To think that we could have missed out on a legendary park because of a shopping mall.
The piece of land known as “Islands of Adventure” at the Universal Orlando Resort is considered to be sacred ground to many theme park aficionados. RexandtheBeast.com has long considered IOA to be the most effective blend of thrills and theming at any park in the world. In 1985 there were plans to build a shopping mall on the land that today houses such iconic rides like The Amazing Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. Thankfully, those plans were canceled by 1990, making way for the arrival of a new theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort in 1999.
In addition to the opening of Islands of Adventure, Universal was also opening a resort hotel called Portofino Bay and a nighttime entertainment complex called Citywalk. This was all an attempt to transform the single park known as Universal Studios into a multi-faceted resort destination. In order to portray this new resort concept, Universal decided to rename the entire complex to “Universal Orlando Escape”, a name that brought a certain amount of confusion. This was quickly changed to the Universal Orlando Resort, which is what it remains to this day. And boy, did it ever work. Universal Orlando Resort is today exactly that – a resort destination that is among the best in the world.
Rex and I were at the parks at the break of the new millennium during the transition from Universal Orlando Escape to Universal Orlando Resort. We were not fully aware of the addition of Islands of Adventure when visiting the Studios. Thankfully, Rex noticed the hype and suggested we check it out. That was a day that changed our lives! In some ways, the impact of Islands of Adventure would cement Orlando, FL as the essential vacation destination for Rex and the Beast and played a major role in the development of RexandtheBeast.com some 6 years later.
What makes IOA so special? Well, everything really. Here are a few things that pop into my mind:
- The soundtrack. Every “island” has its own soundtrack and every song works perfectly. One of my favorite early purchases was the IOA soundtrack on CD.
- The entry. Called the “Port of Entry”, the opening to Islands of Adventure is matched only by the legendary Main Street USA and Cinderella Castle. You will find (or hear) something new every time you visit IOA in the Port of Entry. Take your time in this island.
- The layout. IOA is one of the easiest parks to navigate and the transition from one island into another island is seamless…the music seems to naturally blend from one island to the next.
- The food. Captain America’s Diner, Mythos, and Thunder Falls Terrace are just a couple of the many great dining options available at IOA.
- The secrets. There are tons of little things you will never see the first, or even tenth time you visit the park.
- The attractions. Let’s be honest, IOA is one of, if not the best theme park in the world because it holds the world’s greatest attractions. Spidey and Forbidden Journey are all you need to make this argument, but then you can add Hulk, JP River Adventure, Ripsaw Falls, Dragon Challenge, and Storm Force Accelatron (OK, maybe not Storm Force, but you get the idea). There is simply no theme park in the world that more effectively combines superb detail and theming with high octane thrill rides.
RexandtheBeast.com has had so much fun throughout the years at IOA and will continue to keep it at the top of the list of our favorite places to visit. We started a fun little movie series called “Mission IOA” that follows the adventures of two spies throughout the world of IOA. We had the opportunity to meet both Adam Ant and Captain America in the same day! And the list of memories continues to grow.
So happy anniversary Islands of Adventure! May you have many, many more.
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