Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure Theme Park, What to Ride First, Where to Eat, and Tips on Making the Most of Your Day + Saving Time & Money!

Islands of Adventure is one of two ‘dry’ theme parks at the Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida. Its high levels of theming and attention to small details make it one of the best amusement parks in the World.


Islands of Adventure’s Icon, Pharos Lighthouse 


Islands of Adventure is a theme park that is split into seven different themed lands or “Islands.”

Port of Entry is where “The Adventure Begins” and is the first land that guests will encounter when entering the theme park. It is the home of specialty stores, quick bites to eat, lockers, wheelchair/stroller rentals, Lost and Found, & First Aid. You’ll pass through this area on your entrance and exit to/from the park. Make sure to check out our other article: Port of Entry, an In-Depth Look, for some more of the small details and stories that make up this incredible entranceway into Islands of Adventure.

The amusement park then opens up to a large lagoon where you’ll get glimpses of the rest of the Islands located within the park. Islands of Adventure is circular, so you’ll be able to walk around clockwise or counterclockwise once you reach the lagoon. Let’s start by heading to the left towards the massive HULK roller coaster, the first attraction you’ll notice when entering the theme park.

Marvel Superhero Island holds a few high-thrill attractions themed to well-known Marvel characters. Step into the Marvel Comic universe and fight alongside some of your favorite superheroes. If you are interested in all the in-depth details of Marvel Super Hero Island and want to learn about hidden things inside the land, check out our “Secrets of Marvel Super Hero Island,” where you can learn more about the land!

Toon Lagoon is known for its two water rides, which are considered to be two of the best of their kind in the World. The high-theming and unique aspects of the “Ripsaw Falls” log flume and “Popeye’s” raft ride located within Toon Lagoon are not-to-be-missed. You’ll need a Poncho if you don’t want to get wet! Want to learn more about Toon Lagoon and learn about where you can enjoy the fun without getting wet? Check out “An In-Depth look at Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure.”

Jurassic Park is one of the most popular lands inside of the theme park because of its popular movies that everyone has likely seen at least once. Photo opportunities with dinosaurs and Jurassic Park and Jurassic World-themed attractions await you. You can even visit the Jurassic Park Discovery Center to learn all about dinosaurs. Jurassic Park is one of our favorite themed areas ever, and it’s worth reading about: Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure and some of the things you don’t want to miss!

Hogsmeade: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter put Islands of Adventure on the map. This highly-detailed land is one of the greatest achievements of a theme park and changed the way theme parks operate forever when it opened in 2010. Arguably one of the best dark rides ever created “Forbidden Journey,” is a must-do and is located at Hogwarts Castle. There’s a lot to see inside and just walking around and taking it all in is the best way to experience the land. Learn about using a wand and more secrets to this section of the park in the Guide to Hogsmeade & The Wizarding World at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The Lost Continent was once the reason to visit the Islands of Adventure theme park, but over the years it has shrunk down to about half the size it once was. It’s now best for dining and shopping, where it has some unique merchandise experiences. Unfortunately, the coin mint & small magic shop have been changed to more generic shops in recent years, but it’s still worth a stroll into the many stores the land features, and a listen to the fountain.

Seuss Landing is a family-friendly area in the park, and because we all grew up with the books and movies, it’s familiar to everyone and a nice spot to explore. Take a walk and listen to the sounds, read the signage, and admire the Seuss-shaped buildings. Seuss has a lot of hidden details, check out some of the design details that brought this area of the park to life, and learn about where they got all of those funky-shaped palm trees that fit in the area so well in our other piece: The Details and Secrets of Seuss Landing.

That brings us back to the Port of Entry and the start of your journey around “Islands.”


1. Get to the park before it opens. This seems obvious, but 95% of groups will still not arrive on time. The rides we get asked most about, “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure,” & “Jurassic World VelociCoaster,” are going to have long waits all day; it’s essential to arrive early to get one of these rides out of the way immediately. Right now we recommend arriving at the amusement park 30 minutes before posted opening time. These newer rides are still very popular, so it’s best to ride one of these first before moving on to other attractions.
*(If you are not in the park early and first on one of these rides, it’s best to make your way around the park clockwise, as Hagrid‘s and VelociCoaster’s line length will only shorten throughout the day.)

2. Download the Universal Orlando App. The Official App is sometimes needed to reserve rides for attractions that use a “Virtual Line.” How to get a Virtual Queue at Universal Orlando. It shows wait times, maps, attraction closures, showtimes, and more; you do not need to be in the parks to use it, so familiarize yourself with the app before you arrive! You can even order food ahead of time to maximize your time in the park with menus and prices for all the restaurants; plus it’s completely free. 
Download here for iPhone.
Download here on Google Play.

3. Eat at restaurant opening hours or just before closing hours to avoid long food lines. Riding rides during lunch-rush can cut back queue times, but more importantly you avoid long waits at the eateries which can grow to over an hour long. Eat early and late (Most restaurants open at 10am or 11am), otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for an hour or longer during peak lunch & dinner hours. 3:30pm-4:30pm is also a good time to eat, or the final 2 hours before park closing, note some restaurants do close early. Order food from your phone using the Universal App to avoid lines.

4. Take the path less traveled. See what else you can discover at the park by meandering off the main pathways. If you are a big fan of theme parks and the details that go into them, make sure you walk around areas that seem out of the way, read signs and learn about each land by asking employees about each ride and its backstory, they may even show you some special secrets if you ask for a short tour; there are some incredible areas all over the park that will give views of rides and attractions you haven’t seen before.

5. Save money on tickets to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. Are you a Florida resident? Make sure to check out Publix; it offers discount tickets during select times of the year. Not a resident of Florida? We partner with aRestravel to offer you the best vacation packages to Orlando. Hotels, theme park tickets, attraction deals, and entire vacation deals for on-site and off-site hotels. We’ve partnered with this leading online ticket seller to give AmusementInsider and Behind The Thrills viewers and readers the best deals on tickets and hotel options, check it out as you’ll find some of the best vacation package prices here in one easy-to-use site. Discount Orlando Theme Park Tickets. You may also call 1(800)687-8183 to talk to a ticket representative.


“What time is best to ride the rides at Islands of Adventure? What rides are the best in the park?
Our ride guide below will highlight rides in order of how you encounter them while walking around the park Clockwise. 11:00am- 4:00pm is usually the busiest time at the park, though some attractions may not have the longest waits during that time based on how crowds are spread throughout the amusement park.

Notable attractions are marked with a rating. This is an opinionated rating by AmusementInsider on how enjoyable the ride is based on originality, adrenaline, and fun-factor. 2.5 Stars is an average score, with anything higher considered to be something you should ride! I’ll also tell you what my choice for best seat on each ride is.

Marvel Super Hero Island

The Incredible Hulk Coaster: 

The Incredible Hulk is an intense ride that features multiple inversions and a lengthy layout; it’s the first and remains one of the only launched roller coasters made by “Bolliger and Mabillard,” the Swiss design firm which manufactured the HULK coaster. This World-class roller coaster is an icon at the Islands of Adventure park. Ask for the front row!
Guests must be 54″ to ride. We recommend riding later in the day as the queue remains quite long from morning through the afternoon as guests arrive. The wait can drop significantly just before park closing, especially if the Harry Potter castle shows are going on. 

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 4.5 out of 5
Nothing beats that first launch out of the tunnel, I prefer the front left seat on HULK for the launch and the first element, there’s nothing like it. This is one of the best B&M-built coasters ever made, it runs as if it’s an old-style B&M even though it was completely rebuilt 2016, with whippy transitions and plenty of high G-force, which I consider a good thing. The custom soundtrack is also one of the best for a coaster.

Storm Force Accelatron:

A higher-speed version of the classic “Teacups;” kids of all ages can enjoy this ride as it’s partially controlled by the rider. Spin fast or slow, or not at all. Many Adults seem to skip the attraction as similar versions can be found at other theme parks, wait times aren’t too long for this flat ride on most days.

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall:

A standard launch tower that is found in many parks around the country, Dr. Doom incorporates a fantastic storyline and queue that set it apart from the norm.
Guests must be 52″ to ride. The wait for this attraction is generally low throughout the entire day and rideable whenever.

AmusementInsider Rating ★★★☆☆ 2.5 out of 5 The queue and storyline make this a ride that should be ridden if time allows. For a standard launch tower that you can find at most Six Flags, it is very well done.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man:

One of the most cutting-edge attractions when it opened in 1999, Spider-Man still ranks as one of the best attractions at the Universal Studios Resort and around the World. This bumpy 3D-simulator ride is suitable for most riders and combines screens with real sets.
Guests must be 40″ with an adult, or 48″ to ride alone. Riding this early in the day will beat longer lines that come midday, otherwise later at night the line tends to get shorter again. There are rarely issues with motion-sickness on this ride.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5
This ride has it all, nostalgia, technology, practical effects, and quality 3D. It’s one of my all-time favorite rides and the technology that is used still keeps up with rides that are being built today, it does not feel like a ride that opened before the year 2000!

Toon Lagoon

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges:

Quite possibly the best river rapids ride in the World, riders will get soaked and are taken on a journey through some rough waters and animatronic scenes. This is the first water ride you will walk by if traveling clockwise, and is one of three water rides that should all be experienced!
Guests must be 42″ with an adult or 48″ to ride alone. We recommend riding early in the day or before park closing.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5
The massive size of the boats and impressive water flow combined with the hilarity of everyone getting soaked makes this ride extremely fun and very re-rideable.

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls:

Island’s of Adventure has what is quite possibly the best water-ride collection in the World. This log flume ride takes you through a comic book story with animatronics and a big drop finale. You will get somewhat wet, you may get soaked.
Guests must be 44″ with an adult or 48″ to ride alone. We recommend riding early in the day or before park closing.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★☆ 4.5 out of 5

Jurassic Park

Skull Island: Reign of Kong:

Popularity: 4.5 out of 5
A screen-based ride that the whole family can enjoy, come face to face with King Kong and dinosaurs in this bus tour-style attraction. An advanced motion simulator with 360-degree screens is what you will experience on this attraction, Slow moving with sharp rocking motions and bumps. Motion sickness should not be an issue, guests can close their eyes if it becomes one.
Guests must be 36″ tall to ride with an adult. We recommend riding this ride early in the morning or just before closing to avoid a long wait.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★☆☆ 2.5 out of 5
An attraction pulled from the Universal Hollywood park’s Tram Tour, this attraction doesn’t fit too well as a stand-alone ride, and leaves me wanting more. Its location oddly placed in between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park messes with the flow of the park, as it is the only stand-alone attraction inside Islands of Adventure. However, there is one particular moment that makes this worth riding at least once.

Jurassic Park River Adventure:

Popularity: 4 out of 5
This boat-tour attraction may not go as exactly planned. See many animatronic dinosaurs on a slow boat ride before going face to face with a giant T Rex. A ride with outdoor and indoor sections, fantastic sets, and a thrilling ending.
Guests must be 42″ with an adult or 48″ to ride alone. We recommend riding early in the day or before park closing.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 out of 5

Jurassic World VelociCoaster:

Popularity: 5 out of 5
What could go wrong? This smooth, fast, and thrilling coaster looks intimidating, but it offers an extremely comfortable ride. 4 inversions, 2 launches, and a bunch of fun elements.
Guests must be 42″ with an adult or 48″ to ride. We recommend riding first, or later in the day.

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5
One of the best roller coasters in the World! Take the Front Right seat if you can!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure:

One of Universal’s newest attractions is a roller coaster ride into the Forbidden Forest. The lack of screens on this ride means it isn’t too bad for people who get motion-sickness as long as you are able to keep your eyes open and focused on what’s ahead. It is a very thrilling ride with some surprises, and we’ve found many non-coaster riders enjoy this attraction. If you have been on Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios, you can likely handle this attraction. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure does not go upside down.
AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5

The single-rider line for the Hagrid roller coaster does skip the preshow and most of the decorated queue, & it can also get to be just as long as the regular line, so it is not recommended.
Guests must be 48″ tall to ride and are recommended to have a waist under 40″ We recommend arriving early and riding this attraction first as long as there are no morning delays, if you are not one of the first in line, it is better to wait until early afternoon as the line will be longest early in the day.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: 

AmusementInsider Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5
A popular attraction with a queue that moves quickly. Part simulator, part dark ride. Motion sickness is an issue with some guests, but simply closing your eyes during the screen-based sections of the ride helps with that issue. The ride technically never moves faster than 5mph, but there are swift and intense motions felt while on board the vehicles.
Guests must be 48″ tall. Riding this in the early morning or afternoon is usually your best option. Sometimes the Hogwarts light show pushes wait times back up in the evening. 


Raptor Encounter: 

AmusementInsider Rating ★★☆☆☆ 2.5 out of 5
Popularity: 3 out of 5
A picture opportunity with a Raptor, the Raptor Encounter is unfortunately not as in-depth as the previous “Triceratops Encounter” attraction, but it is still worth viewing the impressive movements the Raptor is capable of. With a good trainer, it can be a very fun experience.
Walkthrough/Picture opportunity, all ages. The wait for this attraction is moderate throughout the day.

Poseidon’s Fury: 

This walking tour attraction with water, lights, and fire effects along the way is NOW CLOSED.

The Mystic Fountain: 

This enchanted fountain in the Lost Continent tells jokes and riddles, it’s a great spot to take a break and listen to the comedy.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center:

Interactive Activity Center in Jurassic Park for younger ages. Fun for kids to explore.



Can I ride everything in one day?”
With so many popular rides and attractions, Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a daunting amusement park to tackle all at once. Follow the details here, showing the best times to ride each one. There are ways to avoid crowds!

Park Opening Hours:

  1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure OR Jurassic World Velocicoaster
    Pick the one that is more important to you; once you ride this once, the line is likely going to already be long. Head counter-clockwise once entering the park to get there fastest. Hagrid’s seems to carry the longest line shortly after park opening, so if you’re not one of the first in line, ride Velocicoaster.
  2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
    This attraction will have a short wait soon after the park opens since many people are still entering the park and will be queuing up for Hagrid and VelociCoaster. You will be traveling counter-clockwise around the theme park for the rest of this guide.
  3. Jurassic Park River Adventure
    Because of the high appeal of this water ride, it is best to get it out of the way early on. You do not get too wet on this attraction.
  4. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
    This 3D-screen ride is also one to ride early, as the lines will stay long throughout the day.
  5. Pteranodon Flyers
    You must have a child with you between 36″ and 56″ to ride this attraction.

    Morning Hours:
  6. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
    You will get wet on this ride. (If it is too early in the day for this, save it for late afternoon or evening.)
  7. Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
    You will get soaked on this ride. (If it is too early in the day for this, save it for late afternoon or evening.)
  8. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
    A motion simulator, you will likely see a line at this attraction but this is the time to ride since you are in the area.

    Many restaurants open at 10:00 or 11:00, this is the time to grab a bite to eat in the park as lines are now going to be longer at most attractions. We suggest some of our favorites in the dining section further down in this guide. If you’d rather wait longer to eat, we suggest continuing with the “Afternoon” rides, and then suggest eating in CityWalk.

    Afternoon Hours:
  9. Dr. Doom’s Fearfall
    Two launch towers, both sides have the same ride experience.
  10. Storm Force Accelatron
    A teacup-style attraction near HULK.

    (Lines are long at all attractions at this point of the day and will continue to be long throughout the afternoon) It is best to either walk over to Universal Studios at this time (requires a park-to-park ticket) and come back in a few hours; or; continue around the park counter-clockwise with the following attractions:
  11. The Incredible HULK Coaster
    This attraction will likely have a wait, but it should be less than it was earlier in the day.
  12. Seuss Landing Attractions:
    If I Ran The Zoo (Play Area)
    Cat in the Hat
    One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
    Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (Show; located on the pathway near Caro-Seuss-el)
    The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
  13. Poseidon’s Fury
    An indoor walkthrough attraction
  14. The Mystic Fountain
    If you wish, take a break near this enchanted fountain for riddles and jokes.
  15. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure OR Jurassic World Velocicoaster
    Back to the most popular ride that you skipped earlier, the queue for these has likely passed its peak-wait time by this time of day.


    At this point in the day it’s time to ride anything you may have missed on the list above. You may also wish to see some of the shows and other attractions around the park, or take the train over to Universal Studios for more high-thrill attractions.
  16. Ollivanders Experience in Hogsmeade
    A wand-choosing-a-wizard experience.
  17. Triwizard Spirit Rally/Frog Choir
    Located near Hogwarts Castle.
  18. Jurassic Park Discovery Center
    Interactive exhibits exist on the bottom floor and are fun for both young and old.
  19. Raptor Encounter
    A photo opportunity in Jurassic Park with a live Raptor.
  20. Camp Jurassic
    Truly one of the most-immersive areas inside the park, take a stroll around this play area and find all the hidden interactive elements throughout.

    Go back to some of your favorite attractions for more rides on them! Each experience changes depending on where you sit in the ride vehicle, and some rides have multiple show elements to them all together, so each ride is a bit different. Otherwise, head over to CityWalk for a bite to eat or the other theme park for some more rides.