This post is all about the rides for families at Universal, Orlando Florida theme park with young kids (6 and under – although not all of the rides are suitable for toddlers). Read on to find out what each ride is like, if there is a height restriction and the suitability of each ride for younger kids. Most of these have no height limit although for a few of the faster family friendly rides your child will need to be 36″ (around 92cm) or taller. For the slightly taller kids there’s also a couple of rides at 42″ and four at 40″ minimum height. Plus don’t forget to check out my similar post for Universal’s Island of Adventure.
I also want to explain about park opening if you are staying at one of the Universal hotels. We wrongly assumed that by early park entry they meant early entry to both parks. This was wrong for the duration our stay. We could only enter Islands of Adventure one hour early and we were only allowed access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade. There was no early entry for Universal studios although they did tend to open their doors 10 minutes early which was handy. We took advantage of early opening at Islands of Adventure as it also meant we were near Jurassic Park river adventure and King Kong a lot earlier than the crowds which meant we were able to walk straight on to those rides.
Most Universal rides do not allow filming or photography while you are on the ride (unlike Disney!).
The Official Universal Studios Orlando Resort App
I didn’t know about the Universal App before we left. It’s a good app but it’s not quite as ‘sensitive’ as the Walt Disney World equivalent. It has almost live information about line wait times. We did find that a lot of the time they weren’t updating quickly, if at all so it wasn’t always reliable. However, it was still useful and worth downloading. It’s a lot easier to look at their App than a paper guide. It’s good for when you are visiting Universal Studios and don’t want to be getting out your paper map every few minutes.
You can search via Thrill rides, 3D and 4D, water rides, kids rides. Plus shows, restaurants and shops. Plus toilets which is always useful with kids in tow. There are also many other sections within the App such as exploring hotels and booking/viewing guest amenities. One thing we weren’t especially happy with at Universal parks was how little you are allowed to film on the rides. Even the tamest of rides had signs informing you that no filming or photography are allowed. A lot of people did ignore this and I did actually get told off over the intercom on one ride (care/not care?).
Universal Express Pass
We found the two Universal parks to be a lot quieter than all the Disney World parks and we were supposed to be visiting Universal on ‘busy’ days. We weren’t staying at a Universal hotel that offers express pass with a stay there. Nor did we ever truly feel like we needed to upgrade our tickets to include express pass. If you arrive early enough you won’t queue for long at the bigger rides. We did 5 mornings (3 at Islands and 2 at Universal) and then 5 afternoons at the Cabana beach hotel pool. We didn’t miss anything out that we wanted to do and we never queued for long.
Unlimited express passes are around $90 a day. Please note that you will still have to queue with other people with express passes. Although the queues will mostly be a lot shorter. If you are staying at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or Royal Pacific Hotel an express pass is included with your stay.
Rides at Universal Studios Florida For Families with
Young Kids – Height Requirements
Young Child and Toddler Rides for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 year old
When you enter the main Universal park you arrive at Production Central. If you arrive for the gates opening at the park I highly recommend that you go on the Despicable me Minion Mayhem ride. The queue will be the shortest that it will be all day and both times we made it to the first screening.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Height Limit 40″ (around 102cm) – This is a 3D ride. While you are waiting for the next ‘showing’ you wait in a room where the characters run you through what is about to happen. You need to help deliver a present and for that you have to become a minion. You have your own seat in rows and the action is in 4-D so expect a few special effects. The 3-D ride then takes you on twists and turns and at times you feel like you are really on a roller coaster. This was great fun and it may scare smaller children. The shop at the end of the ride is a good place to meet a Minion character.
Shrek 4-D – No height limit. Again this is similar to the Minion ride where you are briefed in a room first by the characters. You then enter a big cinema like auditorium. It wasn’t just me but the glasses were useless. I couldn’t see properly through them and I ended up sitting with them off. I honestly felt that this was one of the worse things we did/saw at Universal and I’d be happy to see it replaced. Sorry Shrek I do love you normally.
Transformers The Ride 3-D – Height Limit 40″ (around 102cm) – Transformers is a 3D ride where you sit in a ‘car’ and you are transported around the streets and other places where good and bad Transformers are battling each other. There are a few 4D effects such as air blasted at you to add to the movement etc. This is a fast-paced ride and there are a few elements which may scare younger children. We loved it and my son is now a massive Transformers fan. It takes ages to walk to the front of the queue which can be frustrating when there is no waiting time.
We loved all the American (and British) themed streets in Universal. They were great for exploring. They had many different themed ‘things’ around the park to pose for photos by, our particular favourite being Springfield: Home of the Simpsons.
Heading straight up from Production Central you will enter New York which has a few attractions and shows.
Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon – Height Limit 40″ (around 102cm) – We are British and I’d never heard of Jimmy Fallon before. The tickets for this ‘ride’ were being issued as timed slots during our visit. We had some spare time so we went for it. I never expected it to then take so long! We ended up in a large room with TV’s playing the Tonight show. They call different coloured tickets and you then go through for the ride. It felt like an eternity until we were called and we were getting quite uncomfortable waiting. Not just because there were very little seats but it was sooooo over crowded and humid inside.
We quite liked the ride itself. It is similar to the rides above where you take a seat and you are then whisked through the streets of New York. It felt very realistic at times but for us I regretted our wait time.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
Working your way around the park you will then come to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley. If you want to ride on the Hogwarts Express please make sure that you have park to park tickets. I made the mistake of going for the cheapest tickets for Universal which only allowed access to one park a day. This meant that we couldn’t go on the Hogwarts express as you need to buy the 2 park or 3 park explorer ticket. It is not clear about this on their website and you can pay to upgrade on the day but we had virtually run out of money as we were coming to the end of our three week holiday.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Height limit 42″ (approx. 107cm) – This is for children more aged 5-6 and over but our 4 and a half year old went on the ride and loved it. But he goes on scary rides and this was pretty scary at times. Even the queue could freak some kids out. It is well worth queuing for this ride just to spend some time in awe at Gringotts bank. The characters appear real they are done so well! This ride was pretty epic and I’m glad my son was tall enough as it’s one not to miss if you like fast moving rides. There’s quite a steep drop at one point as well which in almost darkness you have no clue that it’s coming!
The Escape from Gringotts ride and Men in Black alien attack were the only two rides that I had to put my bag in a locker for. It was slightly stressful at times, especially with heat and queues. But the lockers are a good idea and work relatively well. I would imagine that they also have a locker system for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
I preferred this Harry Potter area to the one over at Islands of Adventure. I loved the narrow streets and all the different things to look at. There seem to be less frustrated people with interactive wands around here as well. The queues to make wizarding magic also seemed a lot shorter.
Fear factor Live – No height limit – This is a show – quote from Universal “Put yourself to the test at the most extreme audience participation show ever. Contestants must be 18 years or over with a valid photo id. We never seemed to be in the right place at the right time for this show.
Men in Black Alien Attack – Height limit 42″ (approx. 107cm) – Because of the height limit I was expecting this to be fast or at least scary. It wasn’t particularly either of these. If anything it was slightly comical at times. You sit in a moving vehicle and you go around the streets zapping aliens with your laser guns. This brings up a score in front of you. My son loved this and begged to go on again the next time we went.
Moving on round the park you then come to my favourite area:
Springfield: Home of the Simpsons
We love the Simpsons so it was inevitable that we’d love this part of the park. They’ve done it so well! There’s rides, characters to meet and plenty of opportunities to pose for photos. What fun!
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – No height limit – Board your own alien ship to go around and round and up and down. You control how much you go up and down. This is the tamest ride in the park but with short queues it’s great to keep going on!
The Simpsons Ride – Height limit 40″ (approx. 102cm) – We were a little disappointed with this ride. You sit in the Simpsons car with two lines of four. You are taken on a journey through Springfield and Krustyland. We found the ride a little dated and incredibly hot – they need some air con in there. It could be better! Our son loved it more than us.
Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone
There’s a couple of shows and meet and greets in the Woody Woodpeckers KidZone.
Animal Actors on Location! – No height restriction – Live show “that’s more fun than humanly possible”. We never made it to this show or the one below.
A Day in the park with Barney – No height restriction – Live show “Sing and clap along with Barney”.
Curious George Goes to Town – Storybook water play area for kids. Your kids will get wet in here so a change of clothes may be a good idea!
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster – Height limit 36″ (approx. 92cm) – This is a fun child friendly rollercoaster. It was quite short though and over before we knew it.
Fievel’s Playland water Slide – No height limit – This is a raft ride down a twisty water slide. You may get wet!. Also in this area there is Fievel’s playland. A playground with a mouse size view of the world.
E.T. Adventure – Height limit 34″ (approx. 87cm) – The film E.T. has always had a special place in my heart and I was so excited about the E.T. ride. Yes, it was a little naff and a little outdated but I loved every minute of it. It clearly touched my son’s heart as well as he bought himself an E.T. on the last day and has taken it to bed with him ever since. You board a special bike with E.T. in the basket at the front and then fly over scenes from the film and E.T.s home planet. I’m not sure what the significance was of giving the staff our name and being handed a special E.T. card as sadly we had to hand it back in again to board the bikes.
And finally – or first if you head right instead of straight on when you enter the Universal park – you will find Hollywood. This is a great place to stand if they have a parade on (we were there for the annual Mardi Gras).
Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show – No height limit – This is a show located in the Hollywood area. The show is about the behind the scenes of make-up effects.
Character Party Zone – Street parades – During out time at Universal they had 4 different mini parades a day at the end of the Hollywood street with a few performances for each parade. We managed to see Nickelodeon’s Spongebob squarepants, The secret life of pets characters and Despicable me characters. We missed Nickelodeon’s Dora and Diego. The best part about these parades is meeting the characters afterwards, especially Spongebob and Despicable me as the ‘human’ characters mingled for photos and many made my son feel very important.
Rides for Older Children (and adults)
There are a few rides that I haven’t mentioned above as they are not family friendly rides (with younger kids). They are rides for taller and older kids (and of course adults). Just so that you know what else there is at the park and in case you have older children or want to ride on these rides by yourselves I will outline them below.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – Height limit 51″-79″ (approx 130cm) – Located to the left in Production central. This is a large high-speed roller coaster ride.
Revenge of the Mummy – Height limit “48 (approx. 122cm) – My son was sad to not be tall enough for this ride. 5 months on and he is now tall enough! This is an indoor roller coaster themed on the film.
As well as all the rides and other attractions at Islands of Adventure there are also meet and greets which you can find out more over in my post. I have also written a similar post for all the Islands of Adventure Orlando Rides For Families with Young Kids. If you are looking for somewhere to eat at the park we really enjoyed our meal at Mythos restaurant (post coming soon). Why not read my post about our Top 10 rides for families across the two Universal Studios theme parks?
Universal Orlando Tickets
Are you looking for 2-3 park tickets for Universal in Orlando, Florida? Most of the Facebook planning groups I’m in recommend this website for purchasing your tickets. These tickets will include the Hogwarts express from park to park.
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