Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure: Epic Rides and Enchanted Escapades
By Lauren Tjaden
You can climb aboard the Incredible Hulk Coaster for a rampage above the park, where you’ll invert seven gut-wrenching times and race at up to 67 mph; make your little ones giggle with a jaunt on the Caro-Seuss-el, a merry-go-round dancing with beloved Dr. Seuss characters; and immerse yourself in wonder when you soar above the imposing, snow-capped castle grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Here's where to discover everything you need to know about Islands of Adventure’s rides and attractions, dining, shopping and kid-friendly features, as well as learn tips to help you plan your trip.
Whether you’re yearning to splash into fun on watery quests, snag a generous serving of adrenaline on one-of-a-kind rides, or kick back with laid-back experiences your tiniest adventurers can enjoy, Islands of Adventure promises to please. Here are some favorites.
Buckle up for a wild ride with Hagrid to delve deep into the furthest reaches of the Forbidden Forest on this stomach-churning roller coaster ride. The cutting-edge coaster is the first in the U.S. with a free-fall vertical drop –plunging unrestrained for 17-terror-filled-feet -- and it’s the longest roller coaster in Florida, with nearly a mile of screams. This monster also boasts the most launches of any roller coaster on the entire planet, with seven total, rocketing you away at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. If you’re brave enough to open your eyes, you’ll discover an assortment of the wizarding world’s most exceptional magic beings and the mesmerizing, seemingly-abandoned ruins behind Hagrid’s hut.
Take a trip on the mild-side with this family-friendly roller coaster that twists and lunges around Hagrid's pumpkin patch hut.
This picturesque water voyage begins with a relaxing float in a raft where you’ll see a baby stegosaurus and its mother enjoying the day. The Zen is interrupted when you’re unexpectedly knocked off course and swirl into the restricted area of Jurassic Park, a treacherous place that houses the park’s lethal predators. Without warning, your worst nightmare comes true, with a Tyrannosaurus Rex towering in front of you, his teeth glistening in a death-grin. Your only conceivable escape is to plummet into the darkness down an 85-foot abyss churning with white water. Though it’s extremely probable you’ll make a successful getaway, your odds of staying dry are much slimmer.
At three stories high, 18 feet wide across the shoulders, and with a head the size of a car, King Kong is gargantuan by any measure— a fact that comes to vivid life on a 3-D/4-D motion journey into a sultry jungle teeming with loathsome creatures.
Expect to get upside down and inside out on this yell-out loud roller coaster, a beast that features two intense launches, four inversions and a romp through park’s raptor paddock, where you’ll try to outpace the voracious dinosaurs charging alongside you.
Your whole crew is invited to climb aboard slow-moving trolley for a relaxing trek above Seuss Landing, where you’ll be treated to views of this creative, quirky area of the park.
When you need to cool off, this sure-to-get-soaked river ride provides the perfect remedy. Hang on for a white-water journey drenched in classic cartoon silliness, complete with an 18-foot octopus.
Your littlest minnows will love this attraction, where they can commandeer their own Dr. Seuss flying fish, using simple controls to go up and down as they enjoy a gentle glide around an assortment of fountains that spray water to the beat of a whimsical jingle.
And There’s More!
SHOWS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment takes on a new twist with these one-of-a-kind performances and spectacles.
You’ll jump for joy when you hear these oversize, croaking frogs accompany a small choir of gifted Hogwarts students singing beloved wizarding tunes a cappella.
In this special-effects undersea adventure, an archeologist will lead you through the ruins of the ancient Temple of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, where you’ll find yourself trapped amidst a titanic battle between Poseidon and the evil Lord Darkenon. Four kinds of lasers, more than 200 different flame effects and an assortment of mist screens, water cannons and mortars make the clash dramatic and unforgettable.
The madcap genius of Dr. Seuss takes center stage in these daily shows featuring much-loved characters like The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch, and the Lorax, all swaying to musical renditions of his stories.
On select nights, this glittering display features lights and music illuminating the resplendent castle. You won’t find a more exquisite way to wind-up your day of escapades at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
And there’s more!
Here’s a list of all of Islands of Adventure’s shows; here’s a list of all of Islands of Adventure’s entertainment.
KIDS PLAY AREAS AND CHARACTER ENCOUNTERS
Your young ones can burn off steam and ignite their imaginations at fanciful playgrounds; meet their favorite superheroes and comic book characters, and even eat and get their pictures taken with them.
Colossal-sized fun is on the agenda at this multi-level, prehistoric playground where your posse can discover murky caves and amber mines, scale dinosaur-capture nets and navigate rocking suspension bridges, all while the earth trembles with the growls of dinosaurs.
Climb aboard Popeye the sailor man's ship, The Olive, to discover an imaginative, three-story-high kids play area brimming with passageways, slides, climbing nets, horns, and an interactive piano. A favorite activity is spraying unwary travelers on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges with water cannons as they float by below.
Kids will discover a menagerie of curious creatures in this whimsical play area, where they can slip down passageways in Zomba-ma-tant, corner animals (or family members) in a watery cage in the wet play area, and climb atop a highly unusual cow with numerous humps. Avoid the Scraggle Foot Mulligatawny, unless you like getting sneezed on.
Start the morning with a meal that becomes an animated adventure, featuring a yummy buffet that includes pictures with the green grump himself.
And there’s more!
Whether you’re looking for grab-and-go grub or a sit-down restaurant, Islands of Adventure is sure to satisfy your hunger with almost 30 eateries that include ice cream shops, a bakery, cafes and fine dining. Here are some popular temptations.
Foodies, rejoice! This award-winning, full-service restaurant serves up an outstanding collection of contemporary food set off by a magical, creative backdrop. The exterior of the restaurant is an immense, imposing stone formation made even more formidable by the larger-than-life, age-old faces carved into it and the waterfalls that tumble down its sides, while the yawning interior has the vibe of a rugged cave set beside a faraway sea. The fare is casual but elegant, with a collection of Mediterranean, Asian and American dishes, with offerings such as Greek salad, pad Thai and burgers, as well as a kids menu. The beef medallions and grilled cheese garner high praise, as does the Mythos Potion of the Gods drink, an adults-only concoction crafted from rum, black raspberry liqueur and fruit juices.
You’ll find this green, ham-shaped café – complete with an oversized fork atop it – exactly where you’d expect to, in colorful, fantastical Suess Landing. While it’s hardly gourmet fare, it may be one of the few opportunities in your life to sample dishes like Green Eggs & Ham Tots, a blend of green eggs, diced ham and white cheese sauce over tater tots. Burgers, fries and more traditional fast fare round out the cafe’s offerings.
Situated in Hogsmeade, this welcoming, snow-topped inn is a favorite with Hogwarts students like Harry Potter, who sampled his first butterbeer here. Kick back beneath the cast-iron chandeliers, wind-battered wood beams and a balcony full of wizarding wonders to enjoy scrumptious British fare like Fish and Chips and Shepherd's Pie. Or, feed your whole gang with an order of The Great Feast, a platter for four heaped with rotisserie smoked chicken and spareribs, corn on the cob and roast potatoes. Frozen Butterbeer, a non-alcoholic sweet drink that tastes like shortbread and butterscotch, is the perfect cure for a hot summer day.
Nestled beside Confisco Grille, this tropical, under-the-radar shanty delivers cold drinks, hot appetizers and a laid-back vibe, plus the only TV in the park if you want to catch a game.
And There’s More!
Here are all of Islands of Adventure’s eateries.
Oh, the treasures you’ll discover. With almost 30 elaborately themed stores showcasing unique products, Universal’s Islands of Adventure shopping is an exciting activity in its own right.
Young wizards and witches can scoop up the perfect magic wand at this spell-binding store. With the correct, light twist of the hand and the correct summons, Interactive Wands will allow them to cast enchantments for magical experiences throughout Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Decadent homemade fudge, gourmet cookies and crisp caramel apples make this store an irresistible temptation. Spoil yourself with a special goodie or find a yummy take-home present.
Heralded as the best place in Universal to pick up an eclectic souvenir, and festooned with a replica dinosaur skeleton and hot air balloon, an expedition to this store is a not-to-be-missed treat.
And there’s more!
TIPS, APPS AND MAPS
Find Your Path
Here’s where you can check out parking, directions, and addresses for Universal’s Theme Parks and Resort Hotels.
There’s an App for That
Here’s where you can get the Official Universal Orlando Resort App. It lets you buy and redeem select theme park tickets and Universal Express passes, see the latest wait times and access maps. Free WiFi throughout the parks and Universal CityWalk makes it simple to stay connected.
In the Know
The Discover Universal blog offers the latest park news, behind-the-scenes information, and insider tips for planning your vacation-- everything from where you can discover the coolest Jurassic Park souvenirs to what you should know about the Haunting of Hill House at Halloween Horror Nights.
And There’s More!
Check out more vacation tips from Universal, including information about tickets, special deals on dining, what to bring and helpful hints for kids and families.
It’s Just the Ticket
Buy tickets and check out these add-ons to make your getaway even more special.
Take a Pass
Complement your theme park admission with Universal Express access to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions, either one time per participating ride with Universal Express, or an unlimited number of times with Universal Express Unlimited. This time-saving goodie is included free when you stay at a Universal Premier category hotel.
Experience Universal Orlando Resort like the star you are with a VIP Experience guided tour, where a Universal Orlando expert will lead you through the most popular rides and attractions. This means you get exclusive backstage access, fun insider information, and priority access (translation: no lines) to the parks' most astonishing rides and attractions. In addition, you’ll receive an assortment of special benefits before, during and after your tour.
STAY THE NIGHT
Astonishing surroundings, striking themes, customer-dedicated service and exclusive theme park benefits make Universal Resort Orlando Hotels the perfect place to pull up the covers after a long-day of theme-park adventures. Here are some options.
Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
With an easy, surfer-vibe and super-affordable rates, this resort boasts sunny, beach-inspired rooms and generous, two-bedroom suites that sleep six.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
For a glorious splurge and memorable escape, stay in this premier resort, a tribute to the seaside enclave of Portofino, Italy. Expect decadent rooms and suites, fabulous views, alluring pools and remarkable restaurants.
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
This retro-style retreat pays tribute to iconic Florida beach resorts of the 1950s and 60s, offering affordable rooms and suites. Two enormous pools, a meandering lazy river and a bowling alley will keep your whole gang smiling.
And there’s more!
Here are all of Universal Orlando Resort Hotels.
If you prefer to bring your accommodations with you, area RV parks abound.
For a Universal Orlando getaway, you can’t beat the location of this hidden gem, only 23 minutes from the resort. Set on 69 acres, it’s pet friendly and packed with amenities that include a pool, a café, shuffleboard, bocce ball, horseshoes, live entertainment, social events, and an on-site laundry. It also offers vacation cottages.
Sited 38 minutes from Universal, this 355-acre park offers camping, kayaking, a concession, picnic pavilions and a playground. But the undeniable star of the show is its free-flowing, deliciously cool natural spring, an ideal antidote for a scorching summer day. Even your little ones can wade, swim, or tube in the crystalline waters as they flow into Rock Springs Run. It offers only 26 campsites at an affordable $23 a night. Each site is spacious, private, and shaded, with a picnic table, fire ring with a grill and water and electric access. Pets aren’t allowed, with the exception of service animals.