The specific day of the week that you choose to visit the Universal Studios Orlando Resort can have a significant impact on how much you pay for park tickets and hotels, as well as how long you stand in line for the rides and attractions within the theme parks.
Typically the best day to go to Universal Studios Orlando is either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Since the crowds are often higher over a weekend, many people choose to visit the resort for a long-weekend break.
However, there are a number of exceptions to this perhaps most notably being either special events or concerts taking place within the Universal Orlando Resort or on national holiday weekends such as Spring Break, Christmas and Thanksgiving.
The advice specified below applies to the Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme park and in select cases the Universal Studios Orlando Resort water park, Volcano Bay.
Best Days To Visit Universal Studios Orlando
What makes a great time to visit the Universal Orlando Resort is different for everyone.
Some are looking specifically for smaller crowds which often result in both shorter standby wait times and cheaper hotel prices.
Meanwhile, others aren’t as bothered about long lines and instead think the best days at Universal Studios are when incredible events are taking place or when the park is filled with themed decorations (i.e. Halloween Horror Nights or Christmas).
We personally believe that the best days to visit Universal Orlando are when the crowd levels are lower since this significantly reduces the amount of time you’ll have to wait in line for rides within the park.
Time Of Year
The time of year you visit the Universal Orlando Resort is going to have the most significant impact on the park crowd levels.
The difference between visiting Universal Studios at the end of July to the middle of September is typically the difference between waiting 120 minutes for the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit or 35 minutes, or 80 minutes for the Hogwarts Express instead of 20 minutes.
As such, it’s easy to see how visiting during the ‘off-peak’ season can be an incredibly enjoyable experience.
While visiting on weekends and weekdays will still impact the crowd levels (more on that in a moment). This is isolated to the time of year.
Thankfully, based on historical data we know that the best time of year to visit the Universal Orlando Resort is;
- Early February
- Beginning of October
There are two caveats you’ll want to watch out for if you’re looking to visit the Universal Orlando Resort in September / the beginning of October.
The first is Halloween Horror Nights.
This special event begins in the middle of September and runs until the end of October.
On nights when this event takes place you’ll find the Universal Studios Florida theme park typically closes earlier (since this park is the hosting location of the event) and the resort is more crowded with guests specifically coming to experience HHN.
The second thing you’ll want to watch out for if you’re looking to visit the Universal Orlando Resort in September / the beginning of October is hurricane season.
Given that Universal Studios is in central Florida, the region does experience hurricanes and severe tropical storms between the latter half of August and the end of November.
Universal Studios did have to close the park in 2022 as a direct result of a hurricane which resulted in many guests having to reschedule their day at the parks or Universal Orlando vacation entirely.
As such, if you do find yourself visiting Universal Studios Orlando in September it’s well worth investing in quality travel insurance that will both protect you and reimburse you should you experience a hurricane, tropical storm, or any other situation during your trip.
Whether you visit the Universal Studios Orlando Resort on a weekend or a weekday is the second most influential factor on crowd levels within the theme parks.
Typically, the weekdays Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the quietest.
While Monday and Friday are still typically lower than the weekend, you may still find slightly higher crowd levels from those taking a long weekend.
However, there are some significant exceptions to this rule.
For example, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year at the Universal Studios Orlando Resort with both theme parks and even the Volcano Bay water park often reaching capacity by midday.
Of course, Thanksgiving takes place on a Thursday, so in this case, Thursday is a no-go if you’re looking to avoid the crowds.
The same goes for special events, if there’s a concert taking place either at the Universal Studios Florida theme park, inside the Hard Rock Café or at CityWalk then crowds will be higher since people will tie in a visit to one (or more) of the resorts theme parks with the concert experience.
As such, if that concert takes place on a Tuesday for example, then that Tuesday will more often than not be busier when compared to the average Tuesday for that time of year.
Worst (Busiest) Days To Visit Universal Studios Orlando
Much like what makes the best time to visit Universal Studios is different for everyone, so too is the worst time.
However, generally speaking, most people want to avoid the busiest time where you’ll often experience long wait times for the park’s most popular rides and higher prices for park tickets and hotels.
Visiting during these times can often see you waiting up to three hours for rides such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Revenge of the Mummy.
Meanwhile, you’ll find that hotel prices are typically 20% higher than usual, park tickets up to $50 more per person when compared to the cheapest time of the year and an increase in the cost of Universal Express Unlimited passes (circa $300 per person).
Time Of Year
The factor that is going to have the most influence on crowd levels within the Universal Orlando Resort is the time of year in which you visit.
The special events, weather and day of the week you visit the resort’s theme parks are only set to make things either slightly better or slightly worse.
Based on historical data we know that the worst times to visit the Universal Orlando Resort are typically the summer months including;
- Beginning of August
This is primarily due to;
- Spring Break – This typically takes place in either March or April (the exact week varies between cities and states)
- Easter – This annual holiday takes place in either March or April
- School Summer Vacations – These typically occur between July and August (you’ll want to consider the US primarily, however, Canada and European school holidays also impact crowd levels given the park’s international popularity).
- Thanksgiving – Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November.
- Christmas – Universal decorates for Christmas straight after Halloween. The crowd levels inside the parks typically increase week by week leading up to Christmas.
- New Year – The parks will remain busy after Christmas all the way through until the New Year. Typically turning into an off-peak season as the first Monday after the New Year begins.
While the time of year has the most significant impact on crowd levels, it’s likely not the only thing you’ll want to consider about the specific day(s) on which you visit the Universal Orlando Resort.
For example; the weather conditions in Orlando in March are very different to the weather conditions in Orlando in July.
In March, the weather is warm, and any rain showers are rare. However, in July, the weather is incredibly hot and humid to the point in which being outdoors for long periods of time can be incredibly painful or near impossible for some.
There are two pre-planned special events that take place at Universal Studios Orlando every year that have an impact on the overall crowd levels within the park. These are;
- Halloween Horror Nights – Which runs from the middle of September through until the end of October
- Mardi Gras – This takes place from the middle of February until the middle of April
Of the two events, Halloween Horror Nights have a significantly higher impact on crowd levels, especially during the last two weeks of October.
While the Mardi Gras celebrations are a part of your admission into the Universal parks, Halloween Horror Nights are not. Instead, Halloween Horror Nights is a separately ticketed event.
This event takes place roughly 12 to 15 times between the middle of September and the end of October, with dates at the end of October often selling out.
Depending on your personal preferences visiting Universal Orlando in October could be fantastic – since you could buy an extra ticket and experience Halloween Horror Nights, or a burden – since the park will be more crowded.
Typically, families with young children are likely to find Halloween Horror Nights more of a burden, since the event isn’t suitable for them, yet they are still having to experience the impact of the event taking place.
Universal Studios recommends a minimum age of at least 11 years old for Halloween Horror Nights. However, we would recommend reading a number of independent reviews and watching some Youtube videos before committing to tickets if you’re looking to attend the event with children under the age of 16.
Meanwhile, families with older children, couples or groups of friends are typically going to love visiting the Universal Studios Resort at this time of year.
That’s because despite the extra crowds since there is an extra, unique experience to participate in (albeit a paid one in addition to your park ticket) that will likely appeal to them.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, you’ll still find that weekends are busier than weekdays.
Saturday and Sunday will be the worst, however, Monday and Friday will also have an uplift with many people taking long-weekends to visit the resort.
Of course during the peak season this only exasperates the amount you’ll pay for accommodation and Universal theme park tickets as well as how long you’ll queue for rides within the park.
If you’re visiting Universal during the peak-season then it’s highly recommended you try to avoid weekends in order to lower the impact the time of year you’re visiting has on your experience inside the park.
However, we appreciate that that’s not possible for everyone – including on occasion, ourselves.
As such we’ve put together a couple of notes based on our own experience as to how to overcome the crowds and still have a fantastic time even if you’re visiting at the ‘worst possible time’.
Of course, the large crowds experienced during the peak season aren’t the only reason to avoid June through to the beginning of August as high temperatures and humidity make walking around the park and standing in line for long periods of time incredibly uncomfortable.
Of course, depending on your personal preferences you may want to choose to visit Universal Studios at the beginning of the year when you’re likely to avoid heavy rain and instead benefit from average daytime temperatures of 64f.
Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of themed events and happy to wear a rain poncho during rainy days at the park then you’ll likely be better off visiting between October and December where you’ll experience both Halloween and the holiday season decorations.
New Parks, Areas & Ride Openings
Another, albeit less frequent factor that can often severely impact the estimated crowd calendar for that particular year or time of year at Universal Studios Orlando is a new park, area or ride opening.
Depending on the size, anticipation and popularity of that particular attraction, you could find a general uplift in crowd levels for as long as two years.
However, it’s particularly going to be the first couple or weeks or first couple of months which will be the most significant.
As such it’s worth researching to find out if there’s anything major scheduled to open or that has just opened when you’re planning to visit the resort which may impact the crowd levels during your trip.
Some upcoming things we know of at the time of publishing;
Illumination’s Villain-con Minion Blast – Opening Summer 2023
The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride has been inside the Universal Studios Florida theme park since 2012.
Since then the Despicable Me franchise has gone on to have a number of successful sequels which has led the Universal Studios Florida theme park to increase their commitment to Gru and the gang.
As such, Production Central at the entrance of Universal Studios Florida is being transformed into Illumination Ave with an officially declared Minion Land.
Set to open in the Summer of 2023, Gru’s laboratory will be joined by a neighbouring attraction, Illumination’s Villain-con Minion Blast, and Minion Cafe, a new dining location.
While this is an exciting upgrade for Universal Studios Florida, it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on the park’s crowd levels for a significant amount of time.
Epic Universe – Opening 2025
The fourth theme park at Universal Orlando was first announced back in 2019 and has an estimated opening sometime in 2025.
The park is going be situated around 15 minutes drive south of the two current Universal Studios theme parks and Volcano Bay, closer to Universal’s Endless Summer Resort.
Aside from its location and estimated opening date, the announcements surrounding Epic Universe have been relatively vague.
However, despite this new theme park is likely to see a significant number of people visiting the Universal Orlando Resort in 2025 with many theme park fans likely putting off trips in 2024, in favour of seeing the new park just 12 months later.
What To Do If You Can Only Visit Universal Studios Orlando When It’s Busy?
We’ve visited all three Universal Studios theme parks during some of the busiest days of the year (multiple times) and have found that provided you’re prepared and plan ahead you can still have an incredible day!
But what does great planning and preparation for a trip to Universal Studios look like?
The best ways to
- Checking the opening times during your visit online in advance
- Checking which park(s) have early park admission during your trip – where applicable
- Deciding how you’re going to travel from your accommodation to the Universal Studios Florida parks
- Reviewing the height restrictions for all rides
- Understanding which parks you’re visiting
- Deciding which rides and attractions are essential for your group
- Confirming how many days you want to visit the resort for
- Deciding whether or not you want to purchase a park-to-park ticket
- Reviewing the most popular attractions and best rides before cross-referencing this with rides and experiences you’d most like to experience during your trip
- Checking which rides have single rider lines – and whether you’d be happy going in them
- Purchasing your park tickets
- Downloading the Universal Studios mobile application
However, if you have the budget then you may also want to consider enhancing your visit;
- By staying on-site in a Universal Studios Resort hotel
- By purchasing a Universal Studios Express Passes (or getting a complimentary pass by staying in a premier on-site hotel)
- Getting a VIP tour around the parks