So back to Florida – the wonderful sunshine state! My boyfriend was enterprising enough to find cheap tickets online. Well, not exactly “cheap” – lets say slightly less expensive than usual. So to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure we went!
My beloved BF chose to start the day with the Water Rides. If I didn’t appreciate getting splashed in the “Jurassic Park River Adventure” ride, then I certainly was displeased to get soaked on the “Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls” ride. I also almost snapped my legs on this ride – there are strict instructions saying “Do Not Bend your Knees when you get in the boat”. I thought “yeah right – they don’t know how bendy my legs are”. Well apparently Leg Bendyness is not relevant here. I got stuck half-in and half-out of the boat and was thinking “OMG, they will have to cut me out”. Lucky I wiggled free, and on second attempt I kept my legs straight and lowered myself down with my arms (It’s like getting into the bath without bending your knees!). Turns out they were right – straight legs are the order of the day.
Finally, the “Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges” ride was nothing short of ridiculous.
It entails sitting in a round boat which goes along a course of rapids. I expected to get a bit splashed. I did not expect waves to come over the side like a rowing boat in the North Sea. We were drenched from waist to toe. I was pretty pissed off by this point – it was a cool day so my trousers stayed wet. My smug BF had taken waterproof coat and waterproof trousers with him so he was fine. I was a grumpy skater boy at this point due to the heavy wet fabric making my trousers fall down. Far better to go on a hot day when you don’t mind being cooled down by water!
On the plus side, the photo of us on the Jurassic Park ride was one of the best – my BF was beaming with happiness, hands in the air, wooping with delight. I had my dark sunglasses on, arms folded like a bouncer, scowling – but with my hair standing straight up in the manner of Marge Simpson due to the pace of the ride. What can I say? I look great in pictures! 😉
I was disappointed that I couldn’t go on the nearby “Pteranodon Flyers” ride which soared through the air, but you had to have a kid with you to ride this. It really annoys me when Theme Parks provide only extreme rides for adults. This ride would have been ideal for me since I have a preference of not wanting to bring up my lunch. 😦
So what did I make of Harry Potter Land? I was extremely sceptical beforehand – I love the Harry Potter Books, but I think building a theme park would ruin the magic of the books. I also won’t watch the films as they are ruined by special effects in my (apparently unpopular) opinion. So Harry Potter Land was not in my top 10 things to do before I die. But it was part of Universal Islands of Adventure, so we went.
It was certainly well done – Hogwarts also looked very realistic (as realistic as an imaginary castle can) and Hogsmead looked as an English village might in the olden days, complete with snow-laden roofs. I had a Butterbeer and it was surprisingly nice – but basically tasted like cream soda which I used to drink occasionally as a kid. I found it a bit sickly sweet by the end so I’m glad we shared one instead of having one each.
Olivander’s Wand Shop was confusing – is it a gift shop or a ride/attraction? I’m still not sure. We queued for 15 minutes to go into Olivander’s shop. Once inside, “Olivander” selected one lucky person and “magically” helped them select the right wand for them. It was all over in less than 5 minutes, and then you exit via the gift shop. I was amused to see wands for sale for about $30. For a short stick. In a gift box. The best thing about Olivander’s shop was a large bearded man doing queue security outside – he was really friendly and funny. And I’m conscious that if I want to see a nice bearded man that can probably be arranged without paying $100.
Hogwarts castle contained “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”- a 3D rollercoaster style ride – where they combine a rollercoaster and 3D graphics so you have the illusion of movement. The technique is very effective and the ride is impressive – you really feel like you’re flying! But unfortunately you also feel really bad motion-sickness! This ride has lots of stuff to see while you’re in the queue (including my fave Dawn French!). My BF commented that that was the best queue he had seen – and he’s seen a lot! 🙂 The “Flight of the Hippogriff” rollercoaster was really enjoyable – exciting but not too extreme.
We tried several other rides, including “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman”, which was pretty cool – another 3D rollercoaster which was so effective and you really feel you’re flying / falling. We enjoyed it so much we went on it again!
My favourite ride was the hilarious “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”. This is meant for kids, and you’re meant to steer your little car up and down to avoid being splashed with squirts of water. Despite being intended for kids, we couldn’t do it and got wet! But we had real fun in the process!
So far so good – apart from some skepticism, I managed to get what I could from the place, and had SOME fun. Now onto the real grumbling… Service. We got some pizza at a nearby canteen-style restaurant and were disappointed to be left standing in the slowest moving queue ever, while not all tills were open. (Which was in stark comparison to the excellent service we got at Disney).
While walking down the street in Universal we saw an Information stand. They helpfully answered the questions we had, but then started to ask us “where are you from?” “are you over 30?” etc and we realised they were going into the “Timeshare Talk”. We have had this before in Las Vegas and on International Drive – people approach you and try to get you to come to a presentation about timeshares. You expect this in the outside world, but I was shocked to get this within the park – after paying so much for tickets I would expect an environment safe from touts or salesmen.
Overall, I had an OK day, but my thoughts on theme parks persist (ie. – overpriced and not my cup of tea). I think it’s a shame J.K.Rowling agreed to the Harry Potter Theme Park, as in my view it kills imagination. But hey, the money is rolling in! And my BF had a good day, so we can tick that park off!
- for the best deals, try to buy tickets in advance – we got a good deal from a UK-based company offering a discounted price.
- take waterproofs, go on a hot day, or avoid the more extreme water rides!
- consider sharing a Butterbeer rather than getting one each – they are pretty sickly sweet by the time you’re done, and it ain’t cheap!
- Keep your Legs Straight! (on Dudley Do Right ride)
- allow at least a day for each park. Some friends said you could do both Universal parks in 1 day, but we found that to be impossible, unless you (a) get up at the crack of dawn, (b) are very lucky with the shortest queue times, or (c) are on steroids.
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