Nobody can say for sure which theme park is better, but it sure is fun to speculate. In previous theme park showdowns, I’ve debated whether Universal Orlando Resort or Walt Disney World has the better Marvel attractions, top roller coasters, and most satisfying dark rides. This time, we’ll do Helen Lovejoy a solid and think of the children. Here are my thoughts on which theme park operates the best family attractions.

Selecting the best family rides at each park

Image: DisneyThe first challenge with this showdown is deciding what qualifies as a family ride. Walt Disney World redefines family-friendly, and most of their attractions are excellent for kids as young as five years old.

At Universal Studios, a few attractions cater directly to children, but others perceived as more adult are perfectly okay for kids. If we judged based only on the Dr. Seuss stuff, Universal would be in trouble, which is why we’re not doing that.

Discussing Universal’s finest

Image: UniversalI carefully evaluated potential contenders on Universal’s side. Something like Flight of the Hippogriff seems like a natural except for the fact that it’s short and lazy. Similarly, most of the Dr. Seuss attractions simply aren’t up to snuff, and the two Harry Potter attractions are too scary for kids. We’re left with a few notable entries, all of which range from good to exceptional.

The Cat in the Hat

Image: UniversalI actually think that this is the worst overall attraction on this list. However, children won’t care. It tells the story of arguably the most famous children’s book ever, and it accomplishes this with some gorgeous, colorful sets. Kids seem hypnotized by the presentation.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

Image: UniversalTo modern theme park tourists, this is probably the second-best and second-most relevant attraction at Universal Resort Orlando. It’s one of the motion simulation rides prevalent at these two theme parks, but this one feels less derivative. Plus, the Despicable Me theming and copious amounts of cartoon violence appeal to children in particular.

E.T. Adventure

Image: UniversalTo some, this attraction is woefully outdated. To others, it’s the pride of Universal and the best job of theming that the park has ever managed. I tend toward the latter category, although I agree with the former to an extent. Overall, I see the ride as a kindred spirit to Peter Pan’s Flight, as it tells the story well and simulates flight in a novel way. I don’t think kids have ever cared that they don’t know what E.T. is.

Hogwarts Express

Image: UniversalWhile the Harry Potter attractions aren’t an option for young kids, Hogwarts Express is different. It’s a form of transportation that finally gives Universal its own answer to Disney’s monorail system. For children, it’s a thrilling demonstration that wizardry is real at theme parks.

Kids totally believe that they're riding the same bus that Hermione and Ron used to take to school. Hogwarts Express is a masterpiece of an attraction that doesn't receive the credit that it deserves. When I evaluate Universal relative to Disney, this attraction is the Mouse House's most vigorous competition.

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

Image: UniversalBut as a Simpsons addict, I also believe that this flat ride is something that kids will adore. The ride mechanics are simple enough that no one will get scared off, while the oversized alien head in the middle will grab any child’s attention. They’ll cackle at the quips, too. While I think The Simpsons Ride is a bit much for most youngsters, Twirl ‘n’ Hurl is a carnival ride with a Simpsons twist.


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