Our Favorite Kid Rides, Shows and More: A Day at Universal Studios + Islands of Adventure, Orlando – with Kids ages 5 & Under – using the Park to Park Pass

When I was doing research for Universal Studios with kids, I had such a hard time finding blogs or reviews about how much there would be to do for the younger kiddos. Having a 5.5 and almost 4 year old traveling with me during our time in Orlando – we’ve been to Disney a few times and I wanted to change things up a bit. I thought Universal would be a great way to spend a day, personally having wanted to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for years now – but would there be enough for my two young sons to enjoy? Would it be worth the cost of the tickets?

I am SO GLAD I took the chance and spent a day here at Universal with my boys because it was insane how much there was to do for the younger ones – maybe even more than a day at a Disney Park, dare I say!

Since I was so blown away by all the fun, rides, entertainment and more for my kids 5 and under to enjoy, I wanted to put together a blog post to share just how much we did together in one day at Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure in Orlando! I know so many friends and family are already planning Fall + Winter trips to the area, so throughout it would be fun to share!

So first things first – I sprung for the Park to Park ticket. This means we had access to Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure {two separate parks, side by side} – the main reason for this was that getting this ticket is the ONLY WAY to ride the Hogwarts™ Express between Hogsmeade™ Station {at Islands of Adventure} and King’s Cross Station {at Universal} with a Park-to-Park Ticket. Without this ticket, you can’t ride the Hogwarts Express between the parks – its about $50 more to each ticket to access both parks in one day and to ride the train. We ended up riding it 4 times during our day here and the boys LOVED IT. It’s a different experience going from Hogsmead to Kings Cross and from Kings Cross to Hogsmead – so it was like two separate rides each time.

Aside from wanting to experience the Harry Potter Magic myself, I knew that since the boys wouldn’t be able to do all the rides {because of height restrictions} I wanted to be able to make the most of our day at the two parks and knew there was things on both sides that they would want to see, favorites including –

/ at Universal: Despicable Me, Transformers, Curious George

/ at Islands of Adventure: Spider Man, Jurassic Park, Seuss-world

Just a few things on each side that made me want to make the day a little crazy and do both parks in one day! In the end it was COMPLETELY worth it!

Let’s Start with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Because it’s my favorite part!

So there are two separate {and different} Harry Potter themed worlds in each of the parks – one at Universal and one at Islands of Adventure. Having never been to either of these two parks before, I was slightly confused about it all at first, but now I totally get it.

At Islands of Adventure – you get to experience Hogsmeade and my favorite – Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Even more beautiful in person. It’s breathtaking.

While we were here I enjoyed a Butterbeer {non-alcoholic – and sort of gross. Way to sweet for me, but I had to try one!}

The boys and I also got to ride Flight of the Hippogriff – which is a family friendly roller coaster right outside the castle. They LOVED it. It was great for all ages and a fun coaster ride for sure.

As mentioned above, the main reason for the Park to Park pass is to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express. This has two rides on each side, which we got to see each of them twice – one which takes Harry from London to Hogwarts for the first time and one where he is coming back from Hogwarts to London and You Know Who is on the loose! It was beautifully done and a great way to get out of the heat and go from park to park.

On the Universal side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is London + Diagon Alley. Here you get to see Gringotts, The Knight Bus and everything else that comes alive in Diagon Alley.

Here I was lucky enough to be able to go on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts {which was incredible!} and we went to Olivander’s to see the wand selection process, which was just like the movie and really neat for kids!

So that’s just a taste of all the Harry Potter amazingness I got to experience. The boys were complete fans after everything too and ever since we’ve been home we’ve been reading the books and watching {the PG} movies together. It’s been so nice to bring back one of my favorite book series for my kiddos. And if you aren’t a HP fan, I’m sure most of what I just wrote made zero sense to you!

So, onward!

Next I want to break it down by park all the rides and shows we got to experience in the 12 hours we were there, because it was so much for the kiddos, I’m still impressed with it all!

At Universal Studios:

  • 1- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • 2 – Shrek 4-D
  • 3 – Transformers The Ride: 3-D
  • 4 – The Simpsons Ride
  • 5 – Kang & Kodos’ Twirl & Hurl
  • 6 – A Day in the Park with Barney
  • 7- Curious George Goes to Town
  • 8 – Fievel’s Playland
  • 9 – Universal Superstar Parade
  • 10 – Transformers Meet & Greet: Optimus Prime + Bumblebee
  • 11 – Nighttime Spectacular Show

Also adding Gringotts + Hogwarts Express to this list as previously mentioned!

At Islands of Adventure:

  • 1- Camp Jurassic
  • 2- Pteradon Flyers {which was incredible!!}
  • 3- Me Ship, The Olive
  • 4- Spider Man Meet & Greet
  • 5 – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • 6 – High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Ride
  • 7- The Cat in the Hat
  • 8 – If I Ran A Zoo
  • 9 – Flight of the Hippogriff

So we ended up going to Universal / Islands of Adventure the week the Orlando schools went back in session, which is very close to back to school for most of the rest of the US. This ended up being timed completely by accident but made our visit to the parks even more amazing because we didn’t wait in any lines! It was incredible and made the day so much more enjoyable – so if you are looking for a great time to go, I would most definitely recommend the second week of August during the week!

I did not expect between the two parks for there to be so much for the younger kiddos to see, do and enjoy. I always assumed that Universal was for older kids and Disney was for the younger ones, but I swear the boys went on more rides and shows between Universal and IOA in one day than they ever did with a park hopper at Disney! And while we will always love Disney – being able to see Spider Man, Transformers, the minions, Spongebob and more was such a treat for them, because they are super into all of these characters at almost 4 and 5.5 years old.

So I was blown away with the ride options, but even more so, the massive play areas at each park – we LOVED spending time in A Day in the Park with Barney, Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland {which was awesome because it had a super secret water slide!} These areas were large and contained and a great way for the kids to get some wiggles out – where I feel some other parks are lacking spots like this!

Seriously, how fun does Fievel’s Playland look in this photo?

We LOVED the Universal Superstar Parade and we all stayed up WAY past our bedtime for the nighttime spectacular water + fireworks show as well, which was beautifully done. I wish we had time to see the nighttime show on the Hogwarts Castle, but we couldn’t fit everything in with timing.

All of this post to say – we had an incredible time at BOTH parks and I’m so happy we took advantage of the Park to Park pass and were able to enjoy both sides and everything it has to offer. I was scared there wasn’t going to be enough for my boys to do and enjoy but I was so wrong about that and so pleasantly surprised with everything they were able to do!

If you have kiddos on the younger plus some older kids that want to try out some more thrilling rides, both parks have lots of those too! I’m so happy we carved out some time to try something new during this ‘Disney’ visit because I’m not sure when we will get the chance again and it was so worth it!

Thanks so much for following along this lengthy post, but I hope it helps if you are planning a Universal/IOA trip anytime soon! And if you’ve been before, I’d love to know your favorite ride – Please share!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Patty September 17, 2019 at 7:49 am

    Looks like an awesome visit for you and the kiddos! HP looked fantastic! Love to get there someday too!

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