We’re doing another time travel TPS Report here – we’re exploring Universal’s Islands of Adventure before the Harry Potter expansion. We’ll touch on some of the history of the park and we’ll make some weaksauce jokes along the way. Let’s do it!
Opened in 1999, Islands of Adventure was a massive $1.2 billion investment for Universal. The intention was to increase competition with Disney by opening a second gate and becoming a multi-day alternative.
You have to get there pretty early to find the entrance plaza this dead. But ten years ago, this sight was more commonplace than you’d think. Somehow, Universal botched the ad campaign and wasn’t successful in getting the word out that this park was here. Prior to our 2002 visit, I was completely unaware that the park existed. We only went because my cousin got us a ticket hook up and because I wanted to check out the T2 3D attraction over at Universal Studios.
Yes, I was excited about T2 3D. It was a long time ago, okay?
As you enter the park proper, you pass under this archway. Your adventure begins as you pass through Port of Entry.
Port of Entry functions as the “main street” type area. It features shops, eateries, and various other services for guests. In addition to housing these businesses, this area helps to set the tone for guests.
If you have a sweet tooth (and if you don’t, you must be incredibly depressing), Island Market and Export has got you covered. They have a ton of “homemade” products running the gamut from fudge to cookies to caramel apples. I seem to recall really enjoying a cookie from there, but it must be noted that you really need to work hard to screw up a cookie.
I may be wrong about this, but this is also one of the only places you can buy cigarettes. They aren’t on display, though; you’ll have to ask an employee for assistance. Of course, you’ll be paying theme park prices for them, so be forewarned. Oh, almost forgot: smoking is bad, kids!
Islands of Adventure Trading Company, as the sign here implies, does indeed have the largest selection of souvenirs in the park. But do note that that doesn’t mean anything you want is going to be there.
The trading company features a lot of “general” merchandise, stuff that’s Universal or IOA branded, but not the more specialized stuff. There are some very specific stores (especially in Lost Continent) that don’t have their merchandise replicated here.
What I’m trying to say is “don’t put off buying something you like because you think you’ll find it later.” Most stores offer a ship-to-the-gate option anyway, so there’s no excuse to walk out empty handed.
You never know who you’re going to see in the Trading Company (and let me quickly give kudos to the peeps that play Spiderman. Across the board, they’re all excellent).
Most people entering the park just haul ass through Port of Entry, completely ignoring the entire area because they’re in too big a rush to get to the Marvel area (I guess that’s Potter now).
I don’t begrudge you for doing that, but do make sure you come back and really explore the area. There’s some really great parkitecture on display here, and it deserves some attention.
I love the way parts of buildings are seemingly tethered to parts of other buildings. That’s just fascinating design.
And many of the shoppes do offer specialized merchandise you won’t find out in the Universal Studios Store. The Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe, for example, often features exclusive ornaments.
I really love how the Christmas building seems to just explode out around the rest of the area, but if you know Karen at all you know what’s got her attention…
Yup. The Lucky Monkey (not a real store, tragically)
If you skipped breakfast (or just need something quick and portable), the Croissant Moon Bakery might have you covered.
The sandwiches are quite good (they’re prepared identically to the ones made at the Beverly Hills Boulangerie over at Studios).