I used to live in Florida and have been to Universal Studios Orlando more times than I can count. I even had an annual pass for a few years. I recently went for the first time with young kids (3 and 4 years old) and I admit, I was a little nervous about it at first. I wasn’t sure what they would be able to do and if it would be worth it. Well, it was totally worth it! I have put together some tips and tricks to make sure that you and your kids can have a great time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida!
Utilize the Baby Swap
If you are like me than you love all theme park rides – roller coasters included. My husband and I have been spending days at theme parks since well before we had kids so when we take them, it feels like a bummer to not be able to go on the “big” rides. But thanks to baby swap – we can (without having to wait in long lines twice). Simply tell a cast member that you will be using baby swap for any children that are too small to ride and they will let you know where to go.
One of you will wait with the child(ren) who cannot ride, while the other goes on the ride. Once they get off, you just swap places and the other adult gets to ride. Universal even allows any child that was old enough to ride, to go again with you – no waiting in line again required! Utilizing the baby swap means you don’t have to miss out on your favorite rides, and you don’t have to wait in long lines more than once.
Grab an Express Pass
Speaking of long lines, if you are taking little ones to the park, it makes sense to grab express passes. For a small fee you can skip the long lines and hop in the “express lane” for a much shorter wait. The pass works on most rides at both parks (check out the list of rides here) and can significantly lower the time you spend waiting in lines. There are two options – the regular pass and the unlimited pass. Though a little bit pricier, the unlimited pass allows you to go on each ride as many times as you want while with the regular pass, you can only go on each ride once.
One thing I love about these passes is that they are not guest specific. Meaning if you are enjoying the park with a larger group, you can mix and match who uses the passes that you have purchased. The express pass made it much easier to go on rides with my friends while my mom was waiting with the girls because we were in and out (and I didn’t feel guilty about her having to wait an hour or so for us to be done). During my last visit, I literally walked on Revenge of the Mummy and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
Rent a Stroller
Trust me, getting a double stroller for the day was a life saver. It was less than $25 and beyond worth it. Not only could the girls catch a little snooze now and then, but we could also store our souvenirs and drinks in it. If we had tried to tackle the parks without it, we would have done a lot of carrying the girls, and that would have been exhausting. When going from park to park you simply turn the stroller in and take your receipt to the rental area at the other park to pick up a new one. Easy!
Keep an Eye out for Characters
While you are walking around the park, be sure to keep an eye out for characters. Little ones love to meet familiar faces from their favorite TV shows and movies. I can honestly say that my daughters have talked more about getting to hug Spongebob Squarepants and Curious George than they have talked about the rides they went on. If you catch them at the right time, you will only wait a few minutes, and then you can be on your way.
I have to give props to the Universal Studios employees because my 4 year old was having a slight meltdown (she only had one all day – I consider that a win!) when we were meeting Popeye. After she was back in the stroller and calmed down, he came over to talk to her. She loves the black and white Popeye cartoons so that was a big deal for her – and she loves to tell everyone about it. Some of the characters we interacted with were Boots (from Dora the Explorer), Diego, The Simpsons, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye and Olive Oil, Optimus Prime, Minions, and Spider-Man – we also saw Sideshow Bob but he disappeared before we could get to him.
Check Out All the Play Areas
Scattered throughout each of the parks are play areas. This is a great way to break up the day when your children need to get out and run around. There are slides, water features, and so much more. Take advantage of them and give your kids about 10 minutes to burn some energy while you enjoy and snack or a drink. In Islands of Adventure you will find Camp Jurassic, If I Ran The Zoo, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, and Me Ship, The Olive. Over at Universal Studios, you can explore Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland.
Get Lunch at Springfield
Over in the Springfield area, we discovered the best place to sit and have lunch. On “Fast Food Boulevard” there is truly something for everyone. You wait in one line and then have the choice of several different places to order from – Krusty Burger, The Frying Dutchman, Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Luigi’s Pizza, Lard Lad Donuts, and Lisa’s Treehouse of Horror. Within my group we got a salad, pizza, and chicken thumbs. Everything was delicious and there were no complaints.
My favorite part about eating here is that they reserve a spot for you to sit while you are in line and then walk you to your seat. That means no walking around with a tray of food and hungry kids for 10+ minutes looking for a spot to sit and eat. On your way out, you can even stop at Moe’s Tavern and grab a (non-alcoholic) Flaming Moe!
Must Do Rides & Shows
- E.T. Adventure
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl & Hurl
- Descpicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Men In Black: Alien Attack
- Shrek 4-D
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
- Hogwarts Express Train (different experience each way)
- A Day in the Park with Barney (show)
- Animal Actors on Location (show)
Islands of Adventure
- The Cat in the Hat
- The High in the Sky Trolley Train Ride
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
- The Amazing Adventrues of Spider-Man
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Hogwarts Express Train (different experience each way)
- Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (show)