Islands of Adventure is home to the most exciting and extreme rides at Universal Orlando, with 19 attractions and some of the most extreme rollercoasters in Orlando, all set within several themed islands. This is why this is the most popular choice with families with older children and we couldn’t wait to get our second day at Universal Orlando started.
This is a beautiful park, really spacious and well-designed and after stopping for photos next to the Pharos Lighthouse, we entered the first area of the park, Port of Entry designed to resemble an open-air bazaar filled with cafes, restaurants and shops including my favourite Christmas store. I love the iconic inscription “Let the Adventure Begin!” written on the stone archway that all visitors walk under into the park.
With 12 and 15 year old adrenaline junkies to keep satisfied we set ourselves the target of completing as many of the parks best rides as possible in a day. First up was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, one of the parks most popular rides and the only one with no Express pass, this is where staying on-site can be of benefit as guests get early morning access into the park.
I would recommend downloading the Universal app to your phone which provides the latest wait time for rides and allows you to plan you day accordingly. We used this to check for Hagrids, and with queues over 60 minutes we stopped off on-route at one of the parks most colourful and fun lands, Suess Landing.
While the big thrill rides understandable grab the headlines, Suess Landing is a great area for families and some of my personal favourites are here.
We started off at One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Universal’s answer to the Dumbo ride but much more fun, before taking an aerial view of the surrounding area on The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride.
This land really brings out your inner child, Holly loved it here and it brought back so many memories when the girls were younger. After taking a spin on the one of a kind Caro-Seuss-el and riding through the Cat in the Hat book, which as a ride is far superior to Winnie the Pooh at Disney it was time to enter the rest of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hogsmeade.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
Out of the two Harry Potter areas in the parks, Hogsmeade was our favourite with some of the best rides you’ll find anywhere in the world. One of which was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, where we rode Hagrid’s motorbike through the Forbidden Forest.
This rollercoaster has everything, a backward section, a freefall drop, and multiple launches it was well worth the hour long wait. Much like Diagon Alley, even if you are not a Harry Potter fan seeing how Universal have brought the movies to life here is awe inspiring.
Hogsmeade is just like it is in the movies, with its snow covered rooftops to the life size Hogwarts castle, the attention to detail here is incredible. The sweets and treats in Honeydukes was a definite highlight for the kids and you can even send a Harry Potter postcard home from the Owl Post which comes complete with its own Hogsmeade postmark.
With our belongings safely stored in the lockers (Universal provide free lockers by many of their rides) next up was the family friendly coaster, Flight of the Hippogriff. This was only a short ride but offers some of the best views of Hogwarts, which we were heading to next and the Forbidden Journey ride.
Wandering through the Hogwarts castle before the ride really is a magical moment, when passing through the corridors, classrooms and staircases on the way to the ride there are so many details to see and bring your phone as there are so many photo opportunities. The Forbidden Journey ride itself is a thrilling dark ride which had us flying over Hogwarts and fighting dementors.
We couldn’t resist trying a Butterbeer from the Hog’s Head, we have tried it previously at the studio tour in London and wasn’t a huge fan but there is a huge range of different types of Butterbeer here and the one we had was pretty nice. After a quick lunch at the Three Broomsticks where we had fish and chips (how very British) we were ready to explore the next land at IOA.
We entered the world of Jurassic Park and seeking respite from the heat we had a blast on Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride, one of the water rides in the stunning Jurassic world with an 85ft water drop.
Jurassic World VelociCoaster is by far the most extreme ride across the two parks which is why its so popular, but with speeds of 70mph and reaching heights of 155ft with 80 degree drops, we skipped this one for the Skull Island and Kong, another popular ride here at Islands of Adventure. We made the most of our time with Express Passes – from £89 each to gain access to all of the best rides here with minimum queue time.
Over the two days one of the best recommendations, we had was using the Universal Studios refillable cups, which not only provide a great souvenir also provide you with unlimited Coca Cola branded drinks throughout the day, the savings can really add up. Another alternative is to use the free filtered water as these stations to refill water bottles instead of paying over $4 for a small bottle of filtered water.
Due to the soaring heat, more water rides were calling and we headed to Toon Lagoon, home to where two of the most extreme water rides are located in Islands of Adventure. We have been waiting to ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls ever since our last trip when it was down for maintenance, but it was worth the wait – nobody minded getting soaked and was the perfect way to get respite from the summer heat as was Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.
Marvel Super Hero Island
The big ride at Marvel Super Hero Island is the gigantic Hulk rollercoaster. Just watching the 67mph launch and its seven inversions was enough for me, I can see why this is classed as one of the most intense rides here.
Whilst Ian and Chloe where shot 185ft in the air on Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, Holly and I did a little retail therapy at the shops here. For a slightly calmer experience we all tried The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, a 3-D simulator dark ride very similar to the Transformer ride at the studios park.
With Islands of Adventure ticked off, we headed back to Hogsmeade to catch the Hogwarts Express back into the Universal Studios park. We spent the rest of our time at Universal revisiting all our favourite parts of the park from Wizarding World to the Simpsons and experiencing rides that we missed on the first day such as ET.
In summary, our two days at Universal Orlando was amazing (you can read about our day at Universal Studios here), I just wish we had more time here. I knew that it would be perfect for teenagers but Universal still really surprised me, although a lot of people compare Disney with Universal they are totally different experiences but this is one that your kids will love.
A day at a theme park is tiring so to make it as stress-free as possible, I’d recommend staying at an onsite hotels at Universal, this is something that we would definitely do next time. What we love about Universal is that you can easily walk from park to park or into the shops and restaurants at CityWalk, something you can’t do at Walt Disney World. Better still if you have a park to park ticket, you can travel between the parks on the Hogwarts Express.
There is so much to see and experience here, the girls are already planning their return trip – Universal Orlando really is a magical theme park offering something to suit all members of the family.
Ready to book?
From the UK, the best value tickets for Universal Orlando’s can be purchased in advance at Attractiontickets.com or FloridaTix – these include unlimited 14 day access to the Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay Water Parks.
For more information on Universal Orlando, its mobile app, parks and hotels – I highly recommend visiting the official Universal Orlando website.