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TravelUniversal Orlando is one of the best places to take kids on...

Universal Orlando is one of the best places to take kids on vacation


With attractions like Jurassic World VelociCoaster — which tops out at an eye-watering 70 miles per hour — and spine-chilling annual festivities like Halloween Horror Nights, it can be easy to think that Universal Orlando is only meant for thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies. While Universal has certainly perfected the formula on their hair-raising rides and events, the park also has plenty to offer to families with young children.

Related: These are the 10 best rides at Universal Orlando

In June 2024, Universal Studios Florida added DreamWorks Land to its property, making Universal even more attractive as a go-to destination for families with kids of all ages.

Here’s everything you need to know before your next family vacation to Universal Orlando Resort.

Fun-for-all-ages play areas

DreamWorks Land at Universal Studios Florida. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

My kids are 10, 7 and 5, but we’ve been taking them to Universal Orlando for years. Our stroller days are thankfully behind us, but I’ve always given parents this advice: You can’t just run from one ride to another all day and plop your kids in a stroller between attractions. Kids need to run and play and get their energy out. Luckily, Universal Orlando has a lot of places for them to do that.

DreamWorks Land at Universal Studios Florida. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

At DreamWorks Land, which opened in June, kids can explore Shrek’s swamp playground, train with Po from “Kung Fu Panda,” conduct King Harold’s frog symphony by bouncing on lily pads and more.

Camp Jurassic at Universal Islands of Adventure. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

At Camp Jurassic (in Universal’s Islands of Adventure), kids can explore a prehistoric playground decked out with mysterious caves, dinosaur fossils, dilophosaurus-shaped water canons and more. My kids love some of Islands of Adventure’s other rides but would still rather be at Camp Jurassic, making new friends and imagining a world where dinosaurs are still alive.

Seuss Landing at Universal Islands of Adventure. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Islands of Adventure is also home to Seuss Landing, which has an interactive play area themed to “If I Ran the Zoo,” in addition to several kid-friendly rides.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade at Universal Islands of Adventure. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

While not technically a play area, my kids have spent literal hours casting spells at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which is split between both of Universal’s parks and connected by the Hogwarts Express train). After you purchase an interactive wand (or let the wand choose you at Ollivander’s Wand Shop), there are spots all over the land where you can use your wand’s powers to make magic.

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Related: The best credit cards for Universal vacations

The kids may not be climbing or sliding, but they are using their imagination and learning that the impossible is, in fact, possible. These types of play areas and interactive experiences are so important at a theme park. Not only do they give kids an opportunity to just be kids, but they also inspire kids to dream bigger.

Regardless of age, theme parks are a place to suspend disbelief, escape reality and have fun. I’d argue that in this day and age, children need that just as much as grown-ups do.

Kid-friendly rides

Villain-Con Minion Blast at Universal Studios Florida. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Universal only has a handful of rides with no height requirement, but there are still several attractions for kids who are 40 inches or shorter. This way, the whole family can ride together. One ride, Pteranodon Flyers, doesn’t allow adults on it at all unless there’s a child with them.

Related: A relaxing escape with theme park perks: Review of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

While the list of attractions for the age 3-and-under demographic is short, the park does have top-notch play areas that help level the playing field. If you are traveling with kids across multiple age groups, Universal’s mix of child-friendly rides and thrilling coasters ensures there is something for everyone to enjoy.

What sets Universal apart: These rides aren’t necessarily what my kids would call “baby rides.” In other words, they’re not traditional slow-moving rides that don’t offer much excitement.

Some, like Villain-Con Minion Blast, are interactive and pit families against each other in a friendly competition to see who can get the highest score. Others — like Flight of the Hippogriff at Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as the Trollercoaster in DreamWorks Land — are tame enough for youngsters who want to brave their very first roller coaster.

Trollercoaster in DreamWorks Land. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Yes, you can hop on the rides in Seuss Landing for some silliness or laugh along at Gru’s antics on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem motion simulator ride. But going on some of Universal’s rides is like a rite of passage for kids.

Attractions like Jurassic Park River Adventure and Transformers The Ride 3D challenge kids to brave the unknown by confronting larger-than-life dinosaurs or fighting to save the world by taking on Megatron and the Decepticons. When kids decide they are ready for these rides, you can see how proud and independent they feel by the huge smiles on their faces.

My son when he was finally tall enough for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

My seven-year-old won’t even look at a ride right now if it isn’t a roller coaster, and for a while, his ultimate conquest was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. The ride has a fully vertical 90-degree light hill and several loops and twists. During one of our previous visits, he was devastated to learn he wasn’t quite tall enough to ride.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. TARAH CHIEFFi/THE POINTS GUY

This time, he was tall enough but started to get nervous about getting on such an intense coaster. He worked through his nerves and bravely climbed the ride’s steps. When I saw him at the exit, he had the biggest smile on. He had faced his fear and triumphed over it — a moment he will probably remember for the rest of his life. I think it will help him be bold when facing other challenges in life, as well.

Perks for families with young kids

My youngest son at Universal Orlando. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Like many other parks, Universal Orlando does not require you to purchase a ticket for children 2 and under. They can enter the park for free. They also don’t need their own Universal Express skip-the-line pass; they can enter the Express lines with the rest of your party, as long as everyone else purchased Universal Express.

Related: Sleek and modern, yet affordable: A review of Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Additionally, Universal is winning the game when it comes to child swap. Most theme parks have some version of a child swap program that allows parents to wait with children who are too young (or frightened) to get on certain rides. At Universal, most attractions have a family room where one person can wait with young children while the rest of the party gets on the ride.

When they get off, you can swap places and the adult who was waiting can skip to the front of the line and ride with a very short wait. These child swap rooms usually have TVs playing Universal films like “Harry Potter” or “Men In Black,” and they make it very convenient for everyone in your group to get on their favorite rides.

A bright future

UNIVERSAL EPIC UNIVERSE

It’s fairly obvious that I already find Universal Orlando extremely kid-friendly, but it’s about to become even more so when Universal Epic Universe opens in 2025. There will be new areas to explore built around popular franchises like “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Harry Potter,” Super Nintendo and more. Brave kiddos can even venture into Universal Classic Monsters in Dark Universe.

UNIVERSAL KIDS RESORT

Meanwhile, in Texas, Universal is building a theme park designed specifically for kids called Universal Kids Resort.

Bottom line

With its deep well of hit films and beloved characters as well as its wide range of rides and interactive play areas, Universal Orlando has something for everyone in the family. With each new trip, my family grows closer and makes lifelong memories. Some of those memories are big milestone moments, such as conquering your first big coaster. Others are sillier: My kids have a longstanding tradition of jumping from one bed to the other in our hotel room while yelling “Orlando bellyflop” every time we visit.

No matter how small your kids are, they can have big fun at Universal Orlando.

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