Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Rides at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Yeah!  I've finally gotten to my last Disney/Universal post!  Here's what I've written already:
Today I finish off with Universal's Islands of Adventures.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: I'll start with the best one.  I have never seen a ride this good.  The waiting line first gathers outside the castle, and then when you get to the lockers, you put your stuff away and get back in line.  Once you get to the herbology green house, the line moves pretty fast.

In a way, the ride starts when you walk through the castle.  You see big statues.  Dumbledore greets you.  Harry Potter and friends try to get you out of a boring lecture.  There are moving pictures that look so real (like in the movies)--I still can't figure out how they got it to look so real.

And before you know it, you're getting on the ride, which uses the most advanced up-to-date robotics and projection systems.  It really feels like you're flying on a broomstick.  I can't say much without giving it all away, but I will say that once, I snuck a peek at the car next to me, and it looked like something out of a cartoon how it jerked up and down and around.  The funny thing is that it doesn't feel like that while you're riding.

I rode it twice.

Dragon Challenge: Here, after walking past Hagrid's house and through a long castle area, you get to the part where you have to choose: the blue Hungarian Horntail or the red Chinese Fireball.  I chose the Horntail track.  This "hanging" roller coaster goes fast and flings you every which way.

Chances are the lines are going to be short, because this is the same exact two roller coasters as the Dueling Dragons, which opened in 1999.  And the two roller coasters used to be launched at the same time, giving the illusion of almost running into each other.  But last year when people complained about getting hit with shoes and what-have-you, they now run the coasters separately--so not quite so exciting.

Flight of the Hippogriff: This is a cute roller coaster for kids.  But it's a really short ride, and the line moves very slowly.  There are only something like 16 seats, and there's only one car that goes around.  My wife and youngest kid rode this while the rest of us hit the Dragon Challenge.  We actually hit it twice, and could have gone a third or fourth time if we wanted to, but it was hot and we tried not to get too sick.

The Hippogriff ride line had lots of non-shady spots, so my wife and kid got pretty hot, too.  Once on the ride, Hagrid says something, and then you go off riding on the hippogriff.  My kid fake-screamed the whole way, as the ride will shake your voice with humorous results.

After the ride, a park worker followed my wife and had compassion on her.  He was able to get her three free butterbeers.  (I told you a couple of days ago that my wife has these magical powers.  Wait!  I don't remember when I decided to marry her.  Uh oh!)  So, worker picking up hot momma equals free butterbeer--and let me tell you, that stuff is great.  It tastes a lot like what I would expect it to taste like.  It didn't have much of a buzz, though.  (Unless you count the killer brain freezes.)

Note that the Hippogriff ride is the exact same ride as the Flying Unicorn, which opened in 2000, only redecorated.

While we're in Harry Potter land, I already said before that they did the most awesome job putting it all together.  I think it's supposed to be Hogsmead, but it has a few shops you would expect to see in Diagon Ally.  You can buy replica wands.  My youngest one wanted Luna Lovegood's wand.  Don't know why, but she got one.  You can also get robes, gadgets, and even that monster's book.  (I had a fun time freaking out one of the stranger kids in the store.  "Ow!  It bit my finger off!  Dag nab it!")

The candy store is in there, but we actually ran out of time to visit.  There's also the Three Broomsticks.  An outside stage showcases the Triwizard Spirit Rally and the Frog Choir.  The singing for the latter was pretty awesome with tight harmonies and frogs.  I tried to determine if they were really singing or lip syncing.  I was leaning toward "singing" until they got to the last song when I noticed the alto's mouth moving to the soprano part and vice versa.  I suppose it's possible that they switched parts, but can they also switch timbre?  It was still fun to watch and listen.

Jurassic Park River Adventure: this is another fun ride with a long line.  My biggest complaint is that the John Williams score to Jurassic Park is probably his most boring work.  In the octagonal room, they played over and over a three-minute loop of dee-da-dee da da dee-da-dee da da dee-da-ditty da da da da!  I realized that there's really only four notes that repeat themselves over and over.  Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!

We got out of that room and about twenty minutes later, we got on the ride.  First you up and ride on a calm river.  You go through the big Jurassic Park gate, and as it opens, they play those same four notes!!  I screamed "Noooo!!!!!" (translates into "DO NOT WANT!") and my kids laughed at me.

I won't tell you what comes next, but I'll give you a hint.  You get wet!

Jurassic Park Discovery Center: This cute little pseudo-museum lets you explore dinosaurs.  You can control a big dinosaur, study a wall full of dino-bones, watch a baby dinosaur hatch, etc.  Plus they have air conditioning.  The back door has windows made out of amber.  Cute!

The only thing about the place is that there isn't one speck of anything accurate in there.  Who cares?

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride: At first we thought this was a people-mover type ride like in Tomorrowland.  You walk into what looks like one of those Sneetches Star machines.  Then you stand in a slow moving line that goes up to where the train lives.  It's a cute setup.

The ride itself is short as it goes through the "Seuss alphabet."  It's fun and cute, but nearly falls into the category of "long wait for short ride."  If they were open to suggestions, I would suggest turning this ride into an actual people-mover ride, where instead of having a couple of detached trains, you have one continuous set of cabins that just go around and around without stopping.  This would allow more people to get on the ride quickly, and could even increase its popularity.

My wife and youngest kid tried out Caro-Seuss-el, Pteranodon Flyers, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  They enjoyed each ride.  The first has almost immediate loading.  The second took forever to get on, and the last is just like the Dumbo ride at Disney, only with squirting water.

The Cat In the Hat: I said they couldn't do this ride without me.  It goes through the pages of the book by that name.  It's really cute, but I only have one complaint.  It spins around rather quickly a couple of times too many.  And I'm still not sure why.  I hate rides that just spin!  But the cuteness of the ride mostly overcame my one complaint.

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls:  This is a really fun water ride.  I'll go ahead and tell you know that you will get wet.  If the water doesn't splash in your car, they'll deliberately splash it in your laps, and there is NO safe seat.  You will get SOAKED.  It is so funny how soaked you get!

The line was terrible, though.  It moves slow and one part on the inside gets a little claustrophobic.  And get this.  When we got up to the ride itself, the one worker screamed at everyone!  "Get in the logs!!  Hurry!!  Hurry!!  You!!  Bags go right there!!  Hurry!!  Hurry!!"  Wowsers!  I appreciate trying to move things along, but I don't know about yelling at my kids like that.

Wait, I think I remember that worker from A Christmas Story.  "Hurry kid!  Santa doesn't have all day!"

But once we got past her, the ride was a lot of fun.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster: My son rode this four times while we rode Dudley Do-Right.  I really wanted to ride with him, but I was too sick from the heat.  The ride shoots you out of this tunnel at high speeds (using that alternating magnet technology), and you fling everywhere.  Maybe next time...

The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man: The ride itself was great.  The line was terrible, as I explained in my earlier post.  After an hour standing in the hot sun, we finally got inside the building and things started getting interesting as you first walk through a newsroom (which has a lot of gray props--did they just not get around to painting them?).  You learn the story of the bad guys taking over the city and how Jameson wants to send you out to help get the scoop.

This is a 3D ride.  No, actually it's 4D (see yesterday's post to see what I mean).  It was hilarious and fun, but not as good as the Harry Potter ride.

Lastly, I wanted to say something about all the simulation rides at Universal (there were tons of these there) and Star Tours at Disney.  Did you ever notice what all these rides have in common?  They all involve YOU saving the day.  "You did it.  Hurray!"  But then you go back and say, "What exactly was it that I did?"  You save ET's planet, or the city of New York, or the Simpsons' something, or the Rebel Spy, or whatever it was you saved in the Harry Potter ride.  I guess we're all suckers for praise.

It was a fun trip.  We'll have to go back in another eight years and catch the other things that we missed.

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