12th June 2023 (Islands of Adventure)
Today was a very exciting day; our first theme park day of the trip! As we had booked 14-day Universal Orlando tickets, we decided to start with one of those parks, and our choice was Islands of Adventure! We were really excited to get on both VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s, so we thought we may as well start in IOA!
We left our villa in Haines City at about 8am, and the drive took about 1h 15m, so we arrived at about 9:15am. I must say that it was nice to be entering back into Universal Orlando after 7 years:
After entering Universal, we had to collect our tickets and get our fingerprints scanned at Islands of Adventure to get the tickets activated for the 2 weeks, so we didn’t end up entering the park until about 10am:
After entering the park, we looked at the queue times and noticed that a certain much anticipated ride was only on a 45 minute queue…
VelociCoaster was on only an advertised 45 minute wait, so we decided to take a ride. It was only me, my parents and my sister who did this; my grandparents decided to sit this one out, as they’re not so big on intense rides. The ride did go down briefly while we were in the queue, so it took a little longer than 45 minutes (probably 55 minutes to an hour). But seeing as VelociCoaster was one of my most anticipated rides of the trip, how was it? Well, I was seated in row 9, and it was an absolutely phenomenal ride! The second launch, top hat and mosasaurus roll were all sublimely brilliant, there were a couple of other very nice pops of airtime, it carried an excellent sense of speed throughout, and it was comfortable and extremely fun! The theming was also excellent, particularly in the queue; I was a big fan of the raptor animatronics in particular! If I’m being completely honest, however, it perhaps wasn’t quite as phenomenal as I’d hoped, and it didn’t quite live up to some of the obscene hyperbole it receives for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent, excellent coaster with some absolutely phenomenal elements, and easily 10/10 tier for me (one of my top coasters). I also feel it would be somewhat harsh to say that I was underwhelmed, because as I say, it was a truly brilliant ride. However, I was led to believe that it would be some absolutely life-changing ride that would comfortably obliterate everything else I’d ever ridden and be my instant, undeniable number 1, and it wasn’t quite that for me. Overall, VelociCoaster was an absolutely phenomenal ride with some brilliant elements, and my initial feeling towards it could well be down to my overly high expectations rather than the ride itself, but it did fall ever so slightly short of the sky-high hype for me. I apologise if that’s triggering or controversial, and I know I’m probably being unfair on it, but I would never be dishonest in a review, and those were my true, honest thoughts:
After VelociCoaster, we met back up with my grandparents and headed for the other ride in Jurassic Park, which we could all ride together…
Jurassic Park River Adventure
Jurassic Park River Adventure was on only a 20 minute queue, so as it was a quiet(ish) ride that everyone could go on, we decided to give it a try. The queue ended up being slightly underestimated, only taking around 15 minutes; always a bonus! So, how was the ride? Well, I thought it was brilliant, and my family seemed to agree! The ride had some great animatronics and theming, the drop was exhilarating, the wetness level was perfect (refreshing on a hot day, but not unbearably wet), and overall, it was just a really fun, feel-good ride; it’s easily one of my top water rides:
After Jurassic Park River Adventure, we decided to head to another ride that was new for all of us…
Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Skull Island: Reign of Kong was on an advertised 35 minute queue, so we decided to have a go on it. We were interested to ride Kong, as it was the big new thing at Islands of Adventure on our last visit in 2016, yet we were never able to ride it. It was only me, my parents and my nan who rode this one; my grandad had “hit his zenith” on Jurassic Park River Adventure, and my sister was unsure on the ride. The queue took 20-25 minutes rather than the advertised 35, which is always a bonus, and it was also one of the fastest moving queues I have ever stood in; it was basically a path of people gradually walking forwards, as it hardly ever stopped moving! The queue was also stunningly themed, with one particularly phenomenal animatronic of a tribal lady! But how was the ride? Well, I was going in with quite low expectations after reading many ambivalent to negative reviews, but I have to say that it massively exceeded expectations for me; I thought that it was absolutely brilliant! The 3D was excellent, with it being very good quality, and there were some really good action scenes with paired effects on the screens and in the motion base. There were also 1 or 2 very convincing freefall effects during the ride film, and some surprisingly nice physical set pieces around the screens! Furthermore, the Kong animatronic in the final scene was incredible; it was absolutely huge! Overall, I thought Kong was a brilliant ride, and a really pleasant surprise, and it was a big hit with my family too; my nan in particular really enjoyed it:
After Kong, we walked into Toon Lagoon, and me and my dad pondered a ride on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. However, the ride broke down just as we were walking into the area, so that idea was quickly stymied. We instead decided to sit down for 15-30 minutes or so to reapply sun cream, go to the toilet and have a bite to eat. After this, we headed into Marvel Super Hero Island and pondered a ride on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, which was on an advertised 40 minute queue. However, the queue turned out to be extending outside of the building, so it was deemed that the queue was too long. As such, me and my sister headed to a different Marvel ride that had a much shorter queue…
Doctor Doom’s FearFall
Doctor Doom’s FearFall was on an advertised 5 minute queue, so me and my sister decided to quickly hop into the queue; no one else joined us here, as no one else overly likes intense drop towers. As promised, the queue was very short, with us taking only 5-10 minutes to get on and off the ride. So, how was the ride? Well, it was good fun; the launch was reasonably punchy, there was a nice pop of airtime at the top, and I have to say that the ride was a little more fun than I’d remembered! From memory, it was certainly punchier than Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Ice Blast, but I do still prefer a good drop tower to a shot tower, personally. Overall, Doctor Doom’s FearFall was good fun, providing a nice shot tower experience to vary things up:
After Doctor Doom’s FearFall, we had a look at another ride in Marvel Super Hero Island, which had a shorter queue than earlier in the day…
Incredible Hulk Coaster
The Incredible Hulk Coaster was on an advertised 45 minute queue, so my dad, my sister and I decided to take a ride on it, with my mum and my grandparents sitting out of this one. As it turned out, 45 minutes was a vast overestimate, with the queue taking just 15 minutes in reality; you can’t complain about that! But how was the ride? Well, I was seated in row 4, and it was a good ride; the launch and initial zero-g roll never fail to deliver, and the ride packs good speed throughout! However, I’m not sure that it’s one of my absolute favourites; the ride, while not unbearably rough by any means, was a little bit of a headbasher in places, and I do wonder if it’s a touch too intense in terms of sustained positive g’s in places for my liking; there was one particularly uncomfortable segment from the cobra roll to the end of the loop where I greyed out for an extended period, which I didn’t find the most pleasant, personally. Nonetheless, these are niggles rather than dealbreakers, and the ride was pretty good overall:
After Hulk, we spent 15 minutes or so trying to find my mum and grandparents, who had gone elsewhere while we were riding. After we all met back up, we headed to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to ride on another much-anticipated new coaster…
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Hagrid’s was on a 70 minute advertised queue time, which seemed short relative to some of the queue times we had seen for it, so we decided to take this opportunity to ride it. Only my parents, my sister and I rode this, as my grandparents felt that 70 minutes was too long of a queue for them. Similarly to Kong, however, the queue hardly stopped moving, and it initially took only 40-45 minutes to get on. However, just as I was sat in the row 4 bike seat ready to go, the ride broke down, so we were evacuated and sent to wait in the exit corridor, where we waited for 10 minutes or so before being let back on. Even with the breakdown, however, we only waited for around 55 minutes, which was 15 minutes less than advertised. So, how was the ride? Well, I scored the back row bike seat, and I thought it was stunning; I was really quite floored by it! I had heard very good things about Hagrid’s, so I had high expectations, but in many ways, I was still pretty blown away and surprised by it; I thought that it was absolutely phenomenal! I had heard plaudits levelled towards the theme and experience aspects, and I do have to firmly reiterate those, but I must say that I was extremely surprised by just how fun and thrilling the coaster itself was! For a “family” coaster that only goes 50mph, the launches are really quite snappy, and it feels incredibly fast in areas! Overall, though, my main takeaway from the ride is that is simply phenomenally, enormously fun, and it just makes you laugh and puts a huge smile on your face throughout the experience in a way that very few rides can match! I’m also going to make a potentially controversial statement; I think I preferred it to VelociCoaster. While VelociCoaster does have some real standout moments of thrill in a way that Hagrid’s perhaps doesn’t, Hagrid’s is just so incredibly fun throughout that it made me laugh hysterically and smile hitting the brake run in a way that VelociCoaster couldn’t quite match. Overall, then, I thought Hagrid’s was absolutely phenomenal, and my family firmly agreed (including with the verdict that it usurped VelociCoaster; even though my dad and sister in particular were quick to declare VelociCoaster their favourite coaster unlike me, we were all in unanimous agreement that Hagrid’s was top dog out of the duo):
After coming off Hagrid’s, we pondered a ride on Forbidden Journey, but the queue was 25 minutes, which my family thought was too long at that point in the day. It was around 3:30pm by this point, and my grandparents in particular were reaching their limit, so we decided to leave the park and go home:
So, that concluded our day at Islands of Adventure! I had a brilliant day; both VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s were absolutely phenomenal rides that easily became two of my top coasters (my review of VelociCoaster makes it sound like I liked the ride far less than I actually did; I still absolutely loved it and thought it was a phenomenal ride, it just didn’t quite live up to the sky-high hype for me), Kong was surprisingly great, and I enjoyed getting back on some previous classics like Hulk and Jurassic Park! Islands of Adventure is still easily one of my top parks ever, if not my top park ever; I loved it back in 2016, and the additions of VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s have only strengthened it further, in my view! The ride selection is just amazing, and so well-rounded (by my reckoning, they have at least one top-class ride in most categories), and the theming and atmosphere are spectacular too!
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this report! Tomorrow, I think we’re probably going to head to Universal Studios Florida, so stay tuned for a report from there!