Planning a theme park vacation with a toddler involves an extra layer of planning. After all, if you are having the time of your life, and your toddler is having a fit… well I guess you aren’t having the time of your life then!
Case in point, you need your toddler to be entertained, and you want to enjoy the sites and sounds with them!
So when you are headed to Orlando to enjoy the theme parks there’s one big question. When it comes to Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure for toddlers; which is best?
Which is better for toddlers Universal or Islands of Adventure?
The best park for toddlers is Universal Orlando. There’s lots of play areas, character meets and a few rides. Plus my kids love the parades featuring Dora, Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me etc. If you are going just for rides, then the best park is Islands of Adventure as they have Suess Land with lots of rides.
technically, no matter which park you take your toddler to, they will enjoy *something* about the park. So if you are going to both parks, don’t sweat it! (or if you’re heading to Disney World, learn about the best parks for toddlers over there!)
But seriously, If you are going for rides, head over to Island of Adventure. This will be the best way to spend the day if you only have a one day, one park ticket. If you plan to ride the Hogwarts express, you’ll need the two park tickets, so this is a moot point.
The best Universal park for entertaining toddlers so you don’t lose your marbles, head over to Universal Studios Orlando. It’s fun to enjoy the play areas, walk around, take in Diagon alley and just have fun at the park.
⭐ The Best Universal Park for Toddler Friendly Rides
We’ve been to Universal a number of times, but this was our first time heading back with a bunch of babies in tow!
Yes, I thought that this would be more like Disney, but turns out, each of the Universal Parks has some pros and cons with how they manage the youngest guests.
If we are talking about just a straight number of rides at the parks, Islands of Adventure has the most options for rides for toddlers! While Universal Studios has some rides for that height range, Islands of Adventure has at least 6 options you can choose from to take your toddler on.
In my experience, toddlers really do love to copy adults, and will be quite excited to enjoy rides if you enjoy rides! So if you only had one day, you’ll find that Island’s of Adventure does it the best when it comes to rides for the two and three-year-olds.
When we want to enjoy the rides (or really, keep them busy with rides!) we head over to Island’s of Adventure- especially the Suess Area.
Word of warning though, rides mean lines and lines and toddlers are a hard mix!
We’ve found Island’s of Adventure to be most enjoyable with our toddler in the early mornings and the evenings (especially after an early 4 pm dinner!)
⭐ Best Toddler Park for Entertainment so Adult’s can do long lines while toddlers play
Some of the best parts about heading to a theme park are the food, the fun theming and the rides! But when you’ve got a two or three year old in tow, you’ve got three options when it comes to rides.
As you can see by the image below, Universal Orlando doesn’t have the best ride options, so that’s why we default to the play areas and shows here!
1-Use rider switch. It’s possible, but also boring for your three year old to sit in a room with the other caregiver (or outside with no A/C, while you wait 60 minutes for a ride)
2-Bring grandparents with you so they can hang out with the kids. Hubs and I are a generation of ‘parentless parents’ and I know many of you aren’t or can’t bring grandparents with you, which leads us to hiring a Theme Park Nanny or heading to number 3.
3- Find ways to keep the toddler entertained while one parent does their chosen ride, then switch off for the other parent to do their ride. It’s like rider switch, except there’s a bathroom nearby and the kids are entertained without you pulling your hair out!
In this case, I’d recommend Universal Studios park as it has two really awesome play areas that are close to each other.
These play areas are also far away from most traffic AND they are tucked into a corner so it’s VERY easy to catch a runaway kid. Islands of Adventure does have two fun play spaces too, but they aren’t as strategically located and the Popeye one gives me anxiety with all the water close by!
Our toddlers can play in these play areas for HOURS.
Word of warning, these play areas can get pretty hot in the afternoon sun. I’m not sure it would burn a preschooler or toddler- but it could given the right temps with no cloud cover!
Universal Studios Orlando for 2 year old is still a lot of fun
Truly though, you can take your toddler to both parks and they will really enjoy their time there.
Mostly, they’ll enjoy getting to stay overnight somewhere, and they’ll really enjoy your company!
Take some time to meet the characters, explore the silly things in the shops, and ride the Hogwarts express 100 times!
BUT, if this is a vacation where you want your toddler truly entertained, you’d need to hop over to the Orlando theme parks with toddler design in mind. This would be Disney World (specifically Epcot and Magic Kingdom!) and Legoland.
Is Volcano Bay a toddler friendly park?
Since technically, Universal Orlando has three gates, I couldn’t just leave out Volcano Bay!
Volcano Bay is very toddler and baby friendly as they have their own water splash area. We have enjoyed this twice, but we like the Disney Water Parks for the overall theming.
So if you are headed to Universal and have a second day, you could always make it a Volcano Bay day! One of the caregivers can hang out in the kiddie section with the two and three year olds, and the other one can go hang ten on some super creative water rides!
Best Wizarding World of Harry Potter Area for Toddlers
There are TWO harry potter areas, and they are connected by the Hogwarts Express as they are in two different areas.
Both of these areas have fun things to see and do- even if Toddlers don’t have much in the way of rides.
If you have a park to park ticket, you can enjoy the Hogwarts express, which my toddlers love! There’s no need to fold up the stroller, and it has A/C.
As far as the area, both of them have live entertainment, an eatery and shops.
Diagon Alley in Universal Orlando has a Fire Breathing Dragon, which can be alittle scary. And it also has Knockturn Alley, again, it scared our 3 year old.
So Hogsmeade is the winner for us when it comes to visiting the Harry Potter Area, as it’s all fun and smiles and no frowns.
Considering Disney World…
Headed to Disney World with the kids in tow? Check out our helpful planning posts by age! Disney World for two year olds, Disney World for three year olds, Disney World for four year olds, and Disney World for 5 year olds. (After that, they don’t need as much planning so they all get lumped under kid planning!)