Is Islands of Adventure Worth It? 8 Best Features, Ranked

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Like many things in life, the question of value is a relative one. There have been many times I’ve had buyer’s remorse on a new purchase and questioned whether I got a sufficient emotional return on my investment. 

But have I ever regretted spending money on a theme park vacation for myself or my family? No, I have not.

Guests can expect a lot of things for their purchase of a theme park ticket. For example, you typically expect fun, thrills and to be entertained. You want to make memories that will want to make you come back and make more. 

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What can guests expect at Islands of Adventure?

Islands of Adventure – half of Universal’s non-water park Orlando presence – isn’t the best theme park I’ve ever been to. 

Certainly, I wish they invested in more practical and flat rides and fewer motion simulators. I also wish the theming in a significant portion of the park was updated. 

But I would absolutely pay to go to Universal with my family of five next week if it were possible. So is it worth it? Read on. 

How many days do you need in Islands of Adventure?

One. “Need” is the keyword here. If I’m going to Universal, I like at least two days in each park with a fifth day for wandering around. 

But neither Universal Studios nor Islands of Adventure really need more than that single day. There’s plenty to do and see. But if you go early and stay late, there’s no reason you can’t knock the park out in one day. 

Construction of Minions Attraction at Universal Studios, Fla.
Universal’s Illumination Villain Con Minion Blast is set to open in 2023 (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Does Islands of Adventure have more rides than Universal Studios Florida?

Yes. Significantly so. By my count, Islands wins 17 to 9. 

However, that will change. There is significant renovation underway in Universal Studios as Illumination Villain Con Minion Blast is set to open this summer.

Also, work is underway to replace Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone, including Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster and the Curious George Play Zone. 

We don’t know what will replace them yet. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see an area of flat rides – carnival-style rides like Kang & Kodos – for kids to ride without long wait times.

the hulk at universal
The Hulk is one of the best coasters in Orlando (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Which park has better roller coasters? 

Islands of Adventure clearly has the better coasters with the VelociCoaster, the Hulk cosater and Hagrid’s.

That said, Universal Studio’s Revenge of the Mummy – an indoor coaster – and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit aren’t bad. 

Forbidden Journey Harry Potter
Forbidden Journey has elements of both a coaster and a motion simulator (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Does Islands of Adventure have more simulators? 

Both Universal theme parks lean heavily on motion simulators – I think too much. 

In Springfield, the Simpsons ride is a motion simulator as is the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

The Transformers ride, Minion Mayhem and Fast and Furious are also motion simulators on the Universal Studios Orlando side as are Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

In Islands, the Kong and Spider-Man rides are both motion simulators. I’ve seen the Forbidden Journey characterized as both an indoor coaster and a motion simulator, and I suppose it has elements of both. 

Raptors at Velocicoaster
The VelociCoaster is currently the newest ride at Universal’s Islands of Adventure (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Does Universal’s Islands of Adventure have better rides than Universal Studios Orlando?

Well, in my opinion, Islands of Adventure has the three most popular rides in the complex: VelociCoaster, Hagrids Magical Creatures and the Incredible Hulk.

That isn’t to say Universal Studios doesn’t have some bangers. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – soon to be joined by Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast is a crowd-pleaser as is Revenge of the Mummy.

The E.T. Adventure ride is the only one in the Universal Studios complex that delivers a Walt Disney World-style nostalgia blast. 

But with more rides and all the top rides, it’s hard to say that Islands of Adventure is anything but No. 1 – at least until Epic Universe opens.

Read Also: Universal Studios vs Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Which Is Better?

What are the best lands in Islands of Adventure?

Let’s break them down.

Winged Warrior at Entrance Lost Continent Islands of Adventure
A Winged Warrior watches over guests entering The Lost Continent (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

8. Lost Continent

With the closing of Poseidon’s Fury, I like the Lost Continent a lot better. After all, we love Mythos Restaurant and the quick-service kebab spots on the Island.

Once they announce the replacement for Poseidon’s Fury, be ready. The Lost Continent may climb up in the charts. 

Skull Island Reign of Kong Universal Islands of Adventure
Skull Island has one ride and some snacks and shopping (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. Skull Island

Skull Island is really just the ride. The area also features Reign of Kong, a little Kong-related shopping and the Mess Tent snack shop.

To me, it would be better to have Seven Islands. Kong could fit well with the Lost Continent or could just be folded into Jurassic World with some hand-waving about genetic experiments gone wrong. 

I realize this would be an insult to Kong purists, but frankly, I’m cool with that. 

Confisco Grille's Tuna Nachos and Chicken Quesadilla
Confisco Grille’s Tuna Nachos and Chicken Quesadilla can be found at the Port of Entry (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Port of Entry

This area has lots of shopping and sneaky good dining options but no attractions. It seems strange to move Port of Entry – which is also technically Port of Exit – ahead of two other lands, but the Confisco Grille is underrated. It’s the best spot for shopping. 

Toon Lagoon sign at Islands of Adventure
Toon Lagoon houses Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat water rides (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Toon Lagoon

This is where Universal Studios keeps its non-Volcano Bay water rides – Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.

I do think Toon Lagoon could use a significant IP and theming update and upgrade.

I’ve worked at newspapers for all my adult life and even I think it’s weird to have so much space dedicated to the funny pages and characters most people under 30 don’t know. 

Dr. Doom's Fearfall Ride View of Towers Islands of Adventure
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall is one of the rides located at Marvel Super Hero Island (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. Marvel Super Hero Island 

I’ve said before the Super Hero Island is in major need of a theming upgrade. But Storm Force Accelatron and Doctor Doom’s Fearfall are good base-level style rides that I think Universal could use in other sections of the park to help with crowd control and wait times.

Also, the Incredible Hulk Coaster is a fantastic ride with thrills and a great launch. But the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man? I’m underwhelmed. It needs a significant investment in technology to stay relevant.

I wish they’d upgrade the restaurants and dial down the loudspeakers, but the character meet-and-greets are among the best in the complex. 

seuss landing universal
Seuss Landing is a great place to take the little ones (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Seuss Landing 

This is a great area for kids. The meet and greets are top-notch. The Cat and the Hat Ride is that old-school, practical effect type ride that Universal needs more of.

We enjoyed the Sky Seuss Trolley Train, but the ride queue was kind of rough. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish are just Caro-Seuss-el are okay, but they give kids something to do. 

Jurassic Park River Adventure Water Ride
The Jurassic Park River Adventure is fun and a good choice during hot weather (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Jurassic Park

You could convince me that Jurassic Park is the best land overall even though I ranked it No. 2 here.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure is fun and the Jurassic World VelociCoaster is a world-class coaster. The Pteranodon Flyers is a great kids’ ride, and you also have the Camp Jurassic play area. 

Throw in decent dining, the carnival games and the meet and greets with the raptors and you’ve got a great way to spend a large portion of your day in Islands of Adventure. Plus, the theming is a lot more appropriate for the Florida heat. 

Read Also: 19 Best Rides at Islands of Adventure, Ranked

Hogwarts Express Islands of Adventure in Hogsmeade
Hogsmeade’s Hogwarts Express at Islands of Adventure (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Hogsmeade

I love the Wizarding World. I love the shops, the wand process, the rides and the Butterbeer.

Do I love dining? Not really. I’d rather go eat at the Lost Continent, but we also have to factor in that I’m bitter over a reservations scandal that I will cling to much like the Hogwarts ghosts cling to life. 

Read Also: The Harry Potter Breakfast Experience at Universal, an Honest Review

The Flight of the Hippogriff at Universal Studios Florida
Flight of the Hippogriff is just one of the great rides at Islands of Adventure (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Which is better, Islands of Adventure or Universal for Harry Potter?

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter experiences at the Universal Orlando Resort in Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) – are near-religious experiences for those who grew up devotees of the books and movies. 

But even casual fans are impressed with the immersive experience. Which area is better comes down to preference. 

Hogsmeade has more attractions. These include Forbidden Journey inside the Hogwarts castle, Flight of the Hippogriff and the exceptional Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. But it also has an expansive Florida sky and heat that undercut the snowy-roofed buildings. 

Diagon Alley doesn’t have as much to do, but it has the right feel. Stepping into Diagon Alley – where the buildings are higher – creates a more immersive experience. 

Escape from Gringotts – Diagon Alley’s only ride – is fine. But it’s the fire-breathing dragon atop that is the real star of the show. 

Both lands are connected by the Hogwarts Express so that’s something of a wash – even though the King Crossing queue next to Diagon Alley is a time suck. 

Both have Butterbeer and Harry Potter dining. The shopping and shows are better in Diagon Alley, however.

So if I’m voting, my vote is for Diagon Alley. But I understand if the rides swing other voters to Hogsmeade. 

So is Islands of Adventure worth it?

Yes. If you like theme parks or thrill rides or have Harry Potter fans in the family, it’s absolutely worth it.

Look, admission tickets don’t come cheap nor do the purchase of Express Passes, but Islands of Adventure is filled with fun options for kids, teens and adults. There’s great food, shopping and rides. 

Are there things I wish Universal did better? Sure. But just because there’s room for improvement doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what’s there. 

It’s worth it to stay in a Universal Resort Hotel and get that early theme park admission. But whether you decide to wait in the regular lines or splurge on Universal Express Passes, a day at the Islands of Adventure is definitely worth it. 

Do you think Universal’s Islands of Adventure is worth it? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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