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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
We just got back from a quick road trip to Orlando. It was a pretty spontaneous decision, think of it as a red wire blue wire sort of situation where we were all about to die from being trapped in the house for a year and we decided to give Universal another try this time, we chose Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It’s home to themed lands like Jurassic Park, Seuss Landing, Marvel Superhero Island and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The first time we went to Universal was way back in 2012. The girls were too little at that time but we didn’t realize that until we were there. So we spent a lot of money to stand in the rain and watch the gang from Victorious sing some songs on stage, rode 1 ride and went home. It was a bust. This time was definitely more fun for our family.
We figured the girls were older this time and definitely would love it. And while what we got to do see, ride and do was good it still wasn’t Disney. The thing is Universal and Disney World are completely different kinds of parks and if you’re used to Disney, you’re going into the whole thing with the wrong mentality. So here’s a quick rundown of why you should go to Universal Islands of Adventure and why you shouldn’t go to Universal Islands of Adventure.
Why you should visit Universal Islands of Adventure
· Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies
Universal Islands of Adventure has some thrilling rides. If you like to go fast and hard when you play, Islands of Adventure are for you. The rides will not disappoint but be prepared to be whirled, twirled, fast and furious and to the extreme. Warning: That Dudley Do Right Rip Saw River ride looks harmless but it is, in fact, Splash mountain on steroids and it is raging. It may be the most fun you’ve ever had getting wet but YOU.WILL.BE. DRENCHED. I suggest bringing either a poncho or an extra set of clothes.
· You love Marvel
Not going to lie, the Incredible Hulk Coaster and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman were two of the best rides I’ve ever been on. Did they both almost make me throw up? Yes. Did I love it? Yes! Did I lose my voice screaming from excitement? YES!! If you have kids over 8, they will probably love it.
· You love roller coasters
Universal has some pretty awesome coasters that will leave you dizzy and discombobulated but screaming for more. If you love roller coasters, Universal Islands of Adventure is for you. Bonus; VelociCoaster is coming June 10th and we saw it being tested and it looks amazing.
· Dr. Seuss makes you happy
I’ve spent a big chunk of the last 16 years reading Dr. Seuss whether it was to my girls, to my nieces and nephews or to the sweet preschoolers that I taught but I never found the stories to be as beautiful and endearing as I found Seuss area to be. It is bright, colorful and beautiful filled with whimsy and imagination. However, as I mentioned before, Universal is for thrill-seekers and even the carousel and The Cat in the Hat ride seemed to go very fast. I know the area looks like a kid’s playground but it isn’t as tame as it looks. We loved it but I’m not sure how well a toddler would fare.
· Harry Potter fans
Hogsmeade is like immersing yourself in a Harry Potter book. It is beautiful and if your family are Harry Potter fans, it really brings the story to life. The butterbeer was amazing (we preferred the frozen) and the Ollivanders wand experience was really cool. However, there are only a couple of rides and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure™ is only available by virtual queue and it is virtually impossible to get a spot. We had a time 3 times and the app booted us out and we lost our reservations. It was very frustrating.
Why you shouldn’t visit Universal Islands of Adventure
· It expensive
There is the initial cost of the tickets (1 day/ family of 4/ $579), then if you don’t want to spend all of your time waiting in lines there is the option to purchase express passes ($69) and unlimited express passes ($89), parking ($26), and lockers ( $2 each time you ride something that requires you to put your bag in a locker). That is not including souvenirs, food and drinks. There are definitely more budget-friendly ways to plan your trip. Don’t wait to the lat minute like we did.
· Express pass will make or break your trip
Unless you love waiting in lines and only being able to fit 4-6 rides in on your visit, you better buy yourself an express pass. It was our first real trip to Islands of Adventure so we didn’t know how any of this worked but now we know. If you are staying in a Universal hotel, which we were not, you do get express passes included in your hotel stay. But as we were not, we spent all day waiting in lines and didn’t get to experience as much of the park as we had hoped. Very disappointing. However, if you are staying at a Universal Resort express pass is included so I would highly recommend staying on grounds. Resort rooms were very affordable, we just waited too late to book.
· CoVid rules de jour not de facto
In the end, there are more reasons why you should visit than why you shouldn’t. We wanted to love it but it wasn’t what we expected. Maybe it was CoVid? Maybe it was being unprepared? Or maybe we are just Disney people? Either way, we’d love to go back and give Universal another try and check out the VelociCoaster. It looks amazing and I’m sure it will be one more thrilling ride that my girls will fall in love with. Have you been to Universal Islands of Adventure? What is your favorite area? Favorite ride?