The Islands of adventure is one of the two theme parks located in the Universal Florida Resort. Instead of having one big park which is impossible to cover altogether in one day, the park is split into 2 different independent parks, one the Universal Studios Orlando featuring various film related rides, theaters and production elements and the other a whacked down adrenaline junky’s haven with more thrill rides split into different themed “islands” called the islands of adventure. For this first league of the journey, we will be headed to the Islands of Adventure.
A $90 ticket will get you 2 day access passes to both parks with a 13 day leeway between either both parks. So it will be recommended if you are not intending to visit the park on consecutive days.
Nearing the Port of Entry, the shops on the Universal City walk nearer to the Islands of adventure will start decking out and spotting a rather tribal look and feel, together with air planes and beachside shacks beckoning visitors of the adventure which awaits. The islands itself are all interconnected in a loop, with the park’s main lagoon taking the center stage of the park. Heading east will bring you to Dr Seuss island while west’s the ultra cool Marvel Super hero island. We had to go for the latter as the sound of the incredible hulk coaster just beckons everyone at the entrance.
The Marvel super hero island nicely themed to a comic architecture setting complete with large cutouts of various marvel comics characters and generically labeled signs in front of all the stores on the street such as: “Store,” “Shop,” “Food,” and “Comics. The comic-book styled island is home to many super hero mascots for photographs and even a daily Superhero parade.
Flaunting the ride on your entrance to the park is the Incredible Hulk coaster, which is a hulk of a B&M seated incline launch coaster. The coaster starts off with a storyline with Dr. Bruce Banner finding a control and antidote to his mutation on the ride’s slow hill climb, his antidote failed catastrophically, transforming into the hulk rage. This is where the coaster’s iconic mid hill-lift launch sequence starts, propelling the train up to it’s first zero-g turn and awesome B&M trademark boomerang and full loop. With these inversions, no items are allowed to be carried on board the train, but as with all Universal rides in this park, good thing they have lockers with a free 30min grace periods, so we can deposit them for the duration of the ride.
Dr Doom’s free-fall ride is a standard high tower skyshot and free-fall with multiple launches. While most free fall towers are just simple free standing structures, Dr Doom’s free-fall is surprisingly well themed, too well for such a simple twin tower drop ride in my opinion. Not that I was complaining- it spots a completely indoor air-conditioned queue line area with cool lighting and sound effects, beckoning of your DOOM as you load up for the ride. And man do the views of Orlando and the islands fantastic from the top of the tower.
Marvel Super Hero Island panorama:
The adventure of Spiderman is one of my favorite rides in the the park. It is a 3D track based action movie, with your ride vehicle moving on rails with localized 6 degrees of motion for the mobile vehicle synced to various movie screens, smoke water and fire effects. It is a very cool 3D ride, not to mention popular, despite an advertised 45min wait time at the entrances, the single rider queue had only a 5 minute time, much to our delight.
On board, the crawler simulates a ride through town, only to be thrown and picked-up and flung all about town as Spide tries to safe both the city and you, whether it’s flying or climbing 40 floors though the streets of New York, thrown off a bridge or flushed down the sewers, it’s a ride which will leave you feeling totally awesome after going on it for the first time. Good to hear that a similar “Transformers the ride” is opening in Universal Hollywood and Singapore next summer and this winter respectively utilising similar ride technology.
Toon lagoon is the following island linking out of the other end of the Super hero island. This segment is comically themed, well literally to that of the Sunday funnies, with many comic strip character such as Dagwood, Popeye, Betty bop all coming to life in this universal incarnation of Disneyland’s toontown. The catch is only that this is after all a Lagoon, so this one is much wetter with lots of random squirting fountains and water elements, much to many children’s delight in getting soaked in the hot Florida weather.
Toon Lagoon panorama by Popeye’s Statue:
Having emphasized the lagoon part of the island, this sector is home to several toony water rides such as the Popeye river rapids, which runs all round various parts of the island as well as the Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. The Ripsaw is a log flume ride with a semi coaster rail element for the plunge portion of the ride. Opened on 1999, it is one of the park’s original attractions and is themed and inspired by the Dudley Do-Right character created by cartoonists Jay Ward and Alex Anderson. The pre-ride show features the Snidely Whiplash’s hideout, which is a theater that spoofs movies such as “Jaws,” “Silence of the Lambs” and “Star Wars”.
Next up will be the Jurassic park (JP) sector. This place is well, all dino orientated. The visitor center here is an exact replica of the one in the movies, complete with the iconic stairwell and dueling dinosaurs at the round atrium. Have a go at the various dino trivial in the center or meet an InGen scientist. Dino land is home to the trade marked Jurassic River adventure boat ride, which is an alternative to the visitor land tour, allowing you to see the dinosaurs from the rivers, of course not with things going wrong and the dinosaurs running lose with the boat tour ending with a fantastic splash out of the main complex right at the end, complete with splash zones from the outside viewing areas.
The heavily forested areas in this part of the park is a perfect place for a dino-themed playground including an adult rock wall and children Jurassic exploration area complete with large prehistoric trees. The flying Pterodactyl ride also resides here, allowing you to swiftly and stealthily glide above the tree tops in the Pteranodon dino flyers.
The Discovery food court here located in the JP visitor center is also another major venue for the “$20 Meal deal” all you can eat in the park for a day, besides the other outlets at the Marvel Super Hero and Dr Seuss island. The front entrance of the visitor center offers great overlooking views of the islands of adventure and the Super Hero island’s hulk coaster from across the man-made lagoon.
Crossing the bridge off JP will bring to you to a rather scenic sight of the park, if not one of the best sights in the park itself. Here the Hogwarts castle sits on the mountain to the left while the route to the Hogsmeade Village is up to your right- Welcome to The Wizarding world of Harry Potter. A little history, the Hogsmeade Village, or simply Hogsmeade was founded by medieval wizard Hengist of Woodcroft and the only settlement in Britain inhabited solely by magical beings, and is located to the northwest of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You might be familiar with it being featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The scene here in Hogsmeade is unreal in the hot Florida weather and sort of plays with your mind with seemingly unreal snow capped houses in 90°F heat.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the section’s signature attraction, it is an indoor dark ride located right in the Hogwarts castle itself. Waiting time is surprisingly short despite the huge crowds here. The ride car itself is a 4 in row “magic broom stick” which are actually kuka-like robotic arms mounted on a transversing rail track. This ride is one of the find examples of the uses of the new Robo coaster for interactive ride and storytelling through multiple degrees of freedom, simulating the feel of broom flight as we join Potter and his friends through flights in his Wizarding world and because of possible inversion. Over shoulder restraints are standard on this ride.
The Harry potter ride too bring brings together ghostly and dragon animatronics together with smoke and mist effects coupled with seemless transitions to the video theatrical performances as you fly through different parts of the ride. Just off the Castle is the Forbidden Forest, home to a Vekoma junior roller coaster. The Flight on the Hippogriff is a small family roller coaster located in this vegetated area just between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, it’s your typical kiddie coaster with a first drop and lots of helixes and small hops.
Located at the end of Hogsmeade by the train station is the Dragon Challenge attraction, also known as The dueling dragons coaster. These dueling coasters are 2 separate B&M inverted coasters. Built together in a dual coaster dueling configuration. At the queue lines, you have a choice of sides in the challenge going with either the blue or red, choose wisely for your choice of dragon for the dragon challenge. Check out my video below for a ride showcase and on-ride POV I made on both coasters for a side-by side comparison.
The Dragon Challenge:
Both coasters are similar, launched from the station together and follows a near identical path, with slight differences in nature and timings, starting with very similar inversion such as the B&M trademark boomerang, few barrel rolls and eventually the iconic dueling double loop. The loop is the fun part where riders legs come close within meters of each other as both dragons make their full loop inversion “clash”. Totally goes with the theme of the dragon fight.
Being a B&M inverted coaster freak, the Dueling dragons coaster was an instant favorite which brings back old memories of the Nemesis coaster back in Alton towers (which is more awesome). There is a returning riders queue at the exit of the coaster, allowing you to pop by right into the lines on your first ride, presumably added for returning riders not having to re-walk the whole queue line for a re-ride on the second coaster. After all, going on one coaster is just half of the dragon challenge. Due to time constraint, I rode the coaster about 3 times in total, nothing compared to my record of 20.
Also The Dragon challenge coaster here was initialy a standalone dual B&M inverted dueling coaster in the Lost Continent section of the park, which is later relabeled into the newly themed Harry Potter Wizarding world. The town ends with a pass to the village’s Train station and Steam locomotive, remember to get directions from the Hogsmeade conductor for departures to platform 9 & 3/4 in London Kings cross!
The connecting Lost Continent section of the park from Hogsmeade is the only section without much thrill rides but rather home to many cool theatrical performances. The area is largely themed to an Arabian maketplace, which really put the hot Florida climate in proper context unlike the snowcapped Hogsmeade where we came from. There are many waterfalls not to mention a remote controlled squirty fountain which speaks and fires targeted jets of water to people all around it.
Here you can catch The Sinbad live stunt spectacular at various planned timings as listed in your park map. It is an indoor stunt show featuring Sinbad and his pals in search for treasure, together with his trusty cowardly sidekick.
The theater is indoor so it’s unaffected by the unpredictable Florida weather. Here you meet the main characters of the show- giant treasure chest, bad guys, lots of stunts and pyrotechnics for an explosive stunt show worth your time. Of course with the show baddie killed in a sea of fire and the hero saving his damsels in distress. Plain and simple and perfect for all ages which the pyrotechnics possibly scaring smaller children to bits. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?
Following up was Poseidon’s Fury. It is a walk-through theatrical effects showcase and together with the Sinbad stunt show, is one of the few highlighted attractions of the Lost continent. Flaunting the attraction entrance is a rather neat looking weathered castle ruin, besides the rather prominent trident at the attraction entrance, hinting a bit or two about what to expect inside. The castle itself is perfect for photo opportunities and whoa is the structural attention to detail breathtakingly awesome.
The thing which makes Poseidon’s Fury different from most walk through ones is the presence of life actors, in this case our tour guide to the professors base camp inside the lost temple, you start off shadowing the archaeological dig with your guide, only to find yourself trapped in the temple after awakening an evil being residing in the temple. It’s not long after finding Poseidon’s “pitch fork” where we were able to control various water elements at the flick of the tool, as well as opening up many caverns within the temple, including a spiraling centrifuge water tunnel.
The trident itself, being a magical tool offers a battle scene at the last cavern, complete with an iconic combination of pyrotechnics (the bad guys) and water elements (the good guys) putting together a choreographed fight scene with water projected images. The fight ends with the bad guys defeated and all the “hostages” freed from the temple itself.
That pretty is much for what’s left of the Lost Continent section of the park now. Our next island is a place to all things rhythmy and hatty. What other way to put it better than with Dr Seuss and the iconic Cat in the Hat.
The Seuss island is somewhat similar to the toon lagoon in terms of the outrageous toony architecture and theming, complete with wacky twisty walkways. Even the overly large gumball machines, lamp posts and rainbow ladened sweet stores don’t look out of place here. The Seuss landing is decked out with touchings of many characters seen in the Dr Seuss line of books and cartoons, which can be seen hiding and littered through the island. The area here is also home to the Grinch, one two red fishes as well as the circus carnival. The Seuss Trolley tram ride encircles the whole area, offering vantage views of the circus and surrounding Seuss neighborhoods.
Whether it’s living with the whos who or being chased with thing 1 and 2. It’s quite a whacked out place with lots of very nicely painted and themed fixtures settings. Rides here are somewhat children-family orientated, but not totally a kiddie land or sort, so it’s fine for adults alike of all ages. Here, you can catch the The Cat in the Hat through various theater screens as well as a motorised train attraction. The McGurkus circus cafe is also the sector’s feeding area for guests and is the third meal deal area of the park on our visit. The Seuss trollery even passes through the buffet area as part of it’s ride. Food wise, the spread is an all american mix and different from the other eating places in the park. Just too bad you can only grab a main comprising of (pizza, spaghetti or chicken caesar salad) with a side on each order, having the need for multiple trips for more food.
Good thing the weather held up until closing for us. As with all Florida weather, it is always dead sunny in the morning and afternoons and heavy downpours in the late afternoons/evenings. Do note that unlike the theme parks in Singapore, bad weather and impending storms with lightning and rain will close all the outdoor rides in the park until further notice, which happened in our case, but good thing we already had all our rides done for that evening. So it’s just a matter of chilling out at the citywalk for some souvenirs and T-shirts before catching our a bus back to international drive at 8.40pm for dinner.
In summer, Orlando’s still bright at 8pm, so you might potentially lose track of time still thinking it’s early. The park’s closing time ranges from 6 to 8pm depending on the daily schedule, so do check your park’s opening timetable for updated timing. In all, Islands of Adventure is a really cool park to visit, it’s a break away from the family like culture in Disneyland and spot many more thrill rides of my taste, definitely a recommendation for any visit to Orlando.
- New York City & Brooklyn (Photos: New York City & Brooklyn)
- New York Hudson River Cruise, Wall street and Rockefeller Center
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- Orlando, Florida & Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort (Photos: Disney Magic Kingdom)
- Orlando Disneyland Hollywood (MGM) Studios (Photos: Disneyland Hollywood Studios)
- NASA- Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Cape Canaveral (Photos: Kennedy Space Center)
- Islands of Adventure, Orlando Florida (Photos: Islands of Adventure)
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- Cedar Point coaster kingdom, Sandusky Ohio (Photos: Cedar Point)