Universal Orlando Resort for Families
The Universal Orlando Resort offers entertainment and fun for families in their movie-based amusement parks. As a first time visitor, one of the main things you need to know is that the Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two separate theme parks with separate admission tickets — Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Both have rides and experiences based on Universal movies and many of the attractions are “simulated” rides with incredible animation. The two parks have different but similar rides, but Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the home of the new attraction, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
To make the most of your experience I recommend buying a one- or two-day Park to Park ticket which allows you to go back and forth between the two theme parks. This way you can see the best of each park. We went for one day and felt like we were able to see the highlights of both parks.
Favorite Family Rides
If you have any interest in visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, I recommend making this your first stop. As with all theme parks, check the opening time and be ready at the front gate 15 minutes before the stated time as they often open the doors a few minutes early. We did this and moved quickly to the back of the park and did not have to wait very long for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is the main ride in the Harry Potter area. I have read Harry Potter books, although my kids have not, and we were all enthralled with the experience. The castle, the waiting lines, the technology and the “ride” were different from anything we had done before. It has some scary elements for the youngest of children, but kids over eight should find it fascinating.
There is also a small roller coaster perfect for younger kids right outside of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey called Flight of the Hippogriff which we were able to ride several times without waiting very long. Depending on how important Harry Potter is to your family, you can spend more time here or move on to other rides.
After leaving Harry Potter, I suggest taking a look at your map and picking the key rides at Islands of Adventure that your family doesn’t want to miss. We walked through Jurassic Park and rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man but skipped the Dr. Seuss area and any water rides because we were visiting in November.
Then we made our way to Universal Studios Florida, which is right next door. Here we chose some kid-friendly favorites such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D. We all thought Men in Black – Alien Attack was a fun ride with a game element where you shoot at aliens for points. My 10-year old had a blast on Revenge of the Mummy which is an inside roller coaster similar to Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom. Older kids with strong stomachs will appreciate the extreme roller coaster Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit but we decided to save that for another trip.
As a break from the roller coasters and simulated rides we wandered into Disaster – A Major Motion Picture Ride Starring….YOU! Members of the audience were selected to “star” in a disaster movie and eight people were chosen from the audience including me! There is only one role for a child in the short movie but I think all the kids in the audience thought it was a funny and unique experience and you get to watch the movie at the end.
How to Avoid Long Lines
If you are willing to pay a little more to avoid long lines look into the Universal Express Plus Pass. This allows you access to a separate line at the rides that is much shorter than the regular line. You can choose whether to purchase this for one or both parks, but only one time per ride. The cost varies based on park demand and is in addition to your general theme park admission, but we found it well worth the cost for a special day. You can buy this when you enter the theme parks.
Universal Studios offers fun, movie-based rides and experiences that will be particularly appealing to elementary aged kids and older. There are plenty of places to eat in the park and for a sit down meal at the end of the day we had dinner at Universal CityWalk which has numerous restaurants. A great place to stay to enjoy some time at Universal Orlando is Hilton Orlando.
You may also enjoy:
- Tips to Avoid Standing in Line
- Read about other family vacations to Orlando.
- See all of our vacation photos from Orlando.
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Susan is an enthusiastic traveler and mom to a 11 year-old boy and eight year-old girl. Originally from North Carolina, Susan is a Southerner at heart, although…