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Thread: Universal Orlando Resort (Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios)

  1. #1
    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Default Universal Orlando Resort (Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios)

    We just came back from there, and it was our first time. While Mrs. Mohandas did 5 days of training at Kennedy Space Center, I was with the kids for 12 hours a day for 3 days at these twin parks. I really had no idea what to expect, so I'm leaving this here for other people who might go:

    Two parks - Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. They are so close to each other that it makes sense to get a Park-to-Park pass. And the connector for them is the Hogwarts Express, which in and of itself is a park ride.

    Main difference between the two parks - Islands of Adventure has more outdoor rides, and a couple indoor ones. Universal Studios has more indoor stuff/attractions. This means that "Islands" is more vulnerable to bad weather, which really body slammed us on our first day when we had torrential downpours.

    4D Rides - One thing that going to Disney and Busch Gardens parks did not prepare me for were the "4D rides" that Universal has and that the others do not. I don't think words can do justice to how immersive and fun these rides are. You are jolted and spun around in various scenes that make you feel like you are flying or falling, or being attacked, etc. The rides that have this feature are "Spiderman", "Kong's Reign", "Harry Potters Forbidden Journey", "Escape from Gringotts", "ET", "Simpson's Ride", "Mummy's Revenge", and "Transformers". The first three are at "Islands", and the second five are at "Studios". All of them are great - especially Spiderman and Forbidden Journey, which seemed to be longer rides and have shorter lines when we were there.

    Potter Stuff - If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will probably be pretty blown away by the parks. Each park has a Harry Potter sub-park - in the case of "Islands", it's Hogsmeade. And in "Studios", it's Diagon Alley. We had heard that the first year or so, these two parks were completely overrun with visitors and hard to get into. When we were there this week, they were crowded but you could do basically anything you wanted to do or visit, except maybe for seeing the "wand choosing ceremony" at Olivander's, which I think is at Hogsmeade.

    British people - this was another cool surprise. There were a lot more British people at Universal than any of the other parks we have visited, like Disney. And it especially seemed to be the case when we were in the Potter areas. At one point, we were on the Hogwarts Express, sitting across from a family of four, and the conductor came by our compartment and said, "welcome - next stop, London!", and this British kid sitting across from us turns to her dad and says sarcastically , "I guess we're going home early..." My son and I looked at each other and tried not to laugh.

    Parking - if you are not staying at an on-site hotel, you will end up spending about $20 a day to park in a giant parking lot next to the parks. However, this lot is MUCH closer to the park entrance than Disney Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom. And you are out of the sun the whole time you are walking to the entrance. It is VERY orderly getting in and out of the parkign lot, too. No problems whatsoever.

    Security - it's more intrusive than Disney, which just inspects your bag. Here, it is exactly like the airport - you have to take everything off of you, belt, phone, coins, keys, purse/bag, and put it on a conveyor belt to be scanned.

    Roller coasters - their coasters are really good (Hulk, Dragon Challenge, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit), but they have the most insane security I've ever seen in a park. You have to put EVERYTHING in a complimentary electronic locker that is right next to the ride. Then, you walk through a scanner like they have in the airport. And even your credit cards are going to set off the scanner, at which point they will wand you - seriously. I got sent out of line twice, and had to leave my kids behind temporarily while I got sent back to the lockers to put stuff in there like my car keys, and some other thing that I can't even remember. But they let you back in a special path to rejoin your group, so it's a hassle, but not a huge one.

    Complimentary lockers - they are free for up to 90 minutes. And very advanced. However, they have done some screwy stuff by making them work differently at some of the rides. For example, most ride lockers use fingerprint scanners to let you access your locker. But the Hulk coaster requires you to use your park pass barcode to get back in. I got locked out and need security assistance because I was in a hurry and put all my stuff in there except my wallet. And finally, there is another locker (I forget which) which makes you create your own six-digit passcode to get back in your locker. They should just standardize on the fingerprint. Also, whatever you do, DO NOT over stuff your locker and accidentally jam something like a strap in the door, because I saw numerous times that even a locker attendant could not get the locker open without having to spend precious time hunting down a special tool that would open the jammed locker.

    The worst attractions - "Eighth Voyage of Sinbad" is billed as a live-stunt show. Relentlessly corny jokes and an incoherent story line. I literally fell asleep sitting up three times during it. I asked my kids what they thought, and they said it was okay, so I held my tongue - but it is awful. Only go there as a last resort. "Poseidon's Fury" LOOKS like it's going to be a great attraction. But it was the biggest tease - laboriously going from chamber to chamber while an Ellen deGeneres impersonator pretends to be a hapless assistant to a big-time archaeologist. Never again. These are the main attractions in the "Lost World" section of the park, which really should get lost. You know things are bad when the talking fountain is the best part of the area.

    Another disappointing attraction - "Jurassic River Adventure" - looks very impressive from the outside and has a Splash-Mountain type finale, but trust me, nothing is happening on the rest of the ride.

    Stuff we didn't do - "Doom Tower" - which basically drops you from a ridiculous height - looks pretty cool but my daughter didn't want to do it. Also, did not do the "Bilge Rat Rapids" or "Rip Saw Falls" because we had no desire to spend the next 2 hours walking around soaking wet.

    Wait times - Like Bush Gardens Tampa, the park has updated displays telling you various wait times for rides. They turned out to be pretty accurate (the signs and the wait times), so we were never stuck in a line for more than about 50 minutes and that was rare. One ride was really good and had a very short wait time because it is kind of isolated - Universal Studios' Mummy's Revenge. This is an indoor coaster with a lot of special effects. It had 10-15 minute waits when we were there - we got on it at will basically. There is also an app for wait times that you can download to your phone, but I couldn't do it because I forgot my iTunes log in.

    Food - about as expensive as Disney. The cheapest place to eat seemed to be Krusty Burgers - which is an eatery in Studios. Lots of different stuff to eat and plenty of tables to sit at, which is very different from the rest of the parks. Also, was VERY surprised at the one-off restaurant in Diagon Alley - Leaky Cauldron. They serve traditional British food, and I finally got to try Toad in the Hole! My kids liked it, too, but had fish and chips for themselves.

    Butter Beer - this is going to single-handedly bring back the popularity of cream soda. People were waiting in LONG lines for it, and my kids loved it.

    Express Pass - forgot to mention this. Kind of like with Disney and Busch Gardens, there is an Express Pass that gets you into a special shorter line. However, you have to pay for it. And it's complicated because there are two versions - a one-time only per ride pass and an unlimited one. It would have cost me an extra $240 for all three of us to add this feature to our tickets, and for our purposes, it was not worth it. We managed to get on all the rides we wanted to, and some multiple times, while we were there. But it is clearly very popular and very effective because people who had them were whizzing right by long lines on some rides.
    fgg, msdeb and ShimmeringGlow like this.

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    Elite Member faithanne's Avatar
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    I had to laugh at British People. Was that one of the rides?
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faithanne View Post
    I had to laugh at British People. Was that one of the rides?
    I wish!
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    Elite Member louiswinthorpe111's Avatar
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    Thank you. Never been to Universal, but considering it the next time because I hear it's better for older kids.
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    Elite Member Chalet's Avatar
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    How much does it cost for a family of four?

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalet View Post
    How much does it cost for a family of four?
    With no discounts, a 3-day park-to-park pass for 4 would cost about $1,000.

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    Thanks Mo. I'm going in December for two days. Dedicating one full day to all things Potter!
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gas_chick View Post
    Thanks Mo. I'm going in December for two days. Dedicating one full day to all things Potter!
    There is so much there that you might need two days just to make sure you see everything. Both areas are filled with TONS of little shops in addition to the rides and performers. The other thing that we thought was funny was the wands. There are two kinds - a replica type wand that you would only put on display, and an interactive wand that use use in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. You can go up to various shops and wave the wand at the windows and different surprising things happen. I think the wands were about $47 (according to my son). Also they seemed to have a specific wand for every main or secondary Potter character. There was even a Mundungus wand.
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    Elite Member dolem's Avatar
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    We just got back from a trip to LA where we went to both Universal Studios and Disneyland. I would say Universal Studios is geared towards an older audience, at least the LA one is. There was plenty for my daughter to do (5 and very petite). Hogsmeade was really awesome and my son (7) had a blast. We didn't do the Forbidden Journey ride as you had to be taller and the line was 90-120 minutes long the entire day. The wands are so cool, my kids, 7 & 5 were in heaven using them and doing "real" magic.

    At Universal Studios Hollywood you can get a "front of the line pass" for extra $$ on top of your regular ticket. This would have been awesome to have, but with 4 ppl already we weren't prepared to spend more. Basically you get to just go to the front of the line on every ride. Great, if you spend the $$. However, it's quite demoralizing if you don't. You can watch the same people pass you in line multiple times because they spent more while you are standing around like a serf waiting in line. Also, with that you're straight up front of the line. They didn't seem to alternate between the standard line and front of the line. So, 30 people can just walk in and make you wait extra time. (I think Disney has a better system with their fast passes - though I don't know if it's different in Florida as I've never been there.)

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    Elite Member Waterslide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faithanne View Post
    I had to laugh at British People. Was that one of the rides?
    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    I wish!
    I've been to Disney once and I did actually encounter many British people, but I've never been to Universal so I can't say about that. I know that's a strange thing to say, but it's true. Where I live, most non-American tourists (and by tourists I mean people who come here to just to sight-see, not necessarily visiting family or forced here on business) I meet are French or German, though I never really thought about it until just now. Most of the British folk that I come into contact with live here for some mysterious reason.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolem View Post
    We just got back from a trip to LA where we went to both Universal Studios and Disneyland. I would say Universal Studios is geared towards an older audience, at least the LA one is. There was plenty for my daughter to do (5 and very petite). Hogsmeade was really awesome and my son (7) had a blast. We didn't do the Forbidden Journey ride as you had to be taller and the line was 90-120 minutes long the entire day. The wands are so cool, my kids, 7 & 5 were in heaven using them and doing "real" magic.

    At Universal Studios Hollywood you can get a "front of the line pass" for extra $$ on top of your regular ticket. This would have been awesome to have, but with 4 ppl already we weren't prepared to spend more. Basically you get to just go to the front of the line on every ride. Great, if you spend the $$. However, it's quite demoralizing if you don't. You can watch the same people pass you in line multiple times because they spent more while you are standing around like a serf waiting in line. Also, with that you're straight up front of the line. They didn't seem to alternate between the standard line and front of the line. So, 30 people can just walk in and make you wait extra time. (I think Disney has a better system with their fast passes - though I don't know if it's different in Florida as I've never been there.)
    Disney Florida has Fast Passes. However, the system is much more democratic since EVERYONE gets 3 fast passes and you can't buy your way to the front of the line.

    There were a couple times where I watched Express Pass people get way ahead of us and thought, "Damnit". But because the lines were typically moving pretty well for us, it wasn't a huge deal to me. Busch Gardens Tampa does the extra-fee express passes, too. Last time I was there, hardly anyone was using them.

  12. #12
    Elite Member Chalet's Avatar
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    I went to Disneyland in Florida maybe a year or two after it opened. The Monorail was the biggest deal. I never got to go to Epcot and whatever else they have there now. My favorite thing was going to Universal Studios in Calif. and going on the Jaws movie boat where Bruce the shark jumps out of the water ready to eat you. I loved that so much. Actually, I'm sure I'm 30 years behind the Disney times. Good memories though.




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