Tackling Universal Studios With a Toddler

a mum holding a toddler at the entrance to Universal orlando

Disproving the naysayers: You CAN have fun at Universal Orlando with your toddlers and young children!

Universal Studios tends to be known as a theme park for teenagers and adults, deterring guests from traveling there with small children or toddlers. We’re here to tell you that not only can you do Universal with toddlers, but you SHOULD!

While there may not be a ton of rides that your toddler can enjoy, there are some rides plus many other attractions and shows that your littles will love.

Today, we will guide you to having a fun and successful day at Universal Studios Orlando with a toddler!

This post is part of our Universal Orlando planning advice series

Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two theme parks – Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – a water park (Volcano Bay), connected by CityWalk and 8 on-site family resorts.

How to Plan Your Day at Universal with a Toddler

When visiting a theme park, we always recommend going in with a game plan. Traveling with a toddler can be tricky in any scenario, but when you visit somewhere as busy and hectic as an amusement park, you will want to be sure to have a plan going in. 

  • Know which rides and attractions they will like the most and prioritize these. This doesn’t always mean going there first – many a toddler parent will have the same thought! – at the very least, schedule stops around rides and attractions you or any older kids in your group might be interested in so that there’s some balance in the day.
  • Know what you can and can’t bring into the parks – even if your toddler is walking more independently at home, theme parks are an entirely different ball game; you’ll want a stroller! You will not only have an easy resting spot for your tot but a place to store everything, too. We cover more on your Universal packing list below.
  • Don’t try and be a superhero – tackling both of the Universal Orlando theme parks in one day is HUUUGE, even if you skip many attractions. Be realistic about how much you can fit in a toddler day out and work in reasonable rest breaks. We would always recommend spending a minimum of 2 days and staying on-site when visiting Universal with young children.

Park Tickets for Toddlers

Children under the age of three are admitted into the park for free with an adult – a pretty good incentive for bringing your toddler along to Universal!

Children aged 3-9 do require a child’s ticket for admission. The cost of tickets for children is as follows: 

  • 1 Park – 1 Day: Starting at $114+ per day
  • 2 Park – 1 Day: Starting at $169+ per day

Children aged ten years and above and adults:

  • 1 Park – 1 Day: Starting at $119+ per day
  • 2 Park – 1 Day: Starting at $174+ per day

Universal Orlando Ticket Buying Tips

  • If your plans involve taking the Hogwarts Express between the two parks, be very clear that you can ONLY do this with Park-to-Park Access (ie, a 1-day-2-park ticket)
  • The price of tickets is variable by season and will have state taxes added at checkout.
  • We have found booking directly with Universal, we always get the best prices and deals, no need to use a third party travel agent.

If you have the flexibility with toddlers to travel to Florida travel off-peak and out of school breaks, use this opportunity now before you’re tied down by school dates and peak crowds!

What to Pack for Universal With Toddlers

When you have small kids, packing a good day bag for Universal is essential. There are a few can’t miss items that we recommend keeping in your bag to ensure that you are prepared and ready to go: 

  • Sun Protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, etc.) – The Florida sun can be brutal, so it is important to keep yourself and your kiddos protected in the heat.
  • First Aid Kit – While there is first aid available within the park, we always find it helpful to keep a basic first aid kit on hand for any minor injuries or accidents.
  • Change of clothes – You never know when your toddler might have an accident or spill something all over their clothes. We recommend keeping at minimum an extra t-shirt in your park bag if you need to make an outfit change. Add shorts, too, if they’re still in toilet training.
  • Comfortable shoes – your tot will no doubt want to tackle some of the day independently. We recommend a comfortable trainer or breathable sandals as the best theme park footwear for all the family.
  • Small snacks – You are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of food in for your toddler – Universal rules state that it must not be food that requires heating or refrigeration. However, baby food is acceptable, and you are allowed to bring a soft-sided insulated bag (no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep)

Strollers For Universal

The chances of your toddler making it the whole day walking around an amusement park are slim to none, so we always recommend making sure that you have a stroller for the day. You can choose to bring your own stroller, or there are double strollers available for rent at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. 

parents with strollers at Universal orlando

Unlike Disney, Universal Studios does not have limitations or restrictions on the type of stroller or size that you can bring into the parks; however, we recommend going for something a little slimmer or easy to maneuver through the parks (we talk about our favorite travel strollers over here). 

If you choose to rent a stroller, there are only double strollers available from both of the parks, and the flat fee for rental is $35 per day. 

There are marked stroller parking zones outside all rides, attractions, and restaurants.

Change Tables and Nursing Facilities at Universal Orlando

All restrooms at Universal come fitted with change tables, both males and females.

For those who might still be nursing their toddlers, nursing facilities are available at:

  • The First Aid Station at Family Services, located to the right of the Lost And Found in Universal Studios Florida
  • The Health Services main station, located on Canal Street in the New York area
  • The First Aid Station at Universal Islands of Adventure
  • The First Aid Station at Universal Volcano Bay

That said, you will have no issue breastfeeding your child anywhere in the parks if you are comfortable to do so.

Which Universal Theme Park in Orlando is Best for Toddlers?

Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have a designated “kids zone” suitable for under 5’s:

  • At Universal Studios, you can have fun in Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone (Note below though on current park renovations in 2023)
  • At Islands of Adventure, kids will love Seuss’ Landing.

Both kid zones are fun, but if you have to choose one, we recommend going for Islands of Adventure as there are more rides and attractions for your little ones to enjoy there. 

OG Universal Studios with a Toddler - Which park is best for toddlers

Because of the nature of the rides and height requirements for safety, there are not a ton of rides suitable for toddlers at Universal Studios.

That said, there are some great rides, shows, and attractions that your toddlers can still enjoy and will love!

Let’s break it down between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure:

Toddler Attractions at Universal Studios Florida

  • Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast – A fun interactive experience where you will join the Minions to blast your way to supervillain stardom!
    • Height Requirement: No height requirement, but handheld infants are not allowed.
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
minions at universal orlando with a toddler
  • ET Adventure – A moderately thrilling but gentle ride through the sky.
    • Height Requirement: 34″ (87 cm)
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – Spin through space in your own flying saucer with the loveable aliens from The Simpsons.
    • Height Requirement: No minimum height is required
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • Hogwarts Express – The Hogwarts Express will transport you from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and back. The train experience is fun and gives your little ones a chance to enjoy some scenery as they look out the windows.
    • Height Requirement: No minimum height is required
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • Hollywood Character Zone – The character zone, located in Hollywood, gives you and your littles a chance to meet some notable characters. Some familiar faces you may run into include Marilyn Monroe, Woody Woodpecker, Scooby Doo, and Hello Kitty!
  • Meet Spongebob and Patrick – Head to the Spongebob Squarepants Bubbly Store for the chance to meet Spongebob Squarepants himself as well as his buddy, Patrick Starr!
OG Universal Studios with a Toddler - Universal Studios Florida

Current Refurbs & Closures at Universal Studios Florida

It is essential for families with littles to note that many of the little kid-friendly features at Universal Studios Florida are currently undergoing a major refurbishment:

Of particular note here, no Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster or the Fievel’s Playland which were both ideal toddler choices at Universal Studios Florida.

The replacement has been announced as “DreamWorks Animation Land” – due to open in 2024 (stay tuned; we’ll be back in Florida next year with an update!!)

Islands of Adventure With Toddlers

The majority of the action over at Islands of Adventure for toddlers and preschoolers is going to focus on Suess Landing. Here are a few favorites:

  • Caro-Seussel – Enjoy a classic carousel-style ride featuring the characters from some of Dr. Seuss’ most famous books!
    • Height Requirement: No minimum height is required (some characters can be ridden stationary if you’re sitting with a tot).
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
caro-suess-el at universal islands of adventure ride for young kids at universal florida
I cannot tell you how many times with three different tots we’ve been around the Caro-Suessel!
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Based on the famous Dr. Seuss book, on this attraction riders will climb into a fish and fly around a pool of water. There is a control lever that will allow you to move the fish up and down as well as control their eyes and mouth.
    • Height Requirement: No minimum height required
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • Me Ship, The Olive – Inspired by the classic cartoon, Popeye the Sailor Man, this ship-style play area features fun slides, climbing nets, an interactive piano, and more for a fun afternoon of activities for kids of all ages!
  • Camp Jurassic – If you’re looking for a place to have a little fun, head over to Camp Jurassic in the Jurassic Park area. This multi-level playground is filled with fun activities for kiddos to run, jump, climb, and play. This is a great way to take a break and allow those little ones to exert some of their energy!
a toddler having fun running around camp Jurassic at Islands of Adventure
Better than any indoor soft play! Littles will spend hours roaming Camp Jurrasic
  • Storm Force Accelatron – has no minimum height, but guests must be able to independently sit and be accompanied by another rider over 48″ in this simple (but still nausea-inducing!) spinning ride in Marvel Super Hero Island.
  • Dr. Seuss Character Zone – Head over to Seuss’ Landing to meet some of your favorite characters, including the Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, The Grinch, and the Things (Both 1 and 2!)
Meet and greet with things 1 and 2 at the Suess landing section of Islands of Adventure
  • Marvel Superheroes Encounter – If your little one is a fan of the Marvel Universe, head over to Marvel’s Super Hero Island for a chance to meet Spider-Man, Captain America, Cyclops, Storm, and more!
character meets at Super Hero Island will keep toddlers happy - family with toddler meeting Captain America
Even our youngest, who was too short for any rides, was super excited to meet his favorites in Super Hero Island

Taller Toddler Rides at Islands of Adventure

If you have a toddler over 36″, you have a couple more ride options:

  • Flight of the Hippogriff™ – a moderately thrilling roller coaster-style ride in the Wizarding World section of the park.
    • Height Requirement: 36″ (92 cm)
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! – A cute and kid-friendly kids’ roller coaster ride around Suess Landing.
    • Height Requirement: 36″ (92 cm)
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
  • Pteranodon Flyers – Moderately thrilling flying ride over the Camp Jurrasic play area.
    • Height Requirement: 36″ (92 cm)
    • Any rider under 48” must be accompanied by a supervising companion over 56″.

For your taller toddlers and those approaching the kindergarten years, pop over to our guide to the best kids rides at Universal where we break down height limits and our own kids’ favorites so you can best plan your day.

What to Expect for Ride Wait Times At Universal

We all know what it’s like to wait in a long ride line with a restless toddler. Toddlers are always on the move and can get a little antsy while they wait.

Ride times at Universal can vary depending on a number of things, including time of year, time of day, and popularity of the ride. Here are a few tips and resources to use while waiting in line:

  • Purchase Express Pass – Universal Studios offers an express pass add-on to their tickets. There are two options, including one for single-time use for each ride and one that is unlimited use. The add-on can be a bit pricey, but it may be worth considering for a significantly shorter wait time. Express Pass starts from $84.99+.
  • Utilize Rider Switch – Many of the rides and attractions at Universal have a rider switch program. This allows guests with small children to wait in a designated area while one member of the party rides, and then you can make a switch and allow the other rider to board the attraction. Many times, the ride switch line is shorter as well, and this feature allows you to still enjoy the rides you want, even with a little one that may not be able to ride. 
  • Play games to pass the time – A great way to keep your toddler occupied during a long wait is to utilize small toys or games to keep them entertained and having fun. We recommend packing a small toy in your park bag or utilizing your surroundings for fun games such as I Spy – we have several more queuing games and activity ideas here.
  • Have a snack – Waiting in line is a great time to have a snack. You can grab something in the parks before jumping in line or pack some non-perishables in your park bag to grab a quick snack between meals.
dad rising kids in a bike at Universal florida
Universal Orlando has long been our kids’ favorite theme park around the world – yes, even when they were toddlers!

Additional Tips For Visiting Universal With Toddlers

  • Be Patient – Doing anything with a toddler can be a challenge, but try to remember that you are at an amusement park for fun, so try to relax, be patient, and have fun making memories with your little ones! We always feel way less time-pressured at Universal than at Disney, as there’s not nearly the same urgency to keep ride and dining reservations.
  • Stay Hydrated – Orlando is hot! It is important to stay hydrated, not just for toddlers but for yourself as well. Staying hydrated will ensure that you can tolerate the long day. You can bring in 2 liters of water per person.
  • Consider a Break – If you’re worried about staying at the parks for the full duration of the day, consider taking a break mid-day and heading back to the hotel for a rest or even a nap before getting back out there for the rest of the day – this is easily done if you’re staying at a Universal Resort. Your park tickets give you full-day admission, so you easily come right at opening, then come back after lunch and nap in your room to tackle a few more hours in the afternoon as queues and crowds start to drop.

We hope that this guide has helped you to feel prepared and ready to spend a day with your toddler at Universal Studios Orlando. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll do our best to answer based on our personal experiences in Orlando with toddlers.

More Universal & Orlando Helpful Planning Tips

Planning your trip to the Sunshine State, we have plenty more helpful guides to help you understand what the city is like for families and take you well beyond Disney package holidays!

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