What is the best age for kids to visit a Disney or Universal Studios Park

What is the best age for your kids to visit a Disney or Universal Studios Park? Judging by the number of prams in a Disney park (see picture below) a lot of parents think taking children under 3 is a good idea. This blog post will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of every age – but also on what rides there are for each age group.

Actually, its interesting to note, that the age of your child has a different bearing on the ticket price – between the different world parks!! Tokyo is most generous with its child prices and the U.S parks the most expensive.

Free Ticket
Child Ticket
Junior Ticket
Pensioner Discount
Walt Disney World
Under 3 years
3-9 years
Not applicable
10 and upwards
None. But discount for U.S war veterans
Disneyland Anaheim
Under 3 years
3-9 years
Not applicable
10 and upwards
None. But discount for U.S war veterans
Disneyland Tokyo
3 and under
4-11 years
12-17 years
18 years and upwards
Tokyo DisneySea
3 and under
4-11 years
12-17 years
18 years and upwards
Hong Kong Disneyland
Under 3 years
3-11 years
Not applicable
12-64 years
Yes! And very cheap through Klook.
Disneyland Paris
Under 3 years
3-11 years
Not applicable
12 years and upwards
Shanghai Disneyland
Under 1 metre
1 metre – 1.4 metre
Not applicable
1.4 metres and above
Yes. 65 years and above. Also Disabled Concession.
Universal Studios Florida and Los Angeles
Under 3 years
3-9 years
Not applicable
10 and upwards
None. But discounts for U.S war veterans
Universal Studios Japan
3 and under free
4-11 years
Not applicable
12 years and upwards
Yes, Age 65 and over
Islands of Adventure
Under 3 years
3-9 years
Not applicable
10 and upwards
None. But discount for U.S war veterans
*Check official website for prices

Both Universal Studios and Disney Parks have a ‘Child Swap’ arrangement where, for the most intense rides, the family can line up together and then one parent rides the ride, the other parent stays with the child. Then the 2nd parent rides and Parent 1 stays with the child. At Universal Studios Islands of Adventure - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – the child sits in a ‘movie room’ with their parent while the other parent rides!! Not all rides have this, but check the park maps. You can also do a ‘Single Rider’ line too if your child doesn’t want to ride and you do.

Disclaimer: Below is a quick list of ideal rides for each age group. This a guide only and some people might disagree due to children having different interests and abilities. Also, it’s important to note that most rides have height requirements and rides do change at the theme parks regularly – so it’s a good idea to check for new rides on the official websites. If unsure of a ride – YouTube is a great place to learn about rides and how intense they actually are.

Age 0-3 years

Why do people go? Hey, entrance for a child under 3 is free in all parks! Prams and Strollers are everywhere at the theme parks so there is something to this. 

However, kids cannot remember any memories before the age of 3 so why would parents take them? It is generally either because of the older siblings, the parents wish to go or to start making some magical Disney memories.

Parents go for the special memories created when their child sees their favourite Disney characters for the first time. Disney characters are a bit like rock stars or celebrities to young kids. Some children however, might get scared of the characters.

There are tonnes of amenities to make your life easier in the park (change rooms, feeding rooms, microwaves and more in the Baby Care Centres). You can also hire a pram for the day too.

Best Rides/Shows for this age group:

Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney Railroad, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Jungle Cruise, Tom Sawyer Island, Country Bear Jamboree, Peter Pan, Carrousel, Mickey’s PhilharMagic 3D, It’s a Small World, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, PeopleMover, Dumbo, Enchanted Tiki room

Animal Kingdom: Na’vi River Journey, Nearby Na’vi Drum area, Festival of the Lion King show, Kilimanjaro Safari, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Maharajah Jungle Trek, The Boneyard playground, Finding Nemo show

EPCOT: Spaceship Earth, Seas with Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk with Crush, Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Gran Fiesta Tour (Mexico) 

Disney Hollywood Studios: For the first time in Forever Frozen Sing along, Muppets Vision 3D, Toy Story Mania, Voyage of the Little Mermaid show, Disney Junior show, Beauty and the Beast live on stage show.

California Adventure Park: Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, Little Mermaid, Turtle Talk with Crush

Disneyland (Anaheim): Enchanted Tiki room, It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise, Carrousel, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mark Twain Riverboat, Story book Canal boats, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Pinochio

Disneyland (Tokyo): Pooh’s Hunny Hut, Western River railroad, Enchanted Tiki room, It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise, Cinderella’s Fairy Tale hall, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Pinochio, Mickey’s PhilharMagic. 

Tokyo DisneySea: Sinbad’s Storybook voyage, Caravan Carousel, Jasmines Flying carpets, Magic Lamp Theatre, Ariels playground, most of the the rides in Mermaid Lagoon, Toy Story Mania

Hong Kong Disneyland: Winnie the Pooh ride, It’s a Small World, Dumbo, Jungle Cruise, Mystic Manor, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Cinderella Carousel, Fairy Tale Forest, Disneyland Railroad 

Universal Studios: Shrek 4D, Hogwarts Express (train ride with animation outside of the windows)

Islands of Adventure: Me Ship, The Olive, Eighth Voyage of Sinbad

Age 3-5 years (see ages 0-3 years also)

At this age your child is more mobile and can quite easily do a lot more rides and get more out of your visit. One thing to watch now for are the height requirements for each ride to avoid disappointment. There can be huge variation in height as kid’s age. The Cast Members however are right on to this – they will not let you through with a child that is not the correct height under any circumstances. This is for their own safety.

Kids in this age bracket might also like to collect character autographs. You can read more about this here: http://themeparktravelguide.blogspot.com/2017/06/disney-character-meetings-and-autograph.html You just need to supply an autograph book and a pen and the characters are more than happy to sign.

Best Rides/Shows for this age group include:

Magic Kingdom: Mad Tea Party, Buzz Lightyear, Primeval Whirl, Triceratops Spin

Animal Kingdom: See age 0-3 years

EPCOT: Soarin 

Disney Hollywood Studios: See age 0-3 years

California Adventure Park: Jumping Jellyfish, Monsters Inc, Toy Story Mania

Disneyland (Anaheim): Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White

Disneyland (Tokyo) – Monsters Inc, Buzz Lightyear, Chip and Dales treehouse, Donald Ducks boat, Minnie’s House, Snow White Adventures, Goof’s Paint n Play House, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan, Pinocchio

Tokyo DisneySea: Toy Story Mania, 20000 Leagues under the Sea, Venetian Gondola, Turtle Talk

Universal Studios: Animal Actors on Location, A Day in the Park with Barney, all ‘Woody woodpeckers Kidzone’ rides

Islands of Adventure: Camp Jurassic, Pteradon flyers, Jurassic park Discovery centre (pat Dinosaurs and Dinosaur eggs), All rides in the Seuss Landing area including the Cat in the Hat, the High I the Sky Seuss Trolley Train ride and the Caro-Seuss-el

Hong Kong Disneyland: Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan's tree house, Snow White Adventures, Mad Tea Party, Slinky Dog Spin (milder version then the Walt Disney World ride in Disney Hollywood Studios)

Age 6-9 years (see also ages 0-5 years also)

This is the golden age for kids to attend a Disney or Universal theme park. They are just the right height usually to go on some more challenging rides, old enough to remember and Disney is still exciting for htem. You are also paying child prices for your Disney tickets in all the theme parks!

The Haunted Mansion I put in this group, even though much younger kids can ride it as the pre-ride is rather scary. I often see terrified kids going into this ride crying and wimpering. The pre-ride consist of everyone being herded into a dark (black) room where a deep booming voice tells you that you are about to meet your doom and the room is shrinking. Frightening stuff for a little kid. The actual Haunted Mansion ride is fine for all kids. Its just the pre-ride.

The Haunted Mansion ride
Best Rides/Shows for this age group include:

Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Barnstormer, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Monster Inc (a live show where older kids will get the jokes better. They are also at an age where they love jokes too!)

Animal Kingdom: Wilderness Explorers, It’s tough to be a bug (scary, dark, insects – many scared kids go into this ride but be warned), Kali River Rapids ride, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur

EPCOT: Club Kool (Coke testing), Frozen Ride (theres a drop in it – but similar to Pirates of the Caribbean in drop), Soarin

Disney Hollywood Studios: Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Star Tours, Walt Disney presents (for understanding I think they need to be at least 6-9 years), Star Wars Launch Bay (a 9 year old might get more out of the exhibits), Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. 

California Adventure Park: Bakery tour, Fliks flyers, Francis Ladybug Boogie, Master Junkyard Jamboree, Radiator Springs Racers (the cars ride, pretty intense speeds but lots of animatronics too), Redwood creek challenge, Silly Symphony Swings, Soarin

Disneyland (Anaheim): Alice in Wonderland, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Haunted Mansion, Mr Toads Wild Ride, Tom Sawyer Island, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (lots of steps though)

Disneyland (Tokyo) – Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Gadget Go coaster, Roger Rabbits Cartoon spin, Star Tours, Stitch Encounter

Tokyo DisneySea: Aquatopia, Nemo and Friends Sea Rider, Fortress Explorations

Universal Studios: Despicable Me 3D ride, Transformers 3D, Race through New York with Jimmy Fallon (this ride was really great fun-don’t miss-and you don’t need to know who Jimmy is either), Ollivanders Wand choosing (bit dark for smaller kids unless Harry Potter fans), Simpsons 3D ride, E.T, Universal Orlando Horror Make up Show

Islands of Adventure: Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 3D

Hong Kong Disneyland: Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, Geyser Gulch (to appreciate)

Age years 10-13 (see ages 0-9 years also)

At age 10 you pay for an ‘Adult’ ticket for American Universal Studios and the Disney parks. So a trip to the theme parks get a bit more expensive in America.  This is still a good age to go as the kids are still interested generally in all aspects of the Disney and Universal Parks.

Best Rides/Shows for this age group include:

Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Astro-Orbiter (very high), Splash Mountain, Swiss Family Robinson (a lot of steps)

Animal Kingdom: AvatarFlight of Passage (intense ride), Everest (also intense)
EPCOT: Test Track (intense speed)

Disney Hollywood Studios: Rockn Roller Coaster (Aerosmith), Tower of Terror

California Adventure Park: Golden Zephyr, Goofy’s Sky School, Grizzly River Run, Pixar Pal- a- Round

Disneyland (Anaheim) – Indiana Jones, Astro Orbiter (very high), Big Thunder

Disneyland (Tokyo) – Space Mountain, Astro-Orbiter (very high), Splash Mountain, Swiss Family Robinson (a lot of steps)

Tokyo DisneySea- Raging Spirits and Indiana Jones

Universal Studios: Revenge of the Mummy, Escape from Gringotts (a big drop at the beginning of the ride which is in the dark and you can’t really see - the rest is smooth)

Islands of Adventure – Popeye’s and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Bares, Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff

Hong Kong Disneyland – Hyperspace Mountain, Orbitron (very high), RC Racer, Toy Soldier Parachute Drop

Age 14 years and above (see ages 0-13 year also)

It really depends on the individual child whether they will enjoy a trip to a theme park with their parents at this age. Some think they are ‘too cool’ for Disney (what the). Or maybe it’s the hanging out with the parents that’s the problem! Most are still keen however to go and try the more daring rides. Harry Potter at Universal Studios is always a hit. In fact, quite a few people we met (with older kids) suggested that Universal Studios is more for the older kids, and that Disney is better for the younger kids. I must say there are some thrill rides in Disney too that suit this age group and with the advent of Star Wars land in Disney Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Anaheim in 2019 they will be even more keen to go!

Best Rides/Shows for this age group:

Magic Kingdom – See ages 0-13 years

Animal Kingdom– See ages 0-13 years

EPCOT: Mission Space, Expedition Everest (rollercoaster)

Disney Hollywood Studios: Rockin Roller Coaster (Aerosmith), Tower of Terror

Disney Hollywood Studios – See ages 0-13 years

California Adventure Park: Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster

Disneyland (Anaheim): Explorer Canoes (its hard work! You actually have to paddle hard)

Disneyland (Tokyo) – Explorer Canoes (its hard work!) 

Tokyo DisneySea: Tower of Terror, Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Universal Studios– See ages 0-13 years

Islands of Adventure: Incredible Hulk coaster, Doctor Doom Fear Fall, Skull Island (the pre-ride queue is the scary part! The actual ride is fine. The pre-ride queue is very long, dark, extremely narrow caves you go through, and someone ‘scares’ you as you walk through (from unseen cave holes), Poseidon’s Fury

So what is the best age?

So what is the best age to take kids to a Disney/Universal Studios park? After writing this post I came to the conclusion – any age is fine to go! The important thing is to ‘just go’ and enjoy your time together. If there are intense rides your younger family members don’t wish to ride – make sure you use the Child Swap feature that is in all parks. Have fun!!

I hope you enjoyed reading about what is the best age to visit a Disney or Universal Park. If you would like to comment please do so in Comments as I would love to hear about your experiences. Please follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/themeparktravelguide

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Until next week,

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My top 6 theme park rides in Orlando and why
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EPCOT World Pavilions Part 1
World of Pandora at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Tips and Advice from WDW Castmember Part 1
What’s inside the Disneyland Castles Part 2
How to plan a Disney Wedding 
Planning Tips for Someone without a Car
Interview with an Annual Passholder -WDW

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