Even though it has been open for a couple of years, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is very popular. We visted on a quiet weekday in early December, so the crowds weren't too bad. The main attraction is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It's a new ride, set inside Hogwarts Castle, and it combines actual ride movement through moving scenery with simulator type experiences in front of large screens. I've not experienced anything like it before, the advanced technology used really is amazing.
|Me outside Hogwarts!|
A large part of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the queuing area. If you arrive early to beat the queue to the ride then you can miss a lot of what is going on, so it's worth either visiting again later or taking your time as you walk through the castle. You see prop replicas and scenery, combined with very clever video footage of the characters from the films performing little scenes, and even paintings on the wall holding conversations. I believe that if you don't want to go on the main ride, or if you have children that are too small, you can just do a separate walkthrough of the castle.
The two other rides in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are both old rides that have been re-themed. There is a small rollercoaster - The Flight of the Hippogriff - and a larger ride with two intertwined rollercoasters - Dragon Challenge.
The other attraction is the town of Hogsmeade - a large reconstruction of Hogsmeade with lots of little shops, including Honeydukes sweet shop, Ollivanders wand shop and Zonko's joke and toy shop, between them selling a vast range of merchandise. You can also buy real Butterbeer which we enjoyed very much, although it was very sweet! It wasn't cheap, and I bought mine in a souvenir mug which made it a bit more expensive, but I don't think there is anywhere outside of Hogsmeade that you can drink Butterbeer!
|Ram in Hogsmeade|
We spent quite some time in the rest of the Islands of Adventure park too. There are some big rides there, like the Incredible Hulk Coaster which seems to go on and on and up and down and around for ages. We also love The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It was very new on our first visit some years ago and it hasn't dated at all. It has been updated since we last rode it, and the technology really is amazing as you go on a 3D animated journey with Spiderman.
Islands of Adventure isn't really aimed at young children, and we didn't see nearly as many pushchairs as we did at the other Orlando theme parks. However there are lots of attractions there that young children would enjoy, and in particular the Seuss Landing area has several rides which very young children can go on. On this visit we avoided all the water rides in the park, because we knew from previous experience that they do leave you absolutely drenched!
You can't take bags or any loose articles on to most of the big rides at Islands of Adventure. Free lockers operated using fingerprints are provided, and the length of the free period is determined by how long the queue for the ride is. The locker areas can get very congested and it does take time to leave and retrieve things. If you want to spend the day riding all the big rollercoasters it's worth trying to avoid taking any kind of bag with you, and instead wearing clothes with secure zipped pockets for phones and wallets etc.
When it comes to buying tickets you can save a small amount booking tickets in advance on-line. However because we just wanted a day ticket, and because of the unpredictability of small children, we bought our tickets there on the day. The ticket window opens before the park gates do, so you don't need to waste any time queuing.
A one day pass covering both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure currently costs $123 for an adult. What they don't advertise very clearly at the ticket office is that you can purchase a day ticket for just Islands of Adventure (or indeed Universal Studios) for $88 for an adult. The cashier tried very hard to persuade us to buy a day ticket covering both parks, saying that we would have finished Islands of Adventure by 2pm as it was a quiet day. She was right, but we knew that we wouldn't have the stamina for a full day anyway (as well as the fact that the price difference is significant!) so we were glad that we just stuck with our single day ticket for Islands of Adventure. Full ticket details can be seen here, and you also have to pay $15 per car for parking at the park.