect day for me, not an imaginary one. So everything on this ideal itinerary must be stuff that reasonably can be done on an average day of operation at Universal Orlando. No combining Christmas events with mid-summer ones, and no assuming that some miracle occurs with crowd levels. Also, since I live in Southern California, I'm going to give higher priority to stuff I can't do close to home here at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Finally, just because this day is perfect for me doesn't mean that it is perfect for you, or for anyone else. But I hope that my ideal itinerary will inspire you to think about and submit your perfect day at Universal Orlando in the comments!
Nostalgia fueled my perfect day at Disney, as I wanted to spend time at many of the locations where I worked during my time as a cast member. I never worked at Universal Orlando, but all the time that I worked at Disney, I actually lived across the street from Universal. I bought an annual pass to the park even before the park officially opened, and for its first summer of operation, I walked or biked across the street several times a week to pick up the free tickets that Universal handed out to visitors then as compensation for so few attractions operating properly that summer.
That fat stack of free tickets is long gone — a few used by me but mostly given away as cheap-but-welcomed wedding presents to many of my friends over the years. Also gone are almost all of the attractions that opened with Universal Studios Florida back in 1990. ET and the horror make-up show are all that's left, and frankly, neither of them hold enough appeal to me to make the cut for my one perfect day at the resort.
So what makes the cut? Actually, a lot, thanks to Universal's unlimited express passes for deluxe hotel visitors.
My ideal day at Universal Orlando begins with me waking up at the Royal Pacific Resort in time to enjoy early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and (nearly) unlimited express access to both parks' rides and shows after that.
Let's assume that the early access this morning is at Diagon Alley. We'll start with a ride (or two) on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts before heading over to the Leaky Cauldron for a traditional English breakfast... with an Otter's Fizzy Orange Juice. (Why can't we have this drink in Hollywood?) I'll be back in Diagon Alley later this morning for the first shows of Tales from Beedle the Bard and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, but in the meantime, I head out of Diagon Alley to...
Men in Black Alien Attack. With my Universal Express pass, I get as many rides as I can in before the first Carkitt Market stage show of the day in Diagon Alley, trying to boost my score and get "the suit" before leaving the world of Muggles again.
After returning to Diagon Alley and picking up my first Butterbeer of the day at the Fountain of Fair Fortune, I watch the Carkitt Market Stage shows before heading next door to Kings Cross for my first ride on the...
Hogwarts Express. It's time to head over to Islands of Adventure for a bit and this is the best way to get there. Entering Hogsmeade, I'm tempted to skip Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey since I can ride the 3D version (with more Dementors!) at home, but let's face it... I won't. After my tour through Hogwarts and ride on FJ, I'll take a quick spin on Flight of the Hippogriff before heading down the street to The Three Broomsticks for lunch.
After lunch, I'll walk through Jurassic Park on my way to trying the new Skull Island Reign of Kong ride. I'm including this despite Universal Express not being available only because I haven't actually been on it before and I can't imagine skipping a new attraction, even if it is substantially similar to the King Kong 360 3D encounter I'm used to on the USH Studio Tour.
From there, I'll skip through Toon Lagoon for a ride on my favorite attraction in the park, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. As a former newspaper reporter, I always enjoy walking through The Daily Bugle's fake newsroom, but I enjoy skipping the wait with the Universal Express pass even more. You might think J. Jonah Jameson an extreme caricature of a sleazy boss, but he's actually a pretty fair depiction of at least one editor I've worked for in the past. Thank heavens I'm at the point where I can laugh about it now.
After Spidey, I'll try a ride on the newly retracked Incredible Hulk Coaster before heading back across the park over to one of my favorite little family dark rides, The Cat in the Hat. I wish the cars would spin the way they once did, but I still enjoy this ride every time I go. Perhaps this is the one really deep nostalgia moment in the park for me, as I remember reading this story to my kids so many time when they were little — and going on this ride with them, too.
For my last stop in Islands of Adventure, I continue my circuit around the park to stop in Mythos for dinner. (Yes, I have a picture of me in front of that sign.) There might be fancier and more ambitious restaurants out there these days, but Mythos continues to provide the best value I've found in a theme park restaurant. I've yet to have a bad meal here, and I'm always amazed at the quality this restaurant delivers for the price.
To wrap up my day, I head back to Universal Studios Florida by taking the return trip on the Hogwarts Express, so that I can experience both versions of the journey.
That's my perfect day at Universal Orlando. What's yours?
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