Pros: rides, atmosphere, variety
The Universal Islands of Adventure is a fantastic value that combines the best roller coasters, stunt shows, and children's entertainment and amalgamates them into a world of fantastic fun for the whole family. Next to Disneyland, it is one of the best theme parks Orlando has to offer.
The Marvel island consists of three rides: The Incredible Hulk coaster, Spider-Man, and Dr. Doom's free-fall. The Hulk, to say the least, was incredible (no pun intended). The first thirty seconds are the most intense beginning to any roller coaster of its kind. Spider-Man in 3-D was equally impressive. The animation was mind-blowing and the special effects were convincing. For a dark-ride, nothing comes close. This trumps all other simulation rides such as Body Wars and Star Tours. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ride the free-fall ride due to technical difficulties that day. What Universal did a tremendous job on was paying close attention to detail. Every park reenacts the theme in precise detail.
The Toon Lagoon island consists of the Dudley Do-Right water ride and the Popeye raft ride. The island contains many stores and restaurants named after famous Universal cartoon characters. The water rides are both entertaining for the families, yet they don't even come close compared to the following ride.
Jurassic Park contains the River Adventure and the Discovery Center. The River Adventure beautifully recreates the atmosphere of the film and contains one of the most exhilarating plunges in a water ride. The research center was interesting, although most of the exhibits were closed when I visited.
The Lost Continent features the Dueling Dragons coaster, Poseidon's Fury, and Sinbad. The Dueling Dragons coaster was impressive. It is made up of two inverted coasters, Fire and Ice. The thrill of having one's feet dangling inches away from that of the other passenger was awe-striking. Sinbad stunt show was decent and contained some effective stunts and special effects that kept the audience off their feet. Poseidon had some mind-blowing CGI and hydro effects. The optical illusions were stunning and must be seen to be believed.
Seuss Landing had some very convincing scenery and is one of the only island in the park that is exclusively kid friendly. For tame family fun, it serves its purpose.
Food and merchandise at this park is rather expensive. Lunch meals cost an average of nine dollars. On the plus side, however, the park constantly offers meal deals, such as an all-you-can-eat card. Additional services include Universal Express, which designates ride times so guests can avoid long lines. Ironically, the lines for Universal Express have surpassed the queue time for the normal lines!
The admission prices are high, although the variety and quality of the rides that this park has to offer easily offsets the high costs.