First time report - Universal Studios Florida

Edited: August 29, 2017, 4:53 PM

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.

Replies (12)

Edited: August 30, 2017, 7:25 AM

"I think they should put a full list in the queue area so you can actually think about it."

There are actually hundreds of songs that can be played on RRR. The videos playing in the queue do show most of the 30 readily accessible songs (through the genre menus), but for those wanting to access the "hidden" tracks, you need to access an online list to pull up the track number. Since Universal has started making guests completely empty their pockets, that means you need to know your track number before you even walk into the queue.

I haven't done Fallow yet, but from what I've read is that the exit is similar to Minions where characters occasionally meet and greet prior to the gift shop, which could explain why you saw guests milling around and not leaving the exit area.

Sounds like the park was pretty empty for you. Hopefully the crowds remain manageable for your trip as you move into the holiday weekend.

August 30, 2017, 7:05 AM

Thanks for sharing this, Chad. I look forward to more of your Florida park impressions.

One important point you glossed over. The trip report starts with your girlfriend, and ends with your fiancée! Did something major go down yesterday?

August 30, 2017, 3:20 PM

No, sorry, I'm still not used to saying it. We got engaged in January.

August 30, 2017, 8:07 PM

Motley Crue Kickstart My Heart is almost perfectly synced with the Rockin Roller Coaster and is the single best song you can play on that attraction. Even if you don't like hard rock. Trust me.

Edited: August 31, 2017, 8:56 AM

Thanks for posting.... I enjoyed this...

We also hit the Fallon attraction this year. I do agree the upstairs gets a bit messy… The problem is simple – once you get the colored ticket, you are supposed to wait downstairs for your color to be selected… Then go updaters…

Everyone gets their colored ticket and goes directly upstairs… They never tell you to stay downstairs when they hand out the colored tickets…

So now you have twice the planned amount of people upstairs when 1/2 of them should be downstairs. This is all explained on the ticket - which no one reads…

They should tell folks this when handing out these tickets. But the actual queue is great and the ride itself is enjoyable….

August 31, 2017, 3:23 PM

They did tell us to stay down until we see our colour at ticket handout, but not at the stairs where we were told anyone can head up.

September 1, 2017, 7:19 AM

Yes Chad that is the point, all just go upstairs and clog the interactive queue....

Universal could have a person at the stair's and check the colors only allowing the called Color to enter the upstairs area.... Therefore the queue will function as designed...

September 1, 2017, 7:55 AM

Glad you enjoyed your visit and took the time to share this post. Enjoy the rest of your stay and let us know what you think of IOA!

September 1, 2017, 9:00 AM

We're gunna delay IoA for now. Hopefully do some of it sunday, and complete on Monday. Too many blisters upon blisters.

September 4, 2017, 8:16 PM

Just an addendum from the Sunday - When we went to see the shows.

First show we hit up was Terminator 2... and it broke. The sound cut out not long after the bike appears. We got a single use fastpass for our trouble, but the experience didn't seem to open again that day from what I could see. However, we did return on the Monday, where the show did run but without the bike (Meaning a part of the show where the T800 showed up didn't make much sense).

Its clear the show has good "bones", but is tired and needs to be replaced. The IP is stale (there have been what, 2 lackluster sequels and a forgettable spin off TV series since Terminator 2), and clearly the show's mechanics need to be overhauled.

Next up was the Horror make up show. This show should be a must-do for any first time visitor. This show itself is part of thetrue soul of the Studios experience (going behind the magic), and remains a brilliantly entertaining experience... Even if I' convinced the "volunteer" is a plant (I'm sorry, nobody is that good at being an unwilling volunteer)

We also caught the Animal Actors show. Although my Fiancee loved it, I wasn't particularly thrilled at most of the antics, except the bird flights, which I found amazing.

Also rounding out the day was shrek 4d, Transformers, and Mummy Returns (Where we used the free fastpass). Whatever the old-style 4D theatres (Shrek, T2, Philharmagic, etc) is using, my eyes don't work with it, but the new style glasses in Transformers, Jimmy Fallon, Minions, etc, works most of the time. I dunno if the new style is compatable with the old, but the sooner the old are swapped out the better.

We'd never seen Transformers, but the KUKA Arm with 3D film effects stood out to us to be the best ride in the park - either of them. Although Universal seems to rely on this track + 3D trick a lot, its a damn good trick - clearly they follow the philosophy that when you're on to a good thing stick to it.

The Mummy we didn't think was worth the wait... maybe its just us in that there was too much in the way of fire effects (we escaped an explosion last year) but we just didn't enjoy it at all.

Finally we took the Hogwarts express to IoA. Having been to the real Kings Cross many times, I can say the Architecture is about right. However, the station needs to be updated - I'm sure Americans wont notice but the announcements are out of date - You can't catch an "East Coast" train to anywhere anymore (You can get a "Virgin Trains East Coast" train), to maximise the realisim, why not just relay the real Kings Cross Departure board on a 5 hour delay?

On to the train itself (and again, I've ridden the "real" train that does the route over the large viaduct featured - the glenfinnian viaduct), its a shame its not a "real" steam train, but the effect of seeing people "walk past" is great.

We didn't have long enough in IoA to actually experience anything until the next day... that will be the topic of the next thread which I'll write about tomorrow.

September 5, 2017, 5:32 AM

Glad you enjoyed the shows. Horror Makeup is great and we see it each time we go. I still enjoy Terminator even though it's a bit dated. The Mummy is one of our favorites, but this is the great thing about theme parks -- everyone has different tastes

To clarify, the only ride using a Kuka arm system is Forbidden Journey in Islands of Adventure. Transformers uses a motion-platform system under the car to give it some degrees of freedom for tilt, pitch, yaw.

Can't wait to hear your report from IOA and what you think of Forbidden Journey. It's one of the most unique ride experiences in any park IMHO. Keep us updated!

September 7, 2017, 7:52 AM

Be happy you got to see T2. Universal just announced that it is closing forever on October 8th. A new attraction will be taking over the space in 2019.

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