For Day 2 we kicked things into HIGH GEAR attacking Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Quick Tip: Get Preferred Parking. You do need to pay for parking to get into Universal. General parking is $15.00. Do yourself a favor and pay an extra $5 for the Preferred Parking. You get to park on the 3rd floor right next to the entrance to CityWalk and the parks. Otherwise the parking lots are HUGE and it takes a while to walk in. People who know me (well, my wife actually) will probably tell you I’m a bit of a cheapskate (I prefer frugal or calculating) but I value my time and I appreciate convenience. Cough up the extra $5 and save yourself some headaches. Trust me, your legs will probably be killing you at the end of the day so your body will appreciate the shorter walk back to your car.
For this vacation we’re traveling with the wife’s bff and her family who took their kid’s to WDW for their son’s 10th b-day which we celebrated on Day 2. So things kicked off with breakfast at Confisco’s which features a breakfast buffet and visits from your favorite characters featured at Islands of Adventure including…
the Cat in the Hat…
and Things 1 and 2.
After breakfast it was straight into the park!
For those of you not too familiar with the Islands of Adventure it’s a theme park broken down into 6 areas/islands: Marvel Super Hero Land, Toon Lagoon (featuring comic strip characters, etc), Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Lost Continent (featuring mythical stuff) and Seuss Landing. The park abounds with rides and entertainment shows for the kids and family.
Quick tip: BUY THE FLEX PASS. It allows you to skip the lines on everything except for (as of this writing) the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride and the Pteranadon Ride in Jurassic Park. Everything else is fair game. The lines in the park are LONG with an average wait time of an hour to an hour half. Not to sound mean, but I got a slight chuckle as I lapped folks on the line by skipping to the front, getting my ride on and jumping back in line to go again while the same folks were STILL in line. BUY THE PASS, it is worth it unless you don’t value your time. They offer two different passes, $50 will get you a “cut in line once” pass that will allow you to skip to the front of each ride one time. $65 will get you an unlimited “skip all you want on everything” pass. Don’t cheap out, go all out and get the unlimited pass. If you wanna save some cash and you’re in a big group, buy a few unlimiteds and share them with each other. Some of the group can ride while some rest and watch the other’s stuff. It worked for us.
So our adventure began in Marvel Super Hero Island and the heroes were out in force for photo opps with everyone including…
Cyclops (sorry, not a big enough fan to wait in line, but this lady was)
Rogue and Storm
and Captain America
The place is just uber-cool as all the buildings feature an ongoing mural of the Super-Heroes in battle. One side of the street features the X-men taking on Magneto with the other side of the street featuring the Avengers taking on some alien (can’t remember, sorry, yes I’ll turn in my geek card). Another street features Spidey taking on the Sinister Six.
Next stop was Toon Lagoon which features tons of vintage newspaper comic strip characters. Sadly there were no Popeyes or Beetle Baileys to take pictures with…
Then it was a quick trek through Jurassic Park where we stopped off for quick drinks (Straight-Edge Pina Colada for me) as it was just HOT out there. I managed to avoid being eaten by a dinosaur.
And then it was off to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and the thing you guys are most interested in hearing about I suppose). Now, to this point in our trek we decidedly did NOT jump on any rides yet. The reason? One, the kids were too short for some of the “mature” rides featured in Marvel Island and Jurassic Park. Second, we were still full from breakfast and thought it’d be horrible to have an “accident” on the rides. 🙂
Anyway, to Hogwarts!
Actually, when you first enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the first thing you’ll see is the Butter Beer Cart (there’s one more down in Hogsmeade).
From there a nice helpful sign points the way down to Hogsmeade for all the shopping goodness or up to Hogwarts for the Forbidden Journey ride.
We wanted to explore the town first so down to Hogsmeade it was. Place was PACKED!!!!
Most impressive was just how authentic the place looked as compared to the movies.
One of the coolest things on sale? Wands!!!
Wands were on sale for most of the major characters in the books. You know we bought some 🙂
And of course the crazy candies were on sale too over at Honeydukes
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features three rides: the Flight of the Hippogrif (a mini-roller coaster), the Dragon Challenge (two dueling bad ass roller coasters) and the signature Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey which is a Hogwarts Castle tour followed by a simulated ride.
We checked out the Forbidden Journey. Unfortunately the Flex Pass DOES NOT work on this line so we endured a good hour long line just to get to the steps of the castle (and just about fainted in the hot Orlando sun). Once you enter the Castle the real fun begins. No pictures for this as I didn’t keep my camera on me in fear it may fall out on the ride…
Once you get into Hogwarts you’ll find the pictures on the wall are very much like the ones in the movies. They move and some of them talk to you. In the first room you enter you’ll be greeted by the four founders of Hogwarts: Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor. Slytherin of course brings on all the Muggle jokes as you’re sullying the castle with your presence 🙂
The second room you enter (just past the giant Phoenix statue) will find you receiving a greeting from none other than Professor Dumbledore himself (resurrected from the dead I guess…) who challenges you to choose between what is right and what is easy.
The third and final room you enter before heading to the ride has Harry, Ron and Hermione telling you to skip Professor Binn’s Magic of History class to go to Quidditch with them.
A final stop at the Sorting Hat is next where the hat admonishes you to be safe on the ride and not take pictures 🙂
And then for the ride itself…
So of course this is a simulated ride through the HP Universe where you follow Harry, Ron and Hermione on a broomstick (or in this case buckled in Sim seat) and all the major baddies of the 7 books accost you as you fly through HP World. Some of the bad guys out to get you: a Dragon, Aragog and the Arachmantulas, the Dementors, the Whomping Willow and Somebody-Who-Can’t-Be-Named…You travel through Hogwarts, the Quidditch Pitch and a bunch of other places before ending in the Great Hall. End sim.
At this point having stood in line for a good hour in the heat we were about ready to faint so that meant only one thing. BUTTER BEER!!!!
You can buy it in a ready plastic cup or purchase in a collector’s mug (we went for the mug of course). Butter Beer comes in chilled or frozen versions. We tried both but you most definitely should go for the frozen version. So what exactly is Butter Beer? It’s basically the sweetest/creamiest cream soda you’ll ever have. Just what you need on a hot summer day. Shiz is good!
The not quite as good? The Pumpkin Juice on sale next to the Butter Beer. It basically tasted like liquid Thanksgiving in a bottle. You can pass on it…
We finished up our rides with Flight of the Hippogrif (thank you FlexPass) which is built around Hagrid’s Hut with pumpkin patches all around. The ride is SUPER short so if you’re FlexPass-less you may feel jipped if you waited in line for an hour for it…
I take on the Dragon Challenge alone as the kids were too short for it so thank God again for my FlexPass as I zipped through the line twice to ride both coasters (Chinese Firebolt and Hungarian Horntail) while most folks were still waiting for their first stab at it. The story behind this ride is you’re filling the place of a school champion during the Tri-Wizard Tournament (Goblet of Fire). Along the path up to the ride is the Weasley Enchanted Car which honks/beeps at you. You also pass Hagrid’s Hut. (Again, no pics as I didn’t wanna chance my camera falling out).
After that it was a final photo op with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express…
and then it was bye-bye to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and on to the Lost Continent.
The Lost Continent theme is one of ancient myths and legends and features two key rides/experiences. The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad and Poseidon’s Fury. I took in Poseidon’s Fury which simulates an archaeological tour of a site where Poseidon took on a legendary evil demon (or something). Lo and behold our tour group gets caught up in things just as the demon awakens/returns/whatever and the hapless tour guide tries to save us. Poseidon returns to vanquish the demon (FX are KILLER), all is great in the world and we now move on to…
Our 5-yo niece just fell in LOVE with this island. To be honest, I dug it a lot myself! This particular island probably has the safest rides of appeal to folks with REALLY young families as all the rides here are very chill. You can’t go wrong with carousels or little monorails right?
I took in the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride (monorail) ride which is a take on the giant machine that the Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain Belly Sneetches ran through to get their bellies painted or unpainted. I also took the niece and nephew on the Cat in the Hat Ride.
We bought a bunch of gifts from the gift shop for the nieces and nephews.
and I got my gratuitious photo op with the giant Hat shaped building.
and that’s a wrap for our day at the Islands of Adventure.
Full photo album is linked here.