Universal Studios Florida (10/27/03)

Associated parks:
None

Monday, November 3, 2003 9:53 AM
The most depressing day of any good vacation was upon us: Returning home day. Actually, it’s a nice feeling to get back and go to sleep in your own bed, but I would have been willing to trade a few nights in my own bed for a few more nights in Florida so that we could hit some more parks and return to Naples for some more beach time. But anyway… Universal Studios was on the agenda for our final afternoon. Once again, it would be a first for Linette and my first time at the park since ’95.

It felt weird turning right when we got to CityWalk. The past three times we had been to Universal, we turned left for IOA. This time, we were going to the “other” Universal park. The one without roller coasters. At least, for now. Using some vouchers that we had, we were in the gates not long after noon.

A lot has been added since ’95, so it seems. There is Twister. Men In Black. Terminator 3-D. Shrek 4-D. And no more Kong. Going straight, the first attraction we hit was Twister, which came with a nice and short 10 minute wait. We bypassed the normal queuing area (which would have been filled had it been a busy day), which was decorated with corn stalks and vehicles from the movie, and waited outside the “studio” doors. After moving from room to room where you are presented with “new” footage of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt (the stars of the movie, for those who never saw it), you finally enter a soundstage where you stand facing the set.

Twister is a short but reasonably impressive attraction, where a host of special effects take place in front of you to make you feel as though you are a part of one of the movie’s most exciting scenes. Its not anything exceptional, but its worth checking out at least once. With that done, we headed clockwise around the lagoon and wound up in San Fran where Earthquake is. After waiting about 20 minutes or so, we were inside, ready to do the usual “move from room to room” thing that Universal Studios seems to be so big on. Talk about an attraction being just a little outdated. The pre-show, which highlights the use of models in movie-making, uses the Charlton Heston movie Earthquake as an example, which was made… I dunno… a long time ago. I’m sure that it was impressive for its time, but in this day and age, the footage looked pretty crappy compared to even the most low-budget comedies starring Ben Stiller. Nonetheless, the actual “ride” is very good. Its along the same lines as Twister- you sit there in your subway car while a whole bunch of stuff goes on in the soundstage. Yet despite being a much older attraction, I found Earthquake to be much better than Twister. The scene seems much longer, and because everything happens around you (as opposed to in front of you, as is the case with Twister), there seems to be much more going on.

Moving just a little further back, we encountered Jaws, which was the longest wait of the day at 45 minutes. Jaws is a great ride which is made better by the actor/actress that is piloting your boat (ours was okay- he was good but won’t be winning any Oscars in the near future). The only thing that pissed me off was the stupid crap that was on the TV monitors in the queuing area. It was some kind of fake programming that was made up for the town where Jaws takes place (the name of the town escapes me), but instead of being funny, it was just annoying. They should ditch that garbage and just play the actual movie. That would keep people entertained, although I’m sure it would scare the little kids. Then again, if they can handle the actual ride…

Back To The Future was next. I remember not being too big a fan of the ride after riding it many years ago, and I was quickly reminded why. Its an old simulator ride, where you sit in a claustrophobic vehicle that bangs around as a movie plays on a big screen in front of you. The motions of the ride are very sudden and very painful, forcing you to endure the ride instead of enjoy it. While I am a big fan of the BTTF movies, I don’t think that the series has much relevance to the majority of the park’s guests. I would have nominated this ride for removal as opposed to Kong and watched the trilogy on DVD if I needed a BTTF fix. Its not horrendous, but if you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to steer clear of this one. There’s always E.T…

With time winding down, we reasoned that there was time for one more ride. As we were in the area, we headed over to Men In Black: Alien Attack, which had a relatively short wait. And what a blast that ride is (no pun intended)! Think Sally interactive dark ride on steroids and you’ll have an idea of what it is all about. The scenes are absolutely ingenious, and the fact that the vehicles do the occasional high-speed “spin” makes the ride that much more fun. If we had more time, we would have ridden again, but since time was winding down (we still had to journey back to the parking lot, get to the airport, return the rental car and catch our flight, which wound up being delayed anyway), we made our way towards the entrance, passing Terminator and Shrek, two things that we would have liked to have checked out, had we had the time.

As are most Orlando theme parks, USF is a full-day deal- mostly because the place gets crowded but also because each attraction takes a long time to experience. While the actual “rides” are short, each attraction has a number of pre-shows which take quite some time… and I doubt that these pre-shows are included in the actual wait time, as they are considered to be part of the actual “ride”. There are also lots of exhibit-type things to check out in between attractions, so there winds up being plenty to do while in the park.

And with that, our Florida vacation had come to an end. In thirteen months, we had gone down to the Sunshine State a total of three times, and in that time, managed to hit every theme park in Orlando as well as Old Town, Busch and Dania Beach. And while both of us agree that we need a little Florida break, it won’t be long before there are new reasons to head down and do it all again.

Of course, the “old” reasons aren’t bad ones, either.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002
*** This post was edited by Rob Ascough 11/3/2003 2:54:29 PM ***

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