Orlando Part V & VI: Universal Orlando (12/14-15/06)

Associated parks:
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006 10:42 AM
I think because I've only been to Universal Orlando in the off-season, and it's typically not busy at all, I've become spoiled and feel like it belongs to me. I got my first taste of exclusivity in 2000 when IAAPA had their social for four hours in the Islands of Adventure. Good memories of the dramatic entry through Jurassic Park, marathoning Dueling Dragons with Mike from CCI, and getting beer tickets from others.

After processing our passes the day before and getting Cath an introduction to both parks, we set out in the morning to find some breakfast. The Web site said the place across from Mummy in the studios had a big buffet, but when we got there, it turns out it didn't. In fact, the studio park has no breakfast to speak of at all, which was incredibly disappointing. We hoped to spent the morning and afternoon in the studios, but ended up going over to IOA to the place that has been doing a character breakfast buffet for years in Port of Entry. Expensive, but it was pretty good food.

This time we worked our way counter-clockwise around the park, starting in Seuss Landing with The Cat in The Hat. It's an old-school, Disney-style dark ride, but I love it. It's very much a new classic. After that we headed up to ride The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. It was weird walking up that ramp knowing that the station had been there since the park opened, and Mack did a nice job with the replacement ride. While I admire them for using the existing supports, it is a little disappointing that they built truss-style track as it violates the "no straight lines rule" of Seuss Landing.

On to the Lost Continent, we started with Poseidon's Fury. It's such a neat show, but I can't understand why the wait is always so long. It's the only attraction that I find myself always waiting for. To my horror, the talking fountain was down for refurbishment. Seriously, that really bummed me out. We snagged rides on Ice and the Flying Unicorn on the way out. Still love those dragons!

In Jurassic Park, we saw a "dinosaur" hatch in the visitor center. I've never seen them do that before. Sure, it was a little cheesy, but for as much space as JP takes up, there isn't much to do there. I never did get to see the Triceratops Encounter, and I fear I'll never get on Pteranadon Flyers.

We skipped through Toon Lagoon, where the iVillage Live show was being shot, and on to Marvel Super Hero Island. Spiderman was a walk-on via the Express entrance. Cath found herself getting a little weird after riding it, right around the climbing/falling sequence. It is pretty convincing, even after all of the times I've been on it.

We went back to the hotel for a nap, then headed back to Universal Studios for a some action there. First up, the Animal Actors show. That was fun, and it has a lot of animal "celebrities," including Frank from Men In Black. They showed how they can use a trained bird to fly in place in front of a chroma board using a high speed fan, and then shoot that for compositing into a film. That was pretty cool.

We got on E.T. next, and took the Express shortcut around the queue. The two of us got on bikes by ourselves, which was cool because you could actually hear E.T. say our names. Seriously, if he had to do eight names, we would've passed by too quick to hear any of them.

Cath wanted to do MiB again, so we did, and once again were the only people in our car. I beat her this time, but our average was just short of beating the people in the facing car.

Next, we jumped in for Earthquake. They ended up stalling at the end of the pre-show for some reason, and then when we got on the train, we were sitting there for a while. Must have had some kind of issue with the ride system. While this is one of the original attractions, I do hope that they'll it there, because everyone loves explosions and rushing water, right?

This time we were able to get on Revenge of The Mummy. I'll spare the details, but I will say that with a full train, the launch was just at the right speed to float you over the top of the lift and the following airtime hill. Very nice. Also good to see that the first Mummy was mostly functional. He was covered in a black shroud with a projected face when I was down there in March, and that was incredibly lame. He still doesn't lift his hand up vertically and "suck" the soul out of the intern though, the way he did when it opened.

By this time there was a pretty healthy drizzle coming down. How appropriate, then, to jump in for Twister. I still think it's a pretty cool attraction, though the tornado didn't seem as well-defined as it did the last time I saw it a couple of year ago.

After the show, the park was almost closed, and the drizzle had turned into a full downpour. I wonder if they were even able to have the Macy's Parade an hour before in those conditions. As much as I would have liked to have gone out to City Walk for dinner, we stayed in the Royal Pacific and ate at Jake's. We rented the movie Thank You For Smoking in our room, and it was quite hilarious.

In our final day, we didn't have a ton of things to see, so we really took it easy. Pastamore, on City Walk, had some cheap breakfast food, so we started the day there. Kind of fun to sit and watch the people stream in from the parking decks.

The Shrek film was first on our list at the studio park. Very well done, and the pre-show is very funny. I'm really glad we stopped to see it. Before leaving the park, we took another lap on Mummy. With only four people in the car, the airtime was much more ejector than the floater we had the day before.

On our way over to IOA, like the dork that I am, I took a picture of the trenched-out path that will be the walkway to the new Blue Man Group theater, between the Hard Rock and the Universal Studios gate. See you in June!

Our time in IOA was pretty mellow, since we hit most of the important stuff the day before. Not only that, but it was becoming very apparent that an entire week of doing theme parks is not really very vacation like. It's kind of exhausting. Granted, it was a lot less work at Universal than it was at Disney, but even still.

The next morning we said goodbye to the RPR, and caught a shuttle to the airport. The flight sucked, filled with kids who were coughing, vomiting, and stinking up the place with diarrhea diapers. Not one of the better flights I've had. Still, we had quite a bit of fun that week, and I feel like I don't have to see Disney again for at least another five years. Universal, however, I'll see again in June.

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