Universal with a 3 and 5 year old

Discussion in 'Orlando Hotels and Attractions' started by brota, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. brota

    brota Mouseketeer

    Mar 12, 2006
    We are planning a trip to Orlando we were thinking of trying the universal parks, but I am not sure if there is a enough there to do with a 3 and 5 year old.
    Are the parks worth going to? Can both parks be covered in 1 day if you dont do the large roller coasters and thrill ride?

    Thank you
  2. Mainebound

    Mainebound DIS Veteran

    Jul 24, 2002
    You should ask this over on the Universal board, but in the meantime... we started taking our boys when they were 2 and 4 and have visited Universal every year since. They love the Universal parks equally to the Disney parks and we could never skip them.

    Universal is much more compact than Disney. You park in a garage and take people movers to City Walk, branching off of which are the two Universal theme parks. Everything is walking distance -- no trams, monorail, boats, buses, etc. It is very doable to visit both parks in one day, although not advisable if you wish to do every ride at both parks.

    You will absolutely find enough to do at the Universal parks with your children for a fabulous full day -- or even two. I know this from personal experience.

    However, there will be many things they cannot do. If you feel that it will be a waste of money to visit a park where you have to skip many things, then wait. (However, it is worth noting that with kids that age you have to skip a lot at the Disney parks as well). Universal will always be there next year!

    Here's a sense of what we have done (this is pasted from a PM I sent someone so a couple of these things may be outdated):

    You might check out www.islandsofadventure.com for info on all the rides.

    Another tip: If you have AAA, bring the card for food and merchandise discounts, also maybe even parking discounts.

    Ok, here's how we toured. At Universal Studios, we hit Shrek 4D and Jimmy Neutron first (they are right near the entrance, across the street from each other). Shrek 4D did freak out our 3 year old. It is 3D, so they can take off the glasses, but my little guy was spooked by the noise. Both boys LOVED Jimmy Neutron, which is like a toned down Star Tours (jerky moving cars in front of a film). As for checking height, it depends on the CM. Good luck! It is an awesome ride for the kids and not intense at all. Shrek is hanging out usually so pics with him are the norm for us after the Shrek ride.

    Then we head to the right side of the park, to the Woody Woodpecker Kidzone. We ride E.T., Woody's Nuthouse Coaster (like Goofy's Barnstormer), play in Fievel's Playland (has a neat little water slide, even little guys can do it). Then you have to decide whether you want them to get wet, because if they head into "curious george goes to town" they will be SOAKED by the time they come out. We let our older boy go inside and run around, while our younger guy played in the little fountain area (it's like the little fountains to the right as you exit Future World to World Showcase in Epcot). Both my boys enjoyed the Barney show. The first show is usually 11:30, then about every hour or so after that. There is a cool indoor play area after the show and a photo op with Barney. Also in this general area characters come for meet and greets, usually beginning at 11:30 [I have our old park map in front of me, times may have changed since March 05]. Then we hit Animal Planet live on our way out of this area. The first show last year was at 11:30, the next show at 12:45. This is a great show!

    Then we have lunch. Anywhere in that area is good. All of the counter service at Universal is good, a cut above WDW, because it is made at the restaurant instead of at a central location and shipped. We love Mythos, which we hit right around lunch time, but it is table service and not cheap.

    After lunch we make our way around the rest of the park. DH and I did Men In Black (a much darker Buzz lightyear ride, but not too scary IMHO) and this year we will bring both boys (ages 4 and 6) if they are tall enough. I did Back to the Future which is like Star Tours and this year will probably let my DS6 ride it.

    Then you hit Jaws, which both my kids are too scared to do, although I don't think it is that bad. We have never done the Beetlejuice show but it is supposed to be great fun. Check park maps for times. We also skipped the Earthquake and Tornado/Twister rides so I can't tell you anything about them.

    DH and I did Mummy -- way too much for our kids and they don't come close to the height!

    There is also a new Fear Factor show which people like.

    So that's our typical day at Universal Studios.

    now for IOA:

    You can read more about these attractions here: http://www.universalorlando.com/ioa_attr_children.html

    first, we head left to Marvel Super Hero Island. We do Spiderman (too much for DS3, but maybe this year!), then Storm Force Accelatron (Teacups on steroids, great fun). Hulk Coaster and Doctor Doom's Fearfall are out for us.

    My older DS did Spiderman when he was 4. In Spiderman, it is 3D and villains land with a thud on top of the vehicle you are driving and shoot at you and it is dark and jerky and loud. There is an incredible special effect where you feel like you are falling off a skyscraper 300 feet looking straight down at the pavement. I do not think it is too much physically, but it is pretty confusing, loud and intense psychologically.

    then we walk back past the entrance and work around the park counterclockwise. first, we go to Seuss Landing, where we spend a LOT of time. Huge interactive playground (with some water -- watch out, bring extra clothes!), Carousel, Cat in the Hat ride (kind of like Pooh), One Fish Two Fish (like Dumbo but with water, listen to the song to avoid getting sprayed). Characters also come out (Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and 2, etc.) usually beginning just after 10:00am. There is a new ride, the High in the Sky Trolley Train Ride, which is terrific.

    Then we go to lunch at Mythos which is a very cool but expensive sit down resturant for which you would want to make ADRs the day or more before. DH and I did Poseidon's Fury which was not so great, and would have terrified our kids. there is a stunt show (Sinbad) which we've never seen, just a couple shows a day. There is also a funny fountain that talks to you.

    Then to the flying Unicorn, a little kids coaster which is great.

    Then to Jurassic Park Discovery Center, which is educational, interactive, all about dinosaurs. It is cool and quiet and worth a visit. Great views across the lake of the rest of the park.

    Then Camp Jurassic, a huge playground with some water guns (of course). Also a very slow loading ride we always ignore and hope the boys don't notice (it works). There is a climbing wall near there for $5 a person, my DH5 did it and loved it.

    Then on to Toon Lagoon where everyone will get soaked no matter what they do. There is a flume ride (44 inches tall) which DS5 loved. There is Me Ship the Olive for the little one to play. Then there is a raft ride (Popeye and Bluto) which makes Kali River Rapids look like a DRY ride (42 inch height). In general, if you kids like getting wet, IOA is the best park in Orlando.

    Then back to Marvel Super hero Island for meet and greets with Spidey, Captain America, or whoever is around.

    And that's our day! We usually leave by late afternoon.

    I know there is so much more to do, I hope you will discover it when you are there!
  3. Funwith4kids

    Funwith4kids Mouseketeer

    Dec 20, 2006
    Not trying to jump on OP thread...real quick, mainebound, our 2 youngest are now 5/7 and are considering Universal parks this year so thanks for your post. Are these parks mobbed like WDW during Easter break (same/less/more so)? We don't have a problem with the WDW crowds as we know enough about WDW to work with the crowds...not sure if we want tackle the Universal parks for the 1st time during peak season.......
  4. Mainebound

    Mainebound DIS Veteran

    Jul 24, 2002
    My personal experience -- in early to mid March for the last 4 years -- has been that Universal parks are generally less crowded than WDW parks, especially if you hit them right at opening, preferably with tickets in hand (the ticket booths are much less efficient than at WDW in my experience).

    That said, I tend to purchase the express pass booklets ($15-30 a person depending on time of year) to be on the safe side, but then, I am allergic to long lines, and don't mind spending money to avoid them (Universal did away with free express passes a couple of years ago, so there is nothing like Disney's "fastpass").

    Also, we tend to get the 5 or 7 day passes for $96 per person, which allows us to do multiple short visits in the mornings.

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