Thanks Giving Break at Orlando's Universal Studio

Universal Studios Florida: Check

Ratings Best Travel Date Cost Length


All year round $1000 3-4 days

TLDR tips:

  • Islands of adventure has the most rides to take and Universal Studios Park has more Universal Studios themed attractions and sites
    • I recommend purchasing fast pass for islands of adventure
    • I don’t recommend purchasing fast pass for Universal Studios park
  • Plane tickets and hotels are pretty cheap even in holidays but the ticket prices are more expensive during holidays
  • General park tips:


  • Ticket for Islands of Adventure: $120-$170
  • Ticket for Universal Studios Florida: $120-$170
  • Universal Express Pass: (Once per ride) $80
    • Unlimited version: $120
  • Parking & Shuttle: Free
  • Hotel: $35 per person per night
  • Food: $120
  • Flight: $200
  • Total: $900-$1100

Day 1

During Thanksgiving, we found surprisingly cheap flights to Orlando. It’s probably because big spots like Disneyland and Universal Studios can attract more visitors with lower flight fares. Our stay at the Best Western was a steal too, only averaging around $40 a night per person, and almost all hotels in the area offers a free shuttle to Universal Studios and other resorts, so that’s parking and transport fee saved as well.

We were pumped to check out both parks at Universal Studios:

  • the Islands of Adventure: your typical amusement park with many thrilling rides
  • the Universal Studios Florida: leaning more towards movie themed attractions and interaction activities.

The tickets start about $120 and goes up during weekends and holidays, and we since we expect a huge crowd during this time of the year, we opt in an extra $80 on a fast/express pass - totally worth it. Arriving in Orlando at night, we loved the warm 70s weather, a nice break from the freezing cold temperature back home in the Northeast.

Day 2

We got up early, grabbed a big breakfast at the hotel to keep us going all day. The shuttle from the hotel was handy - picked us up first and then went around picking up more folks. The whole ride to Universal Studios took about 30 minutes.

Getting an energetic breakfast is crucial

Free bus pick up at hotel to Islands of Adventure

Entering the security check entrance, and we already find the people piling up the gate has not yet opened, so you can imagine the quantity during peak.

People already piling up at security check

When we got there, people were already queuing up. I was pretty excited to join the stream of people as this is the first visit of Universal Studios Park for me. I’ve visited Disneyland when I was young and other second tier amusement park but not the famous one like this.. The weather was nice, just needing a shirt, and the sky was super clear.

The weather is nice and the sky is clear

We started with the Incredible Hulk Coaster This is the most thrilling ride back in 2017 before the other two coaster was built (The Motorbike and the Jurassic World Coaster). First, we did the regular line, and it was so good we went again with our fast pass. After that, we hit Dr. Doom’s Fearfall and some water rides like Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. We got wet but dried off quickly in the warm weather.

With our fast pass, we still waited around 20 to 40 minutes for each ride, but it was fun watching all the people and getting into the theme park vibe. We spent some time in the Harry Potter area too, going on rides like the Forbidden Journey.

The sky gets cloudy mid day and then slight rain happened

By afternoon, we were into the more chill part of the park, with rides that are a bit more laid-back. We didn’t really eat lunch because the breakfast kept us full.

Family fun at Islands of Adventure

After passing 5 p.m, we finally got hungry and went for the classic turkey leg - it’s a big thing at these parks. We wandered around, looking at the shops and soaking up the atmosphere, but didn’t buy much.

The park looked different at night with all the lights on. It was a great way to wrap up a day full of rides and fun.

Dinner is the classic turkey leg

Night time

Day 3

Day three was more laid-back. We skipped the fast pass since Universal Studios has more movie-themed attractions and fewer rides. As the season approaching Christmas, there are many Christmas decorations.

The whole park is beautifully designed and filled with many Universal Studios IP from the movies and TV shows but less rides, this is where the movie magic came alive.

We went to see the other Harry Potter location which is the dragon valley, although not being a huge fan, the brick wall, cobblestone streets, magical shops, and the imposing Gringotts Bank are impressive non-the-less.

The most time was spent writing different type of indoor rides such as the transformers race through New York with Jimmy Fallon, fast and furious, and the revenge of the mummy; in my opinion the mummy ride was the best of all four. Though be warned, they can be a bit dizzying.

Universal Studios' Dragon Alley

That night, we ordered pizza delivery to the hotel from an ad we found in our room. It was pricey, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Day 4

There was light rain in our last day, so we went to the Orlando premium outlets for shopping and for dining as well. I always like going to the outlets for purchasing my clothing, and the different locations of outlets usually offers different selections.

The outlets today was dedicated to Black Friday shopping so the deals were irresistible. Lunch was a quick bite at a food court and surprisingly not a lot of crowd probably due to the weather.

We left Orlando wishing we had time to explore more, like the Orlando Science Center or the airboat tours at Boggy Creek. The nightlife at Wall Street Plaza and Church Street, or the peaceful boat tours in Winter Park, would have been great too. Maybe next time!

Orlando outlets

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