I went to Universal's Islands of Adventure last week for the fourth time. We have loved the fast and innovative rides there since our first trip many years ago. Spider-Man and Hulk are my favorite, along with the log-flume ride Ripsaw Falls and the Jurassic Park River Adventure raft ride.
This time, CMac was pumped to finally explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (at top), which debuted in 2010.
The rides were as cool as I remember, and you'll certainly have a blast if you go, but there are a few things I took note of this time -- some of them a bit disappointing -- as I specifically went into the day aiming to capture the adventures for you guys so that I could provide you with some good tips for your travels.
1. No video or pictures allowed on the rides. Staffers at the park were constantly monitoring and making announcements that riders are not to have cameras out on the rides. They even were removing riders from their seats to have them put cameras in lockers before allowing them to ride. This was a huge hassle, and I was almost put off the Hulk roller coaster before I was able to quickly stuff my GoPro into my shorts pocket, which they said was an acceptable resolution. This policy was vastly different from my day at Disney, where I openly wore my GoPro on my head to capture several cool ride experiences.
I was able to wear my GoPro on the first ride of the day to capture the Spider-Man experience (see video at bottom of this post). The staffers must not have noticed in the darkened loading area for the ride. I wasn't hiding my wrist attachment and I didn't even know of their strict policy yet at that time.
I find no reason for the rule listed among the other policies on the theme park's website. I assume they don't want cameras being dropped from the rides, which could pose a danger. Allowing devices that are well-attached like a GoPro would provide a great marketing advantage for the park, however, as visitors share their thrilling experiences on social media, etc. Your loss, Universal Studios!
So, if you want to take pictures or shoot video at Islands of Adventure, you must plan to do so on the sly.
2. There also is a strict backpack policy. You also must stow your backpack, purse or any other bag in a locker before getting on certain rides, such as the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. This also differed from Disney staffers, who readily trusted riders to responsibly take of their bags while on the attractions. If at all possible, it's advisable to pack all you need into cargo shorts or pants and arrive at the theme park without bags. You'll avoid the lengthy bag-check lines at the front gate and enjoy a more hassle-free day getting on and off the rides.
3. Go to Harry Potter land early -- but not first! We thought we would be smart and get to the park early so we could check out the Wizarding World attractions before the masses descended upon the ridiculously popular area. Well, we were near the very front of the line at 8:30 a.m. for the park's standard 9 a.m. opening time. However, visitors can get a one-hour-early entry to the park when they are staying at one of Universal's three on-site hotels (they also get express passes to bypass long ride lines). This meant we were behind a batch of people who already were in the park. But it still wouldn't be too bad, right? I mean, we didn't see that many people go in early while we waited.
Not too many got in ahead of us between 8 and 9 a.m., but the maniacs in line with us all burst forth into a collective gallop to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. By the time we made it back there (I was not about to run to a Harry Potter ride), the estimated wait time for the ride was already 60 minutes.
We quickly surmised that if all the people were at this popular ride, we would take advantage of the chance to ride Spider-Man, Hulk and some others while they were nearly deserted.
I thought that if we were going to wait 60 minutes for Harry Potter, we could do it later in the day, anyways. Well, we tried again after our flurry of Marvel character rides and found the wait for Potter to be down to 30 minutes. Then, we popped over to the roller coaster ride in the Wizarding World, and the wait was a mere five minutes. We had gotten in six rides before 11:30 a.m. Not too bad.
Notes: Our entrance cost $96 per person with tickets bought online through AAA, and parking was $17 per car (parking after 6 p.m. is $5).
I hope these tips help you have a great day at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
Thanks for reading,
VIDEO: Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride