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Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando for Families

Considering a trip to Universal Orlando? I’m answering all the burning questions families may have during the planning process with the Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando for Families.

I recently visited Universal Orlando Resort as part of We Grow Retreat 2018 sponsored by Universal Orlando Resort and Mediavine. All opinions are my own.

Guide to Universal Orlando For Families

There is a common misconception among families that Universal Orlando is a place you should wait to take your kids to until they are older. Up until recently, we were one of those families. Thanks to We Grow Retreat and Universal Orlando Resort, I had the opportunity to see first hand just how awesome Universal Orlando is for kids of all ages. From rides to food to ensuring families have a stress-free visit, Universal Orlando is a place for the whole family.

What is Universal Orlando?

Universal Orlando consists of 2 parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Each park is uniquely themed.

(Note: Universal Orlando also includes a third park, Volcano Bay, a family friendly waterpark)

Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990 and is 107 acres of fun. Here you’ll find rides and attractions that are based on pop culture and your favorite Hollywood blockbusters. You’ll have the opportunity to go beyond the screen and find yourself a part of the action.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened in 1999. The 101 acre park has you enter lands or islands, where everything is real. The islands are themed after books such as Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. You’ll see characters magically come to life through some of the most innovative rides and attractions ever made.

Is there an app?

The Universal Orlando mobile app makes planning your trip and enjoying your visit a lot easier. The app allows you to navigate all that is going on in the parks. Check out parade show times, character meet & greets, attraction wait times and more.

How much are tickets?

The best way to experience Universal Orlando is with a multi-day park to park ticket. However, 1-day options are available. (note: in order to ride Hogwart’s Express, you will need a park-to-park ticket)

Here are the ticket prices as of Fall 2018:

  • Universal Studios~ 1-day base ticket from $115 plus tax (child $110)
  • Universal’s Island’s of Adventure~ 1-day base ticket from $115 plus tax (child $110)
  • 2-Park 1-Day Park-to-Park~ from $170 plus tax (child $165)

For pricing on multi-day tickets visit the Universal Orlando website .

Children under three years of age receive complimentary admission into every Universal Orlando Resort theme park!

For first timers, I would suggest a 2-day park-to-park ticket. This ticket will allow you to easily visit both parks in one day, then come back for another visit so you don’t miss out on any of the fun.

Want to save money on tickets? Consider staying at one of Universal’s on-site resorts and purchasing a package.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Use the Universal Orlando App to check the wait time for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter~ Diagon Alley

Do you spend a lot of time waiting in line?

No one likes waiting in line, especially kids. Universal has a way to let you and your family spend less time waiting in line and more time having fun. Upgrade your base ticket by adding a Universal Express Pass. Universal Express Pass allows you to skip the line at participating rides and attractions at both theme parks and ride when YOU want.

There are two Universal Express Pass options:

  • Universal Express Pass – lets you bypass the regular lines one time per participating attraction.
  • Universal Express Unlimited Pass  – allows you to bypass the regular lines an unlimited number of times per participating attraction.

Universal Express Pass could be worth it for families with younger kids. The flexibility of being able to ride when you want gives your more opportunity to see other attractions in a shorter amount of time. Universal Express Pass Unlimited allows you to ride your favorites over and over with the shortest wait.

If you stay on-site at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort or Hard Rock Hotel, you’ll receive complimentary Express access for the duration of your stay. 

What are the Best Rides at Universal Orlando for Families?

One of the main reasons we haven’t brought our kids to Universal Orlando yet was the misconception that it was all thrill rides and roller coasters. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Universal Orlando has rides and attractions for kids of all ages.

Best Ride For Families Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios

  • Men in Black- Alien Attack
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Hogwart’s Express- Kings Cross Station (park-to-park ticket required)
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Transformers: The Ride 3-D
  • Shrek 4-D (attraction)
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

Best Rides for Families Universal's Islands of Adventure

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Hogwart’s Express: Hogsmeade Station (park-to-park ticket required)
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Height Requirements

Islands of Adventure Height Checker

While these rides are great for younger kids, check the height requirements as some have a minimum and maximum height.

Sometimes kids get their heart set on riding a particular ride only to find out that they’re not tall enough when they get to the ride. Not sure if your kids are tall enough? Height charts are conveniently located at the entrance to each park. Have your kids stand next to the sign and find out in one shot which rides are a-ok.

Play Areas

Camp Jurassic Play Area Universal's Islands of Adventure

In addition to rides, you’ll find a number of unique children’s play areas in all theme parks that are perfect for the little ones, including:

Islands of Adventure

  • If I Ran the Zoo
  • Me Ship the Olive
  • Camp Jurassic

Universal Studios

  • Fievel’s Playland
  • Curious George Goes to Town
  • Barney’s Backyard

Is there rider switch?

If some kids in your party are too small or unwilling to go on a particular ride, but you want to experience, take advantage of their “child swap” program. Each ride and attraction has a child swap area where one member of your party can wait with the kids while the rest of your party rides. Once they are off the ride, swap places and whoever rode can stay with the kids while the adult(s) who sat out get the opportunity to enjoy the ride right away.

Where is the best food for kids at Universal Orlando?

There are more than 10 dining locations in each park. Depending on what your family is in the mood for, there is a place that will satisfy your appetite. These suggestions offer a wide variety of meals on their menus.

Universal Studios

  • Leaky Cauldron – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley – Features traditional British fare including Bangers & Mash, Fisherman’s Pie, Toad in the Hole, Ploughman’s Platter and more.
  • Fast Food Boulevard Featuring all your favorites from The Simpsons — Krusty Burger, Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, Fried Seafood, Pizza and more.
  • Mel’s Drive-In Modeled after the famous restaurant in the classic film American Graffiti, Mel’s Drive-In features burgers, chicken, salads, milkshakes and more.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Three Broomsticks Universal's Islands of Adventure

Three Broomstick’s at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter~Hogsmeade

  • Three Broomsticks- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade– Features traditional British fare from the Harry Potter Series, including butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and strawberry and peanut butter ice cream

Family Food Saving Tip: Order the Great Feast. It serves 4 and comes with salad, rotisserie chicken, ribs, potatoes and corn on the cob. 

  • Mythos Restaurant- The Lost Continent- Fresh salads, pizzas and burgers
  • Confisco Grille- Port of Entry- Tastes from around the world such as Italian, Greek, Mexican, Asian and American dishes

You can pre-purchase one of four dining options at a great value and take the stress away from planning out your family meals. Once you’ve purchased a dining plan, all you have to do is select a venue at the theme parks or Universal CityWalk, present your dining plan card for payment and enjoy mealtime with your family.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to try a Butterbeer, regular or frozen! They’re sold at Three Broomsticks and Kiosks at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter~Hogsmeade or at The Leaky Cauldron and The Hopping Pot at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter~ Diagon Alley

Can I rent a stroller?

A visit to Universal Orlando involves a lot of walking. That can be strenuous on little ones. Should you opt to not bring your own stroller, stroller rentals are available at the entrances of both parks. Single or double strollers are available for renting.

Ready for Universal?

Ready to take the next step in planning your visit? Head over to the Universal Orlando Resort site to check out what’s new and their package and ticket options.

You can also follow Universal Orlando Resort on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando For Families

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Sunday 13th of December 2020

Great post. I'm dealing with a few of these issues as well..

Thursday 26th of March 2020

I really enjoy the article post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

Toney Jiau

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!


Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

This looks like such a fun time! We love Florida! And we are so glad to hear you had a great retreat. :)

Lisa Cameron

Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us! We Grow Retreat was an absolute blast, both professionally and personally! Thanks for being a generous sponsor!

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