Islands of Adventure opened as Universal Orlando's second gate on May 28, 1999, joining Universal Studios Florida next door.
One of the big attractions here is the original The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, which opened in 2010. [Read about that in Harry Potter and the Day That Changed Theme Parks Forever.] IOA also includes lands themed to Dr. Seuss, Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Marvel Comics — for which Universal obtained the perpetual east-coast theme park rights years before Disney bought the company.
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Starting to the right from the Port of Entry entrance land.
Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park is part of the Universal Orlando resort, located near the intersection of Interstate 4 and Florida's Turnpike in Orlando, about 17 miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).
If you are renting a car while visiting Orlando, you can save on toll road fees by getting a Visitor Toll Pass at the Orlando airport rather than renting a toll transponder from your rental car company: Toll Discounts Return for Orlando Theme Park Visitors
Before you go: Get your tickets in advance. Note that you will need a Park-to-Park ticket (Universal's term for what Disney calls a Park Hopper) to ride the Hogwarts Express, which shuttles riders between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. If you don't care about Hogwarts Express, do the one park per day Base Ticket if you would prefer. Once you have your tickets, download and create an account on the Universal Orlando app [Apple | Android], which you will use for Universal's Virtual Line for select rides and Mobile Ordering for food.
Universal offers a paid front-of-line ticket called Universal Express, but the resort gives that access away for no extra charge to guests at its three Premier hotels: Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific. With Universal Express Unlimited benefits starting at $90 per person per day for everyone else, you might find splurging to stay at one of Universal's top three hotels well worth the higher room prices. You get the front-of-line benefit from the day you check in until the day you check out, so a one-night stay at a Premier hotel gets everyone in your family (up to five people) free Universal Express Unlimited access for two days. Note that Universal Express does not apply to Hagrid's or Pteranodon Flyers.
If you bring a bag to the park, make it a small one. You will have to stow your bag in a locker for Hulk, Harry Potter, Hagrid's, and VelociCoaster, and while Universal offers free lockers on those rides, they are small (about the size of a fanny pack or medium-sized purse.) Backpacks would need to go into a larger, paid locker.
Early Park Admission: If you stay at any Universal Orlando hotel, on select dates you might get Early Park Admission, which will get you into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and sometimes other attractions one hour before the park opens to everyone else. Absolutely take advantage of this, because Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure does not offer Universal Express access and this is the only way to minimize what is usually the longest wait in the park.
Morning of your visit: If you are not staying at a Premier hotel, wait to make a decision about buying Universal Express until you get into the park and see what the day's crowd level is actually like. Look at the posted wait times on the Universal Orlando app, and if they seem reasonable to you, skip the upcharge. If you want the front-of-line access, you can buy Universal Express inside the park near the front gate and at designated shops.
If you have Universal Express, then just do what you want, whenever you would like. Strategy does not matter. If you are visiting alone, take advantage of potential single rider lines on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Doctor Doom's Fearfall, and The Incredible Hulk Coaster to reduce your wait times on those rides, if the single rider option is available.
The longest mid-day wait in the park will be Hagrid's, followed by VelociCoaster, and Dudley Do-Right if it's hot out, which it is most days in Orlando. After those, the next-longest wait times will be for Kong, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and Hulk.
We recommend going to VelociCoaster first at park open, followed by Spider-Man, Hulk, Kong, and then Dudley Do-Right, Popeye & Bluto and Jurassic Park River Adventure. (Might as well do all the water rides in a row, since you're already wet.) Pick up Seuss Landing and the other Marvel attractions in the afternoon before visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the evening. If you are visiting Universal Studios Florida during your trip, do the Ollivander's wand experience over there, as it is usually a shorter wait.
Hagrid's is best at night, but do watch to make sure that you enter that queue before they cut it off for the evening. Just do not do Hagrid's at park open, as that is its longest wait of the day, given all the hotel guests who got into the land an hour before you did!