This past weekend, my daughter and I had a girls’ weekend in Orlando! We also brought along our Spanish exchange student to join in on the fun, so since we had a teenager with us, we decided to go to Islands of Adventure for one of the days. None of us had ever been there, so it was a fun experience, though having been spoiled by the excellent organization and unending magic of Walt Disney World, we found a few things that didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped.
When you go to the theme park, which is located in the same area as Universal Studios and CityWalk, you park in a large parking garage and then have a fairly long walk to the park that you choose. In the section that we parked in (which was well-marked with a character and a row number to make finding our car later a breeze!), there were no signs leading the way to the attractions. Because we were inside a garage, I had no spatial awareness, and apparently neither did any of the other people that we parked near, because we all wandered around for a short time, unsure as to which direction to go in. We finally found the sign that said “Attractions” and figured out what to do.
We had pre-ordered our tickets but my credit card was coming up as “not found” at the will-call kiosk, so we needed to wait in the long ticket line, which was frustrating. Finally we had our tickets and were able to go into the park. I was a little bit put off by the confusion and annoyances that we’d already encountered, but once we were in, it was a nice, albeit very hot, day. There was a nice mix of scary rides with great teen-appeal and tamer rides for my nine-year-old. We enjoyed the water rides, and during the first hour or two of our day, were able to get onto things relatively quickly; most had a 20- or 30-minute wait. As the day wore on, though, the wait times became much higher, some of them exceeding an hour, which is to be expected, and one had technical difficulties, so after waiting for over an hour, we decided to simply leave the attraction.
If you’re used to Disney World, you know about the fast pass system. Islands of Adventure had something similar, but you had to pay an additional $30 for it, which we decided not to. Those with the Universal Express pass could go on each ride or see each show once without having to wait in the long lines, so maybe it would have been worth it.
Universal and Islands of Adventure also have a meal deal that you can purchase to make dining easy. Since the plan was to leave by dinnertime, we didn’t buy it, but at about $20 per adult and about $10 per child, this unlimited dining plan (from 11:00 am until an hour before the park closes) would have been a good deal. As it was, we only ate lunch in the park and spent about $25 for three meals (a mini-pizza, a burger with fries and a Ceasar salad), which was reasonable, as far as theme park fare goes!
Our teenage guest’s favorite part of the Island was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and my daughter loved the wacky Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, where we all came out sopping wet. I loved the whimsy of Dr. Seuss Landing, along with the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. Overall, it was a fun day with a lot of fun attractions, but I do think that the organization could be improved upon.
Have you been to Islands of Adventure? What was your favorite attraction?