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In my previous post I expounded on my opinion of the various attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.  I’d always meant to do the same for the attractions at Islands of Adventure, but was waiting until I’d been able to visit the Harry Potter area.  I was able to get down there about a month ago but hadn’t gotten around to making this post. Yesterday, though, I found out a friend of mine is going down there for vacation, so I decided to take some time and put down my opinions. I’ll split this into the different sections/islands in the theme park and give my opinions of the various attractions/shops/restaurants therein.  If I don’t mention a particular place, it means I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other.  I’ll try to comment on all of the rides, so this will likely only apply to shops or restaurants.  With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

Port of Entry

This is where you enter the park and the first thing you see as you walk in.  It’s reminiscent of a mediterranean/middle eastern bazaar.  With that in mind, the area is populated exclusively with shops and restaurants.  There are no rides here.  With that being said, here’s what I suggest checking out. Islands of Adventure Trading Company – This is a large shop that holds a variety of items from the different areas of the park.  It’s also where you’ll pick up items if you were shopping in the individual areas and had them hold the items up front for pick up.  If you find a store in a particular location that you don’t want to deal with the crowds at (I’m looking at you, Olivanders Wand Shop), this is a good place to check out. Confisco Grille – This has good prices (for a theme park restaurant) and a good selection.  The attitude is laid back, the servers are friendly and the food is very tasty.  The food is also of a higher quality than any other place in the park aside from Mythos (and at a price that’s cheaper than Mythos).  If you don’t want to walk outside the park to visit the restaurants at City Walk, try out Confisco. Croissant Moon Bakery – A good place for picking up breakfast, but to be honest I’d suggest eating at Pastamoré in City Walk before coming into the restaurant.

Marvel Super Hero Island

Based on Marvel Super Heroes, here are some of the best rides in the park. And, if you’re a comic geek, there are an amazing number of pictures and references to Marvel Comics.  There are two shops with Marvel related items and one of the shops even has comic books, graphic novels and collectible items for sale.  Also, periodically actors in costumes will come out so you can have your picture taken with them as well as get autographs.  Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America all make appearances. Incredible Hulk – If you like roller coasters, this is a must ride.  It launches you out as opposed to a traditional coaster that pulls you up over a hill and lets you fall.  It has several loops and inversions and part of the ride goes over the lagoon in the middle of the park.  I enjoyed it very much. The Amazing Advengures of Spider-Man – This is a 3-D motion ride where you take on the role of a reporter for the Daily Bugle riding around in a fancy, shmancy new reporting vehicle.  Naturally, since this is a ride, things don’t go as planned, and since it’s a Spider-Man ride, you get to see the web slinger in action against some of his most famous enemies.  Very enjoyable motion ride and the next logical step from the Back to the Future/Simpsons rides over at Universal Studios.  I definitely recommend riding at least once. Doctor Doom’s Fearfall – This is a tower free-fall ride.  I actually haven’t ridden it as the one time I tried to, I could not find a seat that comfortably fit my larger than normal body.  However, it’s the typical “launch you into the air and let you fall down while you scream” ride.  I’ve heard from folks I know who rode it the ride is very enjoyable. Storm Force Accelatron – This is an X-Men themed take on the Tea Cups ride from Magic Kingdom.  If you have little kids, this is an enjoyable ride for them. . . as long as neither you nor they get motion sickness.

Toon Lagoon

This area is themed after the Sunday Comic strips (specifically strips from King Features Syndicate and Jay Ward).  Marmaduke, Dennis the Menace, Dagwood and more make appearances.  All of the rides here are water themed. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – An enjoyable log flume ride based on Dudley Do-Right.  The drop at the end is substantial and definitely a lot of fun, but there are so many false drops between the beginning and end that it’s a surprise as to when the final drop is.  Also, beware the evil people on the bridge with quarters. . . they want to make sure you end up all wet! Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rate Barges – This is a river rapids ride.  Unlike Ripsaw Falls, where there’s a chance you’ll escape with minimal wetness, on this ride you will get soaked.  This is also a ride where you need to beware the evil people on the bridge with quarters. . . they want to make sure you end up even more all wet! Me Ship, The Olive – This is a fun exploration area primarily for kids, but fun for adults as well.  It’s not a ride per-se but is a nice diversion for a few minutes and is away from the majority of the crowds.  The perfect place if you’re wanting a few minutes of relative peace. Blondie’s – If you’re in the mood for a good quality deli sandwich, check out Blondie’s.  Reasonable prices for good food.

Jurassic Park

The area is themed on the Jurassic Park island from the original movie. Jurassic Park River Adventure – This is a water-based tour of the Jurassic Park Island.  You get to see plenty of animatronic dinosaurs and end the ride with a large drop.  If you liked Ripsaw Falls, you’ll enjoy this as well.  And the animatronics are tremendous, especially given the ride is over 10 years old. Pteradon Flyers – I love Pteradon Flyers. It’s a two-person ride over a large part of the Jurassic Park area and over the Camp Jurassic play area in particular.  The caveats of this ride: you need a kid to go with you (since it’s technically a children’s ride); the ride is around 90 seconds long; the line gets really long and there is no express line for it.  My suggestion, if you want to ride it (and  you definitely should want to ride it) is to get to the park early and skip everything else when you make your way to Pteradon Flyers.  Then begin exploring the rest of Jurassic Park or move to whatever other Island of Adventure particularly interests you. Camp Jurassic – A play area with exploration, climbing, water canons and lots of other things to tire your kids out.  There’s only one entrance and exit for Camp Jurassic, so feel free to send your kids in with a cell phone and you don’t have to worry about them wandering out the wrong exit.  Also, make sure the ringer on their cell phone has a loud ringer, because this is a fun place for a kid who enjoys playgrounds and jungle gyms. Jurassic Park Discovery Center – This is a close recreation of the Visitor Center from the original Jurassic Park film.  Upstairs is a restaurant, dining area and shopping area.  Downstairs are dinosaur-themed science-y games and activities.  It’s fun, but if you’re not into the film, dinosaurs or science, you might want to move along.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Based on the Harry Potter books and films, this area recreates Hogsmeade Village and Hogswarts Castle.  The buildings are so well done that even when it’s warm outside, you’ll feel a little cooler seeing all of the snow on the roofs of the buildings. Olivanders – This is a short show based on the wand shop in the books.  Groups of approximately 20 people are let into the shop for a unique experience.  “Olivander” chooses a child from the crowd and walks them through the process of finding their wand.  During this show (which takes about 5-10 minutes) the different wands have interesting and amusing results on the various items in Olivanders. Dervish and Banges – When you exit from Olivanders, you are moved into Dervish and Banges, a gift shop selling magical items, Quidditch supplies and clothes.  You can go into this without going through Olivanders, but the store’s narrow aisles make the store seem a bit cramped. Dragon Challenge – This used to be Dueling Dragons.  It is a double roller coasters with two paths you can choose.  The Blue or Red path each have their own roller coaster you ride, but they are configured such that during the ride you see (and pass very close by) the other coaster.  It is a very enjoyable experience and worth riding both coasters multiple times. Flight of the Hipogriff – This used to be The Flying Unicorn.  It’s a roller coaster for children, but is very enjoyable for adults too.  Depending on how many people are in the park, you might want to ride it multiple times.  Highly suggested. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – This ride simulates a tour of the castle and surrounding area.  It’s located inside the Hogwarts castle replica and has you riding around at the end of a robotic arm viewing scenes that are a mix of sets, video and animatronics.  The ride is not 3-D, but it is as much an improvement on Spider-Man as Spider-Man is on Back to the Future/The Simpsons.  This is an experience you should do at least once.  It also drops out into a larger and more comfortable gift shop than Dervish and Banges. An aside or mini-rant if you will.  I would love to get a Quidditch jersey, but I want a generic one . . . one without ‘Potter’ on the back. . . . or maybe a Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin jersey . . . but the only proper Quidditch jerseys they have are Gryffindor jerseys with ‘Potter’ and the number ‘5’ on the back.  This would be a tremendous opportunity for Universal, the Harry Potter licensees or both to have all four house’s jerseys and a customization where you could get your own name and number on the back.  C’mon, guys.  I want to give you my money for this! . . . okay, back to our normally scheduled review. The Three Broomsticks Inn – This used to be a tremendous restaurant with good English pub food back when this was the Enchanted Oak Tavern.  Since the change in menu, I cannot recommend this restaurant.  It’s incredibly overpriced for the portions and quality and the atmosphere of the restaurant is not nearly as enjoyable as it used to be.  However, there’s a stand outside the restaurant that sells Butterbeer.  You ABSOLUTELY MUST try the butterbeer.  It is like cream soda created by divinity.  If you’re watching your figure, then only try one.  If you’re not, enjoy as much of this rich ambrosia as you dare to.

The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent used to be much bigger, but with Harry Potter swallowing attractions, restaurants and square footage from it, this area is but a shell of its former glory.  However, what’s left is still worth a look. The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad – This amusing and exciting live-action stunt show is definitely worth watching.  The stunts and acrobatics are amazing to behold.  The story, while not ground-breaking and innovative, is very enjoyable and quite amusing in parts.  If you enjoy live performances, take this diversion, enjoy the time in the shade and off your feet and watch Sinbad (SPOILER WARNING) triumph over the evil witch.  Also, outside the entrance of Sinbad is an amusing fountain that, when it’s awake, will interact with people who walk by it. Poseidon’s Fury – This show sees you moving between different rooms and watching various set pieces.  The story and visual effects are very enjoyable.  The only downside is the queue for the show which involves standing in a long cave.  If you don’t have issues with claustrophobia or sound sensitivity, this is a recommended experience. Mythos – This is an award winning restaurant with a high end menu.  It’s also a bit pricey, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for.  The menu is mediterranean influenced but has a good variety.  If  you’re watching your budget, feel free to skip this, but if you’re splurging, drop on by. . . also, you can try getting a reservation, but the two times I did, I was seated after people who just walked in so your mileage may vary.

Seuss Landing

This area is inspired by the works of Dr. Seuss.  It is its own entity and visually distinct from every other area of the park.  Not only are the rides enjoyable to ride on, they are fun to look at as well. Caro-Seuss-el – A carousel with many wondrous creatures. Fun for kids. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – A train ride above Seuss Landing, this takes you all over the area.  There are two paths, so you may hear the story of the sneeches (which is shown during the line walking up to the Trolley) or you may get a Seussified tour with descriptions of the various areas of Seuss Landing.  Very enjoyable for kids and adults shepherding kids. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish – This is a spinning ride where you sit inside fish and have water shot at you all while listening to relentlessly cheery music.  Great fun during hot, sunny days for young and old alike. The Cat in the Hat – A cat ride that takes you through the various phases of the Cat in the Hat story.  The staging and choreography of the ride are very enjoyable and this is a ride especially for kids that will not bore the adults that accompany them. If I Ran the Zoo – This is a play area for kids with a water portion where the kids can splash around to their heart’s content. Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-penduous – This is a pretty big restaurant with standard food fare.  It’s nice and big and a good place for adults to sit out of the shade while waiting for kids to finish with their rides.  This is also where the bathrooms are in this area, so it’s good for many different reasons.

Final Notes

So, there are many, many good things to do at Islands of Adventure.  Hopefully I’ve given you a good idea of what the individual rides are like as well as what sorts of people will enjoy each specific attraction.  Also, here are a few suggestions to make your stay at the park easier: – If you can afford it, I suggest getting the Universal Express Plus.  It allows you to use alternate lines and gets you on the rides faster than you would otherwise. – If you can afford it, I suggest even more staying at one of the on-site hotels.  You get the equivalent of Universal Express Plus by showing your room card; depending on the day you can get early admission to the park; you can ride the water taxi to and from an area of City Walk right outside the Port of Entry; and if you get particularly tired during the day you can pop back to your room for a quick nap, then head back to the park for the rest of the day refreshed and ready. – The Meal Deal is good if you like burgers, pizza and such.  It’s unlimited food at the specific restaurants inside the park.  The best restaurant included in this, in my opinion, is the Comic Strip Cafe in Toon Lagoon.  The primary reason for this is they serve Nathans Hot Dogs and I’m a fan of good hot dogs.  If you get the Meal Deal, you might also want to get a refillable soda cup (which is re-usable each visit as long as you get the Meal Deal and pay the fee).  If your tolerances for fast food/park food aren’t that great, stick to Blondie’s, Mythos and Confisco for your food (but realise you’ll be pay a little more). And that’s about it.  Hopefully this will help you enjoy your time at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.  I know I have definitely had many wonderful days there over the past several years and look forward to the next time I am able to swing down that way.