How to get the most out of Islands of Adventure with kids

Last updated on July 5, 2024

Seuss Trolley Train ride.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure has some of Universal Orlando’s best rides and while I think we preferred its sister park, Universal Studios Florida, it was still a big hit with the all of us. Seuss Landing is particularly great for little ones, and of course Hogsmeade for the Harry Potter fans, and the brilliant Camp Jurassic playground. 

We’ve written a full guide to visiting Universal Orlando (the umbrella name for all Florida’s Universal theme parks and hotels), including tips on how to beat the queues, how best to plan your day and where to stay.

And this post is all about the best attractions and rides at Islands of Adventure for kids, from toddlers upwards. We have a separate post on Universal Studios Florida for kids.

What is Islands of Adventure?

I know all the names of the Universal theme parks in Florida get confusing, so here’s a quick guide:

Universal Orlando Resort: The umbrella name for all the Universal theme parks and hotels in Orlando.

Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure: The two theme parks that are part of the Universal Orlando Resort. A third theme park – Epic – is due to open in 2025.

This post is all about Islands of Adventure, which was the second of the two theme parks to open. There are seven islands in the park, all with different themes, including Seuss Landing, Marvel Super Hero Island and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

Quick guide to the best rides at Islands of Adventure for kids

Seuss Landin.

Here’s a quick guide to which rides are suitable for little kids at Islands of Adventure. These are fairly broad strokes as every kid has a different tolerance for speed, heights, darkness, etc. But here’s a general guideline to get you started. I have more details about each individual ride in the section below. 

Note that we went with a 3 and 6 year old. Neither are big thrill seekers and both have different tolerances for different things. For example, the 3-year-old likes fast rides, but is scared of the dark and most 3D simulators. Whereas the 6-year-old is scared of fast rides and heights, but enjoys 3D simulators, even when they’re pretty frightening. I say this to show how every child is different and the below are guidelines only.

I’ve included the minimum height requirement if the ride has one.

Islands of Adventure rides and attractions for all ages

  • Camp Jurassic playground
  • Me Ship, The Olive 
  • If I Ran The Zoo (play area at Seuss Landing)
  • The Cat in the Hat (36″/92cm)
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! (36″/92cm)
  • Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade Station (48″/122cm)
  • Storm Force Accelatron (48″/122cm)
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (48″/122cm)
  • Caro-Seuss-el (48″/122cm)
  • Character meet and greets

Islands of Adventure rides for brave little kids

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (40”/102cm)
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (48”/122cm)
  • Flight of the Hippogriff (36″/92cm)
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (44”/112cm) 
  • Raptor experience
  • Pteranodon Flyers (36″/92cm)
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong (36”/92cm)
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure (42”/107cm)
  • Popeye & Bluto’s River Rapids (42”/107cm)
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (48″/122cm)

Islands of Adventure rides for older kids and adults

  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster (54″/138cm)
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall (52″/133cm)
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster (51”/130cm)

Descriptions of all rides at Islands of Adventure for kids

Seuss Landing rides for toddlers and little kids

Seuss Landing is by far the most kid-focussed area of Islands of Adventure. The colourful land brings to life the whimsical designs of Dr Seuss’s books and all the rides are suitable for little ones. It’s also a good spot to meet Seuss characters like the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat. 

The Cat in the Hat ride

The Cat in the Hat is a really gentle dark ride that takes you on a journey through the story of The Cat in the Hat. It’s a whimsical, family-friendly ride that even the littlest kids will enjoy. It’s pretty old and famed for its outdated animatronics, but kids are unlikely to care.

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! 

This cute little elevated train ride takes you around Seuss Landing. There are two different routes and one goes right through the Circus McGurkus restaurant next door. We ate there and the kids loved waving at all the people riding the train. The line can be long and the pay-off isn’t exceptional so definitely try and use an express pass if you can.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a bit like the classic Dumbo ride at Disney World. The added obstacle is the fish that spray water onto the riders. You have to try and avoid it by controlling your fish, which is harder than it looks! Even if you do get wet, it’s not too much, and our kids loved the ride (even though they tend to hate rides that get them even a tiny bit wet!).

Caro-Seuss-el 

One of the most gentle rides in all of Islands of Adventure is the Caro-Seuss-el, a classic carousel with a Seuss theme. You can ride all sorts of fun characters and it’s an easy win with little kids.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides for toddlers and little kids

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most impressive of the themed lands at Islands of Adventure, and fans of the books/films will love it. Steve and I are big Harry Potter fans, and were wowed when we first visited Universal Studios Hollywood. And it was even more special in Orlando because Otis is now a big fan too.

Hogsemeade is as much about the theming as the rides, but there is one ride (Flight of the Hippogriff) that would be suitable for little kids who like rollercoasters. The other two are aimed more at older kids.

Flight of the Hippogriff 

Flight of the Hippogriff is the most gentle of the Harry Potter rides in Islands of Adventure. It’s a fairly gentle roller coaster and the minimum height is only 36 inches. Unfortunately, Otis isn’t into rollercoasters yet (I tried him on the Barnstormer in Magical Kingdom and he was terrified!), so we didn’t ride it. 

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 

We rode this for the first time in Universal Studios Hollywood and it’s an incredible ride, combining motion simulation and animatronics. The minimum height requirement is 48 inches so most little kids won’t be able to ride it, including our 6-year-old who was around 47 inches.

Plus it is quite frightening in places. That said, I think our 6-year old would have enjoyed it despite not being into roller coasters (he does much better on 3D rides). 

Be aware that this ride is famed for its motion sickness, which I fell victim to!

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure 

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is currently the most popular ride in Islands of Adventure and always has a long line from park opening to close.

The story coaster takes you on a ride through the Forbidden Forest on Hagrid’s motorbike. It’s the fastest and most thrilling ride in the wizarding world and one that’s not suitable for little kids. Plus you have to be 48 inches to ride it, which rules out most little ones anyway.

Because it isn’t included in the express pass, it’s also difficult to ride by yourself as the line can be around 2 hours (and rarely less than 90 minutes), which is a quite a long time to be separated from each other in the park, especially if more than one of you want to ride it. 

Jurassic Park rides for toddlers and little kids

The Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure is one of the most kid-friendly areas of the park, especially for those who love dinosaurs. As well as rides, it also has a fantastic play area and a museum-style section too.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

The Jurassic Park River Adventure takes you on a boat ride through the Jurassic Park jungle, culminating in a thrilling drop to escape a T-Rex. It’s a big boat so the drop makes a massive splash and everyone gets soaked.

If your kids aren’t into wet rides, they’re not going to like it. Plus the chase before the drop is also quite scary. I’d say this one is suitable for school-age kids who can tolerate a slight level of thrill. Our 3-year-old would have been terrified.

Pteranodon Flyers 

This ride looks like so much fun, but our kids couldn’t be persuaded to ride it – they were just too scared of the height. It’s an aerial gondola ride designed specifically for children, and adults can only ride if accompanied by a child. It’s really gentle, but riders do have to sit by themselves and it’s quite high, so nervous riders (like my kids) will find it a bit too much.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster 

The VelociCoaster is the best rollercoaster I’ve ever been on and Steve says the same. It’s incredibly fast and takes you on all sorts of twists and turns that I’ve never experienced on a rollercoaster before. Safe to say, it isn’t at all suitable for little kids – but definitely take turns to ride it as adults!

Skull Island rides

There’s only one ride on Skull Island and it’s not good for little kids, but the theming of the land is pretty impressive, so it’s worth walking through.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong 

This 3D dark ride takes riders on an expedition through Skull Island, encountering King Kong along the way. It’s made to be scary and the whole thing is pretty dark, so best avoided with little kids (unless they are super super brave!).

Marvel Super Hero Island rides

The Marvel Super Hero Island area is great for kids who are into superheroes. But sadly most of the rides are more suitable for older kids than little ones. 

Storm Force Accelatron 

Storm Force Accelatron is a teacup-style spinning ride, but it’s a bit more intense than the one at Disneyland, so kids who get motion sickness or who are scared of high speeds might find it a bit much. Arlo (3) loved it, but Otis (6) was scared. 

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

I LOVED this rollercoaster, but it’s certainly not one for toddlers. The high-speed coaster launches you from 0 to 40 mph in two seconds, and has multiple inversions and high G-forces. It’s an intense experience, and one of the most fun rides at Universal Orlando. We took turns to ride this and were able to walk straight on with a combination of the Express Pass and the single rider lane.

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall 

This is another ride that isn’t suitable for little kids, but that the adults might want to ride. It’s a classic drop ride where you get launched 185ft into the air before free falling back down. 

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 

We rode this with our kids at ages 3 and 6, and I think it was a mistake with the 3-year-old as he was terrified. Even Otis at age 6 found it pretty scary. It’s a 3D motion-simulator dark ride that takes you on a journey with Spider-Man through the streets of New York.

There are quite a lot of threatening elements and “baddies” along the way, and it’s pretty intense in places, so I’d recommend it for slightly older kids. We’d imagined it’d be more like the Web Slingers ride at Disney California Adventure, which both kids loved.

Toon Lagoon rides for toddlers and little kids

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls is a log flume ride with a pretty big drop, which a lot of little kids will find frightening. You also need to be at least 44” to ride, which will exclude a lot of younger kids. 

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges 

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges is a classic white-water rafting ride. Universal Studios is known for having the wettest rides, so be warned, you will get soaked!

We took our kids on a similar ride at Animal Kingdom and they hated it, so we didn’t risk this one with them. We did, however, see lots of younger kids on there, so it’ll really depend on the kid as to whether or not they’ll enjoy it.

Best shows at Islands of Adventure for kids

There aren’t as many shows at Islands of Adventure as there are at Universal Studios Florida, but there are still a few that kids and adults alike will enjoy. Plus the Seuss show is particularly suited to little kids.

Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! in Seuss Landing

This show in Seuss Landing is a perfect way to see lots of Seuss characters all in one go, including Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, Sam-I-Am, Lorax and The Grinch. They all dance around to musical retellings of Dr Seuss stories in a short, informal outdoor show.

Ollivanders

One of the best attractions at Universal Orlando is the Ollivanders wand experience, which you can do in both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. You get to enter the famous wand shop and watch while one lucky volunteer gets to discover their perfect wand with help from Ollivander. It’s a magical, immersive experience with impressive effects that leave kids enchanted. It’s quite dark in there and an intimate space, so if you think your kid might be scared or unable to stay quiet, I’d perhaps give it a miss. 

When the experience ends, you’re led straight into the wand gift shop where you can buy your own wand. Be warned, these are expensive, but they do unlock some cool interactive experiences in the Harry Potter land, which brings me onto the next point…

Interactive wand experiences

If you buy an official Harry Potter wand from Universal Studios, you can use it to unlock a bunch of interactive experiences around both Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. 

The wand comes with a map and instructions for how to do each spell at various points around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Wave your wand, recite the spell, and watch as feathers levitate and puppets dance. Some of the spells are a bit finicky, which doesn’t mix well with impatient kids, but we did get most of them to work. Early entry is a good time to do the spells as the lines can get a bit long later in the day (and are especially annoying if the people ahead are struggling to do the spell!).

The wands are expensive, starting at around $60, so it’s debatable if it’s worth it. But Otis did count it as one of his favourite things at Universal.

Frog Choir 

The Frog Choir is a fun singing show where students from Hogwarts sing songs while accompanied by a bunch of frogs who provide the bass. The frogs are a fun novelty for kids, but this is still a show that might be more entertaining to slightly older kids or definite Harry Potter fans. Our boys liked having a quick look but didn’t want to stay for the whole thing.

TriWizard Spirit Ralley 

The TriWizard Spirit Ralley is an acrobatic dance show where students from Hogwarts, the Durmstrang Institute and the Beauxbatons Academy lead a fun spirit rally for the famous TriWizard tournament. It’s good, but our kids weren’t that captivated by it – I think partly because they were keen to get to other parts of the park.

Other ways to have fun at Islands of Adventure with kids

One of the best things for toddlers and little kids at Islands of Adventure are the play areas. It has one of the best theme park playgrounds in all of Orlando – the Camp Jurassic playground, plus some other fun places to play and cool down in the water. Here’s a guide to other ways to have fun at Islands of Adventure. 

Camp Jurassic 

Camp Jurassic is a fun network of nets, slides and rope bridges, plus a water play area where you can try to squirt other people from two different levels. Otis and Arlo could probably have stayed here for hours, and it’s a handy place to play while the grown-ups take turns riding the VelociCoaster, which is fairly nearby.  

Me Ship, the Olive 

Me Ship, the Olive is a Popeye-themed play area on a cartoon ship with slides, nets and interactive props to explore. The highlight is the water squirters where you can spray water at people riding Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. 

If I Ran the Zoo

The If I ran the Zoo play area in Seuss Landing is pretty small and best suited to toddlers, but our kids still had some fun riding on the whimsical animals. It would be better on really hot days when the water features could be fully enjoyed.

Walk through Hogwarts castle 

The queue for Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey involves walking through the Hogwarts Castle, and you can ask to do this even if you’re not riding the ride. That way you get to see things like the Moving Portrait Corridor and Portrait of the Fat Lady. It’s pretty dark, so might be scary for some kids. Plus it does mean you’re in the queue, which again might not be appealing to some kids (like mine!).

Discovery Centre in Jurassic Park

At the exit to the VelociCoaster, there’s the Discovery Centre, which is like a mini natural history museum where you can learn about dinosaurs. It’s perhaps not the most appealing for little kids when there are playgrounds and rides nearby, but ours did enjoy some of the interactive elements like making a dinosaur version of yourself.

It’s a handy place to take some shade and cool down while one grown-up rides the VelociCoaster. It’s within a gift shop, so be prepared for the classic “I want one of those” shenanigans. 

Kingpin’s Arcade

There’s a full arcade next to café 4 on Marvel Superhero Island. We avoided this as didn’t want to spend even more money, but it’s worth knowing about as a rainy day activity.

All the gift shops!

I don’t know if this really counts as a way to have fun as sometimes gift shopping with little kids is the most stressful part of a theme park visit! But our kids for one LOVE all the gift shops at Universal, and browsing them and choosing something to buy was a lot of fun for them.

We gave them both some money in advance so they could choose what to spend it on themselves. The shops in Hogsmeade are particularly fun if your kids are into Harry Potter.

How to meet characters at Islands of Adventure with kids

One of the best things to do with little kids at Orlando’s theme parks is meet favourite characters. At Universal, this is much less of a thing than at Disney and we never saw anything like the huge lines you find in Disney World. In fact, most waits were a maximum of 15 minutes when we visited. 

The Raptor Experience in Jurassic Park is particularly cool – you can meet a life-like raptor that snarls and hisses. This is likely to be pretty scary for timid kids, and definitely let them know what to expect in advance. The raptor doesn’t touch you, but it is quite scary!

The characters you can meet at Islands of Adventure are subject to change, but when we visited, you could meet:

  • Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, Sam-I-Am, Lorax and The Grinch at Seuss Landing
  • Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Rogue, Green Goblin, and Dr. Doom at Marvel Super Hero Island
  • Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park
  • Popeye and Betty Boop in Toon Lagoon
  • Madagascar characters at The Lost Continent

Where to eat in Islands of Adventure with kids

Universal Orlando has loads of great dining options, both in the parks and in CityWalk. In Islands of Adventure, there are options that range from full sit-down dining experiences to quick take away stands. The larger-than-life theming of the restaurants is great for little kids, and makes your mealtimes all part of the theme park experience. 

While Mythos is the most highly rated of the restaurants in Islands of Adventure if not all of Orlando’s theme parks, we don’t think it’s the one best suited to toddlers and little kids. We tend to avoid long sit-down meals at theme parks unless the character appearances are worth it. Instead I’d go with one of the more lkid-friendly themed restaurants and ideally a quick service option. 

Also note that lots of the restaurants now have mobile ordering so you can order in advance via the app and go collect the food once it notifies you it’s ready (a great time saver and alternative to standing in line). 

These are some restaurants we recommend for kids in Islands of Adventure….

Café 4 – for quick-service pizza, pasta and salads in a futuristic, superhero-themed restaurant. They sometimes host character dining here, but it’s not currently available.

The Burger Digs in Jurassic Park

Comic Strip Café – burgers, salads and arepas at a fun cartoon-themed 

Three Broomsticks – a fun experience for any Harry Potter fans. This pub serves British classics. It’s quick service but the line to get in can be pretty lengthy. 

Butterbeer in Hog’s Head – to be honest , this stuff is way too sweet for me, but it’s an iconic experience to try a butter beer in Hogsmeade!

Circus McGurkus Café Stoo-pendous – colourful restaurant in Seuss Landing serving pasta and other easy-to-please dishes. The trolley train ride goes through the restaurant, which adds a good novelty factor for kids.

Green Eggs and Ham Cafe – a quick-service kiosk serving Seuss’ iconic green eggs and ham. Sadly there’s no veggie option and they won’t serve green eggs on their own (I asked!). But there are other veggie dishes.

Honeydukes – for Harry Potter themed sweets and cakes (our kids were obsessed by this one!)

Tips for planning a day at Islands of Adventure

Walking around Islands of Adventure.

We have lots of tips for planning your day and minimising wait times in our main Universal Orlando post (so be sure to read that too). But here are some specific tips for Islands of Adventure. 

Early entry

If you have early entry for Islands of Adventure, be aware that not all the rides are open at that time. And you can’t use your Express Pass during early entry. The rides/attractions you can go on are: 

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster
  • Ollivanders
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

The Universal Express pass at Islands of Adventure

The Universal Express pass definitely saves you a lot of time, but there are three Islands of Adventure rides/attractions that you can’t use it for. Plus you also can’t use it during early entry. 

  • Ollivanders Wand Shop 
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure 
  • Pteranodon Flyers

How to choose your first ride at Islands of Adventure

People who have early entry tend to head straight to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure because it isn’t included in the Express Pass. While this makes sense, unless you’re right at the start of the line, you may still be facing a wait of up to two hours. We didn’t bother with this as the kids were too small for the ride, so it was potentially going to mean up to 4 hours apart in the day, which didn’t seem worth it. We heard that the very end of the day is a good time to try Hagrid’s as the line can get a bit shorter then. 

We chose Ollivanders as our first experience as it was one of our “must dos” and we knew we’d have the shortest wait at early entry. In fact, we were second in line. We then used the rest of the early entry time to explore Hogsmeade without too many crowds. This was particularly handy for getting to try the different wand stations around the village. 

We had planned to use our Express Pass to ride Flight of the Hippogriff and then go on Pteranodon Flyers as soon as the park officially opened, but the kids weren’t up for either of them, so we headed to the VelociCoaster instead. Because we were there for 9am on the dot, I was one of the first to get on this with the Express Pass and only had to wait around 5 minutes.

Our Islands of Adventure itinerary

We had a Universal Express Unlimited Pass and early entry, so we could get into the park an hour before it officially opened and skip the lines as often as we wanted. We didn’t follow this plan exactly because the kids opted out of some of the rides, but this is an example plan of what you could do with little kids if they’re up for it!

  • Early entry, go straight to Ollivander’s (we were the first in)
  • Interactive wand experiences in Hogsmeade
  • Flight of the Hippogriff (at the official park opening unless the line is short before that – switch this with the wand experiences if the line is short straight after Ollivanders)
  • Pteranodon Flyers 
  • Adults take turns to ride VelociCoaster while kids play in Jurassic Discovery Center and Camp Jurassic. 
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure 
  • Raptor experience
  • Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Me Ship, the Olive
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 
  • Meet superheroes
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Adults take turns on Hulk Coaster while kids eat
  • Seuss Landing – If I ran the Zoo play area
  • Cat in the Hat
  • One Fish, Two Fish
  • Car-Seus-Ell
  • Trolley Train Ride
  • Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear – Seuss Landing
  • Meet Seuss Characters
  • Back to Harry Potter
  • Watch Harry Potter shows (Frog Choir and TriWizard Tournament)
  • Ride Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios and explore Diagon Alley.
  • Back to hotel to play in waterpark

Buy your tickets now

Check Undercover Tourist and Getaway Today for great deals on Universal tickets. 

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