• Islands of Adventure Ride Strategy

Islands of Adventure Ride Strategy

Created: Oct 05, 2023

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Islands of Adventure Ride Strategy

The day has finally come! Is your backpack ready? Good. Get plenty of sleep and try to get to the parking lot half an hour before the gates open (or one hour early if you have early access entry). This way, you will be ready to start your adventure on time as soon as the park opens and the guests are set free in their natural habitat.

Just one reminder: you won’t need any of the Express Passes for this guide. This also means that these directions aren't aimed at our courageous friends that can only visit Islands in the middle of July. If that is your only option then, yes, you should probably buy an Express Pass and then hit our favorite attractions listed below.

The following guide is also aimed mostly at adults, but the optional rides section does have some nice options for the younglings. 

With that out of the way, let’s say you are finally past the gates and inside the theme park. Marvel Island will be to your left; the Dr.Seuss area will be to your right. We are taking a right turn now and heading straight past the Carousel to enter the Jurassic Park area.  

It’s time to check out one of the best roller coasters in the world: 

Jurassic World VelociCoaster

Rating: 10/10

Universal-islands-velocicoaster.jpg
Universal©

We are starting with the right foot. This is a “Top 5 best Roller Coaster in the World” according to the Golden Ticket Awards, so make sure to arrive early – you might even have time to experience it two times in a row! If you did get past the gates right when they opened, I would say that there is a good chance the queue should only be around 30-60 min. Trust me, this isn’t bad at all for an attraction like that.

One thing to keep in mind is that the VelociCoaster doesn’t let you bring anything with you to the ride. I mean anything, be it your cellphone or a loose coin inside your pocket. They have X-rays before you board the vehicle and park operators will know if you’re trying to ride with your new iPhone hidden somewhere. They aren’t afraid to set out a live Velociraptor after you if there is a suspicion you are trying to be sneaky. 

The good news is that the VelociCoaster also has metal lockers right as you go past the main entrance. The lockers aren’t very big, but there is enough space for a single backpack, so make sure to store all your belongings inside.

Moving on! There’s not much to say about the queue itself, even if it features a few realistic animatronics. The cool part happens a few minutes before entering your vehicle, as you will come face to face with a big tv screen featuring everyone’s favorite actor Chris Pratt! Funny enough, Chris Pratt also appears in another 10/10 ride, which is the Guardian’s of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Disney’s Epcot.

Phew, you are finally ready to embark on your adventure. The VelociCoaster is fast but, more importantly, the seat is extremely comfortable. This ride is all about speed, going up, going down and screaming as loud as you can. There is also an amazing part where it feels like you are floating in your seat right before a spectacular drop.

This is my favorite kind of roller coaster. Enjoyable, fast, not bumpy at all. I don’t even think there is a traditional loop here, although there’s at least one barrel roll near the end. As I said, those pesky raptors are all about going fast, so expect to find this here. Also, zero amounts of headaches once you are done. Hooray!  

Don’t get scared when you exit and the queue times are now way longer, that’s to be expected. You can try to ride it again or check another fun ride that is just a few steps away. Just remember to grab your backpack.

From fast raptors, we now come face to face with a dangerous T-Rex at... 

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Rating: 7/10

This is an oldie but a goodie. How can you not love it? You are casually enjoying the scenery stuck inside a boat until the gates of Jurassic Park open and the main theme starts playing. 10/10. Not enough for you? Well, there is also the fact that the queue tends to be pretty short, going as low as only 5min if you are lucky enough.

River Adventure is a strange mix of a dark ride and a log flume ride, similar to Splash Mountain. Out of all the water rides in Islands of Adventure, I can safely say that this one won’t get you drenched. I mean, maybe you broke a mirror in the past week or a black cat decided to cross your path, then there is always the small chance that you will get soaked. Don’t blame me!

If you are afraid of getting soaked, know that River Adventure is nothing compared to Islands’ two other two water rides. As I stated previously, you don’t need to replace your sneakers with your favorite pair of sandals and a poncho is also not required.

There is a good strategy when it comes to water rides if you want to try and stay completely dry: never sit in the front row. This is the main seat that will get bombarded with jets of water following the main drop. Also, you can always use the front row guests as a water-shield. Just don’t tell them that. You should also raise your feet a little bit just before the main ride, since nobody likes to wear wet socks. 

Once you are done, take some pictures with your favorite dinosaurs around Jurassic Park and get ready to explore a little place called Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Rating: 7/10

Harry Potter Universal Forbidden Journey (1).webp

I told you to enjoy your time and to take pictures with dinosaurs, right? Now you will do the same thing with wizards, talking hats and hippogryphs. You might be wondering why I am not sending you straight to Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, but you will understand soon enough if you stop and stare at the digital panel showing waiting times. Hagrid’s should be, what, a two hour queue time now? Motorbike Adventures is pretty busy almost always, but it does experience less traffic after 2pm and especially one hour right before the park closes. Don’t worry, we will be back to the Wizarding World later on just to experience some motorbike action.

For now, however, it’s time to check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. First things first, store your backpack in a nearby locker but don’t forget to bring your phone since the queue for this attraction is awesome.

This is basically a dark ride where you will be seated on a robotic arm that moves all over the place, showing locations from the movies and featuring the actors for Hermione, Ron and, of course, Harry “Yer a wizard, Harry” Potter. 

Please, do not Avada Kedavra me, but I have to say I am not the biggest fan of this ride. The good news is that most guests apparently love it, judging by online reviews. I just think it shakes way too much for my taste and the HD screen doesn’t look very… high definition? I don’t usually get motion sickness when going on rides like that but, somehow, I always have a small headache when I exit the Forbidden Journey. But, hey, every person is different so you might love it.

This ride might also be a little scary for our younglings. There are a lot of dark sections with heavy use of smoke and even giant spiders hissing at you. Nobody likes spiders. 

Now it’s up to you. Do you want to take a break and have lunch or keep going? If you are hungry like a velociraptor, I recommend going back to the Jurassic Park area and eating at the Thunder Falls Terrace. The atmosphere is good and there’s plenty of space to sit down. If you are feeling lucky, you can try the Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World. This one is deep inside the Wizarding World, so expect it to be packed. 

With a full belly, it’s finally time to face off against a giant gorilla.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Rating: 6/10

Skull Island King kong universal1.webp

This is a fun ride to relax, sit down and rest your legs a little bit. Reign of Kong is a trackless dark ride that guides you through scenes from the most recent King Kong movies and ends with a huge 4D set piece. It’s okay if none of those words mean anything to you, I am here to help:

Trackless Dark Ride: this means you are inside a real expedition truck with a real driver, like those safari trucks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

4D: you can see 3D screens on both your left and right side.

Most recent King Kong movies: forgettable.

This ride, however, is actually pretty okay. Nothing amazing that will blow your brains off, but it’s not bad either. As I said, it’s mostly to relax after lunch. You can even bring your belongings with you, so you don’t even waste time looking for a locker.
As for the ride itself, the animatronics are well done for the most part and I love the idea of giant 3D screens on both sides, so you can really feel attacked by dinosaurs, gorillas and giant worms. I’d say you should go at least once and give it your own rating. It’s a similar ride to Fast & Furious - Supercharged at Universal’s Studios, only a hundred times better.

Time to get going! Remember how you got so lucky when you exited River Adventure without even getting wet? Heh. 

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges

Rating: 7/10

Are you ready for a quick shower? You can choose to go to Popeye first or Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, it won’t make that much of a difference. Both will get you soaked. I reminded you to bring an extra pair of sandals, right? Maybe even a poncho. Take off your sneakers, take off your socks and wear your anti-water-ride-sandals. Laugh in the face of danger.

Popeye is a traditional raft ride for up to ten people. You pick a seat, the raft goes down a river with waterfalls and hazards that exist for the sole purpose of getting you soaked from head to toe. Simple, but effective. I love it. It’s extremely fun and you will be laughing for the entire time trying to find out who will get soaked next (pro tip: it’s probably going to be you). There are even guests on nearby bridges that can use water turrets to get you soaked. Delightful. 

Just know that this ride tends to close down a lot, especially during the winter season from December to January. It’s always a good idea to check the park schedule before anything else to see if Popeye is open and the weather is good for a quick bath.

Since we are already soaked, why not get double-soaked?

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Rating: 8/10

Here we go again. Keep wearing your sandals, soldier, we are not done yet. While Popeye is a traditional raft ride, Ripsaw Falls is more similar to the old Splash Mountain (rest in peace). In fact, it might be better than Splash: Ripsaw Falls has two drops and an incredible ending! It’s nowhere near as charming as Splash Mountain, true, but it’s just as fun.

You will be inside a log with three other guests, and the same tip I gave for River Adventure also works here: whoever stays in the front row will get a special gift from Poseidon. Still, get ready for water to enter through the sides as well and drench your pants, so it is definitely a good idea to leave your wallet and phone behind.

Queue times for Ripsaw Falls can vary a lot. During the winter season, you can expect zero lines or only wait for about 5 min as logs literally keep dropping without any guests inside. During the hottest months, it’s not unusual for queues to oscillate around 30 min. Nothing too crazy that should keep you away from experiencing it.

It’s time to retire your sandals once you are done. They served their purpose and shall be remembered. Now, let’s move on and pay our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man a visit.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Rating: 10/10

MARVEL LAND 3.webp

We have finally entered Marvel Island! Expect to spend a few hours here, since there is a lot to see and explore. I especially enjoy browsing the stores, which sell a bunch of awesome comic books, action figures and framed paintings – some of them signed by famous actors. There is even an arcade with old time favorites like Guitar Hero and Metal Slug where you can play games, earn tickets and change them for special prizes.

It is also in Marvel Island that you’re expected to see the X-Men driving ATVs and stopping by to take pictures. Wolverine, Cyclops, Rogue, Storm… most of them are here, but they are saving their hard-earned money and buying their outfits at the nearest Party City. I won’t say their outfits look terrible, but I am pretty certain that a professional cosplayer would do a better job.

We are here, however, to talk about the one and only Spider-Man, the main star of one of the most classic dark rides and 3D motion simulators in the world. This is not just a very charming ride, but a good one too – it won an award for best dark ride for 12 years in a row! The charm starts with the queue, which shows the classic Spider-Man cartoon and sets up the story as guests walk through the Daily Bugle.

This ride opened way back in 1999 and still manages to impress. The 3D animations are top notch and I really love how the practical effects go hand to hand with what you are seeing in front of you. Green goblin, for example, might throw a grenade on the 3D screen only for a (not real) oil tank to explode and (real) fire come out at a distance close enough that you will feel the warmth on your skin. You will be fighting against classic Spidey villains like Electro and Doctor Octopus, and each one of them has a creative way to interact with your vehicle.

Once you are done, you might be lucky enough to find Spider-Man in the store just across the street and get the chance to snap a picture next to him. Take your time, because we are going from one of Marvel’s premier heroes to one of its most dangerous villains.

Dr. Doom’s Fearfall

Rating: 7/10

This is Islands of Adventure’s answer to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios. Is it just as good? Nah. Is it still fun? Yes, it is. There is not much to say about Dr. Doom’s Fearfall. The queue is incredibly basic with only a few small TV screens showing… something. A backstory to the attraction, I guess? I can’t even remember. 

You know what is good about this ride? The line is basically non-existent. I am talking about a 5 min waiting time for a good portion of the day, which is totally worth it if you are going to be ejected up into the sky.

Yeah, you read that right, the main twist in Dr. Doom is that you are shot 185 feet into the air before coming down, then going up again, then down, then up one last time, then… you got the idea. The entire ride takes only about two minutes, so if you add this to the usual time you wait in line this means you won’t spend more than ten to fifteen minutes here. Not bad at all.

Once we are done here, it’s time to RAAAAGE!

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Rating: 8/10

MARVEL LAND 2.webp

For more than a decade, this ride was THE star of the show at Islands of Adventure, and it’s easy to see why. The Incredible Hulk Coaster is just imposing, a vast maze of green tracks and loud screams that can be heard all over Marvel Island. It wasn’t that long ago that you could easily stand in line for more than 70 min just to ride this monster once.

With the introduction of the Velocicoaster and Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventures, interest in the Hulk Coaster has (thankfully) diminished a fair bit, so it’s not uncommon to come here in the afternoon and see the queue going up and down the 20 min mark, which means that you can easily ride it twice. Just a quick warning before you make your way to the entrance: much like the VelociCoaster, you can’t ride the Hulk with anything in your pockets. No wallets, coins or phones, so make sure to leave them behind.

As expected, the Hulk Coaster isn’t as good as the newest roller coasters, but I’d still give it a thumbs up. My main complaint is that the seats just aren’t that comfortable compared to, say, the VeloCicoaster. The seats feel stiff and your head might act like a pinball as you are shaken left and right with so many inversions. Still, it’s nowhere near as disorienting as some of the rides at Busch Gardens like Kumba and Montu. 

Other than that, the actual ride still impresses. The initial launch is amazing, followed by a top tier 105-foot drop that will leave you speechless and ranks amongst my favorites of all time. This is a roller coaster that will delight fans of inversions and loops, being less about speed – you already have the VelociCoaster for that.

Once you are done with Marvel Island, you will notice that you are very close to the park entrance: the difference is that, when you went past the gates the first time, you turned right to go through the Seuss Landing all the way to the Jurassic Park area. If you had turned left, you’d be at the Marvel Island where you are now. 

We are now going to make our way back through Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent and head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one last time.

You might stop to take a look at Seuss Landing and The Lost Continent but, truth be told, those two areas don’t have a lot to offer when we are talking about fun rides. Small children might be interested in the Caro-Seuss-el and The Cat in the Hat, but that’s about it. The Lost Continent doesn’t even have a proper ride anymore, since Poseidon’s Fury permanently closed in May 2023. Still, the two zones are great spots to take pictures, and you can find a very cool store that sells replicas of medieval weapons and shields near the entrance to The Wizarding World.

Now that we are back to Harry Potter, it’s time to face another big queue.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventures

Rating: 10/10

Hagrids Line.jpg

It should be late in the afternoon, which means that the queue isn’t as bad as when the park opened. The 120 min waiting time should have gone down to only about 110 min now. Just kidding (hopefully).

Large items, magic wands, lightning bolt scrolls and anything that can’t fit in your pockets are not allowed inside, so make sure to only bring your wallet and phone with you. Leave your backpack inside one of the available lockers.

When it comes to the ride itself, I think this one gets the silver medal just slightly behind the VelociCoaster. Hagrid’s vehicle is also very comfortable – the bike itself is composed of a motorcycle and also a sidecar, similar to the classic vehicle from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This roller coaster has seven (!) launches, is all about speed, quick turns and even backwards falls.

The only big problem with Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure is that the ride breaks down… a lot. So much so that some websites call it one of the most unreliable attractions in the entire industry. Ouch. That’s probably due to the seven launches - if one of them isn’t working right, the entire ride needs to shut down. Always keep an eye on your phone to see if Hagrid’s is available and pray to God that it doesn’t let you down.

Optional Rides

Are you done with Islands of Adventure’s main stars and now want to check out the more obscure attractions? No worries, here on Famvia we got you covered. The good news is that most rides from now will be on a short queue time, usually around ten to twenty minutes, and even less than that by the end of the day.

The following list includes carrousels, trolley rides and a few examples that will help you sit down, stretch your legs and relax, which might be just what you need after a long day drinking loads of butterbeer.

Storm Force’s Accelatron

Rating: 6/10

Actually, don’t drink loads of butterbeer and head straight to this queue. Storm Force’s Accelatron is a classic teacups ride where you sit down with three other people and spin around. In fact, you can double spin. Not only do the teacups spin by themselves, but there is a wheel in the center of each vehicle that you can turn to spin even faster. And I mean, faster. That’s double spinning, which some individuals might not enjoy. Kids usually love it. Adults? Not so much.

Pteranodon’s Flyers

Rating: 7/10

I had to double check the title to see if I got the name right. Anyway, this is one of those relaxing rides where you sit down, chill and enjoy a good view of the park. Pteranodon’s Flyers is a kids ride where two people hop on the wings of a giant dinosaur and fly around. From what I know, each vehicle is always composed of an adult and a younger guest. Park operators won’t allow two adults occupying a single vehicle.

It’s very hard to get queue times right for this ride. I’ve seen everything from 10 min all the way to 45 min. My main problem with Pteranodon’s Flyers is that queues can be long and the ride itself takes a little more than sixty seconds. Still, kids below twelve years old might really enjoy this.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Rating: 7/10

Universal Islands Adventure Flight Gryph.webp

Even if we are calling this an optional ride, I can definitely see this one being part of your regular itinerary. The Hippogriff is a junior roller coaster, which means that you won’t find any crazy high-speed launches or inversions here.

This is an amazing option to bring your children and let them experience their first ever roller coaster, and a good training ground for the VelociCoaster in a few years. You get a nice view of Hogwarts Castle and can also spot a few animatronics based on JK Rowling’s work. Waiting times have gone down drastically since the opening of Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventures, but still expect to waste about 20-30 min in line.

The Cat in the Hat

Rating: 6/10

Another dark ride in Islands of Adventure! While the Spider-Man one is way better, we can say that The Cat in the Hat is aimed mostly at young children. There isn’t much to say about what you can find here, honestly. The ride is very colorful and tells the events of the book of the same name, featuring a number of animatronics and visual effects. Expect your vehicle to spin from time to time, but nothing that will leave you dizzy. 

Caro-Seuss-el

Rating: Corousel/10

Hey, guess what! It’s a carousel! Every theme park should have one. It’s the perfect ride to bring young children or that special date that you plan to look into the eyes and express your feelings. This carousel is based on Dr. Seuss, which means that the vehicles look like creatures that came out straight from a David Bowie’s music video. The little monsters and animals all look very colorful and original, certainly a big plus for an attraction of this kind.

Camp Jurassic

Rating: 7/10

This isn’t an actual ride where you will be challenged by long queues, but a huge play area aimed at children - filled with slides, climbing nets and caves for the young explorers. It’s open the entire day and you can simply walk in there without having to worry about staying stuck in a line of hundreds of people. Might be the perfect place to snap some pictures or walk a little bit while eating your favorite snack. Adults won’t find much to enjoy here, but children tend to waste hours running around, playing with water cannons and checking out giant dinosaur footsteps.

Closing Thoughts

That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed the best, most complete, foolproof, amazing, incredible guide in this beautiful place called the internet.

There is a good chance that you checked every ride in our guide and there is still a lot of time left before the park closes. That is fine and expected, trust me. This will give you the opportunity to repeat the attractions that you and your family enjoyed the most, be it Spider-Man, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventures or even visit one of the optional rides that are not part of the main itinerary.

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