It’s no secret that Universal Resort Orlando caters to families with older kids. That’s not to say, I wouldn’t bring my small children there. I spent three days walking around Universal’s three theme parks and was surprised to find a lot of options and conveniences for families. Some I had never seen in any theme park until theirs. Below is a list of my favorite family-friendly extras. Of course, every resort has family friendly pools and activities to do as well.
Designated Kid Areas in Restaurants- I get it, we’re at a theme park, it’s family friendly. And when I tell people about some of the meltdowns my kids have thrown at Walt Disney World, the answer is always “it’s a family place, who cares?” Well, some people care. Disney isn’t just families with little kids and although no one has ever said anything to me, it’s not like I can just let my child meltdown and it’s acceptable. Although Universal is more than just families too, I was excited when I discovered that most of the restaurants in their resorts have areas designed just for kids.
While on a site tour of the Royal Pacific Resort, we toured the Island Dining Room. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the Kid Cove. It’s an entire area designated for children to play with toys, watch their favorite cartoons, lay down under a gazebo, and even have access to their very own kid-size buffet. Why doesn’t every restaurant in America have one of these? How brilliant!
Another hotel that features something similar is the Hard Rock Hotel. At their restaurant, The Kitchen, kids are welcome to take advantage of the “Kids Crib.” Not only can kids participate in fun activities and watch their favorite cartoons, on select nights, but your child can also participate in kid-friendly cooking lessons!
Universal Resort Kids’ Camps– Sometimes, even on family vacations, you need a small break from your sweet angel children. Whether it’s some time at a spa, a meal at a nice restaurant, or just some park time, Universal Resort offers three kid club locations throughout their property, and gives parents the chance to explore things at Universal they might be able to with kids. The three locations are;
Camp Portofino- Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel
Camp Lil’ Rock- Hard Rock Hotel
The Mariner’s Club- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Fun activities include arts & crafts, video games, storytelling, computer time, movies and board games and more. The standard fee is $15 per hour per child for the camp supervised by trained counselors. There is an additional cost of $15 per child if you would like for them to have dinner. Resort Kids’ Camp is open Sunday-Thursday from 5 – 11:30 p.m., and 5 p.m. – midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The age starts at 4 and the child must be potty trained.
Family Restrooms– I understand the concept of a family restroom should be the standard of theme parks everywhere, but this isn’t always the case. It was on our group tour of the parks, that something caught my eye at the restrooms in Diagon Alley, a family restroom! It was literally, one of those “mind blown” moments. You can imagine the looks I got from others as they walked past me, a girl taking a picture of a bathroom door.
Although the concept is simple, and maybe I’m more excited than I should be, can we discuss how awesome this is? I can’t tell you how many times I wish there were family bathrooms when we are in the parks with our kids. For nothing else other than the simple reason, usually most boys want one specific parent to take them to the bathroom (I’m currently in the mom-transition stage where I’m shifting all of that responsibility to my husband. We do have boys, after all) and more often than not I find the three of us squeezed into one tiny stall. Universal Resort placing family restrooms throughout their parks is a genius idea and should be the standard across the country for other theme parks.
Family Rooms (aka- Rider Switch)– I saved the best for last. I was so blown away by this concept. My husband and I are no stranger to the rider switch program at other theme parks. One of us will wait in the hot sun for however long it takes one parent to go through the stand by line, while the other parent tries to keeps the kids contained in the stroller and occupied. That parent comes out, usually an hour later, the next parent is given a paper ticket and goes to the Fastpass line. Two hours later, our kids are hanging by a thread and more often than not this entire experience is usually so frustrating, we just skip the rides altogether.
At Universal, every family member in your party waits in the stand by line for the attraction. Already, much better than waiting outside in the Florida heat. You’re in an air conditioned line and most new attractions have interactive ride ques, which helps to engage little ones and keep their attention.
When you get to where it’s time to board the ride, the parent who is riding gets on. The other parent takes the kids to the designated area known as a “family room.” Although some rooms are marked with “rider switch” or “child swap,” the newer ones are referred to as “family rooms.” Although I didn’t see every family room (each attraction has one), the ones I saw where unbelievable. Most of them consist of rooms with multiple benches, a TV (playing the movie that the ride is based on), air conditioning, and a baby changing station is mounted on the wall. The newer ones, also feature doors. With the door being closed, your kids can be contained and are free to run around and not have to sit in a stroller.
Family rooms aren’t just for rider switch. Often you have Grandparents or other family members who are tall enough to ride but choose not to. All members of your party can wait in the room, there is no limit. No more waiting in the Florida sun, you can still immerse yourself in the ride, and wait for your loved ones in an air-conditioned room.
The best part- the second rider does not have to wait in another line. It’s automatic that when the parent comes back, the second parent hops on the ride right then and there. Think about all the time you’re saving by not waiting in another line.
As you can see, Universal Resort Orlando has some of the most unique ideas and concepts when it comes to catering to children. Being that I tend to approach everything from the perspective of a mother with young children, I really appreciate the updates and accommodations they have made for families with little ones. It’s these little things that make your family vacation that much better. Kudos to you, Universal Resort!
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