Islands of Adventure, Orlando, Florida, USA
Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA
On our second day, we woke up early to take advantage of the early entry into Harry Pottery. We got to the gate around 0755 and there was already a long line to get into the park. Once inside, we headed to Gringotts (like everyone else) and the line already stretched almost to the entrance of the area. The employee's were estimating 30 to 45 minutes. Once inside the first waiting area, we got to see all of the banker trolls. Each of them move and the head troll talks. It is incredible to see how life like they are. This blows away anything I have seen Disney do. The amount of detail that went into them and really the whole ride line was incredible. After only 25 minutes we boarded the ride and were off. It was a unique ride but over to fast. It starts out with a tilt drop but then after a few turns you stop and go through a movie sequence. This seems to be the flow of the ride. Anytime it starts to get exciting it stops. The biggest let down is towards the end when they accelerate you out of the vault. You start to pick up speed and then immediately hit brakes and the ride is over. It was a fun ride for what it was but I thought the line was a better experience than the ride.
After Gringotts we hoped on the Hogwarts Express and went to the older Harry Potter area. We had been to this when it first opened so it wasn't new. We waited 20 minutes for the Forbidden Journey and had a great ride. I like this ride a lot more than Gringotts. It is longer and has a better flow to it. We ended up going on this a second time utilizing the single rider line and only had to wait 5 minutes to get on. I did get stuck on it for about 10 minutes but it was basically in the unload area. They offered a reride to anyone that had been stuck but since I didn't feel it affected my experience I declined and left. After that, we went on the Dragon Challenge. This ride only had a 5 minute wait. It took longer to walk all the way through the line than it did to get on the train. It is a shame they don't duel anymore. Overall I think I liked the Fire side better. It seemed to keep up a better pace throughout the ride. After that we hit up the rest of the rides at IOA. We skipped the log flume because people were coming off soaked and I didn't want to get that wet. The building behind Jurassic Park appears to be coming along nicely. I guess this is for the new King Kong experience. Hulk seems to be running smoother as I didn't come off with my ears ringing. Spiderman was good as always. Like I stated before, the lines weren't horrible with the longest lines at 20 minutes for Spiderman, Harry Potter, and surprisingly Hulk.
Next we purchased a frozen butterbeer and got back on Hogwarts Express and headed back over to Diagon Alley to explore some of the shops. Again, I just couldn't get over the detail that went into this area. You could spend hours walking through and just reading all the signs. They even had a frog choir perform. We decided to call it a day but not before trying Rip Ride Rockit. The line was only 20 minutes although it felt like longer with the annoying announcements that constantly play on the tv. We were seated in the 2nd row of the 2nd car and found that our music program wasn't functional. That was a disappointment since that was one of the reasons I got my wife to go on it. The ride was much rougher than I thought it would be. It felt like it jack hammered in certain areas and we both came off with a stiff neck. We then left the park for the day and again drover over to Disney for dinner. This time we hit up BlueZoo at the Swan and it was delicious. They even gave us a free glass of Champagne since we were celebrating our anniversary. I have never tasted Sea Bass so perfect as what I had there. It melted in your mouth. We will definitely go back.
For our last day we again went early entrance and had much fewer people in front of us than the day before. This seemed promising but Universal didn't quite have their act together that morning. Even though the line was shorter for Gringotts, it took us longer to get through. To make it worse none of the banker trolls were turned on so they just sat there lifeless. It wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't know what they were capable off. I was equally unimpressed with the ride the 2nd time around. We then proceeded to hit some of the rides we hadn't done the day before. We walked on MIB, the new Hurl and Twirl, rode Mummy for a second time with no wait. Mummy continues to be my favorite ride at the park. After that we walked back to Moes and I had a Duff beer. We walked around Harry Potter one more time and then decided to call it a day even though it was only noon. On the way out, I did decide to give Rip Ride Rockit one more shot using the single rider line. The music worked this time (went with Motley Crew) but the ride experience was basically the same. I would like to try it in the front seat once to see if the visuals make it any better.
That night we drove over to The Wave and the Contemporary for dinner. It was good but the atmosphere was much louder than the night before. It shouldn't have been a surprise because the first thing we saw when walking up to the restaurant was 8 strollers parked on the side.
The next day we got up and headed straight to the airport. Overall it was a nice trip. I'm not sure we could have found anything else to do at either of the two parks so 3 days was more than enough. We will go back but probably not until our kids have read Harry Potter and would get something out of it. We go down to Disney once a year but Universal isn't enough of a draw for us to get a visit each time.
I'm glad you liked BlueZoo. We had a great meal there too, and I think it's the hidden gem of Disney fine dining.
I have friends who did Universal for a day this week too. They echoed many of your same thoughts regarding the new H.P. London area. And actually, they hadn't ever seen either area before this trip. Also, they're Potter-free, having never read the first book or seen any of the movies. So, while they didn't totally get it, they did say the theming and detail was incredible and they enjoyed both rides. They thought overall Forbidden Journey was better than Gringott's.
They stayed at Cabana Bay as well, in one of the towers. The reason for staying there was they're big fans of mid-century architecture and decor, and love all things like that. They were not disappointed, and thought the place had a great look and feel. They sent some pictures of their room, and when I looked I said "budget" but they insist it was better than that. I say mid century, being of rather minimalist design to begin with, lends itself easily to stylish surroundings without a lot of expense, particularly when reproductions are involved. They did mention the lighting fixtures all over the place were stunning, authentic and expensive looking, and the public areas were very well done.
Sounds like a good trip for you. I like both Disney and Universal, but I think these days Universal has really stepped up in terms of detail, and theme. Perhaps that should be of no surprise, as they produce spectacular movies and are used to building movie set environments for a living. I think where they excel is transferring that ability to a place where we all can walk and ride around those environments, and truly lose ourselves momentarily in the magic of the movies.
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