Taking Young Children to Universal Studios

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Before we headed out to Orlando at the end of last year, I do remember thinking that Universal Studios was more catered for teenagers and adults than young children. I don’t know where I got that assumption from, I have just always remembered thinking that Disney was for little ones and Universal was for thrill seekers. After spending the day there I couldn’t have been more wrong- Universal is a fantastic day out for all the family and there was more than enough to keep everyone amused.

Universal is currently split into two parks- Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It is possible to do both of them in just one day as they are next to each other, we did do it in a day, but ideally you would want at least a day at each park in order to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

You arrive into Universal via Universal CityWalk, which is basically one big long strip of family friendly restaurants, sports bars and fun nightlife. As you head down towards the two parks you can either go one way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, or head the other and go to the original Universal Studios theme park. We opted to go to the latter first, making are that we first took some photos in front of the iconic Universal globe.

Universal offer a service similar to Disney’s fast pass, where you can get an Express Pass which allows you to skip the regular queues for most of the major rides and attractions, with the exception of some of the Harry Potter ones. Before we travelled and were researching our trip, we noted a few people in forums saying that they thought it was a bit cheeky to charge extra for it when Disney offered their fast pass for free, however we thought it was reasonably good value for money considering what you got, especially if you are only going to be there a day, it definitely saved us a lot of time, and of course you don’t have to do it and can just have a regular theme park ticket.

universal_studios_2016_a universal_studios_2016_y universal_studios_2016_x universal_studios_2016_w universal_studios_2016_v universal_studios_2016_u universal_studios_2016_lThe first thing we noticed about Universal Studios was that everything felt so authentic and realistic. The sets and streets felt so real, and the detail was second to none. We loved walking from place to place and checking out all the amazing detail, it made for some amazing photo backdrops.

universal_studios_2016_zluniversal_studios_2016_cuniversal_studios_2016_funiversal_studios_2016_h

universal_studios_2016_iuniversal_studios_2016_zThe first thing we did was rent a stroller. Having negotiated Disney on previous days, we knew that a stroller was a necessity for our children- it saved meltdowns over tired legs and meant they could take a break if they were feeling tired. The girls loved that this one had a steering wheel so they could pretend to drive.

universal_studios_2016_zcuniversal_studios_2016_zduniversal_studios_2016_zaThe first ride we went on was Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, which was one of the main rides that the girls wanted to go on as they are huge Minion fans. It was great fun and they were even more excited that they could have a photo with Kevin at the end. Our baby boy was too little for this one, but Universal offer a great baby/child swap meaning that you can take it in turns to ride while one of you looks after the children. As I mentioned at the start, we were so pleased that the girls were able to go on quite a few things. Of course there are a lot more thrill rides there than at Disney, but there was also a lovely balance of attractions for little ones too.

universal_studios_2016_zfuniversal_studios_2016_zbNext up we headed to the Shrek 4D ride, which again was great fun. Our baby boy got to go on this one, you sit in a cinema room but get splashed with water, your seat moves etc, there is fire etc.

universal_studios_2016_zguniversal_studios_2016_zhuniversal_studios_2016_zkuniversal_studios_2016_zjWe then headed to The Simpsons area of the park, which was great fun. Jon used to love The Simpsons and I remember it from my teenage days (how old do I sound?), and the theming and detail of this area was amazing. Of course the girls are too little to know what The Simpsons is, but that didn’t stop them from loving the colourful and fun attractions here. There were a few different rides they could go on, all quite tame, but still good fun. We stopped and got lunch here as well as there were so many different options- we grabbed a bench and I had tacos from a Mexican truck, Jon had some crazy chicken and waffle burger, and the girls had pizza.

universal_studios_2016_d universal_studios_2016_e     After lunch we headed to Fivel’s Playland to run off our food- it is basically a big area full of slides, rope ladders and things for little ones to climb on. The girls loved it. We also took turns to take Mads on the Men in Black: Alien Attack ride, which she loved. You basically had to shoot aliens and you got scored on how many you managed to hit- right up her street!

universal_studios_2016_ziuniversal_studios_2016_kuniversal_studios_2016_j   universal_studios_2016_znOf course one of the most popular attractions at Universal which draws in so many visitors is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We soon headed over to Diagon Alley to check it out. We loved walking around Diagon Alley and Kings Cross was so realistic but as we were only there a day we couldn’t spend as much time as we would have liked. One really cool thing about Universal is that the Hogwarts Express now links the two parks so you can jump on at Kings Cross and head over to start the fun at Hogshead and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Sadly for some reason the train wasn’t working and so we missed out on doing this- we were really disappointed as it was something we were all looking forward to, but these things can’t be helped. The staff were really apologetic and we had to stop and take a photo with them- definitely not like the real London transport staff! 😉

universal_studios_2016_zpuniversal_studios_2016_m universal_studios_2016_o universal_studios_2016_p As the train wasn’t working we left Universal Studios and decided to walk over to the other park. It takes about ten minutes from entrance to entrance so not too long at all. We headed straight to Hogsmeade and the Harry Potter attractions. Mads was so excited to use her Harry Potter wand and I love these photos of her practicing her magic.

universal_studios_2016_zruniversal_studios_2016_zqWe just had to share a Butterbear, which was absolutely delicious and we all wanted another straight afterwards- however Universal are on to a clever thing and these were rather expensive (and the queue was SO long!) so we decided against it. It was so yummy though.

universal_studios_2016_zsHogsmeade was definitely the busiest area of both the parks by far, but it never felt ridiculously over crowded, and it was for good reason. There are loads of fun attractions here, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which I really wanted to go on but by that stage our baby boy was starting to get a little grumpy. We took it in turns taking the girls on the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster, which they both really loved.

universal_studios_2016_ztHowever by far the best thing for Mads was that she got to try her interactive wand out. You can buy wands in a couple of the shops in the Harry Potter area and with them you get a map which leads you to places throughout Hogsmeade that you can do magic. It is really clever and Mads absolutely loved this, although it took a bit of time to get used to. She was in her element trying to cast spells.

universal_studios_2016_q As we left the Hogsmeade area we found The Mystic Fountain and we ended up spending a good half an hour there. The fountain talked to you and he had quite a sarcastic and cheeky sense of humour which the girls found hilarious.

universal_studios_2016_zu universal_studios_2016_zv universal_studios_2016_zw universal_studios_2016_zx universal_studios_2016_zzOur next stop was the Seuss Landing area of the park, probably my favourite aesthetically of all the areas we had been to. It was so bright and colourful and I love the Dr Seuss books. There was lots to do here but it was getting towards the end of the day and we were running out of time, so we went on the Cat in the Hat ride before heading off. There is lots to do for little ones in this area.

universal_studios_2016_zoWe finally headed to the Marvel Super Hero Island part of the park, which to be quite honest was a dream come true for my super hero mad pair. Although the rides here were more thrill seeking rides that they weren’t able to go on, the whole area is themed so well and there were a few super heroes they could meet. We queued up to meet Spiderman who is their hero, and Mads went really shy and embarrassed which made me smile.

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Finally with ten minutes to spare before the park shut for the evening Jon and I decided to have a sneaky go on the Incredible Hulk coaster, which had recently opened after a long refurbishment. We took advantage of our Universal Express passes and also the fact we could do child swap so we both got a turn after each other, although it was a bit scary going on it on my own. The rollercoaster was amazing and intense- you race up to 67 miles per hour, your world turns upside down in zero gravity and this enhanced, high-speed roller coaster turns and loops over and over again. I love thrill rides and wanted to go on it again, but it was scary even for me.

 

We had such an amazing day at Universal and like I mentioned right at the start, there really was so much for little ones to do. I was so impressed with all the attractions that were for them. The only thing is I wish we had more than one day there, it would have been nice to do one day at one of the theme parks and one at the other, as I did feel like we rushed round and did make the most of everything there was available. I would definitely recommend doing at least two days if you can, although I know it can be hard to fit it all in if you are only in Orlando for a week.

We would definitely like to go back one day and really make the most of it, especially now we know our way around a bit. It was such a fun day and we made so many happy memories. They are also in the process of creating Universal’s Volcano Bay which is going to be a water park, and we would love to visit there sometime soon.

Here is a video of our time in Orlando, our trip to Universal is right at the start…

 

8 Comments

  • Alex Gladwin says:

    It looks so much fun! I’m bookmarking this for the future as we can’t wait to go back to Florida and will be visiting here. Stunning photos as usual lovely. xx

  • This looks utterly amazing. I agree with you that it’s the detail that makes it. We went to Shrek’s Adventure in London at the weekend – not on the same scale I know, but it was the quality of the sets and attention to detail that set it apart.

  • Alice says:

    I loved this Katie – my holiday to Florida as a child is still my favourite and your post brought so many memories back! You’ve inspired me to plan a trip there with my own two this year.

  • Adele says:

    That looks like a brilliant time! I too hadn’t considered Universal Studios for younger kids. It looks and sounds like you had an incredible time!

  • I was the same as you and thought it was more for older children. But reading this you’ve opened up my eyes to what an incredible place it is for young children. These photos are gorgeous and I love Mads with her wand x

  • Absolutely love that photo of Mads with her wand – a force to be reckoned with! When I went to Universal (actual decades ago now), I felt we needed one day for Islands of Adventure and one for the main Universal Park…and that was before Harry Potter.

  • Alan says:

    I can’t wait to visit the new sections of Universal Studios. Last time we went was about 8 years ago, when our daughter was 2. Did you ride the Gringotts ride?

  • Jenny says:

    This is definitely on my list having gone as a child myself I want to take my two so badly. It look so magical and like you all had the very best time ever. It’s hard for me because one year I will have to forgo my summer with my parents to go as we can’t do both in one year but I think with the kids you have to go at least once to Disney world and universal studios. They are so fun. Your photos are just stunning making me want to book a trip now. So much to do too. I will come to you when we decide to go for sure for advice and tips.

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