The original Universal Studios Florida theme park always has been a grownup-geared playground, from its earlier Jaws, Kong and Earthquake adventures to today’s scary Mummy-themed roller coaster and explosives-laden 3D Terminator show.
Not much for the little ones there… which is why you don’t see nearly as many strollers and toddlers as at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
However, original Universal (as opposed to the newer Islands of Adventure) does have one under-appreciated area where little kids could spend an entire day – Fievel’s Playland.
Fievel Mousekewitz, if you recall, is a non-Disney animated-mouse-turned-theme-park-attraction – this one a Russian-immigrant talking rodent dating from the 1986 film, An American Tail (and later, Fievel Goes West).
Tucked away down a side path between the Animal Actors stage and the ET Adventure ride, Fievel’s Playland probably gets missed even by families with young kids. Last time I was there in October, hardly anybody was playing there.
The front of the playland is a very nice area with sliding boards and climbing apparatus, themed after oversized objects in the Fievel films. There’s also a tame but authentic small roller coaster that’s perfect for 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds getting their first taste of this wooze-inducing invention.
My hunch is that people assume that’s it and don’t continue back where the really impressive and innovative elementary-age fun happens.
This part of the playland is a watery kid village with fountains, bubblers, rope-activated showers and giant buckets dumping water off the play buildings’ roofs.
Keep going and you enter a “Ball Factory” that’s filled with fun things to do with thousands of spongy pink balls. You can suck them up with big vacuum hoses, dump them into sorter machines, or shoot them out of bazookas.
I can just picture our 3½-year-old granddaughter encountering this whole place for the first time. She’d run around like a pinball from one place to another, playing at X-Games speed in fun-overload mode until conking out from exhaustion. No way she’d want to leave.
That puts Moms and Dads in a quandary because they’ve shelled out $120 or so for a park ticket that includes Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, The Simpsons’ town of Springfield, a Shrek show and those Terminator and Mummy attractions (plus much more). Where do you draw the line between letting little Joshie have the best play day of his young life vs. getting full value of those expensive tickets?
I’ll let you figure that one out. Maybe that’s where Grandma and Grandpa come in. They probably don’t want to get on that deadly Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster anyway.