Universal's Islands of Adventure One Day Plan

Looking to plan the perfect day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure? Well we’ve got the plan for you. In our Universal’s Islands of Adventure one day itinerary, we’ll take you step-by-step through a full day at Islands of Adventure. The times in this post are based on an actual day spent at the park, except where noted.

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This post does not go in-depth discussing the different rides. For more information, we have a Guide to the rides of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you are visiting on a day with Early Park Admission—whether or not you have it—you will want to read our Guide to Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando. Finally, your day may be greatly helped if you have Universal Express Pass.

About This One Day Plan

We recommend reading this post in full. But if you’d like to just jump to the minute-by-minute itinerary, click here.

Not all guests are going to spend a full day at Islands of Adventure. We advise spending a full day at both of Universal Orlando’s parks, though, and so this one-day plan is built with that in mind.

Most of the times in this post come from a day when crowds were at level 9 out of 10 by Touring Plans measurements. So while it should be able to handle most crowd levels, it’s important to remember that things like weather or unexpected ride closures can throw a wrench into your day.

Guest patterns will also change over time. We always try to keep an eye on things, but we don’t live in Islands of Adventure. This plan is an example, not a promise that you will have the exact same experience.

This plan does not assume you use child swap, which allows parents to swap supervising a child who does not meet a height requirement without waiting in line twice. If you do use child swap, your day will move more slowly as you have to wait for two people to ride each ride.

Finally, this plan will start with The Incredible Hulk Coaster, assuming that you will ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in the afternoon. For more on this, we give you “The Hagrid’s Issue”…

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The Hagrid’s Issue

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is the newest ride at Universal Orlando Resort. It has been a big hit, but it also has been plagued with operational issues that have kept it down for significant amount of times most days.

Because of its popularity, Hagrid’s pretty regularly has waits between two and four hours. In a normal situation, this isn’t such a big deal. No one wants to wait that long for a ride, but if it’s a good ride and your park touring otherwise goes well, it’s just a part of the experience.

But this is no normal situation. Universal hasn’t explained what the ride’s issues are, but since it opened Hagrid’s has spent multiple hours virtually every day inoperable. This means you might get in line when the wait is 210 minutes, then have the right go down for two hours, and then still have a substantial wait left when it reopens.

We have a post on Rope Drop (Morning) At Islands of Adventure that breaks down why strategically it makes sense to push Hagrid’s into the afternoon. However, that decision comes with the big caveat that you don’t know what kind of wait you’ll be looking at for the ride because of its recurring issues.

Regardless, this post assumes you do delay Hagrid’s into the afternoon. Until the operational issues (and the initial surge of demand for the ride) are resolved to the point where there’s a “smooth” strategy for fitting it into the morning, it doesn’t make sense to try and build this post around it. The Islands of Adventure rope drop post explains how you might plan your day around a Hagrid’s start, if thats what you go with.

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Quick Tips for Riding Hagrid’s

We do have a few quick tips about Hagrid’s. First, if you decide to visit Hagrid’s to start your day, it can help to have Universal Express Pass to cut down on your waits for other rides.

This might be the time to upgrade one night to a “premier” hotel with complimentary Universal Express Unlimited. Alternatively, plan to use single rider for big-name rides like Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Reign of Kong if you’re going to rope drop Hagrid’s.

Second, consider using single rider on Hagrid’s. Yes, you’ll wind up in a sidecar and not the coveted “motorbike” seat. But we think that’s an acceptable trade for the shorter wait.

Finally, try and get in line—particularly for single rider—right as it reopens from a closure. You can set an alert for when the ride reopens in the Universal app.

Typically, at least 60 to 100 minutes worth of guests will hang out in line through any delay for Hagrid’s—even over three hours. But the time immediately after a closure will have relatively (bigly important word) short waits and less risk of a subsequent closure.

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Arrival and Rope Drop at Islands of Adventure

Again, we recommend reading this post in full. But if you’d like to just jump to the minute-by-minute itinerary, click here. Also, you can click here to open a map of Islands of Adventure in a new tab.

The immediate morning priorities are: Incredible Hulk Coaster, Spider-Man, Reign of Kong, and Jurassic Park River Adventure. Along the way, you can add in Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall and Flight of the Hippogriff (as this plan does), but you’d also be fine skipping these for now if you’d like to “lock in” the highlights of the park.

The first perk to delaying Hagrid’s into the afternoon is that instead of arriving two hours before open, you can arrive 30 minutes before open.

I arrived at 8:25AM for a 9AM open. Gates open at 8:30AM. There are significant crowds ahead of me at the turnstiles, but they’re mostly headed to Hagrid’s.

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After corralling for a few minutes outside Marvel Super Heroes Island, guests are allowed through at 8:50AM. For more on rope drop at Islands of Adventure, click for our dedicated post.

You have to put all loose items (except for paper/plastic park tickets) in a locker across from Incredible Hulk. You’ll go through a metal detector while in line. I was off the ride right around 9AM.

I entered the queue for Spider-Man at 9:02AM and walked right onto the ride. After that, I headed back to Fear Fall, getting in line at 9:11AM. As long as you sped through Hulk and Spider-Man, it’s fine to squeeze Free Fall in here.

After a five minute wait and a very short ride on Fear Fall, I walked over to Skull Island: Reign of Kong. After a 9:24AM arrival and a three minute “wait” (walking to the ride from the entrance), I exited around 9:36AM.

Jurassic Park River Adventure is the “safe’ play here. About one hour into the day is as late as you want to delay Jurassic Park, if possible.

On this day, I was doing okay for time so I went to Flight of the Hippogriff. The wait time was up to 15 minutes by the time I arrived at 9:40AM, but I was on at 9:48AM.

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Here’s a recap of hour one:

  • 8:55AM — Incredible Hulk Coaster

  • 9:04AM — The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

  • 9:16AM — Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall

  • 9:27AM — Skull Island: Reign of Kong

  • 9:48AM — Flight of the Hippogriff

Mid-Morning at Islands of Adventure

As I said, Jurassic Park would have been the safer play earlier. Around an hour into the day, guests are pouring off four popular rides: Hulk, Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and Hagrid’s.

Guests coming from Marvel check their phones and see long waits in Hogsmeade. Guests coming from Hogsmeade see long waits for the Marvel rides. So they all converge in the middle—at Reign of Kong and the three water rides—Jurassic Park River Adventure, Ripsaw Falls, and Bilge-Rat Barges.

Done with Kong already, our priority is the three water rides. There’s not much pressure at this point—these three rides are going to basically wrap up your morning whether they have 5 minute waits or 45 minute waits.

On cooler days, the water rides will have low waits much of the day. In this case, you might prioritize Pteranodon Flyers before the water rides. On swamp days, the water rides will get long waits more quickly.

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Tip: I place my items in a paid locker at Jurassic Park River Adventure, keeping my cell phone, park ticket, and credit card on me in a ziplock bag. Then I come back after the water rides and retrieve my other items.

At Jurassic Park River Adventure, the posted five minute wait at 9:54AM proved wrong, and I didn’t board until 10:10AM. Ripsaw Falls followed suit. The posted five minute wait at 10:23AM ended up taking 26 minutes.

But there’s still plenty of time to close out the morning with the final water ride. At 11:09AM, I got in the Bilge-Rat Barges line with a posted wait of 20 minutes. In a reversal of my last two rides, I actually only waited eight minutes, riding at 11:17AM.

Here’s how the morning wrapped up:

  • 10:10AM — Jurassic Park River Adventure

  • 10:49AM — Ripsaw Falls

  • 11:17AM — Bilge-Rat Barges

To recap the morning, we’re now through eight of seventeen rides as of 11:30AM. That is a good number. Even six would be okay, if I had delayed Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall and Flight of the Hippogriff.

Afternoon Planning at Islands of Adventure

Now is the time where priorities come into play. Before we get to an example afternoon, I’m going to outline what we have left in this specific itinerary. More than anything, it’s just important to understand the kinds of trade-offs you’ll be making in the afternoon.

Entertainment at Islands of Adventure

There are three “streetmosphere” shows in Islands of Adventure. All three have various times throughout the day (check the app for specifics):

  • Triwizard Spirit Rally (Hogsmeade)

  • Frog Choir (Hogsmeade)

  • Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (Seuss Landing)

As we have multiple rides left in both of these lands, it shouldn’t be hard to just squeeze these in before or after you visit a ride. Always confirm entertainment times for your day in the Universal app. The times in this itinerary may not reflect times on any specific day.

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There are three more pieces of entertainment to know. The Mystic Fountain is a talking fountain in The Lost Continent, just outside the entry to Hogsmeade. Find 5 minutes to go chat (or watch kids chat) with the fountain.

Poseidon’s Fury is a walkthrough attraction with showings every ten minutes. It usually has a posted wait time, similar to a ride, but it is categorized under “shows” in the app. As a Team Member to confirm the closing time (usually earlier than the rest of the park).

The nighttime show is The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle—a projection show with some fireworks at Hogwarts. We’ll talk more about nighttime options at the end of this itinerary.

Characters at Islands of Adventure

There are a few characters at Islands of Adventure. You can identify them as a type of “Show” in the app. Our itineraries rarely explicitly include characters, but if they’re a priority you’ll want to fit them into your afternoon.

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Remaining Rides at Islands of Adventure

This itinerary has nine of seventeen rides left. First are five “high-priority” rides that you’ll want to strategically fit into your day. Delay these too late and you can’t fit them in. These are:

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

  • Hogwarts Express

  • Pteranodon Flyers

  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!

Each of these five warrants a few comments. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure got its coverage above—if you can delay lunch, 11:30AM is as good a time as any to endure the wait for this one (or try to quickly Single Ride).

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is really fine at any time the rest of the day. Plan for a 60 minute wait. I’ll usually place it at peak heat so that I’m really savoring the indoor portion of the queue. I also strongly prefer and advise riding it before lunch.

Hogwarts Express is tricky. Remember, you need a park-to-park ticket to ride this one. As we cover more in the evening section, we recommend riding Hogwarts Express near the very end of your day (read more about it below).

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Pteranodon Flyers has a height maximum of 56” (adults can ride with their under-56” children). Along with the Incredible Hulk height minimum of 54”, few families will ride both (unless you’re using child swap, in which cases this entire itinerary will need modifications anyways). As we included Hulk to start this plan, we won’t say more about Pteranodon Flyers.

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! is a personal favorite. Although it could be grouped with the low-priority rides, we think it’s a cool ride and try to make sure we fit it into any day at Islands of Adventure.

The remaining four rides are “low-priority” (unless you have small children, of course):

  • Caro-Seuss-el

  • Cat in the Hat

  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

  • Storm Force Accelatron

For these rides, only visit them when waits are ten minutes or less.

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Afternoon at Islands of Adventure

11:30AM is too early to start watching entertainment, in our opinion. This is especially true given Islands of Adventure’s limited entertainment lineup. We also think you should at least push lunch a little later.

Following the above discussion, there are two options:

  • Pick a “priority” ride and deal with the wait now, to trim that list

  • Knock off any “low-priority” rides still sitting on low waits

For this itinerary, we’ll go with the latter. I headed to Seuss Landing, riding Cat in the Hat at 11:44AM, and then Caro-Seuss-el at 11:59AM. Both had posted waits of five minutes.

Now is a good time for lunch, but as I mentioned earlier I advise riding Forbidden Journey before lunch. I headed back to Hogsmeade, stopping briefly to watch the Mystic Fountain. I walked into line for Forbidden Journey at 12:22PM when the posted wait was 45 minutes. I boarded at 1PM.

Lunch hour at the Universal Orlando parks can be challenging, as waits of 30+ minutes from getting in line to getting your food can happen.

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There’s no perfect way to plan around this, although Three Broomsticks (in Hogsmeade) tends to have the longest lines, so you may want to eat somewhere else. For this itinerary, I’m going to allocate an hour for lunch.

If you’re in Hogsmeade, try and catch one of the shows before or after lunch. After I headed to the 2:30PM showing of Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear in Seuss Landing.

After that finished, I walked onto One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish at 2:44PM. This leaves just enough time to catch the 3PM show in Hogsmeade.

This is the spot where I’m going to go ahead and insert three hours for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Mirroring my own (more complicated) afternoon, I’ll use a 6:16PM boarding time for the ride. And now, evening is upon us.

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Here’s a summary of this afternoon:

  • 11:44AM Cat In The Hat

  • 11:59AM Caro-Seuss-el

  • 12:15PM Chat with Mystic Fountain

  • 1:00PM Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

  • Lunch + Hopefully one Hogsmeade Show at 1:30PM

  • 2:30PM Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (show)

  • 2:44PM One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

  • 3:00PM Other Hogsmeade Show

  • 6:16PM Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

I want to note the challenge of fitting everything in given Hagrid’s huge time-demand. There were no characters in this afternoon, and the two Hogsmeade shows were barely squeezed in.

Evening at Islands of Adventure

Having already noted that we’d be skipping Pteranodon Flyers in this itinerary, I’ve got three rides left to cover:

  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!

  • Hogwarts Express

  • Storm Force Accelatron

If there is any remaining entertainment, you might want to squeeze that in now, as the hours tend to be limited. On this day, I headed to Poseidon’s Fury. I entered the queue at 6:28PM (posted wait 20 min) and began my “tour” at 6:50PM.

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From there I headed to Storm Force Accelatron, walking right on at 7:21PM. Then it was off to Sky Seuss Trolley Train, which I boarded at 7:39PM. Recapping:

  • 6:28PM — Enter queue for Poseidon’s Fury

  • 7:21PM — Storm Force Accelatron

  • 7:39PM — Sky Seuss Trolley Train

Evening Rides on The Hogwarts Express (Three Options)

Now, you noticed by now that we still haven’t covered the Hogwarts Express. Well, you need park-to-park tickets to ride the Hogwarts Express. So you’ve got three options.

First, you could ride it now, then either ride it back or walk back to Islands of Adventure. That would put you in time to catch the nighttime lights on Hogwarts. You could also do this at any more convenient point in the day.

Second, you could ride it to the other park (Universal Studios Florida), and then watch their nighttime show. Our recommendation if you have two days is to use this strategy both nights, swapping nighttime shows via the Hogwarts Express. Here’s an example schedule with this strategy:

  • 8PM — Board Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios Florida

  • Dinner

  • 9PM — Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration

Third, you can watch the first showing of the lights on Hogwarts and then ride the Hogwarts Express. This only works if the first showing is at least 15 minutes before park close. If you confirm that to be the case, this is a good option, too, and it’s what I did on this example day.

Here’s an example schedule for this:

  • Dinner

  • 8:45PM — Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle

  • 8:55PM — Queue for Hogwarts Express

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Either way, this completes your day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Next is the itinerary without all my super helpful commentary.

Complete Example Itinerary

In case you jumped here, this is a reminder that this is a sample itinerary. It notably does not include any character interactions, so you may shuffle things around to fit those in.

While the times are mostly based on an actual day at the park, slight modifications have been made to account for things like my tendency to wait until 3PM for lunch, later than most of you will.

Unless otherwise stated, times are when I boarded an attraction.

  • 8:25AM — Arrive at Islands of Adventure Gates

  • 8:30AM — Turnstiles Open / Guests Allowed into Port of Entry

  • 8:50AM — Guests Allowed Into Rest of the Park

  • 8:55AM — Incredible Hulk Coaster

  • 9:00AM — Scheduled Park Opening

  • 9:04AM — The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

  • 9:16AM — Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall

  • 9:27AM — Skull Island: Reign of Kong

  • 9:48AM — Flight of the Hippogriff

  • 10:10AM — Jurassic Park River Adventure

  • 10:49AM — Ripsaw Falls

  • 11:17AM — Bilge-Rat Barges

  • 11:44AM Cat In The Hat

  • 11:59AM Caro-Seuss-el

  • 12:15PM Chat with Mystic Fountain

  • 1:00PM Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

  • Lunch + Hopefully one Hogsmeade Show at 1:30PM

  • 2:30PM Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (show)

  • 2:44PM One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

  • 3:00PM Other Hogsmeade Show

  • 6:16PM Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

  • 6:28PM — Enter queue for Poseidon’s Fury

  • 7:21PM — Storm Force Accelatron

  • 7:39PM — Sky Seuss Trolley Train

  • Dinner

  • 8:45PM — Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle

  • 8:55PM — Queue for Hogwarts Express

All Your Other Universal Orlando Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Universal Orlando planning! Take a second to check out our most important content!

Just starting out? Start with our Universal Orlando Resort planning guide! If you’re considering a Universal hotel, read our Review of Universal’s Aventura Hotel!

You’ll want to know what rides the parks offer, so we’ve got a Universal Studios Florida Rides Guide and a Universal’s Islands of Adventure Rides Guide. And to know how to get on them without the long waits, read all about Express Pass at Universal Orlando Resort.

If you’d like an idea of how to plan a day at these parks, we can help there, too. Our One Day Universal Studios Florida Itinerary covers a full day at the original park, and our Universal’s Islands of Adventure One Day Plan covers that park.

Early risers always have the best theme parks days (well, we think so). Read about Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando to learn how to get an extra hour in the parks. And read about rope drop at Islands of Adventure, including getting on the brand new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.