Rope drop at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is unlike any theme park I’ve been to, including its sister park, Universal Studios Florida.
Part of it is because the newer Islands of Adventure clearly has superior rides. I mean, I like Escape from Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Minion Mayhem at Universal.
But I don’t think any of those would crack the top three or four rides at Islands of Adventure.
Right now, rope drop is an overland charge to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to try and beat the massive wait times that are an albatross around the neck of the Hagrid ride later in the day.
Our march took us to parts of the Lost Continent that probably should have stayed lost. In fact, when we finally arrived in Hogsmeade there should have been people lining up and handing out Butterbeers as they do with water at a marathon.
Editor’s Note: We’ve also made a printable version of this list here.
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What should I ride first at Islands of Adventure?
The right answer for most people is pretty clearly Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Wait times through the day for Hagrid stay pretty high, and if you can get early park admission and tackle the gauntlet march to Hagrid’s you can beat the game a bit and be rewarded with a short wait time.
But overall, this is a question of philosophy. What is your goal? To set the tone for the day? Do you want maximize low early morning wait times? Are you a Harry Potter fan? Did you arrive at Universal with a bunch of kids? Do you have Express Pass? Do we want to use single-rider lines?
The real trick is to go two days, use the first to grab Hagrid’s and the second to get to as many rides with a minimal queue as you can while the rest of the mob make the march to Hagrid’s.
On our second day, we were able to do Forbidden Journey and several rounds on Flight of the Hippogriff before the park opened properly and made it into Jurassic Park as those rides opened.
Now, once Universal opens a proper Fast Pass lane for Hagrid’s, the answer to this question may change to the impossible-to-spell VelociCoaster. But for now, stick with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hagrid’s.
What is the best ride at Islands of Adventure?
There’s only one way to get here friends, and that’s by scientifically breaking it down as the Lord intended, with a list.
Why is the Caro-Seuss-el ranked at 18? Well, it’s a carousel with Dr. Seuss characters.
It’s a fun little ride, but it’s a carousel. We’ve all ridden them dozens of times in our lives. It’s a perfectly good carousel, but that’s all it is.
17. Storm Force Accelatron
Located in Marvel Super Hero Island, the only thing superhero-related on this staple of theme parks and carnivals everywhere is the theming.
It’s a scrambler-style ride. It’s fun for the whole family. There’s a reason these types of rides are everywhere. But there’s nothing out of the ordinary here.
16. Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
This is one of the park’s fun little thrill rides. This one usually doesn’t have much of a wait. It’s another theme park staple drop ride.
Again, it’s fun, especially for kids who are ready to start stepping into bigger rides.
15. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
Here we have another theme park staple, but it gets points for the Popeye theme. Usually, I think Popeye is a pretty dated character for the park, but that uniqueness works here.
Also, you’re going to get wet on this ride. Maybe the best time I had at the park was waiting at the exit watching people come off this ride drenched. They were not prepared for the level of soaked they were going to be. Some people were visibly enraged. Others raced to get in line again.
Fair warning, the full-body dryers aren’t especially effective. We had to buy my daughter a new outfit after riding or she’d have been dripping the rest of the day.
14. The Cat in the Hat
This old-school attraction is a throwback to when theme parks didn’t rely on screens and 3D technology to put you in the story.
It was a big hit with our smaller kids and honestly, I quite enjoyed it as well. I wish Universal’s Islands of Adventure had a few more rides like this one.
13. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
This is a classic kid’s ride in the style of Dumbo which takes kids safely up off the ground and lets them fly in a circle.
It has the added benefit of jets of water to cool them off. It’s a fun little kid’s ride.
12. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
This ride is a good old-fashioned log flume fun. I doubt most of the kids inside Universal Orlando Resort have any idea who Dudley Do-Right and friends, or any of the Toon Lagoon characters, are, but you come down that chute like a rocket.
There’s something to be said for pure, unadulterated speed.
11. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
There’s something to be said for this fun little train ride over Seuss Landing once you get on the thing.
Fans get a unique view of the park that’s certainly worth their time. In my experience, the ride went down frequently and the queue was a bit of a slog, but the ride itself was great.
10. Pteranodon Flyers
This is one of the most elusive rides in the park due to its complicated requirement. It’s an exciting ride where you soar over Jurassic Park.
Riders must be under 56 inches unless they are accompanying a child who meets the height requirements.
Child riders must be 36 inches tall and those under 48 inches must have a supervising companion.
In short, it’s for kids. Still, despite the confusing guidelines, wait time jumps up quickly and stays pretty consistent most days. If your kids want to ride this ride, try to get there early. The play area under the ride is pretty good, too.
9. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Your mileage here may vary.
I found the Universal experience heavily reliant on screens and motion simulation. This one wasn’t a win for me.
Like most of the Super Hero Island, it feels dated and kind of disappointing. Compared to other motion rides in Orlando, from Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to Skull Island: Reign of Kong, this ride really shows its age.
I understand Universal not wanting to invest in Marvel products it doesn’t hold the rights to across all mediums, but after they finish getting the Epic Universe park up and running, this ought to be the next order of business.
I would rather they either invest in Marvel Island or retheme it completely.
8. Jurassic Park River Adventure
Guests ride through the dinosaur-infested jungle on a boat on their way to a massive waterfall. Additionally, this ride is perfect for a hot day.
7. Flight of the Hippogriff
This is a great little coaster to introduce the young ones to a thrill-ride experience. The ride offers good views of the park and a shady queue. It’s a quick but entertaining little sprinter of a coaster.
We love it.
6. Hogwarts Express
This isn’t much of a ride, really. The screens aren’t the most impressive technology and the ride itself is fairly short.
But if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books or movies, the theming is fantastic and this is a must-do experience.
I recommend quite a bit taking the train from Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure to King’s Cross in Universal Studios rather than the other way around. The queue at Hogsmeade is quite pleasant. Note that you must have the park hopper ticket to ride.
5. Skull Island: The Reign of Kong
This ride comes with benefits from being newer than many of the motion simulators in the park.
It has some great characters that can really earn a jump scare.
This ride isn’t for kids who are easily frightened, but it’s a great ride that really gets the spirit of King Kong correct.
4. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
This is probably the best of the motion simulators in Islands of Adventure. The Forbidden Journey takes guests underneath Hogwarts Castle for adventures in the school of witchcraft and wizardry.
And you will also soar above the castle grounds using state-of-the-art technology for a great theme park experience.
3. Incredible Hulk Coaster
This fantastic roller coaster is the absolute jewel of Marvel Island. And that, in fact, makes any thought of retheming complicated.
The ride launches at up to 67 mph and powers forward like the Hulk himself.
2. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Hagrid’s may not be as thrilling as our No. 1 pick, but the theming, adventure, fun and accessibility to the whole family make this a close second.
If you’re not a rollercoaster zealot, the VelociCoaster can be intimidating to the point where the fun is replaced by fear.
Hagrid’s is part of the park’s most valuable intellectual property. It’s thrilling, but it’s also fun and welcoming. Certainly, it’s a perfect theme park ride.
1. Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Welcome to the Jungle. They’ve got dinosaurs.
This award-winning rollercoaster is fun to just watch. There’s a great spot behind the Hogshead and Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade that is perfect for watching the coaster speed past.
It’s sleek, powerful and daring, this is everything you want in a roller coaster. It’s easily the most thrilling ride in the park. Plus, it has dinosaurs.
What are your favorite Islands of Adventure rides? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments.