Theme Park of the Day: Tokyo Disneyland

My perfect day at Universal Orlando

August 6, 2016, 11:49 AM · Last week, I told you what I'd pick to do on my "perfect day" at the Walt Disney World Resort. Today, let's head up Interstate 4 and spend an imaginary day at Universal Orlando.

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.

Royal Pacific Resort

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.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

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

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

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.

Skull Island Reign of Kong

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.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

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.

The Cat in the Hat

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.

Hogwarts Express

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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Replies (12)

August 6, 2016 at 2:52 PM · Sounds like a great day
August 6, 2016 at 4:10 PM · Hey Robert, I always wondered if you gave Mythos that sign or did they buy it and display it...

There is never a bad day at Universal.... Nighttime at USO has a decent show - 100 years of movies tribute.

August 6, 2016 at 5:02 PM · I didn't know anything about the sign until it first appeared... and my email in box blew up with messages from readers.
August 6, 2016 at 5:48 PM · I actually ran into a perfect day when I hit Universal in November of 2012. I don't know if it was just a weekday thing or off-season bit but I managed to walk onto just about everything (even Forbidden Journey was only a 10 minute wait) and got so much done despite showing up at the park at noon. I did make a change as Jurassic Park soaked my shirt so much, I had to buy a new one and thus I decided to give Popeye a skip (I have been drenched to the bone on that one).

The next day I did the main Studios, still good, longest wait for Minion Mayhem (brand new at the time), no Transformers then but glad I got into Twister and Disaster before they closed and still a great experience.

August 7, 2016 at 12:51 AM · Wake up at Sapphire Falls or the Hard Rock Hotel on a concierge floor, so free breakfast!! Bagels with cream cheese and fresh fruit, and of course coffee. Boat over to the parks, of course IOA is first as is WWOHP. Go on the Hogwarts Express. I've yet to experience Diagon Alley, so I would go on Gringotts first and explore around for a bit. Come right back on the Hogwarts Express. Lunch at Mythos. Walk around Seuss Land, Marvel Island, Toon Lagoon, and Jurassic World. Take the Hogwarts Express back over to US to go on the Men In Black. And experience ET and Terminator if they still exist. :P Wrap the day up in City Walk and have dinner at Cowfish.
August 7, 2016 at 5:01 AM · This is a great day at the park. Really highlighted the best of what Universal has to offer.
August 7, 2016 at 6:13 AM · It's indeed a great day. I just had a great two days park hopping with my son and two friends. This has been my second experience but their first. I enjoyed myself and they surely did themselves. We could not get to ride the minions, spiderman and a few because of the long wait time. I felt like a kid. Great experience. Thanks Universal and Island of Adventure
August 7, 2016 at 9:14 AM · Can't have a perfect universal day without a trip to Springfield!
August 7, 2016 at 10:18 AM · That's one where my living in LA came into play. Sorry, Orlando, but we have a much better Springfield out here in Hollywood!
August 7, 2016 at 2:29 PM · Any day at UO is a perfect day. My family's absolute favorite place on earth
August 7, 2016 at 7:58 PM · Gotta be more efficient! I usually do all that plus a couple rides on Dragon Challenge, Revenge of the Mummy, Ripsaw Falls, Jurrasic Park, and single rides on Rip-Ride-Rockit, ET, Simpsons, and Minions all in one day. And that's without the early entry!
August 8, 2016 at 4:03 AM · Sounds like a great day to me! I love Universal in Florida. We went back to Disney in California earlier this summer and I was disappointed. I really thought it would have more of a Star Wars theme than it did (especially since several years ago Disney in Orlando had those terrific Star Wars weekends).

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