Universal Orlando Resort Trip Report (Summer 2019) Part 5
Welcome to our Universal Orlando Resort summer 2019 trip report! This trip was mostly a chance to visit the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, but will also mark the beginning of our coverage of Universal on this site. This post covers a day at Islands of Adventure, including rope drop to The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
About This Trip Report
This trip report covers an August visit to Universal Orlando Resort. As it includes much coverage of the new Hagrid’s attraction, it should be largely useful for the coming months. However, note that as the holidays ramp up, you’ll want to be aware of how they impact your trip. In particular, Halloween Horror Nights is a huge event at the resort beginning September 6.
Trip reports usually supplement our existing coverage, but in this case we are building a significant amount of content based on these visits. Although we’ve visited before, we’ve never done so as serious bloggers. As a result, you might feel like the times and photos are similar to, say, our one-day itinerary posts.
I decided it was still worth doing the separate trip report, though, because some people enjoy the less formal nature of trip reports and are just here to see what a trip looks like, not to plan one themselves. Here are all the posts in this trip report (links open in new tabs and skip this introduction):
Universal Orlando Trip Report Part 5 — Day at Islands of Adventure (Hulk Rope Drop) (this post)
Universal Orlando Trip Report Part 6 — A Mistake Filled Day at the Parks (EPIC Fails)
Universal Orlando Trip Report Part 7 — Heading Home and Reflections on Universal Orlando
Arrival at Islands of Adventure
Rope drop to Hagrid’s yesterday had gone as poorly as I feared. A delayed opening kept me in line until 10AM, despite my fantastic position to start the day. Today, I wanted to try passing Hagrid’s into the afternoon.
This runs a huge risk that I won’t get to ride Hagrid’s, but it makes the rest of the time in Islands of Adventure so much smoother, as you’ll see.
Coffee in hand at 8:04AM, I departed Aventura, arriving at Islands of Adventure at about 8:24AM. It was a beautiful morning.
Oh no! Crowds. I arrived so late! It doesn’t matter, though, because most of these people are heading to Hagrid’s. I had little concern that I’d be bothered by the crowds starting the day with me at The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
At 8:30AM the gates opened. I was through at 8:41AM, and we were held up just outside Marvel Island. I wasn’t at the front of the pack, but it was a small pack.
This rope drop wasn’t really a race to The Incredible Hulk Coaster—it was a race to the lockers. Along with Rip Ride Rockit, Incredible Hulk is one of two rides with a metal-detector-enforced “no loose items” policy. You have to use your park ticket to secure a free locker to place your phone etc. in.
At 8:50AM we were let in, and I was on The Incredible Hulk Coaster at 8:55AM after a four minute wait.
From there, my goal was to work my way toward Hogsmeade. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a relatively big draw in the mornings, but I remain an advocate of waiting up to an hour for it (it has a good queue), so I was in no rush to get there.
I couldn’t tell whether Dr. Doom’s Fearfall was operating (this was right about 9AM, so I just wasn’t sure it had opened, not saying it has problems), so I hopped onto The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man with no wait at 9:05AM.
From there, I was on Dr. Doom’s at 9:16AM (5 minute wait), Skull Island Reign of Kong at 9:27AM (3 minute wait), and Flight of the Hippogriff at 9:48AM (8 minute wait).
That last one wasn’t in my original plan, and maybe I should have left it for later, based on how my next few rides went.
At 9:50AM, my goal was to put my items in a paid locker ($4 for 90 minutes, outside Jurassic Park River Adventure) and visit the three water rides—Jurassic Park River Adventure, Bilge-Rat Barges, and Ripsaw Falls in quick succession. All three were posted at 5 minutes at 9:54AM when I got in line for Jurassic Park.
Sure enough, the wait jumped to 20 minutes while I was there. The Florida heat was setting in, but more important is just the ride’s location.
As people exit the Marvel rides and Harry Potter rides, they converge on Jurassic Park and Kong. Had I punted Hippogriff—a non-essential ride anyways—later in the day, I would have stayed ahead of these crowds. From my instagram story:
I wound up waiting 16 minutes for Jurassic Park, riding at 10:10AM. Heading to Ripsaw Falls, I had deja vu. At 10:23AM I got in line with a 5 minute wait, only to see it jump to 20. I wound up waiting 26 minutes, riding at 10:49AM.
Now I had a problem. My locker was only for 90 minutes ($4). You can overstay and pay more, but my credit card was in there. I debated just waiting it out and then having a Team Member help me solve the problem later, but that would have been rude.
I went and got a new locker, paying another $4. Sidenote: These charges wound up being for $10 each on my card!? I haven’t sorted that out with Universal yet, but I’m hopeful someone can explain it to me. I used the same locker bank the day before with no issue.
At 11:09AM, I got in the Bilge-Rat Barges line with a posted wait of 20 minutes. In a reversal of my last two rides, I actually only waited eight minutes, riding at 11:17AM.
Of the three water rides, this was definitely my favorite. It’s a legitimate rapids ride with a ton of splashes and some great rapid segments. Jurassic Park has some dinosaur animatronics, but underwhelms, and really nothing about Ripsaw Falls impresses me.
Let’s take another quick look at that morning:
Arrive — 8:24AM
Incredible Hulk Coaster — 8:55AM
Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man — 9:05AM
Dr. Doom’s Fearfall — 9:16AM
Skull Island Reign of Kong — 9:27AM
Flight of the Hippogriff — 9:48AM
Jurassic Park River Adventure — 10:10AM
Ripsaw Falls — 10:49AM
Bilge-Rat Barges — 11:17AM
That’s eight rides by 11:30AM—a solid haul.
Afternoon at Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure has less entertainment than Studios. You’ve got Triwizard Spirit Rally and Frog Choir in Hogsmeade, along with Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear in Seuss Landing. That’s really it for traditional entertainment.
The Mystical Fountain is an ongoing performance by someone speaking through the fountain. Stop by and watch guests, particularly kids, have comedic interactions with the fountain. Sometimes it just sprays water:
The nighttime show is The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle—a projection show with some fireworks at Hogwarts. As I mentioned in part 3, if you have park-to-park tickets, I suggest taking the Hogwarts Express late in the day and enjoying the nighttime show at the opposite part from where you spend the rest of the day.
Poseidon’s Fury is a walkthrough attraction with showings every ten minutes. It usually has a posted wait time, similar to a ride, but it is categorized under “shows” in the app. I asked the Team Member and was told it closed at 8:30PM today.
That brings us back to rides. There are basically 17 rides at Islands of Adventure. I had finished eight by 11:30AM. I categorized the remaining nine as follows.
Rides that would take big chunks of my afternoon:
Hogwarts Express (usually not long waits, but it takes me out of the park)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Rides that I should only ride with less than 15-minute waits:
Cat In the Hat
Storm Force Accelatron
One Fish Two Fish
Seuss Trolly Train Ride
And there’s Pteranodon Flyers, which I couldn’t ride because I’m a childless millennial. The ride actually requires adults to accompany a child to ride (I’m fine with that).
I walked through Marvel Island en route to Seuss Landing. I think the land does a good job of capturing the “comic book” vibe without being tacky.
I was easily able to go check off two of my remaining rides right away. I took a two minute wait for Cat in the Hat, riding at 11:44AM, and then an 8 minute wait for Caro-Seuss-el, riding at 11:59AM.
I strongly advise riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey before lunch, so the 45 minute posted wait at 12:22AM was perfect.
I actually wasn’t riding the ride, though. I find it too nauseating. I ride once a trip to make sure I still know the ride. But I’m always telling people it’s fine to wait in the queue, and I do enjoy the queue, so I made myself walk through it.
I would have boarded just after 1PM. The fully inside portion of the queue took me 21 minutes. The rest was outdoors, covered and with fans.
I hadn’t had lunch yet, which was a problem. That aside, I saw that Hagrid’s had a wait time of 150 minutes. This would have been a good time for a quick lunch and then a long wait, but no sooner did I post that to instagram than the ride status changed to “delayed.” Maybe I wouldn’t get on Hagrid’s at all today…
I popped into Hog’s Head, connected to The Three Broomsticks, for a butterbeer. The lines in there are usually about as long or shorter than the lines for butterbeer outside, but with the perk of being inside.
I watched the 1:30PM Triwizard Spirit Rally and the 2PM Frog Choir. I followed that up with the 2:30PM performance of Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear (swipe for photos of all three):
This also allowed me to walk right onto One Fish Two Fish at 2:44PM.
After a mediocre veggie burger at Captain America Cafe, I visited the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. It’s a cool space, but nothing held my attention for more than a minute or two.
I headed back to Hogsmeade. Hagrid’s now had a “closed” status in the app, which I guess is just “delayed” but worse.
It was 3:57PM. Realistically, I could spend the rest of the day waiting for Hagrid’s and it would still be a success. While I didn’t admit it to myself, I committed to just waiting this one out.
Team Members tried desperately to get people not to congregate around the ride entrance, but they sadly couldn’t stop it. I mostly hung out in the shaded spaces near the ride that are designed for sitting and lounging so as to avoid their ire.
At 5:53PM, two hours after I arrived and several hours after the ride went down, it began operations again, with a posted wait of 120 minutes (some people had stayed in the queue the entire time).
I try to avoid single ride queues when I’m at theme parks for “work” because most of my readers don’t use them. But exceptions have to be made, and I definitely would have highly suggested anyone in the same situation use single rider. So I did, and I was on at 6:16PM.
Evening at Islands of Adventure
With no parade, it’s only The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle you have to plan around. Unfortunately, that’s not always on a set schedule, and even Team Members might not be able to tell you the precise starting time much in advance.
The show also plays multiple times. My plan was to come back around 8PM and either watch the show and ride the Hogwarts Express or just watch the show.
As I’ve said a few times in this report, if you have park-to-park I actually advise using the Hogwarts Express to change parks at night to watch the nighttime show at the other park. This saves you having to deal with returning to the park after the Hogwarts Express.
Before nighttime arrived, I had a few more attractions on my list. Poseidon’s Fury had a posted 20 minute wait at 6:28PM, and I began my tour at 6:50PM. Keep in mind that since the show begins every ten minutes, the line only moves every ten minutes.
That attraction gets a lot of flack, but I really enjoyed it. It has some weak writing, and the effects are laughable at times, but it’s fun!
And—more important—it’s DIFFERENT! In a resort filled with screens and motion-simulating vehicles, this is a chance to actually walkthrough and enjoy a space (and, yea, use mist as a screen, because Universal).
The tour took 19 minutes, and I headed to Storm Force Accelatron, walking on with no wait at 7:21PM. This is a spinning teacup-style ride that rarely has a significant wait.
Seuss Trolley Train still had an alleged wait of 35 minutes, according to the app, but that seemed wrong. And either way, I wanted to ride it.
I headed to Seuss Landing and found the sign outside said 10 minutes—much more reasonable. I waited 8 minutes, boarding at 7:39PM. This is an awesome ride with great views of the park (mostly Seuss Landing).
With over an hour left in my night, I’d covered all the rides, so I went to have a beer in Hogsmeade and just take in the view of the castle.
The show began at 8:45PM and lasted just under ten minutes. This left me just enough time to get to the Hogwarts Express for one last ride of the night. I entered the queue at 8:55AM when the posted wait was ten minutes, and I was on eight minutes later.
Typically this is where my trip reports posts just trail off, but I’ve got one more good story. I was hanging around Diagon Alley (because duh) as the last people trickled out.
This is a good time to get some nighttime shots of the area, and the dragon continues to breathe fire for a bit, so you can get some good shots of that.
Somehow right at about 9:19PM I forgot that I wanted to watch the dragon, so I headed out of the land. As I heard the dragon warming up behind me, I rushed back in and got ready for a great photo…when someone ran right in front of me!
At first I was not at all loving that, but I wound up with a pretty good picture:
I airdropped it to the girl before I left.