What’s the Best Time To Go to Universal? The Best (and Worst) Months

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Is there ever a bad time to go to Universal Studios and/or Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida? The answer, my friend, is no. But are some months of the year better than others? Yeah. Probably. It depends on what you want. The optimum experience – I would think – would be the best weather and the lowest crowds. So, spring and fall are good candidates. But if you’re traveling with kids, most of the spring and fall months are out because of school – unless you head for spring break or fall break when the crowds are just as bad as the summer. 


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What is the least busy time at Universal Studios?

It’s about when you think. Early January, late February and early March are considered the off-season. But on nice days, you can find quite a crowd even in the off-season. Peak times are summer and around spring break. 

Hogwarts Castle Night Show
In the evenings, you might be able to catch a Hogwarts night show (photo by Alaina O’Neal/HeyOrlando.com)

Is it better to go to Universal in the morning or evening?

Again, this is my personal preference. I feel like you can get more done if you’re at the parks at rope drop. Despite being a night person, I want to be at the park as soon as it opens. That being said, I do feel like if you have older kids, you can get more done in the parks at night as families start to go to eat or head back to the hotel. Universal, however, does close a little early for my preference year-round.

drink from hollywood horror nights in orlando
If you have young kids, Halloween Horror Nights may not be the right fit for your family (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Are there any months to avoid? 

If you don’t like extreme heat or crowds, May through September is pretty well out. For us, my kids are easily scared. They didn’t do well on the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World. So, I feel like planning a Universal trip during Halloween Horror Nights would be counterproductive. While I know the experience is only as scary as they want it to be – we could avoid going into the tents and stuff – I’m pretty sure the vibe would freak them out. The sounds and the atmosphere would fuel their young imaginations. A week of vacation nightmares and a couple of years of therapy is not what the Gullion family needs.

Is there any way to know for sure what the crowds will be like?

Not with 100 percent clarity, but there are ways to hedge your bets. Some sights offer a crowd calendar that tracks the best days to go to parks like the Universal Studios Resort, comparing weekdays versus weekends, Tuesdays versus Thursdays, etc. You might be able to tell if Universal Studios is more or less crowded on Martin Luther King Day, Easter or Memorial Day holidays. For me, I think the best way to know is by monitoring ticket prices. When you book your trip to Universal Studios Florida, you can pull up daily pricing for park tickets and express passes. The higher the cost, the higher the demand. It’s that simple.

Entrance Universal Orlando
Typically, the higher the price, the more crowded the park will be (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Should I factor hurricane season into my planning? 

The Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to Nov. 30, so if you’ve got kids in school, it makes it kind of hard to skip the season. On our last trip, we had a tropical storm nipping at our heels and we kept an eye on the weather, but it ended up passing us over. A few years earlier, we got caught in a tropical storm while driving along the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to Florida. I do not recommend it. Also, as a veteran of multiple hurricanes, I can assure you they are nothing to mess with, but they can be dealt with as long as you pay attention. I’d consider trip insurance before I’d write off half the year. 

What is the best month to go to Universal Studios?

The Beatles have a song called “Rain.” It’s not one of the big hits, but it features some of Ringo Starr’s best drumming and some fun backward nonsense. I’ve always liked the message of the song which is essentially outside factors like rain and weather are only tangentially related to our experience. With the right attitude and planning, we can have a fun theme park day in the rain, the cold or the heat. However, lightning messes up everything.

So, depending on your attitude and a bit of luck, any time is a great time to go to the park, whether it’s Wednesdays or Saturdays or Presidents’ Day or New Year’s Eve. It’s up to you to make your trip worth it. That being said, here is my ranking for the best months to visit, starting with the worst:

Guests Enter the Hagrid Ride at Universal
The crowds may be better in a month like January, but there are other downsides (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

12. January

The positives for January? The crowds and the prices. The post-holiday season is probably going to have the most reliably low crowd counts. It’s a good time for locals and season pass holders to target a nice weather winter day and hit the park. The downside? Beyond the fact that your wallet is likely still smoking from the Christmas holiday, you can catch outlier cold snaps even though a Florida winter is mild. You certainly don’t want to drop a few grand for an off-season vacation that will still require coats. You don’t want to be riding the Hagrid’s while you visit Universal Studios Orlando while it’s raining frozen iguanas down south in Miami.

Honeydukes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Diagon Alley’s snow may feel more authentic in the winter months (photo by Box Lab/shutterstock.com)

11. February

February will be similar to January. But I will say there’s something about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the winter. The theming at Diagon Alley is great year-round, but there’s something about being in Hogsmeade when the temperature is over 90 that makes you look at all that fake snow with a skeptical eye. For instance, I see people in the summer, running around in robes, waving the interactive wand they got from Ollivander and I find myself wondering what the spell is to cure heatstroke. So, it all depends. December, January and February are better months to run around the park in your wizard robes. 

That said, the Harry Potter books and movies exist in a world that stretches from fall to spring and takes the summer offer. If you’re a Potterhead, come ride the Forbidden Journey in February. Also, riding the Hogwarts Express just hits harder around Labor Day. You feel like you’re heading back to Hogwarts yourself. 

The Streets of Universal Studios
You may see lower crowds in early March at Universal Studios (photo by Daniel Munson/HeyOrlando.com)

10. March

March is an interesting time as you’re transitioning to spring, but the early part of the month can see low crowds and good availability at the most popular attractions. 

Aerial View of Popeye & Bluto Bilge-Rat Barge
August will be very hot, but water rides such as Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges may help (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

9. August

August is just too dang hot. You do have the added benefits of the students in the south returning to school. For example, my kids go back on August 1 and I don’t like it. But the weekends from Friday to Sunday can still be quite crowded. 

Volcano Bay Entrance Orlando
If Universal is too hot in July, take a break at Volcano Bay Universal (photo by Mia2you/shutterstock.com)

8. July 

Why is July ahead of August when I said August will likely have fewer crowds? Because it’s supposed to be hot. It’s supposed to be crowded. For example, when I was a kid and you went to Disney or some other theme park in the summer, you sweated off 15 pounds by standing in line for hours. And then, you got to ride three things all day – two of which you didn’t even want to ride. But now? These parks are so well designed there’s no challenge left to them anymore. Summer vacation is a badge of honor. We survived Suess Landing in 107-degree temperatures. We’re all getting matching tattoos, even the eight-year-old. Volcano Bay is there. Hitting the water park may help.

Grinchmas in Seuss Landing Universal
Get ready for the holidays starting in November at Universal (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. November

I like Christmas. I don’t mind when the parks go straight from Halloween into the Yule season. With Seuss and the Grinch, the Universal Orlando Resort is well-positioned to celebrate the holiday, so why not start early? I think it’s the same with the Wizarding World. It’s just built for the holidays. I will admit, however, the vibe just gets better after Halloween. 

Universal Globe and Tourists
June can be a better time to visit with hurricane season typically not in full swing yet (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. June

Early June is a good time. The heat is up, but hurricane season isn’t quite in full swing yet. It’s fun to kick off summer break with a big adventure. 

Universal Horror Nights Parade Witch Float Evening
The popularity of Halloween Horror Nights tends to increase crowd size (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. October

I think fall – with Halloween Horror Nights – is the one season where Universal has a clear advantage over Disney. Sure, it may creep some of the younger kids out, but Universal’s IP jives with the Halloween of it all. Also, the weather is typically good. The one downside? Halloween Horror Nights is so successful that it drives the crowds up. Thus, you lose that fall advantage. 

Christmas Tree and Street  at Universal
Spending the holiday at Universal is great, but it can be chilly (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. December

There are worse things to do than spend the holiday in the Wizarding World or with the Grinch. The weather can be cool or questionable, and you lose some park hours as it gets dark earlier. But the biggest bummer is coming to Florida and not being able to swim unless you have an indoor pool. 

Hogsmeade in the Evening Hours
April is a great month to visit, but if you have kids in school, it may complicate the plan (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. April

In terms of weather, hurricanes and crowds, April may be the best time to go. Why is it third? If you’ve got kids in school the logistics of getting a Florida vacation in April are tough to manage. We’ve done it, though. Our youngest has an April birthday, and we just decided one year to take the time. But it’s difficult.

An Express Pass Sign Universal
The Express Pass is more expensive this time of year, but September is a fun time to visit Universal (photo by James OverholtHeyOrlando.com)

2. September

September is the fall version of April. The crowds will be higher and admission and Universal Express Passes more expensive because of Halloween Horror Nights. But you get to experience Universal’s signature event in great weather. So, I dig it.

Islands of Adventure Entrance
May is likely the best time to visit the Universal Parks in Orlando (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. May

The last days of May, leading into the Memorial Day weekend are, in my opinion, the best time of year to visit the parks. It’s warm enough to enjoy the full experience but the weather will be closer to reasonable than it will be in the height of summer. A lot of the students in the north are still in school until Memorial Day, so you’ve got a good chance at a decent crowd level. Late May is in many ways the perfect time to visit the parks.

What is your favorite month to visit Universal? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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