I had been looking forward to returning to IOA ever since my initial visit last January, and I could barely control myself on the drive along Rt. 4 from Tampa to Orlando. Meanwhile, my wife was listing everything she would NOT be riding at IOA..."I don't like water rides, I don't like the launch on Hulk, I don't like being shot up in the air, so no Dr. Doom..." But not even her indifference could spoil my joy when I pulled into the parking garage in my rental Sebring Convertible at about 10:00.
There's something about paying for preferred parking that irks me a little bit-it seems like it should be first come, first serve. So, in silent protest, I chose regular parking. I have to say that I like the Universal parking system much better than any I have seen. Granted, there's no magical boat ride across a lagoon to a magical kingdom, but the moving walkways are fast and easy. Plus, the techo/dance music they were playing got me even more excited to start my day.
Our original intent had been to hit USF on this particular Sunday, but because we were going to be in Orlando for two days, and Monday was supposed to be around 55 degrees, we had decided the night before to head toward the more outdoors-oriented IOA. As we were walking through the turnstiles, I realized that I had left my Canon in the car. Oh well, we'll get pictures tomorrow. However, I soon regretted this when we headed straight for...
Spidey! Imagine my surprise when I found Spidey to be a near walk-on over an hour after opening. Even better was when Spidey himself was posing for pictures in line...how I wished I had the camera! Anyway, on to the ride-I can't say enough about it. Last year when I rode, I didn't bring my glasses, which means that I had very little 3-D vison (lazy eye that was never noticed in my youth). This year, with glasses...all I can say is wow! Not a coaster, I know, but probably my favorite attraction in the universe. It's one of the few "simulators" that actually makes you feel like you're moving, even when you aren't. The fall at the end still gets me ;) 5 stars for this one. If you haven't experienced it, there's really no chance of doing it justice through the written word.
Next up was The Incredible Hulk. We had ridden this last year, and the launch terrified my wife, and after the MCBR, I found the ride to be boring. What a difference a year makes! The ride was a walk-on, except for the front row, thanks to an amazing 3 train operation. Considering that the park was nearly empty on this day, it really impressed me that IOA would go to these lengths. In the course of trying to convince my wife to ride it, I was telling her that the launch was less severe towards the front of the coaster to help her nerves. Well, of course, we got assigned to row 8. IMHO, there is no better themed coaster than Hulk, which is probably why it rates so high. Up the first hill we went...and wooosh! The nice things about IOA ride ops is they don't staple you, so the zero-g roll coming out of the tunnel really makes you feel weightless. The loop coming out of the cobra roll always makes me have a little gray-out, and this time was no exception. As we approached the dreaded MCBR, I was thinking that the ride intensity was over-not so! One light squeeze, and we continued on our way. What had been fairly boring last year was now an exciting finish with some great on-ride photo ops. Definitely a top-ten steel for me, which was surprising considering the lukewarm feeling I had going into it. We got two more walk-on laps, then headed towards The Lost Continent and my favorite coaster, Dueling Dragons.
If you haven't been to IOA, you don't understand how great the Dragons' theming is. The garden leading up to the giant castle was filled with eerie windchimes and echoes of roaring beasts. The castle itself would make a great walkthrough attraction, with its frozen knights and talking skulls. Then, at the end of the path, we chose...Ice! The near walk-on for the front seat was ruined by the fact that Ice got stuck on the lift for about 15 minutes. The ride ops refused to run Fire during this period, too, which made for some grumbling guests. However, I think that the dueling aspect is 80% of why the ride is so wonderful, so I appreciated it.
I had remembered that Ice was the more mellow of the two coasters, while Fire was the more intense. Much to my surprise, Ice whipped me around the first curve and down the first hill, almost as if to say, "Don't sell me short! :) " The Wall Climb remains about the coolest thing ever on a coaster-it almost makes you forget that the element you'r about to experience is just a simple cobra roll. The corkscrew that duels with Fire towards the end is a nifty little trick as well. The ride ended with a whimper instead of a bang, though, cruising around the last turn into the brake run. Great lap, and the two train operation was appreciated.
Now, on to my personal favorite, Fire. This single coaster is probably why I love IOA so much. Heck, you could put DD in the parking lot and I'd still love it, but the theming is what makes it my fave. The crowning moment of this coaster, in my opinion, is the floater airtime over Ice's corkscrew-it literally makes me laugh. It just whips you around, yet smoothly. Just a beautiful, happy, wonderful experience.
Next up was the Flying Unicorn, just for the count. Turns out that this is a peppy little coaster with some airtime to boot! I actually took two laps on this little guy, and we laughed continuously. Some of the best parts of kiddie coasters is seeing the thrill and the delight in the faces of the young kids riding. It kind of reminds you why you're there.
We then headed over to Poseidon's Fury. I had seen the attraction before, but I had heard that it had been revamped with a new storyline. I figured that, if nothing else, the water tunnel is cool :) So, we get throught the little preshow in the line, enter the "secret chamber," get the story line, move into the room with the water tunnel, see the tunnel open and then....nothing. About 3 minutes later-
"Attention guests. Please exit throught the back doors. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your day at Islands of Adventure." Bleh. So, I got to see the back of that marvelously themed building. Let me tell you, the back isn't so marvelous. Honestly, I don't think I'd do that attraction again. Seeing all the working parts and the corrugated steel siding kinda ruined the magic for me.
I already mentioned that my wife dislikes water rides, so I had to ride Jurassic Park by myself. The only remarkable thing about this ride was the T-Rex at the end. I thought the spitting Raptors were pretty amusing, too. I wouldn't wait for this ride if I were to do it again.
I wanted to do Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, but it was closed for maintenance, so I completed the circle over to Dr. Doom's Fearfall. I love this little S&S. HUGE pop of air at the top, and a walk-on line. If it weren't for the fact that my wife dislikes space shots, I would have done rerides for sure.
With much of IOA completed, we walked across to USF. I noticed that there were literally hundreds of teenaged girls in dance costumes-it made me very sad to realize how young they looked to me. I guess I really am getting old. Anyway, I had never been to USF before, and didn't really know what to expect.
The first thing I saw was T2:3D, so we entered the walk-on line. Not really my type of thing, but I can see where many people would enjoy it. The same thing can be said about just about every other attraction at this park. Okay, but nothing wonderful. I did enjoy Men In Black-don't forget to hit the red button at the end of the ride for the bonus!
I did the Woody Woodpecker coaster for the count, and it was not bad-I would ride it over Gwazi anyday :) The best thing about this park is the Curious George land. There are two little houses with various water tricks. If you pull a rope, you get drenched. Pick up a ringing phone, get drenched. Turn a wheel...you get the idea. Loads of fun. I managed to avoid getting wet at all until my wife looked around, didn't see any hoses, and turned a wheel. About 12 jets of water soaked us from little holes in the ground. Luckily, she laughed. There's also a big netted enclosure called The Ball Factory, which is hard to explain, but easily the most fun I had at USF. About 2,000 little foam balls fly everywhere-from guns, from a big popping machine that looks like a lottery ball machine-everywhere. Too much fun.
I was planning to write a report on the third day at IOA/USF, but I'm already getting way too long winded. The pros-short lines. Cons-1 train operation on DD, really really cold.
Thanks for reading!
Doesn't it seem as though morons always have the caps lock on?
Excellent TR...IoA is all that it claims to be - not to mention the most heavily-themed park in the World (I'm sure Walt's turning in his grave over the flip-flop b/w Disney and IoA)...
Sorry you didn't get to do more of the water rides, JPRA is clearly the "weakest link". DDR is the best flume anywhere, even better than KBF's or Disney's. Bilge-Rat Barges is also excellent, well-themed and FAST!
Man, all this bad-mouthing that Gwazi is getting makes me want to go and see for myself if it's really fallen THAT far...all recent TRs seem to suggest a serious need for maintenance/repair....WHAT have they done (or NOT done) to my baby? Time was, Lion was "tamer" and Tiger was terrific...days gone by, I guess...bummer...;(
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