The Universal Orlando Resort is one of the premier vacation destinations not only in Florida but throughout the entire world. Universal is mostly known for its thrill rides & attractions as well as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley) so it appeals primarily to teens, tweens and adults.
Unlike Walt Disney World which is known worldwide for its family-friendly attractions and experiences, Universal its not typically perceived as a kid friendly theme park destination. Typically the first time visitor will focus their time on the Harry Potter lands as well as the thrill rides like the Incredible Hulk and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, missing much of what Universal has to offer families with children.
In this Complete Guide to Universal Orlando for Kids, we outline the many things that are available for a family-friendly vacation to the Universal Orlando Resort. This guide includes Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Universal’s CityWalk and Universal’s hotels. For more information about the family-friendly nature of universal’s water theme park, we will be publishing a guide to Volcano Bay in the near future.
Family-Friendly Rides & Attractions at Universal Orlando
There are a number of family-friendly rides and attractions at both Universal Studios Florida (USF) and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (IOA). At USF, the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone is designed specifically in mind for kids as is with Seuss Landing at IOA. However, there is many more kid friendly rides and attractions available throughout both the two parks.
The Cat in the Hat
Located in Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The Cat in the Hat is a playful and fun ride based on the stories by Dr. Seuss. In this attraction guests will encounter the Cat as well as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
The Cat in the Hat is a gentle motion simulation ride for kids 36 inches in height or more. Guests under 48 inches in height must ride with a supervising companion.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Guests hop on a flying fish and maneuver up and down to avid getting wet by the water fountains. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is located in Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a gentle carousel-style ride that is suitable for kids of all ages. Guests under 48 inches in height must ride with a supervising companion.
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train
Offering one of the best views of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train rides above Seuss Landing. Guests take one of two different tracks aboard a slow moving trolley train through the story of the Sneetches from Dr. Seuss lore.
This attraction is limited to kids 36 inches in height with those under 48 inches in height having to ride with a supervising companion.
The Caro-Seuss-el is a Dr. Seuss themed merry-go-round that is located in Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This attraction is open for guests of all ages with those under 48 inches in height having to ride with a supervising companion.
Flight of the Hippogriff
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a family-friendly roller coaster that is perfect not only for the first time roller coaster riders but also for those that like a small amount of thrills. This ride is immediately across from Hogwarts Castle and the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride at the rear of Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
This attraction is limited to kids 36 inches in height with those under 48 inches in height having to ride with a supervising companion.
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
Be prepared to get completely soaked on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. This is an amazing water ride floats guests on a barge through moderate rapids while going to an adventure with Popeye the Sailor to save Olive Oyl from Bluto.
Located in the Toon Lagoon area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, this attraction is limited to kids 42 inches in height, with those under 48 inches in height having to ride with a supervising companion.
If you are not a kid (or accompanying a kid), don’t bother getting in line as the Pteranodon Flyers requires that any guest over 56 inches tall be accompanying a rider that meets the 36 inch height limit. So two adults over 56 inches can’t ride on this attraction.
In the Pteranodon Flyers guests take a ride high above Jurassic Park on a two-person prehistoric flying Pteranodon.
Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade Station
Just like in the Harry Potter movies, guests of all ages can board the Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade Station in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and take a trip to Kings Cross Station in London at Universal Studios Florida. Harry, Ron and a number of characters from the movies will join you during the journey.
A two-park pass or annual pass is required to board the Hogwarts Express.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
One of the most popular kid rides at the Universal Orlando Resort is Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Located Production Central at Universal Studios Florida, guests will be transformed into minions the will have to help Gru save Margo, Edith and Agnes from disaster.
This attraction is a 3D motion simulator that has a moderate level of movement which some guests many not be comfortable with. However, there are stationary seats (benches) in the first row so those can not wanting the movement can enjoy the entire experience. There is a funny pre-ride queue experience that sets the stage for the ride.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is limited to kids 40 inches in height with those under 48 inches in height having to ride with a supervising companion.
Endless Summer Tip: After the ride there is a photo op with a live minion so if you bring a banana, you can have a lot of fun teasing the minions.
Help Shrek and Donkey save the kidnapped Princess Fiona from the ghost of Lord Farquaad. Shrek 4D is a zany multisensory experience featuring 3D glasses and special effects. After the attraction is finished, you can meet Shrek and Donkey just outside the gift shop.
There are no height restrictions for Shrek 4D but it is within a dark studio and there are some loud noises.
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Like the Flight of the Hippogriff, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster is the perfect roller coaster for first timers or those not ready to experience a high level roller coaster.
Located in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone in Universal Studios Florida, this ride is limited to guests 36 inches in height with those under 48 inches requiring a supervising companion.
One of the few remaining rides from the original park opening, the E.T. Adventure takes you on a bike ride with ET to save his planet. The ride starts from Elliott’s home town where guests are chased through the forest before flying through the air to ET’s planet.
This amazing attraction is a gentle motion simulator that is suitable for guests of all ages. Riders under 48 inches in height are required to have a supervising companion.
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
Located in Springfield: Home of the Simpsons at Universal Studios Florida, Kang & Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl is a zany attraction where guests board a flying saucer to swoop around alien invaders.
This amazing attraction is a gentle carousel type ride that is suitable for guests of all ages. Riders under 48 inches in height are required to have a supervising companion.
Hogwarts Express – Kings Cross Station
Guests of all ages can take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross Station at Universal Studios Florida and travel to Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. You will see Harry Potter and his friends during the journey.
A two-park pass or annual pass is required to board the Hogwarts Express.
For those kids that are more of the adventurous type, here are a few additional rides and attractions which just might be fun to experience.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
The Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is a fun motion simulation attraction that mixes the humor of The Tonight Show! throughout the entire experience. Prior to the ride itself guests will enjoy a hip-hop barbershop performance by the Ragtime Gals as well as a meet & greet with Hashtag the Panda.
Located in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida, there is a minimum height requirement of 40 inches for The Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. Additionally, guests are required to make a reservation using the Virtual Line pass on the Universal Orlando App.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is one of our favorite rides at Endless Summer. This 3D ride is a motion simulator where guests go along with Spider-Man to defeat the Sinister Syndicate. There is a fair amount of motion in this ride with a number of fast twists and turns so if you get dizzy easily, take a pass.
Located on Marvel Super Hero Island at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, there is a minimum height requirement of 40 inches for this attraction and any guest under 48 inches has to have a supervising companion.
Kid Themed Experiences and Play Areas at Universal Orlando
Both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure feature a number of family-friendly experiences as well as kid play areas.
Spells at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley)
Casting spells at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most unique things to do at Universal Orlando. First, you will need to purchase an interactive wand at either Ollivanders or one of the other Wizarding World gift shops. A map provided with your wand will point out all the locations within both Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley where you can cast your spells.
Located at Universal Studios Florida in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, Fievel’s Playland is amazing playground based on the movies An American Tail and Fievel Goes West. Kids will enjoy climbing on the 30-foot spider web, crossing rope bridges, splashing in a 1,000-gallon cowboy hat and twisting down the 200-foot water slide.
Curious George Goes to Town
The Curious George Goes to Town play area includes a multilevel water themed splash playground (prepare to get fully soaked) as well as a dry play zone called The Man with the Yellow Hat’s Ball Factory. In the Ball factory kids will enjoy blasting soft foam balls at each other using a variety of gadgets and gizmos. There is also plenty of seating for parents and supervising companions.
This play area is located behind the Nuthouse Coaster in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone at Universal Studios Florida.
The Jurassic Park Discovery Center
On the ground level of the Jurassic Park Discovery Center in the Jurassic Park section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, guests will find a number of interactive experiences centered around “our planet’s prehistoric past”.
This is also a great place for the kids to play while parents cool off from the Florida heat.
Just down the path from the Jurassic Park Discovery Center in Islands of Adventure is Camp Jurassic. This multi-story pre-historic play area features caves, climbing nets and suspension bridges. It’s a fun place for the to see after riding the Pteranodon Flyers.
The Mystic Fountain
Located in the slowly disappearing Lost Continent section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Mystic Fountain is one of the theme park treasures where you will talking about for weeks to come. This talking fountain will keep kids entertained with jokes and tales as well as all of it’s amazing water features.
Be careful not to offend the fountain as you just might get soaked!
Me-Ship, The Olive
Me-Ship, The Olive is a multi-story playground located right next to Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. There are a number of slides, climbing nets and passageways as well as water cannons to squirt riders on the barges below.
If I Ran the Zoo
Located in Seuss Landing at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, this Dr. Seuss themed play area features a number of tunnels and water features for kids to enjoy. If I Ran the Zoo is one of those theme park places where most guests are not aware of and walk by everyday.
Gringotts Money Exchange
If you never had a chance to speak with a goblin before, then here is your chance at the Gringotts Money Exchange. Feel free to ask the Goblin behind the counter a question while exchanging your muggle money for Gringotts bank notes – you just never know how he will respond.
Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, this 5 minute experience is not to be missed.
Carnival Games & Arcades
Carnival games are located at Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park in Universal’s Islands of Adventure as well as within Springfield at Universal Studios Florida. Kids can play games as well as win prizes featuring stuffed versions for some of their favorite Universal characters.
In addition to the carnival style games, there is a large arcade located next to Cafe 4 in Marvel Super Hero Island. Kids can win tickets to exchange for prizes and gifts.
Hollywood Drive-In Golf
Located in Universal’s CityWalk just past the breezeway to the parking garages is the the Hollywood Drive-In Golf. This highly themed mini-golf course features two interactive 18 hole courses.
- The Haunting Ghostly Greens which is themed after a haunted house and graveyard.
- Invaders from Planet Putt which is themed after an alien invasion.
Open daily from 9:00 am until 10:00 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends, the cost of 18 holes is $15.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids ages 3 to 9. For 36 holes, the cost is $28.98 for adults and $24.98 for kids ages 3 to 9.
A 10% discounts is available for Florida residents, military, seniors (62+) and AAA members and Universal’s Preferred annual passholders. Universal’s Premier annual passholders receive a 15% discount.
Universal Cinemark Movie Theater
During the summer months your kids may need a break from the Florida heat so a movie at the Universal Cinemark movie theatre might have recently been upgraded with oversize plush reclining seats.
Endless Summer Tip: One of the best deals at Universal Orlando is the CityWalk Meal & Movie deal. Starting from less than $30 per person, guests can dine at one of the restaurants at CityWalk then get a to see a movie at Cinemark.
Universal Character Meet & Greets
There are a number of locations throughout the Universal Orlando Resort (at both the theme parks and hotels) for meet and greets with the parks characters.
Seuss Character Zone
Not only will guests get a chance to meet their favorite characters from the Dr. Seuss stories but enjoy stories with Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! narrated by a Universal team member. Some of the characters include the Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Thing 1 & Thing 2 and the Grinch.
Marvel Super Hero Island
There are meet & greets as well as character experiences throughout the day at Marvel Super Hero Island. Some of the characters from the Avengers and X-Men include Captain America, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Storm and Rouge.
In addition to the character experiences, there is a permanent character meet & greet / photo op location for Spider-Man.
Hollywood Character Zone / Character Party Zone
Along Hollywood Boulevard guests will find a number of characters available for meet & greets as well as photo opportunities. You will find the characters from the Simpsons and Despicable Me as well as Hollywood celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop.
Meet Shrek, Donkey and Friends
Just outside of Shrek 4D is a place where you can stop and talk with Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona. Donkey is quite hysterical so make sure you try to have a conversation with him.
Meet the TRANSFORMERS
Behind the NEST building which houses the Transformers attraction is a place where you can interact with Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee. Lines get pretty long to meet the Transformers so if you want to get your photo taken with them, it’s best to do so early in the day.
Woody Woodpeckers KidZone
Within Universal Studios Florida at Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, there is a permanent meet & greet / photo op location for SpongeBob SquarePants and Friends. At times you will find Woody Woodpecker himself as well as Doc Brown from the Back to the Future movies.
Family-Friendly Parades and Shows at Universal Orlando
Like most theme parks, Universal hosts a daily parade as well as a number of shows that are perfect for kids of all ages.
The Universal Superstar Parade
Universal’s Superstar Parade runs daily and features your favorite characters from Despicable Me, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Secret Life of Pets and Dora the Explorer.
Endless Summer Tip: One of the best places to view the parade is directly in front of Mel’s Diner. Therefore you can see the start of the parade as well as the end of the parade which turns into more of a street party (along Hollywood Boulevard) where the characters interact with the guests.
Animal Actors on Location
Situated in Universal Studios Florida at Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, Animal Actors On Location! is a must see when visiting Universal. This live action show gives you some of of what goes on the behind the scenes when working with animal actors.
The Animal Actors on Location! show is presented several times a day.
The “Magic Show” at Ollivanders Wand Show
One of the best experiences at Universal in the “magic show” where a wand expert like Mr. Ollivander interacts with a guest to find their “wand that picks the wizard”. Located at the Wizarding World in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, this is another one of the must see experiences. And with a little luck, you might be the one that gets chose to work with the wand expert.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard / Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees
Located in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, the Tales of Beedle the Bard is a stage show put on by the “Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts”. Using props and puppets, this show is part of the wizarding fairytales from Harry Potter lore.
And on the same stage is a swinging show featuring Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. This musical stage show features several unique musical numbers from the Wizarding World.
Hogwarts Frog Choir / Triwizard Spirit Rally
The Hogwarts Frog Choir performs on a small stage in Hogsmeade at Universal’s islands of Adventure. This a Capella show is like those from the Harry Potter movies with signing frogs as the main stars.
Typically following is the Triwizard Spirit Rally which features students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrange as they get ready for the Triwizard Tournament.
Character Dining & Themed Restaurants at Universal Orlando
The Marvel Character Dinner
Guests will meet their favorite super heros at The Marvel Character Dinner which is located in Cafe 4 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Marvel characters include Captain American, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Rouge and Storm.
The cost for the Marvel Character Dining is $49.99 per adult (ages 10 and up) and $24.99 per child (ages 3 to 9).
Despicable Me Character Breakfast
Do your kids love the Minions? Then The Despicable Me Character Breakfast is perfect for your family. This character dining experience is held on Saturday mornings in the Tahitian Room at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. There are three different seating times offered: 8:00 am, 9:30 am and 11:00 am.
Guests will enjoy a full buffet breakfast including scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes as well as a number of other breakfast treats will meeting Gru and his minions.
Endless Summer Tip: Don’t forget to have a banana ready for the minions. But be careful as they may chase you around the dining room!
Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendus
Under the big top tent in the heart of Seuss Landing, Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendus is a Dr. Seuss themed quick service dining restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner, this restaurant services a variety of American fare including burgers, chicken, sandwiches, pizzas and salads.
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
Located outside of the theme parks at Universal’s CityWalk, The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a great restaurant for kids.
The Holiday’s at Universal Orlando
One of the most special times at Universal Orlando is the holiday season where there are a number of themed holiday attractions and experiences.
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s
Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s takes place within at Universal Studios Florida and is held from late November to early January. Just like the one in New York City, this parade features several floating balloons with a Universal twist.
One of the best holiday shows in all the Orlando area theme parks is the Grinchmas Show. Featuring your favorite green bad guy and all the who’s from Whoville, this show includes some of the best Christmas songs to get you in the holiday spirit.
The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle
The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle is an wonderful project show that uses Hogwarts Castle for a backdrop. With lights, music and fireworks, this show is the perfect way to cap off an evening at the Wizarding World.
Family Friendly Hotels at Universal Orlando
Just like several of the hotels at The Walt Disney World Resort, Universal offers a number of on-site hotel options for families traveling with children.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resorts
There are two Endless Summer resort hotels at Universal, both of which are located outside of the immediate Universal Orlando Resort property (across Interstate 4) but include all the benefits of staying at a Universal hotel. These two hotel properties are Universal’s “Value” resorts and while they are the least expensive on-site hotels, they provide a very good bang for the buck.
The first to open was the Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn & Suites. The Surfside Inn & Suites features two-bedroom suites that can sleep up to six. These suites are themed in a manner just like would be found at a beach house.
The Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn & Suites was originally scheduled to open in early 2020 but due to the pandemic, official opening was delayed until 2021. Similar to the Surfside Inn & Suites, Dockside also offers two-bedroom beach themed suites that sleep up to six people.
Click here to make reservations at Universal’s Dockside Inn & Suites.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is one of the most fun on-site hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort. This hotel is located right next to Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park with its own hotel entrance and features some of the best amenities including a lazy river pool, dive-tower themed water slide and indoor bowling alley.
The 430 square foot Family Suites at Cabana Bay sleep up to six guests in two-queen beds plus a pull out sofa. There is a privacy partition in the room as well as a compartmentalized bathroom which will allow three guests to get ready at a given time.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
The Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel features the Despicable Me Kids’ Suites. These 650 square foot “Kid Suites” consist of a main hotel style room plus an additional bedroom that is fully themed after the Despicable Me movies. The walls are covered with minions and the beds are similarly designed to those which Margo, Agnes and Edith slept in from the movies.
As a Universal “Premier” hotel, guests enjoy not only early entry to the Universal theme parks but also Universal Express Unlimited which allows guests to skip the regular lines for some of the most popular rides and attractions. This added benefit is completely worth the additional cost of staying at the Portfolio Bay hotel.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
The Lowes Royal Pacific Resort features the Jurassic World Kids’ Suites. These 670 square foot “Kid Suites” also consist of a main hotel style room plus an additional bedroom that is fully themed after the Jurassic Park / Jurassic World movies. The walls are covered with dinosaurs and the beds are themed after vehicles from the films.
The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is also a Universal “Premier” hotel, which includes the Universal Express Unlimited benefit, allowing guests to skip the regular lines for some of the most popular rides and attractions.
The Hard Rock Hotel
Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel features the 800 square foot Future Rock Star Suites. In addition to a traditional hotel room, Future rock star get their own private room that is themed like a rock concert venue.
Just like the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort, the Hard Rock is a Universal “Premier” hotel that includes the Universal Express Unlimited benefit.