Josh Goes to Universal – Jurassic Park

by josh on December 10, 2012

Continuing from Part 1, we’ll continue our walk around the Islands of Adventure, this time hitting Jurassic Park.  Thanks for not sending me any hate mail over the first Universal post.  Even if you’re one of those Disney Diehards that have absolutely no interest in giving anyone other than the Walt Disney Conglomerate your credit card dollars, I think it’s fun to check out what else is out there.  It’s fun for me anyway.  You can always request a refund from Duffy@easywdw.com.  But I would just remind you that the bear is not as friendly in real life as he is at his Meet and Greet.

Jurassic Park River Adventure was arguably Islands of Adventure’s best-themed attraction prior to That Which Will Only Be Referred To As The Game Changer.

I’ll try to bring Tom along to take some on-ride pictures one of these days.  But this one is basically Splash Mountain with Dinosaurs and a Bigger, Faster Drop.  You may remember me mentioning that Universal is basically Disney World with faster, more technologically advanced rides and cast members that won’t say hi to you.

Jurassic Park is also home to Pteranodon Flyers, one of the industry’s most bizarre attractions.  You can see on the sign that riding requires a child between 36″ and 56″ tall.  If you don’t have one – you can’t ride.

Blame it on a capacity worse than Astro Orbiter over at Magic Kingdom.  You’ll often see Pteranodon with longer posted waits than any other attraction at Islands of Adventure or its sister Park, Universal Studios.

But should you have a child in that height range, it may be a particularly fun experience to share.

I stood at the entrance for about 30 seconds reading the sign and taking a few pictures of other people’s kids.  I saw at least a dozen adults get turned away from the ride because it’s just not that common to see an attraction where your height disqualifies adults from riding an attraction.  Because of the long waits, you probably want to head here shortly after visiting the Wizarding World in the morning or at the end of the night.  The posted wait at the ride is almost always 45+ minutes, even if it’s actually shorter.  This helps the poor cast member manning the front entrance to gently turn people away, if they even want to get in line after seeing the wait time.

I’ve honestly never been on.  I ordinarily creep around the Park popping up unexpectedly and asking, “So can I borrow your kid for a minute?”  For whatever reason, no one has obliged.

Similar to The Boneyard at Animal Kingdom’s DinoLand USA, Universal has Camp Jurassic.

I don’t think anyone does playground gazebos as well as Universal.

It also provides a nice vantage point for overly edited pictures.

But the kids can run around on rope bridges and whatnot, potentially exhausting some energy that they really have no use for.

And slides.  I was impressed with the theming.  You can see the extent of the rockwork and the dense vegetation juxtaposed with the exposed show building for Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park is also home to one of the two best quick service locations at Islands of Adventure.

Which serves some of the same food as The Three Broomsticks over at Wizarding World.  During the “off-season,” it’s ordinarily just open for lunch (and can be closed all day), so you may want to hit it in the afternoon and save Three Broomsticks for dinner.

As previously mentioned, when Universal is “dead,” it’s dead.  Even on an “uncrowded” day at Magic Kingdom, you’re going to run into a ton of people at Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s.

There are a few people, but certainly not a lot.

Here’s the menu:












It should look similar to Cosmic Ray’s and Flame Tree Barbecue.

I opted for the $13.99 Chicken and Ribs Combo.  That’s the $7.99 souvenir mug with 89 cent refills on the right.  Another nice thing about Universal is that with my Premier Pass, I save 15% on food.  Disney doesn’t offer a similar discount at Walt Disney World.  Also with the Premier Pass, I get complimentary valet or preferred parking, a “free” ticket to Halloween Horror Nights, free CityWalk club access, free Express Pass entrance on participating attractions after 4pm, and a bunch of other stuff as explained here.  If you’re considering visiting, you may want one person in your party to carry a Preferred or Premier Pass to save on parking, merchandise, food, etc.  You’ll want to run the numbers – just be aware that it’s out there.

Anyway, the chicken was extremely dry.  I’m not sure if that’s the norm or not.  I was surprised with how good the corn.  Roasted to perfection and they also supply a cube of butter along with salt and pepper.

The Ribs were better than Cosmic Ray’s and as good as Flame Tree Barbecue.  You can watch them being prepared.

The problem I experienced was that the line sort of works like a buffet.  You tell the first cast member what you want to order and then proceed to the single register to pay.  With people that speak four words of English and have no idea what they want to order in front of you, you may end up standing there with food that’s only getting colder for a while as you wait to pay.

And as an added bonus, you can watch people getting splashed on Jurassic Park from the comfort of your table.

Or outside.  Be careful that you don’t walk through the splash zone with food like I almost did though.  Your chicken is liable to get a lot more moist.

Also in Jurassic Park, you’ll find Pizza Predattoria:





And Burger Digs:






Unlike Walt Disney World, which really does have a pretty decent selection of fast food, Universal is more or less more of the same at most places.

And their toppings bar isn’t quite as elaborate as Cosmic Ray’s or Pecos Bill, but you can load up on as much lettuce, pickles, onions, and tomatoes as you like.

And there’s the whole dining with dinosaurs thing.

Or outside, you have a gorgeous view of the rest of the Islands.

Downstairs, you can visit the Discovery Center.

This area reminded me a lot of the post-shows for Spaceship Earth and Journey into Imagination.

Here, you select an egg and move it over to the contraption to be “analyzed.”

You then turn the nobs to perform tests.  At the end of your test, you’ll be shown a chart and it’s your job to figure out what dinosaur is inside the egg.  It might be kind of fun for the younger set.

Over at DNA Sequencing, you may recognize the character from the movies.

Here, you’ll select a few traits about yourself, stick your face to the brain scan, scan your hand for DNA…

And potentially get a picture yourself as the ugliest dinosaur to (allegedly) roam the earth.

And a little trivia game for exactly three people.

But there’s definitely a little history lesson here, which is what reminded me a little of Epcot.

Along with “interactivity” that Disney seems to be so obsessed about.

I occasionally see people professing that the Universal theme parks aren’t as detailed or themed as well as Disney’s.

I’d disagree with that for the most part.  This walkway in the back of Jurassic Park, which nearly no one walks, could just as easily be at Animal Kingdom.

I’d take this over the concrete jungles that are Old Fantasyland or Tomorrowland.

Another example of Animal Kingdom inside Islands of Adventure.

But I liked the Discovery Center – it’s sort of like a miniature museum exhibit that would be a nice way to spend some time in the afternoon on a hot day.

Don’t worry about the merchandise front.  Universal offers a ton of stuff themed to the Islands and attractions.  Here’s a taste:












And you can purchase ride photos.  As far as I know, Universal doesn’t offer anything like PhotoPass.

I’m surprised Universal doesn’t have more options at their kiosks.  They all seem to offer the same churros, popcorn, and ice cream bars.

Another option a few steps away.

This time with Hot Dogs at least.

And a fruit stand.

I guess these are all a little different – but you’ll basically find the same three stands on each of the other Islands.

Another for the sake of thoroughness.

More pretzels.

Last one I promise.


Hopefully they’ll mix things up a little bit in the future.

Rock climbing rounds out your options here in Jurassic Park.

For $5.

Sorry if I’m boring you, but here’s the last dining option:




The Chicken Wings sound intriguing.

So that’s Jurassic Park.  Next, we’ll head over to The Wizarding World

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Betty December 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Thank you – thank you – thank you so much for your Universal posts!!

Chris December 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm

We will not be there until next December, but I will let you know and you can take my kids on that ride.

Monica December 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I’m delighted with this Universal Field Trip thing. We’re arriving end of January, staying at Royal Pacific, and since thre seems much less info about Universal than Disney these posts are extraordinarily helpful – right down to the ribs photos and Tshirt pix! Please, please, please include some merch pix for Hogwarts!

nolarookie December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I’m really enjoying your posts on Universal. I hope I’ll be able to find them again when I’m ready to go. My oldest son loses his sh*! on Big Thunder Mountain, so these Universal parks are out for us for the time being; but I’m liking these posts nonetheless. Thank you!

RebeccaMcK December 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Well done. My kid is kind of short – so if you don’t ride that Flyers ride in the next few years and my kiddo is still short enough you can borrow her for that ride, lol. She’s 7 and is just now 48″ so it might be a while before she reaches 56″. (48″ and I still can’t talk her into ever riding ToT, EE, or even the Matterhorn at DLand. She says, “When I’m 17.”) I didn’t get over to the Jurassic Park area there, so thanks for that and all the food posts. Any idea if the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are Uncrustables or can they be just peanut butter if you ask them to leave off the jelly? My fave ride at IOA (that I did, because I guess I missed a lot in my half day there) is Forbidden Journey (WWoHP’s castle ride), and my fave at US is The Simpsons….just hilarious, that whole motion sim ride.

Jen December 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I’m happy to see your coverage of Universal! I love your website and your honesty.
Universal does offer a photo program. It is called Photo Connect, it is $40 and includes all ride photos (except FJ and RRR?),all the photos you take with the characters, the photos from the photographers at the front of the park, and any other places you can find a photographer roaming. It is good for one year for annual pass holders, or for 5 days if you have regular tickets. We only had 4 day passes, but the CM was nice enough to upgrade ours to a year for free. They also will call a photographer to meet you if you want a special picture someplace. There is also a self service photo op in the Jurassic Park area, you just scan your card and pose. There is a car and a T-Rex in the background, those were our favorite pictures!
We have been to both Disney and Universal with our special needs child, and I have to say the employees at Universal have always treated my daughter and our family well. I can’t say the same at Disney. I love both parks, and will visit each again, so I’m happy to see you giving Universal some love.

Jen December 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

@RebeccaMcK-The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are not Uncrustables, they make them as you order them. The one my daughter ate had 3 slices of bread, the peanut butter and the jelly were seperate. I would imagine they could leave off the jelly without a problem.

Al December 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Did they get rid of the audio-animatronic triceratops that you could visit? That was pretty cool.

Ferg December 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

One other thing in the Discovery Center is that every 15 or 20 minutes, a dinosaur egg hatches in the hatchery and the scientists get all excited and show you the baby. My kids LOVED that and were quite amazed! ;)

Mike December 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm

My wife and I went here on vacation earlier this year, did both these two parks and WDW, we did the Universal parks because our tickets were tied to our stay at WDW Resort *grumble* but the first day we went to the Islands of Adventure and boy o boy it was crowded, early January, the next day we did the other park and it was deader than dead until about 1pm then it got a little bit more crowded, but from what I gather everyone went over to the IoA park “early” stuff, but still I kind of enjoyed the other park more than IoA, the Wizarding World was crowded as all hell and you could hardly walk across the street.

Other complaints I had about IoA, since there were hour long waits on many rides the queues absolutely were annoying as all hell seeing the “pre-show” videos/sounds many times over. And yeah Dr Doom was a stinkfest considering how long it took to get in!

Being as we got a 2 park pass, yeah it wasn’t any cheaper than a Disney pass… but I’m with you on the location of everything, it reminded me a lot of Disneyland where you have two parks a stroll across from each other, and Downtown Disney a stroll away from them where the Monorail was basically a ride more-so than a useful form of transportation.

Kevin Crossman December 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm

That Pteranadon Flyers ride was quite fun. But, boy oh boy does it load slowly

Figaro December 11, 2012 at 4:05 am

Shame the regular water is more expensive than the fizzy sugary water.

New crane amongst the chimneys?

arms crossed December 11, 2012 at 5:35 am

Nice to see the Universal write-up. I dont think our kids are old enough yet. You wrote about “cast members that won’t say hi to you.” Does Universal have cast members just like Disney?

James N December 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

I really like Universal and think it beats Disney in some respects and Disney beats Universal in others. One thing I and my family definitely noticed was Disney’s attention to detail when it comes to keeping things “up.” Disney gets a bad rap for broken attractions and this and that but throughout the Jurrasic Park section we saw a bunch of dinosaurs with less-than complete skin, shall we say. My dinosaur had a big gaping hole in his neck between the two pieces of skin. It didn’t bother me that much but I feel like it was something Disney would have fixed. You can actually see it above where Josh wrote “But I like the Discovery Center…”

Shannon December 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

When I worked for Universal my training group was “required” to spend a day in the parks with our meal covered and free express passes. We spent an hour in Camp Jurassic and had a blast. Definitely better than any Disney play areas, and I say that with nothing but love for Disney.

Britkate December 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Interesting that people will only consider it if they like the big coasters, we didnt do any of them and there was still enough to fill all day. I think the attractions at some people think of as fillers ie poseidon and the seuss stuff we really enjoyed, and of course, we were in mythos for a while.

Gina December 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Thank you so much for covering Universal! We went last year and stayed at the Hard Rock last year and loved it. Staying on site you get a front of the line pass which is your room key. We walked on almost all the rides even if there was a 70 minute wait for spiderman. And the best part is you can use it as many times as you like, not just once like fast pass. Also when I was there if you had an AAA card you received 10% off all food and merchandise.

shalom December 13, 2012 at 6:43 am

Discovery Center looks cool, as do the play areas, and it sounds like there’s a fair number of them. With views, no less!

I used to wonder why WDW didn’t have more play areas, but reading some of the complaints about the Dumbo play area, maybe it’s because the adults want to be doing the rides and don’t want the kids distracted. Heh.

My kids would also love the rock climbing thing.

Does Universal have the live performers that WDW does? I’ve never heard of any, but I know SeaWorld has a comedy troupe, dance troupe and musicians wandering around that you don’t hear much about.

RA December 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

A few semi-random comments. Camp Jurassic is larger than the Boneyard and is better designed IMO. It is, however, hotter than the hinges of Hades in the summer. Staff at Universal used to be called Team Members (I guess because Cast Members was taken), but don’t know if that is still true. It used to be – pre HP- that TMs at Pteranodon Flyers would let you ride without a child if you were there during the first 30 minutes or so that the park was open (i.e., before the line built up). Worth a try if you’re not going to FJ right away. And with the baby dinosaur thing, the “scientists” ask the kids for naming suggestions. My son’s name was chosen a few years ago and he got a certificate with the name, date, and signature of a “scientist.” He was thrilled. Not sure if they still do this, either, so I wouldn’t get your child’s hopes up but keep it in mind. And agreed, the Discovery Center is a great place to spend some time on a hot day. We were there last August and IOA was packed, but this place was not. I think a lot of people don’t know what’s in there.

Doodlebug December 13, 2012 at 9:15 pm

The word “receive” is spelled wrong on the rock climbing sign.

Pembo December 23, 2012 at 5:54 am

Best cast members ever at Pterandon Flyers. I was trying to get a pic of my kids right before they “took off”. The two cast members working the ride both quick posed and photobombed my shot. When my kids came around to the end, one of the same cm photobombed again. I have great pics!!! :)

Dawn January 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Hey Josh! We’re heading to Universal the first week of February (we never want to leave our Disney bubble when we’re there, so we’re just doing Universal) for a short trip…perfect timing for your informative insights…thanks

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