When Islands of Adventure opened in 1999, one area in which it was lacking was food quality. Though it still ranks seventh in terms of attendance at theme parks in America, Islands of Adventure has come a long way in last eleven years. That includes improvements with food, especially in the last six years. With the better food and beverage options, however, that does mean you’re more likely to want to spend money on dining. But there are good options that also won’t break the budget. Here’s some tips and our top choices for dining on a budget at Islands of Adventure.
When thinking food/beverage budget at IOA, we should remember the basics. You can split meals, since some people will find a full portion size of an entrée to be too much. Kid’s meals are available at many places that are comparable to standard entrée. You can bring some food/beverages into the park with you, although that is not always practical. There are Freestyle cup and popcorn bucket refill programs. Of course, there is a quick service dining plan to consider as well.
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let us talk food! It is impossible to cover all ways to be cost effective while supplying your group’s basic needs for food and water (and other tasty beverages). However, the following will be the highlights.
- Natural Selections food kiosk is a unique option with snacks under $7 that do not fit the mold of standard theme park snacks.
- Pretzel options in the Marvel Super Hero Island area are a good choice. The most popular pretzel option is Auntie Anne’s with their pretzel nuggets for $7. They are filling and tasty. Dr. Octopus has been known to try to pry these away. If you go during a busier time of year, you might find the Lemon Slush stand open where you can select the Pizza Stuffed Pretzel. No matter your pretzel choice, you could enjoy them sitting near Captain America’s Diner with an excellent lagoon view.
- You may want to consider the jumbo cookies at Croissant Moon that are a good snack under $5 along with a few other “under $5 snacks” to be found at IOA.
Meals on a Budget
- Starbucks can be your friend. If a warm sandwich, a side, and a Starbucks beverage sound like a good meal to you then give this a try. The price will be more than your local Starbucks, but you can earn “stars” for enjoyment when you get home. This Starbucks location can be surprisingly busy so weigh that info into your decision.
- If you are looking for a burger/fries due a picky eater or just simplicity, Captain America Diner is your best budget option. The basic burger is average at best but will not kill your budget. However, you can order a kid’s meal burger. You will get same exact burger, without the vegetables, for a lower price. Since the kid’s meals changes, it might come with a small number of fries or some grapes also.
- If theme park pizza is your budget meal choice, then Café 4 is your best option at IOA. This pizza will not win any awards for quality, but the jumbo slice will curb your hunger. If you need some nutrition, you can add a salad for about $4 more.
- Now we are getting to the “best” budget meal options at IOA. The runner-up is Fire Eaters in Lost Continent area. This spot will be getting more popular since it is located by the “bypass” bridge to Jurassic World VelociCoaster, which has recently been reopened for higher crowd days. There are several entrées for similar cost as basic burger or pizza options in park. My recommendations would be the gyro platter or the falafel gyro platter. These both come with hummus.
- If dining on a budget is the goal, then my winner in IOA is Green Eggs and Ham. In the past, this location would just sit empty. Universal Orlando veterans would joke about never seeing it open. That all changed in December 2019 when a tasty new menu built around tater tots with toppings was unveiled. Most entrees are $10. The menu currently consists of green eggs and ham tots, buffalo chicken tots, pizza tots, philly brisket tots, and who hash that comes with a collectible can for $15. If you are a Halloween Horror Nights veteran, then think pizza fries with tater tots instead of fries. In my opinion, the pizza tots are superior to pizza fries, and no trip to Universal Orlando is complete without getting pizza tots. The best part is I will not have to spend more than $10 with my annual pass food discount to enjoy these tots.
A theme park vacation on a budget can seem overwhelming if not impossible, especially when everyone is suddenly “hangry.” In addition to this article, you can also search menus and read reviews on the TouringPlans site to find what readers love or don’t love about dining at Universal Orlando. Enjoy the planning and enjoy your time at Universal Orlando. By the way, did I mention I like the pizza tots?