If you like thrill rides, Universal Orlando Resort’s coasters and immersive, high-tech experiences totally crush anything else out there. But, what about your mini-me who won’t be tall enough to go on? Travel experts give you five pointers about taking the littles to Universal Orlando Resort’s two side-by-side theme parks—Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventures.
1. Your mini muggles will feel the magic of Harry Potter. While toddlers and preschoolers aren’t big or brave enough for most of the rides in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, they will love riding the Hogwarts Express train between the two sections and trading cash for Gringotts Bank Notes that they can spend on the park’s new Butterbeer soft serve ice cream. (Let’s hope they share! ) They can also walk through Hogwarts Castle without going on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. But, if you want to ride (and we highly recommend that you do at least once), take advantage of the park’s rider swap program. When your family reaches the loading area, you hop on the ride while another adult and the kids wait in a holding area, usually with comfy seats and entertainment. After the ride is over, you switch places with the other adult.
2. The playgrounds are awesome. “Universal has some of the best themed playgrounds for young kids,” says Len Testa, founder of Touringplans.com. To escape the heat or the rain, try Barney’s Backyard, an indoor play area with an adorable treehouse and train at Universal Studios Florida. An outdoor option: Curious George Goes to Town, with its water play section and a ball factory. Over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Camp Jurassic play area with dino-themed slides, suspension bridges, and caves is a hit with the under-5 crowd.
3. You’ll blow up your Instagram with character photo ops. Preschoolers prefer meeting characters than going on rides, says Testa, based on his company’s survey of families who visited Universal Orlando Resort. Toddlers and preschoolers will be most excited to see The Cat In the Hat, Things 1 and 2, Dora The Explorer, Spider-Man, and Captain America.
4. Let your little Dr. Seuss fan loose. The most preschool-friendly area in all of Universal is the Dr. Seuss section at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. In the Caro-Seuss-el, kids can ride on the elephant bird from Horton Hatches the Egg and on the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish ride, they can use the controls to glide up and down as fountains squirt water.
5. Toddlers get in free. All kids ages 2 and under don’t require a ticket. That makes for huge savings since a one-day ticket for kids ages 3-9 for Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure costs more than $100. If you do have to buy tickets for the whole fam, consider opting for a two-park, four-day ticket online; it works out to less than $60 a day.