When asked about activities for kids in Orlando, the obvious response is Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The reality is that Disney is not the only game in town anymore and there are plenty of really cool activities for kids in Orlando. Here’s what you need to know about 3 great attractions: Universal Studios, I-Drive 360 and the Crayola Experience Orlando.
Activities for Kids at Universal Orlando Resort
I must admit in the past I have been a naysayer about taking kids to Universal Studios in Orlando. I had my reasons. First, I love big rides and roller coasters. Second, I am a Harry Potter fanatic. Add those together and Universal Studios seemed like the perfect place to visit WITHOUT my kids who until recently both fell under the 48 inches tall mark.
Turns out I was wrong. I recently spent 2 days visiting and couldn’t believe the amount of awesome activities for kids at Universal Studios. As I wandered around both Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure I counted at least 7 playgrounds some with really fun fountains and water features. Team that with the very popular child swap system and your entire family can actually have a vacation. Lots of parents were spending time with smaller children in the parks while older kids or parents lined up for the popular rides. Once the first parent had ridden, it was a quick swap at the park with the younger kids still having a blast playing.
Another noticeable feature is that even the most popular rides have a lower height requirement than most parks. As the mother of two Transformer loving kids, I was excited to see that at 40 inches tall, younger kids could enjoy the awesome TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D with their parents. At Universal Studios, I noticed that, besides the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and Revenge of the Mummy, young kids could ride pretty much any ride. Check out the rider heights on these popular rides that most kids can ride with a supervising companion:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Must be at least 42″.
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack – Must be at least 42″.
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster – Must be at least 36″.
- The Simpsons Ride – Must be at least 40″.
- E.T. Adventure – Must be at least 34″.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Must be at least 40″ to ride but children under 40″ can experience the ride from a stationary seat.
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D – Must be at least 40″.
What I loved about Universal Studios was that the rides were much more up to speed with my kids than some of the other parks. There is also less of a division between girl and boy rides as both my kids love Minions, E.T, and Transformers equally. Check out all the family and kids rides here.
Universal also knocks it out of the park with the following kid-friendly features:
- You can bring snacks into the park for your kids. No more spending $4 on fruit because you are actually allowed to enter the park with things like raising, crackers, fruit and small containers of snacks for kids.
- Your kids get to meet super heroes, Dr. Seuss characters, Minions and more. Not to mention the cool parades featuring all these characters.
- All kids under 3 get in for free. As parents, we’ve all had the internal “will my kid remember this vs. the price of admission debate”. Will your under 3 year old remember visiting Universal Studios? Probably not but he or she will have a blast riding rides, in the playgrounds and eating snacks all day.
- Universal Studios provides Height Certificates to kids who don’t make the height requirements to ride certain rides. That child can come back at any time in their lives once meeting the height requirement and turn in the certificate to skip the line to the ride!
- Many rides have quiet rooms within the line-ups where kids can cool off with parental supervision, watch movies and just chill.
- All Universal Orlando Resort Hotels have on-site babysitting and activity centres. Remember those fun rides I talked about at the start? Turns out you can still have a great date night at Island’s of Adventure while your kids watch movies, play games and do arts and crafts either at a kids club for 4-14 year olds or with a sitter for younger children.
- The hotels have awesome pools and splash pads and when you stay at the Deluxe properties you get a FREE Universal Express pass. (Unlimited ride access to skip the regular lines in both theme parks all day).
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Kids
My absolute favorite part of Universal Orlando is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I, from the day Universal Studios announced the opening of the Harry Potter themed sections, dreamed of visiting when my kids were of Harry Potter age (9 to 11). In my mind, they would read the books and upon finishing the final page of the final book, we immediately would run to the airport and get on a plane to Orlando. Turns out I now think they could visit much sooner and have an incredible time.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a perfect way to introduce your kids to the series. Whether you’ve read the books or not, its hard not to fall for Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I watched kids of all ages wander through Diagon Alley with wide-eyes and open mouths. My favourite nod to the books was the story time which featured stories from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a children’s book featured in the Harry Potter series. Kids of all ages watched the puppet show and live story time completely enthralled in the magic of J.K. Rowling. Add that to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (joke, toy and candy shop), and the Magical Menagerie pet store and your kids will be sold.
Activities for Kids at I-Drive 360
Get anywhere close to I-Drive 360 and you’ll be mesmerized by the Orlando Eye, a 400-foot tall observation wheel. Once you get onsite, you’ll see I-Drive 360 is a great place for fun activities for kids in Orlando. Starting with the Orlando Eye, this activity lasts over 30 minutes with a very cute pre-flight 4D movie and then a 20 minute ride on the Orlando Eye. I actually shuttered when I first heard it would take 20 minutes as I have an irrational fear of Ferris Wheels but it was truly an enjoyable experience. From the Eye’s highest point kids will love seeing the iconic Epcot Spaceship Earth (the golf ball thing) as well as every other place in Orlando. The cars are air-conditioned and equipped with interactive iPads for exploring the skyline. After riding the eye, there is a family-friendly food court, a very cool Skeletons museum, the Sea Life Aquarium and Madame Tussauds to explore. Also opening in Summer 2015 is Arcade City. On-site there are restaurants, ice cream shops, shopping, and plenty of room to roam in a mostly car-free environment.
The Crayola Experience Orlando
One of the newest and most unique places for fun activities for kids in Orlando is the Crayola Experience. Set to open July 1, 2015, this attraction is part store, part play centre/museum and all kid. This is a place you can literally do anything with a Crayola crayon and kids will be in heaven. There are lots of stations where kids get crafty, create digital drawings that appear on the walls of the Crayola Experience and do awesome things with melted crayons like drip art and making new crayons in funky molds. I literally could go on and on with the amount of great stuff your kids can create and do here but trust me, they and you will love the Crayola Experience. Don’t leave without making your own crayon with custom label or checking out the crayon wall where kids can pack 99 colours into a box to take home.
Activities for Kids in Orlando
This post just scratches the surface of these three great activities for kids in Orlando but I hope it inspires you to look at Orlando beyond the mouse and check out Universal Studios, the I-Drive 360 and the Crayola Experience. Trust me, your kids are going to love these places and you’ll have a great vacation too.