Universal Orlando with Toddlers Lorax
Day Trips Points and Miles Theme Parks

Seven Reasons to Visit Universal Orlando with Toddlers

Last Updated on October 17, 2021

Universal Orlando Resort has two theme parks, Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Both parks have a reputation for catering to teenagers and thrill seekers. Before my son fell in love with Harry Potter, I had placed Universal at the top of our “when they have braces and Proactiv” list. Universal Orlando with toddlers seemed out of the question.

Universal Orlando height requirements on attractions limit toddlers more than than Disney World or LEGOLAND, but I would not hesitate to visit. There are plenty of things to do in Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.

Why Should You Visit Universal Orlando with a Toddler?

1. Universal Toddler Rides

2. Characters

3. Play Areas

4. Wizarding World of Harry Potter

5. Shows

6. Parade

7. There are Ways to Save Money

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What Makes Universal Orlando Good for Toddlers?

1. Universal Rides for Toddlers

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Hogwarts Express

Arrive Early

I love lines. Said no human ever. Little kids like them even less. Lines are at their shortest first thing in the morning. Arrive early. Don’t repeat my mistake at Disney California Adventure.

Universal Express Pass

Universal Express Unlimited is Universal’s equivalent of Disney World’s FastPass, except better. It has unlimited (see what they did there?) access to a shorter line. The majority of the attractions accept it. Unlike Disney World’s FastPass, which is available to all guests, only people with Universal Express can access these lines.

You can also purchase Universal Express, which allows you to enter the Express line once per ride. I do not think this is a good choice for Universal with toddlers. There is a limited selection of Universal Orlando rides for toddlers. It is a certainty they will want to ride the same attractions more than once.

Is Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Express Pass, particularly the unlimited version, worth it? If you can swing it, absolutely. I don’t think I would visit without it.

Universal Studios Florida Entrance

Universal Express Pass Out of Pocket Cost

This sanity saving pass is not cheap. The cost varies by the day, but the price offered as of the time of this writing is $69.99 per person per day for Universal Express and $89.99 per person per day for Universal Express Unlimited.

Universal Express Unlimited Included with Premier Hotel Stays

Rather than purchasing Universal Express, consider staying at one of Universal’s Premier Hotels. Universal Express Unlimited is included with your stay. This is a huge perk. Universal’s Premier Hotels are Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. These hotels are expensive, but the price seems a lot more reasonable when you factor in what you would have paid for Universal Express Unlimited.

Loews Portofino Bay Waterfront

Touring Plans for Universal Orlando Attractions for Toddlers

Whether or not you have Universal Express, you should research and plan your day to cut down on wait times. Try the free version of Touring Plans. Touring Plans allows you to input rides, shows, meals, and breaks, then provides a recommended itinerary. You can refresh the app throughout the day to change your plan as needed.

Download Universal’s app as well to monitor wait times. It may not be completely accurate, but it can give you a rough idea of what you are facing at Universal Orlando with toddlers.

Universal Islands of Adventure with Toddlers

Pteranodon Flyers

Pteranodon Flyers is a smooth ride over Camp Jurassic. You sit in a two person car. It is a calm ride that gives the illusion one is flying. Toddlers will love this ride. While this ride is fun, this line would move faster if your toddler was running the queue. It seems to only run a couple of cars at a time. Try to hit this one early.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: No

Universal Studios with Toddlers Pteranadon Flyers

Storm Force Acceleration

Storm Force Acceleration is like the spinning teacups at Disneyland. It is generally a walk on with very little wait. You are guaranteed to feel nauseous when you ride with a teenager. Thankfully, toddlers haven’t taken steroids yet. My kids could not figure out why the wheel was hard to turn (because I was sabotaging them).

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Storm Force Acceleration

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a motion simulator with 3-D glasses. You ride a bus up to a screen where you encounter Kong fighting dinosaurs. The bus shakes a lot, but a toddler could easily handle the motion. Even if your kid is tall enough to ride this ride, consider whether this it is a good idea. My five year old was a little freaked out, but he handled it fine. I’m not sure how a three year old would fare.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Reign of Kong

Flight of the Hippogriff

Flight of the Hippogriff is a small roller coaster. It is the only Universal Orlando toddler ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in either park. The regular line can definitely get long. Visit this one early.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride is a slow moving train that takes you over Seuss Landing. Dr. Seuss reads a story about the alphabet. The colors are bright and happy. It definitely caters to toddlers and young children. Again, toddlers are slow like sloths, so the line loads slowly.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Seuss Trolley

Caro-Seuss-el

Caro-Seuss-el is Dr. Seuss’ carousel, but you probably figured that out already. The characters upon which the kids can ride are cute. The line is usually short. This ride is a fan favorite at Universal for toddlers.

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Caro-Seuss-el

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

In One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, cars fly in a circle while water squirts at you. You can avoid said water by following the instructions in the song telling you which way to move your vehicle. The line is usually tolerable.

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers One Fish

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat is a slow moving dark ride, reminiscent of Disney attractions. It takes you through the story of The Cat in the Hat. There is a ton to see. It is a ride everyone can experience together without feeling sick or scared. The line is usually fairly short.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

The Cat in the Hat

Universal Studios Florida with Toddlers

Shrek 4-D

Shrek 4-D is a relatively mild motion simulator. The movie is funny. I’m not sure how many toddlers recognize Shrek these days (they didn’t drink Zima in my college dorm, after all). Regardless of whether one recognizes the characters, it is entertaining. The line moves quickly.

Prior to entering the theater, you are held in a torture room. If your child is not in the front of that room, they are not going to see anything during the pre-show. Universal did not design that room well.

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Shrek

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express is the train that transports guests between Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. You must have a park to park ticket to ride. You can use it as a mode of transportation, or just ride it both ways for fun.

Hogwarts Express has interesting queues that are different in the two parks. It is worth it to ride both ways. During the ride, you board a train and watch a video within the train car. It is an easy ride that can be tolerated by everyone.

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Hogwarts Express

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl spins in a circle. It is a little rough if you can’t handle spinning, but it is a short ride in fresh air. The cars are nice. The alien with tentacles holding the cars and drooling, not so much. The line generally moves quickly.

Height Requirement: None

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Twirl

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster is a child’s roller coaster. It is pretty standard, but young children love it. The line moves like molasses. I saw posted wait times as high as 45 minutes on a weekday in February. Consider this potential time suck when making your touring plan.

Height Requirement: 36″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

Woody Woodpecker

E.T. Adventure

E.T. Adventure is a slow moving dark ride manufactured in 1907 (approximately). You ride on bicycles to space. E.T. is under a sheet in your bicycle basket. The outdated animatronics (which toddlers will not notice) are adorable. This ride is unique to anything else at Universal. The line gets long. Keep that in mind when making your plan.

Height Requirement: 34″

Universal Express Accepted: Yes

E.T. Adventure

2. Characters

Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal Islands of Adventure Park has several unique characters.

You can find the Dr. Seuss crew.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Grinch

And superheroes.

Wolverine

The characters are clearly theater majors who studied for their roles Jim Carrey/Andy Kaufman style. Your children will have adorable interactions with very little wait time.

A band of superheroes rides up and down the street on motorcycles a few times a day. I’m not sure where they are going, but it looks important.

Spider-Man

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida has similarly spirited characters. We walked right up to Beetlejuice and Scooby Doo with no wait.

Scooby Doo

Character pictures are the best way to remember your trip with children this age.

3. Universal Orlando with Toddlers – Play Areas

The play areas at Universal Orlando Resort are awesome. They have a ton of detail and are not overly crowded.

Universal Islands of Adventure

Me Ship, The Olive

Me Ship, The Olive is Popeye’s ship with climbing areas and water cannons. It is well themed. Toddlers can explore. The visibility isn’t the greatest, so you’ll be walking with them. It is a great place to burn some energy and take a stroll through history, because I guarantee your toddler has never heard of Popeye.

Camp Jurassic

Camp Jurassic is a great place for kids to run around. It is a large area in which your child will be entertained for an extended period of time.

There are rock tunnels.

Rock Tunnels

You can shoot water at dinosaurs, also manned by children.

Camp Jurassic

It has a splash pad.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Splash Pad

Again, it is easy to lose sight of them, so you will probably be climbing some rope structures yourself. It was a miracle I escaped without a broken ankle because my theme park shoe of choice is a flip flop.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center

Jurassic Park Discovery Center is an interactive center located indoors. It is a perfect break from rain and heat. It is generally not crowded.

There are large dinosaur skeletons that span two floors.

Skeleton

You can use a microscope to examine other dinosaurs, despite the fact that they are not real.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Microscope

You can look for fossils.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Fossils

A computer will generate an image of what you would look like as a dinosaur. My codependent, grabby children did a combination dinosaur because they were too impatient to take turns.

Dinosaur Photo

Dinosaurs, good. Inbreeding, bad.

You can watch a baby dinosaur hatch. I think there is a good shot your toddler will believe it is real. Think of all the ways you can con your child into listening if he or she believes there is a raptor on the loose. Parenting gold like this doesn’t fall into your lap everyday.

Egg Hatch

If I Ran the Zoo

If I Ran The Zoo is a Dr. Seuss themed play area. Like everything in Seuss Landing, it is bright and cheerful. There are things on which to climb, as well as a splash pad. If I Ran The Zoo is geared toward younger children.

Universal Studios Florida

Curious George Goes to Town

Curious George Goes to Town has a dry play area and splash pad. Kids can use water guns to spray others, adults included. I went all Robert De Niro in Meet the Fockers on a kid aiming one at me.

Curious George

The interior of Curious George Goes to Town has a large play area with a ton of balls. Your child can shoot them and send them through tubes. The crowd is light. It is easy to watch your children from a few feet away to give them a sense of autonomy (when in fact they have none).

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Balls

Fievel’s Playland

Fievel’s Playland is smaller than Curious George Goes to Town, but it packs a big punch. The play structures are enlarged to make the child feel he or she is the size of a mouse. You might need to explain this to your child, because the intellectual property is slightly outdated.

Kids can run and climb through different areas.

Fievels Playland

The highlight is a water slide upon which you can ride on a raft while clothed. My son rode it several times and stayed dry.

Water Slide

4. Universal Orlando with Toddlers – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the best part of both parks for visitors of all ages. Toddlers may be too young for the books and movies, but they can still enjoy the lands.

Universal Islands of Adventure – Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade is incredibly themed. There is something to see everywhere you turn. Your toddler could entertain himself or herself just running around.

Hogsmeade

There is a store called Ollivanders where kids can customize wands. If you want to have a prayer of affording college for that toddler, just breeze right on past it. Your toddler will not know what he or she is missing.

If you do get a hold of a wand, you can use said wand to interact with things throughout the land. However, the wands didn’t work that well from what we could see. I think the experience would fly right over a toddler’s head.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Wand

With this amazing land comes crippling crowds. The mornings were much better than the afternoons. Get to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade early!

Three Broomsticks

Three Broomsticks is the quick service restaurant located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. The decor is well done. It is definitely worth a visit. Everyone knows this, so try to eat at an off time to minimize waiting.

Three Broomsticks can accommodate food allergies. It cannot accommodate your Diet Coke addiction (because there was no Diet Coke from where Harry Potter came), so get your fix before you go. The food is expensive for fast food, but you are in a theme park, and the ambiance cannot be beat.

This restaurant works well for families with young children because you are helped to your table. You don’t need to worry about carrying your child and your food.

Three Broomsticks

Universal Studios Florida – Diagon Alley

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is spectacular. The amount of detail that went into this land is above and beyond that of any other theme park, complete with a fire breathing dragon.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Dragon

When you enter the land, you no longer feel like you are at Universal. They did a great job secluding it. It is like its own town.

There are storefronts, some real and some decorative.

Diagon Alley Storefront

Diagon Alley has its own bank.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Bank

There is a Knight Bus with a talking head.

Knight Bus

Ollivanders is also in this land, because Universal has cracked the code on that whole making a profit thing.

Like Hogsmeade, you want to arrive early. Your toddler’s experience will be much better in the morning before the crowds build.

Leaky Cauldron

Leaky Cauldron is the quick service restaurant in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. It is nicely themed.

Leaky Cauldron can accommodate dietary restrictions as long as you don’t consider requiring a steady stream of artificial sweeteners to be a special diet. You order your food at a counter, but they bring the food to you, so you do not need to worry about juggling a toddler and a tray. It is also expensive, but worth a stop.

Leaky Cauldron

5. Universal Orlando with Toddlers – Shows

Universal Islands of Adventure

Poseidon’s Fury

Poseidon’s Fury is technically an attraction, but it is really a walk through show. You are led by an actor with lots of personality. There are special effects, including shooting water and fire. Said actor yells that we are going to die. It may be scary for your toddler, depending upon his of her personality. If they can handle the noise, it will probably entertain them.

Poseidon's Fury

Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear!

Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! is perfect for toddlers. A woman who just fell off a sugar truck reads a story while the Grinch and the Lorax jazz hand behind her. After the show, you can meet the characters with little to no wait.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Stories

Universal Studios Florida

FEAR FACTOR LIVE

FEAR FACTOR LIVE, inspired by the television show, is a chance for your toddler’s father to relive his high school sports glory days. Two park guests compete to win nothing. They hang in the air and climb on cars in their quest to return to 1998.

In between rounds, other audience members are fed rotten things to induce vomiting.

If this sound stupid to you, you’re not wrong. However, it is a great place to sit down, and your toddler might be entertained by all the commotion. There are screens, so that should seal the deal.

FEAR FACTOR

Animal Actors on Location

Animal Actors on Location in an adorable show starring domestic animals. Their dogs are smarter than your dog. I feel guilty visiting establishments with animals, but I just keep doing it. Putting my shame aside, the animals seemed happy to be there. Children can volunteer to be in the show. It is quite entertaining.

Animal Actors

Beat Builders

Beat Builders is an outdoor drum show in construction attire on scaffolds. It is short, but if your kid is into building, he or she might like it.

6. Universal Orlando with Toddlers – Parade

Universal Studios Florida

The parade varies depending upon the time of year. When we visited, it was the Mardi Gras parade. The parade was one of the highlights of the day. The floats were intricate, the music was catchy, and everyone in the parade was high energy.

Mardi Gras

Beads were thrown to children liberally, no nipples required.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Beads

The Mardi Gras parade is a must do.

7. Universal Orlando with Toddlers – Ways to Save Money

Theme Park Tickets

Discounted Tickets

Children under age 3 are free, but you still need to pay for everyone else. Undercover Tourist sells discounted Universal Orlando Resort tickets. It also sends a newsletter containing additional discounts periodically. If you have time, watch your email for an extra discount. You receive your tickets through email within a few minutes of your purchase, so you can wait until the last minute to buy them if need be.

Buy Single Park Tickets

Universal Orlando Resort sells single park per day tickets and park to park tickets which allow you to visit both parks in the same day. Park to park tickets are more expensive.

There are reasons to consider park to park tickets, namely Hogwarts Express and the fact that the parks are walking distance from each other. You can easily transfer between the two. You enter both through City Walk, Universal Orlando Resort’s version of Disney Springs at Disney World or Downtown Disney at Disneyland. 

With that said, I think there is probably enough to fill a toddler’s day (which is not the same length as an adult’s day) in one park. If moving between the parks is not important to you, getting a single park ticket is a way to save money.

Travel at Off Peak Times

Since your toddler isn’t in school, you probably don’t care that much about the time of year you travel. If you can travel at an off peak time, you will have better weather, smaller crowds, and cheaper prices. The parks close earlier during off peak times, but you weren’t going to stay until midnight anyway, right?

Sleeping

Stay at a Premier Hotel

As mentioned above, Premier hotels are expensive, but they include Universal Express Unlimited. If you were going to purchase that anyway, staying at one of these hotels is a no brainer. Watch for sales throughout the year.

All Universal hotels offer free transportation to the theme parks and City Walk, so you will save money on parking. Parking starts at $20 per day.

Loews Port

Use Miles and Points

Credit cards and miles and points can put a big dent in your vacation expense. They covered our airfare, hotel, and tickets on our last trip to Universal. There are some great options for beginners with low annual fees and generous introductory bonuses.

Chase

You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned through the Chase Freedom or Chase Sapphire to book your hotel. If you apply for a Chase card, keep in mind Chase will deny you if you have taken out five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. Credit cards on which you have been listed as an authorized user count in the calculation.

Citibank

You can book Universal hotels through Citi’s ThankYou Portal with ThankYou points earned using the Citi Premier card.

Capital One

Capital One Venture is a credit card that erases travel expenses, including theme park tickets. You can pay for Universal Orlando hotels or tickets with this card, then erase them from your credit card statement.

American Express

American Express is Universal Orlando’s official credit card. Check your specific product, but you can often get discounts and find special offers.

Universal Orlando for Toddlers – Final Thoughts

Universal Orlando with toddlers is totally doable. While Disney properties offer more for them to ride, the play areas and theming at Disney come in a distant second. Universal should not replace your Disney trip, but it is definitely worth a shot, particularly if your child is 36″ or above. Visit Universal. You will not regret it.

Universal Orlando with Toddlers Pin

30 thoughts on “Seven Reasons to Visit Universal Orlando with Toddlers

  1. This looks like a great place to take my grandkids. They love Cat in the Hat books and Curious George. Looks like so much fun. Thanks for all the ideas.

  2. your pictures make me so jealous! I never realized how many toddler rides there are in Universal. I thought it was a place more for adults. I hope to bring my toddler one day.

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