Rex and I spend a good bit of time talking about Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios in Orlando. There is good reason – we think it is the best thrill/theme park in the world. It nearly stands alone in the genre of theme/thrill in the sense that it is undoubtedly a park filled with great thrills, but can rival the best of them in the themeing department. Typically, when high level thrills are involved, quality themeing is compromised (Cedar Point, King's Island, etc). Now, Magic Kingdom still holds the number 1 spot for the best theme park in the world and I imagine it always will. But when combining the elements of the best thrills with some incredible themeing, Islands of Adventure stands alone.
So does it get enough credit? That is the questions I want to consider for this blog article.
First, let's cite the obvious. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has catapulted Islands of Adventure upward in virtually every possible area, from profits to guest satisfaction. With a huge increase in attendance at the park because of the Potter addition, there naturally comes an increased awareness of what Islands of Adventure is all about. Granted, for many of visitors traveling to Orlando to see Harry Potter, Islands of Adventure only becomes clear to them once they arrive. In other words, they are really there to see Potter, and the Islands becomes a nice added bonus. I really wonder how many people have said, "I had no idea all this other cool stuff was here also." Amazingly, the flip side of that coin is that in some weird twist of fate way, Potter has superseded Islands of Adventure in a way that hasn't really seemed to bump Islands of Adventure in awareness with the general public. Of course, we also have to remember that folks can be a bit dense and many still refer to Magic Kingdom as "Disney World", so that element also must be factored in. But for others who generally are able to understand how these things word, Islands of Adventure remains a mystery. Case in point, an acquaintance of mine recently told me that he was visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but wasn't sure if he would have time for Islands of Adventure. Hmmm. That would be a trick!
My two cents is that Islands of Adventure remains relatively "unknown" when it comes the parkdom. It is a true mystery. The fact of the matter is that IOA is host to arguably the two best rides in the world: Spiderman and Forbidden Journey. Any other park would count themselves as a force in the industry if they owned either of these. IOA has them both. Add to that the best entrance (Port of Entry) in the world (does it surpass Main Street USA? That is an article for another day), the greatest theme park restaurant (Mythos), one of the greatest coasters (Hulk), one of the greatest water rides (Dudley), and a dinosaur land that would make every 8 year old boy jump with joy and we are left with big question marks over our heads as to why IOA seems to get talked about least among the Orlando parks, even less than its neighbor Universal Studios (remember, the Universal Studios Florida Resort includes both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure).
Hopefully, this trend is shifting and IOA is in fact receiving greater and greater notice. I can remember when Rex and I first showed in the early 2000's. Neither of us had any idea that IOA was there, we just stumbled across it. Does that still happen? Yes, although it is more in the context these days of folks not realizing that Potter is a part of IOA. But maybe over the course of the next few years, IOA will become appreciated more by the general public, not just those of us who live and breathe this stuff. It certainly is deserving.