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Family Travel

Your Guide to Universal Studios Florida with Kids

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I’ve avoided planning a family vacation to Universal Studios Florida because I always saw this park as being a park for bigger kids. Instead, we would always go to Disney. I totally love Disney, so I am not complaining. But it had been over 15 years since I had been to Universal Studios Florida and I was ready to go again! With the girls now 6 and 9, I decided we should go for it. I am so glad we did because everything exceeded our expectations!

Related: Disney World FastPass Tips & Tricks – FastPass Like a Pro!

There are so many cool things for families with younger kids to do at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. We spent 4 1/2 days between the two parks, but we still weren’t ready to leave!

 

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I have put together this guide to help you get the most out of your Universal Studios Florida family vacation as well:

 

Where to stay at Universal Studios Florida

I recommend staying at a Universal Studios resort because you get extra perks. You also get transportation to and from the parks. Each resort comes with it’s own set of perks which you can read about in more detail from Universal’s website. The premium hotels include free Universal Express Unlimited passes which allow you to skip the lines at the most popular attractions. If you are planning a quick trip, you’ll want to consider this option to guarantee you’ll get to experience all the rides.

 

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Since we planned a 5 night stay with the 5 day park hopper passes, we didn’t feel having the express passes were needed and chose to stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. The transportation to the park was amazing. Regardless of the time of the day, we never had to wait for a bus. We also were able to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (only Diagon Alley) an hour before it opened as one of the perks of staying at a Universal Resort.

 

The Rides – For Older Kids

At 54 inches, you’ll be able to ride every ride at both Universal parks. Olivia (age 9) is exactly 54 inches and she took full advantage of being able to ride the bigger rides. She rode all the rides and loved them all. Even the Hulk! I knew she would really enjoy the Universal parks when planning the trip. She is pretty fearless when it comes to rides and scarier things. So if you have an older child who loves rides and is 54 inches, they’ll have a great time with all the rides. Otherwise, at 52 inches, they’ll still be able to ride everything except for the Hulk if they haven’t quite reached the 54 inch mark.

 

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Abigail (age 6) on the other hand, is a lot more timid when it comes to rides and scarier things. A lot of the rides she was tall enough to ride, she still didn’t ride. Although they were safe for her height (47 inches), they still weren’t necessarily child friendly with the content inside the rides. I am pretty sure at age 6, Olivia would have been fine to ride all these rides (she rode Space Mountain and Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney at this age), but for a child who doesn’t like scary things or loud noises, you may want to consider skipping some of these rides, even if they are tall enough:

  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged (minimum height 40″)
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (minimum height 42″)
  • The Simpsons Ride (minimum height 40″)
  • Transformers: The Ride 3-D (minimum height 40″)
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong (minimum height 36″)

 

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Kid-Friendly Rides

There are still plenty of kid friendly rides for young kids that aren’t scary. If you are looking for kid-friendly rides that aren’t scary, take it from Abigail on her list of her favorite, non-scary rides:

  • ET
  • Everything in Dr. Seuss land
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayham
  • Hogwarts Express Train
  • Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Men in Black
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Shrek 4-D
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

 

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A few rides that Abigail rode but she said were scary are:

  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (she wasn’t a fan of the big drop, but the rest was good)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man
  • Flight of the Hippogriff (she is still getting used to roller coasters)
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure (scary, but she would ride again because she knows dinosaurs aren’t real)

As you can see, there are plenty of rides for everyone at Universal Studios Florida!

 

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Child-Swap

Universal Studios Florida has a child-swap program. This allows the entire family to wait in line together. Then one person is able to stay with the younger child while the others ride. When they are done with the ride, swap who stays with the child and you are able to ride right away without waiting in line again. If you have ever been to Universal Studios Florida, you know that the line can be just as exciting as the ride sometimes. So it is nice for everyone to be able to experience the scenery inside the lines together and wait together.

Abigail didn’t mind having to do the child swap. She was glad to because she didn’t want to ride the bigger, scarier rides anyway! So she really loved this feature! At times she was also able to go off with my mom who didn’t want to ride some of the rides and spend more time in her favorite areas (she really loved the Dr. Seuss land) while the rest of us rode the big stuff! So that was really nice for all of us.

 

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universal studios florida

 

 

Wait Times

There is a Universal Studios Florida App that you will want to download on your phone. With this App, you can view all the wait times and show times. I would say the App was pretty accurate during the time we were there. If anything, we usually waited less than the time said on the App.

 

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We visited Universal Studios Florida the second week of June and I feel like we really got lucky with the lines. During the busier times which is mid-day, we occasionally had to wait 30-40 minutes for a more popular ride. But usually, we waited less than 20 minutes for a ride. A lot of times, we even walked right onto the rides without a wait.

You can view the wait times from the Universal Studios Florida App at home before your trip to determine what times rides are the busiest and at what times to help plan your trip.

 

Kid Areas

Besides kid rides, there are a bunch of different really fun areas for kids. These areas include playgrounds of all sorts and water play. If you have young kids, you’ll definitely want to check out these areas:

Camp Jurassic

This area has a giant Jungle Gym for kids to play on. Don’t forget to go inside Camp Jurassic also. There you’ll get to pet a baby dinosaur and see dinosaur eggs hatch as well as other fun things!

 

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If I Ran The Zoo in Dr. Seuss Land

Everything in Dr. Seuss land is fun for young kids. But they also have a little play area that is fun for kids.

 

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Me Ship, The Olive

This is a playground, but from up top, you’ll also be able to spray water at those riding the Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges!

 

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Curious George Goes to Town

This area is pretty much all water related activities and is perfect for when you need to cool off!

 

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Characters Around the Park

One of my favorite things about the Universal Studios Florida parks is how they do the characters. As you walk through the park, you really never know who you will run into and this makes it so fun! When you do run into characters, it’s so much fun and more personalized this way.Β  You don’t have to wait in line to take pictures, you just walk right up! There may be a couple people ahead of you, and of course you should wait for those who were there first, but you won’t experience waiting more than 5 minutes to take a picture with the characters you run into.

 

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universal studios florida

universal studios florida

universal studios florida

Olivia has that face like she is so over all the character pictures by now (because we did A LOT of them, we just kept running into people) and just wants to ride the big rides already!

 

There are also Character Zones if you are looking for particular characters. Sometimes these zones will be a dance party with your favorite characters, story time or just picture opportunities. We ended up taking pictures with way too many characters to count! While we were busy dancing with the Minion crew, my sister ran into Beetlejuice and took a selfie with him. So you really just never know who you’ll see!

 

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Shows and Extras

One of the advantages to having so many days at the parks is we were able to do it all. Besides riding our favorite rides multiple times, we were also able to do the shows. I know a lot of times, with a quick trip, the shows can get overlooked. Even if you are planning a quick trip, there are a few shows worth taking the time to go see. These are:

  • Animal Actors on Location!
  • Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show
  • Universal’s Superstar Parade (only if you have young kids)
  • Oh! the Stories You’ll Hear! (only if you have young kids)
  • The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show

The Mystic Fountain

You’ll definitely want to take a stop at the Mystic Fountain located in Poseidon’s area of Islands of Adventure. This is an interactive fountain, that talks back to you and squirts water at you. This fountain is very entertaining and even played a happy birthday song for my Mom on her birthday!

 

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Raptor encounter

In the Jurassic Park area of Universal’s Island of Adventure you’ll have the opportunity to take a picture with a Raptor. This Raptor is very realistic in both sounds and looks! You’ll definitely want to make sure you add this experience to your to-do list!

 

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Where to Eat

Between City Walk and both Universal parks, there are so many great places to eat. It was impossible to try them all. But you should definitely add the Leaky Cauldron, located in Diagon Alley and The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen to your places to eat. Besides being able to get AMAZING milkshakes at the Chocolate Emporium, the atmosphere is amazing and you’ll get to meet Professor Dr Penelope Toothsome, who is very entertaining.

 

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Related: The Wizard’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

universal studios florida travel guide with kids

 

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39 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna
    June 18, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Now I just need my kids to grow up a bit more so they’d enjoy a trip to Disney! The last time (only time) was a loooooong time ago (20+ years).

  • Reply
    Andrea
    June 18, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Looks like a great trip! I’m trying to plan a trip to Universal Orlando in January. We’ve been there twice, but felt rushed both times. Can’t wait to see it again!

  • Reply
    Tal Muscat
    June 18, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    So much great info here! I have twin four year old boys and would love to take them! I need to go home and see how tall they are bc I want to make sure it’s worth it!

  • Reply
    Danielle
    June 18, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    We are planning our first family Orlando trip in November! Definitely saving this! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Anna
    June 18, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    It sounds like so much fun! My kids are under the age of 7 so they might be a little to little still but it is definitely a place I would take my kids to when they are older!

  • Reply
    Marie Kait
    June 19, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    What an awesome trip! I have a couple of Doctor Seuss & Curious George fans in my house who would love to see their favourite characters come to life!
    Maybe next year!

  • Reply
    Nicole Wilder
    June 19, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    This is really good information for when I take my niece and nephew here. Thanks for all this good advice!

  • Reply
    Stephanie Parrell
    June 19, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    this is a great post! Taking family vacation is awesome but it can be very overwhelming if you are not properly prepared!

  • Reply
    Marcie
    June 20, 2018 at 2:21 am

    This looks super cool! We went to the one in Los Angeles, but I think this one is much larger! We really want to ride the Hogwarts Express! Great to know about the child swap! Our kids are still little, but we’d like to go in a few years!

  • Reply
    Holly
    June 20, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Thank you for sharing all of this information. My kids are not old enough to do much waiting right now, so that app would be super helpful.

  • Reply
    Ada
    June 20, 2018 at 7:08 am

    So much amazing information! It’s been a while since I’ve been to Universal Studios so I definitely want to make a trip out there! Thanks for all the amazing advice!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    June 20, 2018 at 7:40 am

    I would absolutely LOVE to take my kids here one day! We’ve never done anything like this before and it looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Christina Beauchamp
    June 20, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Amazing! This would be great a few months after I give birth. I’m pretty sure most of my life will be on Disneyland as my child grows. I’m not complaining, I’m SO excited!

  • Reply
    Gemille Sleweon
    June 20, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    What a fun family vacation. My parents were looking to go to Universal with my younger siblings in the near future. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    June 20, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    I feel like 5-12 ar the perfect ages for this park. I went with my school while I was in high school and it wasn’t as fun as it would have been if we were a bit younger. I’m so glad you and your family had a good time. I can’t wait until my son is old enough so we can take him to Disney and Universal. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Kate Andrews
    June 20, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I am so excited to be going to Universal this summer! Though I’ll only be there for a day, I’m getting in the entirety of the HP experience and maybe a few other rides. And I love CityWalk!

  • Reply
    Heather
    June 21, 2018 at 2:51 am

    We absolutely love Universal Studios! I can’t wait to go back.

  • Reply
    Kate Batten
    June 21, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Wow! What an amazing trip for both adults and children! I have this on my list of adventures for my grandkids! Thank you so much for all the info!

  • Reply
    Sara Welch
    June 21, 2018 at 5:59 am

    The kids would seriously love this place. I think I might love them more!

  • Reply
    Tiffany Haywood
    June 21, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Awesome tips!! We absolutely love Universal. I hope to plan another trip within the next 2 years. It was so much fun for the entire family.

  • Reply
    Janine
    June 21, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    So detailed! I love the idea of the child swap. It always seems like one parent gets the short end of the stick when you have a child not tall enough to ride all the rides. This makes it much better!

    • Reply
      Kristi Ann
      June 21, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      Yes! I so agree! And Olivia got the best of both worlds because she always got to ride the bigger rides back to back!!

  • Reply
    Stacey
    June 21, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I have avoided these parks because my daughter is pretty timid when it comes to rides. I may have to reconsider. Maybe if I could get her to read the Harry Potter books, she would like that. I do know she’d like the Dr. Suess area. This guide helps me to consider if going would be right for us or not!

  • Reply
    Katy
    June 21, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    I didn’t realize there was a Universal Studios app. Good to know! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Laura G
    June 22, 2018 at 12:01 am

    This is great! I have been putting Universal away since the kids are still fairly young but this might have changed my mind. And that hotel room looks really nice!!

  • Reply
    Christa
    June 22, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Thank you for such an informative post! I also thought that my kids were too young for Universal, but now I think we can go sooner. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Kristen
    June 22, 2018 at 1:28 am

    I have theee boys & We went in October and my oldest (7.5) loved all the Harry Potter attractions but he did NOT like the Kind Kong ride! And surprisingly one of their favorite things was Jurassic Park and seeing the eggs hatch!

    • Reply
      Kristi Ann
      June 22, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      I am surprised how little they can be for that King Kong ride. Definitely not little kid friendly!

  • Reply
    gail
    June 22, 2018 at 2:49 am

    Wow, you guys saw everything!!

  • Reply
    jennifer
    June 22, 2018 at 3:49 am

    Thank You for your post! I too thought it was for older kids only! This makes me think it might work better with my grandkids!

  • Reply
    Thea Wood
    June 22, 2018 at 4:14 am

    The app is an amazing idea! Great way to plan your day and get through rides faster. Thx for the tip about perks for staying at the resort.

  • Reply
    Verla
    June 22, 2018 at 11:40 am

    As usual big fun with the kids at the centre of things. Love the dressing up stuff. Make believe with costumes.

  • Reply
    Heidi
    June 22, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Great overview and tips!

  • Reply
    Ashley Reese
    June 22, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    How fun! I love visiting Universal Studios Florida!

  • Reply
    Evelyn, PathofPresence πŸ¦‹
    June 22, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    I have not yet attended this theme park in Florida. Your guide is really useful and is a great orientation for planning to assure a fantastic trip! I love the swap program that enables everyone to ride πŸ‘πŸΌ

  • Reply
    Tina
    June 22, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I’m not a huge ride person but this does look fun! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Rachel
    June 23, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    That’s a useful tip re where to stay and being able to get lifts to the park. Looks like a great time was had by all!

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    June 23, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    This is a great post. I’m hoping to go here on a vacation soon. Thanks for such great tips and ideas.

  • Reply
    Tiffany Bailey
    June 25, 2018 at 10:17 am

    loads of great information here! I’ve always loved going to theme parks but only did it as an adult – it must be so, so exciting as a child!

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