Birthday Weekend: Islands of Adventures!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

So basically,
My fiance is amazing.
When we were dress-shopping in Orlando, we stayed right next to Universal's Islands of Adventures.
I saw the Hulk in the horizon as we left our hotel room,
and it crossed my mind that Peter would probably love it.
Apart from Busch Gardens Tampa, it's probably the best Florida theme park for big kids;
It just has so many roller coasters and fun rides.
I called him up that weekend and mentioned it to him,
and his immediate reaction was, "Ok Georgia, I'll take you for your birthday"
See why I want to marry this guy??

Keeper, obvs 

So we did a little research, because Peter is always the man with the plan.
These are just some photos from our trip
And I'll try to intersperse it with some of the tips we got and found useful ourselves :)

1. Parking-

We reallyyyy wanted to be able to do everything before the afternoon rainstorms settled in, and especially before the massive throngs of people came and produced massive hour-long rides. For this reason, we left SUPER early, got there at 9, and paid the extra 20 bucks to park closer to City Walk. It was definitely worth it!

2. Game Plan

So the park is basically divided into seven "islands" arranged in a ring. Obviously, some areas are more popular than others, so rather than just go through the islands in order, we tried to do the rides and parts of the park that we thought would be most popular first. When I was a kid and the park had first opened, that was Marvel Superhero Island

So we did The Hulk first, because it's right at the entrance to the park, and I thought from my past experiences that there would be a HUGE line for it....all I can say is the times have changed-there was never more than a 30 minute wait, and because we were so early, we got to ride it front row :D It's by far my favorite ride in the park, so it was pretty awesome to be able to share that childhood memory with Peter.

We came back later in the day to do the Spiderman Ride and Dr. Doom's Fear Fall. Spiderman is a 3d ride and turned out to be Peter's favorite. They do a good job of building up the suspense. Here's an obligatory photo of us in the spiderman ride's weird buggy glasses

2. What to Bring

Another change to the park is these lockers that have popped up everywhere. When the lines are short, (less than 50 minutes,) you can actually store your stuff for free! This was great as I had brought a bag that was too big to fit with me on the roller coaster type rides. In general, I'd suggest bringing as little as you can- leave the bulkier cameras, huge water bottles, and leather purses at home in favor of a small water-proof (or resistant) shoulder bag. I didn't even bring my full wallet. All our photos were taken with our smart phones.

3. Harry Potter World

This is the main reason that people go to the park nowadays. People just love seeing Hogwarts and the magic shops and eating at the Three Broomsticks and trying Butter Beer. We high-tailed it here right after we finished up at Marvel Island, and I'm glad we did because it was packed by 10 am.

Mistake #2 I made was assuming that Dueling Dragons Dragon Challenge would be a popular ride. It wasn't. The wait was never longer than 5 minutes while we were there. Isn't that crazy?? That was another ride that was far and away the most popular in the park when it first opened. I feel old, guys. 

What is EXTREMELY popular is the new ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I had no idea what it was or would be like, which was kind of a fun change. Suffice it to say, it's awesome- I'm ever loyal to Tolkien and LOTR, but it was pretty cool to be able to walk through Hogwarts Castle and see the moving, talking portraits and a pretty convincing holograph of Hermione, Harry and Ron convincing us to skip class and go play brickle-ball, or whatever the hell that game is called. So yea, I'd say do this first. 

If you're a big-time fan, you can easily go all-out here: there's a wand shop, a candy store, and of course the Three Broomsticks which feature in the books. We went ahead and skipped out on all that stuff {I heard the butter beer tasted awful so we didn't really bother with it.}

4. The rest of the day

By this time we were kind of gross and sweaty from waiting in line at Hogwarts, and since Peter grew up in the era of Jurassic Park, we decided to do the River Adventure next. I didn't give him any hints as to how it goes, so I won't give any spoilers except to say that we got WAY more wet than I remembered. 

 Needless to say, this one had a blast here. {also, literally THREE people commented on Peter's shirt that day (it's a back to the future 2 reference)- clearly we were in nerd city!}

5. Food!

Food is pretty expensive and just as crappy in theme parks, so we were glad we did research on this one- Mythos, in the Forbidden Kingdom Island, is a sit-down place that actually had decent food. It wasn't too expensive, and even though it wasn't the best meal we've ever had, it was nice to sit by the water and regroup a little. Peter was very European and had an espresso. Besides this restaurant, this part of the park is kind of a waste of space- it used to encompass Harry Potter World, when it had dueling dragons and a huge oak tree tavern. Now it's just kind of strange, and has a show about Sinbad that's "meh" and Poseidon's Fury, where you just kind of sit there and get wet. We skipped both. 

6. Toon Landing 

This is the wet island of the park. 

 We headed here after lunch, when it was getting really hot and thought we wouldn't have much more good weather for outdoor rides. There's a log flume- Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls- and Bluto's Bilgerat Barge. The barge ride is kind of silly. I find log flumes terrifying and was actually most scared of this ride. Don't laugh!

One complaint I do have is the ride pictures- I remember them being expensive, but they've now become astronomical. My face on the log flume was embarrassingly hilarious, but I wasn't going to pay 20 bucks for it. But as soon as I tried to take a photo of it, the employees would shut down the screen and tell you not to take pictures. Ok, I get that it's their job but 20 bucks for one measly photo? Seriously? They could at least provide a digital copy for cheaper, but instead they've decided to charge $60 for digitals (yes, you get photos from all the rides you go on, but that's still way too much for a handful of pictures.)

7. Doing the park with little kids.

I never got the concept of bringing smaller kiddos to theme parks, even Disney. They're just too little to remember it, and when they are old enough to remember, they often aren't big enough to go on a lot of the great rides. This is actually a pretty solid park for small children though- Seuss Landing, which we kind of glazed over, {Peter has never read The Cat in the Hat, or any other Dr. Seuss Books- let's all be sad for him!} has a "Circus McGurcus," a cute Merry-go-Round, and a Cat in the Hat ride that was kind of fun. Harry Potter World has a Hippogriff ride that's very kid friendly, and Jurassic Park has a playground, flying pterodactyl ride, and some robotic triceratops you can meet. Toon Landing has a fun kid-friendly water park, but Mom and Dad, be prepared to get soaked.

We had an absolutely awesome time. I'm so glad I got to share some pretty special childhood memories with Peter. Thanks for the birthday gift, hon :)

I'll try to write about the second half of the weekend soon, but no guarantees, as I've got an exam and major studying coming up. :)

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