Our Trip to Universal Studios

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DJ / 5 Years Ago

Since our last major vacation (last year to Disney World) went so well, we decided to do something similar this year. We spent a couple days at Universal Studios this past November. Last year we took our vacation during the week of Thanksgiving and the places we went were packed. Turns out that Thanksgiving week is a very popular time. This year I did research on when the best time to go is, and it turns out that early November is much better - and it really was! Crowds were much smaller and lines were short.

See all the pictures from our Universal trip!
We drove down on a Monday and checked into our hotel that afternoon - the Hard Rock Hotel. It was overpriced, of course, with no microwave or mini fridge and the gym cost extra, but we stayed there because it was a 5 minute walk from the park and it let us use the express lines all day every day. The pool area was absolutely fantastic, including multiple hot tubs and even a water slide! After we took a look around and got settled in our room, we walked over to the City Walk just outside the park, a place full of restaurants, stores, and entertainment. We stopped for dinner at a place called Pastamoré and had some pizza. Afterwards we caught a movie, Free Birds, which we rather liked, being a funny animated movie and all. After the movie, we went back to Pastamoré and had some dessert. Finally, we topped the night off with a round of mini golf at Hollywood Drive-In Golf. There were two courses, Sci-Fi and Haunted, and we chose the Sci-Fi course. It was the best mini golf course we had played on in quite some time. The ambiance was fantastic. After the round of mini golf, we headed back to the hotel to get some rest for the long day of theme park mania on the morrow.

We were able to get up at a reasonable time and get to the gate only a smidge later than we wanted. Because we stayed at Hard Rock, we were able to get into Islands of Adventure an hour early, so we decided to hit that park on day 1. Since that park is where Harry Potter land is, we figured we should hit that zone first and get it out of the way since it would likely be way more packed later in the day (and it was!). In this zone, DJ rode a couple rides by himself and we rode Flight of the Hippogriff together. We also caught a short wand demonstration show thing at Ollivanders Wand Shop. The highlight of the zone, though, was the glass of Butterbeer (non-alcoholic) that we shared. That stuff was AMAZING! It was kinda like a cream soda slushy. We were impressed with the sights and feel of the area - it was like being in the actual places in the Harry Potter movies. They did a very good job.

After that we went into the Jurassic Park zone. We sat in an area there and finished our Butterbeer and discovered a super friendly squirrel that did not seem afraid of us in the least. We had no bread for him, though, so eventually he left for greener pastures. Our first stop was Camp Jurassic, an interactive area with lots of cool dinosaur stuff. We learned some stuff, created mashups of us and dinosaurs, and saw a recreation of the lobby area of the movie Jurassic Park. We then rode the Jurassic Park River Adventure and got our first taste of being wet. We bought a parka for Kelley, so she didn't too wet all day, but DJ was macho and thus soaked.

Toon Lagoon was the next zone, and since we were already wet, we figured we'd all the water rides out of the way at once. Next up was Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, a toboggan style ride that was lots of fun and probably our favorite in this park. Once again, DJ got a lot more wet than Kelley, thanks to her poncho. After that it was time for Popeye & Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges, a river ride where the boat spins and some people get under waterfalls and some don't. We escaped the worst of the drenching on this ride, but we still got even more wet.

Next up was some lunch at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous where there were a lot of birds inside the building (it had a very high ceiling with lots of circus type décor above your head). We fed the birds some crumbs from our meals. Since rides right after eating is usually a bad idea, we thought that some shows would be the perfect next stop. We went tot he Lost Continent zone and took in The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show. It was kinda cheesy, but still worth the time. After that, we checked out Poseidon's Fury, a guided tour type show.

Next, we headed back to the Dr. Seuss zone, Seuss Landing and checked out a variety of smaller attractions, like a carousel and a Cat in the Hat track ride. Next we did the drop-zone style ride, Dr. Dooms Fear Fall. Sometime around here DJ went off and rode the Incredible Hulk and the Spiderman rides by himself. We capped the day day in the park with another ride down the Ripsaw Falls.

We had dinner in the City Walk - DJ ate at the BK Wopper Bar and Kelley had Moes. After dinner we decided to take advantage of the awesome pool area at the hotel. Kelley spent the whole hour or so we were down there in the hot tub, while DJ got out a few times to hit the waterfall and swim around in the pool a bit while watching Kung Fu Panda 2 on the poolside projector. After that, we were bushed and called it night.

We got to sleep in an extra hour the next morning since we could not get into the main park an hour early like we did with Islands of Adventure. We got a super quick start to the day, beginning with Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Next, DJ rode the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, then we both tackled Shrek 4-D. The Twister show was next, followed by the Disaster stunt show. Than DJ rode the Mummy ride by himself. We then hit the Men in Black: Alien Attack ride - all of this was done before lunch! We hit lunch in the Simpson's zone in a building that resembled Krusty Burger.

Once again, after lunch we took in some shows, the first being the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue and the second being Animal Actors on Location. The Beetlejuice show was a song and dance this with classic monsters - pretty interesting and mildly humorous. The animal one was awesome with lots of tricks and cuteness. We then hit some random kiddie stuff then checked out the Horror Make Up Show, which was educational and really entertaining - best show in the park, certainly. At some point around here, DJ rode the Simpsons Ride on his own, we both rode E.T. and took in the Terminator 2 show. We also went on Men in Black several more times - maybe 4-5 times in all.

We hung out a bit to catch the parade, which was super short and disappointing, then we rode our last ride of the day, the Transformers ride, which was awesome and the best ride in the park. We capped the time in the park with Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories. It was decent - kinda underwhelming. We then left the park and hit the NBA City Restaurant for dinner. After that, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get ready for going back home the next day.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Ride Type:Roller coaster/Simulator HybridDJKelley
Ride Desc:Half roller coaster through indoor environments and half simulator cavorting in front of 3D screens. The entire ride was well done and the broom riding parts were especially exhilarating. A-
Express Line:No Wait:15 min Times Ridden:2

Flight of the Hippogriff
Ride Type:Roller coasterDJKelley
Ride Desc:Tame little junior roller coaster without a ton of scenery or thrills. It was also super short. C-C
Express Line:Yes Wait:5 min Times Ridden:1

Ollivander's Wand Shop
Ride Type:Live showDJKelley
Ride Desc:Simple show where people packed in a room, "Ollivander" picked out a kid to shop for a wand, and various special effects happened - nothing special, though. CD
Express Line:No Wait:20 min Times Ridden:1

Dragon Challenge
Ride Type:Dual suspended roller coastersDJKelley
Ride Desc:One was down for maintenance, but the one I rode was like the Raptor at Cedar Point but cut in half in height/length and maybe 75% of the speed. Maybe if they wouold have put the two together they would have been as good as teh Raptor. G forces were still brutal, though. C-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Camp Jurassic
Ride Type:Interactive play areaDJKelley
Ride Desc:IInteractive area with cool things to see and do, like hunt for fossils and X-ray dinosaur eggs. BB
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

Jurassic Park River Adventure
Ride Type:River boat rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:Similar to Snake River Falls, but the top part is enclosed and full of Jurassic Park theming. Dinosaurs jump out at you and various things like that. Getting wet is pretty much guaranteed. B+A
Express Line:Yes Wait:5 min Times Ridden:1

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
Ride Type:Log flume water rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:You sit in a log and ride a river track through lots of theming all leading to epic big drop finale. This ride was surprisingly awesome and is guaranteed to get you wet. AA+
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:2

Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges
Ride Type:White water raft rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:Circular spinning raft ride through rapids and waters, similar to Thunder Canyon at Cedar Point, but with Popeye theming. Chances of soaking are around 50%, but partial wetness is virtually guaranteed. B+A
Express Line:Yes Wait:5 min Times Ridden:1

Me Ship, The Olive
Ride Type:Interactive play areaDJKelley
Ride Desc:Multilevel ship with stairs and slides and ropes and buckets and what not. D+D
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

The Cat in the Hat
Ride Type:Track rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:Slow moving track ride following the plot of the classic Cat in the Hat book. BC
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

If I Ran the Zoo
Ride Type:Interactive play areaDJKelley
Ride Desc:Small hedge maze area with various places to find crazy Seuss animals CC
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Ride Type:Midway spinning rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:Slow spinning in circles ride where you controlled the vertical aspect of the ride to try and avoid (or get hit by) water squirting from fish that ring the ring. BB
Express Line:Yes Wait:5 min Times Ridden:1

The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show
Ride Type:Live action stunt showDJKelley
Ride Desc:Sindbad plus sidekick rescue princess, deal with monsters and defeat a sorceress or witch or something. Lots of cheesy jokes, some fireworks, fire, and water explosions. Not awesome, but worth watching. B-B
Express Line:Yes Wait:25 min Times Ridden:1

Poseidon's Fury
Ride Type:Guided tour/live action stunt showDJKelley
Ride Desc:A stunt show that took place in multiple rooms that we were led through inside of temple. It told the story of battles between the Olympus gods. There was not enough space for everyone to stand in a good view, so sometimes we couldn't really see what was going on. C+C+
Express Line:Yes Wait:25 min Times Ridden:1

Dr. Doom's Fear Fall
Ride Type:Drop towerDJKelley
Ride Desc:Basically a half size version of Power Tower that only drops. Drop rides are almost always good anyway, though. C+B+
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Ride Type:Accelerated roller coasterDJKelley
Ride Desc:This one surprised me - it starts out up the hill like normal, then halfway up it shot out like a rocket. Lots of banks and inversions kept this one interesting. Not too rough a ride for what it did. B+-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Ride Type:SimulatorDJKelley
Ride Desc:You sat in a car with 3D glasses and faced a 3D screen where lots of things happened - the car moved around to match the onscreen action. Pretty interesting and similar to multiple other rides in the parks. B+-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
Ride Type:SimulatorDJKelley
Ride Desc:I'm pretty sure this replaced the Jetsons ride that I loved from back in the day. You sat on a couch and put on a seat belt and at first nothing happened, but the couched raised up to several feet in the air and moved around to match the 3D on the screen. A-B-
Express Line:Yes Wait:20 min Times Ridden:1

Shrek 4D
Ride Type:4D theatre showDJKelley
Ride Desc:The story picks up after Shrek 1 and the 4th D comes from water sprayed at you and little bumps coming out of the seat and floor and air sprayed on your neck to match what was happening on the screen B+B
Express Line:Yes Wait:15 min Times Ridden:1

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
Ride Type:Roller coasterDJKelley
Ride Desc:This coaster had the unique thing of letting you pick your own personal soundtrack from multiple genres that blasted from speakers right by your head. The first hill was also straight up - that was a new experience. The rest of it was so-so, though. I chose Bring Me to Life by Evanescense by the way. B-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Twister... Ride it Out
Ride Type:Special effects showDJKelley
Ride Desc:You stand on a platform and watch as a set resembling the movie Twister gets messed up by a tornado. CD+
Express Line:Yes Wait:20 min Times Ridden:1

Revenge of the Mummy
Ride Type:Indoor roller coasterDJKelley
Ride Desc:Dark scary indoor creepy roller coaster that changed directions and kept you disoriented. B+-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Ride Type:Interactive showDJKelley
Ride Desc:A fake 3D Christopher Walken starred as a film director and had people in the crowd play small roles in a special effects filled movie. It was entertaining and cute. B+A-
Express Line:Yes Wait:15 min Times Ridden:1

Men in Black Alien Attack
Ride Type:Interactive track rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:A track ride through the street with lots of aliens to shoot - we had so much fun with this one that we rode it at least 5 times. A-A+
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:5

Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue
Ride Type:Music showDJKelley
Ride Desc:Beetlejuice and a host of classic monsters (updated for modern times) danced and sang to various classic songs. BB-
Express Line:Yes Wait:20 min Times Ridden:1

The Simpsons Ride
Ride Type:SimulatorDJKelley
Ride Desc:Similar to Spiderman except that instead of CGI it is animated - you get into a Simpsons looking car and are driving through Springfield chasing Homer on a zany adventure. B-
Express Line:Yes Wait:25 min Times Ridden:1

Animal Actors on Location
Ride Type:Live action stunt showDJKelley
Ride Desc:Various animals (dogs, cats, birds, a pig, and more) performed lots of tricks and the trainers gave us some insight on how they train them to do these things. AA+
Express Line:Yes Wait:20 min Times Ridden:1

Universal Orlando's Horror Makeup Show
Ride Type:Interactive showDJKelley
Ride Desc:An entertainment/educational show about horror movies and how some stunts are done with makeup - some audience members got to participate. It was really funny and awesome. A+A+
Express Line:Yes Wait:15 min Times Ridden:1

E.T. Adventure
Ride Type:Flying track rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:A track ride where you are on a bike and you fly over the terrain mimicking E.T.'s climax. One of the better track rides - an oldie but goodie. Also, the only ride left from when DJ and his mom went back in the early 90s. BC+
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster
Ride Type:Roller coasterDJKelley
Ride Desc:Kiddie coaster and was super short and forgettable. I really don't remember anything except for Woody's super annoying laugh. C-C
Express Line:Yes Wait:5 min Times Ridden:1

Curious George Goes to Town
Ride Type:Interactive water play areaDJKelley
Ride Desc:Play area with lots of opportunities to get wet and get other people wet. We navigated it without getting too wet, save for a time when one of those giant buckets filled and tipped over when we were in the structure underneath it - that was a surprise! Awesome area for 10-12 year olds, though. BB
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time
Ride Type:Live action stunt show/3D movieDJKelley
Ride Desc:Combination live action stunt show with a 3D movie, this was identical to the show in California we saw several years ago. I love Terminator 2, so it was pretty cool, but it is really dated - that movie is over 20 years old now. B+C+
Express Line:Yes Wait:15 min Times Ridden:1

Kang and Kodos Twirl and Hurl
Ride Type:Midway rideDJKelley
Ride Desc:Spinning midway ride like One Fish, Two Fish in the other park, but based on the Simpsons - it was pretty funny. BA-
Express Line:Yes Wait:10 min Times Ridden:1

Universal's Superstar Parade
Ride Type:ParadeDJKelley
Ride Desc:Some cool floats, especially Despicable Me, but the whole thing was super short - like 10 minutes or something. B-D+
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

Transformers: The Ride
Ride Type:SimulatorDJKelley
Ride Desc:Just like Spiderman, Despicable Me, and the Simpsons Ride, this was a simulator. It stayed more in the 2D plane, though, so it imparted less motion sickness effects. It was really cool and the best ride in the park. AA
Express Line:Yes Wait:20 min Times Ridden:2

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories
Ride Type:Live special effects showDJKelley
Ride Desc:Movie clips projected onto serveral waterfalls with music, laser lights, and fireworks. Morgan Freeman narrated the show that was basically about the history of Universal movies. Kinda a let down to be honest. B-A
Express Line:N/A Wait:0 min Times Ridden:1

(1.8 / 5 over 26 votes)


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