Category Archives: Universal Studios

Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Universal’s Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios in Orlando

Universal’s Islands of Adventure is one of two theme parks that make up Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. We really enjoyed our time here as this theme park had a bit of everything to suit all ages – roller coasters, water rides, 3-D adventures and plenty of attractions for the younger kids.

The park is not too big and is very easy to get around. Our two boys aged 9 and 11 tried every ride (apart from Doctor Dooms Fearfall which was closed) and absolutely loved them all! Our highlights of Universal’s Islands of Adventure were;

Marvel Super Hero Island

You can watch our YouTube video of The Incredible Hulk Coaster and surrounds here.

Toon Lagoon

We also loved walking around the Comic Strip Cafe area and reading all the comical signs.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

This blockbuster attraction recently opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in July 2016 and is quite an experience. Guests are boarded onto a bus and taken on a 1930’s expedition where you will come face to face with King Kong. The queues for this ride can be very long, even with the Universal Express Passes so try to visit as early in the day as possible.

Jurassic Park

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

On this half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you will find the village of Hogsmeade as well as the famous Hogwarts Castle. With so much to see and do in this area we have posted a seperate blog about what to expect here – you can read our Wizarding World of Harry Potter  blog here.

Be sure to visit early in the day to avoid the afternoon crowds, especially as the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride has no Express Pass option and the queues can get very long.

If you have park-to-park tickets you can also ride the Hogwarts Express over to the other half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter located at Universal Studio’s Florida.

The Lost Continent

  • Poseidon’s Fury – take this special effects tour with your archeologist guide around the Temple of Poseidon.

Suess Landing

Young kids will really love this area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, with plenty of suitable rides and there are always special characters hanging around to have their photos taken with.

  • Caro-Seuss-el – ride the Suess characters on this colourful carousel.

Conclusion

Universal’s Islands of Adventure is definitely worth going to visit when exploring Orlando with kids. In our opinion it’s best to buy park-to-park passes so you can take full advantage of the awesome Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ride the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios Florida.

You can also read our blog on the Universal Studios Florida theme park here.

We also recommend staying at an On-Site Universal Resort Hotel to get free Express Passes for each guest a well as a one hour early entry to one of the Universal Parks for each day of your stay. We chose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando – read review here.

For more information on Universal’s Islands of Adventure go to www.universalorlando.com

Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios Orlando Resort

Universal Studios Orlando in Florida, USA

Universal Studios in Orlando is made up of two different theme parks that are situated right next to each other – Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you want to visit both parks on the same day you will need to purchase park-to-park passes. This is especially important if you want to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which is spread over the two parks.

This post will concentrate on what we loved most about Universal Studios Florida when we visited in September with our boys aged 9 and 11.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The absolute highlight of Universal Studios Orlando is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In our opinion it’s best to head straight here as soon as possible as the main ride, Escape from Gringotts does not have an express pass option. With so much to do at Diagon Alley, we have posted a separate blog about  it – read our Wiizarding World of Harry Potter post here.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

Diagon Alley

Springfield: Home of the Simpsons

If you love The Simpsons TV Show you will have to visit Springfield which features some old favourites such as the Krusty Burger, Lard Lad Donuts, Duff Brewery and Moe’s Tavern. There are plenty of sideshows where you can win prizes as well as two rides – Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’Hurl and the animated 3D adventure simply called The Simpsons Ride.

Other 3-D Attractions

The kids loved the following 3-D rides and shows which are very popular at Universal Orlando.

Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida

Transformers

  • Shrek 4D – this 4D film adventure picks up from where the movie Shrek left off.
Universal Studios Resort in Orlando

Shrek 4D

Rollercoasters

There are only two actual rollercoasters in this park which are;

  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – this ride was a favourite of ours as you choose the music to listen to while looping around on this outdoor rollercoaster. Don’t forget to watch your videos as you leave the ride.
  • Revenge of the Mummy – an indoor rollercoaster probably not suitable for younger kids that don’t like rides in the dark as it’s pretty scary.

Street Parades

  • Universal’s Superstar Parade – this street parade features the crew from SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora & Diego as well as some Despicable Me favourites. You can also meet up with characters and have your photo taken with them.
Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida

Blues Brothers

  • Marilyn & the Diamond Bellas – watch Marilyn Monroe and her Bellas perform.

For Toddlers

While Universal Studios does not have as many activities for the younger ones as some of the other theme parks in Orlando, if you head over to Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone there are some attractions they should really enjoy.

Just up from Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone is the Men in Black Alien Attack which the young kids will love as they get to zap away the alien invaders in a shooting gallery inspired ride (similar to the Buzz Lightyear rides at Disney).

Conclusion

A lot of the attractions and rides here can be accessed with the Skip the Line Express Passes which we would recommend at this park as the queues can be pretty long (which are best avoided in the heat of Orlando).

At some of the main rides there are complimentary lockers where you can store your personal belongings while at that particular attraction which is handy. If you prefer all day lockers you can hire one just inside the main entrance for either $10 or $12 for the whole day.

If travelling with younger kids there is also a child swap option at each ride so the adults don’t miss out on all the fun!

We would recommend staying at one of the On-Site Universal Hotels as they not only provide Express Passes for each person for the length of your stay, guests are also entitled to early park admission which gives you access to one of the Universal parks an hour before its scheduled opening (see early park admission calendar here).

We chose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel – read our review here.

For more information on Universal Studios Orlando go to: www.universalorlando.com

 

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando

The first thing you need to know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is that it’s spread over two different parks – Universal Studios Florida as well as Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This means that you need to purchase Park-to-Park tickets not Single Park admission.

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida

We suggest starting your Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience by heading straight to Diagon Alley. This means entering through the Universal Studios Park and following the path to the secret London entrance. There are a few things we recommend to do before entering into Diagon Alley.

  • Visit the Knight Bus – spend a little bit of time chatting with the friendly Knight Bus conductor and his interactive shrunken head sidekick. Be sure to go inside the bus to look at the attention to detail that has been made.
  • Knock on the door of number 12 Grimmauld Place, you just might see Kreacher lurking.
  • Go inside the telephone box and dial 62442 (MAGIC) to be connected directly to the Ministry of Magic.

Once you enter the magical Diagon Alley be prepared to be spellbound by the whole area. You could easily wander around for hours just looking through all the famous shops and establishments.

Highlights of Diagon Alley not to be missed

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride is simply amazing! This 3-D multi dimension indoor ride takes you on an unforgettable adventure where you will come face to face with Voldemort himself. Note that you cannot use express passes on this ride, but the wait time goes quick and it is all part of the ride experience as you make your way through Gringotts Bank and its vaults. There is a single rider queue if you prefer to get through quicker and are not too fussed about being separated from your party on the ride.
  • Gringotts Money Exchange – not far from the ride is an actual money exchange where you can swap your ordinary muggle money for Gringotts currency that you can use throughout both Universal theme parks. Make sure you have a chat to the interactive goblin teller.
  • Ollivanders Wand Shop – buy an interactive wand that you can use all around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (both of which have interactive shop windows, fountains and statues) to cast your very own spells. You might even be one of the lucky chosen customers that get to have the very special experience of having a wand choose them. There is also an Ollivanders in Hogsmeade (be warned the queues at both can get quite long though!).
  • Shopping –  So many fun shops to wander through including Quality Quiddich Supplies, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin’s Robes, Borgin and Burkes, Wiseacre’s Wizardry Equipment and Magical Menagerie.
  • Have a traditional British pub meal at the Leaky Cauldron, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Riding the Hogwarts Express between parks

The best way ever to swap between theme parks is hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express. Once you are finished at Diagon Alley head over to Kings Cross Station. You will need to show your park-to-park ticket before you can enter, then make your way to find the famous 9 3/4 platform.

Once you board the Hogwarts Express you will be shown to a compartment which holds 6-8 people and the magical doors will be closed. The interactive experience will then begin, as the animated windows take you through the streets of London and along the English countryside as you arrive at Hogsmeade Station. Along the way you will be joined by a few familiar characters but just watch out for those nasty Dementors!

Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

As you make your way through Hogsmeade towards Hogwarts Castle you will notice a few more familiar features of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The highlight of Hogsmeade are;

  • Butterbeer – available either warm, cold or frozen and not to be missed. Our favourite was the frozen butterbeer and as it is non-alcoholic, even the kids will love it!
  • Dine at the Three Broomsticks restaurant or Hog’s Head pub for traditional English fare.
  • Honeydukes – a must see for everyone, stop by to pick-up a few favourite candies such as Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, Bertie Bott Beans or Cauldron Cakes.
  • If you missed the one at Diagon Alley, there is another Ollivanders Wand Shop to purchase your very own magical wand.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Hogwarts is definitely a ride not to be missed. This multi sensory action ride takes you on a journey soaring around the skies with Harry Potter, evading dragons and other magical creatures. You cannot use fast passes with this ride but the wait in the queue is part of the whole experience as you wander through the interior of Hogwarts. You will pass through Dumbledores Office, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Room of Requirement and you might even find the famous sorting hat.
  • Dragon Challenge is a set of two high-speed rollercoasters, a blue dragon and red dragon. Take the challenge and ride both coasters then pick your favourite.
  • Flight of the Hippogriff is a very family friendly coaster that the younger ones will love as they pass around by Hagrid’s Hut.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be a diehard Harry Potter fan to really enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando. While we had only read a couple of the books and watched some of the movies, we still loved our magical adventure there.

We suggest you plan to arrive as early as possible to avoid the big crowds that gather in the afternoon. If you are looking for accomodation options we would recommend staying at one of the On-Site Hotels as you get a one hour park early admission (only one park is open early each day). Each guest also receives unlimited fast-pass ride access for the length of stay at the hotel.

We chose to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel – read our review here.

For more information on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando go to: www.universalorlando.com