Universal Islands of Adventure keeps world’s best theme park status


In Trip Advisor’s latest annual ranking of amusement parks, Universal Islands of Adventure retains the title of world’s best. And with good reason.

Orlando hosts billions of visitors each year. The theme park capital of the world boasts some of the world’s best amusement parks in a relativity small area. From the iconic mouse to the wonders of the sea, visitors (and locals) have many entertainment choices. Trip Advisor announced its annual theme park rankings late last month. Again, Universal Islands of Adventure reigns as the world’s best theme park.

While the exact grading system is unclear, Trip Advisor says it takes into account “the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for amusement parks.” Based on these factors, the smaller Universal Florida theme park continues to be popular with guests. But, should you spend the $100-plus cost for admission?

Universal Islands of Adventure, Hogsmead, photo by Cristine Struble

Islands of Adventure is one of the two Universal theme parks in Orlando. The larger theme park, Universal Studios, is home to attractions including Despicable Me, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Diagon Alley. But, Islands of Adventure offers Skull Island, Hulk, and Harry Potter the Forbidden Journey. For me, Islands of Adventure is always a better choice.

For Harry Potter fans, the original Harry Potter area, Hogsmeade, is quite a sight. Besides the rides, the area is filled with details that take days to fully explore. Even with the Jurassic Park just over the bridge, the whole Harry Potter experience seems as if you have walked into a different world.

Universal Islands of Adventure, Butter Beer, photo by Cristine Struble

The visuals of Hogsmeade are breathtaking. I wish that I understood how the creative team developed the buildings’ perspective. Hogwarts looms in the distance, yet in reality it is not that tall. From the snowcapped buildings to the store windows, no detail was spared.

From the moment the park opens until the last guests are ushered out, the crowds are large. Fans line the walkways casting spells on the interactive windows. Lines grow for the iconic butter beer. No magical moment is wasted.

Still, the Harry Potter area isn’t the only reason to visit this theme park. Islands of Adventure is a better Universal choice adrenaline, thrill-seeking guests. The recently remodeled Hulk Coaster is a fast-paced, twisting roller coaster. After blasting off into the sky, riders twist and turn until returning to the station.

Universal Islands of Adventure, Skull Island queue, photo by Cristine Struble

Other favorite rides include Spiderman, Doctor Doom, and Skull Island Reign of Kong. These rides are popular not just for the thrill factor but also for the interactive queues. For example, the witch doctor, lighting, and scare actors in Kong’s queue keep waits from becoming boring.

For anyone planning a trip to Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure should top the must-visit list. If the visit is longer than just one day, I would recommend at least a two-day ticket to both Universal’s parks. Usually, multi-day tickets are cheaper than a single day, or single park ticket.

While a single-day, multi-park ticket is available, the double park visit makes for a busy, long day. If lines cooperate, guests can ride most of the popular rides. Still, it would be a busy day to accomplish all the attractions from park opening to close.

Next: Orlando day trips

Universal Islands of Adventure deserves the Trip Advisor top ranking. All the experiences and rides cannot match other parks. Unless something drastically changes, this park should remain at the top of world’s best theme parks for years to come.