Surviving Holiday Crowds at Universal Orlando

(Photo Credit: Old Soul)

Theme park adventures brighten many people’s lives. Universal Orlando offers guests incredible thrills and experiences. However, during holiday weeks and long holiday weekends, crowds increase dramatically. Attractions usually consisting of a 15–20-minute wait have wait times well over an hour. The headline attractions create potential 2 hours waits on busiest days. How do you survive and thrive during heavy crowd levels at Universal Orlando?

First, common wisdom would be to purchase express passes to enter shorter queues. Yet, express pass could cost you $300/day per person. As demonstrated by the express queue for Gringotts attraction on the day I am writing this, the “shorter” queue could be an actual wait of 45 minutes. Now, if you desire to get express, the most cost-effective way for most groups involves staying at one of the Premier level on-site hotels. Premier hotel guests receive unlimited express pass as a part of their stay. In fairness, express passes will help.


Islands of Adventure
Photo courtesy of Kimmie Caputzal

Still, express passes fail to solve several theme parks touring issues. Currently, express pass remains powerless to get you access to a shorter queue for Jurassic World Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Express passes lack ability to access a shorter line for food/beverages also. Even if you have express pass access, you will still need to follow some other steps to survive your day at Universal Orlando. Though these are not exhaustive, here are a few hints to consider:

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  1. Bring your patience!

Everything will be slower than you expect. Enjoyment still happens but just in a slower time frame.

  1. Have a plan for food and beverage!

Queues for dining will be long. You should expect waits over 30 minutes to be seated. If desiring food from one of the Wizarding World places, the wait to be seated could exceed an hour. Mobile ordering options exist but not available for all in park restaurants. Universal Orlando lacks a solid reputation with efficiency regarding mobile ordering. You should consider bringing in your own snacks and beverages to help with this. Universal Orlando offers refillable freestyle cups and popcorn buckets. Queues will form for these options but will be much shorter than other food/beverages queues.

Personally, I chose to dine in CityWalk for lunch on these high crowd days. Quality CityWalk dining resides a short walk from the theme parks. Several restaurants there serve lunch with short to no wait. Now, if you want to dine in CityWalk in the evening, please make a reservation since those slots will fill up.

islands of adventure

  1. Take a Break in Afternoon!

The period between around 1-4pm everyday ranks as busiest time in theme parks. The early risers continue to tour while late arrivals add to the crowd. If you want to avoid the highest crowd levels, take a break. Suggested breaks include late lunch in CityWalk or one of the on-site hotels. You may select to return to your hotel room for a meal break and a nap. To maximize your time, the afternoon breaks make the busy day seem less stressful.  Also, the break allows you to stay during nightfall. Universal Orlando looks amazing at night.

4. Consider early park admission and single rider queues!

If possible, both options will allow you to enjoy shorter waits. If you want to ride Jurassic World Velocicoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, both options increase your chances of a shorter wait, Of course, single rider queue could have a longer wait than standard queue based on nature of those two attractions.

Universal Studios florida

  1. Enjoy the additional character interactions and shows!

During most holiday weekends and weeks, Universal Orlando provides additional character interactions. If your group loves characters, busy days should provide a great time. Far more characters roam the theme parks during high crowd days. Even for veterans of Universal Orlando, meeting every character on a high crowd day brings a challenge. The challenge revolves around the vast number of character interactions. At Universal Orlando, queues for character interactions sustain a low level. With exception of special seasonal character interactions like the Grinch, the wait for character photos rarely exceeds more than 5-10 minutes. High crowd days offer great days to visit rarely seen characters.

Islands of Adventure

High crowd season bring challenges. However, longer hours and more activities bring opportunity for enjoyment. If you brave the high crowd on a holiday period, use some of these suggestions to enjoy your day.

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.