Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure Orlando

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Officially returning from my 5th trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida! I was first drawn to come here because I fell in love with the Harry Potter series (after reading the books… I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movies). Anyway, I worked it into my summer 2012 road trip (link to other blog post) and I am glad I did! I was pleasantly surprised, not just by the Harry Potter portions of the park, but by everything. Before coming to Orlando, I had never been to a proper theme park. I had been to amusement parks, but theme parks are a whole different breed! What a wonderful experience! The buildings look and feel as real as can be.

The Lost Continent area of Islands of Adventure took me into another world entirely. Recently I ate at the Mythos Restaurant and I can tell you from experience, there is a reason they won an award for best theme park restaurant 7 years in a row! The food was delicious and the service was also quite good! The decor in the restaurant makes you feel like you’ve traveled halfway around the world and you completely forget you’re eating in a theme park. I highly suggest a visit!

Of course, the main reason people are visiting now that it’s 2015 is because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been expanded upon! For the first time, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are connected, not just by CityWalk, but by a real Hogwarts Express! I won’t spoil it, but it’s definitely worth waiting a bit for! As for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in general, I’ll start with the Islands of Adventure portion, Hogsmeade, which opened in June of 2010.

When I first visited in 2012, as I said, I was amazed by the detail they put into building Harry’s world. The castle looked exactly as I thought it should, though of course, a bit smaller! 🙂 They offer a castle tour to those who don’t want to wait in an hour+ line to see the whole thing. I always ride single-rider, regardless of who I’m with to save time. The castle tour also allows you to take as much time as you’d like to go and explore the castle grounds and take pictures. At different points, you are greeted by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, The Sorting Hat, Dumbledore, and Hagrid. You can also go out to the back of the castle and see the herbology area. The actual ride within the castle, The Forbidden Journey, is great! While I am somewhat prone to motion sickness, it is still enjoyable. If you are similarly prone to motion sickness, I do advise taking some type of motion sickness pill or using a patch beforehand. It can be quite the tummy-turner, but absolutely worth it! It is primarily a “screen” ride which simulates flying alongside Harry. It is even more amazing than those commercials you’ve undoubtedly seen on television! There is a gift shop at the end of the ride and be sure to check out your pictures!

Across the way, you’ll find Flight of The Hippogriff. While it’s a fairly small roller coaster, it is definitely still fun! It is not, however, worth a 40 minute wait. The ride itself from boarding to pulling back into the platform is a whopping 28 seconds! However, on the way up to the ride itself, you will find Hagrid’s Hut, great views of the Hippogriff and some other treats! This is something to save until about 15 minutes before the park closes for the evening. You will find it fairly empty and likely no more than a 10 minute wait at most (Another thing to look into is the app for both parks… it shows current wait times and is great to check throughout the day).

So what are the best/worst things to do if you only have a day to explore both parks?

Universal Studios Orlando

Rides and Shows
Definitely DO These:

  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Hogwarts Express: King’s Cross Station
  • Men in Black: Alien Attack
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Harry Potter: Escape from Gringotts
  • Fear Factor Live

If You Have Time:

  • Shrek 4D
  • Transformers: The Ride 3D
  • Twister: Ride it Out
  • The Blue Brothers Show
  • Disaster
  • Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review
  • The Simpson’s Ride
  • T. Adventure
  • Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show

Skip:

  • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
  • Terminator 2: 3D

Shops and Food
Definitely GO to These:

  • Finnegan’s Bar & Grill
  • Louie’s Italian Restaurant
  • Leaky Cauldron
  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

Skip:

  • Universal Studios’ Classic Monster Cafe
  • Mel’s Drive-in

Islands of Adventure

Rides and Shows
Definitely DO These:

  • The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
  • Me Ship, The Olive
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Dragon Challenge
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure

If You Have Time:

  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Ollivanders
  • The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Show
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train
  • The Cat and The Hat

Skip:

  • Storm Force Acceleration
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Shops and Food
Definitely GO to These:

  • Confisco Grille and Blackwater Bar
  • Three Broomsticks
  • Hog’s Head Pub
  • Fire Eater’s Grill
  • Mythos Restaurant

Skip:

  • Cafe 4
  • Captain America Diner
  • Comic Strip Cafe
  • Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous

 

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