The theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort are filled with thrills and fun for the adventure-seeker! This is especially the case at Islands of Adventure. However, this park is also great for families with kids of all ages. Even the youngest visitors will find some adventures! This complete guide will give you some ideas when you are navigating the park with your kids.
Arriving at the Park
Regardless of where you are staying for your vacation, you will arrive at CityWalk before heading to the entrance of Islands of Adventure. If you are staying on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort, you can utilize resort transportation – either a bus or water taxi. Some of the resort hotels are so close that you may even choose to walk to the park!
If you are using the bus or staying off-site, you will arrive at CityWalk and then walk to the park entrance. I highly recommend arriving early. If you are staying at the resort, take advantage of the Early Park Admission to get on those popular attractions early! This is especially important if you want to experience the newest attractions at the park – the Jurassic World VelociCoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Your Park Bag
At Universal Orlando, you are not permitted to take park bags onto many of the attractions. However, there are lockers available for you to use while riding. Depending on the age of your child, keep this in mind while deciding what to take in your park bag. For little ones (babies and toddlers), you will obviously have more to take with you. As your kids get older, I suggest packing lighter.
Babies & Young Children (0 – 3 years old)
- diapers/wipes, pacifier, and any other basic baby care items
- extra clothes (I suggest putting them in Ziploc bags)
- extra Ziploc bags (in case you need to change clothes)
- snacks/baby food/baby spoons/disposable bibs
- bottles/sippy cups
- baby carrier
- stroller fan
Preschoolers (3 – 5 years old)
- extra clothes
- snacks/drinks (a cup with a lid is recommended and resealable snacks)
- sunglasses/ sun hat
- stroller fan
School-Age Children (5 – 12 years old)
- extra clothes (especially if planning to do water rides)
- stroller fan (if still using a stroller)
Pre-teens/Teenagers (12+ years old)
For this age group, you may find that they want to bring their own bags. However, you will likely already be carrying most of what they may need during the visit. I recommend a fanny pack if possible or a small cross-body bag to hold any necessities. Some ideas include:
- cell phone
- portable charger/cord
- rain gear (ponchos) – this is a good idea for all ages
- hand sanitizer/antibacterial wipes
- cooling towels
- reusable water bottle
One additional item that I do suggest once your child requires a ticket is a lanyard. It’s fun for little ones to choose the design and you can get a zipper pouch too. This will hold their ticket and room key and will give you easy access when moving between the parks, if you have the Express Pass, etc.
Universal Orlando is definitely known for thrills! However, did you know that there are also things for little ones to enjoy? There is actually a whole area in the park dedicated to all things Dr. Seuss! Known as Seuss Landing, stop by this area to experience attractions including The Cat in the Hat, the Caro-Seuss-el, and the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! In addition, stop by the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish but listen carefully to the song if you don’t want to get wet! For the youngest visitors, check out the show “Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear!” This show happens several times daily and features a musical re-telling of some of your favorite Dr. Seuss stories, with the characters included!
After you’ve explored Seuss Landing, consider heading over to Hogsmeade and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Your little ones will love meeting Buckbeak on the Flight of the Hippogriff (36″) and seeing the Hogwarts Express. Even if you do not want to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, talk to a team member about a walk-through of the Hogwarts Castle. This is especially great for the youngest Harry Potter fans!
If your kids like dinosaurs, be sure to stop in the Jurassic Park section. Here, you may spot some ferocious beasts as you walk through the area including the T-Rex and a Spinosaurus! Then, you can stop by the Raptor Encounter to see a few clever girls, including Blue from Jurassic World! If you think your little one may be nervous, check with the team member. There are several opportunities throughout the day with different friends – including baby velociraptors. These may be less intimidating for younger children and the team members are great about encouraging those fun interactions!
Also, if your kids are like mine, experiencing a water ride is always fun! There are a few throughout the park, depending on your child’s height.
Most importantly, if your kids are really excited about an attraction but not tall enough to ride, ask about a height certificate. The team member may give your child a special certificate to come back and ride the attraction when they are tall enough. My little guy currently has one for two different attractions and he tells me often that he is eating his vegetables so that he can ride! This gives your little ones something special to look forward to in the future, especially if they are feeling disappointed about missing that fun ride!
What do you do if you are coming to the park and want to do all of the thrill rides but also have little ones? This is where Child Swap is a wonderful option!
What is the child swap? Well, it is an option that allows everyone who is tall enough to still experience the attraction. You wait in the line together and then the non-riders go to the Family Room or Waiting area to wait for the first group to ride. They are also given a ticket showing that they are using this feature. When the first group is finished, they switch! It’s that easy!
Universal Express Pass
The Universal Express Pass gives you access to shorter wait times on many attractions throughout the theme parks. This is available for purchase in addition to your park ticket. You can choose to have the unlimited Express Pass or the one-time Express Pass. The one-time Express Pass allows you to experience all participating attractions one time using the Express line. This is a great option if you are concerned about wait times with your kids.
It is also worth noting that when you stay at a premier hotel on-site, you get the unlimited Express Pass for your length of stay. This is TRULY an amazing value and in my opinion, it’s worth it! To enter the Express line, you will need to show your room key or your Express Pass ticket and then get it scanned. You can still wait together as a family if you plan to use Child Swap but your wait times will likely be much shorter than in the stand-by line.
Taking A Break
When you are visiting the Universal Orlando Resort, it is VERY easy to take a break at your resort hotel if you are staying on-site. You can leave and return to the parks as you please. You can grab lunch on CityWalk, enjoy the resort pool, or get those little ones down for a nap! The proximity of each of the resort hotels to the parks is a huge perk, in my opinion, to stay at an on-site hotel.
If you are not staying on-site, you are still able to leave and come back. However, you can also find ways to have some downtime in the parks – grab a bite to eat, enjoy one of the indoor attractions for a break from the Orlando heat, etc.
There are many dining options available in the park, including full-service and quick-service restaurants.
If you are looking for a quick bite, I like The Burger Digs in the Jurassic Park area. There is a lot of indoor seating and the food is pretty good. You can look at the menu and order on the Universal Orlando app.
For a great full-service meal, Mythos is the way to go! This restaurant has a fun theme, with a lot for little ones to look at, and the food is pretty amazing!
Characters & Unique Experiences
Right now, the interactions with characters at the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks are modified and socially distanced. However, there are still many opportunities to see some of your favorite friends. As previously mentioned, you can stop by the Raptor Encounter or Seuss Island for some fun interactions! In Marvel Superhero Island, you will find some of your favorite Marvel friends including Spider-man, Captain America, and more! You can also find some classic comic book characters including Popeye and Olive Oil. Your kids will be able to talk to the characters and take some pretty adorable photos! You can use the Universal Orlando Resort app to find more details about the times.
For a special experience that the Harry Potter won’t soon forget, stop by the Ollivander’s Experience at Hogsmeade to see how the wand chooses the wizard! You can also purchase an interactive wand and your kids can try their hand at some magic throughout Hogsmeade. The wand can also be used in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.
There are things to do for children of all ages at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, regardless of their interests! This guide gave you some pointers so that once you enter the park, the adventure can begin!
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