These two parks are right next to each other and share a main entrance via the boardwalk. We visited each park a total of 3 times and went to both parks each time on each day that we went. The first two times we visited Islands of Adventure first, followed by Universal Studios; on our last visit we went to Universal Studios first and then Islands of Adventure.
Even though we spent 3 days at the parks there was still a great deal that we did not see. Both parks are very large so you need to be prepared to do a lot of walking.
Universal Islands of adventure is split into 6 “islands” or worlds. The newest and most popular of these is the “Wizarding world of Harry Potter”; there was always a great rush to the back of the park to get there!
The worlds are:
- Marvel Superheroes (Hulk Rollercoaster, The Amazing adventures of Superman, Meet Spiderman and friends)
- Toon Lagoon (Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges)
- Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park River Adventure, Pteranodon Flyers)
- The Wizarding world of Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Flight of the Hippogriff , Dragon Challenge)
- Lost Continent (Poseidon’s Fury, the Eight Voyage of Sinbad)
- Seuss Landing (not great for adults but Jack liked some of the rides, we did Cat in the Hat)
I have listed some of my favourite activities in brackets.
Hulk Rollercoaster – One of the best rollercoasters that I have been on, the best part though is the initial launch. I’m not sure how many G’s you’re pulling when the rollercoaster starts but it was fast. This is not a ride for anyone who does not like extreme rides.
The Amazing adventures of Superman – this is one where a large number of people are put into a “roving news vehicle”; you are all given 3D glasses. As you travel through New York various villains are wreaking havoc and Spiderman saves the day. Good use of holograms and mechanics give the illusion that you are really there.
Meet Spiderman and friends – At various times of day, Spiderman and other super heroes are around to talk to and have your photo taken with. They include most of the X-Men, some of the avengers and Spiderman himself. Spiderman also shows up in the nearest gift-shop too.
Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls – This is a variation of the log flumes at most parks except that there is a massive fall towards the end where you will get wet. In case you don’t get wet enough, onlookers can spend quarters to use the strategically placed water jets; my brother-in-law took great pride in soaking the various participants of the ride. On the “how-wet-will-I-get” scaleTM this gets a 7 (where 1 is a few drops of water and 10 represents a bath with your clothes on).
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – this is a ride where up to 8 people go through a winding river and rapids adventure. The main attraction is getting wet; this also has water jest too. This is a definite 9.5 on the h-w-w-i-g scale; down to your underwear and you feet/shoes too. It took nearly all day to dry out. I never thought I would use one of the outdoor driers in Florida but I did on this day.
Jurassic Park River Adventure – this is based on the first Jurassic Park film and is a water ride so wetness will ensue. You go around on a boat seeing animatronic creatures from the film including the Raptors and the various vegetarian dinosaurs form the film. The climax is going inside the complex and (spoiler alert) seeing the head of a large Tyrannosaurus Rex going towards you to take a bite just as you are launched down into a large pool with an almighty splash! On the h-w-w-i-g scale I rate this as a 6 to 7 depending on whereabouts in the boat you sit as it seems to vary a little.
Pteranodon Flyers – this is limited to one child + 1 parent. Jack and Simon went on these whilst Louise and I went on the Jurassic Park ride again. Jack liked the ride but Simon’s response was “lame!”.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – this being quite new was one of the better rides. You sit in groups of 4 in booths and you are segregated from each other as you fly around with the cast from Harry Potter. Supposedly you are on broom stick? Anyway, you fly around Hogwarts see Hagrid’s lost dragon and see some Quiditch being played along with Dementors who try to suck your soul. All in all, this is a good ride with great visuals and movement. A nice touch is that the staff are all dressed like prefects.
The Flight of the Hippogriff – this is aimed at the younger (shorter) audience and is a nice roller coaster with no inversions. I gets fast in places but the ride experience is not outweighed by the phenomenally long waiting times to get on.
Dragon Challenge – I’m sure that this used to be part of the Lost Continent and called duelling dragons Fire & Ice? That said these are two rollercoasters intertwined with each other and whilst not as extreme as the Hulk ride not far off. Recommended to anyone who enjoys good roller-coasters.
Poseidon’s Fury – this is a “guided tour” of soughts being led through a series of sets to tell a story and it’s very good. The guides are all actors and the sets move when you aren’t looking, you even walk through a spinning waterfall. This is well worth seeing.
The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad – This is a show with live action, explosions, water, stunts and all to tell the story of Sinbad’s eighth voyage. This is aimed at all ages and I missed the end of the show last time I came to Florida which had to stop because of a possible thunderstorm.
Cat in the Hat – finally we went on the Cat in the Hat ride which takes you all around Seuss Landing. The ride is aimed at quite young riders although adults can ride. This was OK and was not the lamest thing we saw all holiday. Jack (the intended audience for the ride) liked it though.
Other things to see: What I really liked was that each “Island” had a lot of thought put into them so that they reflected what each island’s theme was such as Jurassic Park looking like the various buildings in the film and having props from the film.
My favourite island was without a doubt “The Wizarding world of Harry Potter”; the main ride is in a structure that looks like Hogwarts castle. The town of Hogsmeade is right around the corner.
I even sampled some Butterbeer in a souvenir mug. The Hogwarts Express is there as well as some of the shops from the films:
- Dervish and Banges (get your Hogwarts school supplies)
- Honeydukes (sample actual Chocolate Frogs and Cauldron Cakes)
- Zonko’s Joke Shop (purchase such items as Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes)
- Ollivanders (The only wand shop in town)
- The Three Broomsticks (See what Butterbeer tastes like as well as meals such as Fish and chips, the ‘Great Feast Platter,’ Shepherd’s Pie, Strawberrty Peanut-Butter Ice-cream and more)
- Hog’s Head (order a pint of pumpkin juice)
Inside the gates of Universal Studios and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a real working film and television production studio; and Production Central is where Hollywood meets Orlando, and the business of making movies meets the excitement of living them.
There were many attractions around this park and over the three days we visited most of them. Like Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios is split into many different areas as follows:
- Production Central (Shrek 4-D and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit)
- New York (Revenge of the Mummy, Twister and the Blues Brothers)
- Hollywood (Terminator-2 3D, Universal Horror Make-Up Show and Lucy – a Tribute)
- World Expo (The Simpsons Ride and Men in Black – Alien Attack)
- San Francisco (Fear Factor Live, Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue and Disaster! – A Major Motion Picture Ride)
- Woody Woodpeckers Kidzone (Animal Actors on Location, ET Adventure, A day in the park with Barney, Curios George goes to town, Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster and Fievel’s Playground
Shrek 4-D – This is like all 4-D shows in that you watch a 3-D movie with various effects happening around you to create a fully immersive experience. I enjoyed the show and it was better than the Ice-Age one I saw in Alton Towers in the UK as it was specially shot for the show. This is a story set just after the first Shrek film.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – this is one of the best roller-coasters I went on whilst in Orlando. The gimmick here is that you choose the music you hear whilst travelling on the ride – I picked ZZ Top’s “Gimme all Your Lovin”, I would have preferred something a little faster and heavy but you only have a small selection of choices. There’s also a camera that captures every moment of the ride which is awesome; the ride after all does start with a large vertical drop.
Revenge of the Mummy – This is a ride inside a studio with actors, animatronics, special effects and scary music to help illustrate the first film. A good ride and a few things did jump out making me jump too.
Twister – we didn’t do this ride as you would get wet and it wasn’t that hot. The “Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges” had put us off rides with a lot of water. We aimed to try and do the ride at the end of the day so that we could go back to the hotel and change but that never came together.
We saw bits of the Blues Brothers show at various times but never managed to see the whole thing.
Terminator-2 3D – based on the second Terminator film this is a show with live actors, effects, video from the cast of the film and other “4D” type effects. This was a great show, really enjoyable.
Universal Horror Make-Up Show – this was a demonstration of how some of the effects in the films are produced along with some of the effects from various films. They even managed to give the impression that they cut into the arm of a girl from the audience.
The Simpsons Ride – this is one of the newest rides and not one to go on if you feel a bit dizzy; it’s something to do with the motion you feel whilst your eyes see something else. However that said it a great ride and you see and feel the effects from travelling ain a cart on a ride through Krustyland amusement park. Of course things are never that simple especially when Sideshow Bob arrives on scene.
Men in Black : Alien Attack – we went on this ride many times. After an anti-climactic elevator ride you board your vehicle and pick up the laser gun in front of you. The aim of the ride is to shoot any alien that appears and try and get the highest score of your group. Unsurprisingly, Simon got the highest score every time; even Jack managed to best some of our scores sometime!
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue – this was a live show with Beetlejuice, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula and others singing various rock anthems. I knew a lot of the songs and this is an audience participation event too.
Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride – A number of people were chosen from the audience to take part in this show. The idea is that a disaster film is being shot and the entire audience are taking part. It starts with a ride in a subway train when (surprise, surprise) disaster strikes and it’ all very effective. Later parts involve the audience members chosen in certain scenes.
Animal Actors on Location – this was a show involving lots of various animals doing tricks – very cute. Certain audience members are involved at varies parts as part of the show and we saw a trick involving a bird that steals a one dollar bill from a member of the audience holding this up and then the bird returning it (we saw the same tick twice in different parks).
ET Adventure – this is based on the flying bike ride from the film and is a gentle ride to help illustrate the story being told. You actually sit on something resembling a bike.
Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster – I personally didn’t go on this ride but Jack did a few times.
The Despicable Me ride wasn’t open when we went which was a little disappointing as we all love the film 😦