Newest Review: ... a street of shops including Ollivanders where you could buy wands including Harry's and Honeydukes where you could buy all sorts of candi... more
Hooray for Universal
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure (Orlando)
Member Name: Teena2003
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure (Orlando)
Date: 20/07/03, updated on 23/03/06 (376 review reads)
Advantages: fun, great rides
Disadvantages: can be too busy at times
A little tip for those of you who plan on going to Orlando on a more regular basis, once or twice a year – because you can’t live without the thrill. When going to the Universal parks don't let your tour operator talk you into buying their overpriced park tickets. If you are planning a trip to both parks, set aside a minimum of 3 to 4 days. I always pre-book my Universal tickets on their website www.universalorlando.com. Their prices are often cheaper than tour operators’ and you get the same variety, if not more.
And as I said, if you are planning more than one trip per year and don’t have a large family, you may want to thing about investing into their annual two park pass. It is available online for about $180 plus tax without blackout dates. Not only will you get access to BOTH parks all year round, they throw in free self parking, 20% off all merchandise, 10-15% off food, reduced price on special event nights (Halloween Horror Nights) and lots more. The website lists almost all of them and it seems endless.
If you are not too bothered about blackout days, go for the cheaper option of around $120 plus tax. You can have the tickets delivered to your home before you travel or pick them up at the entrance to either park. For the annual pass you will have to visit Guest Relations first where you fill in a short questionnaire and have your photo taken. The pass is ready in moments, a nice and sturdy plastic card that you don’t need to push into the little slot at the entrance buy gets swiped under the machine by one of the assistants. And don’t forget to flash your pass every time you buy something. It’s amazing how much you can actually save in a very short time.
If you buy tickets here in the UK or go for special deals even in Orlando itself it is best to look out for expiry dates. Most tickets you buy in the UK are timed, it means they expired 7 or 14 days after first use even if you only went one day. Universal Studios tickets bought online or at the parks do not expire and unused days will be safe for another holiday.
Islands of Adventure is one of the newer theme parks in Orlando if not the newest. A lot of thought (and tons of money - apparently £1 billion) has gone into the design, etc. After all, it had to rival all the other attractions in Orlando. And there are plenty. I have the sneaky suspicion the Universal group was more or less forced into opening this park as the old and trusted Universal Studios on its own was starting to look a little old, dated and tired. And they created a gem.
You can’t miss the entrance to the park. The lighthouse can be seen from far away. If you’re not sure, follow the crowds.
Arrive early, preferably half an hour before the park opens so you have the empty park in front of you. Once the crowds build up chances are that they open earlier anyhow.
Port Of Entry
Just after passing through the gates you will find lockers, pushchair and wheelchair hire and Guest Services. The lovely Mediterranean/Moroccan village hides away shops and can be ignored when you first arrive. Use it as a thoroughfare but promise yourself to check it out before you leave – if you still have some strength left.
You then arrive at an intersection and are confronted with two choices: do you want to continue to the left or to the right?
Spending a lot of time in theme parks over the past few years has taught me one thing: most people tackle theme parks clockwise. I, personally, always favoured anti-clockwise.
If you want to check out the big thrill rides first, head left. You will have plenty of choice from The Incredible Hulk (the big green monster roller coaster you can’t miss), Dr Doom’s Fearfall to Spider-Man. But remember, everybody else has the same idea and heads the same way. As a result queues at the big rides are building up fast.
But let’s do it my way and turn to the right and tackle the park anti-clockwise.
You arrive at Seuss Landing, an homage to writer Dr Seuss. Americans love Dr Seuss and American children grow up with his stories. You are entering a totally strange and new world of colours and weird shapes – not a straight line in the whole place. You either love it or hate it… best explored with children as they will love all the strangeness.
Here you find some of the tamer rides. I can highly recommend the Caro-Seuss-el, a carousel ride on some of the Dr Seuss characters. But a word of warning! The characters are slippery, and I mean this literally. Shiny plastic makes ascending and descending a little tricky.
You will enjoy the Cat In the Hat ride where you will be whizzed through the world of Seuss sitting on a ‘couch’. Designed with children in mind, I was amazed how much spinning and swirling was involved and it can leave you a little dizzy.
Find out for yourself what other surprises are in store for you. Oh, don’t forget to look up The Grinch.
Moving on towards the next area of the park, or island, as it should really be called: The Lost Continent. Here you are greeted by Poseidon’s Fury: Escape from the Lost City. It’s a walk through show with lots of surprises and stunning special effects. Remember, you are underground and it can get a little sticky at times. Without taking too much away, the final showdown between Zeus and Poseidon is stunning. After that and if you have the time, take in the special effects show The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad. You can take the weight of your feet and enjoy a little harmless fun.
Watch out for the enchanted fountain in Sindbad’s Village. It has a few surprises in store and you might get a little wet if you’re not careful.
Last but not least you arrive at one of the crowning jewels of the park: the Duelling Dragons. Two high speed suspended roller coasters, each has its own charm. There is Fire (red) and Ice (blue). You don’t need to make up your mind which of the two coasters you fancy riding until you are almost at the front of the queue. Unless you have one of the fast pass tickets, when you can avoid the probably longest below ground queuing area, you will have to wind your way through approx 1000 yards of tunnels until you arrive at your chosen coaster. Both coasters leave at the same time but follow different routes. There are three, built in, near misses, and you actually think you can touch the feet of the people in the other coaster. In my opinion, the Fire dragon runs lightly smoother with more loops and corkscrews while Ice is jerking you around more.
Once you survived this encounter – check out the appropriate T-shirts they are selling with ‘no hurling’ signs printed on them.
You are now on your way to Jurassic Park where you will be greeted by the known music from the movie. This area is designed for the explorer in all of us. There is the Discovery Center where you can hatch your own dinosaur, learn about DNA and try all the hands on exhibits. Visit a ‘real life’ Triceratops and ask the handlers all the dinosaur questions you always wanted to ask.
One of the highlights is the River Adventure boat ride. As you are walking the park anti-clockwise you may not have seen the end of the ride. If you are curious, walk past the ride entrance and watch the boats splash into the water, soaking all the passengers and those visitors who thought that the ‘splash zone’ signs were put up just for fun.
Remember, when you see a sign saying ‘splash zone’ it means exactly that. Chances are you get soaked.
Setting off on the ride is safe enough, until you drift off route and the more dangerous dinosaurs wreak havoc. Trying to escape your boat is pulled up further into the building. And what do we know about steep climbs? What goes up must also, eventually, come down… Before your boat is devoured by an angry T-Rex you plunge 85ft almost straight down to safety where you end up in a pool of water with an all-mighty splash.
If you have the time and energy you can still explore all the other areas in Jurassic Park before you head on to Toon Lagoon.
You have arrived in the land of American cartoon characters from Popeye, Hagar The Horrible and Betty Boop to Dudley Do-Right. Be warned, the rides are water based.
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls sends you hurtling through water at high speed. It’s a log-flume ride with steep drops and lots of water.
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges is a white-water raft ride. You are guaranteed to get very wet so deposit your valuables in the covered area in the raft. You get spun around uncontrollably and nobody gets off with a dry spot on them. The sale of towels outside the ride at an all time high.
And you are almost back at the beginning of the park and only one island left to explore.
Marvel Super-Hero Island: Here is where you find all the really big thrill rides. There is Spider-Man, a 3-D adventure where you are a rookie reporter thrown into the thick of things in New York. While you are queuing you get a good look at the inside of The Daily Bugle. 3-D glasses get provided and the fun is endless. This is definitely a state of the art ride and in the eyes of many one of the best in the world.
Dr Doom’s Fearfall is not for the faint hearted. The two towers look impressive and they are. You are require to deposit ALL lose items in the bins provided before they start. And you get this sense of foreboding. The doors close on you, the bottom drops away and you get shot up the 200ft tower. And of course you are dropping at a high speed back towards terra firma. And in the split second between up and down you are lifted out of your seat and you feel like flying. Keep your eyes open and enjoy the view over the parks and the surrounding area.
The Incredible Hulk roller-coaster is an experience in itself. You are shot (0-40mph in 2 seconds) out of the tube and reach around 65mph while you are hurtling up and down and through loops and corkscrews. For movie buffs: watch the beginning of the movie remake The House On Haunted Hill and the Hulk is featured in it – only the coaster part, not the ascend.
This brings you back to the beginning of the park.
Of course you will find the usual eateries and souvenir shops dotted around the place. There are character appearances all over the park.
Most of the big rides offer you an express pass option. Get a ticket for the ride you want and come back at the allocated time.
There is a baby-swap facility on most rides where parents queue together and one parent rides first while the other looks after the children that aren’t tall enough to ride. And most rides have height restrictions. Once the first parent finished the ride the other walks straight on without any further wait.
The Duelling Dragons and The Incredible Hulk both have free lockers (first hour free) to store away your loose items. Just lock everything away, take the ticket and once the ride is finished collect your bags, etc.
By the way, I am still afraid of heights but it is one minor little thing I learnt to overcome for the thrill of theme park rides.
Dollar exchange fluctuates and at the moment the exchange rate is £1.00 = $1.74
Ticket prices are from
$63 plus tax for a 1day/1park ticket ($59.75 + tax online)
$107.95 plus tax for 2day/2park ticket (99.95 + tax online)
to annual passes from $119.75 plus tax for the Two Park Power Pass with blackout days and $179.75 plus tax for the Preferred Two Park Pass without blackout days. Free parking is included in all annual passes.
All prices are correct as of March 2006
Universal Studios Resort consists of three themed areas, Universal Studios Park, Studio Walk and Islands of Adventure. All three areas are accessible on foot from the multi-storey car park that serves all parks. Make sure you remember where your car is parked, be it King Kong or Jaws otherwise you might have a long search ahead of you.
Opening hours are from 9am to 7pm most days but can vary according to time of year; in summer the park will be open longer hours. Also be aware that the park sometimes closes early on special event days such as Mardi Gras or Halloween Horror Nights only to open a few hours later for these special ticketed events and stay open well into the night.
The Universal Resort is located towards the top end of International Drive and can be reached going north on International Drive, following the signs to Universal or if you arrive from Kissimmee (Disney area) then take the I-4 interstate and follow the signs to Universal. Everything is very well signposted.
Summary: Universal's Thrill Ride
More reviews in the field of Theme Park / Zoo International
- MGM Magic
- I TALK TO MICE
- Imported Snow and Other Stories
- Living a fairytale
- The Magical Magic Kingdom
- A tropical paradise, in the middle of Orlando!
- A winter wonderland, in the middle of Orlando!
- The best theme park in the universe(al)? Not quite, but it's very good!
- Disneyland Paris: Parades
- Exploring space, imagination, technology and 11 different countries!
- The Club House (Manali)
- Bakken (Klampenborg, Denmark)
- Bioparco Zoo (Rome, Italy)
- Wilhelma Zoo and Botanical Garden (Stuttgart, Germany)
- Moody Gardens (Texas)
- Siam Park (Tenerife)
- Aquarium La Rochelle (La Rochelle, France)
- The Big Banana (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
- Tivoli World (Malaga, Spain)
- Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, USA)