The Universal Orlando Resort carries a reputation for being the daredevil’s alternative to the cozy embrace of Disney.
While it’s true that Universal offers some of the thrill rides and roller coasters that Disney lacks, these parks aren’t just for the older set. In fact, you can easily fill a day with attractions designed exclusively for the smallest of visitors.
1. Barney’s Backyard (Universal Studios Florida)
Barney’s Backyard is easily overlooked because the entrance is just past the archway that leads back to the Barney show. You’ll spot the show times first, and if you just missed one, it’s easy to turn back and miss this hidden gem. Barney’s Backyard is an indoor play area just to your left when you enter the Barney courtyard, but before you get back to the show. The Barney gift shop also leads into this playground.
If you see A Day in the Park with Barney, you’ll dump right into the space, but it’s difficult to appreciate when it’s packed with exiting guests. Visit right when a show is beginning, however, and you’ll have the area almost to yourself. There’s a whimsical treehouse, echoing cave, colorful train, baby-size maze, and more. Kids can play with water, sand, and dozens of interactive buttons. The only drawback is that this area can get hot and stuffy. If you time it right, you’ll get ushered out by a show dump just around the time you’re tired of the warm play space.
2. A Day in the Park with Barney (Universal Studios Florida)
A Day in the Park with Barney is a children’s show featuring all the classic full-size characters from the Barney show, including BJ, Baby Bop, and of course Barney himself. Children are encouraged to sing along with songs like “If All the Raindrops,” “Mr. Knickerbocker,” and “I Love You.” The theater is cool and offers a welcome chance to sit for the duration of the 20-minute show.
3. Curious George Goes to Town Play Area (Universal Studios Florida)
Curious George Goes to Town is a water play area that goes above and beyond your average splash pad. Adults will find a safe path guiding them around the perimeter, but deviate from this and you’re sure to get wet. The smart play is to bring water shoes, a swim suit, and a water diaper (if age appropriate) for your children so they can enjoy the area worry-free.
This play area is two stories so there’s lots to explore. From the upper levels, you can shoot water guns, dump buckets, and otherwise drench those below. Keep an ear open for the bell that signals one of the giant buckets on either side of the play area is about to dump. If you want to help those buckets fill up faster, head to the balcony on the second level and aim your squirt gun at the targets on the opposite side.
4. The Ball Factory (Universal Studios Florida)
The Ball Factory is located behind the Curious George playground, so it’s easy to miss if you don’t go all the way back. Head through the plastic curtains into the factory and you’ll find another two-story play land built for hours of fun. Children can vacuum up foam balls with giant tubes or toss them into collectors to send them to the second level where players can grab a ball gun and shoot them back down. Take your time exploring this area as there are many fun and crazy ways to pick up, levitate, sort, and toss these colorful balls.
5. Fievel’s Playland (Universal Studios Florida)
Parents may remember Fievel Goes West, but chances are good that most kids today have forgotten this classic movie. Regardless of whether they recognize the theme, this is a great play space for small children. Don’t let the fountain at the front scare you away. Though there are some water play elements, much of this play area is dry.
Inside you’ll find tiny ball pits, caves, tunnels, and trees to explore. The entire area is hands-on so there’s lots to discover. Keep an eye out for areas with a height restriction. Here it works in reverse and children who are too tall are restricted from some activities. Areas like the ball pits also have a spot to leave your shoes before you jump in, so don’t forget to take them off to keep everyone safe!