Visiting Universal Orlando Resort for the first time? You need to decide exactly where you want to start because there is a lot to see! If you read our recent post, you will know that we spent our 48 hours exploring both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios at Universal Orlando Resort. The reality is, you could easily spend 48 hours in each of these theme parks but we want to focus our attention on some of the best things to do at Islands of Adventure before heading over to explore Universal Studios.
It’s a pretty safe bet that when you are home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you are going to be an incredibly popular location. No longer do you need to think about crossing the pond to experience Harry Potter in the United Kingdom! However, the beauty of Universal’s Islands of Adventure is that there is a wide variety of other attractions waiting to entice you through the gates.
Whether you are a dinosaur lover and raring to visit Jurassic Park or perhaps the younger folks in your family are excited about the thought of visiting Seuss’ Landing, you can be sure that there of plenty of things to do at Islands of Adventure for everyone to enjoy!
Best Things to Do at Islands of Adventure
Seven different themes covering a large area means that Islands of Adventure is a theme park that you could easily spend several days enjoying. But when you only have 48 hours to experience this park along with one other, you need to be pretty organized and have an itinerary in mind.
Rather than trying to enjoy every single area, we opted to focus on the following three areas in addition to the Port of Entry and Hogwarts Express.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Jurassic Park
- Toon Lagoon
- Hogwarts Express
- Port of Entry
However, don’t let this fool you! We walked around all of Islands of Adventure and caught a glimpse of a myriad of attractions throughout this theme park but the above areas are what really captured our attention.
Day 1 saw us spend several hours in “The World of Harry Potter” where we enjoyed lunch and also Jurassic Park before we hopped on the Hogwarts Express to explore Universal Studios. We did the reverse on Day 2 and also incorporated Toon Lagoon into our itinerary!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
It’s no surprise that the highlight attraction and one of the most popular spots throughout the Universal Orlando Resort is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter…and for good reason! After wandering through the Seuss Landing and Lost Continent areas, we arrived at the archway to Hogsmeade Village.
To our left was the impressive sight of Hogsmeade Station while in front of us, we couldn’t help but admire the breathtaking architecture that was incredibly realistic. The towering sight of Hogwarts Castle is awe-inspiring and you cannot help but be transformed into the world where Harry Potter enjoyed a lifetime of adventures!
But I’m sure it’s our adventures you are interested in reading about and hopefully inspiring you to have a few of your own in the near future.
Explore the variety of shops that epitomize the architectural brilliance of Hogsmeade Village and perhaps find a souvenir or two to remember your visit to this magical place. We certainly enjoyed browsing around the candy shops where a Chocolate Frog, Fizzing Whizzbee or Jelly Slug quickly caught our eye.
After spending some time enjoying life in Hogsmeade, we were ready to grab lunch and what better place to do this than the authentic Three Broomsticks restaurant in the heart of the village.
The Three Broomsticks is the place to go in Hogsmeade for good food, friendly conversation, and a Butterbeer (Universal Orlando Resort)
When I read the above review about the Three Broomsticks, I knew that this was a place we had to experience. A visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter simply wouldn’t be the same without enjoying lunch or at least a frozen butterbeer inside this restaurant.
The moment you walk into this restaurant, you cannot help but focus your attention on the intricate decor details and everything that portrays a stereotypical Harry Potter setting. The menu has a very British feel to it with options such as Fish and Chips and Shepherd’s Pie which Heather and I opted for.
Combine these delicious entrees with a frozen butterbeer or perhaps an apple cider and you are enjoying stereotypical Harry Potter fare!
If you are prepared to wait in line, there are a number of rides that will likely attract your attention. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is located inside Hogwarts Castle and understandably a popular attraction among visitors. Other rides that visitors are always raring to visit include the Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge (***Please note, as of September 5, 2017, Dragon Challenge is no longer available at Islands of Adventure but a new ride will be taking its place by 2019!***)
It’s no surprise that the true, hardcore Potter fans will quite easily spend a full day enjoying this part of Islands of Adventure! Our highlight was undoubtedly sampling the frozen butterbeer and enjoying lunch inside the Three Broomsticks.
Imagine coming face to face with a T-Rex or contemplating the thought of velociraptors chasing you around the compound?
Head to the Jurassic Park island for your very own experience with dinosaurs and learn all about how the various species once dominated the globe.
The highlight attraction at Jurassic Park is the River Adventure which is a stereotypical log ride…ok, who are we kidding!! The scenic water cruise starts relatively calmly but the reality is, this is leading you into a false sense of security. As you pass through the scenic landscape with a baby stegosaurus being the highlight attraction, you quickly veer into a “restricted area” and are faced with the towering sight of a T-Rex.
The towering 85-foot plunge is your only wait to avoid the razor sharp teeth piercing through your skin but I’m not sure the plunge offers much respite.
This thrill a second experience will not only make your heart skip a beat, it will also cool you down…be prepared to have a towel handy!
After enduring this exhilarating water ride, why not head over to the brand-new Raptor Encounter for an up close and personal experience with those lovable velociraptors. Learn all about the physical characteristics of this dynamic creature before it is let loose in the compound and those daring enough can enjoy a selfie…just don’t get too close otherwise you may be a tasty snack for the raptors that are sure to be hungry!
For those of you that love water-based rides, head over to the Toon Lagoon island to experience all of the amazing attractions. Be prepared to get a little wet but it’s all part of the fun and just as the Universal Orlando Resort slogan goes, you have to “Vacation Like You Mean It” when you visit here!
There are primarily three iconic attractions that you cannot afford to miss at Toon Lagoon. Dudley’s Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls is renowned for being one of Islands of Adventure’s iconic rides, so be prepared to wait in line for this one.
It’s fair to say though, it’s worth the wait! Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges is another popular attraction for all the family to enjoy, so hop on one of the barges and help Popeye save Olive Oyl from Bluto.
A myriad of comic characters can be seen throughout Toon Lagoon, so have your camera handy and be prepared to capture a shot of your favorite comic book character.
If you are ready for a quick bite to eat, head over to the Comic Strip Cafe before visiting Gasoline Alley to purchase a souvenir to savor your visit to this island.
It’s understandable that the majority of visitors to Universal’s Islands of Adventure will be raring to hop on the Hogwarts Express to take the magical journey from Hogsmeade to London.
For those of you that purchase the park-to-park pass (this attraction alone justifies this purchase in our opinion!), this experience is certainly one that you won’t want to miss. An “express” pass is beneficial given the wait times that can be pretty substantial, particularly in the middle of the day.
The moment you walk through the entrance to Hogsmeade Station, the theme of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade continues.
This is very different to the “urbanized” setting once you arrive at King’s Cross Station in London but helps set the scene for your experience as you wait to board the Hogwarts Express.
The journey is relatively short but full of adventure. As you pass through the rural countryside heading back to London, your eyes are constantly drawn to the action taking place outside the window. However, don’t be fooled, because there may be one or two encounters that will catch your attention to make this an even more interactive experience!
Port of Entry
One of the frequently forgotten areas at Islands of Adventure is actually your first experience at this theme park. After walking through the gates and being welcomed by the bridge that indicates “The Adventure Begins,” visitors are immediately part of the Port of Entry area.
Although this part of the theme park doesn’t haven’t any attractions (rides) per se, this is certainly an area that you can spend some time exploring the various souvenir shops before grabbing a bite to eat either before your experiences begin throughout the park or on your way out.
Holiday Cheer 365 Days A Year
The Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe is a popular location with the distinctive Christmas souvenirs combined with your favorite characters offering a perfect gift option to take home. Various dining options including Starbucks (grab your very own Universal Orlando Resort Starbucks mug!), Cinnabon, and several others ensure that the Port of Entry is a bustling area as you contemplate the adventure that awaits around the park.
If you are looking for the best things to do at Islands of Adventure hopefully, we have inspired you to check out some of our favorite spots. The reality is that anyone visiting this theme park will likely want to spend at least one full day experiencing everything but for those wanting to capture a glimpse of the very best this park has to offer, there are a few spots that you won’t want to miss.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is definitely an attraction that comes with plenty of hype but we both feel this is 100% justified. The incredible architecture is a breathtaking sight as are the interactions you can enjoy throughout Hogsmeade.
Enjoying lunch at the Three Broomsticks is as realistic as it comes if you are looking for the ultimate Potter experience but don’t forget to hop on the Hogwarts Express before exploring the rest of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Diagon Alley!
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Universal Orlando Resort for providing us with complimentary two-day, two-park tickets in exchange for consideration of a blog post review. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.