With so much to do and seemingly so little time (especially if you're hopping between parks), it's oftentimes hard to decide which attractions you need to go on and which experiences you need to hit before the day is through. Well, as veteran adventurer frogs, we believe we've come to a consensus on what cannot be missed during a day (or half-day) at Universal's Islands of Adventure. So grab your knapsack, take out your notepad and fill up your canteen because the adventure is about to begin!
You pass through the turnstile and enter the mysterious and exciting Port of Entry. You overhear conversations between the various adventurers and explorers who reside there. You smell the pastries being made at the Croissant Moon Bakery and Cinnabon. You see the Incredible Hulk Coaster roaring to life up in front of you and ready yourself for an epic day of adventure. You arrive in front of the lagoon and are faced with your first of many decisions: suit up and enter the world of Marvel Super Heroes or create a little chaos with the colorful characters of Dr. Seuss.
It might be overwhelming to have all of these choices, but you know you wouldn't want to miss out on anything if you can help it! We've highlighted all of the rides, experiences and food and drink items that make Universal's Islands of Adventure the park that it is.
Not-to-Miss Attractions at Universal's Islands of Adventure for Tadpoles and Their Parents
Hogwarts Express - Hogsmeade Station in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
If you have a park-to-park ticket, there's no better way to hop from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios Florida than by climbing aboard the Hogwarts Express. While you won't be magically passing through a brick wall at Hogsmeade Station (that effect is over in King's Cross), this stop does tend to have lower wait times and the train ride itself to London is just as magical as the one to Hogsmeade. Once you depart and say one last goodbye to Hogwarts Castle, you'll pass by the Forbidden Forest and Malfoy Manor before making your way through the suburbs of London where you'll see the Knight Bus driving through the streets — all the while encountering familiar faces from the Harry Potter books and films.
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! in Seuss Landing
Get a bird's eye view of Seuss Landing and its surrounding islands by hopping on board this slow-moving trolley ride. What's great about this attraction is that there are four completely different ways to experience it. One track tells the story of the Sneeches (both Plain-bellied and Star-bellied) while the other takes you through the ABCs of your favorite Seuss stories. Plus, the experience completely changes as day turns to night and the lights of the colorful world of Seuss shine bright! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)
Pteranodon Flyers in Jurassic Park
Another high-flying attraction that I love going on with Lily is this gondola-style ride with unfrogettable views of Isla Nublar. These dinos slowly soar and gently swing above the treetops making it perfect for young tadpoles not yet ready for big-kid thrills. What cements this as a not-to-miss ride is the maximum height requirement of 56 inches. Frogs exceeding that height must be accompanied by tadpoles between 36 and 56 inches, so while you may be able to get on during one visit, you might not be able to ride on your next. Be sure to take advantage while you still can!
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in Seuss Landing
You're in control as these colorful flying fish spin 'round and 'round. Be sure to listen to the song playing as you're piloting! The lyrics will instruct you on how to stay dry by maneuvering your fish up or down. We frogs love getting wet so, of course, we do the opposite! What we particularly enjoy about this attraction is that it's the only water ride in the park that allows you to control the level of soaked you get. That being said, this aerial carousel is a refreshing way to end a long, hot day in the park!
Flight of the Hippogriff in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
Just because tadpoles have little legs doesn't mean they shouldn't get to experience big thrills! Join Hagrid as you enter the Forbidden Forest and approach Buckbeak, the majestic hippogriff. This half-eagle/half-horse will send you spiraling and diving around the pumpkin patch before swooping past Hagrid's famous hut. This coaster is fairly tame with no steep drops, but it's still fun, fast and offers the best views of Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village that you'll get in the park!
Not-to-Miss Attractions at Universal's Islands of Adventure for Thrill-Loving Frogs
Jurassic World VelociCoaster in Jurassic Park
If there's one ride in this entire park you cannot skip out on, it's this one. Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the newest attraction in Islands of Adventure and one of the most exhilarating coasters we've ever experienced. This high-speed dash through the park's raptor paddock is the tallest and fastest launch coaster in Florida. It features four inversions including a 360-degree barrel roll above water, a massive 155-foot hill with an 80-degree drop, two launches (the second of which hits 70 mph in just 2.4 seconds) and a total of 12 spine-tingling seconds of airtime. If you're looking for thrills, look no further than the apex predator of roller coasters.
Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
Hop on a motorbike or sidecar and get ready to learn all about the fantastic beasts that call the Forbidden Forest home in Professor Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class. Make sure to hold on tight, though, because these bikes have a mind of their own. This state-of-the-art, family-friendly roller coaster brings you face-to-face with a Blast-Ended Skrewt, Fluffy (the three-headed dog), centaurs, Cornish pixies and more as you surge through multiple launches and hills, going as fast as 50 mph. You might even find yourself going backward at one point! Just try not to get caught in the Devil's Snare. There's only one way to break free: a 16-foot drop straight down!
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
Enter the famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where you'll join the Golden Trio (Harry, Ron and Hermione) as they whisk you away from a Hogwarts history lecture and invite you to watch a Quidditch match instead. Once you enter the Great Hall, you'll board an enchanted bench that will send you flying over the castle grounds. This thrilling adventure will have you dodging gigantic spiders, the Whomping Willow, a fire-breathing dragon and soul-sucking Dementors. Be prepared to dive, turn and pivot through physical sets and screen-based moments and while you'll never be completely facing upside down, you will be tilted in just about every direction you can think of.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Marvel Super Hero Island
If Forbidden Journey seems a little too intense, this indoor, simulator dark ride might be the next best thing. The Sinister Syndicate has captured the Statue of Liberty with an anti-gravity canon and J. Jonah Jameson wants an exclusive. Now a cub reporter for the Daily Bugle, you're tasked with covering the story and joining Spidey as he swings above the streets of New York City, scales skyscrapers and battles his biggest baddies. This thrilling, opening-day attraction combines 3D film, ride movement, practical and visual effects and is always one of our first stops upon entering the park!
Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges in Toon Lagoon
You didn't think I'd completely leave out Toon Lagoon, did you? Prepare to get wet on this raging rapids adventure as you help Popeye save Olive Oyl from the clutches of the menacing Bluto. While this attraction doesn't have the nail-biting 75-foot drop you'll find over on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, we always opt for this ride for the thrilling fear and fun of getting completely and utterly drenched. No seat is safe. You will get soaked. (Full-body people dryers can be found in Toon Lagoon and the neighboring Jurassic Park.)
Not-to-Miss Experiences at Universal's Islands of Adventure
Ollivanders Wand Shop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
One of Harry Potter's first stops before arriving at Hogwarts is a trip to Ollivanders ... and yours should be too! Matching young witches and wizards with the perfect wand since 382 BC, this iconic store is home to a magical interactive experience. In groups of about 24 frogs at a time, you'll enter the shop and, if you're lucky, the shop attendant will choose you to be matched with your very own wand! Even if you're not chosen, it's a thrill just to watch the production with all the music and special effects that it entails. (Whether you're chosen or not, you still need to fork over some Gringotts banknotes if you want to go home with a wand.)
Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park
For frogs willing to come face-to-face with 56 razor-sharp teeth and 12-inch curved talons, we can't recommend the new and improved Raptor Encounter enough! Enter the paddock where you'll meet Blue, the trained but feisty star of the park's Velociraptor pack. This encounter is guided by a lively and engaging raptor trainer who will hoppily share some interesting facts about the clever carnivore and her habitat — and will even (probably unsuccessfully) attempt to calm Blue down if you're brave enough to approach her for a photo. You can also now meet Sierra or Tango, two precocious 6-month old raptor hatchlings, during your visit as well!
The Mystic Fountain in The Lost Continent
At first glance, The Lost Continent may seem like nothing more than a pathway to get from Seuss Landing to Hogsmeade (or vice versa). However, there are more than a few hidden gems scattered across this mythical land and one of our favorites is The Mystic Fountain. Located in Sindbad's Bazaar, this feisty fountain is home to a mischievous water spirit that was trapped in stone by the evil Miseria. Perfect for days when the sun is burning bright, this talkative water feature loves interacting and playing games with tadpoles and tadpoles at heart. Put on your thinking cap and get your game face on because if you answer a question incorrectly, it might just invoke the wrath of Poseidon (meaning: prepare to get wet!).
Meet Spider-Man and the Marvel Super Heroes in Marvel Super Hero Island
When it comes to character encounters, this might just be our favorite. This meet-and-greet has you feeling like you've jumped into the pages of a comic book and are ready to save the day! Avengers fans can meet New York's finest, Spider-Man and Captain America, X-Men fans can unleash their inner power with Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Rogue and fearless frogs can get a photo with some of Marvel's most dastardly villains, Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin. Note that the appearances of characters are subject to change without notice and not every character is guaranteed to appear at the same time or on the same day.
The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade
Once the sun sets, gather 'round Hogwarts Castle for a magical spectacle of music and lights. This projection-mapping show celebrates the school's four houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin) and features narration by the Sorting Hat, John Williams' iconic score and a dazzling fireworks finale. This five-minute show plays continuously from dusk to park close so there's plenty of time to get yourself over to Hogsmeade to watch. Lumos!
Honorable Mention: Grinchmas in Seuss Landing
Though it doesn't take place year-round, we still think it's worth mentioning Grinchmas if you hoppen to be here during the holidays. Frogs young and old will love celebrating the holidays with the citizens of Whoville! Every year, they go all out for the season and wrap tinsel around every nook and cranny of Seuss Landing — trimming up more than just the tree with Christmas stuff. The highlight of this event is the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a heartwarming live retelling of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" featuring music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller and starring an adorable little doggy playing Max! Be sure to taste some gloriously green goodies while you're here, and don't froget to pay a visit to the viral sensation himself, the Grinch, at All The Books You Can Read Bookstore. Afterward, you can hop next door to experience Christmas in The Wizarding World.
Food and Drink Items Not-to-Miss at Islands of Adventure
Casado Burger at The Burger Digs
This frog is of the belief that if you can mix sweet and savory, then you absolutely must. When the culinary artists at Universal Orlando were tasked with creating new food offerings to debut alongside Jurassic World VelociCoaster, they did not disappoint. This Costa Rican-inspired black Angus patty is topped with sweet plantains, avocado, pork belly, garlic mayonnaise and served on a raptor-scorched brioche bun. (It's also available "Protein Style" with lettuce instead of buns.) The mix of flavors is truly unlike anything we've ever tasted and is a perfect meal for any omnivore. Be sure to wash this delicious burger down with an ice-cold milkshake!
Pumpkin Hummus at Confisco Grille
Regardless of what some wizards or HHN-fanatics might tell you, there is such thing as too much pumpkin. That being said, Confisco Grille absolutely nails it with their take on this Middle Eastern classic. This savory pumpkin hummus is topped with toasted pepitas, pomegranate seeds and served with charred pita and lavosh. Leap and I love that the pumpkin flavor isn't completely overwhelming. It's just subtle enough to make this appetizer sweet (and the various toppings don't hurt at all)! We can't start a meal at Confisco without it.
Pear Dazzle at Hog's Head
While this Hogsmeade pub doesn't have an official menu ... it does have a secret one. Yes, you can get Wizarding World classics such as Pumpkin Juice here or even the pub's exclusive Hog's Head Brew, but my absolute favorite thing to get here is the Pear Dazzle. This potion is a lighter, fruitier option that combines vodka, pear cider and lemonade and is garnished with a maraschino cherry. (So it's only for frogs 21 and up!) It's especially refreshing on a hot summer day and while it's by no means strong, I definitely recommend ordering it after you've conquered Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Better to be safe than sorry on those roller coasters!
Frozen Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks
You didn't think I would have a list of not-to-be-missed items and not include the infamous Butterbeer, did you? Now, while Hot Butterbeer isn't particularly ideal year-round and normal "cold" Butterbeer might be a tiny bit too sweet for those that don't know what they're in store for, you cannot go wrong with the frozen option (it's Tad's favorite!). Butterbeer by itself is a nonalcoholic sweet drink reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch but because the frozen version is blended with ice, it's notably less sweet and more refreshing than its cold counterpart. You can also find this Wizarding World delight at the two giant Butterbeer carts stationed in between Three Broomsticks and the Hogwarts Express train and next to Hogwarts Castle just in front of the bridge to Jurassic Park.
Green Eggs & Ham Tots at Green Eggs and Ham Cafe
Butterbeer isn't the only literary treat you can find at Islands of Adventure! Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Hogsmeade is Seuss Landing where you'll find one of Dr. Seuss' most famous creations. This Universal take on Sam-I-Am's favorite meal combines green eggs, diced ham, white cheese sauce and is served over tater tots. (According to Universal's official blog, spinach pesto is what makes these eggs verdant.) This savory entree is perfectly filling and features a delightful mix of flavors but anything we can say about it pales in comparison to Guy-Am-I's glowing review: "They are so good, so good, you see! So I will eat them in a box. And I will eat them with a fox. And I will eat them in a house. And I will eat them with a mouse. And I will eat them here and there. Say! I will eat them anywhere!"
There you have it! You should be all set for an exciting day filled with many adventures abound. Have you been to the park before? Did we miss any must-dos at Universal's Islands of Adventure? Let us know in the comments below!