Hi Everyone. Yes, finally been to a Florida park. I'm hoping to have something more detailed for the opening of Food + Wine, but today we had Universal Studios Florida.
We arrived just before 10, and stayed Until about 4:30 (we're in an offsite hotel and with a 14 day multi park pass we decided to take the early shuttle home, as our disney days will have to be long since we'll only have 2 of them).
We walked through the Beverly Hills area past the (closed early) ET/Kids area, this didn't open until later on. Instinctively my Girlfriend tried not to walk on the road the theming was that immersive... I thought the facades had the "right amount of fakeness" in colour, enough so you knew exactly what it was supposed to be, but not pretending to be the real thing either. We headed over to Springfield USA area
Kodos + Kang was our first, and a walk on. I like the mini game element (but it could have been "easier" I thought, but the bumour was top notch, I was laughing all the way. We were suprised It did close later in the day, and we didn't see it reopen.
Simpsons' ride was only a short wait, 10 mins or so. Again, I thought this was a lot of laughs and a great overall experience... however someone in the control booth needs to adjust the contrast/brightness as it was a little hard to see. Despite this, this was our (My, and my Fiancee) favourite ride of the day.
MIB was operating at half capacity - the left track as you enter was not accepting guests due to "Circumstances beyond our control" but trains were still being dispatched (probably due to the other car being a story/target element). Getting into the first Preshow was basically a walk on, but inside at the ride queue itself about 10-15 minute wait. The Themeing was overwelming (in a good way). I've never really liked the whole blaster ride concept, but I did really like this.
From here we headed to Diagon Alley. I will say as someone who has spent a fair bit of time in London the facades are pretty much spot on. Kings Cross Station keeps enough of its essence such that you recognise it as Kings Cross, even though it doesn't look like that... Same with the Tube station (leister square I think). Diagon Alley was also amazingly emmersive, and the shops themselves are a great experience on their own.
Gringots was a lot of fun, even if my eyes try to reject 3d (I need to actually work to make the effect work). The idea of combining story-driven dark ride with coaster elements is interesting. If someone was after a "Coaster experience" I wouldn't recommend it as its not-coaster-enough with the stop start, but as a Grown up dark ride", it hits the mark. About a 20 min wait.
I do have a problem with the locker placement in Gringots... Of course the park wants us to buy souvineer all you can drink cups (and given I want to stay hydrated in weather that feels like its punching me in the gut I want to have a drink with me. Making me go through the load area, up, around, almost to the exit to get to locker space was a chore... surely there's a better alternative.
Figuring the Minion queue was never going to get shorter (it was 40 minutes on entry, and 50 minutes at this point, which must have been middayish) we decided to get in line and started a virtual queue for Fallon. I've only seen minions (not dispicable me) so I was unfamiliar with the main guy, but the ride was accessable enough that even someone with no knowledge of the minions would love it.
Still waiting for Fallon, we did Rip-Ride-Rocket. If anyone's wondering, I selected Born to be Wild, my Girlfriend didn't' have enough time to select... I think they should put a full list in the queue area so you can actually think about it. As for the ride itself, although it was fun that has to be one of the (if not the) roughest coasters I've ever experienced... If that ride used over-the-shoulder restraints the police would be accusing me of beating my fiancee its that much of a shaker.
By this time our return for Fallon opened. My Virtual queue pass was never scanned (I even double checked afterwards I entered the Virtual queue entrance). The upstairs waiting lounge is an interesting concept, but I don't think it works, it just leaves multiple loads getting in each other's way.
Now full disclosure, Fallon does not play in the UK, so my only experience of the tonight show is seeing the odd clip. However, The pre-show lounge does a great job of introducing Fallon with the greatest hits reel running, so much so you get a sense of who the involved characters are even if you haven't seen the show. The 3D effects in this ride worked best for me out of all of the glasses-wearing rides, so much so I felt I could grab one of the shot T-shirts. That exit needs to be rethought. Yes, going through the giftshop is the "normal" way, but when guests don't understand that "Exit" does not mean "Place to stand around like an idiot" it creates a massive bottleneck.
We took this opportunity to grab a bite back in Springfield. My Fiancee had the Krusty Burger which I am assured was good. I had the ribwich... Great Idea flawed execution. My Rib pieces would not stay on the bun, and the sauce it stewed in soaked through so much that even when I turned it over it was still falling to bits... but it did taste great. I think the burger would have worked better if the rib meat pieces were replaced with what we in the UK call a "King Rib" (Pork patty with a rib-like pattern) in the same sauce.
As I said we wanted to pace ourselves with universal as we've got plenty of time to come back (whereas Disney days will have to be big long days). so we headed to the ET ride, which was basically again a walk on. This has to be the finest dark ride I've ever encountered. Yes, it shows its age at some points, and could use a nice overhaul, but this was one of the finest rides I've ever experienced.
Compared to Universal, UK parks do not compare. UK parks even at their best tend to be just a bunch of rides, sometimes with a cheap IP overlay (looking at you Blackpool)... Merlin Groups "Dungeons'" experiences are certainly in a similar theming class, but they're short-ish themed experiences rather than a whole theme park. Even Merlin experiences fill their gift shops with the same mass produced trash you can find anywhere (Often at their other properties with a slightly different label), whereas most of not all of the souvineers I spotted at Universal did seem like things I couldn't find anywhere else.
So, overall, blown away. Tomorrow is MK, then Epcot, and back to the Universal parks for Friday, Monday, and maybe the weekend (a little worried about crowds and need for a rest day). We'll do a "show" focused day on one of those.Tweet
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