Universal Resorts Florida

Islands of Adventure: Orlando, Adult-Style

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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 LagoonPopeye & 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.

  • July 15, 2009

    Before it closed — at least, I think it’s already closed — my parents and I would go to The Adventurers’ Club every year. Did you ever go? It was on Pleasure Island, and it was the best.

    I can’t believe the Harry Potter ride isn’t open yet. Oh, MAN, am I doing to be all over that next year.

  • July 15, 2009

    Again back to my coaster enthusiasm, I have been DYING to try Spider-man. It was a game changer when they first built it. As much as I love Disney, I have a real soft spot for Universal Studios too.

    How had I NOT heard about the Harry Potter ride? That’s going to be crazy.

  • July 15, 2009

    I enjoy them, I enjoy them!!! You know, I never would’ve thought to go to the Universal parks when Disney is RIGHT THERE OMG . . . but Seussland looks RAD and I am so with you on being bummed that Harry Potter was closed. I’m off to google that ride RIGHT NOW, it looks amazing!

  • July 15, 2009

    I have to agree with you. I love the theme parks. Probably this love was inherited from my father who at the age of 65 has been to the parks in Orlando almost every year in the last 20 years (only three of them with his grandson, my son)! And he always rides in the front seat in all coasters!!

  • July 15, 2009

    HARRY POTTTER! I can’t wait!

  • July 15, 2009

    Well, I know where I’ll be going in 2010. (Just for the Harry Potter!)

  • July 15, 2009

    I went down to Orlando to visit a friend over New Years of 00-01 and we spent a day at Islands of Adventure (which was called something else back then, right? Am I losing my mind?) Now, that winter was the coldest Orlando had seen in YEARS. It was warmer in Denver the whole time I was in Florida! Anyway, the park was deserted due to the cold, so my friend and I spent ALL DAY on the coasters with no lines. We rode Fire and Ice so many times he eventually wobbled off and fell over and I had to make the next trip alone. That was an awesome day! Glad you had fun.

  • July 15, 2009

    wait. so. you are cool with The Cat in the Hat, but not The Cat? what if i sent The Cat a Hat to wear…would you be friends with him then? either way, you are a better person than i am for being able to wait in those lines/queues. christ on a cracker.

  • July 15, 2009

    Have you ever been to Cedar Point?? I bet you would LOVE those coasters!

  • July 15, 2009

    I second Lisa. If you like roller coasters you HAVE to go to Cedar Point! I’ve been going since I was a kid, and it makes every other amusement park since feel LAME.
    (PS. What the hell? How do you get off looking so adorable? Hate you.)

  • July 15, 2009

    What a cool trip. The best I can do over here until I go to Universal is go to Discovery Kingdom.

  • July 15, 2009

    Oh man, I went to Islands of Adventure on spring break of my freshman year of college, and it was definitely my favorite theme park yet. My boyfriend and I loved Camp Jurassic, the play area there. And the coasters were great! I’ll have to go back for the Harry Potter!

  • July 16, 2009

    Seuss Landing looks awesome. I’ve never been to Disney Land or Disney World or any sort of major park aside from little ones in Mass. I always got jealous of the kids that got out of school to go to Florida when I was younger. I should really try them out as an adult.

  • July 16, 2009

    Wow, that really look like fun times!

  • July 16, 2009
    Kari's 1st BF

    Spider Man actually lives in NYC. Batman lives in Gotham. Get it right neighbor. Otherwise, yeah, that ride is awesome. I have a history of being on it when the 3-D screens are malfunctioning, but the fourteen year old pushing the lap bar lock and go button always lets us stay on because it is miraculously fixed for the next go-round. Also, the Harry Pottet stuff is actually an entire ‘island’ within IOA. They call it a park within a park. Several themed rides, places to eat and shops, you will also be able to walk through the Forbidden Forest and the famous Hogwart’s School for Witchcraft and Wizadry castle, among other things I am told. I don’t think it will be open when we go back March of 2010.
    I was under the impression that Poseidon’s Fury would be turned into something for Harry Potter Island so that might solve your issues with it (which I agree with, but for some stupid reason I also do it anyways, I think it is because by the time I get to that point I am tired and hot and it is cool -temperature wise- inside. Plus, No Line, ever.)

  • July 16, 2009

    I can’t wait to go back for the Harry Porter! I know how you could manage when you were kids. Your parents probably toted you around by the end of the day the way we did with our kids now. 🙂

  • July 16, 2009

    I *LOVE* an amusement park.

  • July 20, 2009

    I really liked islands of adventure when i went there too, i was only 18, but im pretty sure today at 26 that i would love it just as much, although i thought that Poseidon ride was fun, but im not claustro at all.. Your review put it back in my top 10 travel list. And yes the parks as a grown up attraction are definitely underrated, i also loved animal kingdom, definitely not just a kids place.

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