Universal Islands of Adventure is one of two theme parks in the Universal area of Orlando in Florida and it is the better of the two in my opinion, with six different worlds to keep you entertained . . .
by dkm1981 on October 19, 2012
===Toon Lagoon===This is the second of the worlds if you walk round the park in a clockwise position and features characters mainly from Popeye. It is very brightly coloured although it is quite small and there are only three rides between the shops and themed street decorations. The first ride, Me Ship, The Olive is one that will appeal to younger visitors, although it is not so much a ride as a huge boat construction that you can wander round and play interactive games like shooting water canons and the like. The second ride is Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges and involves getting wet. Very wet in fact. To be honest I thought it was pretty lame and it just seemed to involve going round a series of very tame flumes and getting water dumped on you. It is good for younger visitors who like just a little bit of a thrill though it does have an over 42 inch height restriction. The last ride was undoubtedly the best and is called Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls. There was almost always a queue for this ride, even though we visited in the quiet time of October, but it is absolutely worth waiting for. You’ll get soaked (this seems to be the theme in this part of the park), but it is quite a long log flume type ride that has a couple of little dips and one big one. We thoroughly enjoyed this one.===The Lost Continent===This is a really small area and seems to be nothing more than a bit of a filler in the park to be honest. I’m afraid that I can’t really say much about the two attractions in this area because we didn’t go in them. Mainly because they never seemed to be open when we were passing through. The Eight Voyage of Sinbad Stunt show only takes places three times a day (at least it did at the time we visited, it may open more in summer) and Poseidon’s Fury is a guided special effects tour that we didn’t really fancy. We did though enjoy The Mystic Fountain which was a fountain in the centre that cracks jokes at passers by and squirts water at them – it was quite amusing to watch really.===Seuss Landing===Is the one area of the park that is entirely aimed at young visitors and features characters like The Cat In The Hat. There is a little merry-go-round which is (rather cleverly, I thought) Caro-Seuss-El and features a selection of Dr Seuss’ most popular characters. There’s a trolley ride that passes, very slowly, over the park and a couple of interactive play areas. We didn’t go on any of the rides here but we did enjoy wandering round because it was a fun place to be and the shops all included a lot of bright souvenirs that seemed to delight the children that were in here.
This was one of my favourite areas of the park because I love the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride. It is (another) log flume that starts off a bit like the film where you are taking a gentile ride through Jurassic Park and learning about the dinosaurs that live there. But, part way through your boat goes off course and you end up in the carnivore enclosure where the raptors and T-Rex are playing havoc. The only way out is down a particularly high water shoot of course. It’s great and because the boats that go round it seat about 25 people each, the queues for it are never that big. The animatronics throughout the ride are very impressive too. If you want to see what the ride is like before you have a go, you can go to the splash zone and watch people coming down the chute. Although do beware, it does exactly what it says it does and you will get soaked - more so than you do on the ride itself in fact!There is another ride called Pteranodon Flyers, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you too much about this one because it is only for people under 56 inches unless you are flying with someone under 36 inches. The kids riding it seemed to be having a lot of fun on it though. The whole of Jurassic Park is good for children though because there are a couple of other things that they’ll enjoy, including the Discovery Centre which is a bit like the one on the film where you can do various things like seeing what you would look like as a dinosaur and watching an egg hatch. It’s quite fun though and we spent a bit of time here wandering around. The final attraction here is Camp Jurassic which kids will love as it involves huge dinosaur nets and caves to explore, we loved being like two big kids in this bit and there are some water guns at the top where you can take aim at unsuspecting people walking past underneath!There are lots of shops here where you can get Jurassic Park souvenir and all kinds of things for even pocket money budgets. There is also a restaurant near the Discovery Centre that sells the burger and chip type thing that you’d expect and there are plenty of tables so you can rest your weary feet at what is about the halfway point in the park.
When you enter the park, if you walk in a clockwise direction, this is the first area you come to. The first thing I noticed about this island is that it is loud, which sort of goes with the theme of superhero and everything seemed supersized as well. I’m not a big superhero fan but I recognised enough of the characters to appreciate the theme. There are characters wandering around area during the day who are happy to pose for photographs and sign autograph books, which seemed to delight guests both young and old (to be honest I think most of the older guests were looking to pose with Storm rather than any of the male characters!). The attractions in this area were good, although they are more geared towards older guests. There is a roller coaster on which riders seem to spend more time upside down than the right way up. I didn’t go on it (I’m a total wimp) but my husband loved it and went on it more than once. He said that it was just scary enough to feel the adrenaline rush but not so much that it wasn’t fun. There was a ride called Storm Force Acceleration that sounds a lot better than it was because it was essentially just a spinning teacup ride, we did appreciate the tongue in cheek way that the ride announcer declared it to be ‘the best ride in the world’! Doctor Doom’s Fearfall was one of those rides that it a huge upright construction where you are thrown up and down, so that it feels like you are driving too fast over one of those little humped bridges. The final ride here, and my favourite by far, was The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It is a 3-D ride and you have to wear glasses, but they are the cheap card ones that fall off, which is good because you do get a little bit thrown about in the ride. There is a height restriction of 40 inches, but it isn’t scary and I thing younger fans will enjoy it as much as older ones. The ride is very clever and the 3-D thing is impressive and works well. Most importantly, it lasts a couple of minutes, so it does feel like you are getting valued even if you have had to queue for a while. In between all of the rides, there are the expected shops and restaurants where you can buy all manner of marvel themed souvenirs of your visit.
I am a massive Harry Potter fan and this area was without a doubt my favourite of all the places we visited in the whole of Orlando. My husband is not a fan, but he still loved it and appreciated the amazing attention to detail that made the place so good. The area is based on Hogwarts school and the nearby magical village of Hogsmeade. You can do everything that you would expect to do in the places including getting a picture of the Hogwarts Express train, have a pint of Butterbeer (which was very nice even though we couldn’t quite work out what it was) in The Three Broomsticks (a pub that sells typical English food) and watch a sing song by a group of Hogwarts pupils. Walking through the shops was a treat though because they sell all of the things that feature in the books. Ollivander’s Wand Shop sells all of the wands of the main characters and you can even see the real thing in a demonstration at the back of his shop. You can get all kinds of treats in Honeydukes which sells things like chocolate frogs, sugar quill lollies and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. Or you can head to Zonkos and get magic tricks and the like. Even for those who detest shopping in theme parks, you can’t fail to enjoy this as it is part of the whole experience.Aside from all of this, there are three rides. I was actually surprised at the selection of rides in the area because I didn’t think they were particularly suitable for children. Maybe they feel like they have covered the younger visitors with all of the things I have already mentioned. The first ride is The Dragon Challenge which is a full on roller coaster with loops, dips and everything in between. I didn’t go on it, but my husband said it was pretty scary. Even if you don’t go on it, it is worth wandering up the queuing system to see all of the decorations there such as Hagrid’s hut and the flying Ford Anglia in the Forbidden Forest. The second ride is a much tamer rollercoaster which is thrilling enough for younger visitors but no good for high thrill seekers. The last ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and it is without a doubt the best ride I have even been on. You sit in a four seated car that is attached to the wall at the back and takes you through the ‘thrilling world of Harry Potter’ parts of it are almost like a simulator in front of a screen and parts of it have animatronic features that you pass through. It really is very clever and lasts for at least three minutes I would say. It is so hard to describe but it is brilliant and highly recommended, although I did see one of the younger visitors in floods of tears when he got off because some parts of it are quite scary. The queuing system for this ride goes through the Hogwarts castle and you see all of the features that you recognise including moving paintings on the walls, the sorting hat and the greenhouses outside, which makes the inevitably long waits much more interesting.
Universal Islands of Adventure is one of two theme parks in the Universal area of Orlando in Florida and it is the better of the two in my opinion. My husband and I have just come back from a week’s holiday in the theme park capital of the world and we had a fabulous time in Islands of Adventure which is the home, amongst other things, of the brand new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are six different ‘islands’ in the theme park and they are all completely different, which makes exploring them a whole lot of fun . . . There umpteen places where you can get something to eat throughout the park and it caters for all kinds of things from snacks and quick bites to full blown meals. I didn’t think the prices were that bad to be honest – certainly much less than I thought they were going to be. We got a couple of (huge) slices of pizza and a (huge) soda for the equivalent of about £8. You are free to bring in your own food though if your budget doesn’t extend to theme park prices, although expect to have your bag checked when you enter the park and to have to wait in line to do so.Lots of the rides (especially the ones that do loops and the like) don’t allow you to take loose items onto them, but all of these have free lockers that you can use at the ride entrance. It is an idea though to find one away from a ride entrance and leave your things there until you need them because the queues for lockers can be quite long.The park is, for the most part, a smoke free zone although there are designated smoking areas throughout the park that can be found on the map and are clearly sign posted when you get to them. It is definitely worth getting a map as you enter because they are invaluable for planning your day to get the most out of it and to find out when the character meet and greets are.If you are celebrating a special occasion – everything from your first visit to your honeymoon, then make sure you mention it to the front gate staff because they’ll give you a funky little badge to wear. This is particularly good for those celebrating a birthday because all of the staff throughout the park will make a point of saying happy birthday and making you feel extra special.In terms of ticket prices for getting in to the parks, it is an absolute minefield depending on what you want. You can get tickets for just Islands of Adventure, which are about £50 for one day, although the daily price does go down the more days that you book. The best value if you are staying for a week or more is to get a pass that allows you unlimited entries into a number of parks. We paid about £150 each for a fortnight long ticket that got us into Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios and Wet n’ Wild water park. There are also untold numbers of places you can get tickets from but I would add that it tends to be cheaper if you buy them in advance. For any more information, the Universal website is excellent; www.universalorlando.co.uk
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