Let’s face it, taking a toddler to Universal Orlando Resort can be daunting. With so many rides, attractions and experiences on offer, knowing what to see and do, and how best to spend your time can be tricky as a parent. There’s also knowing what to pack or the best place to stay, though it might be that you’re unsure of what’s on offer at all three Universal parks.
To help you, we’ve created this guide.
Along with highlighting the best attractions and play areas, we share our top tips to having fun, staying safe and making sure you have the best experience possible. Let’s kick-off with the fun things to do for toddlers.
Play Areas for Toddlers at Universal Orlando
There are six play areas designed specifically for toddlers at Universal Orlando Resort – three in Universal Studios and three in Islands of Adventure. Each park has a good mix of play areas, combining indoor, outdoor and water-based play.
Woody Woodpecker KidZone is where you’ll find all the fun things for toddlers, and it’s epic! There’s Fievals Playland, Curious George a Day at the Park, and Barney’s Backyard Playground. Unlike Universal Studios, the play areas at Islands of Adventure are more spread out, so your stroller will come in handy.
Once there, your kids have an abundance of choice, there’s Dr Seuss’ If I Ran a Zoo, Discovery Dino Center, and Camp Jurassic for them to enjoy. One other thing, all indoor plays are air-conditioned and provide a nice break from the Florida heat.
Let’s have a closer look at the play areas created for toddlers…
Fievels Playland is a weird and wonderful playground packed with oversized props from the films An American Tail and Fieval Goes West. Seeing the world through a mouse’s eye, toddlers can scurry their way through giant tin cans and enormous cowboy boots, climb a 30-foot spider web, and take on a 200-foot water slide splashing in a cowboy hat water pool. With a padded floor and access for adults, it’s a great place to let your little one roam free with complete peace of mind that they won’t get hurt.
Curious George Goes to Town
The Curious George Goes to Town is an interactive water-based playground based on stories from the animated series. You’ll enter a world with tons of activities and fun for all ages. Grab a hose, pump or lever and have fun with water, or head to the Yellow Hat’s Ball Factory to launch thousands of soft foam balls, or why not check out the Animal Show tent. There is also a dry area, but predominantly this playground is wet so make sure you take a change of clothes or a bathing suit.
Barney’s Backyard Playground
If you want to escape the heat at Universal Studios, Barney’s Backyard play area with air-conditioning is the place to go. Besides it being cool, it’s full of water and sand-based fun to keep your little one occupied for hours, and better still, there are benches for adults to cool off while their kids play.
BJ’s Express train is a big feature, but there’s also a tree house climbing frame, playsets for toddlers and interactive steps that light up and play sounds. Be aware that the restrooms near Barney’s Backyard Playground are designed for kids, with shorter toilets and sinks. Adults keep this in mind if you’re tall.
Dr Seuss’ If I Ran a Zoo
If your little one loves outlandish play areas filled with colour and bizarre creatures, Dr Seuss’ If I Ran a Zoo will leave them open-mouthed and jumping for joy as soon as they step inside. This fanciful play area, or should we say, ‘extraordinary zoo’, is home to animals from the farthest reaches and tons of fun things for toddlers to enjoy.
Whether it’s a ride on a curious cow, a game on the belly of Tic Tac Joe, or whizzing down the tunnels in Zomba-ma-tant – kids will love the freedom and variety of things to do in Dr Seuss’ If I Ran a Zoo. Like Barney’s, there are plenty of areas for adults to sit while their children explore.
Rides for Toddlers at Universal Orlando
Split between Islands of Adventure and Marvel Island, there are a handful of rides suitable for toddlers. All the following rides require your child to have good head and body control and be able to sit up on their own.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a popular flying ride equipped with easy-to-use controls that lets you manoeuvre up and down as you gently glide around an array of fountains. There’s also Caro-Seuss-el, which is the merry-go-round from The Mind of Dr. Seuss. Besides climbing aboard and sitting on the creative cast of characters, you can make their eyes blink, ears wiggle and heads turn.
Storm Force Accelatron in Marvel Island is spin on the classic eggbeater carnival ride. It’s not the most dazzling attraction, but it’s the only ride in Islands of Adventure without a height restriction. (Children under 48 inches must ride with an adult.)
It’s more fast-paced than the other two and won’t be to everyone’s liking, but if you want to introduce your child to the joys of a fast-ish ride, it’s a breeze to get on and a lot of fun.
Besides the rides that have no minimum height requirement, there are a ton that are suitable for 3-year olds or children 36 inches tall.
Rides with a low minimum height requirement
Among others, the wonderful thing about growing up is that you can ride faster, scarier and more immersive rides at theme parks. In all three Universal parks, 34” looks to be the minimum height requirement to ride on your own. To give your little one something to look forward to, and you as a parent to plan for, the following rides are the next step up for a toddler, with a minimum height requirement of 34 or 36 inches:
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong 36” (Island of Adventure)
- Flight of the Hippogriff 36” (Island of Adventure)
- T. Adventure 34” (Universal Studios)
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl 34” (Universal Studios)
- Cat in the Hat (Island of Adventure)
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster (Universal Studios)
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! (Island of Adventure)
Book a meet-up with your favourite character well ahead
Let’s face it, everyone wants to meet their favourite superhero. Doing it as a toddler is literally what dreams are made of, but for everyone else, it’s a tick off the bucket list and a great memory to look back on if you capture it on camera.
Scheduled character meet and greets
The first group of meetable characters – those with a schedule – make appearances at set times and locations throughout the two parks. Universal makes it easy for guests to know when and where they appear by printing a schedule. However, the schedule is subject to change, so double-check before planning your adventure.
Scheduled character meet and greets are:
Universal Studios Florida
- Barney and friends
- Shrek, Fiona and Donkey
- SpongeBob SquarePants
- Hello Kitty
- Trolls (from the DreamWorks franchise of films and TV Shows)
Islands of Adventure
- Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Storm, Green Goblin, Dr. Doom
- Seuss Characters
- Blue the Velociraptor (Jurassic Park)
- She-Ra (Netflix)
Periodic character meet and greets make up the second group. These appear randomly during the day but are not on the park map. The characters you can see are:
- Dora and Diego
- Shaggy and Scooby-Doo
- Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat
- The Minions
- Lucy Ball and Marilyn Monroe
Islands of Adventure
- Woody the Woodpecker
- Popeye and Olive
While these characters are known to roam from land to land, they typically make appearances in their respective parks’ character zones. You can find these near Universal Studio’s turnstiles and Islands of Adventure’s Toon Lagoon.
How long will you have to wait for characters?
Unlike at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Paris where you can expect to wait 30-60 minutes to meet characters, the wait times at Universal are significantly shorter– roughly 10-15 minutes. During busy periods, you may have to wait an extra 10 minutes, but it will rarely be any longer than this.
What About Character Dining?
What better way to surprise your little one than with a fun-packed meal alongside their favourite superhero or animated icon? Whether it’s a Minion, The Grinch, or a Marvel superhero, one of the best ways for children to meet their heroes is at character breakfasts or lunches.
It helps to have some idea what character you want to dine with beforehand, as they each have different schedules. For example, the Despicable Me character breakfast happens every Saturday at Royal Pacific Resort’s Tahitian Room, whereas the Marvel dining is on select nights at Café 4 in Islands of Adventure.
They will also make appearances on select nights at Universal’s premier hotels, including Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay. However, their schedules change so we recommend contacting the hotel first.
Bear in mind that character experiences sell out very quickly, so try to book in advance to avoid being disappointed on the day.
And now, how to make your experience extra special
That concludes our top tips to having fun with your little one while you are there, but there’s a lot more that Universal has to offer that makes it a great theme park for families with toddlers.
Useful Tips for Universal Orlando Resort
You’ve probably got a lot of unanswered questions regarding the baby facilities at Universal Orlando, and that’s understandable too, as you’ll need somewhere to feed, change and potentially get your little one off to sleep. We hope you won’t need them, but in the event of an emergency, you’ll also want to know where the nearest first aiders are.
This next half of our blog posts covers all the practicalities that will come in handy and make your day(s) at Universal Orlando run smoothly.
Take a Stroller
Universal Orlando is huge. Even if you’re staying on-site, there’s still some commuting involved to get to the parks. Taking a stroller to Universal Orlando will make it easier to move from one attraction to another. It also gives your little one time to rest on longer walks like when you’re switching between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Stroller parking areas appear throughout both parks and are ideally situated at the entrance to each ride. (You can’t take a stroller into any queue or show.) Universal does a fine job in making sure these areas are well-staffed, so you don’t have to worry about strangers going through your belongings.
There is a stroller policy in place, though it doesn’t limit the size. Single and double strollers are available to rent at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, so don’t worry if you haven’t got your own. However, due to them being hard plastic strollers, they are typically suitable for older kids or independent walkers.
- Take a baby carrier in case you need to carry your child
- Stay dry with a rain-proof stroller cover
- Take your own stroller if you have one
Use Child Swap
Don’t panic, we’re not suggesting you swap children with a stranger for the day. Universal’s Child Swap is a unique service that makes riding certain coasters hassle-free for families. It means children can skip a ride for whatever reason, giving the rest of the family the opportunity to ride without having to join the back of the queue. It’s effectively a waiting area with a one-in-one-out rule – only less strict.
If you want to use Child Swap, inform the attendant at the ride’s entrance before you enter the queue. Some rides, including Fast & Furious: Supercharged, have toys and games for children to keep them occupied. Not all attractions do this, so we do recommend taking a book, a snack, or your child’s favourite toy to help pass the time.
Locate the Baby Care Centres
Baby centres appear at all three parks next to the health care centre or first aid centre, depending on which park you are in. Each centre comes equipped with a changing table, a nursing room, bottle warmer, rocking chair and a microwave. Besides excellent facilities, first aiders are on hand to give you peace of mind if your little one is feeling ill.
Tip: if you’re having trouble finding your nearest centre, look for the first aid icon on your map.
Stay in an On-site Hotel
Staying on-site will make it easier to nip back to your hotel if you’ve forgotten something or need to unwind. Besides, the last thing you want if you’ve forgotten a bottle or your little one needs a nap is an hour-long journey back to an offsite hotel. Added to that, most on-site hotels are themed around popular kids’ movies and TV shows, which makes it more exciting to stay there.
There are eight on-site hotels in total, ranging from the premier Portofino Bay Hotel to value-priced Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Every Universal hotel offers something different for children of all ages and it’s possible to arrange character experiences at each one. If you’re looking out for the hotel with the most charming rooms for children, Portofino Bay Hotel and Cabana Bay Beach Resort are the ones to look out for.
Staying on-site also gets you a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass that gives you priority boarding at most rides and attractions – so it’s definitely worth it.
Make Use of The Daily Rental Lockers
As simple as they are, you’ll go home talking about how useful the lockers are at Universal Orlando. They are available to rent in all three parks and are ideal for stowing heavy or bulky items that you don’t want to carry around all day but that you’ll need at some point. They range in price from $8 to $12 per day and you can pay for them using cash or card.
Pack These Essential Items
Knowing what to pack is tricky, but it’s half the battle. While you want to travel light, you want to pack essential items that will come in handy and make your day comfortable in the park, and not things that will sit in your bag and add unnecessary weight.
The first thing you want to pack is a backpack. It’s not entirely ideal and you’ll have to find somewhere to stow it on certain rides, but a backpack will make it easy to carry all the essential items that won’t fit in your pockets, like water bottles, snacks, nappies or a portable charger. Other absolute musts, especially during summer, are sun cream and hats for everyone.
Another essential item that you want on your feet rather than in your backpack is a pair of comfortable shoes. Chances are you’ll be doing a lot of walking, between 10-15 miles per day on average, so pack your most comfortable pair of shoes or trainers.
Don’t rush to fill your backpack with everything in sight, there are certain items that Universal don’t allow in the parks. To save any embarrassment at the security checkpoints, here are all the items you can not take inside any of the Universal parks:
- Alcoholic drinks
- Picnic lunches
- Food that requires refrigeration
- Glass containers
- Folding chairs
- Hard-sided coolers
- Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
- Suitcases or bags with wheels
- Clothing with offensive language or content
- Clothing that represents emergency personnel
Happy Holiday Planning!
That concludes our toddlers guide to Universal Orlando Resort. We hope you have everything you need to successfully prepare for your next trip, and to ensure that your time in the parks is as fun and enjoyable as possible. Looking for more top tips? Join our Destination Florida Facebook group and be part of the discussion.