Universal Orlando Wait Time Data
Hold the phone – Becky’s writing about Universal again. I know, it’s weird. It feels weird. But I’ve had a few people ask for a quick review of any submitted wait time data that we have from the Universal parks. A couple of weeks ago, I presented a bunch of similar data for Walt Disney World in a TouringPlans Teaches episode over on our YouTube channel. This data showed how average wait times vary between parks, showed which rides have the highest average waits, and how wait times changed throughout the day.
We receive many, many more submitted wait times from Walt Disney World than we do from Universal. So I’m not going to be able to go as in depth with this analysis. But hopefully a little taste will give you some reasons why you should help us out by timing waits during your next Universal visit!
Explain the Math
Today we’ve got mostly easy math. The data all comes from timed actual waits using the Lines Universal Orlando app. One important thing to know up-front is that all of today’s data is filtered to standby waits. Many visitors to Universal are eligible for a Universal Unlimited Express Pass if they stay at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel or Royal Pacific Resort. (By the way, that’s a huge perk – and our lovely Travel Agents can help you secure it). Wait times today don’t include those express lanes. Only standby.
Some of the analysis here also narrows down our wait times to peak hours only (11 am – 5 pm). This helps ensure that we’re comparing times that are more like one another and not just all waits throughout the day. But, since our sample sizes are lower here, we’re not always able to make those cuts.
Average Park-Wide Standby Waits
The average timed wait across an entire park can give us some idea of how easy or difficult any particular park will be to tour. For example, Hollywood Studios has the highest average standby wait of any WDW park, at 35.1 minutes. EPCOT, on the other hand, has an average standby wait of just 18.2 minutes. These different numbers show us why Hollywood Studios and EPCOT have different touring strategies. It’s much harder to avoid all waits at the Studios, but at EPCOT a good rope drop strategy can give you a day in the parks with no standby wait over 10 or 15 minutes.
Some interesting things to note already!
- Islands of Adventure has an average recorded standby wait time during peak hours that is even higher than Hollywood Studios over the past year. Ouch. That park is obviously going to require some careful planning, some tolerance for long-ish waits, and/or an Express Pass.
- Islands of Adventure has an average wait that is statistically significantly higher than Universal Studios. If you’re solely looking for a Universal park that is easier to tour without a plan, it’s Universal Studios.
- That being said, an average standby wait of 26 minutes during peak hours is still much higher than the average wait at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT. It’ll be hard to go in blind and just luck into avoiding waits, or stick just to attractions with low waits only.
Average Attraction Standby Waits
Okay, that’s a lot to digest. Let’s go over some things we can learn from this chart:
- Hagrid’s Motorbike is the big problem child, with an average actual standby wait time of almost an hour. Definitely the attraction to plan your day around if it’s something that you’re wanting to experience.
- Ripsaw Falls was (for me) a surprise second place here. But I phoned a friend (and by phoned, I mean pinged on Slack, like any normal person). And thankfully that friend was the Universal expert, Joe. He has some reasons behind the high average. First, the ride is often closed during what would otherwise be the slower cold season. That increases the average. Additionally, it frequently doesn’t open until 10:30 am. That means those low morning wait times can’t bring the average down either.
- The Hogwarts Express is rude. It’s the obvious way to hop between to the two lands dedicated to Harry Potter, but the average standby wait at King’s Cross is about 30 minutes, and the average at Hogsmeade isn’t much better at 22 minutes. This seems like a can’t miss attraction if you haven’t done these lands before. But if time is of the essence, you might want to just hop the old-fashioned way.
- Overall, Universal has a lot more middle-of-the-road wait times than Disney. There you have some people-eaters that rarely have a wait (PhilharMagic, Under the Sea, The Seas, Journey Into Imagination, etc) and then mega headliners. Universal has a large portion of its attractions than have an average standby wait between 15 and 30 minutes.
- If you’re solely focused on going to the park that has the most attractions with average standby waits under 20 minutes, go with Universal Studios.
Attraction Wait Time Patterns
Now let’s go one level further and look at wait time patterns throughout the day for seven of these attractions. For Disney, I was able to do this on an hour-by-hour basis throughout the day. The same thing isn’t possible at Universal because of much lower sample sizes. But we can look at buckets of time throughout the day and see if we can use the results to make some touring decisions.
Islands of Adventure Coasters
- Hagrid’s Motorbike shows an interesting trend right away. There is almost no ramp-up to high wait times – they’re already high before peak hours even arrive. You’re statistically better off waiting until the evening hours for things to calm down … a little.
- VelociCoaster, on the other hand, shows a more normal distribution. Wait times are lowest in the morning (presumably, when everyone is trying for Hagrid instead), then peak in the middle of the day and calming down slightly in the evening.
Harry Potter Headliners
- Midday waits for Escape from Gringotts actually rival those at Hagrid. Very close to being an hour of actual wait time during peak hours. Zero fun. You’re much better off making it there sometime before 11 if at all possible, or using an Express Pass.
- Forbidden Journey shows a similar pattern, but much lower wait times overall. In fact, the average standby wait during peak hours here is roughly equivalent to the morning wait at Escape from Gringotts. If it were me, I’d try to rope drop Gringotts before hopping over to Hogsmeade for Forbidden Journey, even if it means riding during peak hours.
Hogwarts Express Stations
- Well, there’s a clear story here. And it’s “ride the Hogwarts Express before 11 am”. Now, this might make morning touring more difficult.
- If it were me, I’d be piecing together a puzzle at this point. If I was interested in a Harry Potter day, I’d take advantage of lower morning wait times at Gringotts, take the train over to Hogsmeade sometime before 11, tour Islands of Adventure of the day, and then wait until after 5 to hop back again and hope for lower wait times at Hagrid’s.
- If there’s anything that this country can agree on, I’m pretty sure it’s that minions are weird. And pretty hilarious.
- Therefore, it’s pretty fitting that Minions also have weird wait time patterns. In fact, the longest wait times happen earliest in the day, and then ease off from there. I guess everyone is just way too excited to start their day with Minions. So my advice here is to play it cool and wait for those Minions until after dinner. They’ll be just as funny at the end of the day.
Many thanks go to Joe Matt for answering all of the questions this Universal newbie threw his way. If you have any questions about this data, drop them in the comments below. What other Universal data would you like to see? And remember to record your wait times in the Lines Universal Orlando app on your next trip!
10 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Wait Time Data”
Thanks so much Becky, you’re well on your way to a UOR touring expert! A couple things. The Mummy waits are usually comparable to RRR or even Minions. But it has been closed since January so maybe that messed something up. Poseidon waits also looks higher than normal and that only re-opened in spring. The Minions is the first attraction after entering USF, so people have a habit to ride first.
Oops, Rip Ride Rockit is actually missing from the list.
It is missing, that’s true. But it’s because we’ve only had 4 (FOUR!) recorded standby wait times for it in the entire past year. Lol.
Yeah the problem with RRR is you can’t take phones on the ride and well… we can’t record the waits!
The Incredible Hulk is also missing, presumably for the same reason that Joseph Matt explained.
Thanks for taking the time to post this. However, I see a few things that don’t seem right.
“If I was interested in a Harry Potter day, I’d take advantage of lower morning wait times at Gringotts, take the train over to Hogsmeade sometime before 11, tour Islands of Adventure of the day, and then wait until after 5 to hop back again and hope for lower wait times at Hagrid’s.” Hagrid’s is in Hogsmeade. You don’t have to “hop back again” (to USF) to ride it.
In the Average Attraction Standby Waits table, do the colors of the dots have any significance? At first glance, I thought it was red/orange for Islands of Adventure and blue for Universal Studios Florida, but if so, some of the attractions are listed in the wrong park.
Ah yes, that’s why Hulk is not listed either. I understand the timed waits. But, do you not even have many posted waits that were submitted?
We don’t trust posted wait times around here 😉
I could definitely compared posted wait times. But the focus of this article was actuals, so I didn’t want to muddy things up.
Agreed. Posted waits can be inflated by 30% or so. I will say that the Universal Lines app does a terrific job with predicted waits, even for RRR, Hulk. It must take many years of collected data to be accurate. Thanks again Becky.
We we are Universal late last month (July 2022). My observations:
-Hagrid wait times are just brutal. If we didn’t get there for early entry rope drop, then the line was 2 hours long for the rest of the day.
-I think Velocicoaster is a better ride than Hagrid’s, but we never saw a posted wait above 60 minutes on our trip. I think it’s because of the Harry Potter factor and that Velocicoaster is too intense for some that meet the required height whereas anyone tall enough can handle Hagrid.
-Ripsaw Falls is a poor man’s Splash Mountain and is not worth a long wait.
-The best secret in all of Orlando is the single-rider entrance at Forbidden Journey. We rode a dozen times and walked on each time we used single rider. It is a tough queue to find if you aren’t looking for it, though.
Overall, unless you buy Universal Express, a rope-dropping touring plan is a big help. We could walk on to most rides in the morning (except Hagrid’s) by rope dropping, but by early afternoon the Universal Express users would stroll in and make most standby queues unbearable.