Guide to Universal Studios Florida for Kids: Best Rides and Attractions

Last updated on July 5, 2024

Kids at Minions Cafe

We went to Universal Orlando thinking that the Islands of Adventure theme park would be our family favourite, but Universal Studios Florida turned out to be the one the kids loved the most – largely because of the Minions attractions. And now that the DreamWorks land has also opened, Universal Studios Florida may officially be taking the crown as the best Universal park for kids. 

We’ve written a full guide to how to get the most out of a visit to the whole Universal Orlando resort (both theme parks and the water park), which I recommend reading alongside this one for broader tips on how to reduce wait times and plan your day. And we also have a guide to Islands of Adventure. But this post is here to look specifically at Universal Studios Florida and all its best rides and attractions for toddlers and little kids.

If you’re also heading to Disney, see our full guide to Disney World with toddlers and little kids.

What is Universal Studios Florida?

In case you’re confused (I was when I first tried to understand Universal!), Universal Orlando Resort is the umbrella term for both Universal theme parks in Florida, plus the Volcano Bay waterpark, CityWalk entertainment complex and all the Universal hotels. The two Universal theme parks in Orlando are Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. In California, there is Universal Studios Hollywood.

Both theme parks have a Harry Potter land – Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. They have different attractions, but some of the shops are the same, and both have an Ollivander’s wand experience.

Quick Guide to the Best Rides at Universal Studios Florida for Kids

Here’s a quick guide to the best rides for toddlers and little kids at Universal Studios Florida. These are broad guidelines as every child has different levels of tolerance for speed, heights, darkness, etc. More detailed descriptions of each ride can be found in the sections below.

Universal Studios Florida rides and attractions for all ages

  • Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast 
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Shrek 4-D
  • DreamWorks Land playgrounds 
  • Character Meet and Greets

Universal Studios Florida rides for brave little kids

  • Trollercoaster
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (40”)
  • The Simpsons Ride (40”)
  • Men in Black Alien Attack (42”)
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (42”)

Universal Studios Florida rides for older kids and adults

  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (51”)
  • Revenge of the Mummy (48”)
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D (40”)
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged (40”)

Descriptions of All Rides at Universal Studios Florida for Kids

Best rides for kids in Production Central

Production Central was our favourite area in Universal Studios Florida, mainly because our kids went crazy for all the Despicable Me theming, plus there’s a large green space that our littlest appreciated for a good run around. These are all the Production Central rides with details on how suitable they are for kids.

Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast 

Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast was our kids’ favourite attraction at Universal Studios Florida. It’s an interactive ride who you get to use a blaster to take down villains from the “Despicable Me” movies. Everyone stands on a moving walkway as you get taken through different scenes to blast at. 

You can link your blaster to the app and log your scores, competing to beat yourself on your next go. 

Really small kids would struggle with using the blaster, but I think kids aged 3 and up would be okay. Our 3-year-old wasn’t exactly good at it, but he had a great time! If you’d prefer your kids not to be playing shooting games, then perhaps give this one a miss.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is a 3D motion simulator ride that takes you on a wild adventure with Gru, his daughters and the Minions. Everyone gets “transformed” into Minions and goes on a fun journey through Gru’s laboratory and beyond. 

It’s vibrant and great fun, but might be a bit intense for really young riders. The seats are theatre-style in tiers, and the motion simulator part means there are some jerky movements. You can opt for a stationary seat if you don’t want to experience this, which could be a good option for nervous/sensitive children.

Our 6-year-old loved this ride, but did find some bits a little scary. Our 3-year-old refused to ride it as they had just been frightened by the Jimmy Fallon ride and no longer trusted our judgment!

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is a big roller coaster that has the novelty of letting you choose your own soundtrack, from rock to rap to dance music. It has a crazy vertical lift and lots of drops and high speed twists. Personally, I found it pretty uncomfortable and it gave me a bit of a headache, but Steve loved it. It’s definitely not one for little kids, so you’ll need to ride it without them.

Transformers: The Ride-3D 

Transformers: The Ride-3D is an immersive motion simulator ride that puts you in the middle of an epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Using a combination of 3D film, practical effects, and motion simulation, it’s a thrill-filled experience and one that’s probably going to be too intense/violent for little kids. I’d recommend riding it by yourself first and making a judgment call. We didn’t take our 3 and 6 years olds on it as we thought they’d be scared.

DreamWorks Land rides for toddlers and little kids

DreamWorks Land is the newest section of Universal Studios Florida, built to replace the old KidZone that had rides themed around older shows like Woody Woodpecker, Fievel and Barney the Dinosaur. 

Now in its place is DreamWorks Land, which celebrates new favourites, especially Trolls, Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda. There are some great play areas in here, plus a couple of shows, which I cover in the sections below. 

There’s one official DreamWorks ride, and the other (E.T.) is an old classic from the park’s opening that just happens to be next door.

Trollercoaster

This is a great entry level rollercoaster with fun Troll-theming and gentle drops and turns. It’s the same as the old Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, but with new theming. It’s the perfect first roller-coaster experience for little kids.

E.T. Adventure 

This ride may me one of the oldest in the park, but it’s also one of my favourites – partly for the nostalgia. I remember riding it as a kid myself! 

It’s a classic dark ride that takes you on a gentle journey to help E.T save his home planet. There are mildly threatening parts when the scientists are trying to catch E.T, but even our 3-year-old, who is easily scared, enjoyed it.  

Springfield USA rides for toddlers and little kids

Springfield is themed around The Simpsons and offers some fun, family-friendly attractions. It’s likely better suited to older kids who have seen the show – our 3 and 6 year olds had no idea who anyone was.

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl 

This is a classic Dumbo-style ride where you control the height of an alien’s flying saucer. It’s good for all ages.

The Simpsons Ride 

Ahhh, this ride gave me a lot of motion sickness, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who gets easily dizzy. It’s a fun and light-hearted motion simulator, but the madcap antics can be a bit intense, so I wouldn’t go on it with nervous kids, and definitely not with toddlers. 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Rides for kids

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida is themed around Diagon Alley (the Islands of Adventure side is Hogsmeade). The recreation of London’s Embankment is impressive and the experience of Diagon Alley is fantastically immersive – a dream for Potter fans.

If you’re with little ones, note that there’s an incredible dragon above Gringotts that breathes fire periodically. It’s clear when it’s about to happen as crowds gather around to take photos. I’d be careful of this with toddlers as our 3-year-old found it terrifying! And certainly let little kids know what’s about to happen as it is pretty intense.  You can feel the heat from the fire.

Hogwarts Express 

You can only ride this train if you have a park-to-park ticket as it connects the two parks. It’s a really gentle ride, literally a normal train, but with magical window displays that make it an immersive experience. The special effects are impressive, and it’s a ride that’s suitable for all ages – although nervous little ones might find it a bit too real. I’d recommend sitting them on your lap for reassurance. It’s a really quick ride. The experience is different in both directions – and on the Diagon Alley-Hogsmeade journey, you even get to walk through the wall to the famous 9 ¾ platform, which can be captured on camera for a fun special effect.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was more thrilling than I expected. I took my 6-year-old on it, and while he was happy/proud to have experienced it, he definitely didn’t want to ride it again. It’s an interesting mix of rollercoaster and 3D dark ride. The rollercoaster part isn’t too intense, but the 3D elements make it feel that way. For example, you don’t actually drop very far at all, but the screens make it feel as though you’re free falling. 

It’s also quite scary in terms of how dark it is and the story you become a part of – you even see the Dark Lord himself along the way. Definitely don’t ride this with toddlers, but brave little Harry Potter fans might enjoy it. It’s one that’s worth riding yourself first if you have the time, so you can make a judgement based on your child.

Other rides at Universal Studios Florida

Men in Black Alien Attack 

I didn’t go on this one because Arlo was too small, but Steve and Otis really enjoyed it. It’s a dark ride where you’re recruited as trainees to zap aliens and save Earth. Using laser guns, you shoot at targets, earning points based on your accuracy and speed. The ride has animatronic aliens, special effects, and a competitive element that makes it extra fun. It’s a bit too scary/dark for the smallest kids, but braver children over around 5 will likely enjoy it.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon was a surprise favourite for our 6-year-old. It was exactly the right level of thrill for him, so he felt brave but not too scared. You get to race through the streets of New York (and space!) on a thrilling 3D ride. The wait to get on the ride, even with the Express Pass, can be a bit long, but I’d say it’s definitely worth it. I also enjoyed the waiting area, which is set up to make you feel like you’re a guest on the Tonight Show, but that novelty was lost on the kids. There are even live performances while you wait.

Fast & Furious – Supercharged 

Fast & Furious – Supercharged takes you on a high-speed chase through the streets with the Fast & Furious crew. It has loads of violence so we didn’t take our kids on it. Neither Steve or I really like this ride, but we’re not into cars or the Fast and Furious films. It’s pretty dated too so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s replaced soon.

Revenge of the Mummy 

The Revenge of the Mummy is a hard no on being suitable for little kids! It’s an indoor roller coaster that combines high-speed thrills with dark ride elements, and some parts are positively terrifying! The minimum height is 48 inches so most little ones won’t have the option anyway.

Best Shows at Universal Studios Florida for Kids

There are some great shows at Universal Studios Florida, some that happen as street shows and others you enter a theatre for. It’s a good way to take a break between rides. These are some of the best.

Animal Actors on Location! 

Animal Actors on Location is definitely one of the best Universal Studios shows for kids. We even took Otis as a baby and he enjoyed it. It’s a live, interactive show featuring trained movie animals performing fun tricks. A must for kids who love animals.

Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show 

While this show is light-hearted, the effects it’s going for are terrifying, so I wouldn’t take little kids. But older, not easily spooked kids might love it. The show gives a behind-the-scenes look at how horror movie makeup is done in an entertaining spooky show.

Imagination Celebration

In the former Barney theatre, you can now see an interactive live show with 360-degree LED screens and cool puppetry, featuring lots of favourite DreamWorks characters. This one is aimed squarely at little kids and is suitable for all ages.

New York street shows

In the New York section of the park, there are a few street shows that happen throughout the day, including The Blues Brothers, Beat Builders (builders who use tin cans etc for percussion), and ¡Vamos! – Báilalo (a fun Latin dance show). 

These are all fun to watch but more geared towards adults than little kids. The Beat Builders is the best one for kids, but it’s also really loud, so some might find it a bit overwhelming (my 3-year-old did). 

There’s also Marilyn and the Diamond Bellas in Hollywood, but again that’s one that grown-ups will more likely appreciate. 

Harry Potter shows

In Diagon Alley, there are two shows that happen throughout the day: The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. Both are geared towards older kids, and neither my 3 or 6 year old were very interested in them. That said, kids who love live music of any kind might enjoy Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. 

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is great for slightly older kids – my 6-year-old was almost old enough to enjoy it. It tells the stories of old wizarding fairy tales using some fun puppetry and effects. 

The Bourne Stuntacular 

The Bourne Stuntacular looks like an incredible stunt show, but we gave it a miss as it had warnings about violence and really loud sounds that we didn’t think would suit the kids. I imagine it’d be great for older kids though.

Other Ways to Have Fun at Universal Studios Florida with Kids

DreamWorks Land play areas 

There’s a variety of play areas in the new DreamWorks Land, including one specifically for toddlers called Shrek’s Swamp for Little Ogres. It has slides plus a wet play zone, including a flush slide. 

For slightly older, but still little kids, there’s the troll-themed Poppy’s Playground, plus Po’s Kung Fu Training Camp, which also has a water play area. And don’t miss the interactive lily pads, which make sounds as you step on them.

The Knight Bus

On Universal’s London Embankment outside Diagon Alley, you can see the famous Knight Bus from Harry Potter. Peek inside, and if you’re lucky interact with the talkative shrunken head, also known as the bus conductor! 

It’s pretty cool as he responds in real time to what you say, so it’s a proper conversation. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to get a go as lots of people want to try it, but it’s fun just listening in even if you don’t get a chance to chat yourself.

Interactive wand experiences 

Just like at Islands of Adventure, kids can use interactive wands to perform spells around Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Wands start at around $60, so it’s not cheap, but likely worth it for Harry Potter fans. Also bear in mind that some of the spells are quite finicky so younger wizards might need a bit of help with making them work.

Explore Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley is an incredibly immersive part of Universal Studios where you’ll feel transported the land of Harry Potter. Highlights include Honeydukes sweet shop and Zonko’s joke shop. You can also interact with a lifelike animatronic troll at Gringott’s and change your money to Gringott’s bank notes that can be used in other shops in Diagon Alley. Also don’t miss Knockturn Alley which is hidden passage around the back where you can explore the darker side of magic.

How to meet characters at Universal Studios Florida

Meeting characters at Universal Studios Florida was a big highlight for my kids. It’s where you can meet Minions and other characters from Despicable Me, plus the characters from the Sing movies, and DreamWorks characters like Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda and Gabby of Gabby’s Dollhouse.

The new DreamWorks land has some specific meet-and-greet areas, including Shrek’s Swamp Meet, where you can see Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona in Shrek’s Cottage; Po Live, where Po the panda teaches kung-fu moves and how to make a stir fry; and the DreamWorks Character Zone where you can see more characters including those from Gabby’s Dollhouse. 

For Illumination’s Despicable Me and Sing characters, head to the corridor beside Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast. Just down from this is also the chance to meet Optimus Prime – an impressive life-size transformer who does a fantastic dance!

Where to Eat in Universal Studios Florida with Kids

Universal Studios has some fun dining options for kids, especially in the Minions area. Our kids were obsessed by the Minions Café, and we were surprised to find it had some great, healthy options for us too ( I loved the crispy cauliflower with edamame and blue rice).

The Minions paletas (made from fresh fruit) from Freeze Ray Pops were also a big hit.

For fast food, the Fast Food Boulevard in Springfield is a win. This food court-style area offers a range of quick-service options inspired by The Simpsons. 

And for Harry Potter fans, be sure to visit the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. The quick-service restaurant serves British pub food in a themed setting. It’s popular so you may have to wait for a table.

In the new DreamWorks Land, there are some fun food options to try. Swamp Snacks serves Shrekzels with green cheese, swamp dogs wrapped in pizza tree bark, and other themed snacks. And the Trolls Treats has some cool ice cream flavours and ice pops.

Tips for planning your day at Universal Studios Florida

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 Universal Studios Florida. 

Early entry

If you have an early entry for Universal Studios Florida, 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: 

  • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Ollivanders

The Universal Express pass at Universal Studios Florida

Unlike at Islands of Adventure, the Universal Express Pass is valid on all the rides at Universal Studios Florida, but you can’t use it during early entry.

Single rider lanes at Universal Studios Florida

Single rider lanes are sometimes even faster than the Express Pass lane. And they’re super handy when it’s a ride that the adults want to do but the kids can’t. These are the rides with single rider lanes at Universal Studios Florida. Note that these are subject to change, so do check the app on the day.

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Fast and Furious — Supercharged
  • MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3-D
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

How to choose your first ride at Universal Studios Florida

Because all rides are included in the Express Pass, there’s no obvious choice for a first ride at Universal Studios Florida. If you have early entry, there are three rides to choose from: Despicable Me, Minion Mayhem, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and Ollivanders. So you need to decide if you want to prioritise Harry Potter or Despicable Me. If you’re with little kids and don’t have the Express Pass, I’d do Despicable Me first and then head to Ollivanders. 

If you don’t have early entry, it’s a similar situation really: a choice between Escape from Gringotts or Despicable Me as your first ride. Or Transformers or Rip Ride Rocket as these four have the biggest lines. 

If you go with Despicable Me and the adults want to ride Rip Ride Rocket/Transformers, you could do those straight after as they’re all next to each other. 

We had the Express Pass, but no early entry so we went on Despicable Me first. 

Our Universal Studios Florida Itinerary 

When we visited Universal, it was Islands of Adventure that had early entry (only one park opens early each day), so we arrived at Universal Studios Florida at normal opening time. We had the Express Pass, which meant we could skip the lines. 

8:30am: Arrive at Universal

9am: Enter park

  • Despicable Me, Minion Mayhem
  • Minion Blasters
  • Rip Ride Rockit (Steve and I take turns)
  • E.T.
  • Twirl N Hurl
  • Men in Black (Otis and Steve)
  • Race through New York
  • Watch some street shows in the Hollywood area

12ish: Lunch at Minions Cafe

  • Animal Actors show
  • Harry Potter World (Diagon Alley, Night Bus, Gringotts Dragon, Escape from Gringotts ride, Harry Potter shows)
  • Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure
  • 5ish: Dinner at Leaky Cauldron

Buy Your Tickets Now

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

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