Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Orlando, Florida, USA
“The home of Harry Potter, Spiderman, The Hulk and Popeye”
Welcome back at Universal Orlando Resort. In my previous report, I focused on the studio theme park, which didn’t exactly blow my mind. The resort’s second park, however, looks considerably more attractive. I’m talking about a legendary place called Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Since its opening in 1999, the park has received many ecstatic reviews. Many enthusiasts describes it as the world’s best theme park, thanks to its wonderful collection of roller coasters, dark rides and water attractions. Islands of Adventure reinforced its immortal status in 2010 by opening the widely acclaimed Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Needless to say… it’s a pleasure to be here.
This might come as a surprise, but Islands of Adventure delivered an underwhelming coaster experience during our most recent trip. This was mainly due to the removal of Dragon Challenge. This duelling B&M inverted coaster closed in September 2017 and Universal will erect an entirely new Harry Potter-themed family coaster on this plot of land. Unfortunately, this leaves a big gap in the park’s coaster department. We aren’t able to ride Pteranodon Flyers at the Jurassic Park section and Flight of the Hippogriff is nothing more than a standard Vekoma Junior Coaster.
The only notable roller coaster currently in operation is The Incredible Hulk. This enormous machine underwent a major overhaul in 2015 and 2016, but it’s now ready for a few more decades of B&M goodness. The Incredible Hulk is characterized by its impressive launch in a tunnel, but it doesn’t stop there. The ride is fast… very fast actually. Due to these high speeds, the inversions and turns create an incredibly intense feeling. Especially the second part, which is full of tight curves, causes a slight greyout in my head. I don’t consider this as a bad thing, though. The Incredible Hulk is a world-class roller coaster and the lakeside location is very sexy.
Talking about sexy… the park offers free wet T-shirt contests year-round. Islands of Adventure has 3 large water attractions and their wetness varies from ‘refreshing’ to ‘downright soaking’. The epicentre of this water ride madness is Toon Lagoon. This colourful section of the park is home to Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. The latter is undoubtedly one of the world’s most legendary rapid rivers. It’s almost impossible to exit the raft without being totally drenched. Of course this isn’t a problem, as Central Florida has high temperatures 300 days a year. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (log flume) is a little less soaking, but it offers a thrilling and surprisingly pleasant ride nevertheless.
The third and final water ride is Jurassic Park River Adventure. This shoot-the-chute doesn’t only contain a 26-metre descent, but it’s also an immersive boat ride through Jurassic Park. Despite the fact that I’ve always adored this attraction, I should note that it’s currently not in its best shape. River Adventure could use a major overhaul and/or some extra special effects, if you ask me. Jurassic World, anyone?
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the star attraction at the Wizarding World. The ride has an incredibly beautiful queue and the ride itself is very unique. That’s mainly due to the transportation system, which involves robotic arms and revolving theatre screens. Incredible hardware, but I must admit that Forbidden Journey fails to amaze me. The ride uses a combination of real props and screen-based parts, but the transitions between these scenes aren’t subtle at all. Besides, this attraction has always had a slightly nauseating effect on me. Don’t get me wrong… I understand why Forbidden Journey is such a crowd pleaser, but I’m not that fond of it.
Fortunately, Islands of Adventure offers another world-class dark ride at the opposite side of the park. I’m talking about The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, possibly the best non-Disney dark ride ever. This was an opening day attraction at Islands of Adventure, so it’s almost 20 years old. However, the experience just keeps getting better and better during each ride. Especially the final scene (in which you’re being virtually transported to the top of a skyscraper) blows my mind every single time. This is Universal at its best.
A child-friendly dark ride (The Cat in the Hat) can be found at Seuss Landing. It’s surprisingly long and it features funny narration, but the theming level is so-so. It fits perfectly within Seuss Landing, though. This area is extremely colourful and a bit chaotic, but it’s got a very cheerful atmosphere and it’s very photogenic.
The Lost Continent used to be the park’s most beautiful area, but the land has gradually lost most of its charm. The only remaining attactions is Poseidon’s Fury. I could describe this as a walk-through with some live performance elements, but I’m afraid that I’ll raise your expectations by saying that. Poseidon’s Fury has a certain flair and the building’s exterior looks fantastic, but it’s still a rather mediocre experience.
The most unique ride at Universal Orlando Resort is the Hogwarts Express. Train rides and monorails aren’t that unusual at theme parks, but this attraction is different. On the one hand, it’s an elaborately themed experience which totally immerses you in the Harry Potter universe. On the other hand, it acts as a link between both Universal theme parks. There are stations in Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (Universal Studios), so the Hogwarts Express always drops you off at the other park. Because of this, Hogwarts Express is only available for visitors with 2-park admission passes. If you possess such a 2-park ticket, be sure to use the Hogwarts Express at least once for park-hopping.
WORTH A VISIT?
In my opinion, Islands of Adventure is superior to Universal Studios Florida. The latter is a rather static amusement park with lots of concrete buildings and a 3D overdose. Islands of Adventure has found a better balance between all different attraction types. The park offers two awesome dark rides, three great water attractions and Seuss Landing is a wonderful area for families with young children. The park currently lacks an extra signature roller coaster, but I’m sure that this problem will be solved soon. Overall, Universal’s Islands of Adventure lives up to the expectations. So yes, I’d definitely recommend a visit to this park if you’re planning a trip to Florida.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Photo Gallery 2014 & 2017
PORT OF ENTRY
THE LOST CONTINENT
WIZARDING WORLD – HOGSMEADE
MARVEL SUPER HERO ISLAND
Do you belong to Team Harry Potter or Team Spider-Man? Is Incredible Hulk the most intense coaster in Orlando? And do you consider Islands of Adventure as one of the world’s best theme parks? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.