Islands of Adventure is one of two theme parks at Universal Orlando, known for thrill rides but also with great areas for little kids; and since 2010, home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Adjacent theme park Universal Studios Florida has top attractions based on movies and tv shows: Shrek, Revenge of the Mommy, The Simpsons, Jaws.
The two theme parks are linked by CityWalk, an entertainment zone with clubs, shops, themed restaurants, and the theater for Blue Man Group show.
Nearby are Universal's three hotels: The Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort. Guests get fast-lane access to popular rides! All these properties connect to the theme parks by walkways and by free boat shuttles.
Islands of Adventure for Families
Islands of Adventure has themed "islands" around a lagoon: Marvel SuperHero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Seuss Landing, and the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; another "island", The Lost Continent, is smaller now since the addition of the Wizarding World.
Size is manageable: Islands of Adventure is 110 acres, Universal Studios Florida is 125 acres (compared to 107 acres, 300, 154, and 500 acres of the four Disney World parks.) Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida can probably be visited in one day with some type of fast ride access (see below), though two days would be better, and Harry Potter fans may require more time in the popular (and crowded) Wizarding World.
Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida have top attractions for all ages.
Highlights for Little Kids
Little kids love Seuss Landing, based on the books of Dr. Seuss. Cat in the Hat ride and One Fish Two Fish are highlighted.
Also for young kids: Camp Jurassic is a giant play zone with slides, rope bridges, and water squirters.
Nearby is Pteranadon Flyer: head to this one early in the morning, as wait times, quickly get long.
The younger set will also like the Character Breakfast at Islands of Adventure, an all-you-can-eat buffet with characters Spiderman, Cat in the Hat, and Thing 1 and Thing 2. (Some mornings only; check for updates.)
Islands of Adventure Highlights for Older Kids
Any kid at least 40" high will probably be clamoring to ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, an exciting 3-D simulator thrill ride that got even better with a makeover in 2012.
Islands of Adventure has three fun wet rides. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, in Toon Lagoon, is similar to Disney's Splash Mountain; you will get completely soaked. Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges will soak you, too. The Jurassic Park ride is a top attraction, and finishes with a good chute drop - expect to get wet.
Meanwhile, over in the Lost Continent, Poseidon's Adventure is a fun attraction also, ending with a grand fire and water battle.
Tweens and Teens: Great Coasters
Islands of Adventure has top attractions for teens and 'tweens: this age group loves the thrill coasters, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and the dual Dueling Dragons. Doctor Doom's Fearfall is popular too, yanking you 150 feet up, and then letting you drop.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
It goes without saying that this well-executed "theme park within a theme park" is a top draw for all ages. Expect crowds! See Tips for Visiting the Harry Potter Theme Park.
Bypassing Line-ups At Islands of Adventure
Guests can side-step into a fast-moving line-up for popular attractions if they can brandish a Universal Express pass, available in several ways. Guests staying at a Universal Orlando resort get free "Universal Express" access with their room key. Other visitors, meanwhile, can buy a Universal Express pass; several types are available to read more about fast ride access at Universal Orlando. Visitors can also buy a premium VIP tour that includes ride access.