Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando
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Islands of Adventure is one of the two theme parks in Universal Orlando. It has six lands, some of them a work of art and full of atmosphere.
The most incredible land is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here snow covers the steep rooftops of the British village of Hogsmeade, and Hogwarts Castle looms high above. Every detail is painstakingly beautiful. The staff here, dressed as students and witches, are amazing- they look wonderful! Make sure you eat at Three Broomsticks, where the staff look fantastic and the food is good. Try the delicious shepherds pie that comes with a salad. Avoid the peanut butter ice cream and the apple pie. There are three rides in this land: The Flight of the Hippogriff is a small roller coaster that even a four or five year old can handle (must be 36" tall) but adults will enjoy too. It doesn't have anything imaginative but it is quite fast. This ride is very short so don't waste time waiting for it if the line is long. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride (kids must be 48" to ride, but it is way too scary for young kids) is impressive for sure, and it's wonderful to walk into the castle as you approach the ride, but I found that the graphics were blurry and the ride itself was jerky. The flying scenes are very fun though. The Dragon Challenge (kids must be 54" to ride) is a roller coaster that I saw someone pewk after! Don't bother standing in line for the Ollivander's Wand Shop demonstration- it is not worth the wait at all, as it is a very short demonstration where the storekeeper asks two audience-members to wave wands and make a bell ring and make a ladder move, both of which don't quite work right. It is cute enough, but not after a half hour wait. This land gets crowded and claustrophobic, so come early in the day.
Jurassic Park is an absolutely beautiful land of tropical plants. Mists of water come through sprayers cooling you and adding to the atmosphere. Kids will adore the steep impressive rope playground called Camp Jurassic. Get in line early for Pteranodon Flyers because the line can be an hour long later in the day. Only children are allowed to ride this ride- they must be 36-56 inches tall and one accompanying adult is allowed with each child. The ride is very short but it feels lovely to ride fast and high over the rainforest. The Jurassic Park River Adventure (kids must be 42" tall to ride) takes you through a misty primordial forest until a sudden, wet plunge at the end- don't ride unless you want to get wet (or have a poncho). Kids love it.
Toon Lagoon is less appealing with its garish colors, lack of shade, and rides that leave you soaking wet, though on hot days these are great, and there are also statues that spray water to cool you down. There is a ship playground for little kids. Ripsaw Falls (must be 48" to ride) is a water ride with animatronic figures and a very steep drop at the end. You will get drenched unless you have a poncho. The "people dryers" don't work, so be warned!
Marvel Super Hero Island has a memorable ride, the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. The graphics are incredible, and you will be riveted. I was amazed that my five year old daughter (kids must be 40" tall to ride) was not scared, because the ride had very scary imagery and puffs of cold, heat, and water. It was also very jerky. She loved it and wanted to ride again. Go early in the day- this is a popular ride. Doctor Doom's Fearfall (must be 52" to ride) takes you up 150 feet for a great view of the park, and then drops you down.
Seuss Landing is a masterpiece! People who say Islands of Adventure is not good for young kids are mistaken! How could you NOT come here with your kids? The look on my daughter's face after she rode the Seuss rides was the best part of my day. Just walking through this land and enjoying the imagery makes coming to Islands of Adventure worthwhile. Early in the day, take Cat in the Hat, a popular ride. This one jerks you around a bit so hold tight. The colorful imagery is wonderful and will make you happy. Do not miss this ride!! Take the High in the Sky Trolley Train ride (it says "Sneetches In" at the entrance) for a great view of the park, and a fun reminder of the Sneetches book (must be 34" to ride). You can ride the fish- similar to the dumbo ride at Disney though it makes you wet. And there's also a carousel full of Seuss characters. There is an "If I Ran The Zoo" playground for little kids.
The Lost Continent has mythological architecture on a grand scale. It is an older area of the park with no rides but two shows which feel a bit outdated. The Poseidon's Fury show is a one-man act- I never really like one-man acts. It moves slowly but has interesting effects at the end. You must stand the whole time in this show and a bossy lady forbids kids and teens from sitting down. The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show is fun, and reminds you of comic TV shows such as He-Man or She-Ra. This makes it very interesting to 5 year olds. There is some cool sword-fighting and plenty of effects such as water, fire, and even fireworks. There are also stunts such as people swinging on ropes, being engulfed in flames, and falling from high above into water. In this land, the architecture in the middle eastern bazaar is lovely, and there is an outdoor gyros cafe here. If you want to eat in style, make reservations at Mythos Restaurant, famous for its decor, views, and food.
There is a LOT of walking at this park, starting with passing through Universal Citywalk in order to get to the park from the parking lot. Wear good sneakers. Also wear sunscreen and a hat as you don't always have shade while walking around. We came on a Friday in October and it wasn't that crowded. Buy your tickets online because the wait at the ticket counter is bad. Florida residents must wait at the ticket counters to pick up their tickets- don't go to the Will Call windows as they won't help you. Make sure you arrive half an hour before opening at the park so you can enjoy the morning hours when it's less crowded.
This park is beautiful, exciting, and fun for kids aged 4 and up, and teens too. Reviews that say there isn't anything for kids are way wrong! This park is made for kids. It would be a shame for kids to miss out on the wonder to be found here.
After a day at any theme park, your legs will be too tired to go the next day. Take a break for a day before hitting any other parks such as Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios. Some things you could do on a rest day are: swim in the pool and bike ride at your hotel (my favorite is Hyatt Grand Cypress), sit by the lake at the Harry Leu gardens, walk around the small, fascinating Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, or eat at a French cafe and sit by the rose garden and fountains in wonderful Winter Park town. One of the most memorable rest day activities is to go on a Boggy Creek airboat ride to see an alligator or two.
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Exit Florida Turnpike (Hwy 91) at Highway 4 westbound. After 1.5 miles, exit onto Kirkman Rd. After 3/4 mile, turn left on Vineland Rd. Turn left on Universal Blvd.
Parking costs $20 per day.
Entrance to the park costs about $88 for a day. Look at their website before you go to choose the best price for you. If you buy more days at the park, it costs less per day such as $43 per day for a four-day ticket (to be used at either of the two parks within 2 weeks). Florida residents can find special rates on the website too (we paid $129 for three days, to be used at either of the two parks before the end of January- amazing!). There are also Park-to-Park tickets that let you go between the two parks during the day.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.