January 2012: If Universal Orlando compares to Disney Hollywood Studios, then Islands of Adventure must be awkwardly compared to the Magic Kingdom. The park has six lands – seven if you count the shops around the entrance – themed to different concepts. And, like the Magic Kingdom, the theme in at least three lands is consistent, giving guests with a smidgen of imagination a feel for the adventure. The sixth section – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – opened in 2010.
Islands of Adventure is the No. 1 coaster park in Orlando. While Disney dresses its coasters in darkness, western motifs and rock ‘n roll music, Islands advertises its coasters by speed and the number of 360-degree turns. The park has an inner tube water ride like Animal Kingdom’s Kali River, but it’s faster and has steeper drops. It has a log flume ride like Splash Mountain, but with less scenery and more water.
Once the long trek from the parking lot ends, Islands is easy to tour. The “islands” concept – you cross a bridge between each land – is lost on most guests since there’s more land than water; but the entire park circles a lake, and turning left or right after inside the gate is all you have to know.
Assuming a clockwise tour, you encounter the following lands and rides. Each ride is rated using “A” through “E”, with “E” being best, using the old Disney ticket system. In general, an E ticket ride was expensive to produce, offers some kind of special effect, and has a high “wow” factor. Don’t think of the rating as a review, however. You may not enjoy a ride even if it’s an “E” attraction.
Marvel Super Hero Island
No Superman here, it’s all Marvel characters from the comic books – not the movies.
E: Incredible Hulk Coaster
C: Storm Force Accelatron
D: Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
E: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (a do-not-miss if visiting Islands, and perhaps one of the best rides in Orlando)
A land dedicated to newspaper comics is a tough sell – no one imagines living inside a comic strip, so how can you tell if it feels real? Given that hurdle, however, it’s a good time, with a lot of photo ops and slapstick humor.
E: Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (everyone gets soaked without a poncho)
E: Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (everyone gets soaked with/without a poncho)
B: Me Ship, The Olive
The only land dedicated to a single movie series, Jurassic Park takes up a lot of room, has tons of plants, and hidden speakers suggest a T-Rex might actually be stomping around somewhere behind a palm tree.
E: Jurassic Park River Adventure (the signature ride; some without a poncho will get wet)
C: Pteranodon Flyers
C: Camp Jurassic
A: Jurassic Park Discovery Center
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
E: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: The signature ride, and a must-do attraction
E: Dragon Challenge: One of Orlando’s fastest rides
C: Flight of the Hippogriff
The Lost Continent
Atlantis is the assumed continent that has been misplaced – one walk-through show/attraction suggests that – but The Lost Continent celebrates all things medieval. A sit-down restaurant, Mythos, continually ranks high in consumer surveys for food quality and atmosphere.
E: The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad (Shouldn’t it be “Sinbad”?)
E: Poseidon’s Fury
A tribute to the many Dr. Seuss books. It’s hard to find a single straight line in the entire land, or a color more subtle than canary yellow, bright blue, or fire engine red.
C: The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
E: The Cat In the Hat
B: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish