Islands of Adventure Tips & Secrets

Islands of Adventure Arrival Tips:

  • Arrive about 45 minutes prior to arrival if you have tickets, arrive 60 minutes prior if you need to purchase admission. If you have a ticket voucher, you will need to get your actual tickets by using one of the kiosks near the entrance of the park.   Remember that you must have a “Park-to-Park” admission ticket to ride the Hogwart’s Express attraction.
  • Parking is shared for both Universal Orlando parks.  Premium parking is probably not worth the cost if you arrive before 10:30AM.   The best parking is on the west side of the parking garage.   Take a photo of the name of your parking section, number of your section, level and row - it is easy to forget where you are parked and the sections all look pretty much the same.  Depending on where you are parked, it will take 8 to 20 minutes to get to get through security and get to the theme park entrances.
  • Package pick-up is available near the front of the park for purchases made during the day, saving you the hassle of carrying bags while you enjoy the attractions.

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Minimizing Lines at Islands of Adventure:

  • Universal Express & Universal Express Unlimited (similar to FastPass+) cover about 90% of the parks’ attractions but cost extra – sometimes a lot extra - unless you are staying at Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or the Royal Pacific hotel.  Universal Express passes can be purchased prior to arrival, at the park ticket windows or inside the park.  If you want Universal Express passes, staying at one of the resorts can be a great value because you don't pay extra for Universal Express and one night's stay is good for both your arrival day and departure day.  Contact us today for a free, no-obligation Universal Orlando Vacation quote.  
  • Before paying for Universal Express, you should know that is not valid at Harry Potter Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, and Hogwarts Express or book your trip through us and get great Islands of Adventure touring plans that will help you manage crowds and minimize lines.   One of the perks of staying at an official Universal Orlando Resort hotel is being able to enter the parks one hour early, allowing you to enjoy the Harry Potter areas (admission required) with limited crowds.  Contact us for more information.
  • U-Bot is a device available inside the park where you purchase Express Passes and is generally $10 - $20 less expensive than Universal Express but you can only make one reservation at a time unless you purchase the Unlimited reservation option. Click here for more information.
  • Too expensive?  Use the Islands of Adventure theme park touring plans we provide each of our client’s to keep you ahead of the crowds and out of the long lines.   Click here for more information.
  • Single Riders Lines, when offered, can save a lot of time if you don’t mind riding separate from your party.   Great option if you wish to repeat an attraction.
  • Universal Rider Switch is available at height restricted lines for families with small children or children who might be frightened by an experience.   One adult waits in a designated area with the child while the riders in your party experience the attraction. When they’re done, the waiting adult and at least one other person can by-pass the stand-by line and experience the ride while another adult in the party stays with the child.
  • Lockers - Lockers are available (additional cost) near the front of the park and at some attractions throughout the parks. Some attractions require you to leave all of your loose belongings in a locker while you ride - in this case, use of the locker is free for a period of time that extends a bit beyond the current stand-by ride time.    Be sure to write down or take a photo of your locker number to save time and frustration when you retrieve your items.

Islands of Adventure Dining Tips:

  • Universal Quick-Service Dining Plan – Wait until your first meal to decide whether or not to purchase the dining plan, if your lunch costs less than $15, it probably is not going to be a good value for you.  If your meal is $15 or more, you might want to tell the cashier that you would like to buy the plan and you’ll probably save at least a little money if you use the remaining drink and snack credit.  In our opinion, Universal’s Table Service Dining Plan is not a good value.

Better Quick-Service Dining Options at Islands of Adventure:

  • Three Broomsticks (Wizarding World of Harry Potter) – Good food but can get very, very busy.  Definitely eat at non-typical times.
  • Fire Eater’s Grill has good Gyros
  • Blondie’s (Toon Lagoon) has good sandwiches
  • Mythos is a sit-down restaurant with good food, great ambiance and reasonable prices.

Islands of Adventure Ride & Attraction Tips:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: If you don’t have early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, arrive at least 30 minutes prior to park opening and secure your park maps.  As soon as the park opens, head directly over to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and ride, followed by Dragon Challenge and then go enjoy other areas of the park.   Come back to this area at the end of the day to experience the shops.  If you didn’t arrive early, wait until late in the day to ride.   When you enter, there are two lines and you’ll want to keep your party together – the line on the left is for those who will have to stow bags and loose items in lockers (free).  If you don’t need a locker, you can save time by taking the line to the right.   Small items (phones, etc) can and should be stowed in the small compartment on your seat back, the movement of this ride will probably empty your pockets.   Warning: Because of the way the ride seats are designed, young children cannot see or touch accompanying parents if they get scared.
  • Take time to enjoy the queue at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  If you have Harry Potter fans that are afraid of the ride, tell the person at the ride entrance that you want to take the Castle Only Tour which allows you to see many of the features of the castle while skipping the ride.
  • If you arrive after park opening, skip the Wizarding World of Harry Potter until the last couple of hours of the day unless crowds are really low.
  • Hogsmeade - During busy times, you may have to go to kiosks outside Hogsmead, near the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, to get a free return ticket similar to the old paper FastPasses at Disney World for a time to enter Hogsmead.  If this is offered, get the ticket and enjoy other attractions rather than waiting in the long, slow stand-by line.
  • Hogsmead postmarks at Owl Post - though they’ll also pick up an Orlando postmark along the way.  During busy times, there may be people stationed outside the shop to postmark your items.   Look for the animatronic owls in the rafters overhead.
  • Wand Experience at Olivanders –  Expect long lines(45 – 85 minutes) and little shade.  Usually only 1 person per group gets to participate; wands cost $25 - $45.  Do this in the first half hour or after 7:30PM.  Interactive wands can be used throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Ally to activate special experiences - especially in the gift shop window displays.
  • The Hogsmeade gift shops are tiny and draw big crowds so you can end up standing in line just to shop – come back towards the end of the day to minimize waits.  If you’re not looking for the shop experience, you may find it easier to get a suitable Harry Potter souvenir at one of the carts or kiosks.
  • Hogsmeade Restrooms – the only restrooms in this area are located in the center of Hogsmead and are labeled “Public Conveniences”.
  • Hogwarts Express - You must have a Park-to-Park ticket to ride the Hogwart's Express.  The experience is different based on whether you are traveling to Hogsmead or Diagon Ally.  Don't just look out the exterior train window as some of the effects happen on the frosted glass windows on the side where you enter the compartment. You can take your stroller onto the Hogwarts Express.
  • Raptor Encounter – Dinosaur photo opportunity that can be scary for preschoolers but school age kids love it.  Check the schedule and arrive at least 15 minutes before a session to avoid long lines.
  • Pteranodon Flyers – Is a very short ride that has a very small rider capacity and draws long, show, horrible lines.   You must be accompanied by a child 36” – 52” tall to ride. We recommend that you skip this attraction and let your child spend some much more fun time exploring Camp Jurassic.
  • Phones in Marvel Superhero Island – For some extra fun, be sure to listen in on the phones and call boxes located in Marvel Superhero Island.
  • Great Photo Opportunities: You’ll find cute little vehicles throughout the Port of Entry area that you can hop on for some fun photos, you’ll also find a cute vehicle in Seuss Landing.  Look for thought and speech bubbles to pose under in Toon Lagoon.

Islands of Adventure Rides that will get you wet:

Universal has more wet attractions than Disney and ponchos are available for sale in the parks for about $10 each but you can save money by purchasing inexpensive, disposable ponchos at your local discount store (about $1 in the camping section at Walmart) and bringing them with you.  We recommend that you bring zip-lock bags for your phones and camera.  

  • Jurassic Park River Adventure:   You won’t get soaked but you will probably get at least a little wet.
  • Dudly Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (Toon Lagoon) – You’ll get soaked.
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges (Toon Lagoon) – You’ll probably get soaked
  • Drying Booths are available near these attractions for $5 per use that will decrease your wetness but not dry you completely.  

Places Universal Attractions Poke Fun at Disney World:

  • Jurassic Park River Adventure:  One of Walt Disney’s most famous quotes is “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.”   The video that plays in the queue says, “But in the words of our founder, John Hammond, ‘I hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it all started with a mosquito.’”
  • At the end of Dudly Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, you'll see Snidely Whiplash in jail, reaching through the bars trying to get a ring of keys from a beaver sitting just beyond reach, a parody of the jail scene on Disney's Pirate's of the Caribbean ride and movie.

Don't Miss Out on Great Experiences at Universal Orlando!

We want to help you have the most wonderful, most memorable Universal Orlando vacation possible. We know that giving you good, up-to-date information and a few simple tools will make a huge difference in your Universal vacation. Long lines become short lines and you will have great memories of shared experiences instead of missed opportunities.  That's why we're called Build A Better Mouse Trip.

Here’s how we help you have a great vacation:

  1. Your travel agent – You have one agent from start-to-finish who knows your name and your priorities and who wants to do everything possible to help you have a wonderful experience.
  2. “Best Days” Itinerary – We’ll help you build an itinerary that includes your priorities for parades, crowds and shows. Then we help with dining & Fastpass+ reservations.
  3. Saving Money – Of course we watch for discounts and promotion and automatically apply the best available offer to your reservation but we also help you avoid up-sells and options you won’t use.
  4. We Are Fee-Free - We book directly through Universal and we never charge a service fee so you never pay any extra to use our services when you book your trip through us.  You can have all the benefits Universal offers PLUS all the services we offer.  You can also purchase planning services through us if you've booked on your own or through another travel agency. 

Let’s start planning a great Universal Orlando vacation!

Our “Quote Request” form is the easiest way to start planning your trip. Just fill in as much or as little information as you know at this time and one of our agents will be in touch soon. There’s never any pressure or obligation. Just have a question? Click here to email us. On a mobile phone? Click here to call.

Get A Quote