Universal Orlando Parks Travel Tips for Families

Get the inside scoop for going to Universal Studios Orlando Theme Parks. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay tips and ride info. Find out good treats, snacks, and food to eat, also!

Our family in front of the castle in Islands of Adventure

The Universal Orlando parks are super fun vacation spots for families. Universal Studios Trip. In 2019, our family spent 4 days in the various Universal Orlando parks and loved every minute. We loved it so much that the girls wanted to go back for another family vacation, so we went back in 2024 and spent 5 days in the parks (see a reel of pics from our trip here).

This post walks you through our tips for families visiting the Universal theme parks in Orlando.

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Universal Theme Park Orlando Information

When you head to Univeral parks in Orlando, you have three park options to visit. You have Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are both theme parks with rides (including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Volcano Bay is a water park.

What are the best ages for Universal Orlando theme parks

I would say the best ages for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is 6 and older. For Universal Studios all three parks, most of the rides have a higher height requirement. There is a lot of variance, but most are at least 40 inches tall with some as low as 36 inches and some as high as 52 inches. 

My youngest when we traveled here was 6 years old and could ride everything she had an interest in. She couldn’t do the huge coasters but did not want to.

I have witnessed many sad little children who could not ride a ride. I have also noticed angry parents at the front of a line mad that their child was too short for the ride.  

When we went to Universal Studios Hollywood several years ago, our kids were 2, 5, 7, and 9 and we had to do some splitting up with rides there (read my Universal Studios Tips for California). In Orlando, our kids were tall enough we only split a couple of times and that was more for interest in rides than for height restrictions. 

So, you can have fun with little ones at Universal Orlando, especially if you have Harry Potter obsessed family members, but you might change your number of days based on your heights. I do feel like the content of most of the Universal Studios Orlando rides and Islands of Adventure rides are geared more toward an older crowd in most cases. Islands of Adventure does have a section for little kids.

Universal Studios is almost finished with a Dreamworks Land for children. This will open in June 2024 and will have a family friendly roller coaster as well as fun splash pad and water areas to cool off in.

Family at Universal Studios Florida

How many days to spend at Universal Studios Orlando parks

Anytime you visit any park, you are faced with the tough decision of how many days you need to dedicate to the park. You want enough time to experience it all but you don’t want to get bored or spend more time than needed and miss out on other experiences.

We were all tall enough to ride most everything and we are all obsessed with Harry Potter. Four days total (with one day at Volcano Bay and three in the Universal parks), was perfect for our family.

People often wonder if three days is enough for Universal Studios Orlando. We could have done it all in three days, also, but we were very happy to have that fourth day to just soak in our favorites. 

If you have smaller children, they probably won’t enjoy it as much and you will want to go for 1-3 days. If you do not care for Harry Potter, you can also be happy with 1-3 days. 

With our recent trip, we did five days. We all felt like four would have been fine. With that said, I think we all enjoyed the fifth day the very most. We would have been satisfied with four days, but on our last day we really just focused on our very favorite things. We also added in some shows we hadn’t seen yet.

What Days are Busiest at the Universal Florida Parks

We all want to try to maximize our time by being at the parks at lower crowd levels. From my research, most days are supposedly the same, including weekends. Tuesdays and Thursdays are supposed to be lower crowds.

It is hard to say in general because different things cause crowd fluctuations, like holidays, competitions, and school trips. While we were there in April, there were a lot of field trip groups there. There were cheer compentions going. They had “Grad Bash” going on. The weekend was definitely busier than the week days.

How To Plan a Trip to Universal Studios Orlando

When we decided to go to Orlando, Florida in 2019, I started compiling a big list of ideas of things to do while we were there. You can see what we settled on for our full 10 days of fun in Orlando here.

Once I had it decided, I contacted my friend Carrie who is a travel agent with Key To the World Travel. I gave her my plan and made sure she approved (she did). She then helped us decide where to stay and to book all of our tickets. She was able to get us a better price or at worst the same price to all locations.

This last time we went, we only wanted to do Universal, so we just booked things ourselves at one hotel.

Where to Stay at Universal Studios Orlando

There are a lot of hotels very close to Universal. The first time we went, we decided to stay off-site at Holiday Inn and Suites Across from Universal Orlando. Carrie was able to get us a package deal for our hotel room and our park tickets. With our stay, we were able to get into each park each day one hour early. This was HUGE. I highly recommend getting tickets that get you in an hour early. You can get so much done in that hour and save yourself so much time from waiting in lines.

The hotel itself was okay. The first night we got there, there were not enough pillows for all of us. There were pillows on the beds but not the pull out couch, and they knew we would have 6 people. We called and texted them SEVERAL times and were told each time “We will get that right to you!” and they never did. We also heard from other families in the elevator about them not having enough towels. 

One day we got back and the cleaning people had left behind two towels for all six of us. We didn’t even mess around this time and just went straight to the front desk to get what we needed. 

But it did what we needed it to do.

It was only a mile walk to Universal, which isn’t bad at all. They also have a shuttle. We walked the first day. The only downside to that is that we then walked around the parks all day long, so we were super tired by the end. We walk a mile to school many days of the year, but we don’t spend the bulk of the remainder of the day walking and standing in lines. 

There are a lot of taxis you can get to and from Universal. The cost is actually cheaper than an Uber if you are close because of how they charge. 

We ended up getting a limo service after a couple of days and realizing it was an option. It was the same price range AND they delivered us to VIP entrance. It was fantastic. 

It is worth noting that the last time we went, we used a limo service to and from the hotel from the airport. It was less expensive than an Uber.


Staying On Property

The last time we went, we did not see any options to get early morning entry unless we were staying on property. If you have a travel agent, they might be able to get an early entry for you off-sight.

As I said, getting that early entry to the park is huge. So we looked at options on property. There are only a couple of hotels that can fit our family size. We chose to stay at the Portofino Bay hotel.

Through the hotel, we were able to get our park tickets with early entry as well as Express passes. It was a great deal and the Express pass experience was amazing.

The hotel was good. It was still a mile away even though it was “on property.” They have excellent free transportation options, including a water taxi and a shuttle. There is also a walking path you can take, but again, it is a mile long walk.

The hotel properties have fun pools, so if you stay there, you can have really fun pools if your kids like those. We spent one day at the property, which was really nice mid-trip. We spent Sunday just at the hotel pool. We slept in and had a leisurely day. This was just what we needed to finish off the trip.

Tips for the Parks

Here are some tips for enjoying the parks as much as possible. 

Beat the Heat

Florida is warm year-round and HOT for summer months. Something great about Universal is that so many of the lines for rides are indoors in the very nice air-conditioning. They keep it nice and cold, so you get to cool off frequently.

Not all rides or activities are indoors, so it is wise to have some indoor activities or rides in mind for the afternoon and early evening when things heat up. One great place is the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. It is nice and cool, has benches, and there are tons of fun activities for the kids to do. 

Some cooling towels and hand fans are super helpful for staying cool, also. We used cooling towels every afternoon when we went the first time in early June.

The last time we went was in late April. The temperatures were the same as the first time we went, but this time there was very little humidity. We were not hot at all with the low-humidity trip.

Cooling Towels to keep your cool in the heat

Prepare for Rain

There are times of year when it rains daily in Orlando. It rarely stays long, but it moves in fast. Ponchos are expensive in the gift shops. Bring your ponchos so you don’t have to buy them. It rained every day when we went in June. It didn’t rain at all when we went in April.

Pack a Lunch

We always like to pack a lunch and buy dinner. There is only so much eating out you can do without starting to feel very “blah.” Plus, the cost of eating out for a family of 6 is quite high. 

The last time we went, we purchased lunch and ate dinner at our hotel. The parks closed early in April (usually around 7 PM, though one night was 6 PM and Saturday was 9 PM). That way we didn’t have to take the time to pack a lunch in the morning and didn’t have to haul it around the park.

Fun Lines

Universal has gone to great lengths to make the wait-times in line as enjoyable as possible. There is tons of detail to the line area and often video footage to watch. They are immersing you in the world of the ride you are about to enter and giving you context for what is happening in the ride. Time passes quickly.

Universal Express Pass

The first time we went, we did not have express passes, but this time we did. We LOVED it (as you might imagine). Part of the deal with certain on-property hotels is you get express passes with your daily park ticket. We absolutely loved this and don’t think we could go again without express tickets now that we experienced them.

These do not work on Hagrid’s ride. They also do not work in your first hour of the day early morning pass. The full park has to be open.

But you are able to skip most of most lines. Some rides skip more of a line than others. Some of the best rides are Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade (not the other direction), Men In Black, and the Jimmy Fallon ride.

As I mentioned, the rides have fun lines, and you do miss those with the express pass. We wanted to get the full line experience on the Forbidden Journey, which you easily get if you follow our pattern for rides each day. Do not worry about hitting the regular line for Gringotts–you don’t miss anything.

If your kids aren’t familiar with a movie associated with the ride, they won’t get it the story behind the ride when you are in the express pass line (like on the Mummy ride).

Best Itinerary for Universal Studios Orlando

We arrived at Universal Studios Florida early for our early admission both times we visited. Each day, they actually opened the gates about 15 minutes before the hour early admittance.

If our early admission was at 8 AM, we left our hotel room at 6:45 AM, took the water taxi to the park, and waited in line to get in. We were always in the first few groups in our line that way. This makes a huge difference on your wait time at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures.

The first time we went, this is how we approached the parks. Keep in mind that the first time, early morning admission included Universal Studios. The second time, it only included Islands of Adventure.

  • We spend day one focusing on Universal Studios. We went through the whole park and rode every ride we had interest in. At the end of the day, we had some time and rode the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmead over in Islands of Adventure and spent the last couple of hours there.
  • Day two, we started at the Gringotts ride again (more on that below) and then headed over to the Islands of Adventure. We went through the whole park and rode every ride we had interest in there. Then we started returning to favorite rides in both parks and again ended the day in Hogsmead.
  • Day three was spent at Volcano Bay.
  • Day four was spent at the favorites of everyone at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We would have enjoyed a second day at Volcano Bay, also, but we couldn’t get enough of Harry Potter.

The last time we went, we were willing to jump between parks more often because we all remembered the park and what we did and didn’t love quite well. We still stayed primarily in one area and did all we wanted to in each area before moving on. That just makes sense physically. We literally walked at least 10 miles every day, so it is wise to stay in an area and do all you want to just to preserve your feet and energy for the week.

Universal Orlando Florida Travel Itinerary

Best Ride Order

Many people wonder which rides to ride first at Universal Studios Orlando. This is what we did each day:

  1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures. As soon as we were in the park, we walked briskly to Hagrid’s ride. There are not a lot of rides open for that early morning hour. You cannot take things on the ride and will need a locker for anything you have with you. After the first day, we had Nate and Brinley (and maybe McKenna if she felt like it), go ahead of us and put our things in locker. They then waited by the entrance to the ride until we got there. Kaitlyn was injured so she wasn’t able to walk as fast as Nate and Brinley. That way we didn’t have to wait for lockers once we all got to the line. Even though we were not able to jog (which isn’t allowed but of course still happens), because we were at the front of the line to get into the park, we still walked on to Hagrid’s ride with little to no wait at all. By the time we got off the ride and back to the lockers, the wait time typically was listed anywhere from 60-120 minutes. Being at the front of the line to get into the park makes a huge difference. The Express Pass cannot be used on Hagrid’s ride, so we wanted to make sure we went there first.
  2. VelociCoaster. We then went to the VelociCoaster next. Brinley did not want to ride it, so Nate and Brinley went to the lockers while Kaitlyn, McKenna, and I went to the ride. The three of us rode, then I sat with Brinley while Nate and the older two girls rode. The wait for the girls and me was usually 5-10 minutes and for Nate and the girls was usually 15 minutes.
  3. Forbidden Journey. We then went back to Hogsmead to ride the Forbidden Journey. This did not open every day in the first hour, but it did most days. if it wasn’t open, we just enjoyed Hogsmead being less crowded.
  4. Hogwarts Express. We then hopped on the Hogwarts Express to go to Universal Studios. The Hogwarts Express does not open until the regular park hours are open.
  5. Escape from Gringotts. We then went to Diagon Alley and rode the Escape from Gringotts. This is a popular ride, so it is wise to ride it as early in the day as you can. We then enjoyed Diagon Alley, the shops, and some version of Butterbeer.

After that, it varied. We would either go out into Universal to ride the rides there or go to Islands of Adventure to ride the rides there. We tended to like Universal more at that point in the day because we preferred to ride a water ride in the afternoon, and those are in Islands of Adventure.

Ride and Experience Reviews

Here are some thoughts on the rides, shows, and experiences. This is not all of the rides at the parks, just a few tidbits I thought were helpful to know about. 

Diagon Alley

This is our favorite area of all parks. The entrance is hidden. It is in London, so if you walk through London, you missed it. Look for the Night Bus as a hint for where to enter.

Walking into Diagon Alley is like entering a whole new world. Every detail has been attended to.

I had read somewhere that the Harry Potter areas get really busy around 10 AM and stay that way until 2-3 PM. The last hour of the day is usually less busy. So we wanted to hit Diagon Alley early in the day. 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

42″ height requirement. You want to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride as early in the day as you can. You can essentially walk right on in this first hour of the day, but as the day goes on, the line is long. While we were there, the line would be about an hour long later in the day and stay that way most of the day. 

For this ride, you are required to put all loose items in a locker. There are lockers right by the ride, and these lockers do not cost money.

This is my personal favorite ride in the park, and in the top few for most of the family.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

Ollivander’s is kiddy-corner from the Gringotts ride. As soon as we exited the ride on the first day (both times we went), we headed over to Ollivander’s. They have a cute show where the wand chooses the wizard (an actual child in the room). You can then go in the wand shop and purchase wands if you choose to. Brinley was chosen last time we went, so that was a lot of fun.

This line gets VERY long and is slow, so I highly recommend hitting this right after you ride Gringotts. This is something we only did one time while there. 

If you intend to buy a wand to do magic in the Harry Potter areas, it also makes sense to buy it early in the visit so you can take advantage of the wand longer.

Shops, Food, and Magic

After those two items, you can check out shops and food at your leisure. The best place to get Butterbeer Ice Cream is in Diagon Alley at The Hopping Pot–the outdoor shop where they have picnic tables. 

There are several fun shops as well as a little Knockturn Alley. You also have the Leaky Cauldron, can try on robes, check out some of the Weasley’s jokes, and watch shows.

You can also go around and practice your magic with your wands. They are fun, but they are much harder to use than I expected them to be. It is “realistic” to learning magic (if that were a real thing) in that it takes patience and practice. But considering this is a theme park and not an actual school, I think the effort should have been made to make the magic easier to perform, especially since you have so many young kids. After spending as much money as you do on a wand, you want to be able to use it.

The magic is not any easier today than it was five years ago.

Something to note about Diagon Alley is that the temperature in there is significantly cooler. There is tons of shade that blocks the sun and keeps the whole area cooler. 


Anyone who had been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter told us emphatically to get butterbeer and get it often. We totally budgeted and planned to get it twice a day each day. We loved it the first time we went. They had butterbeer, frozen butterbeer, butterbeer ice cream, butterbeer potted cream, warm butterbeer, and butterbeer fudge. We all had different favorite kinds. This last time, overall favorites were the warm butterbeer, ice cream, and potted cream. Frozen and regular were not as good. I liked the fudge.

If you want to try it but aren’t sure what you would like, consider getting one of each to share with the family. Then everyone can know what they do and don’t like going forward. Another idea is to just taste test each other’s choices.

Since coming home, we have been worked on perfecting copycat recipes. We have perfected a frozen butterbeer recipe and found a great regular butterbeer recipe. I am working on a super simple copycat recipe for regular butterbeer that takes less than five minutes to create.

Sadly, when we went this time, we all agreed the quality of the Butterbeer is not what it was five years ago. While we couldn’t get enough the first time and all got it twice a day, this time, people started to try out different treats and snacks instead.

Butterbeer is non-alcholic and reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch.

Butterbeer options

Men in Black: Alien Attack

42″ height requirement. This is another ride you cannot take your items on the ride with you, so you will need a locker. Something to note is that small lockers are free, but large lockers cost money. If you pay for a locker, keep track of your available time. The first time we visited, we paid for a big locker and would leave stuff in our Diagon Alley and then go ride Men in Black. So we would zip over and get Men in Black in and then go back to Diagon Alley and get our items out of your locker. I would even leave Diagon Alley to ride Men in Black and then return to peruse shops if desired.

The second time we visited, we just did free lockers and got two to fit our things.

Men in Black is a fun ride where you shoot aliens and accrue points.  

This ride ended up being Brinley’s (6 year old) favorite ride outside of Harry Potter rides the first time we went. The last time we went, it was still a top 5 favorite for everyone and Nate’s very favorite ride.

Go Around the Circle

I would then just pick a direction and head around the circle that is Universal Studios and hit rides you want to ride as you go. Here are some notes on rides I think you should be aware of.

Take note that when you are in London outside of Diagon Alley, you are at Grimmauld Place. If you knock on the front door of 12 Grimmauld Place, you will see Creature peek through the curtains.

Animal Actors On Location

This is not a ride, but there is a fun show with animal actors. This show is at certain times of day, so if you want to see it, make sure you are in the area at a show time. We only went to it once, but our kids loved it. We made sure to visit it again this time. This is in the shade, so it is a good afternoon activity.

E.T. Adventure

36″ height requirement. The first time we went, my kids were all not too sure about this, but they enjoyed it and McKenna and Brinley wanted to go back to ride it again. This ride opened later than other rides for some reason. It is right by Animal Actors on Location, so you could plan to hit it right after you saw that show. We were there when it opened and walked right on. 

I should add that when we went this time, the memory of that ride had left the girls so none of them wanted to ride it at all, so we never did.

Bourne Stuntacular

This is a show and is so much fun! We really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it. It would be great for an afternoon when you are hot and need to sit for a while.


40″ height requirement. This was our favorite ride at the California location and still one of Nate’s favorites at this location. As we waited in line for this ride, the experience freaked 6 year old Brinley out. It is intense and scared her and she did NOT want to ride the ride. So if you have a sensitive child, you might want to try to hit this earlier in the day to avoid lines because then you don’t watch the intense movies.

Once Brinley rode the ride, she loved it and didn’t mind anymore. 

This ride can be bad for motion sickness.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

40″ height requirement. This ride can get to be a long line. A lot of people will hit this ride very first when they enter the park. If you aren’t big into Harry Potter, this isn’t a bad idea. The ride is right at the front of the park. With that said, we rode it in the afternoon and the wait was only about 40 minutes, so not terrible for an afternoon wait time.

But this was another ride that my girls had no interest in returning to on this second trip.

Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast

This ride was not there when we went five years ago. It is a really fun and simple ride! It is kid-friendly. You get a gun at the beginning and shoot things on the screen. You just stand on a moving walkway the whole time. You can create a user account and sync your account with your phone. This will allow you to do challenges and compete with everyone else in the park that day. This was one of Nate’s top three favorite rides. We all enjoyed it.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

40″ height requirement. This was one of my FAVORITE rides outside of Harry Potter. It has a fun wait — you are free to roam around and look at stuff rather than waiting in line. I love New York City, so this was a fun little reminiscent ride of our trip there. 

Fast and Furious – Supercharged

40″ height requirement. This was a fun one that seemed a little scary to 6 year old Brinley until we rode it. It is pretty mild as far as the actual ride goes. A fun thing about this ride is that you have live actors for some of the waiting rooms, and they are always funny. If you ride more than once, you gain an appreciation for the improv they bring to the situation.

Revenge of the Mummy

48″ height requirement. This can be scary to some kiddos, but is FAR scarier at the California park than the Florida park. It is a dark, indoor roller coaster, so that is fun. This was one of McKenna’s top three favorite rides.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

51″ height requirement. This is an old fashioned coaster and Nate almost blacked out on this ride. It threw off his equilibrium and he got motion sick very easily for a couple of weeks after this! You need a locker for this ride.

Simpsons Ride

The girls did not have an interest in riding this again this time and did not have fond memories of the last time. Nate wanted to ride it so we rode it once the first day. It was not a winner once again. It isn’t great for people who get motion sick. There are also videos that are not great. McKenna commented, “Why would you want to show this to children?”

Horror Make-Up Show

We went to this show this last time we were there. It was interesting and fun to see how they do special effects with makeup. I could see this being disturbing for young kiddos or anyone squeamish with blood (it is fake blood, but it looks real). It is a good stop on a hot afternoon.


Watch this video to see some of what we did and little tips.


Best Itinerary for Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is where you have Hogsmeade. You will have a lot of fun taking the Hogwarts Express between the parks, so I would start your circle from Diagon Alley so you land back in London and King’s Cross Station to take the Express over to Hogsmead. Make sure you take the time to take the Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade back to King’s Cross station. The ride is different each direction.

I would hit Hogsmeade and get your fill and then head out in a circle either through Jurassic Park or The Lost Continent. Jurassic Park has a really fun ride in it that gets you wet, so plan on hitting that on based on when you want to be wet. The Lost Continent way gets you to Suess land faster, so if you have little ones, this might be the way for you.

Islands of Adventure pinnable image

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

48″ height requirement. This was Kaitlyn’s very favorite ride the first time we went. She rode it 15-20 times in the three days we were in the parks. The line was almost always essentially a walk on. We always spent the last 1-2 hours of the day in Hogsmeade (as well as other points in the days). This ride is inside of Hogwarts. If you do stand in line, there is so much to look at and appreciate in the castle.

It was a little scary for Brinley when she was 6 (there are dementors), but as she rode it a few times, she liked it.

This ride can really make you motion sick, so people who are sensitive to that be aware of that. Nate could only go on it once in a row and had to space out when he rode it in the day. 

You cannot take items on this ride and need to get a locker. There are free lockers by the ride.

Flight of the Hippogriff

36″ height requirement. This was Brinely’s very favorite ride when she was 6. It is right by Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. So Kaitlyn and McKenna would go on that ride and I would take Brinley on the Hippogriff ride. It was just a simple rollercoaster. We did not ride it the last time we went.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures

48″ height restriction. This ride opened TWO DAYS after we were there the first time. Very sad. That was a big reason the girls wanted to go back one day.

It is a really fun ride and a top 3 ride for all of us. As I mentioned, we walked on each morning. We then were willing to wait 1.5-2 hours later in the day to ride it a second time.

It was less busy around lunch time each day. That is a good time to ride it. It is really busy at the very end of the day in that last hour.

They do not close the line to ride until the park closes, so many people will get in line just before the park closes and wait 2 hours then. That way you are not spending time you could be riding other rides. They do have drinking fountains through the line.

Something else to know is that if the wait time is over 30 minutes, the single rider line is as long of a wait time as the regular ride wait time. Single rider lines are often a hack to be able to ride the ride in a shorter wait time, so be aware of this.

Shops and Magic

There is magic to be done in Hogsmead just as in Diagon Alley. There are also shops, including a sweet shop that will satisfy your sense of smell even. This is where to go for Butterbeer fudge, chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and more.

There are also shows, including a light show at the end of the day that is pretty cool at Hogwarts. 

Three Broomsticks

The Three Broomsticks has some great food, butterbeer, potted cream, and an amazing setting. It feels authentic, which is true of both Harry Potter areas. You are really immersed in it all. We ate at the Three Broomsticks two of the three days we were there the first time. There is also an outdoor seating area behind the Three Broomsticks you can access through a little alley by the women’s bathroom. We ate our lunch there or would just rest there in some shade if needed.

>>>Read: Cruise Tips with Kids!

Women’s Bathroom

Chances are you will use the bathroom anyway, but in case not, you MUST go into the women’s bathroom in Hogsmeade. You will get to hear Moaning Myrtle. 

Jurassic Park River Adventure

42″ height restriction. This was one of our collective favorites. There are optional lockers, but not required. You do get SOAKED sometimes. This is very nice for a hot day. This was one we hit at least once every day. It was one of Brinley’s top three favorite rides this last time.

Skull Island Reign of Kong

36″ height requirement. This wait time can get long and I would not want my little one in a long line for this ride. The line is creepy. But if it is short and you can walk right on, the ride isn’t creepy. This is one we just rode once both times we visited. 

Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls

44″ height requirement. This ride gets you wet. Honestly, if I went back, I would skip this ride (and we did skip it last time). It was supposedly going to be a short wait, and it wasn’t. You walk down inside into a non-airconditioned area that is humid and muggy with lots of people trapped with you. None of us were impressed by it. 

Suess Island

This is a fun little kid land that has a bunch of the classic type of rides you see at your average theme park, like a carousel. The lines are not indoors, but it is a good spot to hit up with little kids. We did several rides there for Brinley’s sake our first time. The Trolley Train Ride is really fun and unique.

Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

We rode this just once both times we went. It is fun, but a weird thing about the ride for me is that I struggle really remembering it after the fact. It isn’t that memorable.

Incredible Hulk Coaster

This is a fun roller coaster, but one we only had the desire to ride once each time we visited. Kaitlyn calls it the “concussion ride.” It really just bangs your head around, so while it is fun and thrilling, it is also painful. As you get rides like the VelociCoaster as technology improves, you would prefer to spend your time on smoother coasters.


Watch this video to see some of what we did and little tips.


Volcano Bay Tips 

Going to a water park in Orlando is very much worth it. They have a lot of water parks to choose from. Volcano Bay is currently the newest park, so it is the one we chose to go to (we also had the ability to go to Aquatica owned by Sea World our first time and decided to do Volcano Bay).

We have some water parks in Utah, but nothing that compares to Volcano Bay. It was really an amusement park merged with a water park.

Getting to Volcano Bay

Unless you are staying right on-site in a resort, everyone needs to take the free shuttle to get to Volcano Bay’s entrance. So you will want to arrive to the shuttle area early to get right on the shuttle. A nice thing about this is that the crowds arrive in manageable waves and not all at once. But you leave the same way, so you can end up waiting in line to leave the park. That isn’t really different than waiting in a line of cars, but just something to be aware of.

If you are driving your own car, you still need to park at CityWalk and hit the shuttle. 

The last time we went, we took the free shuttle from our hotel to Volcano Bay. Our shuttle got there much earlier than the hotel said it would, so we were glad we were in line early to get a ride.

Volcano Bay Travel Tips Pin

Shade and Seating

With the heat we had our first time, we were concerned about getting a spot with shade at Volcano Bay. We had our one hour early admission, but we weren’t sure what would be available. 

Because of that, we rented premium seating. With that, we got a pair of lounge chairs, a lock box, and an attendant to bring us food and drink. 

I don’t think I would do that again, and we did not repeat it the second time.

First, there are lots of umbrellas with the regular chairs and even some trees. Second, there were PLENTY of seats available in our extra hour. Third, it took over thirty minutes of standing in line to get our premium seating in the morning, and we had already reserved it and paid for it. So it was time wasted. Fourth, as the day goes on, the sun shines right into your lounge chairs and you have zero shade. 

The one big perk was that we had a lock box right there. So we didn’t have to head to the lockers when we wanted our phone or anything like that. Also, at the end of this day a huge storm moved in and everyone had to leave at once. Most people crowded into the locker area to get their valuables while we opened our lockbox and were on the first shuttle out of there.

So if you are getting there an hour early, I wouldn’t worry about seating at all. 

The last time we went, we got there for our early morning and headed to free seating in a covered pergola. They have fans that run and it is in shade. There are several different spots in the park like this.


These were great. These are little wristband/bracelet/watch type of items that can be your locker key, wallet, and place holder in line. You can also use it to try to get people wet in the lazy river (we had fun with that) and other locations. You also use it to activate fun waterfalls and things in the Reefs for the kids.

The best part of this is the virtual line. You scan your TapuTapu and you see a time to return. Then you can do whatever you want and will be notified via you TapuTapu when it is time to go back. At one point, we checked in to a ride, went and ate dinner, and then headed to the ride when we were done eating. No time wasted. 

Krakatau Aqua Coaster

42″ height requirement. This is the first ride we went on both times. This line gets long as the day progresses, so it is a good one to go to first. We had so much fun on this ride and did it a couple of times. 

The last time we went, the park was not busy at all and this ride still got to a 4 hour wait time, so ride it early.

Honu ika Moana

48″ height requirement. This is another line that filled up fast. You can fit several people on these rafts. There are two slides over here, and they are different experiences. We felt the green was more mild than the blue, so maybe start green and go blue if you need to work up courage. Or start blue and go green if you need to be able to say “but the green one is less scary than the blue one! You can handle it.”

TeAwa the Fearless River

This was actually the very favorite thing for all of us the last time we went. It is a step up from a lazy river. You are required to wear a life jacket (that they provide). You then float the river, but it has different facets that make it more intense. This would be a perfect thing to do while you wait for your spot to in line for a different ride.

Punga Racers

42″ height requirement. On these slides, you can have up to four people race down at the same time. This was a fun one. There is a spot at the end for people to sit, so if not everyone wants to ride, you can enjoy relaxing while you wait for everyone to come down. You go down these slides alone, but race people in your party. Everyone who rides this has fun racing friends and family. It is a fun spot to people watch if you are waiting for family to come down.

Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides

42″ height requirement. This is a six person raft, so we loved that! It was fun and thrilling. 

Kopiko Wai Winding River

We always love a lazy river. We spent hours on this as a family and had a great time.

Waturi Beach

This is a fun wave pool to play in. We did this later in the day as crowds filled in. 

Children’s Play Areas

Thre is a Reef for big kids and a Tot Reef for little kids. Brinley had a grand time here and there when she was 6 and there was plenty of seating for parents, too. 

Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides

While I played with Brinley and watched Brinley play at the Reef, Nate and the other three kids headed to the drop slides. Thre are a few drop slides there and are thrilling. Nate’s favorite is the Ko’okiri Body Plunge.

Ohono of the Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides

These slides have a big drop off at the end into a deep pool, so you want to be a strong swimmer (strong enough you could jump off a diving board and swim to the side of the pool). But the slide itself is super slow, so it wasn’t a big hit for us.


There was also just your basic pool to hang out in. You could overlook the wave pool and watch riders come out of the Ko’okiri Body Plunge. It was a fun spot. 

There were a couple of attractions shut down the day we were there. 

So you can easily do it all in a day at Volcano Bay. If you are obsessed with water, you would have fun for a second day or at least half of a second day. I could see it being a nice afternoon activity when you are super hot and need to cool off.


Watch this video to see some of what we did and little tips. I don’t have as much of this park since my phone was mostly locked up all day.



There is a lot of good food in all three parks. We enjoyed trying all sorts of treats and snacks. Here are some reviews (other than Butterbeer since I talked about that).

Take note that a lot of restaurants will seat you and then you scan the QR code on the table and order your food. They tend to neglect to tell you that, so we spent our first lunch waiting and waiting for a waiter to come along. We noticed many people doing the same each day.

If you do not order from your table, you can order ahead on your app and pick up at a certain time.

You can see menus any time on the Universal App–you don’t have to be on sight to see them.

Kohola Reef Restaruant and Social Club

This is at Volcano Bay. Everything we got from here was really good. We agreed it was our all around favorite restaurant at all three parks. The Lava Cake there is a really good dark chocolate cake, also.

Waturi Fusion at Koka Poroka Ice Cream Kona

This is at Volcano Bay was one of our favorite treats at all three parks. It is fruity and refreshing. The quick service stand is close to the entrance of the park and not noted on the app. Ask a worker if you can’t find it. This ice cream machine doesn’t always work. We got it in the morning, but by the end of the day it was not working.

Whakawaiwai Eats

This is a good spot in Volcano Bay for younger kids. It has a lot of kid-friendly food. This is where we ate the first time we came.

Volcano Bay Food images

Potted Cream

Potted Cream is similar to a pudding texture, but better. They have a Butterbeer version at Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron and a chocolate version at the Leaky Cauldron. They are both delicious!

The Great Feast

This is served at the Three Broomsticks and is a great option for families. It serves four people, but you can add a serving for additional people. We got this several times our first visit and once our last visit. They did leave off our additional serving, so we had to go to the counter and tell them.

Green Eggs and Ham Tots

Nate got these one day at the Green Eggs and Ham Cafe. They were tasty and a good salty snack.

Giant Donut

Brinley got a giant donut with pink frosting one day from Lard Lad Donuts in the Simpsons area. It was good and tasted like what you would expect a donut to taste like.

Pictures of different food at Universal Studios Orlando

Pumpkin Foods

I enjoy pumpkin foods, so I tried Pumpkin Juice and really liked it and tried a Pumpkin Pasty. The Pumpkin Pasty has great potential, but the execution in the park wasn’t amazing. I would search for a copycat recipe and make it at home rather than pay for it in the park. It is basically pumpkin pie filling in a pastry shell.

Leaky Cauldron

This last time, we all really liked the Leaky Cauldron for food and we ended up eating there the most. The Fish and Chips are really, really good there. The Cottage Pie and Bangers and Mash were also both good. We would not recommend the Hunter’s Chicken. The Ploughman’s was good and unique.

Cauldron Cake

This is a fun concept, but the cake had a taste of the silicone cauldron it was baked in.

Chocolate Emporium Shakes

These were really good and really unique…but REALLY expensive. We all agreed it tasted good, but it was far too much money to justify ever getting again. It is very easy to make copycat versions at home (and we have done so since we have gotten home).

Mel’s Drive-In

Nate and McKenna love burgers, so we tried this place one day…it is a big no. We do not recommend it. The girls said their school lunch is better. We would definitely never choose to eat there again.

Universal Snacks images


We all enjoyed Universal Orlando a whole lot and talk about it fondly. We liked it enough that we repeated the trip with our family, which is rare for us. We typically like to try new things and new places.

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This post first appeared on this blog in August 2019

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