Universal Orlando Resort

Getting to Know Universal – Kids at Universal Orlando

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Whether you are a long-time Walt Disney World guest looking to switch up your vacation or you are visiting Orlando for the first time, planning a visit to Universal Orlando Resort poses a lot of questions. Today we will cover Universal Orlando Resort’s options for families with young children, tackle some myths and truths, and offer some suggestions on experiences for the whole group.

Kids at Universal: Myths vs Reality

When researching a vacation or watching ads on TV, it can appear that Universal Orlando only features gargantuan roller coasters, vicious dinosaurs, action movie properties, and bucking simulators. It is easy to think there is nothing to do for a young family, or those with motion sickness, at the resort.

The truth is far different – Universal indeed offers thrill rides they do some things for young families exceptionally well.

Great Hotels for Kis at Universal

Consider staying on-site at Universal with quick complimentary transportation to the parks. All of Universal’s hotels are run by Loews Hotels and have food courts, pools, arcades, and enough cable TV channels and Streaming Apps to satiate the pickiest kid.

A kids suite at Universal hotels is basically comprised of two separate living areas A main bedroom and space for adults, and an ultra themed bedroom for kids. The adult’s bedroom has a king size bed, a love seat, a desk area, and the suite’s bathroom. The attached room is for the kids and has two twin beds – Six Favorite Hotel Rooms at the Universal Orlando Resort by Derek Burgan.

Our favorites are the hotels with kids and family suites:

  • Loews Portofino Bay Resort – Two rooms, kids room is themed to Minions
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort – Two rooms, kids room is themed to Jurassic Park
  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – Two rooms, unthemed kids room
  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Family suites with living room space and pull-out bed or 2-bedroom Suites
  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resorts – Family suites with dining space, queen bedroom, and two full beds.

Rides for Kids at Universal

Universal’s rides vary from carnival rides to epic adventures, quaint dark rides to thrilling roller coasters. To find the best attractions for kids we look to our decades-long running attraction surveys. The following are the rides rated the highest by pre-schoolers at the theme parks:

Universal Studios Florida

  • DreamWorks Land Coaster (Name TBA)
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Kang & Kodos Twirl n Hurl
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T. Adventure
Islands of Adventure

  • High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Ride
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Hogwarts Express

TouringPlans offers a fantastic one-day plan for parents with small children that incorporates these attractions, and several other popular attractions for all ages, and still provides ample time for breaks.

For rides where children either are not allowed or are too scared to ride a Rider Swap service is offered. Similar to Disney’s Rider Switch, one parent stays with a child while the other experiences an attraction. But for our money, we think Universal’s is superior in nearly every way.

First, the party waits in the queue together, so the adults will not have to wait in two lines to ride. Second, for the waiting parent, there are Rider Swap rooms that feature benches, restrooms, and entertainment (usually appropriate to the attraction movie or interactive element). Rider Swap is available at select Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure attractions.

Meet & Greets at Universal

Rides are not the only thing kids want, they also want to meet characters!

Character meet and greets are found throughout Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, with more characters found at USF than at IOA. Some characters like Marlyn Monroe and Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Team meet in the open while characters like Shrek, Transformers, and Minions meet at a set location.

Read our articles on how and where to find your favorite Universal friends at Universal.

Playgrounds at Universal

Wanna know the best-kept secret at Universal? It is their incredible themed playground.

While Disney removed most of their playgrounds, Universal kept theirs in tip-top shape. At Universal Studios Florida is DreamWorks Land, a wet and dry playground based on the worlds of Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Trolls. At Islands of Adventure is Camp Jurassic in Jurassic Park (a Tom Sawyer Island-like playground), Me Ship the Olive in Toon Lagoon, and If I Ran the Zoo in Seuss Landing.

More Activities for Kids

Parents know that sometimes you need small surprises and activities to make a child’s day. Here are some suggestions for other activities around the parks that have little or no waits.

Character Parade at Universal Studios Florida

Returning in 2024 the parade features famous Universal, DreamWorks, Illumination, and others. The parade runs daily except during Universal’s Mari Gras, refer to the TouringPlans time guide for performance times.

Animal Actors in KidZone

Learn about various animals and how they are used in movies and television. The friendly host demonstrates how dogs perform tricks using non-verbal commands, how birds are filmed while in flight, and many other cute animal tricks. In addition to the standard animals, the show features otters, cranes, a porcupine, and a pig who wishes to fly. Animal Actors perform several times a day with the first showing around 11:00 am.

Street Shows

Universal performs several smaller staged shows through their parks that require no queueing or sitting in a large theater. These street shows perform in New York (Blues Brothers and Beat Builders), Hollywood parade floats, Diagon Alley (Celestina Warbeck and Tales of Beedle the Bard), and Hogsmeade (Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally). Shows perform throughout the day; check the Universal Orlando app for showtimes.

Scavenger Hunts

Participate in fun scavenger hunts during the Christmas and Halloween seasons! Visit participating stores to purchase a map that will guide you through the two parks and CityWalk to collect stamps. After collecting each stamp receive a unique item, such as an exclusive Christmas ornament or wicked sweets.

Miniature Golf

Located in CityWalk is Hollywood Drive-In Golf, Universal’s own themed miniature golf course. Drive-In offers two courses, each themed to a fun and whimsical 50s B-rate movie. Pricing starts at $18.99 per adult and $16.99 per child, with discounts on playing all 36 holes. You can read our review here: Mini Golf in and Around Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando

The Pool

Yup, kids love the pool. Staying on-site offers some of the best pool options in Orlando mere minutes from the gates of the parks. Read our article on the pools of Universal Orlando.

The article was originally published on December 10, 2021. Updated January 11, 2024.

Do you have a favorite activity with your kids at the parks? Leave them in the comments below!

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

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