Universal's Islands of Adventure

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure opened as Universal Orlando's second gate on May 28, 1999, joining Universal Studios Florida next door. Welcoming more than 10 million guests each year, it's one of America's top 10 most-visited theme parks. The big attraction here is the original The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, which opened in 2010. IOA also includes lands themed to Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Marvel Comics — for which Universal obtained the perpetual east-coast theme park rights years before Disney bought the company.

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Our recommendations below come from our annual survey of Theme Park Insider newsletter subscribers. Locations with star ratings ranked especially highly among our readers. Click here to subscribe to our free, twice-weekly email of theme park news and to participate in the next ranking survey.

Certain locations may not be available due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Rides

Top 10

  1. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure ★ ★ ★ ★
    Multi-launch themed roller coaster located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade. Height requirement: 48 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
  2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ★ ★ ★
    Kuka-arm dark ride located in Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade. Height requirement: 48 inches
    Read Robert Niles' review of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
  3. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ★ ★ ★
    Motion-base 3D dark ride in Marvel Super Hero Island. Height requirement: 40 inches
  4. Incredible Hulk Coaster ★ ★ ★
    Bolliger & Mabillard launch coaster located in Marvel Super Hero Island. Height requirement: 54 inches
  5. Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges
    River rapids ride in Toon Lagoon. Height requirement: 42 inches
  6. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
    3D dark ride in Skull Island. Height requirement: 36 inches
  7. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
    Log flume in Toon Lagoon. Height requirement: 44 inches
  8. Hogwarts Express
    Railway in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade. [Transports visitors one-way to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Therefore, Park-to-Park tickets are required.]
    Read Robert Niles' Hogwarts Express review.
  9. Jurassic Park River Adventure
    Themed shoot-the-chutes flume ride in Jurassic Park. Height requirement: 42 inches

  10. The Cat in the Hat
    Dark ride in Seuss Landing. Height requirement: 36 inches

Other notable attractions include the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, Caro-Seuss-el, and One Fish, Two Fish spinner in Seuss Landing; the Flight of the Hippogriff Vekoma junior coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade; the Camp Jurassic playground and Pteranodon Flyers suspended family glide coaster in Jurassic Park; and the Doctor Doom's Fearfall drop ride and Storm Force Accelatron spinner in Marvel Super Hero Island.

Universal's big new attraction for 2021 will be the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, a double-launched Intamin coaster that opens June 10.

Shows

Top recommendations

  1. Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
    Projection mapping show in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade [Productions may vary by season]
  2. Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular
    Live holiday musical in Seuss Landing. [Plays only in November and December]
  3. Poseidon's Fury
    Mixed-media walk-through show in The Lost Continent

Other notable shows include Ollivander's Wand Shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade and Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park.

Dining

Top recommendations

  1. Mythos Restaurant ★ ★ ★ ★
    Table service dining in The Lost Continent. [Make a reservation at the restaurant to avoid what can be a long wait for a table.]
  2. The Three Broomsticks ★ ★ ★
    Counter service British pub fare in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

Also recommended:

  • Green Eggs and Ham
    Counter service loaded tater tots in Seuss Landing
  • Fire Eater's Grill
    Counter service gyros and chicken in The Lost Continent
  • The Hog's Head Pub
    Bar inside The Three Broomsticks [It's the shortest queue for Butterbeer.]

Map

Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park is part of the Universal Orlando resort, located near the intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike in Orlando, about 17 miles from the Orlando International Airport.

Universal Orlando Resort hotels

Premier
Includes complementary Universal Express Unlimited line-skipping privileges, Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via Water Taxi or the Garden Walk pathway.

Preferred
Includes complementary Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via Water Taxi or the Garden Walk pathway.

Prime Value
Includes complementary Early Park Admission, and access to the parks via bus or the Garden Walk pathway.

Value
Includes complementary Early Park Admission and access to the parks via bus.

Strategy

Before you go: Get your tickets in advance, but note that you do not need to reserve a specific date for your visit. Note that you will need a Park-to-Park ticket (Universal's term for what Disney calls a Park Hopper) to ride the Hogwarts Express, which shuttles riders between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If you don't care about Hogwarts Express, do the one park per day Base Ticket if you would prefer. Once you have your tickets, download and create an account on the Universal Orlando app [Apple | Android], which you will use for Universal's Virtual Line for select rides and Mobile Ordering for food.

We recommend visiting on a Monday through Thursday, if possible. With locals dominating the parks due to ongoing travel restrictions, weekend crowds can bring multi-hour waits for some attractions. Weekday waits are much shorter, with many attractions being walk-ons during the school year.

Universal offers a paid front-of-line ticket called Universal Express but the resort gives that access away for no extra charge to guests at its Premier hotels (listed above). With Universal Express Unlimited benefits starting at $90 per person per day for everyone else, you might find splurging to stay at one of Universal's top three hotels well worth the higher room prices. You get the front-of-line benefit from the day you check in until the day you check out, so a one-night stay at a Premier hotel gets everyone in your family (up to five people) free Universal Express Unlimited access for two days. Follow the links in the "Universal Orlando Resort hotels" section above to check prices and book.

Early Park Admission: If you stay at any Universal Orlando hotel, you will get Early Park Admission, which will get you into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and possibly The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man one hour before the park opens to everyone else. Absolutely take advantage of this, because Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure does not offer Universal Express access and this is the only way to minimize what is usually the longest wait in the park. Arrive as soon as you can, then head to Hagrid's. If you have Universal Express, keep riding Hagrid's until the line gets too long for your liking. If you don't, then head to either Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, based upon your family's preference. (They're both ranked in our global top five, so there's no bad decision there.)

Morning of your visit: If you are not staying at a Premier hotel, wait to make a decision about buying Universal Express until you get into the park and see what the day's crowd level is actually like. Look at the posted wait times on the Universal Orlando app, and if they seem reasonable to you, skip the upcharge. If you want the front-of-line access, you can buy Universal Express inside the park near the front gate and at designated shops.

Whether you get Universal Express or not, use Virtual Line to claim a space to ride Hagrid's, if it is available. If Virtual Line is not in use on the day of your visit, go ahead and make Hagrid's your first stop of the day if you were not able to go during Early Park Admission.

After that, if you have Universal Express, then just do what you want, whenever you would like. Strategy does not matter. But if you don't have Universal Express, you should double back to Marvel Super Hero Island and ride either The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man or Incredible Hulk Coaster next, starting with whichever has the longer wait. (They're just getting longer at this point.) If Virtual Line is available, be sure to claim another slot once your first return time is called.

You will get wet on the Toon Lagoon rides of Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, so consider leaving them for later in the day if you don't want to head back to your hotel to change, spend the money for the "family dryer" or spend the next few hours with wet underwear. Skull Island Reign of Kong is good to bag as early as you can to avoid mid-day lines. Jurassic Park River Adventure also is a water ride, but usually won't drench you like the Toon Lagoon rides.

Pick up the shorter-wait spinner rides, shows and Seuss Landing attractions later in the day. If you are visiting Universal Studios Florida during your trip, do the Ollivander's wand experience over there, as it is usually a shorter wait.

Universal Orlando is not currently offering single rider lines due to social distancing requirements, but if that comes back, take advantage if you are visiting alone. To talk in more detail about visiting Islands of Adventure, please visit our Universal Orlando forum.

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