Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 8 – Islands of Adventure

While the main reason for this trip was to visit Walt Disney World, there were a bunch of other of other reasons we made this trip. Discovery Cove was one of those reasons and another was that I was very excited to check out all of the new stuff at Universal. I’ve seen tons of people on the Disney message boards who can’t stand the Universal Parks. I never visited back when it was just the one original Studios park, but maybe it was so bad back then that it caused lots of hatred. I don’t understand how people who like good theme parks could dislike Universal, especially Islands of Adventure.

We arrived at the park right after opening and made our way right to Hogsmeade. Part of the reason was to beat the crowds to Harry Potter and the other reason was to make sure that we 101_0390got to see the parts of the park that we missed on our last trip due to the monsoon and thunderstorm while we were there.

They captured the look and feel of the Harry Potter movies perfectly in this part of the park. The only disappointment is that they had to cram this into a tiny corner of the park, but that is being rectified while also boosting business for Universal. Since the Harry Potter ride boosted ticket sales for Islands of Adventure, but not necessarily Universal Studios they made the decision to put a Potter themed ride in the Studios as well. There will also be a Hogwart’s Express train travelling between the school and platform 9 3/4. This just might challenge the monorail as the coolest interpark transportation in Florida.

The wait time for Harry Potter was just 10 minutes, but I decided to try the single rider line. It’s fast, but you miss all of the cool theming in the queue as well as appearances by Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, and Ron. I felt a little motion sick after the ride which I don’t remember from the last trip. That wasn’t surprising since this ride does such a good job of immersing you in the action. Amazing ride.

We backtracked a little so that I could ride both sides of the Dragon Challenge Dueling Dragons coaster. Jenne and Cass checked out the shops in the area while I was riding. Since they were still browsing, I decided to add another first to my list: using the bathroom in Hogsmeade! This is a cool experience because there’s an audio track of Moaning Myrtle that plays in the bathroom. It doesn’t play constantly so it would catch people off guard. Make sure you’ve got a TacoCorp Pee Bib handy!

Next up was Jurassic Park. We skipped the Discovery Center since we spent so much time there on our last trip to escape the rain. The only ride that we did this time through the park was 101_0394the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Awesomely themed ride with some great dinosaur animatronics. It’s sad to see Jaws go, but this is kind of a flume version of Jaws so it makes up for it a little bit. After I rode, Jenne and Cass spent some time in the splash zone of the ride cooling off.

Right now, I feel this section is lacking a little bit. I miss the Triceratops Encounter. The animatronics were so complicated that I’m sure that problems with them is what led to the elimination of the attraction. There are rumors of a new Jurassic Park ride coming to the park in the next few years. Universal isn’t messing around. They aren’t on even ground yet, but they are quickly closing the gap between them and Disney.

The next section of the park was Toon Lagoon. We were flying through the park because everything was walk-on at this point. No one really goes to Universal on Monday (the Magic Kingdom is the usually the most popular park by far on Monday) and lots of the people getting there early were still in Hogsmeade. I walked right onto Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which is a hilarious log flume ride. I was already soaked from the River Adventure, so this was no big deal. River Adventure gets your top wet and this ride focuses on sending big waves of water into your log to soak your bottom to complete the job. I love all of the corny jokes on this ride; they perfectly capture the feel of the cartoon.

101_0400 I decided to skip Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges this time around since it was just going to be me riding. I was already soaked and I feel this kind of ride is best when you’re on there with people that you know and laughing at each other getting soaked.

This was the first time that both Jenne and Cass had seen any of Toon Lagoon so we took some time to walk around the area and check it out. Cass tried walking Marmaduke, but that didn’t go so well. We didn’t do any pictures with the word and thought balloons, maybe next time.

Next stop: Marvel Super Hero Island. Disney has got to loathe the deal that Marvel signed with Universal giving them exclusive rights to their characters east of the Mississippi. While you can look at it as Universal advertising for Disney’s characters, you also have to acknowledge that Universal’s Spider-Man ride is cooler than the majority of the rides currently in the Magic Kingdom. It will be interesting to see what Disney does when they start making Marvel attractions. It looks like the first one will be overseas.

The highlight of this section of the park is definitely The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Even though this ride is almost 15 years old, the technology still seems cutting edge and it’s one of the best rides to be found in Florida. Cassidy didn’t want anything to do with this ride on our last trip which caused Jenne to miss it as well. Cass was a little hesitant at first, but once she saw all of the cartoons playing in the queue, she was ready to go. What I didn’t know was that this ride was refurbished in 2012 to add digital projectors. You can definitely notice the upgrade as this ride is beautiful. This ride is now one of Jenne and Cassidy’s favorite rides as well.


I was by myself for my visit to Doctor Doom’s Fearfall. This ride is short and simple, but I still love it. Tower of Terror is a better experience, but you can’t beat the view from the Fearfall. There wasn’t any wait for this as they needed a single rider right when I got to the point where the line stopped moving. I got out so quickly that I found Jenne and Cass still playing games in the arcade. I helped them finish off the tokens that they had and it was a good thing that I did because we exited the arcade to find Storm and Rogue outside. This is where Disney is really missing out. Even if they didn’t have any attractions, meet and greets with the Marvel characters would be huge (and the costumes would probably be better looking).

We skipped the rest of Super Hero Island. I’m not good on spinning rides and Storm Force Accelatron is like tea cups on steroids. I’ve been on this once and that was enough for me. I also skipped the Incredible Hulk Coaster. The past couple of times that I’ve ridden this, the coaster has given me really bad neck pain so I decided that it wasn’t worth it with a large chunk of the day still to go.

101_0423 Seuss Landing was last up for the day. It started to drizzle right around the time we entered this part of the park, but it wasn’t heavy at all. We did The Cat In The Hat; Caro-Seuss-al; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. This section of the park already has a bunch of fun rides and it rumored to be getting a Lorax ride as well. I love the look and sound of this section of the park. This is right up there with anything that Disney Imagineers have done.

While in line for the Trolley Train Ride, we had our first experience with the new photo system at Universal. They’ve added a bunch of photo experiences around the park and for $60 you get all of those along with your ride photos. That’s not a bad deal since Disney charges $50 just for their ride photos and $150 for PhotoPass. We didn’t sign up for the package at this point because I wanted to see how many photo opportunities there were, but I did get one of the temporary cards. While I was chatting about the photo deal, the sky decided that it was time to open up.


That wasn’t too big of a deal since we weren’t too far from our next destination: lunch at Mythos. While most of the food choices at Universal suck (I think they want you to go eat at Citywalk), this place is awesome. The decor inside is really cool and the food is delicious. We took our time eating since the rain had gotten really heavy and had a great waiter who made it a great experience even with some bumps along the way. I think when all was said and done we ended up with two free desserts because of the kitchen being out of one thing and messing up the waiter’s special request on the other. When the rain let up a little bit, we pulled on our ponchos and made our way over to The Studios.


Based on the layout of the park, we knew that our first ride would most likely be Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. On my first trip to Universal, this was a Hanna Barbera ride. That was changed into a Jimmy Neutron/NickToons ride. This new version of the ride is definitely my favorite. The preshow is funny, the ride is excellent, and there’s a dance party at the end! I pressed some pennies and then had to dash back into the ride when I realized that I left my hat on the ride.

From there, we dashed across the road to Shrek 4-D. This story is considered canon which is always cool. It’s a fun and funny motion simulator. I’d make sure to see it once per trip, but I wouldn’t spend time checking it out more than once.

Playing things by ear brought us to the entrance for Transformers: The Ride – 3D. Even though this ride employs the same technology as Spider-Man, it’s awesome technology and this ride is its own unique experience. Anyway, it’s not like Universal has 5 spinner rides or anything like that. I have steered clear of the Transformers movies completely due to Michael Bay, but after going on this ride, I may have to check them out. One interesting effect of this ride was that Cassidy fell in love with Bumblebee. While this version is not as cool as his 80s counterpart, he’s still the coolest Transformer. I remember how I felt as a kid when it came to Figment, so I encouraged this as much as possible.

We made our way to Men In Black, but we didn’t want to stash our stuff in lockers and then get soaked walking over to the line so we skipped it for now. Instead, we jumped into the line for The Simpsons Ride. I’m a huge fan of The Simpsons and this ride does a great job of capturing the comedy from the TV show. The wait was about 20 minutes, but it kept us out of the rain so it wasn’t too bad. I guess this was the first time that we had a car down on the very end and I hope it’s the last. When you are down on the end, you aren’t as immersed in the experience. I noticed for the first time that you are in what’s essentially a big IMAX theater and all of the cars are there around you. It probably did the same thing when it was Back to the Future, but I never noticed then or on my previous rides since it has been updated to The Simpsons.

Since we were all wet, we decided to leave a little earlier and head back to the hotel before dinner. We got changed and then made our way to the Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Artist Point. This place was awesome. The restaurant was beautiful and nice and quiet. This wasn’t anything like the loud restaurants that you find in the parks. Our waitress talked us into trading one of our desserts for the artisanal cheese selection, but that turned out to be a mistake. We only really ended up liking one of the cheese, but it’s always fun to try something new. I had the seared diver scallops which I wasn’t thrilled with and ended up wishing that I had tried something different. This just gives us a reason to head back there on our next trip.

A very cool thing happened while we were waiting for our table. Cassidy was doing some pin trading and was looking at the pin cart there. She asked me if she could buy the “World’s Best Mom” pin as a surprise, which I quickly agreed to. She grabbed the “World’s Best Dad” pin and got that one too for good measure. She also constantly thanked us during the whole trip for bringing her to Disney. She’s so amazing.

We looked around the resort a little bit and browsed in the gift shop. We got Cassidy another charm for her necklace and called it a night.

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