When Universal’s Islands of Adventure (IOA) opened in 1999, it provided Universal with enough critical mass to actually compete with Disney. Doubly interesting is that the second Universal park is a direct competitor to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the most-visited theme park in the world. How direct a competitor is it? See below for a comparison.
|Islands of Adventure||Magic Kingdom|
|Seven "Islands" (includes Port of Entry)||Six "lands" (includes Main Street)|
|Two adult roller-coaster attractions||Two adult roller-coaster attractions|
|A dumbo-type ride||Dumbo the Flying Elephant|
|One flume ride||One flume ride|
|Toon Lagoon character area||Main Street, U.S.A. character greeting|
Roller coasters at Islands of Adventure are the real deal—not for the faint of heart or for little ones.
And though Universal played second fiddle to Disney for many years, times have changed: Universal’s Islands of Adventure is a state-ofthe- art park competing with a Disney park that is more than 35 years old and did not add a new super-headliner attraction for many years until the still-ongoing expansion of Fantasyland got under way in 2010.
Incidentally, 2010 marked IOA’s coming-out party. In one of the greatest seismic shifts in theme park history, Universal secured the rights to build a Harry Potter–themed area within the park. Harry P. is possibly the only fictional character extant capable of trumping Mickey Mouse, and Universal has gone all-out, under J. K. Rowling’s watchful and exacting eye, to create a setting and attractions designed to be the envy of the industry.
Disney and Universal officially downplay their fierce competition, pointing out that any new theme park or attraction makes Central Florida a more marketable destination. Behind closed doors, however, the two companies share a Pepsi-versus-Coke rivalry that keeps both working hard to gain a competitive edge. The good news is that all this translates into better and better attractions for you to enjoy.
Bot h Universal theme parks are accessed via the Universal CityWalk entertainment complex. After crossing CityWalk from the parking garages, bear right to Universal Studios Florida or left to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Islands of Adventure is arranged much like Epcot’s World Showcase, in a large circle surrounding a lagoon, but it evinces the same sort of thematic continuity present in the Magic Kingdom. Each “land,” or “island” in this case, is self-contained and visually consistent in its theme.
You first encounter the Moroccan-style Port of Entry, where you’ll find Guest Services, lockers, stroller and wheelchair rentals, ATM banking, lost and found, and shopping. From the Port of Entry, moving clockwise around the lagoon, you can access Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Hogsmeade Village, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. There is no in-park transportation to move you between lands.