Top Five Tips for Visiting Universal Orlando with a Toddler Who Doesn’t Meet Any Height Requirements
Universal has so many great rides and stunningly themed areas, it’s a major must-visit in Orlando. But braving a theme park that's more targeted to thrill seekers than Disney can be a bit of a challenge when you’re traveling with a toddler. If you and your family are ready to get your theme park fix, we're sharing some of our favorite toddler-approved activities and tips to make your theme park day at Universal Studios (US) and Islands of Adventure (IOA) all the more incredible.
1. Spend your time exploring – This may sound like a simple idea, but there are SO many amazing nooks and crannies built into every themed area at both Universal parks you could spend all day exploring and not see it all. It’s fun to park the stroller in each themed land and let your toddler get out and explore … plus all that running around should tire them out for a long afternoon stroller nap 😊 Our two favorite areas to explore are Diagon Alley (US) and Hogsmeade (IOA) in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with all of its incredible theming. Even if you aren't a huge Harry Potter fan, you HAVE to walk through these areas. They are absolutely stunning.
While you're exploring, happening upon a show or two is such a treat for everyone in the family!
Our second favorite spot to let Tallulah run around and explore is the New York area between the Transformers Ride entrance and The Mummy area.
These streets are rarely crowded and there are some fun little shops the look at and stairs for kiddos to climb up and down. Plus, the Blues Brothers perform on that road as well… another win for music-loving kids.
2. Enjoy the socially distant character meet and greets – Tallulah is a major character fan (which is great because I was mortified of any and all costumed characters when I was a child). We didn’t know what to expect from character experiences when the parks reopened, and Universal is doing a fantastic job with them! There are more characters out now than ever before with hardly any wait to meet them.
The only line I’ve encountered was to meet the new baby raptor Sierra at IOA, and even that was at most a 10 minute wait. (I can't wait to bring Tallulah to meet Sierra!)
You can catch the characters throughout the parks in their themed zone, and at Universal, the occasional parade float with characters and dancers will come out right in front of Mel’s Drive-In to greet guests. Be on the lookout, because characters are hiding in fun and surprising socially distant places (During our last trip, Doc from Back to the Future was tucked away up by the prop train from the movie right before you enter the Simpsons area).
3. Visit A Day in the Park with Barney, you won’t regret it – To all of my fellow 90s kids out there, this nostalgic stop will make you feel like a kid again while your kiddo can sing and dance with the Barney crew in the best air-conditioned space at the park! It’s a win all around. (TIP – If your kids are worried around characters, the performers stay on the stage during the show, but walk up and down every ramp on the stage. With the way the seating is set up, I’d recommend sitting in the middle of a section a few rows back so they can enjoy the show but not feel like the characters are going to break into their space.) If your kiddos are into characters, Barney meets his friends after the show in a socially distant way if they'd like to meet him.
3.5. There’s an incredible toddler bathroom that's perfect for potty training kiddos – This may sound odd, but I think my fellow toddler parents will appreciate this park element. Right outside of A Day in the Park with Barney, there’s a restroom designed with kids in mind. This location features toddler-size potties and sinks, precious paintings on the wall, and nursery rhymes being played for entertainment.
4. Enjoy Story Time in Seuss Landing - This is a perfect spot for kiddos to sit, relax and hear a story read by a great entertainer and brought to life by character friends. After the story time ends, the characters give you an opportunity for a socially distant character photo which is really sweet.
(TIP - we learned the hard way that the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride has a height requirement...although it apparently is slower than the TTA Peoplemover at Magic Kingdom... but I digress... so this story time is a great alternative while you wait for the rest of your crew enjoying that attraction.)
5. Start getting in line for food an hour before your family normally would eat – This may sound crazy, but we've learned it the hard way and I don't want your family to have to too. If you’re traveling with your whole family, this tip will be easier to carry out than if you’re traveling solo with a toddler. With the new regulation of limited capacity at all restaurants, getting lunch at lunchtime is by far the most challenging element to a park day. Basically the scoop is, all guests (at quick service locations) are required to mobile order. However your order isn't being prepared until you’re seated at the restaurant, and the lines to be seated can take around an hour. So, from learned experience, I recommend either eating an early lunch, bringing snacks to have a later lunch, or stopping by table service locations early in the day to try to make an in-person reservation to avoid hangriness at all costs.
If you do get stuck at mealtime with nowhere to eat and a hungry family, the Today Show Cafe (US) is a hidden(ish) gem. There wasn't a wait to be seated and there's an amazing corner booth that's perfect for kiddos to sit and have a soft spot to play. However, be prepared, there aren't a ton of kid friendly options, but the food they have is really good.
BONUS Fans and staying hydrated are more crucial than ever before – if your kiddos is under 2 they don’t need to wear a mask but any child over 2 is required to wear a mask the entire day in the park except for when they're eating or drinking, which isn’t an easy concept for them to grasp. I always vote for having a heavy duty fan on the stroller in the Orlando summers, but right now it’s even more crucial so they have some airflow directed their way. This is the fan we use, because the marketed-for-toddler fans just weren’t making a difference in the humidity. Also, when a kiddo is eating or drinking they aren’t required to wear a mask (just like adults of course), so having a snack and drink tray on the stroller is more useful now than ever before. They can have their drink and snacks right there while they get some air flow directed their way from the heavy-duty fan. Really when we're at the park, it just looks like Tallulah is living her best life. I sometimes wish our roles were reversed and she could push me around with all of her energy 😊 But I'm so happy to be able to set her up for success, which in turn makes our whole family's day great too!
This list is just scratching the surface of the tips we've learned while enjoying Universal Orlando with a toddler. I'll be sharing more tips/tricks and learnings on my instagram page as we continue to visit all of the incredible parks here in Orlando and beyond.
What's your favorite spot to visit at Universal Orlando?