Islands of Adventure trip report – December 2014 (holiday cheer around the park, hot butterbeer is back, and King Kong’s ever-expanding home)

Islands of Adventure trip report – December 2014 (holiday cheer around the park, hot butterbeer is back, and King Kong’s ever-expanding home)

My family and I visited Islands of Adventure this past Saturday and had a wonderful day at the park. The temperatures were somewhat chilly for Florida, with highs in the 60s, but we had beautiful, sunny skies.

While walking around IOA, the crowd level seemed heavy, but the posted wait times for the popular attractions – like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and the Hogwarts Express – were 45 minutes or less.

The attractions that involved getting wet (Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges) had posted wait times of only five minutes. I was impressed with the courage of those guests who rode the water rides in such cool temperatures!

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 38 new full-screen images at the bottom of the post.

Universal is certainly consistent in their “let’s not take forever to build a new attraction” policy. In the rumored Skull Island area, steel structures visible above the construction fence that appear to be an elaborate entrance have been added to the building, along with a section that reminds me of a vintage toy erector set on the far end of the building.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

This new addition will dramatically change the look of this section of the park, and I enthusiastically anticipate its completion.

To see more of the construction site, check out these aerial photos just shot yesterday by JakeAdventures.com. Not quite sure where this area is? View the location on our custom map of IOA.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site, via JakeAdventures.com.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site, via JakeAdventures.com.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site, via JakeAdventures.com.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site.

Aerial image of the rumored King Kong site, via JakeAdventures.com.

During this trip, I noticed a few minor changes in the songs performed by the entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and Seuss Landing. The Frog Choir in the Wizarding World included a song related to Christmas during their performance, which is a big deal, as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling never used to let the holidays creep into the theme park land.

And at Seuss Landing, the “Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear” show changed some of its script and songs – the Lorax is no longer featured (he now stands near the stage for meet-and-greet opportunities). The change also included a catchy tune incorporating the words from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham book. I’m not certain if this is a temporary or permanent addition but will check back again next month.

Having tried the hot butterbeer last January during the Harry Potter Celebration weekend, I looked forward to having it again this trip (Universal Orlando announced its availability a few weeks ago). I purchased a warm cup of butterbeer from the Hog’s Head pub ($4.49 with annual pass discount) and headed to the outdoor picnic area behind the tavern to share this delectable drink with my husband.

Hot butterbeer, with its sweet flavor, frothy topping, and warm and creamy texture, was as delicious as I remembered. My husband and I agreed that it is the best version of butterbeer – better than its regular, frozen, or ice cream incarnations.

However, it’s probably best to indulge in this drink during the cooler times of the year because the flavor and temperature of hot butterbeer would not mix well with the hot days of a Florida summer.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

My husband and son had a unique experience while riding The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – it broke down while their particular train car was over the restrooms near the bridge to Lost Continent. After numerous unsuccessful attempts by Team Members to reset the train, guests had to be evacuated off of it.

My husband said the Team Members helping with the evacuation were highly attuned to everyone’s comfort and safety, and they efficiently escorted the guests down a step ladder (which had hand rails) to the escape platform below. My son acted as though it were all a great adventure, much to my husband’s relief.

I’m terrified of heights, so I was very thankful not only that I wasn’t on the attraction myself, but that everything went smoothly. It took about an hour from the time they were stopped to when they got off the ride.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Being the holiday season, I was curious about the selection of ornaments available at IOA. I found that Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods in Hogsmeade had, unsurprisingly, the best choices of Harry Potter ornaments ($13.00 – $20.00), and that the Hat and Things store in Seuss Landing had a unique selection of Cat in the Hat ornaments ($14.00 – $20.00).

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

However, the best place to find the largest selection of ornaments was the Port of Entry Christmas Shoppe (which, again, was no surprise). There are many Grinch-related ornaments ($10.00 – $16.00) in addition to a variety of themes including, but not limited to, gingerbread men, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer characters, and the Universal Orlando logo ($7.00 – $40.00).

I’ve always found that ornaments are a great souvenir to remember your Universal vacation by, as well as making for good Christmas presents for friends and family.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Holiday decorations could be seen in various sections of the park, from Christmas trees in the shops at Marvel Super Hero Island to wreaths in Toon Lagoon and subtle garland in Hogsmeade.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

But the holidays were most celebrated in Seuss Landing. Colorful garland, bows, lights, whimsical signs, and Christmas trees were everywhere. Whos from the cast of the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular walked around the area in groups like regular park guests and were very friendly about having their photo taken and giving autographs. And the very personable Grinch was inside the All the Books You Can Read store, taking pictures and mischievously interacting with park guests.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

The highlight of my visit this month was experiencing the Who-liday Spectacular itself. Performed in Soundstage 20, which is located between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, this live musical based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the book and the movie starring Jim Carrey) is a very popular show that entertains the whole family.

The stage was beautifully decorated as Whoville on Christmas Eve. Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller provided the recorded music for this production, which included incredible songs like “Where Are You, Christmas?” “Man with the Bag,” and the well-known “Mr. Grinch” (which thrilled my son when it began). Amazingly talented singers and dancers – and Max the dog – wowed the audience with their performance.

This heartwarming live musical show, which is only performed during the holiday season, is definitely not to be missed.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

As we end the year, I wanted to thank Dan and the Orlando Informer community for giving me the opportunity to report on my visits to Universal Orlando this year, including the Harry Potter Celebration in January, Mardi Gras in the spring, the extra special experiences my son and family received because of the Team Members, and the highly-anticipated opening of the Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley, in addition to the new entertainment, restaurants, excitement, and thrills that CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, and Islands of Adventure have had to offer.

Islands of Adventure - December 2014.

Islands of Adventure – December 2014.

I look forward to next year and sincerely hope that you will have your own adventures at Universal Orlando soon.

 

For everything there is to know about Universal Orlando’s Christmas celebrations, don’t miss our insider’s guide to the holidays in the OI Universal Center. Otherwise, visit the OI Blog archive to check out all of our trip reports, or discuss your favorite holiday events in the OI Forums. And be sure to check out our in-depth write-up on the festivities over at Universal Studios Florida.

Ready to price out your very own trip to experience all the magic of Universal Orlando at Christmastime? We’ll find the best deals for you – for free (seriously). Learn more


Islands of Adventure trip report – photo gallery

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Maureen

About the author

Maureen is married with a teenage son who has autism. Since she and her family moved to Orlando in 2007, they have visited Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or SeaWorld almost every weekend. Maureen recently created AutismAtTheParks.com to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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6 comments
William Bruce
William Bruce

The Oh! The Stories you'll here show has several versions that cycle through randomly depending on the day. Sometimes each show is different with a different story or song.

Kathryn Kramer
Kathryn Kramer

Went yesterday and got to do all of the things wanted, after 3 attempts at Grinchmas and waiting almost an hour the 3rd time! Got into the 4:30 show and booked it over to Mel's at Uni for the Macy's parade, grabbed some warm butterbeer and watched Manheim followed by Cowfish and some shopping! Perfect Christmas at Universal day :D

Bethany Bro
Bethany Bro

That's so funny; I think cold is the best by far, then ice cream, then hot, then frozen. :)

Bethany Bro
Bethany Bro

I was just there this weekend and finally tried the hot butterbeer! Whoa, that stuff is sweet! My husband and I wanted to get a coffee from Starbucks and an extra cup and pour half the coffee and half the butterbeer into two cups and make an amazing coffee drink, but we didn't end up going back to Diagon Alley. If anyone else tries it let me know if it's good!

Christi Fey
Christi Fey

i disagree, i think the ice cream is the best version of butterbeer, then frozen, then hot, lastly cold. The hot tasted very watered down to me, which was very disappointing to me :-(

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