Home to awesome rides, iconic movie locations and legendary lands showcasing the likes of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo, Universal Studios Hollywood is a California must-do. After some recent visits to Universal Studios Hollywood with our three young kids (including our 3-year-old toddler) we wanted to share all our recommendations, tips and tricks for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers.
Universal Studios Hollywood with Toddlers
If you are wondering about the ins and outs of taking a toddler to Universal Studios Hollywood then we’ve got you covered. From rides, shows, snacks and play areas, we’ve tried and tested all Universal Studios Hollywood has to offer for toddlers.
Is it worth visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers?
Before we dive into the details of visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers, we wanted to give our thoughts on whether it’s worth visiting Universal Studio Hollywood with toddlers – we think it absolutely is!
Universal Studios Hollywood has a lot to offer toddlers, older kids and adults. From the Minions and the Secret Life of Pets to Dino Play and Super Silly Fun World, there are lots of rides, play areas and meet and greets that toddlers will absolutely love. It’s also really easy to use child switch on the rides with height requirements and the awesome play areas in the Upper and Lower Lot mean that your toddler will be entertained while you take on the thrill rides!
Universal Studios Hollywood is a fantastic park for older kids and adults and we love that toddlers can join in the fun!
1 | What rides can toddlers go on at Universal Studios Hollywood?
9 of the 11 rides in Universal Studios Hollywood have a height restriction so access to the rides is really dependent on the height of your toddler – we find it best to measure our kids in advance so we can manage their expectations around what they can and can’t ride.
Our 3-year-old has now reached 40″ and is able to ride 8 of the rides in Universal Studios Hollywood. She isn’t quite tall enough for Jurrasic World at 42″ and has a way to go before she makes it on to Harry Potter or Revenge of the Mummy (these 3 rides are more suited to older kids and adults anyway) but she can ride everything else.
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: if your toddler enjoys rides then 40″ is a great height for a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood – once they have reached 40″ it opens up four rides: Despicable Me, the Simpsons, Transformers and Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge. There is still plenty to entertain them even below this height so it’s really just a nice bonus if they reach it!
The Universal Studio Hollywood rides and height restrictions are:
- No height restriction: Silly Swirly, DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda
- Minimum height 34″/86.4cm: The Secret Life of Pets
- Minimum height 39″/99cm: Flight of the Hippogriff
- Minimum height 40″/101cm: Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, The Simpsons, Transformers, Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge
- Minimum height 42″/107cm: Jurassic World (42″/107cm)
- Minimum height 48″/122cm: Revenge of the Mummy (48″/122cm), Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (48″/122cm)
Our toddler favourites: Our 3-year-old loves all the rides that she is able to go on! She lists her favourites as Flight of the Hippogriff, Secret Life of Pets, Silly Swirly and the Minions! The play areas, DinoPlay and Super Silly Fun World, are also huge hits.
Seating on Rides (if you have more than one young kid)
A couple of the rides (Flight of the Hippogriff and Secret Life of Pets) at Universal Studios Hollywood only fit one adult and one child so if you have two young kids you are going to have to ride twice!
2 | And the rides they can’t go on? Use Child Switch!
If you are visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with a toddler then you need to know about Child Switch! It’s designed so parents can ride separately and not have to queue twice for a ride.
Universal Studios Hollywood operates a child switch program which allows a supervising adult to sit out a ride with a child who doesn’t meet the ride requirements or doesn’t wish to ride. The other adult queues up and rides as normal and then when they’re done, they switch with the supervising adult who has express access to the ride – it means that the supervising adult doesn’t have to wait in line again and both adults can experience the ride. If the other adult is riding with a child the child can usually ride again with the second adult so they get to have twice the fun!
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: Child Switch is the Universal Studios Hollywood equivalent of Disney’s Rider Switch program if you are more familiar with Disneyland or Disney World.
There is a dedicated child switch room on some rides in Universal Studios Hollywood so the supervising adult waits inside the ride with the kids – it was freezing on our most recent visit (March 2023) and we were so thankful for the child switch rooms so the kids weren’t cold while they waited! If there is no child switch room then you wait around close to the ride.
The following rides have a ride switch room, you can ask a member of staff at the entrance for information on how it works and where to wait:
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Jurrasic World
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Harry Potter
- The Simpsons
Child Switch on other rides:
- Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge: everyone queues in line together. When you reach the top of the line the supervising parent and non-riding kids wait in the hall. When the first adult is done, the supervising adult joins the single rider queue to take their turn to ride.
- The Minions and The Secret Life of Pets: there is no rider switch room so supervising parents can wait close to the ride entrance. We usually hang out in the Minions-inspired Super Silly Fun World, a play area close to the entrances of both rides.
What else can toddlers do at Universal Studios Hollywood?
Universal Studios Hollywood is more than just the rides! There are lots of other attractions for toddlers to enjoy:
3 | Meet and Greets
You’re likely to come across lots of Meet and Greets throughout the park and the wait times are typically short.
On recent visits, we’ve met Gru and some of the Minions, Bart and Homer Simpson, Poppy and Branch from the Trolls, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein, Scooby Doo, Velociraptor from Jurrasic World, Donkey from Shrek and some of the Transformers.
Our toddler wasn’t familiar with all the characters (Frankenstein and the Simpsons were new to her!) but she still had a lot of fun seeing them.
4 | Play Areas
There are 2 awesome play areas which are great for keeping toddlers entertained at Universal Studios Hollywood.
DinoPlay (Lower Lot): Our toddler’s favorite play area is DinoPlay in the Lower Lot. The dinosaur-themed play area has a rope bridge, a giant tyrannosaurus rex skull and a jungle climber. It’s located close to Jurassic World and Revenge of the Mummy and is great for entertaining younger kids who don’t meet the ride requirements while adults take turns at watching the kids/riding the rides.
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: our 3 and 5 year olds have fun in DinoPlay while David and I take turns at watching them and riding Revenge of the Mummy. We also take turns at riding Jurrasic World with our 5 year old (remember to use the Child Switch we described so you don’t have to queue twice) while our 3 year old continues to play.
Super Silly Fun World (Upper Lot): the Minions-inspired Super Silly Fun World is another highlight for toddlers especially if you visit during the hotter months. As well as a small play area and some fairground-style games there is a fantastic Wet Zone with 80 water play features.
5 | Studio Tour
The World Famous Studio Tour is one of the highlights of Universal Studios Hollywood. It is a 60-minute behind-the-scenes tour which passes through the movie and tv studio lots and some legendary movie sets.
The tour is fantastic and there are lots of fun parts for toddlers – ours enjoys the King Kong experience, seeing the wreckage from War of the Worlds and watching the special effects demonstrations. However, there are some parts that she doesn’t understand and she quickly loses interest – we bring snacks and an activity book to keep her entertained during these parts of the tour or, if your toddler is younger, it’s a great opportunity for a nap!
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: make sure to take a bathroom break before you join the tram tour as it last over an hour and there are no stops. Also make sure to bring lots of snacks as an hour is a long time in toddler land! The tram is open air so bring a hat and sunscreen or a jacket if you are visiting at colder times of the year.
6 | WaterWorld
WaterWorld is a live-action show with an incredible cast and awesome stunts, explosions and drama. Our toddler is a huge fan and is fascinated by all the action!
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: be careful where you sit in the outdoor audotorium! Some of the seats are marked as wet zones and there is the potential to get absolutely drenched!
7 | Universal Studios Hollywood Stroller Policy
Universal Studios Hollywood does not have any restrictions on the type of stroller brought into the park. This includes wagons.
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers: we use a Babyzen Yoyo and a GB Pockit but we did see a few Wonderfold and Keenz wagons in the park. Wagons are not allowed at Disneyland or Disney World if you are planning to visit on the same trip.
Single and double strollers are available to rent close to the park entrance.
8 | Skip the Queue with an Express Pass
If your toddler is anything like ours then chances are they won’t enjoy waiting in line for more than a few minutes! We purchased Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express Passes on our most recent visits – the pass offers guests the opportunity to skip the queue on rides, shows and attractions across the park.
All guests aged 3 and over require a ticket for Universal Studios Hollywood and, as such, require a Universal Express Pass. Younger kids are unlikely to meet the height requirements for every ride so won’t be able to utilize the pass to its full potential but we feel it’s still good value for older toddlers who’ve reached the 40″ height requirement.
Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express Pass tip: we purchased an Universal Express Pass for our 3 and 5 year old. Our 3 year old missed out on Harry Potter, Revenge of the Mummy and Jurrasic World while our 5 year old rode everything except Harry Potter and Revenge of the Mummy. We used their Universal Express Passes for an extra ride as these are among our favourites in the park!
Check out our full experience and our thoughts on whether the Universal Hollywood Express Pass is worth it here!
9| Transferring between the Upper and Lower Lot
Universal Studios Hollywood is split over two areas, the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot (it’s kind of like the Upper Lot is at the top of a hill and the Lower Lot at the bottom of the hill). You will enter through the Upper Lot – Harry Potter, the Minions, the Simpsons, the Secret Life of Pets and the Secret Silly Fun Land are in the Upper Lot and Jurrasic World, Revenge of the Mummy, Super Mario World and the Transformers are in the Lower Lot. The two lots are connected by a series of long escalators which cover about a quarter of a mile.
If you have toddlers there are two options:
- Use the escalators and remove kids from strollers: children must be removed from strollers prior to travelling on the escalators. The parent can fold up the stroller or hold it on the escalator.
- Use the elevator and tram alternative: you can also take an elevator and then a tram. It can take around half an hour if there is a queue.
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers: we have 2 strollers and 3 kids aged 5 and under to navigate the escalators with! Our youngest is usually in her carrier so Dave and I each take a stroller and our 3 and 5 year old stand in between us on the escalators. They love riding the escalators between the Upper and Lower Lots, it’s up there with the rides for them!
10 | Family Center
If you need a break from the crowds, there is a family center located near the entrance to the park/ the WaterWorld auditorium. It has toddler convenient facilities including a large restroom, a nursing room and a vending machine with first aid essentials.
11 | Food and Snacks
There are plenty of food and drink options at Universal Studio Hollywood and guests can also bring their own snacks and water and a small soft cooler. If you are eating in the park, we (and our toddler) love the following spots:
- Cletus Chicken Shack: our go-to for chicken tenders and fries. There is plenty of seating and the adults can enjoy a cold Duff beer from Mo’s Tavern while they eat!
- Lard Lad Donuts: home to the giant pink iced donuts that are a Universal Studios Hollywood staple! We share one between the four of us and still have leftovers!
- Three Broomsticks™: excellent for a sit-down meal, this is our Universal Studio Hollywood favourite. It serves traditional British food including fish and chips and roasts.
- Studio Scoop: for awesome ice cream
12 | Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App
Make sure to download the Universal Studios Hollywood App in advance of your visit. It covers all the wait times, ride closures, meet and greets, show times, a map and dining options and it’s essential for any visit. It’s really important to keep a watch on wait times as you want to hit the rides when hey are quieter.
Virtual reservations (see 13 for more details) can also come into play during busy times and these are managed via the app.
13 | Virtual Reservations
Universal Studios Hollywood operates virtual reservations for both Super Nintendo World and The Secret Life of Pets when crowds are high. These can only be reserved on the day and you will see them on the app.
Super Nintendo World
The recently opened Super Nintendo World operates on a virtual reservation basis as and when crowd numbers require. At the time of writing, this tends to be almost every day as demand is very high. There are loads of announcements reminding guests to reserve their assess when entering the park but make sure to reserve quickly as they typically book up early.
Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers tip: non-reserved access to Super Nintendo World is included as part of the Universal Express Pass. If you have a Universal Express Pass you can enter Super Nintendo World at a time of your choosing so there is no need to worry about securing a virtual reservation. This is a huge perk as the virtual reservations book up very early each day.
The Secret Life of Pets
The Secret Life of Pets commands lengthy queues and it often transfers to a Virtual Line as the day progresses. Again, you will see it in the App an can reserve a spot for a return time.
A Toddler-Friendly Itinerary for Universal Studios Hollywood
If you’re wondering how to structure your day with a toddler at Universal Studios Hollywood this is what we recommend:
- Arrive at the park for rope drop: we always find the first couple of hours after opening the most pleasant in the park. The crowds are still relatively low and this is reflected in the lines.
- Consider a Universal Express Pass: our young kids find it hard to deal with long queues so the Express Pass is an awesome treat for us.
- Meet and greets: we usually catch the meet and greets as we pass by. Check the app for timings if there are any characters you specifically want to meet.
How to plan your day with a toddler
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter: We like to start in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as it is a delight to experience when it is quiet. Flight of the Hippogriff is typically walk-on at the start of the day and our toddler likes to ride it multiple times in a row! It’s lovely to wander through everything Harry Potter and share a Butterbeer.
- The Minions and the Secret Life of Pets: check the ride opening times as these have only opened one hour after park opening on our most recent visits. We aim to get in line for Minions just before 10am (when the park opens at 9am) and then cross over to the Secret Life of Pets immediately after.
- Super Silly Fun World: ride Silly Swirly, play some arcade games and enjoy the Minions-themed playground and wet zone.
- WaterWorld: on hot days we try and catch the WaterWorld show before or after the midday sun as the auditorium is open air. The show lasts about 20 minutes.
- Springfield/Simpsons and lunch: ride the Simpsons ride, meet some of the characters and stop by Cletus Chicken Shack for some lunch. We grab one of the famous giant donuts from Lard Lad Donuts to take away for a snack.
- Studio Tram tour: the Studio Tram tour is great for some down time when the kids need a break from walking and rides. We usually ride after lunch so the kids can build up some energy for the Lower Lot! The tram tour lasts around 60 to 90 minutes.
- Transfer to the Lower Lot: it takes about 15 minutes to get down to the Lower Lot as there are 4 sets of escalators. Remember to take kids out of strollers for the escalators.
- DinoPlay (adults/older kids ride Revenge of the Mummy and Jurrasic World): we set up camp in DinoPlay so our toddler is entertained while we tick off the rides. Remember to get a rider switch if two adults want to ride separately. While one of us stays by DinoPlay the other rides Revenge of the Mummy and then Jurrasic World (and Transformers if your toddler doesn’t meet the height requirement).
- Transformers: if your toddler meets the 40″ for Transformers then you can all ride together. Stop by the Transformers meet and greet (they are so cool to see!) and then by Studio Scoop for some delicious ice cream.
- Super Mario World: if Virtual Reservations are in operation then you will need to visit Super Mario World at your allocated time. If you have a Universal Express Pass then you can visit once, at a time of your choosing. We’ve found that Super Mario World is continuously busy (no surprise given its recent opening)- it can be a challenge to ride Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge with a toddler as the line can stretch for over two hours. It’s still wonderful to walk around as the theming is incredible and there’s still lots to entertain.
- Three Broomsticks™: if we have time, we stop by the Three Broomsticks™ for dinner as it’s our favorite spot for a meal in the park. If we have an express pass left or the line is short, David and I take turns at popping out to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey while the kids are settled!