Universal Orlando with Kids: Everything You Need to Know for a 2-Day Visit

Dr. Seuss and all the characters from his beloved stories welcome families of all ages at Universal Orlando Resort. Photo by author
Dr. Seuss and all the characters from his beloved stories welcome families of all ages at Universal Orlando Resort. Photo by author
5/19/23 - By Tom Stefanchik

Universal Orlando Resort is an amazing destination for kids of all ages! Universal Orlando has two theme parks: Universal Studios, the original park, and Islands of Adventure, which opened in 1999 (as well as Volcano Bay water park). In fact a third theme park, Epic Universe, is under construction, and scheduled to open in 2025. With all this square footage of fun, we had to share our two-day itinerary of visiting Universal Orlando!


Universal Orlando Resort is extremely easy to navigate, as its two parks are next door to each other, with Universal CityWalk situated between. If you’re not visiting CityWalk, save your aching feet a few steps and follow the path that runs between the parks, in front of the Hard Rock Café. You can also move from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure by riding the Hogwarts Express train between the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands — however, this requires park-to-park admission tickets.  


Enjoy a boat ride to and from your on-property hotel at Universal Orlando.

Universal Orlando Resort: A Two-Day Itinerary


Universal Orlando has multiple hotels on property, ranging in price from value to luxury. Staying on property offers many amenities, such as early park entry and free bus transportation to the parks. Some of the higher-end properties offer additional perks, such as free Universal Express (see below) and a pleasant boat ride to the theme parks that drops you off in the heart of CityWalk. This makes it very convenient to head back to your room for a mid-day break and/or nap (trust me, you’ll need it).

One of my favorite on-site hotels is Royal Pacific Resort— a luxurious, tropical-themed resort with an enormous, lagoon-style pool surrounded by a white sand beach and palms.

Universal Express

Universal’s line-skipping service, Universal Express, is easy to use and helps to avoid crazy long lines. But the convenience comes at a price...literally. Universal Express charges $89.99 to $379.99 per person, per park, depending on the time of year and crowd level. Whether or not you choose to purchase Universal Express, families will have a great time over the course of a fun two days!

RELATED: Best Outdoor Water Parks in Orlando for Family Fun

Kids LOVE the minions at Universal Orlando, wandering around the park and in Minion Mayhem. Photo courtesy of Universal

Day 1: Universal Studios

Universal Studio is shaped essentially like a big oval, with attractions themed around movies and TV. Upon entering, walk straight ahead rather than turning right (which most people do), and move away from the crowds, to hit up several attractions within a five-minute walk.

Start your day with Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, a motion simulator ride (those sensitive to motion can enjoy stationary seats up front). The attraction begins with a hilarious pre-show and ends with a dance party, at which you can boogie down with a minion. (Just across the way Minion Café and Villain-Con Minion Blast, a second Minion-themed attraction, are scheduled to open later this year.) 

Right around the corner is Transformers: The Ride. This immersive thrill ride features motion simulation...with a twist: Guests ride in a vehicle that moves, bumps, and races through various scenes, with 3D visuals, animatronics, and special effects.

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure allows riders to experience the magic of Harry Potter. Photo courtesy of Universal

You will want to set aside a good deal of time to explore all the shops, restaurants, and attractions of the fully immersive The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. This section of Universal Studios is a great place for everyone—young kids and teens to adults who grew up reading the book series!

RELATED: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Tips for a Magical Experience in Orlando 

As you round the far end of the park it’s time to save the world at Men in Black: Alien Attack, a shoot-em-up ride pitting you against freaky aliens. (Pro tip: Towards the end of the ride, press the red button as soon as Will Smith tells you to and score an extra 100,000 points!) 


Marge Simpson is a welcoming sight when exploring Springfield.

Next up you enter Springfield, home of the Simpson family. Second only to the Harry Potter World in terms of immersion, this land features many iconic spots from the show, including Moe’s Tavern, the Kwik-E-Mart and, of course, the Simpsons themselves. But the highlight here is The Simpsons Ride, a motion simulator and easily the funniest attraction in any Orlando theme park. Springfield is also home to an indoor food court themed around various Simpsons locations, and the wide range of food options available here make it a good place to stop for lunch.

E.T. Adventure is the only attraction still around since opening day. Photo courtesy of Universal

As of summer 2023, the majority of Universal’s Kid Zone is currently under renovation, as the theme park re-themes this area’s attractions (most likely to Dreamworks properties such as Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and, Shrek). However, two entertaining attractions and one store remain.  Animal Actors on Location! is a funny and informative live-action show featuring dogs, cats, birds, and even a pig. Right across the way is E.T. Adventure, where guests climb aboard a flying bike and take off on an adventure to save E.T.’s home planet. Lastly, meet Spongebob and friends at Spongbob Storepants.

At the Hollywood Character Zone, meet a wide range of movie and TV luminaries, such as Beetlejuice, the gang from Scooby-Doo, Doc Brown from Back to the Future and Marilyn Monroe (she sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” to my son TJ).  

At this point, your family is starving, so stop by Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, just a few blocks away. This full-service restaurant features authentic Irish dishes, such as shepherd’s pie and Guinness beef stew, as well as theme park favorites, and reservations are highly recommended. While there, catch the Blues Brothers Show, across the street from the restaurant’s back door. Your kids may not know who Jake and Elwood Blues are, but they’re sure to enjoy this lively, and interactive, revue.

Nearby is one of the Universal Studio's most intense rides, Revenge of the Mummy, an indoor roller coaster that zooms forwards and backwards as you attempt to escape the clutches of the evil mummy.

The Bourne Stuntacular is a great way to end your day at the park, as you sit and chill in an air-conditioned theater for 30 minutes. Living up to its name, the show itself is a spectacular and exciting mix of live and on-screen action.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster is a high-speed dash through the park's raptor paddock. Photo courtesy of Universal

Day 2: Islands of Adventure

Universal's Islands of Adventure is themed around six "islands," arranged in a circle around the large lake. We always turn right and head into Seuss Landing, my kids’ favorite part of the park. Here you can journey through the adventures of The Cat in the Hat, ride the Caro-Seuss-el, an interactive carousel with Seussian figures, and wind your way above the entire land on The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! Not only does this ride afford you great views, one of the tracks passes right through Circus McGurkus Café Stoo-pendous, a good, quick-service restaurant for lunch. Seuss Landing also features storytelling and character appearances by beloved characters.

Enjoy a delicious meal at Mythos, featuring an extensive menu within a mythical setting.

Another island is The Lost Continent which houses Mythos, often named as the best theme park restaurant in Orlando. The immersive interior creates the feel of the ocean floor, and the menu features a mix of Mediterranean, Asian, and American fare.


Get ready for a magical time by visiting Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando.

Next up? The very popular The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade. Once again, you’ll want to set aside a good deal of time to explore all that this land has to offer!

Jurassic Park is home to the park’s newest and most intense ride, VelociCoaster, voted one of the best new theme park attractions in the past. On The Jurassic Park River Adventure, a calm journey through friendly dinosaur habitats turns into a harrowing adventure, culminating in an 85-foot plunge! As you leave Jurassic Park, encounter another ferocious beast on Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Board a tram for a 3D journey through Skull Island, where you’ll encounter dinosaurs, giant worms and Kong himself.

Cool off at Toon Lagoon — Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, a classic log flume ride, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, a classic rapids ride, drench riders (very refreshing on a hot Florida day). Bring a towel and change of clothes for these rides.

Next up is Marvel Superhero Island. Why is there a Marvel-themed land in Universal when Disney owns Marvel Entertainment? Years before Disney bought Marvel, Universal had bought the exclusive theme park rights for most Marvel characters, and still owns those rights. But let's focus more on the fun! Ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man; enjoy a meet and greet with Spidey, as well as Captain America, Wolverine, and other superheroes; and get ready for an intense experience aboard coaster The Incredible Hulk, which features a zero-gravity roll. 

My family and I thoroughly enjoy Universal Orlando Resort, and highly recommend visiting its two parks, as well as CityWalk (save this for evenings since it stays open later than the theme parks). If you’re visiting for three or more days, head to Volcano Bay or revisit the attractions kids liked the best.

Unless noted, photos by the author

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