With the dawning of a new year and the long winter not subsiding, my
wife and I had to do a few things to escape going mad. The sunday
after New Years was spent in Frankenmuth, MI at the Bavarian Inn,
sitting in the hot tub and eating schnitzel. That was helpful, albeit
"not enough" to really break the spell of snow, darkness, and misery.
Something more substantial was needed. While we had already booked a
cruise for the end of January, we felt that setting up a short one
night trip to take care of the biggest of low*** fruit in Orlando
would be a wise pick. After all - lots of flights means we can fly in
super early, and fly out on the last plane home.
The plan worked flawlessly. Flights arrived where they were supposed
to go when they were supposed to, the car was cheap, and so was the
hotel. Both worked fine for the mission we were on. Finally, we too
could have a take on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Since we bounced back and forth a lot during our trip, rather than try
and do a play by play, I'll just do one park at a time and hit the
I'll start with the Studios because that's where we acquired tickets
in its "if it was shorter it was barely perceptible" line and went in.
Our hope for Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit got put on the back burner
until day 2 thanks to winds that exceeded, what, 5 miles an hour? So
we did other stuff.
The Simpsons Ride: Replacing Back to The Future, the giant faux
funhouse building and the motion simulator contained within feature a
lot of funny references to Disney attractions, doesn't take itself too
seriously, and while busybusybusy (something I'll get back several
times) with sounds and movement and graphics, its obviously worthy of
a ride. First time my wife or I rode either of 'em.
Men In Black: You shoot the eyes! OK, that I can do. First time ever
going through the preshow, which is pretty lame, to be honest. Some
aspects of the queue need a freshening - some new paint or something.
Clean up some of the general grunge.
Revenge of the Mummy: Is this the most underrated ride at the Studios?
Seriously. We love the hell out of Mummy. It has great soundbytes
("Death is only the beginning!") there's a lot of animatronics, the
theme/story actually sorta makes sense, lots of fire, smoke, all sorts
of effects, and its immensely reride-able. We made sure that it was
the only reride we had from Saturday when we returned Sunday over at
Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast: Increasingly aging as Nicktoons are
phased out and replaced, its worth it just for the greatest use of
Chicken Dance on an attraction.
Shrek 4D: First time I've done this - man, what's up with those
pneumatic seats? Those things are loud. I feel like I've been on
something else in the last year with the same things. Maybe it was
Sesame Street at Busch Gardens? I dunno, it was OK.
E.T. Adventure: This thing gets slammed in some of the Orlando
guidebooks, and hell if we can figure out why. Apparently "Meredith"
is a stretch for ET to be able to thank, but he got my name right.
Yeah, it borrows a little from Peter Pan, but I remember Droomvlucht
doing the same and no one complains there.
Hollywoode Rip It, Ride It, Smoke That Sh!t (#597): I always get the
name of this coaster confused with a track on some Dipset mixtape. I
heard so many negative things about it that I had seriously bad
expectations coming in, and when it didn't open at all Saturday, I
wasn't feeling better before I boarded. But you know, I liked this
ride. My wife and I got back seat for our two rides and I was able to
pick Ministry to listen to on one of my circuits, and yeah, I can see
the layout being a little weird. There's like 10 blocks on this ride
(not literally) and it hurts the pacing a little, but I got some
airtime and it wasn't outwardly rough and hey, I liked it. And it was
totally something I could give a bunch of re-rides to in the future.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE:
Let's get right to the heart of the matter and I'll give my take on
Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the ride that anchors it. Having a
medieval themed area with no particular character that its built
around was a convenient factor when bringing in the Harry Potter
franchise, because it meant that there was already infrastructure, and
better yet, attractions (Dragons, Hippogriff). What has been
constructed since is pretty fantastic. I like the fact that the street
looks like a real street and isn't very wide. I like that the shops
are not enormous warehouses of goodies. Now, I may like that stuff
aesthetically, but it does make things difficult to see. I never went
to the wand store because, hey - there was like a half hour wait to
get in. For a store! I have no doubts that the little show that
happens in there is cool, but I do not want a want. Hell, I never read
a single one of the books. What would I do with it?
Dragons has had some changes made to the queue like the addition of
the car. Hippogriff's train is different from its days as Flying
Unicorn, though it is probably the same thing mechanically. We didn't
have the pumpkin juice, I will admit, but we did have several glasses
of Butterbeer. Tastes like Butter Rum Life Savers and cream soda
matched - we loved it. Is it wrong to like normal butterbeer more than
frozen? I feel like you lose flavor with the frozen. Kinda like how
cheap beer is drinkable when its ice cold because you can't taste the
cheap hops and corn adjuncts merging to create a half sweet pee
Oh yeah. And the big ride. Looming over the whole thing is the latest
masterpiece of forced perspective, Harry Potter and the Forbidden
Journey. I'm not sure what is "forbidden" about the journey, per se,
but that much is clear from the name. Anyhow, in case no one has told
you, the ride consists of a bunch of Robocoasters on tracks and it
throws the arms around in and out of scenes/movies. The queue is, as
you might expect, pretty long, and once you're inside the building,
the theming is really impressive. Some of the best in a queue that I
can ever recall. You can skip it, and most of the wait, by heading
into the single rider line. However, I would state that this is the
rare example of a ride that deserves being waited through at least
As for the ride itself - look, first, my wife enjoyed it and had no
issues. Me? I have to admit I did. To be completely honest, neither
time did I get off the ride feeling as good as I got on, in large part
because I didn't feel like the illusion of forward movement was strong
enough. At least, I think it was an illusion, because I think we were
really more moving in circles most of the time. That's the problem.
For the first time in awhile, motion sickness played a part in a ride
for me. Maybe riding the Rotor for 5-6 minutes at a time brought down
my ability to withstand that sort of thing at a younger age, but man,
something was up there. I'd try it again with a motion sickness patch
and hopefully that would help. I want to like it - from a technical
perspective, its pretty good. I will say that I think the "story" is
very busy visually (I couldn't tell what the hell was happening in the
sequence with the dragon; was that the idea?) and sound wise. There's
never really 1-2 seconds to process - just stuff-stuff-stuff-stuff-
Don't get me wrong. I don't think its "bad". I think its a pretty cool
ride but I'm not wildly enthusiastic to wait hours for it or fly back
in February to ride it again. Its not my favorite ride at the park
either. I'd personally rather still ride Fire and Ice Dragon (had a
good night ride on Fire) down the walkway.
OTHER NON HARRY POTTER RIDES:
Spiderman: Like some other attractions we saw, the queue needs a
freshening. Nice to see people coming and riding this though and being
enthusiastic about it after having been here a decade and being
ignored. I still think that Spiderman is probably the best single ride
in all of Orlando all these years later. It has great pacing,
technically its still astounding to me and still state of the art, and
hey, its just plain fun. I think the video merges better on Spiderman
with the physical sets than it does on Harry Potter, plus you get the
3D effect too. Still, the queue - the big video wasn't working at all
in the room with the model of the vehicle, which was lame. Gotta
replace bulbs. And if that fails, buy a new projector. Send someone to
Incredible Hulk: I heard this thing was getting rough from a friend.
Uhh, really? Felt like Ol' Hulk hadn't changed to me. Still smooth,
still has that really powerful start and peters out towards the end,
but still one of the more iconic steel coasters out there.
Cat In The Hat: When did this thing get nets on the cars? Also, my
wife felt like it too needed to be taken down for a month and cleaned
up and rehabbed. Maybe its the shock of people being at the park
riding stuff that they are now unprepared to keep it looking as crisp
as they usually did?
Poseidon's Fury: Its a cool show/stunt sorta thing to do once a
decade. Will it even be there 10 years from now? I guess we'll find
out. The big reveal with the last room is a highlight as is the water
tunnel, but I don't feel like you hear about this attraction too much
We ate most of our park meals here. There was a restaurant by the
cartoon area we never ate at before and enjoyed some pizza from, as
well as a stop at the Burger Dig and for cookies by the entrance (Oreo
Brownie: helladry, imo). We were too busy for a sit down meal, so we
didn't eat one.
There's a big difference at Universal these days - people are there.
And lots of them are wearing cloaks. For those people, I'm sure
there's not enough hours in the day to enjoy the new Harry Potter
section. I'd prefer a larger area and it sounds like that's the plan
long term, but I can't deny the ...
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