Universal’s Islands of Adventure Ride Guide
Our guide to the best attractions in Islands of Adventure reviews the top rides, with numerical scores for every roller coaster, show, and more–including in Jurassic Park and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you’re planning a trip to Universal Orlando, it’s a great starting point for things to do and skip, and what’s appropriate for your family.
We’ll focus on height requirements, scare-factor, intensity, and motion sickness. These are all common concerns among Walt Disney World fans and frequently questions we’ve received from readers. Sarah has issues with almost all of these things (save for height, but at least that’s objectively measured), so we can offer a subjective assessment of what might present problems. We’ll also try to compare each attraction to its closest counterpart at Walt Disney World, which is not usually an apples to apples comparison.
If you’re looking for an efficient step-by-step touring plan, we’ll have a 1-Day Islands of Adventure Itinerary very soon. (So please be patient!) One thing to note here is that there’s a lot of excellent entertainment, seasonal offerings, and play areas that don’t make it into this ride guide. Things like Raptor Encounter, Camp Jurassic, Mystic Fountain, Ollivanders wand shop, and more. That touring plan will cover an actual, substantive day in Universal’s Islands of Adventure with all of that and more. This guide gives you the info you need about each queue-based attraction to determine whether to include it in your day.
Basically, same deal here as with our Universal Studios Florida Ride Guide. Numerical scores are on a scale of 1 to 10, and only take into consideration overall quality relative to that specific type of attraction. Dark rides are judged against other dark rides, roller coasters against other coasters, and so on, to create a relatively level playing field. There are a few 9 or 9.5/10 attractions below that probably could’ve been given 10/10, but just aren’t quite on par with their gold standard counterparts.
In addition to the numerical scores, our subjective assessment of quality, and a comparison to Walt Disney World counterparts, we also offer an objective description of each attraction so you’ll have an idea of whether it’ll appeal to you. In short, this guide to attractions at Islands of Adventure will give you an idea of which ride are must-do for you, and which ones you can safely skip.
Incredible Hulk Coaster (8.5/10) – Let’s start with the Walt Disney World comparison here: Incredible Hulk Coaster is like an outdoor Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It’s an un-themed roller coaster that leans heavily on thrills, views, and the ride soundtrack.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster’s launched lift hill accelerates riders at 40 mph in approximately two seconds and reaches a maximum speed of 67 mph. There are seven inversions throughout the 3,670-foot-long track, which was rebuilt entirely only ~5 years ago. During that Hulk-sized project, the attraction also received queue enhancements and on-board audio. The plot has something to do with experimenting on guests, which is sorta like what feels like is happening to your body while riding. Guests must be at least 54″ (138cm) to ride.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall (4/10) – A straightforward space shot and free-fall ride. You’ve undoubtedly seen these at regional amusement parks and maybe fairs.
The closest Disney comparison here is the now-extinct Maliboomer at Disney California Adventure. When that was removed, we called it “addition by subtraction.” By that logic, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall would receive a negative score. However, it’s fair to say Disney and Universal parks fill different roles. Still, this isn’t anything special.
Storm Force Accelatron (4/10) – This is Mad Tea Party at Magic Kingdom, but without the iconic teacups. It’s amusing, but also nothing special.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (10/10) – Now this is something special. Although fans of Tobey Macguire…errr…Andrew Garfield…errr…Jake Johnson…errr…Tom Holland will be mildly disappointed, as this predates all of their turns as Peter Parker, the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is one of the best theme park attractions in the world. Definitely the best non-Harry Potter ride at Universal.
This 3D motion simulator meets dark ride is instead based on the comic-book world of Spider-Man, and it more than holds up over 20 years later. In fact, this fast-paced attraction seamlessly blends screens with physical sets and moving vehicles perfectly. I still question why Imagineering chose to create a Spider-Man ride at Disney California Adventure. No matter how good that is, it’ll never compete with the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Studios Florida is very similar to the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, but isn’t quite as good despite being much newer. As with that, there’s no direct Walt Disney World comparison–the best we can offer is Flight of Passage mixed with a portion of Star Wars Rise of the Resistance. The ride requires 3D glasses and has quick movement, but is generally smooth. It doesn’t give Sarah motion sickness to the same degree as Transformers, and her view is that Spider-Man is “worth it.” Your mileage may vary. Guests must be at least 40″ (102cm) to ride. Children between 40″ and 48″ (102cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (6/10) – A flume ride with single-file logs that float down a river and past limited-movement figures and static “show” scenes from the the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show. The ride’s story is about as good as the Jason Alexander vehicle film from the same era. (Now streaming on Peacock!!!) The drops are much better.
As for a Walt Disney World comparison, the obvious one is Splash Mountain. However, this is no Splash Mountain. To the contrary, it’s definitive proof that people don’t like that iconic Walt Disney World attraction “just for the drops.” Guests must be at least 44″ (112cm) to ride. Children between 44″ and 48″ (112cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges (8.5/10) – Of the two adjacent water rides at Islands of Adventure, this is the dramatically superior one. This one is a whitewater rapids ride with circular rafts down a canyon of twists, turns, drops, and waterfalls. It arguably suffers similar story and scenery pitfalls as Ripsaw Falls, but the ride itself is constantly engaging here and there are some fun/better visuals along the way. We love Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges–it’s a ton of fun.
Kali River Rapids is the direct counterpart at Walt Disney World. Aside from the underrated queue, Universal’s whitewater rapids ride is significantly better. The only downside, which is typical of this type of ride, is that you will get soaked. (Perhaps we just aren’t any fun when it comes to getting drenched in theme parks?) Guests must be at least 42″ (107cm) to ride. Children between 42″ and 48″ (107cm-122cm), and must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong (8/10) – Utilizing massive safari trucks, the ride ventures outdoors before heading into a tunnel of all-encompassing 3D screens. It’s no Kongfrontation, but Skull Island: Reign of Kong is much better than the similar segment during the Universal Studios Hollywood tram tour. Skull Island: Reign of Kong’s end scene is undeniably impressive, and offers a brief shot of nostalgia. The queue is also moody, foreboding, and bonkers in the best possible way. Both the finale and build-up are far better than the core ride experience.
As for a Walt Disney World comparison, it’s like taking the vehicles from Kilimanjaro Safaris, and driving them into the Soarin’ show building and shaking the floor around a bit. More than a 3D theater but less than a simulator. There’s 3D and fast-moving visuals, but it’s pretty crisp. Guests must be at least 36″ (91cm) to ride. Children between 36″—48″ (91cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Pteranodon Flyers (???/10) – Universal describes this as giving kids the chance to “take flight beneath the 10-foot wings of a Pteranodon, a prehistoric flying reptile” for an amazing view of all the theme park excitement below as they slowly soar through the air in a comfy seat suspended from a track above.
Guests over 56” tall must be accompanied by a rider meeting the 36” height requirement. Since we’ve never been in possession of any children when visiting Universal, we’ve never done Pteranodon Flyers. There’s a lot of hype and intrigue around it, but that could be a matter of bragging rights for parents and FOMO from folks who have never done it. In terms of intensity, the seat does swing gently from side to side, there are no sudden or scary movements, making it perfect for younger guests not ready for big kid thrills. (Again, per Universal.)
Jurassic Park River Adventure (8.5/10) – This is a water-based ride aboard a raft, but with the predictability and forward-facing seats of a flume ride. Jurassic Park River Adventure is difficult to review because it should be the greatest attraction of all-time. The set-up is perfect for an awe-inspiring ride through the dinosaur-filled habitats of Jurassic Park. From that perspective, it’s a lot of squandered potential. However, it’s still pretty enjoyable and has some thrilling show scenes that are better than most other attractions at Islands of Adventure.
As for a Walt Disney World comparison, the scenery of Jungle Cruise coupled with the drops of Splash Mountain. It should be like Kilimanjaro Safaris meets Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but I digress. Guests must be at least 42″ (107cm) to ride. Children between 42″—48″ (107cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (10/10) – This is the best themed roller coaster in Central Florida (I guess they’re calling them “story coasters” now) and some fans would go even further, dubbing it the best ride at Universal. I wouldn’t, but it’s nonetheless an elite attraction. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure brilliantly mixes animatronics, lush scenery, innovative coaster effects, and high speed thrills.
Hagrid’s ride vehicles have two types of seats: motorbikes and sidecars. The motorbike is unquestionably cooler and slightly more exhilarating, both we think both are great. Hagrid’s is a unique roller coaster with no direct counterpart at Walt Disney World, but it’s no more intense than Expedition Everest. It’s arguably comparable to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in terms of hype and operational woes–but the two attractions are in no way alike on substantive levels. Guests must be at least 48″ (122cm) to ride.
Flight of the Hippogriff (6.5/10) – This is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s kiddie coaster, and it’s cute for what it is. The total ride duration is 1 minute, but I could see this offering enjoyable views at sunset or night when Hogwarts is looking ominous. There’s also an Audio Animatronics Hippogriff that’s a nice touch. For those non-Potter fans, from what I can ascertain, a Hippogriff is basically a slightly modified griffin. Not a hybrid of a hippopotamus and griffin, as I was hoping.
Flight of the Hippogriff is similar to Magic Kingdom’s Barnstormer, just swap Goofy for the griffin-thing. Guests must be at least 36″ (92cm) to ride. Children between 36″ and 48″ (92cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (10/10) – The original (and arguably still) flagship Harry Potter attraction that begins with an awesome tour through the jaw-dropping Hogwarts Castle–and that’s just the queue. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a motion-simulator meets a dark ride, and one that perfectly balances gigantic screens and physical sets, only using the former when the constraints of physical sets requires it–which is often.
In terms of Walt Disney World comparisons, there isn’t a current attraction. Not to get too “inside baseball,” but longtime fans might recall the Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions or the anglerfish in the Seas with Nemo & Friends. This ride system uses the same KUKA Arm technology as both of those. Even though the rides are very different, we’d put the intensity on par with DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom for motion sickness purposes. If you’re on that, you’ll likely be fine here, as the movements are similar and the 4K projections are really crisp and fluid in Forbidden Journey. Guests must be at least 48″ (122cm) to ride.
Hogwarts Express from Hogsmeade Station (8/10) – A relaxing albeit screen-dependent train ride from Islands of Adventure to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. It’s a clever way to park hop between the two parks, while remaining immersed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I don’t think the technology utilized has aged particularly well despite not being all that old.
There’s nothing like Hogwarts Express at Walt Disney World. The obvious comparison would be the various trains and railroads, but this is more screen-based attraction than leisurely transportation. Anyone should be able to ride Hogwarts Express without issue.
Cat in the Hat (6.5/10) – A serviceable family-friendly dark ride with rudimentary animated figures from the famous Dr. Seuss book. There’s a good chance kids will have more fun playing around in the “If I Ran the Zoo” play area than on the ride.
Basically like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, except with Cat in the Hat characters instead of Pooh and friends. Appropriate for all ages and guests of all types.
Caro-Seuss-el (4/10) – It’s a carousel. No elaborate explanation warranted.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (5/10) – Spinner ride similar to Dumbo.
High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride (8/10) – An elevated, relaxed ride through the buildings in Seuss Landing. Trolleys pass simple scenes from Dr. Seuss stories that are being narrated over the course of the ride, but it’s the views and scenery of Islands of Adventure that are the star here. High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride is an underrated leisure-seeker’s delight, and too often dismissed as a kiddie ride. It’s not!
The closest counterpart at Walt Disney World is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in Magic Kingdom…and that right there should give you a good idea of why this scored so well. (We’re big fans of the TTA PeopleMover.) There are also two tracks, making it sort of like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Space Mountain. (Okay, not really at all…but that’d be awesome!) This ride is as mild as it gets, but there’s still a height requirement: guests must be at least 36″ (92cm) to ride. Children between 36″ and 48″ (92cm-122cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Need trip planning tips and comprehensive advice for your visit to Central Florida? Make sure to read our Universal Orlando Planning Guide for everything about Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Also check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for everything about those parks, resorts, restaurants, and so much more. For regular updates, news & rumors, a heads up when discounts are released, and much more, sign up for our FREE email newsletter!
Which Islands of Adventure attractions are your favorites? Which ones do you normally skip? Any simulators, roller coasters, or other rides that are too intense or cause you motion sickness? Do you agree or disagree with our ratings? If you haven’t visited Universal Orlando yet, which IoA attractions are you most excited about? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your questions and thoughts in the comments!
Thanks very much for the list Tom. Notwithstanding your comments, your love of Kong’s queue remains a mystery given my understanding that you love a well laid out theme. Still, thank you for your insight.
Whilst I agree in on some levels between the similarity between Hulk and Rock’n’, I think it worth pointing out that Rock’n’ is a far gentler ride, far gentler. My brother and I were afraid to go on Rock’n’ having done the Universal coasters. We therefore left it until our last morning (so that motion sickness would not spoil the rest of our day) only to find it was brilliant fun! Hulk is really intense, far more so than the Hollywood Rip Rocket too.
Thank you for the Sky Seuss tip, that sounds like it could be good fun. We love the People Mover so I look forward to going on it.
Forbidden Journey remains the flagship for us. It is an unique experience, and that is very hard to come by in Universal.
So excited for the Island of Adventures itinerary!
You ranked One fish, two fish over Dr Dooms fearfall!!!! Wow!! I very much disagree! Dr doom is short but man it’s a rush! I love it!