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  • Georgina D'Angelo

How to Do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day

Updated: Feb 1

How to Do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day - Alpacka My Bags Travel Blog

Calling all movie lovers and thrill seekers! If you’re looking for an exciting way to spend a day in Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood is the place for you. Where movie magic comes to life, enjoy thrill rides, live shows, fictional worlds brought to reality, and more at Universal.

The park is split into two main parts, the upper and lower lot. In total, there are 11 rides, including simulator rides, coasters, a tram, and water rides, as well as 3 shows.

While it would be possible to ride every ride and watch every show in one visit, it would not be very practical. But you can still fit a lot into one day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

After spending the entire day at this popular theme park, I’ve gathered my best tips to help you make the most of your time here. For starters, I recommend visiting on a weekday to avoid the biggest crowds.

This is a highly visited theme park, and for good reason! And second, download the Universal CA app to help you make the most of your time in the park.

Here is how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day and have a great time! This is a suggestion, but please alter the plan to fit your needs. This route worked well for us as we knew we wanted to mainly hit the coasters, Water World, and the Studio Tour.

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Universal Studios One Day Plan

Morning | Breakfast, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, & Souvenirs

It’s best to eat breakfast before you arrive so you can enter at opening time, hit the ground running, and have more time to spend on attractions. One of the best breakfast places near Universal Studios Hollywood is &Waffles.

This breakfast diner is delicious and only about a 10-minute walk to the Universal shuttle tram on Universal Hollywood Dr that drops you off at the entrance.

Once you’ve gone through security and checked in with your pre-purchased tickets, it’s time to hop on the most popular rides. If there is an attraction you really want to ride, I suggest making that your first stop.

Generally, wait times are shorter in the morning as people slowly enter the park, so this is a great time to hop on those rides you know you don’t want to miss.

That’s exactly what we did and it worked out really well on a Thursday. First, head to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to hop on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a mix of simulation and coaster, and Flight of the Hippogriff, a small coaster themed around Hagrid’s hut.

Don’t forget to grab a frozen butterbeer before you leave this area! It’s so yummy and refreshing. If you’re a Potter Head, now is the time to do some souvenir shopping.

There are multiple shops to browse in the Wizarding World, like Ollivanders wand making and Honeydukes candy shop.

Afternoon | Super Nintendo World, Jurassic, & Mummy

If you’re hungry at all, grab a snack to enjoy as you make your way to the lower lot. With the Universal CA app, you can easily keep an eye on wait times.

We found that Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge had a decreased wait time after the morning rush so we opted to go to Super Nintendo World next.

If the wait time for Bowser’s Challenge is 100 minutes or less, it’s a good time to get in line. It might seem like a long wait, but this is relatively short.

Bring a snack and plenty of water, and apply sunblock! Much of the line is outside in the sun. The design and details they put into creating the line are amazing though and distract you for much of the wait.

Once you’ve enjoyed the phenomenal new ride, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, explore the rest of Super Nintendo World or grab a souvenir from 1-UP Factory.

It’s not a huge area but if you’re a Mario fan it’s worth walking around for fun photo opportunities; you might even see Princess Peach or Mario and Luigi!

Next, head back to the main area of the lower lot to enjoy the classics like Jurassic World, a thrilling water ride, Revenge of the Mummy, a fast coaster in the dark, and Transformers, a 3D simulation ride. These are some of the most popular rides in the park so wait times can vary between 30 to 90 minutes on average.

There are multiple dining options in the lower lot so this is a great place to take a lunch break. It’s best to eat earlier or later than noon; you’ll avoid the longest lines for restaurants and be able to take advantage of shorter ride lines when most other people are eating.

My food recommendation is Mummy Eats. They serve giant corn dogs and fries that are filling and delicious, and they even have a vegetarian corn dog (my favorite). It’s generally quick and easy so you can enjoy more attractions.

Evening | Water World, Studio Tour, & Last Minute Rides

Head to the Upper Lot! A Universal Studios Hollywood classic is the Studio Tour. The last tram ride is a few hours before park closing time, so I recommend heading here after lunch. You’ll get to explore famous sets from classic Hollywood movies like Jaws, 3D portions including a King Kong experience, and more.

Another classic you can't miss is the WaterWorld show. Get ready for an exciting action show on the water! WaterWorld is the best show at Universal Hollywood; they only have a few show times every day, so make sure you have the Universal CA app to plan when exactly you can watch it.

Depending on how fast you’re moving through the park and what wait times are like, you might have a few more hours before closing time.

Other fun rides you might want to go on are Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, The Simpsons Ride, both of which are virtual coasters, and The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, a tame physical ride.

If you want to take it easy and slow down for the rest of your day, plan to have dinner at one of the restaurants in the park. The best sit-down options are Minion Cafe, Mel’s Diner, and Hollywood and Dine.

Or if you want to squeeze in more attractions, stay in the park until close and enjoy a dinner at Universal Citywalk (outside the entrance/exit). I recommend getting reservations ahead of time if you plan to eat at the Citywalk.

Universal Hollywood Rides & Shows

Coasters & Physical Rides

Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge (includes 3D)

Jurassic World (water ride)

Revenge of the Mummy (coaster)

Super Silly Fun Land (kid-friendly)

Secret Life of Pets

Flight of the Hippogriff

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (includes simulations)

Studio Tour (includes simulations)

Simulators - Virtual 3D


Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

The Simpsons Ride


Triwizard Spirit Rally

Kung Fu Panda Adventure


Tips for Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

1. Schedule your day around the shows you want to see

These are only available at set times (typically three showings a day), so make sure you download the Universal CA app to know exactly when the shows start and make sure you arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

2. Avoid eating at the busiest times

You’ll end up waiting a lot longer in any food line during peak dining times. Try to eat an earlier or later than normal lunch. This way you can also take advantage of any shorter wait times that might occur when many people are stopping for lunch.

3. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for souvenirs

This is often when the stores get busiest because everyone is making sure they find a souvenir before the park closes.

Grab a souvenir while you’re in your favorite part of the park, like the Wizarding World or Super Nintendo World, or snag a fun keepsake on your lunch break.

4. Purchase your tickets ahead of time

Plan your visit to the park at least a day in advance. It’s easy to pre-purchase tickets on your phone, this way you can arrive at opening time and have the entire day to spend at the park. You can do so through the Universal app or website.

5. Visit on a weekday

If possible, I highly recommend visiting Universal Studios on a weekday. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays tend to be the cheapest, as well as the quietest. You won’t run into the huge crowds in the middle of the week like you will on the weekends.

6. Bring a water bottle

You can bring a bag to the park, but it will get checked. Having your own water bottle is a great idea; you’ll need to stay hydrated while running around Universal. There are several refill stations and water fountains available.

Stick with a small backpack if you do bring a bag as it’s much easier to carry. Some rides require you to leave your bags in a free locker; they’re not very big so a bulky bag likely wouldn’t fit.

7. Rest if you need a break

It’s a fairly big park and rides are spread out. If you’re visiting in the summer, it can get very hot as there is hardly any shade in the park.

Make sure you take a break and drink plenty of water. You can always use this as an excuse to try another yummy snack like a Mario drink or Butterbeer ice cream.

8. Motion sickness is common, especially on virtual rides

You most likely already know if you suffer from motion sickness. As someone who gets it quite easily, I found I was totally fine on the coasters, but the simulator rides made me feel sick. I don’t want to dissuade you from going on a ride, but it is a possibility, so just be aware.

How to Do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day: FAQ

How many days do you need at Universal Studios Hollywood?

You can explore all of Universal Studios Hollywood in just one day. As it’s just one park, you should be able to fit in all the rides you want if you visit on a weekday. If you wanted to complete every single attraction and show, you might need two whole days. But if you’re only in LA for a few days, one day is plenty of time to see the best of Universal.

Can you do all the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood?

Theoretically, you could probably ride every attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in one visit if you purchased the Universal Express pass and the Early Access Ticket to Super Nintendo World.

If you purchase both of these you will have an extra hour to spend at Super Nintendo World before the park opens as well as access to the Express lanes at each ride (excluding Bowser’s Challenge).

Best Time to Go to Universal Studios Hollywood

As it is located in Los Angeles, California, the weather at Universal Hollywood is nice all year round. It can get fairly hot in the summers and there’s little shade in the park, and winter is the rainiest time with an average of 2 days of rain per month.

Overall, any time of year is great to visit this theme park, but the best months would be May and September with cool temps and low rainfall.

5 Essentials to Bring to Universal Studios

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Day bag

  • Sunscreen

  • Comfortable shoes

  • Baseball cap

Read my complete guide on what to bring to Universal Studios.

Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk at sunset
Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk

Universal Studios One Day Plan

Movie lovers and thrill seekers all need to plan a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. Set in the heart of Hollywood, this theme park will take you into the world of cinema. With a great mix of rollercoasters, tame rides, and shows, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.

Explore famous sets on the Studio Tour, scream at the thrill of The Mummy, eat delicious theme park goodies, adventure into the world of Nintendo, and join your class at Hogwarts, all in one action-packed park in LA. It’s your turn to enjoy the magic and thrill of the best rides at Universal Studios Hollywood.

This is a must-do activity while you’re exploring Los Angeles; it might take you all day to explore the whole park, but it's so worth it for the fun and the memories. Time to prepare for your own action-packed day! Now you know exactly how to do Universal Studios Hollywood in one day, so what’s your favorite kind of ride?

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Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 


I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.


I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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