Busch Gardens Tampa/Universal IOA/Universal 4/29/09-4/30/09 part 2

Associated parks:

Before I left for Florida, I printed out a two-park one day admission to Universal Studios and Universal IOA. I was concerned about getting everything I wanted to do in one trip, as I had heard that the crowds were unseasonably large this year for some reason, but I took the advice of a few Buzzers and started at Hulk in IOA and worked my way around the park. It was excellent advice.

Universal blew me away. I have never seen anything like that in my life. The theming was SO prevalent, so detailed that I felt like I was in another world. I KNOW I looked like a tourist because I couldn't stop taking pictures. I took pictures of the Fantastic Four cafe. Of the Dr. Seuss section. Of Mythos. Poseidon's Fury...I couldn't STOP taking pictures. Everything is larger than life excitement at this park. Plus, the rides are SO much fun, so immersive, that I don't honestly think I can ever go to another park again without being a little underwhelmed. I want to go back again and again, and I would just about kill to go to the Halloween celebration and see what Universal can do with that.

Hulk (1 ride, back seat, 10 minute wait): Like I said, I started at Hulk. I've wanted to do this coaster for years, I've heard it's pretty great, and maybe my expectations were the problem. I rode this once from the back seat after a five or ten minute wait, and I really disliked it. It started off amazing, shooting out of that tower and into a shockingly smooth barrel roll. The cobra roll, intimidating in its size from the ground was ominous beyond belief on the actual ride, and that delivered great force and speed. I also liked the mist tunnel (Universal does a GREAT mist tunnel on their rides...you really feel it and see it no matter what time of day or what type of ride). However, after those elements, the ride got real rough real fast. By the end, I was just leaning my head against the harness and closing my eyes. Other than Mantis, I've never experienced that kind of roughness on a B&M. A point here and there? Yes. Half a ride? No. I was so disappointed. No second ride on this one. 6.5-7/10.

Spiderman (3 rides, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, walk-on): Spiderman was up next. I didn't feel like doing the drop towers/upshot towers near Hulk, and I heard Spiderman was a ride that gets very crowded very quickly, so I figured it was the better choice anyway. I didn't know that Spiderman was an actual ride AND motion simulator, and I had forgotten it was 3-D as well, so that ride shocked the hell out of me. I've never seen anything like this, but I love, love, loved it. I feel it is one of the best rides I've ever been on. The 3-D at times was cheesy, but most of the time it was dead-on, I DID duck at certain parts (flying bricks and a piece of metal piping especially made me flinch), and I screamed like I do when I'm hitting drops on a real coaster when the drop section in the simulation occurred. My whole car was screaming, actually! This really is the Amazing Spiderman. I ran back around for a second ride immediately, noting the line was already getting much longer. I heard later on that it reached an hour wait. 10/10

Dueling Dragons (5x--3 Fire, 2 Ice, 4 front seat rides; 30 minute wait once, 1 train to walk-ons the rest of the day): I wanted to explore more of the park, but I was kind of in a rush since I did have the two parks to do. I shot pictures of Seuss Landing and then went straight towards Dueling Dragons, gawking at both Mythos and Poseidon's Fury, since they were both so elaborately designed. Mythos, the Universal restaurant that has won many theme park restaurant awards, was still taking reservations, and I figured it would take about 2 hours to ride both Dragons, so I booked a rez for 1 (it was about 11 by this point). At first, I thought I would be right about Dueling Dragons because operations for this coaster were SSSOOOO slow. The actual line was nearly non-existent, just in the actual lanes for the coaster and back towards the "Choose Your Fate" sign but never reaching it. However, since they were running only one coaster per side, I probably waited half an hour to get on a middle row seat. I thought it was a great coaster, but I wasn't super impressed with the whole "near miss" occurrences because I couldn't see that well. I got off the ride laughing though and found a door that said "re-ride?". I re-rode, choosing the front car of Ice next. This is a coaster that you NEED to ride in the front on both sides. Otherwise, you can't fully appreciate the effects. From the front car, this is some alarming, scary, unbelievably fun stuff on EITHER train. Plus, both trains have uniqueness to them. Fire is more intense, but Ice seems to have more near-miss moments, including a surprise that Fire definitely does not have. Another unique ride, the trains are even shaped like dragons, and the restraints in the front row of each "dragon" are pink instead of the blue or khaki color so that they look like the dragon's mouth. So cool, so fast, so...I'm getting old on this, I'm sure, so I'll just say: Front seat either side 10/10. Any other seat: 8.5/10.

I made it to my reservation at Mythos with a bunch of time to spare, but they let me in early anyway. I had the filet mignon with truffle butter sauce and a cute little apple pie/cheesecake dessert shot. While the filet was tasty, the texture was NOT typical filet, and I think I might have been duped a little. However, it was only 15.95, which for a "filet" is pretty darn good. ESPECIALLY in an amusement park. My whole bill was only about 25 bucks. Eat at Outback and get filet and dessert and a coke and you will pay closer to 40 dollars. Plus, Mythos was super cool inside. It was a very pleasant break, and I'm glad I made the time to sit down and enjoy a good meal.

Universal Studios:

Mummy (5 rides, 15 minutes twice, walk-on three times, single rider line): I took a few shots of Rip, Ride, Rockit before booking it over to ROTM. I knew this ride was popular, but thanks again to you guys here at CoasterBuzz, I wasn't too worried because of the single rider line. I love that line. Everyone else? 45 minutes. Single riders? 10 minutes, MAYBE 15. I wasn't aware that Mummy was a roller coaster though until I got in line and saw the video. Fine by me, it was the kind of surprise I like! LOL This little dark coaster is no Mouse in a Box! Scared the bejesus out of me the first time I rode it (in a good way). I have a fantastic picture from that ride where I'm screaming and my eyes are so wide they're the size of dinner plates. This was beyond awesome. I was like a kid with this ride, doing it OVER AND OVER AGAIN, three times in a row before moving on to other things. Then before I left, I rode it twice more! Could it have been a slightly bigger coaster? Well, sure. If you want to get nitpicky. But it was smooth, fast, thrilling, special effects were great...I'm giving it yet another....10/10. 9.5 at the least.

I didn't get to do Jaws because the line was 45 minutes plus, and I wanted to ride Simpsons, MIB, Mummy again, and go BACK to IOA to do Dueling Dragons and Spiderman again. Thank god I didn't. I locked my bag in the locker to get on MIB (which was about an 8/10....very fun, loved the spinning, thought it was just a TAD childish, but it was still so expertly done that I had to love it), and when I came out, I couldn't remember my locker number. There is a feature that allows you to scan your fingerprint and get your locker number anyway, but my fingerprint wouldn't verify. They had to call security and make me try every station with 6/10 of my fingers MULTIPLE times before they finally opened the section I TOLD them my bag was in and got my bag out. This took about 45 minutes to an hour. I was heated. Leery of lockers for the rest of the day, too. Luckily, no more problems occurred with the system.

Simpsons (20 minute wait): Simpsons was a great motion simulator. It had a lot of bouncing and jerking, but it was still really impressive, it was funny, and it was timed extremely well. I loved it, but I wouldn't spend much more than 20 minutes to wait for it again. Plus, towards the end, I did start to feel a little queasy. 8/10.

I wanted to get my husband (an avid Simpson fan) a neat souveneir (sp??) at the Simpsons-based store, but nothing seemed any different than what you could find in stores in PA. I got nothing except a super-overpriced Duff energy drink (though it WAS really tasty for an energy drink). I WAS overall disappointed by merchandising. I like that at Disney, there are all sorts of price ranges for shoppers, and Disney also seems to have special merchandise at their special stores (like collectors edition Star Wars stuff at the Star Tours store). Universal really keeps their merchandise pretty simple and easy to find throughout the whole park, but none of it was super impressive. I'm hoping to find a present either at Sea World or Downtown Disney instead.

I am officially spent. This has been a great trip, everyone's suggestions for me were excellent, and I can't WAIT to do it again. I'll never forget it!

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

Kick The Sky's avatar

It's been so many years since I have been to Universal. I really need to get back there. Your trip report really has me excited to book another trip out there. Just have to convince my wife that it would be better than Disney (which we have gone to our last three visits out to Orlando).

Certain victory.

KTS, yes! Do it! I felt like a kid in a candy store at Universal! I didn't even mention how cool Harry Potter World is going to be when it goes up. You should SEE the Hogwarts castle. Only a small part of it is up and it already is IMMENSE and totally convincing. And while Disney's got a special place in my heart, Universal just doesn't seem to hit you over the head with the "vibe" like Disney does. Sometimes I joke that my teeth hurt after visiting Disney. It's also more grown-up but still with plenty for little ones to do. I'm pretty sure I'm a convert to Universal. Just get there soon because judging from the setup of switchbacks and tunnels and hallways and rooms that lines obviously form in, Universal can see crowds that make Disney look like a cake walk during the summer.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

Ok you got me real excited I can't wait to visit in the summer...so the advice is to start at Hulk, no doubt that we will be caught in all the crowds...no avoiding it as it will be the kids holidays...you got me so I can't wait. Any other advice?

eightdotthree's avatar

I love Universal, just spend four days in December on the resort and just jumped between the parks all weekend. The parks just never get old.

bunky666 said:
The 3-D at times was cheesy, but most of the time it was dead-on, I DID duck at certain parts (flying bricks and a piece of metal piping especially made me flinch), and I screamed like I do when I'm hitting drops on a real coaster when the drop section in the simulation occurred. My whole car was screaming, actually!

As someone who has ridden it 30+ times probably I still get a kick out of Spiderman. I love riding with groups of people new to the ride and they all do the same thing, makes the ride more fun for me.

bunky666 said:
This is a coaster that you NEED to ride in the front on both sides. Otherwise, you can't fully appreciate the effects. From the front car, this is some alarming, scary, unbelievably fun stuff on EITHER train.

To each their own but I think the middle or towards the front are the best seats, you just have to make it a point to actually look down at the collision points to experience it.

Glad you had fun! We are already planning our next trip back since winning free 7 day tickets!

Activerides, if you can do it, hit the single rider lines whenever you can. It really cuts down on the wait times for stuff. I only encountered single rider lines on MIB and Mummy, but you can also take a look at what groups are getting together on the B&M coasters and ask if you can join up with them if you have less than four people. That's how I rode Dueling Dragons so frequently.

Also, get your tickets online before you go. You can go straight to the admission gate, you don't have to wait in line, and I'm pretty sure it was cheaper to get it online.

Other than that, I don't really have much advice because I have only visited the one time. eightdotthree seems to be somewhat of a pro, so ask him. And have a GREAT time! :)

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

rollergator's avatar

SRLs at "the complex": IoA - Hulk, Doom, Spidey (not always operational, but should be during the season after Memorial Day. USF - MiB, Mummy (always operational). The ride that MOST needs one and has none - RipSaw Falls.

So what's the "surprise" referenced about Dueling Dragons ICE?

rollergator's avatar

^That it's bumpy as heck and overrated? ;) LOL, probably the castle-wall near-miss...

ApolloAndy's avatar

If you aren't single and you don't get to IOA first thing, I would suggest saving Hulk and heading back to DD or especially Spidey. Hulk is pretty much the first thing everyone heads for. Spidey has low capcity so builds up a line quickly and DD is in the back of the park so you can ride the crap out of it early in the day.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

eightdotthree's avatar

That's what my wife and I do. Dueling Dragons within the first hour is dead and you can get off the ride, walk back around and your wait is just for the train to finish the circuit and unload. Great way to start the morning!

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