If you’re looking for a way to visit Universal Studios over a long weekend here’s how to get the most out of your stay! We recently arrived on a Friday evening and returned Monday morning, and we were able to do it all in 2 days! If you have preteens or teens, Universal is great! Here’s what we learned!

Stay at the Universal Hard Rock Hotel. With the hotel being located next door to the entrance of Universal Studios, it’s just a 5 minute walk over. You can also take the water taxi just outside the hotel to the City Walk or Islands of Adventure. My favorite tip for any hotel stay is to schedule a grocery delivery for bottle waters, snacks, and breakfast items. My second tip is make a dinner reservation or have a plan for where to eat when you arrive. There is nothing worse after traveling than hangry kids and having to wait an hour on a table. With the City Walk being right there, it’s so easy to walk or water taxi over to one of the restaurants.

Here are some of the perks with staying on Universal property:

  1. You can pick up your park tickets in the lobby when you arrive and be ready to go, without having to wait in the ticket lines at the park.
  2. Hotel guests also receive an extra hour of early admission to one of the parks before the large crowd arrives!
  3. Skip the lines! When you stay at a Universal Resort you receive an express pass to ride the rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

We decided to purchase the 2-day park hopper to get the most out of our stay. Our kids are huge Harry Potter fans, so this was worth the extra money for the kids to ride the Hogwarts Express, the train only available for park hoppers to experience both parks, Universal and Islands of Adventure.

If you have Harry Potter fans with you, the biggest tip we received was when Island of Adventure opens for early admission, head straight to Hagrid’s Motorbike ride or the VelociCoaster. These two rides do not have express pass options so the best time to ride is first thing in the morning, otherwise the wait time is usually over 90 minutes. They were playing with reservations or the virtual line for Hagrid’s when we visited but it’s subject to availability. Our family rode Hagrid’s first both mornings and waited maybe 30 minutes and then walked over to the VelociCoaster and waited maybe 30-45 minutes, all before 9:30am! They were also lucky to check in on the virtual line throughout the day and finally have an evening time slot open to ride one more time!

We spent the first day with the majority of our time spent at Islands of Adventure before we took the Hogwarts’s Express over to Universal Studios. The second day we started in Islands of Adventure just to ride Hagrid’s and the VelociCoaster one more time before spending the majority of the second day at Universal Studios. If your family is big into roller coasters, the express pass is worth it. I lost count of how many times my kids rode the Hulk ride.

We also took advantage of the City Walk and ate at some of the restaurants outside of the park just to slow down a minute. The first night we arrived, we ate at Cowfish, which was good for a family dinner option, with burgers and sushi! My kids also loved the milkshakes! The second night we ate at Bigfire which is a little nicer but still family friendly with a great cocktail and wine selection after a long day with kids! The last day we made brunch reservations at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, and yes this was a favorite for the kids! One of my favorite restaurants was inside Islands of Adventure called Mythos. The atmosphere was fun, and I liked how it was one of the few restaurants with healthier options. I also recommend making reservations for all the restaurants.  

If you are wanting to do it all in a short amount of time, stay on property, and buy the 2-day hopper pass. My kids (10 & 12) still say it was the best weekends! Have fun!