We’ve spent some time over at Islands of Adventure:
This time, we’ll take a look at Universal’s other theme park, which I’m pretty sure is called Universal Studios Florida.
The only thing this website really has going for it is relevance. That relevance is going to be tested as these pictures were taken back in December. As I’ve mentioned before, Universal is not particularly camera friendly. You have to stow your belongings on a number of rides and others have strict “no photography” rules or warnings. At Disney World, you can pretty well take whatever you want on any attraction and if you drop your camera on Expedition Everest, they don’t really care. Anyway, my point is that I don’t usually take a bag with me and thus, Tom stays home a lot of the time.
The system to enter the theme park is similar to Disney’s. Or at least the “old” Disney. You’ll arrive at turnstiles where you hand your ticket over to a person who scans it. You then place your finger on a fingerprinting device. Tinfoil hats optional.
Also similar to Disney, Universal usually opens the gates 15 minutes prior to the official open. Also similar to Disney (are you seeing a pattern here?), people like to get in lines that have already formed. I arrived around 7:15am to take pictures of CityWalk and then strolled over here around 8:30am. There was one line in front of one turnstile with about 35 people in it. I walked up to the turnstile next to it that didn’t have anyone in line. When I looked back a few minutes later, there were 20 people behind me, while nobody was in front of the other two turnstiles to my left. All of the turnstiles will open in the morning. Please don’t get in a long line when there are empty turnstiles.
For the most part, touring Universal is a lot easier than any of the Disney Parks. There are not a lot of shows to plan around. Islands of Adventure has one. Here at Universal Florida, there are a couple more. There are no character priorities. You can almost do a circle around the Park without having to do any dashing around. No FASTPASS nonsense. No 180+10 dining reservations. There are basically two crowd levels. It’s either completely dead or completely bananas.
This is 10:42am down one of the main drags. Have you ever seen Sunset Boulevard look like this over an hour and a half after open? On the flip side, when it’s busy, it’s really busy. And Universal doesn’t have a lot of fillers like Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Journey into Imagination, the Riverboat, etc. So over President’s Day Weekend, you’d be looking at a 60+ minute wait at just about every attraction. Express Pass, particularly if you’re staying at a Universal resort, would mitigate those waits a lot.
The incoming hordes.
Anyway, I mention all of this underneath the Despicable Me attraction because it’s your top priority in the morning. It’s about a minute inside the turnstiles and its lousy capacity virtually guarantees the longest waits you’ll find in the afternoon. Despicable Me is similar to Star Tours. It uses the exact same technology as Jimmy Neutron if you rode the previous incarnation. The ride is extremely cute and shouldn’t be missed. Afterwards, you can dance and take your picture with a Minion. Unlike Star Tours, there is a row in front that doesn’t move if motion is a problem. But it’s so close to the screen that I could see it being jarring because of that.
My touring advice would be to make two circles around Universal. In the morning, visit Despicable Me, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black, The Simpsons, ET, Woody Woodpecker Coaster (if desired) and Terminator 2 3D. Then you can take it easier grabbing lunch and visiting the lengthier shows and longer attractions. I’ll go over which attractions are longer as we progress around the Park.
I’m not sure if this is always what happens, but the only three attractions open before 9am were Despicable Me, Shrek 4D, and Rip Ride Rockit. That’s okay because Despicable Me will take the 15 minutes and then you’ll want to be headed to Rockit.
Shrek 4D is similar to Captain EO, It’s A Bug’s Life, or Honey I Shrunk the Audience. It takes place in a large theater and is lengthy with a film that runs nearly 15 minutes, on top of a 10 minute preshow. I’d put it off until the late afternoon or evening if you can. You don’t want to do it early in the morning. It’s well done and worth doing.
I’d head to Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit after Despicable Me. This roller coaster is known for being tall and breaking down a lot.
I think the bark is worse than the bite. Once you get past the initial ascent, it’s not particularly crazy. It’s more intense than anything at Disney, but not as cray cray as Hulk or Dragon Challenge in my opinion.
Rockit has a single rider line that usually moves quickly if you’re not arriving early in the morning.
Archival footage of the Transformers box that Universal is building in the middle of their theme park.
There had been rumblings that the Monsters Cafe would be refurbished into a Transformers eatery, but as far as I know that isn’t true.
It’s fun inside – themed as well as any Disney quick service.
There are several themes throughout. Here’s the menu:
The Lasagna. I’ll discuss Universal quick service food more extensively in another post, but it’s pretty lousy for the most part.
Twister is the next attraction you’ll come across. That’s the loop for Rockit to the left.
Twister is another lengthy attraction that is best kept for the afternoon or evening. You’ll want to skip it in the morning.
As previously mentioned, Universal can get busy. You do not want to be in this line.
For Twister, you’ll walk through a few pre-show rooms.
Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt appear on screen discussing production of the movie. It was probably not as exciting or dangerous as they describe.
I guess you’re supposed to be in a tornado destroyed house or something.
But the “real” attraction occurs at the end, where you watch a tornado play out in front of you. And yes, a flying cow is involved. With limited time at Universal, I’d characterize Twister as “skippable,” but it’s certainly worth doing if you have the time for it.
And they have a lot of cow stuff for sale.
It’s pretty remarkable how there’s nobody here. This is December 17th, so we’re just about a week away from Christmas. Christmas would be totes bananas with Forbidden Journey hitting 200+ minute waits and Mummy and Rockit hitting 100+.
I may be in the minority, but I consider Revenge of the Mummy to be overrated.
It’s part Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, part Haunted Mansion. I would characterize it as less intense as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Visit after Despicable Me and Rockit. With a healthy capacity, wait times are usually shorter than those two. On a day like today, you could ride all day without much of a wait. The longest wait I saw was 10 minutes.
And they have a psychic.
I’d be happy to make stuff up about your life for half price.
Amusingly(?), I find the New York section to be so well themed that I don’t know what’s actually a storefront.
While the quick service options are lacking, the in-park restaurants are inexpensive and offer better food.
Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports7/finn.jpg. There aren’t a lot of places in a Disney theme park where you can get a table service meal for less than $10. And nearly everything is less than $15. And then on top of that, they have happy hour with $4 singles/$6 doubles and 20 ounce domestic draft beers for $3.50 or 20 oz. imports for $4.50.
On the downside, Finnegan’s is often slammed and it can be difficult to score a drink, particularly in the evening and during special events.
A little further down the road, you’ll find Lombard’s Seafood Grille.
Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports7/lombards.jpg. As far as I know, Lombard’s is not as good as Finnegan’s, generally speaking. But it’s similarly inexpensive.
Unlike Finnegan’s, it offers some pleasant outdoor seating along the water.
Next door to Lombard’s is Richter’s Burger Co.
You’d have a pretty hard time convincing me it’s anything less than terrible. Menu:
Considering you can get a Crab Cake Sandwich or Cobb Salad next door for a couple of dollars more, I don’t see the benefit of eating Universal quick service, unless you’re seriously pressed for time.
My salad was pedestrian at best. It doesn’t much resemble the picture – five pieces of bland baked chicken on iceberg lettuce with a few pieces of cucumber and tomato.
But the theming is fun – Richter’s….like the scale.
DISASTER! is the attraction in the Lombard’s area.
You do not want to be in this queue.
I wouldn’t characterize Disaster as being a particularly scary attraction – it has its moments at the end, but you’re obviously never in any danger.
You’ll initially be herded into the first room.
Volunteers, some of them volunteered by others, are chosen to play parts in the movie.
In the first theater, you’ll be greeted by award winning director Frank Kincaid.
He meets alongside his assistant, a live actor that will stay with you throughout the attraction.
Despite being over five years old already, the technology seemed to be as good as the new-ish Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Hollywood Studios.
In the next room, the volunteers shoot scenes for Frank’s newest movie, “Mutha Nature:”
Don’t be too worried if you’re inadvertently volunteered for a role. Each is only 15 seconds, if that. The people in the image immediately above are directed to act scared as foam bricks are poured from overhead.
Then it’s time to board the subway.
The idea here is that the rest of the audience are extras in the film.
It’s pretty similar to Catastrophe Canyon with a large vehicle, fire, and a major accident.
Disaster is going to take at least 25 minutes, making it another ideal candidate for the late morning, afternoon, or evening. Despite the 20 minute posted wait, I walked right into the next show.
Also in this area is Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue.
Shows are usually scheduled three to four times a day with the first show usually beginning around 12:30pm.
Seating is on uncomfortable metal bleachers.
I thought the show was pretty terrible.
They were still making Paris Hilton jokes.
Most of the commentary would go right over the kids’ heads.
And the dancing may be considered risque by parents that weren’t sure what to expect. Anyway, it wasn’t for me – not relevant enough to be funny and not edgy enough to be entertaining.
Starbucks! You will never work inside of a theme park!
Okay, maybe you will. Salted Caramel Mocha….
And if coffee isn’t your thing, there’s a Ben & Jerry’s attached:
There’s always Edy’s….
In Part 2 we’ll visit the other eateries in the area before moving up closer to Men in Black.