If you’re heading away from Disney World during your Orlando trip, a stop at Universal Studios should definitely be considered! I already discussed the Universal Studios section of the park, but they have a second park called Islands of Adventure that has a lot to offer. And if you’re a big Harry Potter fan it’s worth it to buy a park hopper so you can ride the Hogwarts Express and visit both Harry Potter sections!
Overall I feel like Islands of Adventure has some pretty well themed lands. Some are better than others, and there’s no real overarching theme that ties them all together, but that’s okay. The highlight is definitely the Harry Potter section, which in this park is Hogsmeade. You have a stunning Hogwarts castle, in addition to the shop fronts and the Hogwarts Express that look like they came right out of the movies.
Seuss’s Landing is probably my next favorite, where everything is bright and colorful (though lately it’s a little faded). You’ll spot things from your childhood reading, like the truffula trees or the cat in the hat. The Jurassic area is also fun, with lots of greenery and some fake dinosaurs about. There’s also Toon Lagoon with characters from the Sunday funnies, a superhero area, and the “Lost Continent,” which has a mythology sort of theme.
My favorite ride in this park is surprisingly not one of the Harry Potter rides – it’s the Hulk roller coaster. It’s one of the best roller coasters I’ve been on, with a power launch and tons of twists and loops. It’s very intense so if you’re not big on coasters you may want to skip it! The Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts castle is also an incredible ride that is really unique compared to anything else. And the Dragon Challenge roller coaster is a ton of fun too.
Islands of Adventure tends to have more rides than shows, and like the Studios many of their rides are intense and rely on 3D/simulation effects – in other words, not great for those with a sensitive stomach. Other rides worth mentioning are Jurassic River Adventure (a more intense Splash Mountain style ride with dinosaurs!), Spider-Man, a kiddie coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff, and the Cat in the Hat dark ride.
Islands of Adventure is home to Mythos, which at one point was apparently voted the best theme park restaurant. I’ve eaten here and while it’s decent, it’s nowhere near the quality of some of the really good sit down places at Disney. I did have a fantastic server here though and it was a memorable meal. Most of the other places around the park are your typical theme park foods, with burgers, chicken, fries, etc. You can get some English style fare over at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.
This park has two main shows, and I admit I’ve seen neither of them. They are both in the Lost Continent and one is the Sinbad stunt show, and the other is called Poseidon’s Fury, a special effects show – and from what I’ve heard, it’s one of those things that’s “so bad it’s good.” There’s also a storytelling event for kids in Seuss Landing, and an entertaining interactive fountain in the Lost Continent. The fountain talks, tells riddles, and will try to squirt unexpecting tourists passing by. We spent a lot of time watching and laughing while kids played with this fountain!
You’ll find most of your typical Universal merchandise in Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World has lots of fun Harry Potter stuff, including Ollivanders where you can get a wand. Each land has stuff related to that area (Marvel stuff in the superhero area, Seuss toys in Seuss Landing, etc.), but two other stores are worth mentioning. There is actually a comic book store in the Marvel area where you can find tons of classic comics. And in Seuss Landing, there is a book store where you should be able to find any Dr. Seuss book you might want.
Have you been to Islands of Adventure? What’s your favorite ride or attraction?