When I told friends and other bloggers in Florida I was going to Orlando for one reason and one reason alone—to do the parks—they reacted like I had just said I was going to cut off seven fingers then take up playing the violin just because. Who, over the age of 12 actually enjoys the Disney and Universal scene and goes there voluntarily? A lot of people, it turns out (this girl included). In fact, when we went to Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios’ rollercoaster haven, I’d wager that there were more groups of park-goers my age than rugrats and teenyboppers.
While I’ve been to all the Disney parks dozens of times in my life, I’d never actually been to Islands of Adventure (it opened after my last trip to Orlando in 1997). So that was top priority this time ’round. And let me tell you: It did NOT disappoint.
Everything about the place was theatrical. Each of the “islands” were themed and decorated accordingly. Not surprisingly, my favorite was Seuss Landing. It was so colorful and whimsical, and while my family had to drag me out of there before I could hop aboard the Suessosel (a carousel made up of his character creations), I probably could have been content spending all day on Mulberry Street with the Cat and the Hat and Horton.
There were some attractions I would downright not recommend, though. Poseidon’s Fury is one of them. I about had a full-blown panic attack (confession: I am extremely claustro, and am now taking meds for this) while cooped up in the dank dungeon, only to find the entire experience was anticlimactic.
The exterior was pretty, though.
The rollercoasters, however, were a trip (literally and figuratively). While my sister’s boyfriend begged that we work our way up to the bad boys, we were having none of it and jumped right in headfirst, starting with the Incredible Hulk.
The hour-long wait was by no means fun (at least they played superhero cartoons in the queue), but the end result—a turbo charge start that propelled you on a high-speed topsy-turvy, twisting and snaking track—made it totally worth it. Similarly, the Dueling Dragons, a pair of coasters—Fire and Ice—that went directly AT EACH OTHER and passed just inches away (each car is weighed beforehand to ensure there are no collisions), were, in the words of my California sweetie, “hella rad.”
We only got to go on one ride in Toon Lagoon—Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges—thanks to 75-minute waits (um, advice: be smarter than we were and go to Orlando in, say, October), but that disgusting, chlorinated river water sure felt good in the 110-degree heat.
One huge disappointment, however, was this:
Way to go and dash a girl’s dreams, Universal.
We saved the very best for last: Spiderman, which was unlike any simulation ride I’d ever been on before (while it was all 3-D, the car actually moved through Manhattan at the same time, versus most simulators which remain stationary).
At that point, it was 5pm and we were all wiped. I don’t know how, as kids, we managed to stay at the parks from the time they opened until they closed. I simply couldn’t hang this time around. (Does that mean I’m officially old at 26?!)
At the end of the day (or week, really), I didn’t love what the Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista area (where the parks are located) has become in the past decade—too many neon signs, airbrush shops and tourist kitsch—but would I go back just to return to Islands of Adventure? HELLS YEAH.