Universal's Islands of Adventure Rides Guide + Best Rides

This post includes a guide to all the rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, one of two parks at Universal Orlando Resort. It also includes a personal ranking of the best rides at the park and our tips for fitting each ride into your day. Read on to learn all about your ride options at Universal’s Islands of Adventure!

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BEST RIDES AT UNIVERSAL’s Islands of Adventure

We’ll start with a list of the best rides at the park. We’re going to keep this list pretty short and to-the-point, and all of these are included in the full rides guide, which you can click here to jump to. Remember, Universal Studios Florida is covered in its own rides guide.

1. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Was there any doubt? Hailed by many as the best ride in Florida—if not the world—Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is a coaster complete with great animatronics, surprises, and stunning scenery. It’s easily the best ride in the park.

2. The Incredible Hulk Coaster

I don’t love starting with two coasters, but it’s the truth. Incredible Hulk has held up well with age and is an intense, fun, and smooth coaster ride.

3. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges

Surprised? Bilge-Rat Barges is a great water rapids ride. It’s decently long, will get you very wet, and has multiple exciting rapids segments. There’s little by way of story, but it’s easily our favorite water ride in the park.

4. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Granted, I find it incredibly nauseating, but Forbidden Journey is a Harry Potter fan favorite. Besides having one of the best queues you’ll ever experience, the ride takes you on a fun journey through the Hogwarts grounds. Just visit before lunch. Trust me.

5. The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!

Let’s finish with something a little relaxing. The elevated train ride around Seuss Landing offers a relaxing journey with great views of the land and the rest of the park.

Honorable Mention: The Hogwarts Express made the list over in Universal Studios Florida because I prefer that direction of the ride (the two directions have different stories). Arguably, it could be on this list for the same reasons it made that list, though.

UNIVERSAL’s Islands of Adventure RIDES GUIDE

Now, let’s get to the complete rides guide. Remember, this guide covers only the rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. For rides at Universal Studios Florida—the other park at Universal Orlando Resort—click here. For each ride, we give the height requirement, the ride type, a brief description, and tips for riding it.

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Our “Riding It” tips assume you have a single day dedicated to this park and that you are targeting all rides. They may be helpful if you’re splitting your day between the two parks, but in general you’ll need to follow a wholly different strategy (one we eventually hope to have for you).

We also give the following notations on applicable rides, in case you would like to use them to skip the lines:

Single Rider (SR) — Single rider allows individual guests to use a separate queue. Single Rider lines are typically significantly shorter than standard lines. Families/groups may use single rider lines but their groups will be separated for the ride.

We have nothing against single rider, and it is an underrated “hack.” We typically don’t include it in our strategies just because most families try to avoid it.

Spider-Man queue with Single Rider and Express entrances highlighted

Spider-Man queue with Single Rider and Express entrances highlighted

Express Pass (XP) — Express Pass is a paid service at Universal Studios that allows guests to skip the bulk of the line on select (most) rides. We have a complete guide to Express Pass at Universal Orlando Resort.

Now, let’s get to a land-by-land guide to the rides of Universal’s Islands of Adventure! Click here to open the Universal’s Islands of Adventure map in a new tab (recommended).

Important Note About Rope Drop

This post assumes a rope drop strategy where you start your day with The Incredible Hulk Coaster. If you start with Hagrid’s you’ll need to modify our “riding it” tips, pushing some rides into the afternoon, skipping some rides, or just dealing with longer waits. Once Hagrid’s is more consistent in its operations, we do expect to recommend starting there.

Port of Entry

Like its sister park, Islands of Adventure eschews the all-too-sensible hub and spoke design. Instead, the park forms a ring around a small lake. Entering the park, you’ll start in Port of Entry, which has no attractions—just food, beverage, and shopping.

Marvel Super Hero Island

Starting clockwise (left), you’ll first encounter Marvel Super Hero Island. This area is themed to—you guessed it—Marvel characters!

The Incredible Hulk Coaster (XP, SR)

Height: 54”/137cm
Ride Type: Roller Coaster

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Hulk is the premier “thrill” roller coaster at Islands of Adventure, complete with a fast launch and upside down parts.

I’m sure real coaster enthusiasts aren’t too impressed—the coaster is 20 years old now. But it’s a smooth, fun ride, and definitely worthy of a spot on your Islands of Adventure must-do list.

Riding It: As noted above, this guide assumes a strategy where you head to The Incredible Hulk Coaster first thing in the morning. With most guests starting at Hagrid’s these days, even mid-morning arrivals should have an okay wait here.

Storm Force Accelatron (XP)

Height: All Heights
Ride Type: Spinning Teacup Ride

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Storm Force Accelatron is a spinning teacup ride with some Storm (of X-Men) theming.

Riding It: Accelatron maintains some of the shortest waits at Universal Orlando. Ride it whenever you can fit it into your day. Skip it in the morning.

Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall (XP)

Height: 52”/132cm
Ride Type: Drop Ride

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Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall is a drop ride. It offers good views of the park and surrounding area, which is reason enough for us to recommend it. It also tends to carry pretty short waits, no doubt due in part to it being an incredibly short experience.

Riding It: You can walk right onto this one after Incredible Hulk or Spider-Man. If you weren’t at the very front of the morning crowds, just skip it in the morning—the waits aren’t usually too bad later in the day.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (XP, SR)

Height: 40”/102cm
Ride Type: Simulated 3D Dark Ride

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Screen rides aren’t as big in Islands of Adventure as at the sister park, but Spider-Man is a screen attraction in the Marvel area of the park. Very similar to Transformers, your group’s vehicle will bob and weave between a variety of simulated action scenes.

Riding It: Visit early in the morning after Incredible Hulk Coaster. Try not to delay this one, as the waits do get long. Single Rider is advised if you have to push it into the afternoon.

Toon Lagoon

Next up is Toon Lagoon, which has two water rides with pretty old school themes. You’ll actually bypass this land immediately in the morning, returning after you cover some other rides.

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (XP)

Height: 44”/112cm
Ride Type: Log Ride

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Ripsaw Falls is a log flume ride (like Splash Mountain). It has multiple small drops that can get you quite wet, and a large drop that honestly may or may not get you too much more wet. Otherwise, there’s little notable about the ride.

Riding It: We target Ripsaw Falls at the end of our morning, along with Jurassic Park River Adventure and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. You want to be getting on these rides between 10AM and 11:30AM. As they’re water rides, you can also wait until after sunset for low waits, and cooler days will see shorter lines (and summer days longer lines).

Personally—we like Bilge-Rat Barges much better, and that ride actually tends to have shorter waits.

Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (XP)

Height: 42”/107cm
Ride Type: Water Rapids Ride

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Bilge-Rat Barges is a water rapid raft ride. It’s our favorite water ride at the park, and honestly maybe a better rapids ride than Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Kali River Rapids. You will get pretty wet on this one, and it is a decently long experience.

Riding It: If you’re targeting every ride, this is the best of the water rides to kick down the road if wait times are creeping up—it typically doesn’t keep long waits for too much of the day. As we said above, we much prefer this ride to Ripsaw Falls, though, and will happily make it our only water ride of the morning.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Skull Island is a “land” that is really just a single ride. It just doesn’t fit the theming of the neighboring lands.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong (XP, SR)

Height: 36”/91cm
Ride Type: 3D Dark Ride

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Skull Island Reign of Kong is a screen-based dark ride involving encounters with the inhabitants of Skull Island, including Kong. Besides the screen action, there is an encounter with a gigantic Kong animatronic at the end.

Riding It: Because of its location, the waits for Kong don’t peak as early as the Marvel or Harry Potter rides, but once guests from those lands converge on Skull Island, the wait can quickly spike to over an hour. We advise coming here right after the Marvel rides and before the three water rides.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is a land themed to the 1993 hit film Mrs. Doubtfire. No, it’s themed to the film (and book) Jurassic Park.

Pteranodon Flyers

Height: 36”-56” / 91cm-142cm
Ride Type: Aerial Glider Ride

Ptreanodon Flyers requires a child to ride, so we haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing it. It’s an outdoor aerial ride. Here’s a full video if you’d like to see more.

Riding It: This ride sometimes uses a virtual queue, so you can grab a return time when you enter the park for late in the afternoon. Otherwise we suggest just making time for it in the afternoon if you’re going to ride.

Note that with its height maximum (56”) and Hulk’s height minimum (54”), few kids will be able to ride both of these, so it shouldn’t be hard for eligible riders to fit it into their days.

Jurassic Park River Adventure (XP)

Height: 42”/107cm
Ride Type: Boat Ride (with splash drop)

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Jurassic Park River Adventure is a river ride with some wet moments, including a drop at the end. Generally, I’ve gotten the least wet on this ride of the three water rides. There are some okay animatronics, and the Jurassic Park theming adds some effect.

In the event that you’re pressed for time or you just don’t need three water rides, here’s what we think. If you’re looking to get wet, our pick is Bilge-Rat Barges. If you’re looking for a better ride experience in a movie setting, go with Jurassic Park River Adventure.

Riding It: As discussed in the Toon Lagoon rides, we try and target the three water rides at the end of our morning.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade)

Reminder: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split across the two Universal Orlando theme parks. Diagon Alley, the other half, is in Universal Studios Florida. This park (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) is home to Hogsmeade.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (SR)

Height: 48”/122cm
Ride Type: Coaster

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Hagrid’s is a coaster ride with vehicles that comprise a motorbike seat and a sidecar seat. I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the two, but most people think the motorbike seat is better. In my experience, guests in the regular queue can request a motorbike seat and they’ll be paired with a single rider in the sidecar.

Other than that, this is arguably the best ride in central Florida, and many theme park enthusiasts were quick to label it the best ride they’ve ever been on. It’s a must-ride…

Riding It: Well, this is the awkward part. Hagrid’s has has operational issues that have resulted in delayed openings, early closures, and significant breaks (as in hours) in operations midday. It also can’t operate in poor weather.

The safest way to be sure you get on Hagrid’s is to arrive at the gates two hours early and start your day there. However, because rope drop may go poorly, or the ride may get delayed, this can mess with the rest of your day, which is why this guide assumes you push this one into the afternoon.

If you do push it into the afternoon, plan for two to three hours waiting, or less if you use single rider (recommended if you don’t mind the sidecar). This puts you at a risk for delays (weather and non-weather), and the worst-case early closure of the ride.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (XP, SR)

Height: 48”/122cm
Ride Type: “Flying Benches”

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Full disclosure—I ride Forbidden Journey once a trip to make sure I remember the ride. Otherwise, it is far too nauseating for me. Usually when I’m testing different park strategies, I’ll just wait in the line and exit at the very end. This is the only ride I do this regularly on.

The ride vehicle is basically a two-person seat attached to the end of robotic arm that (for lack of a better description) waves / bobs / weaves you around the screens and limited animatronic sets. It doesn’t go fully upside down, but you spend significant portions on your back.

The actual story—taking you on an adventure through the grounds of Hogwarts—is pretty cool. And the ride is definitely a unique experience.

Riding It: Wait up to an hour for this in the afternoon. The Forbidden Journey queue is actually one of the better spaces in Universal, and about 20 to 30 minutes of the queue is fully indoors. Since I don’t love the ride, I’ll sometimes just wait in the queue to experience it.

Flight of the Hippogriff (XP)

Height: 36”/91cm
Ride Type: Family Coaster

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Flight of the Hippogriff is a pretty simple family coaster in Hogsmeade. It does have some good views of the area, so it’s worth trying to ride if you can, but it’s by no means something most families will need to prioritize.

Riding It: If you have small children (who don’t meet some of the other height requirements), you can probably prioritize this ride. Otherwise, it doesn’t really demand your attention. It’s average waits shouldn’t give you too much trouble, even midday, but you may push it into the evening for short waits.

If you’re skipping one or two of the water rides, you can swing by here right after Skull Island Reign of Kong if the wait is under 15 minutes.

Hogwarts Express – Hogsmeade Station (XP)

Height: All Heights
Ride Type: Enclosed Train Ride (with effects)

Important: You need Park-to-Park privileges to ride the Hogwarts Express because it connects Universal Studios Florida to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. You cannot ride if unless you have a ticket that grants you access to both those parks on the same day.

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Hogwarts Express is a really neat (a word I never use) ride. The train connects Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Florida) to Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure). In concept, that might sound like any number of other train rides at competing theme parks.

In execution, Universal takes the concept and runs with it. During your journey, the cabin is completely transformed to take you on an adventure as if you’re actually riding the Hogwarts Express between these two destinations.

Riding It: Because it transports you to the other park, there’s often no perfect time to ride the Hogwarts Express (unless of course it fits perfectly in your two-park itinerary). If you have two days, use the Hogwarts Express late and watch the nighttime show at the opposite park from where you spent most of your day.

Otherwise, you should be able to time it to avoid waiting more than 30 minutes, but if its your last big thing you might just need to enjoy the line midday.

The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent is a pretty sizeable land without any traditional attractions. In addition to Poseidon’s Fury, you should take time to talk with (or watch) the Mystical Fountain, located just near the entrance to Hogsmeade.

Poseidon’s Fury

Height: All Heights
Ride Type: Walkthrough

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Universal categorizes Poseidon’s Fury as a show, but as it occurs continually and usually has a wait time, it fits on this list. This 20-minute tour takes you through a few chambers of a temple dedicated to Poseidon.

There are some scary moments in there and some effects—some really cool and some not so great. The attraction catches a lot of flack from people who don’t think it’s worth the wait, but we really like it. It’s unique at the resort, and even if not every part is a home run, it’s an enjoyable experience.

Riding It: The show starts every 10 minutes or so and takes about 20 minutes. The wait sits around 25 minutes most of the day. Check with a Team Member to confirm what time it closes. You’ll probably just have to put up with the afternoon wait if you’d like to see this one.

Seuss Landing

All of the rides in Seuss Landing are low priority. They can get waits, but they’ll typically be the lowest in the park (except for Storm Force Accelatron).

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The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! (XP)

Height: 36”/91cm
Ride Type: Elevated Train Ride

The Seuss Trolley Train is a fantastic elevated ride around Seuss Landing, offering views of the the land and the park. We consider it a must-do, but we’re into these slow, scenic rides.

Riding It: This one can get waits over 30 minutes, but it isn’t in-demand enough to head to early. Either wait out the long lines and ride near the end of the day, or just fill some afternoon time waiting for it.

Caro-Seuss-el (XP)

Height: All Heights
Ride Type: Carousel

Caro-Seuss-El is a carousel. It rarely has waits over 5 minutes, so just fit it into the middle of your day sometime.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (XP)

Height: All Heights
Ride Type: Aerial Carousel

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One Fish, Two Fish is an aerial carousel with one twist—characters spray water at you throughout the ride. I’ve found you can avoid the water with strategic placement of your ride vehicle (you can move it up and down).

Riding It: One Fish, Two Fish can get waits over 15 minutes, but you shouldn’t have much time finding it at 10 minutes or otherwise just waiting it out midday.

The Cat in the Hat (XP)

Height: 36”/91cm
Ride Type: Dark Ride

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The Cat In The Hate is a traditional dark ride through the story of The Cat In the Hat.

Riding It: Similar to One Fish, Two Fish, this ride can get waits of 20 minutes or more, but mostly you should be able to catch it at 10 minutes or even as a walk-on.