Must Do Attractions – IOA
Islands of Adventure has many great attractions and things to do and today I’m going to list what I believe to be the top five attractions you have to do if you have never been to the park. I do have one caveat that I am excluding the Hogwarts Express for the simple fact I have not experienced it personally. I am sure this list will change somewhat after that happens this fall.
Coming in at number five I decided to go with Dragon Challenge and more specifically the Hungarian Horntail dragon. Previous iterations of this attraction would probably make me move it up the scale a bit but even after diminishing it’s queue and experience I still have to put it at number five. Prior to the introduction of Hogsmeade Village to the park, the ride was called Dueling Dragons. The change brought several queue changes as well as what eventually led to the removal of the duel. You see these two intertwined dragons (previously fire and ice) would battle throughout the entire experience presenting near miss after near miss when released at the same time. After a few mishaps they eventually decided to stop launching the vehicles simultaneously and thus ending the duel. What it is today is a nice smooth, steel coaster with still two different experiences with one side being the Chinese Fireball Dragon, and the other the Hungarian Horntail. Nice views and plenty of inversions makes for a fun ride any day. My choice of the Hungarian Horntail is one of preference, I just feel the ride has a little more oomph on that side. Don’t take my word for it you be the judge.
Number four is for when you really want to get wet. Not just a little wet either, we are talking soaked. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges is what Animal Kingdom fans wishes Kali River Rapids could be. This circular raft gets dropped into the rapids and nobody on board will come out of this short of drenched. Fun scenes with Bluto battling Popeye for Olive Oils affection ends just like the cartoon. With Popeye eating his spinach and foiling the day of Bluto. The only difference here is every hose, spray and water gun from the guests above is coming for you and you simply can’t escape.
I’ve got another coaster coming in at the number three spot. This one is pretty much clear across the park from the number five spot located in Marvel Superhero Island. The Incredible Hulk Coaster would be a good coaster for its inversions, smooth riding, and velocity but what makes it great is its launch from 0 to 40 and 2 seconds flat. What is even more amazing is it happens when you least expect it, going uphill. Being a coaster it lacks the story telling you wish a theme park might have but then again who would see it anyway. Another fantastic feature of this coaster is it enters a tunnel going beneath the surface twice. It has a top speed of 67mph and inverts seven times. Definitely an attraction you won’t want to miss if you love a good coaster.
I’m sure many will be surprised that my number two is actually Harry Potter and the Forbidden journey. I’m sorry but my number one was to groundbreaking for me to let go of yet. However being number two doesn’t mean this is an attraction to overlook. This is arguably the attraction that transformed the park and the company for that matter to the greatness the Universal Florida Resort is today. Approaching the attraction is a site unto itself with Hogwarts off in the distance and the town of Hogsmeade appearing right before you as if so familiar. The details are impeccable throughout the area including the shops. Once you finally make your way into the castle an even more extraordinary adventure begins. The queue tells the story as you wind through the school of wizardy and witchcraft. Moving murals, the characters themselves, the sorting hat, it is all there building the excitement as you finally board your vehicle. Using projection, sets, and animatronics your vehicle glides seemlessly throughout the wizarding world avoiding dragons, spiders, and of course dementors. No flight would be complete without a quidditch and you won’t be disappointed. Arrive here early, or you may not ride at all.
Holding the number one spot in my mind is The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. This attraction was so ground breaking in 1999 that it is still a huge achiever today. One major rehab a few years back introduced high def screens which only prepared the attraction to be ready for the next decade as well. Its fast and furious and 3D. You find yourself moving through sets of 3D film and live action with your ride vehicle simulating movements in every possible direction. It was actually the first attraction to introduce all of these elements at once, and at least my opinion remains the best at the achievement. We watch Spider-Man take on all the infamous bad guys we grew up with and of course ultimately saving the day. I don’t care what is going on, if I enter this park, I ride this ride. It’s as simple as that.
In summary, my 5 must do attractions at Islands of Adventure:
5 – Dragon Challenge, Hungarian Horntail
4 – Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
3 – The Incredible Hulk Coaster
2 – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
1 – The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man