You may be forgiven for thinking that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in its own right but in actual fact, it is just one part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park (see my previous article for more information). Since The Wizarding World opened in June 2010, it has been Islands of Adventure’s biggest crowd-puller, with people even queuing for up to 8 hours to get into the park on the opening day! But fear not Potter fans, here is my run-down on my time in Hogsmeade which will hopefully help and inspire you on your own wizarding adventure. Muggles can look away now!
Following on from my previous Orlando article, A Beginners Guide to Orlando – Part 2 looks at Universal’s other theme park, Islands of Adventure aka Harry Potter World.
Islands of Adventure (IoA) saw a huge soar in visitor numbers upon the opening of the much-awaited Wizarding World of Harry Potter in June 2010, with people queuing for up to 8 hours on the opening day! The Harry Potter hype is still very present but with my handy guide, here’s how to make the most of your time at IoA.
Top Tip: Get to the park gates before opening time, if you want to see and do the best bits then beat some of the crowds by getting there early! If you’re a Potter fan then head straight for Hogsmead.
The park isn’t really made up of islands as its name suggests, it is more of a collection of themed areas which are set around a lagoon. Much like Universal Studios, this park is very easy to navigate as you are almost just walking in a circle. The 6 different ‘islands’ within the park are – Marvel Super-Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing and of course, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
If you are not a huge fan of the boy wizard then my advice would be to head straight for Marvel Super-Hero Island, as the multi-award winning Spider-Man still knows how to pull a crowd. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a 3D motion simulator taking you on a journey through the streets of New York as you watch Spider-Man battle with evil super-villains. A brilliant ride and definitely worthy of the numerous awards it has won.
Another popular ride at Super-Hero Island is The Incredible Hulk Coaster. One for coaster junkies, this ride accelerates from 0-40mph in two seconds and reaches top speeds of 67mph. A beast of a ride, but after wobbling off with a headache I decided it was time for a little sit down before Dr Doom’s Fearfall!
Perhaps the most stomach-churning ride in Super-Hero Island is Dr Doom’s Fearfall as you are seated at the bottom of a tower and then shot 150ft up into the air at great speed. When you reach the top there is a moment where your bottom is lifted off the seat and just the shoulder restraints are stopping you from hurtling up even further. And then, you are plunged all the way back down again after a little bob up and down at the top, just to shake you up a bit more. The faint of heart may prefer to try Storm Force Accelatron, a teacup style ride, just next to the Hulk Coaster.
Next, head on to Toon Lagoon, where you will feel like you are walking through the pages of a comic. It is here where you will find the park’s main water rides. Although Dudley Do-Right is not a familiar character for all the parks guests (well, not us Brits anyway), Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls is still a fun log flume ride. You will get wet but it is certainly not the wettest ride in Orlando as that title goes to….
….Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges! Looks can be deceiving as this ride does not look half as perilous as Ripsaw Falls. In fact 5 of us clambered aboard the 12-seater circular raft and were soon joined by a group of American teenage boys. The boys all started stripping off and stuffing their t-shirts into the covered compartments in the middle of the raft. Us Brits wondered if they knew something we didn’t but we figured what with the British weather being what it is and all, we were quite used to a soaking back home.
Now, what I expected from “a soaking” on this ride was perhaps soggy shorts and the odd splash or two but Bilge Rat Barges was the equivalent of getting into a bath fully clothed. I kid you not. It is still good for a laugh, and yes we did pay to use the giant human dryers afterwards.
Top Tip: If you happen to be at Toon Lagoon for lunch, then the sandwiches at Blondie’s come highly recommended!
If you’re in the need of a little rest from rollercoasters then try The Lost Continent. Although this ‘island’ doesn’t have a great deal going on since its reduction to accommodate Harry Potter World, it is still worth a look. The main attraction here is The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad which is an enjoyable live action special effects show. The amazing stunts and pyrotechnics make this worth a watch. Check your park map for show times. Poseidon’s Fury is another attraction in The Lost Continent. It is sort of a walking tour show. The water effects are pretty impressive but I would only bother visiting this one again if I had time to kill.
A brief mention of two of the other ‘islands’, Jurassic Park has a couple of kids rides but unfortunately for us its main attraction, Jurassic Park River Adventure, was closed on the day of our visit. Still, we popped into the Discovery Centre for a look at the interactive exhibits in the air-conditioned cool. While IoA isn’t the best park for small children, they are catered for at Seuss Landing, an area dedicated to the colourful, zany world of Dr Seuss. As we weren’t travelling with children we did little more than walk through this part of the park.
And so there you have Universal’s Islands of Adventure in a nutshell…
…oh I forgot about Harry Potter didn’t I? Well, I guess that’s an adventure that can wait until next time!