1. Refillable Cups –
At Islands of Adventure, when you purchase a souvenir Butterbeer cup, it costs less to get a refill of Butterbeer in that cup than if you were to buy an additional disposable cup of Butterbeer. Also, refills of any soda (in your souvenir BB cup) throughout the park are $0.99. However, your best bet is to go straight to the gift shop on the left when you enter the park and buy a refillable cup there. When I was there they were selling a tall Alien (Men in Black) cup for around $11 – this cup holds far more liquid then the tiny Butterbeer cup and also costs only $0.99 per refill!
2. Food –
I’m sorry, I love Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, but I found that the food there is complete rubbish. That’s not to say that it was horrendous, but it certainly lacked much in the flavor department. I don’t know if that’s because they have the conundrum of serving a wide range of palette’s from around the world, or what, but I disliked the food, and further disliked having to pay for a sub-par meal. I recommend that you bring your own snacks, go to the in-park Starbucks, or look for options out of the park for eating. I hate to say it, but this is my honest advice. However, if you end up throwing caution to the wind, go for the meal plans advertised upon entrance to the park – you really will save loads more with those – we did!
3. Express Pass –
I went to the park in June and although we fiercely debated it we’re so glad that we didn’t pay extra for express passes. Lines were never more than a half hour wait for us, however, a friend visited the park in July and experienced significantly longer lines. I think if you’re going during the busy season (July-August) and can afford it, go for it.
4. Arrival –
If you have fast passes because you’re staying at the Universal Resorts (or if you purchased them) then yes, you’ll want to be there about an hour earlier than the advertised time. When I was there they let fast pass holders in at least an hour before regular admission. If you don’t have a fast pass, I’d say get there around 9am. We arrived at the parks about 8am, were let through the front gate and then had to wait an hour after fast pass users were let through to the rides.
5. First Stop –
Be prepared, in the morning (if you arrive early) two lines will form once you’re past the entrance – one going to the left, that leads to Marvel Super Hero Island; and one to the right that is the fastest route to Hogsmeade. In the morning, after the fast pass users have gone in, a majority of visitors will line up to the right. When they officially open the park it will be like the running of the bulls to get to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And I mean that in the best sense, of course no one gets hurt or trampled or has any memorable meet-ups with a wild bull – but kids and adults alike will race with sheer glee to get to Hogwarts. Which brings me to my next “thing to know”…
6. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter –
If you plan on visiting TWWofHP and don’t want to spend a majority of your day waiting on line in Hogsmeade, go here first. Your first ride should be the Forbidden Journey, and should be done with the group/family that you came with. You’ll all get to experience the “tour” of Hogwarts and what I personally think is one of the best rides ever. Any subsequent rides on the Forbidden Journey should be done as a single rider – the side route to the single rider line can sometimes be hard to see, but it’s directly to the left of the lockers. As a single rider you do skip much of the tour, but you also spend far less time waiting in line.
Go on the Flight of the Hippogriff. Yes, it looks a bit childish next to the Dueling Dragons coaster, but it gives a great view of Hogwarts, you can take pics right by Hagrid’s house while waiting – and there’s a pretty cool animatronic Hippogriff too! Bypassing this one would mean missing out on a fun piece of Hogsmeade.
Take your time to look at everything- there is just so much detail that Universal put into TWWofHP that it would be such a shame to miss out on it. Some of the coolest things we saw were behind the glass of pretend store fronts.
7. Things to Bring -
No need to bring a massive bag here! It will definitely slow you down, as you’ll most likely need to stuff it in a locker before getting on a ride. Adults will need I.D.’s to enter the park, and of course you’ll want to bring your camera, phones, and snacks – but try to keep it light. One thing you’ll wish you thought of (and now you don’t have to, because I’m telling you, haha!) is to bring stamps! You can purchase your TWWofHP postcards at Dervish & Banges and get them stamped with a special Hogsmeade Owl Post Stamp right there. Slap on your stamps and send them off right there in the park – they have a massive mailbox right by the entrance/exit. Also, bring some quarters and pennies – many of the gift shops and bathrooms offer those penny-press machines which are cheap, fun, souvenir.
8. Price Range –
I had no idea how much things were going to cost in Universal before going, I did assume things were going to be on the pricey side as with all theme parks. While I can’t provide you with a general price point for all the items at Islands of Adventure – as most of my shopping centered around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – I can tell you wands were about $35 each, a Butterbeer with the souvenir cup was around $10, Robes were $115, a Cauldron Cake was around $5, a Chocolate Frog was $10, a Triwizard Tournament Cup was $20, and an assortment of Harry Potter themed pins and keychains ranged from around $7-15.
9. Entrance/Exit –
You can enter and exit the park as many times as you like. Which means you’ll have even more dining options via City Walk, and you can go to your hotel and return later in the day for more fun.
10. Gift Shopping –
One of my favorite features (that I took advantage of far too late) is that you can have your purchases sent to the front of the park. This is an excellent option if you don’t want your new Elder Wand getting damaged by all the water you were soaked with while seated in the front row on the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride. All you have to do is let your cashier know that you’d like it sent up as you’re checking out. Please note that you can not send up food (like Cauldron Cakes), and it takes about two hours for your purchases to make it to the front of the park (sometimes longer in the case of rain or storms).
Please keep in mind all these tips are opinion-based on recent personal experience, and therefor are all subject to change. If you have any additions, comments, or questions just drop them in the comments section below! If you’re headed to Universal Orlando or planning a trip there, I hope you have a blast!