Guest Post for thestudiosgirl.com
From an early wake up call, to anxiously waiting by the gates, to the rush of the walk (or run) to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a rope drop morning at Universal’s Islands of Adventure is definitely worth it. In this post we will walk through how we generally plan our day in the park and provide some tips and tricks for how to pull off a great morning yourself.
First of all, a quick introduction. Magical Adventure Co. is built on the foundation that a Disney or Universal vacation truly is an adventure and we are here to help you make it magical – whatever that may mean for you. Our first piece of advice for anyone heading out on an adventure is to “get there early”. We love talking about how great a strategy this can be and there are few parks where this rings true more than at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where we can ride Hagrid’s with limited wait, knock out all the other major attractions, and still have time for hopping over to Universal Studios for a fun afternoon!
An early morning always starts out with that early wake up call. We generally plan to get to the actual park gate 45 minutes to an hour before park opening, making sure to add extra time for travel, security and now temperature screenings. If we are driving, we get to the parking lot gates around 1:15 – 1:30 before opening. This may seem really early, and definitely means a decent wait before the park opens. But it is definitely worth it. At around 30 minutes prior to park opening, the lines begin to get very long and it could take 10-15 minutes just to get into the park, which could mean the difference between a 5 minute wait and a 50 minute wait for riding Hagrid’s.
As soon as the park opens, we begin to look to grab our first two Virtual Queue return slots. The rides that offer a virtual queue will vary by day, but we would recommend looking for Hagrid (to get a second ride in later), and Kong: Skull Island, shooting for early afternoon for Hagrid and something mid-morning for Kong: Skull Island.
Once in the park, we always head directly to Hagrid’s. First of all because it’s just the best. But also because if we don’t go now, we will either be waiting in at least a 2 hour standby line at some point later in the day or counting on getting a virtual queue reservation that can sometimes be hard to come by. Because of this, pretty much everyone is also headed in the same direction. Just make sure to go left when you get to Seuss Landing!
One thing to note about Universal is that they do very little to control the flow of traffic or stop people from running, and people will definitely run. However, it’s nearly a half mile from the park entrance to Hagrid’s! Instead of running, pace yourself and walk quickly past all of the people who decided to run and then ended up out of breath only half way there. We’ve seen it way too many times!
Once we get off Hagrid, we head straight to Forbidden Journey. It’s right next door and a great choice for our second ride of the day. We then make the long, cross park trip to The Incredible Hulk. We have found that with the popularity of Hagrid, it will take a few hours for the lines to get long in the rest of the park, so we rarely run into much of a wait here at all.
Next, we hit up Spiderman and then use our Virtual Queue for Kong: Skull Island (or ride standy if we were unable to grab one). We prefer to ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls next and then Jurassic Park River Adventure and skip the Bilge-Rat Barges. Can’t afford to get that wet so early in the day!
Assuming the park opened at 9am (as it generally does), it is now about time for lunch. Our favorite quick service food spot is Thunder Falls Terrace and is a great choice immediately after riding Jurassic Park River Adventure. We love to split the Chicken and Ribs Combo between two people. It’s delicious!
At this point, the day is ours to do as we please! If we have a virtual queue time for Hagrid, we use that, making sure to spend some time walking around Hogsmeade for a bit before park hop over to Universal Studios via the Hogwarts Express where we can explore Diagon Alley and ride Escape from Gringotts (Tip: look for a Virtual Queue time for this attraction once you use your first reservation earlier in the day if possible). At Universal Studios, we also always make sure to ride the Mummy! (Multiple times if possible) Just like The Studios Girl, this is one of our favorite rides. And it’s a great choice for the afternoon, as there is rarely much of a wait.
As you can see, an early morning for us at Islands of Adventure sets us up to ride all of the major attractions before lunch, get a second ride in on Hagrid’s and then have a relaxing afternoon to spend as we please! So go ahead and set that alarm and drag yourself out of bed early. You’ll be glad you did!