Josh Goes to Universal – An Introduction Part 1

by josh on December 8, 2012

This website is going to be doing something uncommon in the world of “Disney blogging.”

In that we’re going to be taking a trip out to Universal Studios Florida to see what it has to offer.  The pictures will occasionally be over-edited.  But when the “turn up the colors and add halos to the trees” button pops up, it’s difficult not to click.

Not to go full Walt on you, but I like Walt Disney World because it offers an opportunity for families to have fun together.

But Disney doesn’t necessarily have a monopoly on family fun.

With the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios has become a “destination Park.”

For a lot of people, Universal is no longer the after thought that it once was.

There are some things Universal does better than Disney.

For one, once you’re there – you’re there.  There are no monorails.  No buses.  No 43 square miles or whatever.  Universal has two theme parks, CityWalk, and a couple of miniature golf courses.  And from where we stand, they’re all less than a five minute walk away.

That’s Universal Studios down to the right – just a pleasant walk along the water.

As friend-of-the-site Brian Noble would tell you, it’s economically intelligent to do either a “Disney vacation” or a “Not Disney Vacation.”

Undercover Tourist would sell you a seven day Magic Your Way Park Hopper ticket to Disney World for $356.75.  Add Water Parks and you’re talking $376.95.  On the other hand, a 14-day ticket to Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Wet ‘n Wild, and CityWalk runs $296.95.  So you’re getting twice as much time in the Parks for less money.  And you can add Busch Gardens Tampa for another $40 and that includes bus transportation out to Tampa Bay.  One day tickets to Disney World or one of the Universal theme parks are the same price.

Don’t worry.  This isn’t a “sponsored post.”  Disney does a lot of things better than Universal and we’ll point those out as we progress.

Universal also isn’t for everyone.  The minimum height for Forbidden Journey (the Harry Potter ride) is 48 inches.

And The Hulk, pictured above, is 54″.  You probably want your kids to be tall enough to ride both before you consider visiting Universal.

You’ll get the most value if everyone in your party is willing and able to ride the coasters, both of which are far and away more intense than anything Disney has to offer.

Almost across the board, Universal’s attractions are more technologically advanced than Disney’s.  Dudley Do-Right’s Here isn’t quite up to Splash Mountain’s theming.

But that’s a bigger drop.

At faster speeds.  That’s pretty much the theme of Universal – bigger and faster than Disney.

One other nice thing about Universal is that when it’s “dead,” it’s dead.  This is 11:28am on Wednesday December 5th, so wait times aren’t going to get any longer.  You could walk on virtually anything all day – it certainly beats those 60+ minute waits at Toy Story that we see virtually every day.

And everything is basically a ride.  You may remember that Disney’s Hollywood Studios “literally” has six rides.  And that’s including The Great Movie Ride and Backlot Tour.  Islands of Adventure has almost three times that, several of which are “major attractions.”

Navigating Islands of Adventure is pretty easy.  The layout is basically a circle with various themed “islands.”  The first one you’ll come to on your left is “Marvel Super Hero Island.”

The Hulk is the biggie here and arguably Universal’s most intense coaster.

We’re talking 4 G’s, 67 miles per hour, seven inversions, and a 105 foot drop.

Despite its headliner status, wait times aren’t usually that bad.  In the middle of the afternoon here, the posted wait is 5 minutes and you could basically walk on and ride as many times as you wanted.

The second major attraction is The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, a “4D Dark Ride.”  It’s sort of like Sum of All Thrills in 3D with projections and set pieces.  Very neat and Disney really doesn’t have anything like it.

Universal’s version of Tower of Terror is pretty terrible.

It’s basically an amusement park ride that sends you up and then down exactly one time.  It then goes up and down gently a couple of times.  Because of its low capacity, it often has longer wait times than most other attractions, including The Hulk.

Storm Force Acceleration is the Land’s fourth attraction.

You may know it as Mad Tea Party, only faster and without the whimsy.  Also due to a lousy capacity, Storm Force often has waits longer than Hulk.

Here we have the extended queue for Hulk.  Fast forward to Christmas or July and you’re talking serious waits – 100 minutes for Hulk isn’t unheard of.

I always leave Hulk with a headache.  While it isn’t necessarily a rough coaster, the head cushioning seems to leave something to be desired.

The nice thing about Disney World is that it’s very bag/camera friendly.  You can bring your belongings on any attraction.  At Universal, a lot of rides require stowing your stuff in a locker, including Hulk.

While not necessarily a huge deal, it’s an added hassle.  Luckily, lockers are free “while you ride.”  The amount of free time depends on the wait for the attraction.  That also means you’ll have to move your stuff after each ride or you risk being charged.  I’ve ridden Hulk back to back without moving my bag and was charged the $3.

Theme park food is another area where Universal is generally lacking.

This is actually one of the more interesting menus available.

Most of the other locations just offer chicken fingers and burgers.  We’ll happen across some good food at Three Broomsticks and Thunder Falls Terrace though.

Another nice thing about Universal is the refillable popcorn buckets and fountain beverages.  Pay $4.99 once and you can get as many refills as you want for 89 cents a pop.  The buckets aren’t dated so you can reuse them for the duration of your trip.

You can also get a nice souvenir cup for $7.99 and then the refills are 89 cents.  Again, you can reuse your cup in both theme parks and out on CityWalk for 89 cents for the duration of your trip.

And they’re buy 2 get 1 free so you don’t necessarily have to share.  Disney doesn’t offer a comparable deal.

But almost all of Universal’s snack kiosks and locations offer the same stuff.

The same cotton candy, churros, pretzels, Icees, and what have you as just about every other location.

The kiosks are also somewhat obnoxiously located every five steps.  In typical easyWDW fashion, I have a picture of “literally” every single one of them along with their menus.

If you’ve been to Disney World, you pretty much know what to expect from Universal.  They have your typical character meet and greets.

Typically, they’re more informal with shorter lines.

But the characters are potentially less iconic.

Universal is smart with these green screen meets.  Ordinarily, you could get the exact same picture of you and the character with your own camera.  Not so much with the green screen.

Speaking of familiarity, the theme park experience is pretty much the same as Disney.  You’ll enter the Park through turnstiles in the front, where they scan your finger.  Unlike Disney’s biometric scan, this is actually a fingerprint.  Tinfoil hat optional.

A potentially over-themed rental price list.  ECVs are seen much less frequently at the Universal theme parks.  I ran into about four on this particular afternoon over the course of several hours.

As far as customer service is concerned, Disney probably wins on that front.  While the “magic” is all in your head, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it at Universal.  Ordinarily I’d be greeted with a smile and a “hello” multiple times at Disney, as creepy as I am, but I didn’t get a single smile or hello at Universal.

Toon Lagoon is the next major section.

Here, Universal has out-DinoLand’d DinoLand.

With an assortment of over priced carnival games.  Kind of tacky.

And with Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Universal has out-Kali-River-Rapids’d Kali River Rapids.

You’re going to get soaked.

Soaked.

On the plus side, they won’t make you feel bad about living in a house made of wood.

Wait times are pretty ugly in the summer, but with the 75 degree day in December, you could walk right on.

Close by sits Dudley Do-Right’s Rip Saw Falls, which we saw a few pictures of earlier.

On the customer service front, I can’t think of an attraction where you get saluted on your way in.

This one’s pretty wild.

Like most of the other attractions, Do-Right’s is a walk-on.  Fast forward to July and you’re looking at 90 minute waits.

Toon Lagoon also affords the opportunity to board The Olive.

It’s a play area for kids.

But it also offers some great views of the Park.

We’ll get over to “Harry Potter Land” shortly.

Otherwise, the theme here is color and fun.

Unlike Disney, which is rolling out “free” WiFi resort-wide, Universal charges.

A pretty penny at that.

In Part 2, we’ll head to Jurassic Park and the Wizarding World.  And another “don’t worry,” this isn’t turning into a “Universal blog.”  I’m actually headed out to Epcot to update my “ideal morning” touring plan now that Test Track has reopened.

 

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

JP December 8, 2012 at 4:52 am

How fun! And just in time, too. The other half and I decided to visit Universal for a long weekend in January NO KIDS. Now Im even more excited.

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billyp December 8, 2012 at 5:52 am

I love Universal and we take two days every trip to visit each park…We also go to Sea World and Busch Gardens every other trip…with teenage boys they are into the thrill rides a bit more but they still love Disney…One thing I will add about Universal is it has some of the longest line queues anywhere…Ripsaw falls is huge as the old Dueling Dragons queue…

Josh I know many are against it but I would love to see updates of the other parks…SW and BG

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wongck December 8, 2012 at 6:14 am

Great going !!!
I am planning USF if time permits during my next year trip to WDW in Dec.
I hope my wife’s changes her work schedule so this can be in.

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DoctorK December 8, 2012 at 6:31 am

I’m so excited that you’re going to have some Universal information. I feel like I know the Disney parks inside and out but I’m such a Universal noob!

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Ann December 8, 2012 at 6:41 am

Great walkabout. We are thinking of doing a Universal only trip in June instead of Disney.

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Danielle December 8, 2012 at 6:56 am

great pics!! looking forward to next post

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Mossy1 December 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

I generally like the Universal Parks. But as you have mentioned the workers are definitely not as friendly as Disney. The rides are much more intense!! I can only ride Forbidden journey once, without a long break. It just does something to me and I don’t feel quite right. I do love all their coasters, smooth steel baby. Thanks for the update!!

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Vikki December 8, 2012 at 8:53 am

Interesting post on the “other” park. DH and I took our older kids went to Knott’s Berry Farm in California last summer and could pretty much have written the exact same post with different pictures, minus the character meets. Bigger coasters, boring food, iffy customer service. We loved the coasters, but we chose to leave the younger two kids (both under 52 inches) with Grandma for the day. At WDW, there were a total of 2 rides in all four parks my 46-inch son couldn’t ride. At Knott’s he would have been miserable. We might go to Universal in Florida, but only when all the kids are bigger.

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Jill Marie December 8, 2012 at 8:56 am

“There are some things Universal does better than Disney. For one, once you’re there – you’re there. There are no monorails. No buses. No 43 square miles or whatever. Universal has two theme parks, CityWalk, and a couple of miniature golf courses. And from where we stand, they’re all less than a five minute walk away.”

Don’t forget about DisneyLAND. That’s two parks, 3 resorts, and Downtown Disney all attached. So maybe Universal does things better than Disney WORLD but not “Disney,” in general. Yeah…I just had to point that out since you all know how much I hate the term “Disney” used as a term for just the Florida parks. Ha!

Though I’m just a water drinker, for the most part, those refillable mugs are a really good deal!

I went to Universal in 1995. I thought maybe seeing some photos would trigger my memory…but apparently not.

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Amanda December 8, 2012 at 9:28 am

Very valuable post, and well done. This could be a super niche for this site.

Just curious about how much the green screen photos cost? Sold individually? How many characters are done this way?

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Samantha December 8, 2012 at 10:03 am

@Jill I’m fairly certain he’s just referring to Disney World as it’s in the same state as Universal.

Thanks for this post. It’s always somewhere I’ve wanted to go but not necessarily somewhere I wanted to set time aside for. This post has my interest piqued!

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Brian B December 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

I want to be excited but for me its a big meh. I live within two hours of 40+ coasters, so Its hard for me to get excited for the hulk. I do like the citywalk integration, and think WDW could expand on the boardwalk and area between HS to be more of a destination.

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Kevin Crossman December 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

We visited IOA on our last WDW trip. Unfortunately, we picked the one FREEZING day last December to visit. It was so cold we avoided all water rides and skipped a lot of the other minor attractions just so we could get the hell out of there and get warm. Which is too bad, because I really wanted to ride the Jurassic Park side. It did make the fake snow at Potter seem more realistic, though.

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shalom December 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Not changing my impression that Universal is a rides park. Hubby’s the only rides guy, and he’s been sidelined on that front with a bad back, so although everyone would love to see Wizarding World, we still haven’t gone and won’t be going for some time to come. So enjoying the report with detached interest, here.

I really dislike the cut outs in the Marvel section. The art is fine, and I guess I get the logic, but they bug me.

Also, the Silver Surfer selling cotton candy? Ouch.

I’m sure the green-screened pictures are lovely and all, but it doesn’t add much to the ambiance while you’re actually getting the picture taken. Also reminds me of eight million Children’s Museums we’ve visited. Hope Disney never goes that route.

I like the fact that they have the two water rides right close to each other — can hit them both and then change.

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RebeccaMcK December 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I enjoyed my one day I spent at both the Universal Parks (didn’t do anything at Citywalk except walk through it to get from my taxi to the parks), but I bet I didn’t do half of what you’ve posted about….didn’t do any water rides. Just mainly Seussland, WWoHP, Spiderman, Hulk, the Shrek 4D show (there are shows to see, just mostly rides are what I went for….the Animal Actors show was fun, too), etc. My trip report is somewhere in the forums, just without any pictures. It was a solo trip and I went mostly for Harry Potter, which was fabulous. Ate lunch at Three Broomsticks and had a snack later during the animals show, because I was on Disney’s dining plan and waited to have a big dinner later that night at DHS. Anyway, thanks for posting about US/IOA and I hope it’ll be an easy clickable “margin link” on the site to help people plan for the future.

@Vikki
Knotts Berry Farm in CA does have some good food but it’s mostly outside the property….Mrs. Knotts’ Chicken place….I think all I remember outside of that place, is funnel cakes inside the park, lol. Camp Snoopy there has the rides for shorter kids, but it probably isn’t interesting to older kids who haven’t yet reached the height requirement for the bigger rides. I’m probably not going back there for a while, at least not until they can stay out of the “this ride broke and everyone was stranded up in the air for hours” news for a while. Otherwise, we always have a good time there – just haven’t been in a long time, maybe 4 years.

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Ferg December 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I love both Universal parks. We don’t go this last trip but we really enjoy them. IOA has many rides. I found Universal to have more shows, more like DHS. But they were enjoyable. I’m glad you are doing Universal updates as well.

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Meghan (affableolive) December 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

It’s MY boat. (cue I’m on a Boat.)

Yeah… this just confirms it would be a waste of money for me at Universal. My hubby LOVES it. He had been to Universal 3 times before he’d even been to Disney. He’s contemplating going this time, but these pictures have definitely let me know he’ll be contemplating it all by himself. I don’t even do R’n'R so the Hulk is so out.

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Pembo December 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Been to Universal IOA twice for Harry Potter. We live near the roller coaster capital amusement park so the other rides weren’t of interest. However Harry Potter land is beyond amazing. Can’t wait to see your pics Josh.

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Brandie December 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Thanks for the USF walkabout! We’ll be there at the end of the month, so this is all very timely for me. I’m looking forward to pictures of every menu. : )

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Kevin December 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm

We did Universal a few years ago in late November. It was “literally” empty. Walked on every single ride. We really had fun there.

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Melanie December 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm

My 8 year old daughter is roller coaster averse, so we have not yet gotten her on Big Thunder Mountain. We theorize that if she were to see a ride like The Hulk, she would realize that BTM is more fun than scary. These pictures will save us the trip.

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James P. December 9, 2012 at 4:15 am

Wife and I have always been on the fence about one day visting Universal but always leaning to the not going side. Looking forward too the 2nd part. So far, you have re-inforced our decision of not going. Nothing in part 1 is appealing or would make us want to visit Universal instead of WDW during a trip.

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ronnie2hotty December 9, 2012 at 5:51 am

Great update Josh!! I look forward to the rest of the posts about Universal Studios…It’s nice to get posts about other attractions around that area every few months!! My wife and I have done Universal several times over our last few Disney trips. While we both enjoy US, the problem for us is that it does not have the return-ability for us that Disney does. It all comes down to what you are into. There really is no debate that US and IOA blow away almost every ride at Disney. We are not really thrill ride type people, so that pretty much sums up my we enjoy Disney more.

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bnoble December 9, 2012 at 7:56 am

“Ordinarily I’d be greeted with a smile and a “hello” multiple times at Disney, as creepy as I am, but I didn’t get a single smile or hello at Universal.”

You’re just creepy. We got plenty of smiles and greetings on our summer trip. The Universal TMs all seem about as competent and friendly as most of the Disney CMs. They don’t have that hyper-ersatz pixie dust-and-magic thing going on, but honestly I’m okay with that. That said, I do think I’ve gotten a salute returned on Mission:Space, so that can happen in the Friendly Confines as well.

For some reason, people insist on making the Universal/Disney thing an either/or competition, and one has to be “better” than the other. They really serve different markets and demographics. Disney is great for younger kids, up through late grade school/early middle school. Universal takes over from middle school more or less through college and young adulthood. Then you have kids of your own, and start the cycle over again. By the time you are a geriatric empty nester, most people are back in the (sedate) Disney fold.

It’s not quite that stark. We still do Disney-based vacations. For example, we’re hitting DLR for the DCA makeover, the Space re-do, and the Nemo subs—all are new-to-us. The kids haven’t seen DLR’s Indy yet, either. We will also hit Knotts up while we are there—we have Cedar Fair system-wide passes. There, Pony Express and Sierra Sidewinder are new-to-us, and the kids haven’t been on Silver Bullet yet.

But, the kids have not been to WDW since Summer 2010, when they were 10 and 12. Since then, they’ve been to Universal/Sea World twice, and they’d rather go back to the latter than WDW if you gave them the choice. And, Maureen and I are still pretty serious thrill riders, so we will probably be doing the Cedar Point thing for a long time to come.

On Knott’s. The staff there are definitely a notch below the Universal folks, though now that Matt Ouimet is the Cedar Fair CEO, that’s gotten a lot better chain-wide. (Hardcore Disneyana people will remember Matt as “Cast Member Matt” when he was the President of Disneyland Resort.) And, yes, the Mrs. Knott’s chicken dinner restaurant is really good, in a retro throwback sort of way. A perfect Knott’s day is to get there about 90 minutes before park opening, and get the fried chicken breakfast platter: chicken, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy—you won’t need to eat for hours and hours after that. There is some good in-park food, too, but you sort of need to know where to look. The boysenberry funnel cake: awesome. There’s also roasted fresh corn on the cob over near the Indian Trails area.

There are some pretty interesting things to do at Knott’s if you’re not a thrill rider. The Stagecoach is awesome. It’s a refurbished period piece rather than a modern carriage. About the only other place I can think of with that experience is the Historical District in Williamsburg, VA. The Indian Trails section has a lot of authentic Native American dance/story telling. Mystery Lodge is pretty neat, even though the effects are a little dated. Timber Mountain Log Ride is the oldest themed log flume in the US, and while it looks the part, it’s still a fun little ride.

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bnoble December 9, 2012 at 8:02 am

One other point: The Universal hotels are significantly better than Disney’s from a service perspective. That’s partly because Loewe’s runs “real resorts” that aren’t tied to the location advantage of a closed resort with theme parks, so they know what they are doing. But, we found the differences between e.g BC/BCV or WL/VWL and the Royal Pacific to be noticeable. The RPR rooms themselves are on the small side, but it’s also the least expensive of the Universal resorts (so far). Throw in the unlimited front-of-the-line passes, and it’s a pretty darn nice vacation experience.

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MrsNick December 9, 2012 at 8:22 am

Thanks for the post about your trip into the alternate universe! Looking forward to reading more :o )

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Terri -back home is So. Cal December 9, 2012 at 11:47 am

Josh, can’t wait to read your review of HPW. We finally did Universal in Oct. for the first time. I got my daughter’s grandparents to buy our one day tix as a 13th bday present for my daughter. :) We had a great day. Early October, a weekday. We headed straight for HPW (as it was our main focus). We really enjoyed it-rode FJ a total of 7 times. Did the dragon coaster 4 times. I would definitely return to IOA for HPW alone. We did some other rides as well (Hulk-I agree, it gave me a small headache too, Spidey, etc.) but it was such a long walk around the park. No shortcuts. We ate at 3 Broomsticks and loved the Shepards Pie. I have even made it once since returning home. My DD13 has looked forward to visiting HPW since we first heard it was being built-and it did not disappoint! (stores as too small though). We did get the refillable popcorn and coke. We picked a good day to go-low crowds and only about an hour or so of rain.

Re: Knott’s-KBF is a great park for what it is. No, it’s not Disney, and yes the food is more expensive than Disney. But it has some greater coasters (Xcelerator is awesome!) and delish fried chicken. One thing that bugs me is KBF does not allow you to return to the parking lot on the same day if you leave. But that’s okay as we parking the free 3 hour parking lot and move the car after lunch. We only go to KBF when it’s not crowded. When you go anytime except for the summer, and holidays, and you do all the rides you want in a very short time. It’s not unusual for us to ride 20+ rides and do that in 3-4 hours. :)

All that being said, my heart belongs to Disney-but due to the increased cost of AP at DLR when ours exp. in June I willl have to wait to renew. KBF AP are about $70 for the year. Their AP all exp. on 12/31

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Britkate December 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I was just about to come and say that about the hotels but you’ve beaten me to it. The one irritation at OKW was the concierge telling me she didnt have any info about airboat rides. It was odd, either youre a concierge or youre not. The guy at the Hard Rock couldntndo enough to book offsite restaurants and make reservations and thats what we are used to.

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tanya December 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Just cuz you’re a creepy guy doesn’t mean people should ignore you. So very sad.

Looking forward to your info and pics on Harry Potter! It’ll be a nice little flashback.

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bnoble December 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm

“One thing that bugs me is KBF does not allow you to return to the parking lot on the same day if you leave.”

That’s too bad. My Cedar Fair pass includes parking, so I can just come and go anytime. Back in the day, Cedar Point used to allow you to leave and come back once, as long as you kept your receipt, but I don’t know if they still do that nor not.

“The one irritation at OKW was the concierge telling me she didnt have any info about airboat rides.”

If Disney does it, a Disney concierge can help you book it. If Disney doesn’t do it, it might as well not exist.

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Abby December 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Thanks Josh. This just confirms for me that I don’t need to bother with Universal until my spawn *oops, daughter* is old enough. Finally coughed up the money for Busch Gardens this weekend. she’s five and gets in free since we are local. (like, my sister lives a few blocks away local) And I felt the same way about Busch Gardens. Not too many rides for the under 48″ set. And even then there are few things that are for taller kids. Though there are a ton of water play options at BG, which maybe makes it more acceptable. Plus the animal interactions, which AK is kind of short on.

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sonja December 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm

after 11 years of Disney parks we are branching out to US/IoA and staying at Hard Rock Hotel. My youngest will love the major thrill rides but I’ll need to buck up back into to big coaster riding. I wimped out of Manta at SW both dh and dd loved it. I’m hoping my 15 year old will ride most of the the rides there but she only recently started riding everything at Disney.

Thanks for the sneak peak. We will be there in the massive post Christmas crowds- December 27 and 28.

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Anonymous December 9, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Will you be doing a post about the other universal park? The original one, can’t remember what the exact name is. For now ill just go with the “not island of adventure” side.

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annie December 10, 2012 at 5:20 am

It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve been to Universal. My kids were all old enough and we had a great time. Thanks for posts outside of Disney!

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Mandy December 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Thank you so much for an in-depth review of Universal/IOA~ I can’t wait to see and read more. I would also love to see categories for other theme parks Busch Gardens in Tampa, Sea World, ect. We used your site to plan our trip to Disney last summer, and plan another one this year, but the hubby is wanting to do Universal instead. I would love to see and hear more because our boys are only 5, but super-hero obsessed!

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bowbat December 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

Yeah, your post confirms what I suspected — Universal isn’t for us. We’re generally coaster-adverse (though my kid keeps insisting he’s not, we let him ride one, he hates it, and so on in an endless, maddening cycle) and we enjoy having a nice variety of food options. An interesting post nonetheless (though I was against you covering Universal, AGAINST I say).

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marlaine December 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Thank you for the info! Our next trip is going to be a split trip-WDW and Uni. I’m excited! My son will be tall enough for everything at Universal.
I’ve been reading as much as I can about Universal. So glad you did this–I trust your judgement (based on great info about WDW), so I know you won’t steer us wrong!

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Anna December 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I’ve never been to Universal, but I have been to Seaworld so I’m curious to see what you think of it. We did one day there on my son’s first trip to Disney and I was so NOT impressed. Everything is too spread out, and there is too much down time during their shows. My son would not sit through it at all. Plus their staff was just not friendly and at points, rude. My father commented that he never saw a water fountain anywhere in the park and you were forced to buy bottled water. I don’t see us going back to Seaworld for a long time, if ever.

Oddly enough, we have visited Sesame Place which is owned by the same company. I much prefer it and had a hard time believing that it was owned by the same company.

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Jo December 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

So glad you have reported on life outside Disney! We usually do Disney & universal on our annual holiday. Universal appeals to me, hubby & our 12 year old (IOA over US) as we love coasters (but Busch is definately the BEST for coasters), but there is not a lot to do at IOA for our 3 year old.

Couple of other things that are really annoying about Universal though:
1. Child swap – you have to queue up with your child. Not good when you are there at Easter and there is a 60 min queue for Ripit Rockit… They need to adopt the Disney method; show your child and get the pass then you can go and do something else with your small child while the rest of the party queues up.
2. Ripping you off for Express Plus passes at busy times of the year (as there is no FastPass)

US is looking a bit tired now; no doubt it will liven up when the new Transformers & Potter stuff opens.

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Lena January 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm

At first when I saw you had several posts about Universal I was concerned I would regret our decision to not go to Universal at this time, but after reading this first entry I can see we made the right decision. Our daughter is only 4 so she would be pretty much left with nothing to do. So instead we will focus our attentions on WDW for the time being and then when she’s older maybe try Universal.

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