Jump to content

PTR: Universal's Islands of Adventure


Recommended Posts

Universal's Islands of Adventure.

May 14th - 17th 2010.

I had the pleasure of visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure this past weekend. Also, that other park next door. You know, the one with the movies... Nah, I love both Islands and Universal Studios. Truly I do! But I find Islands to be so photogenic and so unbearably interesting, that I always focus my photography on finding the details within. I'm really no good at trip reports, so I'll just sort of walk everyone through the park. Hopefully those who have been and those who haven't will find it interesting. Also please note, I am not now, have not ever been, and never plan to be a photographer.


Just outside of the park is this crashed seaplane. Well, it's actually more for Margaritaville at CityWalk, I believe... And if it were anyone but Universal, I'd chalk it up to coincidence.


Basically, this is the front of the park. This photo was taken from the rear of the park looking towards the entrance, however - like our own park, it is not really an Island... But you get the basic idea. The only rides that can be seen from outside of the park are the Pharos Lighthouse, The Incredible Hulk, and Dr. Doom's Fear Fall.


Both Islands and the neighboring Studios feature prop gates. Both do actually open and close, but only for special events. What I love is the dichotomy... Islands of Adventure's gate is tangled and has the appearance of copper in the process of rusting, flanked by toppling stone pillars.


Universal's gate, meanwhile, is very prim and proper - chrome and ornate. I can't help but think that this dichotomy is entirely on purpose, and it's just one of those things that 99% of people probably don't consciously notice, and even fewer would care about if they knew, but Universal built and maintained it. (This image is from Google Maps Streetview).


As you approach the entry plaza for Islands of Adventure, the sound of the nearby NBA Cafe's pounding music score fades out, and is replaced by simple, tinkling wind-chimes and the sound of a gentle breeze... It's very reminiscent of the simple, dark, mood music outside of Tomb Raider's cavern entrance. The entire plaza is enclosed by rock work matching that on which the lighthouse is built.


Pharos Lighthouse is easily my favorite park centerpiece. Easily. I am shocked that the idea of a lighthouse had never been adapted at any of the large parks. But I'm glad it wasn't... It fits perfectly at Islands. It's slightly tilted; in a few places, it appears to be bulging outwards... It sounds so stupid (but I'm not ashamed to say it since these are the things most of us here live for), but I find it so genius and, in many ways, beautiful the way that the lighthouse guides you towards the park, and directs you out again at night... And yes, it really does send out a super bright, revolving ray of light the old fashioned way: a giant rotating mirror-disk.

On a side note, I am the farthest thing on Earth from a photographer, but I was seriously so incredibly impressed with that last photo... Haha. I know nothing of photography or lighting or saturation or anything like that, but I feel like I should be proud of that photo? Haha! How modest.

Posting more as we speak...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Port of Entry.


The atmosphere (and a more riveting musical score) set in just past the gate - the lamp-posts are all adorned with "WELCOME!" in just about every language I had ever heard of. And of course, the details start coming out of the woodwork. This park is far, far, far more detailed than anything at its neighboring park, or at that Resort down the street. Honestly. As you may or may not guess, the Port of Entry Waterworks building houses the restrooms.


Always a delight, the Port of Entry Christmas Shop provides... Well... fake snow. If only it were real, because in the summer months in Florida, you want to dive face-first into it. Notice that, on the top floors, intricate displays are set up to make the buildings seem "lived in."


If I weren't too cheap to buy people post-cards, you can bet I would've sent them through Rocket Air Mail. :)


This has always been one of my favorite in-your-face-but-so-overlooked details of Port of Entry. The red paint used to paint that sign also "dripped" onto the canvas roof beneath. Keep in mind, that sign and the building it is posted on are 11 years old... How long ago do you think they were touched up? From the looks of it, quite recently. That's how most things at Universal are; it's a world we Ohioans can't even begin to imagine. Crisp colors more than 7 weeks after a ride is brand new? Who ever heard of such a thing?


Port of Entry's backstory is that all of the nations of the world have come together in harmony to build a tremendous, eclectic little port. It's fantastic to see all of the architecture from around the world put together. It looks so disjointed and so fun that I'm again surprised no one thought of it before. Upon explain that to my grandmother, she said, "Oh yeah, I remember this area very well. This must've been here last time I was here." Since her last visit to Orlando was in 1988, it took a little thinking before I realized she was talking about Epcot.

Note also that this port runs on wind power, and its water system is circulated and cleaned by clams. B)


This little nook has some great articture, and a nice worn look to the paintings on the buildings.


I love stopping and sitting by this porch... Tons of cats up on the second floor meow pitifully, because they're attempts to get to that green parrot have been futile for over a decade.


The park's main emporium, Island Trading Company, is so subtly-advertised and beautifully decorated that, for once, I actually don't mind purchasing something!


Though I've never eaten at the Confisco Grille, I peaked in while I ate at the connected Croissant Moon Bakery - it looks like a really unique and interesting place to dine, as does the connected Backwater Bar (complete with flickering neon sign).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seuss Landing.


I wish that it were possible to get photos like the ones you picture in your mind - no people. This image in particular just makes me think that I would actually have a good collection of photos if I could just get people to stay out of them. Maybe one happy-go-lucky family in the background, and some folks riding the rides in view... But to just have people running every which way, making awkward faces because they don't know they're in a photo...

Ugh. Anyways, this is Seuss Landing. They say that there's not a single ninety degree angle in Seuss Landing. Even the palm trees are twisted or bent, having been replanted from areas damaged by Hurricane Andrew.


Ah, Sneetch Beach! Yes, the coast of Seuss Landing is adorned with sandcastles and towels laid out by the playful Sneetches, who are forever bobbing up and down in the park's lagoon (they're the little yellow specks in the far left). But this photo is unique because it also captured Mythos, Hogsmeade, and Jurassic Park Discovery Center! Four Islands for the price of one. And hey, that's also the way Cedar Fair would market the park if they came into ownership!


The Lorax has been my favorite book ever since I can remember. I'm not a huge Seuss fan (only in that I've never read many of his books - I love the ones I've read) but the Lorax really has a place in my heart. It's always so sad to see the Once-ler's house surrounded in chopped down tree stumps. :(


But it allllll pays off once you get to walk through the Truffula Forest!


The Cat in the Hat ride has come under fire lately because it's program was greatly reduced. It uses the same technology as Men in Black: Alien Attack next door, and basically, you just go through the book The Cat in the Hat and things get wilder and wilder as the Cat and his Thing 1 and Thing 2 wreak playful havoc. Originally, as you went through the ride you spun more and more and things felt more out of control. Then all I heard was that the spinning "stopped." I assumed that the car just proceeded through the ride, no spins, facing completely forward, just based on the way people despised this new cycle. And maybe for a short time, it did stop completely. But both times I rode it, it had three or four big spins (never consecutive), but the ride vehicle still turned to view individual scenes and felt very much alive! I had no complaints about it whatsoever.


One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is Universal's answer to Dumbo and, as they always seem to, they one-up it: If you don't listen to the fun, catchy song ( ex. "Blue fish up, red fish down, everyone up, up, up!") then you get squirted by the big fish mounted around the fence of the ride. Obviously, kids disobey the song just to soak their parents, and everyone cracks up. It adds a new dimension to an otherwise tired kids ride.


For me, at least, this was the surprise hit of the trip. "If I Ran the Zoo" is basically just an outdoor walk-through attraction with really simple tricks and interactive "animal exhibits" that have Seuss animals.


For example, there's this little guy. Based on all the rest, I'm sure there was a way to wake him up if you just figure out what his little backstory means...


I loved this guy. Basically you could only see the top of his suds-covered head in a giant bathtub. There are three hoses around him, and if you squirt all three at once, he rises from his tub (see above) and spins, spraying water at everyone who sprayed at him! Teaching kids karma, you see?


Joe was really cool. You basically just play tick-tack-toe on his stomach by pressing wherever you want to place your O. He's pretty easy to beat seeing as how he's made to challenge young kids... But he's still pretty wiley! He can beat you with his eyes closed! There were other awesome character encounters, too, far too hard and unique to describe. In all of my visits, I never even knew what If I Ran the Zoo was, much less how entertaining it would be. Check it out!


"Think left and think right, think low and think high. Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try! Bye bye!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Lost Continent.


The big ole' guy welcomes you to The Lost Continent. Now for a short tale: There was a time when Island fans were starting to lose faith in their once-grand park: Hulk was rusted, Seuss Landing was fading, the Lighthouse no longer operated at night, Poseidon's Fury's water-Vortex was turned off, Mytho's waterfalls were nixed... I think the last straw for many was when this guys torch went out. I'm sure that the letters come flooding in, and today, most of those problems are fixed... Most.


See Mythos, now operating with its waterfalls in tact! There was something very off about this area when they were not working, and I'm glad that they've returned. But fountains or no fountains, I would kill to have a restaurant (or even a structure) like this at a seasonal park. The banner out front proclaims that Mythos won Best Amusement Park Restaurant from 1999 to 2007, though I believe it continued to win it in 2008 and 2009? Anyways, I finally went in and ate there, and it was absolutely delicious, and very beautiful inside.


Across the way is a temple, nicknamed "Poseidon's Fury" by the locals. That being because, Poseidon is a terribly mean antagonist bent on cursing you to Atlantis! Or... wait a second... maybe he's a good guy trying to save you from an evil priest... Eh, regardless, this is his temple, probably one of the most impressive structures I've seen. People always say it, but it truly is impossible to understand the scale of a building like this until you're in front of it, and even looking at this picture I imagine it being smaller than it is. Probably my favorite part is the statue: In the above picture, you can see his two giant feet, cracked off at the ankle.


There's his head! (Okay, well it's not really his head... It's the head of Poseidon from Poseidon's Fury 1 when Poseidon was the bad guy and he was animated. Apparently that show didn't get much acclaim, so today Poseidon's the good guy and he's played by an "chronologically advanced" man in what appears to be a Dungeons and Dragons convention style body suit... How that gets better ratings than the original storyline, I couldn't say.)


And here's his arm! Again, the scale of his head, arm, and temple are absolutely unbelievable, and no image can do them justice.


The sign for the show, with the ear of his chopped-head in the background.


The Lost Continent used to be three areas: Atlantis, Sinbad's Bizaar, and Merlinwood. Harry Potter got hungry and gobbled up the medieval part, so now the second and final area of The Lost Continent is this Middle-Eastern themed area. It's sad in many ways, because The Lost Continent was probably the best Island when the park opened: Two stellar shows (Poseidon's Fury & The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad), a one-of-a-kind coaster (Dueling Dragons), a family coaster (The Flying Unicorn), and two incredible restaurants (The Enchanted Oak Tavern & Mythos). Today, only the two shows remain, and both are, for lack of a better word, aging. Poseidon's Fury could be back to its former glory if it still had the water Vortex, but alas, Green is Universal!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


This will be the entrance to Hogsmeade. This picture isn't the greatest, but the intimidating body guards kept me from risking anything... Basically you can see the tremendously perfect view of Hogwarts that you'll get as you stroll into Hogsmeade. It looks beautiful.


I don't know if this was the first day that they did this, but I think it might've been - they were testing the Hippogriff cars on the re-themed Flight of the Hippogriff coaster. They looked very nice whizzing along the track, and the Universal workers testing them out seemed thrilled.


Both days, random families were in Hogsmeade sitting on the porch across from Jurassic Park. How they were chosen to randomly go in and sit there, I don't know, but I guarantee that they were indeed just regular families - strollers, kids boppin' up and down... It was random, and made me very unhappy. :( On Saturday, while crossing the bridge to Jurassic Park, you could hear Harry Potter's famous music playing from Hogsmeade. On Sunday, smoke was billowing out of the smokestack of the Hogwarts Express. Exciting stuff!


The back of the castle, as viewed from Jurassic Park. It's a beaut!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jurassic Park.


Jurassic Park! As for this Island, good idea, odd execution. Universal Studios Hollywood has a Jurassic Park: The Ride that proved to be very successful, so they brought it to Islands of Adventure and expanded it into its own Island. However, the only real attraction on the Island is a downgraded version of Hollywood's Ride... So what the Jurassic Park island actually amounts to is Hollywood's ride, a jungle, and "cleverly" named restaurants and shopping locations: "Dinostore." "The Food Chain." "Pizza Pedatoria." It's beautiful and very cool looking, but it needs another E-ticket. Will it get one in the coming years? Probably not... So it's more like an extended hike through a jungle than anything. If you had kids, it would be great with the Camp Jurassic and Pteradon Flyers and the (short-lived) Triceratops Encounter... But as it is now, it's just a one-ride sort of area, and that's a downer.


Those two informational cards are covering up the words "TRICERATOPS" and "ENCOUNTER," respectively.


The Discovery Center was a "nice try" kind of thing. Inside is a "game show" that about three people can play, three giant dinosaurs replicas, and a skeleton. That's about it. I'm not sure what they could've done better, but even for the most interested preteen it would take about 10 minutes to be done with it all. Still nice to look at, and a nice centerpiece from across the lake. Luckily, it appears Universal Studios Singapore corrected the problems with Jurassic Park and made it a really nice, thorough Island at their park.


SKLOOSH! While still lacking compared to its Hollywood counterpart, this ride is still nice. There are a lot of dead spaces where the Californian version has more dinosaurs, and the storyline is jumbled to say the least. But it's impressive for first-time visitors. The animatronics are showing their age. And remember when IOA was new and all those Discovery Channel and Travel Channel specials focused on it and they changed the dino skins "every month?" Don't watch those before you come.


This is kind of a fail ride... Awful capacity (isn't it like, 200 pph?) lead to its height requirement being so ridiculously strict that pretty much no one can ride it. But it is a pretty cool sight to see the pterodactyl shadows on the ground whiz by, and to see them up above the tree canopies. If it were replaced with a B&M flyer decked out with pterodactyl trains, you wouldn't see me complaining. And, they brought it to Universal Studios Singapore, so it can't be that terrible.

Toon Lagoon.

Toon Lagoon is just an awesome area, and proves that old source material doesn't necessarily require pale blue color schemes and laid-back architecture. Toon Lagoon is, as the name implies, the water-ride-based area of the park. Water is EVERYWHERE, including under the island's entrance sign.


Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw falls is their take on Splash Mountain. The animatronics are quite good and the lighting is superb, but the story is extremely muddled and hard to follow since you whiz by the scenes. I mean, there probably isn't even a story - it's just Dudley trying to save Mel from the bad guy who always ties her to railroad tracks... But it's still odd and hard to follow. A great ride though, with lots of surprises and a spectacular final drop!


I love the streets of Toon Lagoon! The giant sandwhiches, the thought bubbles that you can stand under, the water everywhere.


Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges looks great. I didn't ride it because I wanted to have at least one dry spot on my body. Though it was humid and in the mid-90's, very few people rode it. I don't think these "soak you to the bone" rides are that fun... I'd rather ride the "lightly mists you" Jurassic Park or the "gets you wet" log flume any day... Even multiple times, if that's what it takes to cool down.


I loved this though... It's one of those moments where you're trying to lean and dodge to get the other side of the raft to be the one under the waterfall. Then you finally do and you watch your friends get drenched and you're like "Haaaaa."


And then the ride is like "Haaaa" right back at you. I think it's so awesome that after all of that work and stress and you think you're free, the ride goes and gets everyone wet.


Comic Strip Cafe dead ahead! (Don't real palm trees make your heart race with satisfaction? No? Hm... Just me, then...)


All the famous comic pooches in one place! And I don't know even one of them!


Used. HA. Wait, is that a pun?


I don't know who these characters are, but I love this area!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Islands of Adventure looks like an amazing park, I can't say much because I've only been there three times; in 1999, 2001, and 2003. Hopefully I can get back to there one year and get to actually ride stuff and take in the atmosphere, considering I went when I was 6, 8, and 10. I do remember that The Lost Continent was my favorite Island, but after the whole Harry-Potter stuff I may like Jurassic Park better.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks guys for the comments! If you haven't been to Universal in the past few years.. Well, you haven't missed much. But it's still an incredible park! Last part of the PTR! Sorry it took so long.

Marvel Superhero Island.


Welcome to Marvel Superhero Island! Or so the sewer grate implies...


All of the newspapers scattered throughout the Island are tie-ins to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and give added details about the villains therein and their evil misdeeds!


Giant comic characters are everywhere. This one is Electro, which is similar to Elektra, my favorite superhero (how lame is that, by the way?)


Here's Dr. Octopus doing something heinous. But what, you say?


No! Anything but that! Oh, have you ever seen anything so terrible and so... evil... in your entire life? Will the madness never end? That "O" was perfectly placed!


These nice folks seem blissfully unaware of the hulking, hairy-armed, knife-wielding creature who looms over them. Ah, if only we could all be so blind...


Oh look! A dueling B&M Invert! Only one of those, you know... This one was not operating on this particular day, though it had the two days before. It's closed for its final transformation into Harry Potter's Dragon Fiasco or something like that.


Then there's the Hulk! It does this.


Then this.


Then this, don't forget it!


Then the train turns invisible and it spins around two times.


Then it goes upside down again and goes under the water here. Then it goes upside down like, five more times. And yes, it hurts. But it's a B&M, so we'll blame it on the outside contractor who developed the launch, okay?


All of the shops and stores in Superhero Island are labled "generically".. They look just as you'd expect a facade in a comic book panel to look: they say "Store" or "Shop" or "Comics" or "Food." Nothing specific! It's very smart and another of those things people just don't notice.


The obligatory '"The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman" takes place here' photo.


That side alley there looks pretty sketchy...


And for good reason! It's Doom Alley! For those of you who don't know, take a wild guess about whether Victor Von Doom is a good guy or a bad guy... You're probably right.


And this awkwardly placed final picture shows exactly what the park inspires you to feel - as you exit, you are offered the final words, "The Adventure Lives On." How true it is. (The construction on top is not usually there ;).)

Other things worth noting:

I had a three-day ticket for $120 through AAA. I got in earlier than expected on Friday and decided to walk to the ticket booth and ask how much it would cost to upgrade to a four-day ticket. The answer? $5.00. Universal pricing is incredible. I also got a full meal at a sit down restaurant (a pressed turkey sandwhich, a healthy serving of fries, a refillable soft drink, and bread for the table) for $14.00. Thanks Universal, for a fantastic day. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a blast at Islands of Adventure when I went back in 2004. Hard to believe its been six years now. I firmly believe that they have a real winner on their hands with the new Harry Potter area. It will be interesting to see the reviews of the new Harry Potter dark ride once it opens. I have a feeling it may make Spiderman look simplistic by comparison.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope it does! And Islands is for sure, no questions asked, my favorite of the Floridian parks, perhaps of any park I've yet been to (keeping in mind I have yet to make it to a true independant park, so I'm comparing apples to apples when I say that - corporate-owned parks only). Has it lost some of its luster from 1999? Of course. But it's maintained 90% of its original charm, and it started out with three times more detail and charm than any other park I've experienced, so it's still miles ahead of the game.

Legend has it that, when Harry Potter opens, the entire park will start into a massive refurb - repainting everything, turning on every effect that has shut off (not many, but there are a few), re-invigorating the music system, adding Rockit's LED lights to The Hulk, adding new scenes to Spiderman, turning on every one of the original water and fire effects that have been "seasonal" as of late, re-creating Jurassic Park River Adventure from scratch... I mean, it sounds almost like a "duh." With easily the largest and most excitement-inducing ride to come to any park in many a year, it only makes sense that they make sure everything else in the park is in tip top shape. I can't imagine Potter opening with the Hulk rusting away as it currently is... Plus, with no new attractions since 2010, hopefully they've got something saved up...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow...congratulations, you've successfully made me miss two of my favorite things on Earth....Florida and Universal Studios Florida. Islands of Adventure is my favorite amusement park (Cedar Point worshipers: It's better. Get over it.), and you did a fantastic job of capturing all of the wonder of the park, and all of the greatness of each island. I do disagree with you on a few things, like I thought Jurassic Park was actually a pretty decent area, and I hate water rides of all kinds, but for the most part, awesome Trip Report.

Well Done, and glad you had fun! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a pass holder at Universal, they opened up at 7 am for annual passes and hotel guests! The parks regular opening was usually at 9am for everyone else. That is TWO HOURS! I am not sure if they do this still.

They are not allowed to run the coasters until 7am because of noise, but it was worth the wait. A 7:30am ride on Hulk is the BEST cup of coffee EVER! I have ridden Hulk BY MYSELF in the front row of the first train out before.

I have to disagree about hulk being rough. It has been a couple years since I have been to IOA, but I always remember Hulk being smooth.

EDIT: 7am ERT at IOA meant EVERY ride and attraction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Millennium

Great PTR. Islands really is a fantastic park. I went their in April and loved the Dueling Dragons Coaster. Seuss Landing is also a fantastic kids area.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...