We’ll take a break from the magic that is Disney World quick service menu updates to check out whatever that other theme park complex is called down the road a piece.
September is upon us as South America goes home and kids go back to school.
Hmmmmmmm I don’t know.
Islands of Adventure continues opening one hour early for on-site guests and those staying as part of a Universal Orlando vacation package that includes accommodations at one of their partner hotels and theme park tickets. This time of year, you could walk on any of the Wizarding World attractions for the full hour. Universal Orlando was opening an hour early over the summer because of Transformers, but that ended September 2nd.
Arctic Express, located at the end of Port of Entry on the left, is behind walls. “Rumors” seem to indicate it will reopen serving Starbucks coffee. As if Starbucks would ever work inside a theme park.
Fortunately, our Universal saviors are leaving the (Cinnabon) cinnamon rolls untouched. We’re all familiar with Walt Disney Company, the ruthless media conglomerate that yanked cinnamon rolls out of the mouths of babies when it cruelly added $bux to Main Street Facade.
Wait times at 5:30pm on September 3rd:
Islands of Adventure is sort of like Animal Kingdom in that crowds wane considerably the closer you get to close because there isn’t anything keeping people around. Epcot has IllumiNations, Universal Orlando has Cinematic Spectacular, Magic Kingdom has Wishes, etc. Islands offers no evening entertainment and people leave once they deem their day complete. Also like the Disney Parks, wait times are more a function of capacity than “popularity.” Poseidon’s Fury, Seuss Trolley, and Pteranodon Flyer are not Islands’ most popular attractions. But because they have severely limited capacities (Pteranodon in particular), wait times are longer than the headliners.
Hulk and Dragon Challenge tend to have shorter waits than you might imagine because they scare away so many people. Hulk is going to be nearly a walk-on all day, every day in September. You might see peak waits around 15 minutes toward the end of the month. During the busy summer, peak wait times in the 35 to 45 minute range are more common.
There are still people around, but I haven’t seen a single tour group at Disney or Universal in over a week.
Dr. Doom has a miserable capacity, but also scares people away, resulting in short waits when crowds are this low. But it doesn’t take a lot to push the wait out to 30 or 40 minutes, which is typically as long as waits get in heavier crowds. I will join the chorus in saying it’s really not that bad, but it certainly looks terrifying to the average Disney World visitor. If anything, it’s kind of a let down as far as the thrill is concerned, but it is an excellent view from the top.
If you’re not eligible for the early entry or don’t plan to arrive until closer to regular open, the usual advice is to save Wizarding World for the end of the day. If you were to head to Wizarding World first thing at regular open, you’d arrive to all those people staying on-site or at one of the 40+ partner hotels that have already arrived and get the jump on you. Once you make it through Wizarding World by 10:30am or 11am, you’d be at a disadvantage for the rest of the day as you arrive at Spider-Man, Seuss Trolley, Hulk etc. to the longest waits of the day. Here in September, heading straight to Wizarding World at regular open is viable because crowds are so low. It still makes more sense to head elsewhere first thing, but Wizarding World is the top draw for a lot of people and you’ll be just fine heading to Forbidden Journey at 9am.
Islands of Adventure crowds are so low that three of the four boats visible at Jurassic Park are carrying zero people.
“Rumors” indicate Universal is ready to begin construction on an expansion of Jurassic Park that will include at least one new headlining attraction – probably a roller coaster.
That’s in addition to the Springfield expansion that was completed last month, Transformers that opened in June, and the major addition of Hogsmeade coming summer of next year.
Jurassic Park River Adventure is no Splash Mountain. But like most things Universal, it’s taller, faster, louder, and scarier.
The bulk of the ride is a pleasant river cruise outdoors with a few friendly dinosaurs spitting water in your general direction with smiles on their faces. As you might imagine, things go wrong and a conveyer belt pulls you up a lift in almost complete darkness.
The 85-foot drop is 32-feet higher than Splash Mountain, but at least(?) it’s almost entirely indoors and you never really get a sense of how high up you are. Other than that long, brooding lift, of course. But if Splash doesn’t bother you, Jurassic shouldn’t. You will (most likely) get pretty wet. It’s (usually) not as bad as it looks though.
With the 95-degree temps and after getting soaked on Jurassic Park, Lisa decided we were wet enough that going on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls wouldn’t make much of a dent.
Yeah okay Lisa.
This is one of my unhappy faces.
One thing I don’t see discussed much about Dudley is how awkward the log flumes are. The log is kind of similar to Space Mountain in its setup in that each log holds five people – one in front of the other. You put your legs straight out and next to the person in front of you a la Astro Orbiter. Except you might not know the person in front or behind you. Luckily there was an empty seat in between us and the other party of two in our log. That wasn’t by design, but worked out with the low crowds and the lack of a single rider line operating. You can actually come off Dudley less wet than Jurassic Park or Bluto’s Barges. Otherwise, the six-minute ride culminates in a 60-foot drop slightly more intense than Splash Mountain. It’s fun enough, but I don’t think you’re missing much if you opt out. And there are always ponchos.
Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges is akin to Kali River Rapids. The main difference is that Bilge-Rat is fun.
After riding Kali, you’ll most likely look like you just took a shower in your clothes. After Bilge-Rat, you’ll look like you swam from Cuba to Florida in your clothes.
These people not sitting next to me are much more intelligent. I was still wet five hours later. There are really no significant drops on Barges. It does speed up relatively fast toward the end and it has its ups and downs, but there’s nothing scary or intense about it, making it more family friendly than the other two water rides with bigger drops.
Bilge-Rat, Dudley Do-Right, and Jurassic Park are about five minutes away from each other, which makes it convenient to ride one after the other. Bilge-Rat in particular has a low capacity and Do-Right isn’t much better. During the summer, both can see wait times in the 50 to 100 minute range, which is often longer than Spider-Man, Hulk, or Dragon Challenge and more in line with Forbidden Journey. If you don’t mind getting wet, riding after the Super Hero Island rides (Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Hulk, Storm Force Acceletron in that order) in the morning is best. With Express Pass, it’s easier to ride whenever you want in the afternoon. When temperatures are cooler and/or crowds are lower, wait times are much lower. There was nobody in line at Jurassic Park or Bluto’s Barges and we only waited five minutes for Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
Universal is supposed to be installing carnival games like DinoLand USA and Lost Continent here, which is kind of a head-scratcher. It’s hard to imagine that’s the best use of the land by revenue or guest interest.
All of these pictures were taken with a Sony RX100 point and shoot camera (mostly) in full automatic mode.
This is the picture uncropped straight out of the camera. Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/rx100unedit.jpg. Before Sony launched the RX100M II in June, the RX100 was considered by most to be the best consumer point and shoot camera available. Regular retail on the RX100 is $598, while the RX100M II goes for $748. I had been waiting for the new version to come out to finally pounce on one, but the newer model uses the same lens and a similar sensor. And while it boasts Wi-Fi and a tilting screen, it didn’t justify the $150 premium over the previous version for me. I ended up getting a used RX100 from BHPhotoVideo.com for $440. That’s a little more than you might spend on eBay, but you have the assurance that the camera has been inspected by one of the most reputable camera dealers in the world and they tend to be harder on rating the equipment than your average eBayer. For example, the camera I bought was rated an “8+ - Shows moderate wear or finish marks” and the camera looked brand new. If you’re in the market for a point and shoot camera, you might want to take a look at a RX100, whether it’s used or not. Prices have come down with the release of the newer model, but it is more expensive than most other compacts.
This is why you save Wizarding World for the end of the day.
And why you visit in September if you can swing it.
Construction continues on the Hogwarts Express train station. It will be interesting to see what the response is to the Harry Potter expansion with no new books or movies on the horizon and none of the main characters lending their likenesses to the new attractions.
Lisa was making fun of me and my panorama. Longer: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/hatersgonnahate.jpg.
Universal would never have any kind of ride reservation system like FastPass+ because they know visitors want to be as spontaneous as possible.
Longer: http://www.easywdw.com/reports9/overdoingit.jpg. Okay maybe one was enough.
In the off-season, Islands of Adventure closes at 7pm most nights, which seems awfully early. But with crowds so low, you should be able to do just about every attraction by 1pm or 2pm if you arrive prior to Park opening. Universal Orlando is open until 8pm or 8:30pm most nights, but closes at 5pm on Halloween Horror Nights and 6pm on other event nights. Make sure you check the theme park hours before you go. The 5pm close is rough if you’re paying full price for tickets, but you’ll be able to accomplish more in that time than you would during the summer with the 9am – 10pm hours. Also note Universal Orlando opens at 8am on Halloween Horror Nights this year, giving you a total of nine hours in the Park. That should be plenty. Cinematic Spectacular is not scheduled on Horror Nights.
As the website has discussed in the past, Despicable Me is the top priority at Universal with its placement right inside the entrance, strong family appeal, and incredibly low capacity.
35 minutes is much shorter than the summer, when waits were 70 to 100 minutes. If you’re present at opening, head straight here, even if you have Express.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit has been going through another round of malfunctions and downtime, which has caused waits to build on the rare occasions it is operating. The website recommends heading over immediately after Despicable Me in the morning.
Transformers has been open for about ten weeks now.
Here at 7:20pm, the wait time is 15 minutes and you could walk on with Express Pass. Universal closes at 8:30pm.
Heading to Transformers third makes sense, followed by Revenge of the Mummy. Then it’s over to Springfield for Twirl n Hurl and The Simpsons Ride and then over to ET, Woody Woodpecker, and Men and Black. Disaster, Twister, Terminator, Shrek, and the shows can be worked in later.
Speaking of Springfield, the waterfront section opened last month. We took a lengthy look at Fast Food Boulevard, Moe’s Tavern, Krusty Burger, Duff beer, etc. in this post: http://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/disney-hate-universal-preps-transformers-opens-springfield/. At that time, Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, Lard Lad’s, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, and Duff Brewery were still under construction.
I dated a girl who had brain cancer as a child attributed to living downstream from the Hanford nuclear site. Not that a three-eyed fish isn’t funny.
Bumblebee Man’s Tacos is a funny looking truck located near the entrance to Springfield.
Lousy pic. I had read some positive hype about this location, which raised my expectations a bit.
But the tacos were lousy – worse than Taco Bell, Taco Time, Tijuana Flats, and just about any other non-theme-park fast food chain out there.
The steak, which was probably microwaved some time ago and left sitting in a warming box, was dry and didn’t have a lot of flavor.
The ice cold guacamole and lettuce cooled down the meat to the point where both tacos were cold from the start.
And there were no toppings available for the chips. A side of salsa or guacamole would have gone a long way. I asked about a side of guac when I ordered and was assured that they “could do that,” but I never did get my side. The chicken was even dryer and tasted like Foster Farms Grilled Chicken Strips that had been recently defrosted. Portions were also on the small side and they don’t accept the annual pass discount because they are “technically a kiosk.”
Disney does not do tacos all that well either, though I do enjoy Tortuga Tavern.
For about the same price, you get a long tortilla filled with meat that you can take to the toppings bar to load up with as much cheese, lettuce, salsa, etc. that you want. But they’re only open from 11am – 3pm.
And La Cantina in the Mexico Pavilion is a big skip as far as I’m concerned. For twelve bucks you get three mini tacos and a plate full of chips. But again, they at least have two salsas available.
Lard Lad’s is up next.
Potter expansion across the water.
A surprising number of people place their mouths on Chief Wiggum’s donut. That’s rude because it’s not your donut.
Duff Brewery is the open-air brewery on the water. It seems like it would be hot to sit out here seven months out of the year. Moe’s inside is air-conditioned.
See a detailed discussion of the beer and other beverage options in this post. Although I know the Sideshow Bob Foot Long is just like any other Nathan’s Dog at Universal, I still want one because of the funny name. I’m not sure if that’s weird.
The Seven Duffs – Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy and Remorseful stand guard.
Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl sits closest to The Simpsons Ride and the original Krustyland area.
This is a slow-loading attraction, but wait times have been in the 15 to 25 minute range during peak summer crowds. Universal tends to attract a taller, older demographic that isn’t necessarily interested in riding a spinner.
While its core is the standard Dumbo spinner, the alien narration is funnier than any of the earthling-based rides over at Disney World.
Ignore the slobbery alien in the middle.
Exit to inferior rides.
By 8pm, literally nobody was in line as saucers flew empty. It’s a fun little ride when waits are short or if you have someone in your party that’s too short or too scared to ride other attractions. But like TriceraTop Spin and others, it’s skippable for most adults.
Simpsons Ride is still here. It takes about 25 minutes to experience even with few people in line. Twirl ‘n’ Hurl took about ten.
Cinematic Spectacular is Universal Orlando’s nighttime spectacular, scheduled most nights at Park close.
It’s kind of part-IllumiNations, part-Fantasmic.
Short, five-to-ten second movie clips play on “water curtains” similar to Fantasmic, where clips are projected onto screens made of streaming water.
Fire and other effects are projected onto mist around the lagoon.
I don’t care much for Cinematic Spectacular, like I don’t care much for IllumiNations.. The clips are disjointed and the theme is basically “look at some of the movies we’ve made.” If you’re finishing up your day at Universal, staying for Cinematic Spectacular makes a lot of sense. Some people love it. On the other hand, you might want to hop in line for one more ride on Rip Ride Rockit, Transformers, or something else. We watched the show from the Simpsons area to the left of the Brewery. For $15/person, you can reserve a seat along the water. That includes a Lard Lad cupcake and non-alcoholic beverage (not including a Flaming Moe). This isn’t well advertised so if there are crowds for the show, you can purchase a ticket right up until show time. Because the show is visible from all around the lagoon in the center of Universal, a reserved seat isn’t usually necessary.
Despite being “empty,” you can see how many people are exiting after the show.
That’s a bit of what’s going on at Universal here in September. Crowds are at their lowest levels of the year with very few tour groups around. Things continue to be light until the second week in October when crowds pick up a bit. But we won’t see overwhelming crowds again until Thanksgiving week.