Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disney 2013: Day 9 – Universal Studios

 101_0436The weather report for our final two days in Florida was not looking very good. You know that there’s a good chance that it’ll rain for an hour or two on any given day that time of year, but they were calling for heavy rain for a majority of the day for both Tuesday and Wednesday. We were pretty well prepared to deal with the rain, but we weren’t looking forward to it.

A light drizzle started when we got to the front gate of Universal Studios 15-20 minutes before park opening. That turned into a heavy drizzle right before the park opened. Jenne and Cass 101_0438 ponchoed up and we were ready to go.

Since we skipped it the previous day, we made a beeline to the back of the park so that we could ride MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack before it got busy. We stuffed our belongings into lockers and dashed off to the ride.

We got to enter through the Express line which was a little disappointing because we ended up missing all of the cool theming inside of the ride building. It did get us on the ride quickly though which allowed us to make a second trip before the free time on our lockers ran out.

On the way off of the ride, we decided to sign up for the Universal Photo Connect which took longer than it should have and did cause me to run out of time on  my locker. I showed the employee manning the lockers 61203_092413_120835my receipt and figured that my $60 purchase would get me out of the $3 that I’d have to pay for the locker. I was correct. Signing up for the Photo Connect deal ended up being one of the best things that we did during our trip. I had no clue that the service even existed. We ended up getting some great pictures and had fun doing so. I would highly recommend it for anyone making a trip to Universal Orlando.

Next up was Springfield which I was ridiculously excited about. I’ve been a big Simpsons fan since the days of the Tracy Ulman shorts. This addition to the park did not disappoint. I already 101_0451 was a fan of The Simpsons Ride and now the whole area is tied together nicely.

The Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl ride was a nice way for them to add another Simpsons ride and add another kiddie ride (which is something Universal is a little lacking on). It’s a simple spinner with an added feature of having to move your spaceship up and down to “attack” the citizens of Springfield.

In addition to the new ride, you’ve got a food court disguised as Krusty Burger and Cletus’ Chicken Shack with an additional room themed as Moe’s Tavern. You can have a drink at Duff Gardens or grab a taco at Bumblebee Man’s Tacos food truck. This area isn’t too shabby for a park that people love to bash for being “just warehouses and soundstages.”

At this point, I noticed that the Hollywood Rip Rock RideIt Coaster was up and running and I made my way over there while Jenne and Cass got a 61320_092413_076007 snack. I was a line for a little while before they stopped loading cars and were running the coaster in test mode. I decided to bail and it turned out to be a good decision since the ride was shut down around 5 minutes later. I met up with Jenne and Cass in line to meet Donkey and Shrek after they had already met Optimus Prime. Donkey does all of the talking in this interaction and he was very funny while we were there.

The Transformers meet and greet is right across the way from the Shrek meet and greet. Every time a Transformer comes out, warning lights go on and sirens blare. That led to Donkey shouting, “Shut up Transformers! Nobody cares!” When it was our turn to have our picture taken, we had the following exchange:

Donkey: Hi Cassidy, what’s your mom’s name?
Cass: Jennifer.
Donkey: Well, hello Jennifer. What’s your dad’s name?
Cass: Michael.
Donkey: Hi Stinky.

When it came time to smile, instead of “cheese,” Donkey told us to say “Red Sox stink.” Yes, it’s definitely not Disney fairy dust, but it definitely 62300_092413_119599 suits the character and was a very entertaining time. The next big thing is going to be costume characters that are able to communicate with guests and this one is pretty good. Disney has a certain mouse that also talks now and I think you’ll see more and more characters like this in the years to come.

The siren that had annoyed Donkey announced the arrival of Bumblebee, so we hopped in line for that meet and greet. These characters look amazing. We didn’t get to see Megatron, but we did see Optimus Prime and Bumblebee and they look great. Cassidy immediately fell in love with Bumblebee when we rode Transformers, so this was another awesome moment for her on the trip.

Now it was time to visit Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. We spent way too much time here on our last trip waiting for and then watching the A Day in the Park with Barney show. Never, ever again. We did stop so that Jenne and Cass could get their picture taken with SpongeBob and then we made a beeline to one of Cass’ absolute favorite rides: Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. This is a fun kiddie coaster that lets Cass put her hands up and act like a daredevil. Yes, she’s been on Everest twice, but she can’t put on her brave face for that ride yet. On this ride, she’s got swagger. There was no line so we rode it three straight times before moving on.


Our last stop in this area is the only other thing worth checking out if you don’t have a toddler and that’s the E.T. Adventure. I feel like this ride was already dated the first time that I rode it back in the 90s. Now that it’s 2013, this ride feels really old. It’s a classic dark ride, but it’s got a cheesiness factor to it that keeps it from being a classic ride. If this was in any other part of the park, it probably would have been bulldozed a long time ago along with King Kong, Jaws, and (soon) Disaster. I think I ride it each time that I go because I think it might be the last time I get to do so before it disappears. They did add a cool photo opportunity in the gift shop at the end of the ride. This is the last we saw of Cass before she rode off in the moonlight with E.T.

370570_43416775 Once Cass came back down to Earth, we started to make our way back towards the front of the park to re-ride some of the things that we did the previous day. That’s when I noticed that Hollywood Rip Rock RideIt was running again. We made a beeline over there and I was second to hop into the single rider line. It took another 5 minutes or so, but once the ride started up, I was on the second car out of the station.

This ride has some great moments, but the fact that it slows down 4 times during the ride at spots where the cars can be stopped if there’s an emergency kind of kills the thrill. The start of the ride where you go straight up and then crest the first hill is awesome. The loop with a corkscrew at the top is very cool. The drop down through a building facade in the New York section of the park is nice as well. What’s not nice is that this is almost like 4 mini-coasters. (What’s also not nice is that the ride breaks down frequently or is just shut down because of weather and that’s when people aren’t getting stuck on the first lift.)

101_0477 Now it was time to hit up some of our favorite rides a second time. We started with Minion Mayhem and it was just as funny the second time around. We decided to skip a second ride on Shrek since it was getting late quickly and another ride on Transformers seemed like the thing to do. On the way off of the ride, we figured that a Bumblebee souvenir for Cassidy would be pretty appropriate. She picked out an awesome baseball cap that she wore proudly for the rest of the trip.

Since the wait time for Minion Mayhem was kind of high (20 minutes if I remember correctly), 101_0482 we only had time for those two rides before it was time for lunch (if you consider 1:40 time for lunch). We decided to check out Krusty Burger since it was new and seemed like it would be very cool. While it was very cool, it was also VERY expensive and not very delicious or filling.

Part of the reason why it was so expensive was that we went for all of the bells and whistles. I ordered a Flaming Moe which is really just an apple juice with dry ice bubbling through it. Jenne got a Buzz Cola which was a mistake because we didn’t notice that it was a diet cola and most of it was still in the cup when we were done eating. Other than that, the potions were small and the cheese on the burgers was kind of nasty. As much as I love The Simpsons, I don’t think I’ll be eating here again unless they drop the prices once the newness wears off.

The day was quickly coming to a close and we still wanted to check out some rides back in the other park, so we said goodbye to the Studios and headed back over to Islands of Adventure. It wasn’t until later that I realized that we completely missed Revenge of the Mummy (a decent ride, but nothing special), Disaster!, (wanted to ride it one more time before it closed), and Twister…Ride It Out (Jenne loves the movie and tornadoes in general). No big losses, but it would have been nice to have seen everything. I think we had more fun heading back over to the other park though.

We zipped around the park quickly focusing on our favorite rides and any photo opportunities that we saw. We sped through Seuss Landing with Hogsmeade as our destination. We finally got to see the show in Olivander’s Wand Shop. This also led to Cassidy adding another wand to her collection. She went in wanting one of the character wands, but ended up buying one of the other wands which I think was a lot cooler looking. I took one more ride on Forbidden Journey and was pleasantly surprised to exit the ride and find out that Cassidy wanted to ride Flight of the Hippogryph. It’s another kiddie coaster, but it’s a step up on the thrill meter from Woody Woodpecker. Cass loved this one as well and wanted to ride it again, but at this point we were pressed for time.


We zipped through Jurassic Park with a brief stop at the cool automated picture opportunity they have there. I kind of wish we had taken the time for a few more pictures since there was no line. You scan your Photo Connect pass and get a countdown to when the picture will be taken. You are posing in front of a car, but a ton of other cool stuff is added to the picture as you can see to the right. I was tempted to hop on the River Adventure again so that I could have a ride picture, but I didn’t feel like getting wet and didn’t want to hold us up at all.

We zipped through Toon Lagoon as well so that we could take another ride on Spider-Man. They have a cool photo opportunity in the line for Spidey if you’ve got a Photo Connect lanyard. You end up walking right by it and they won’t pull you out of line if you aren’t wearing your lanyard. Once that was done, we called it a day at Universal. We did some shopping at the big store near the entrance to the park and got sidetracked by a survey on the way out of the park. This was a thorough survey that took a while. I expected at least a $10 gift card or something like that, but we got nothing.

Our dinner reservation for the evening was at the Coral Reef restaurant in Epcot (another first time experience), so we made plans to meet up with friends in Epcot to hang out for a little while and catch up. Since it had been three years since our last trip to Florida, we tried to pack a lot into this trip which didn’t leave as much time to visit. Hopefully it won’t be as long before our next trip and we’ll be able to have more non-park time for visiting.


Dinner at Coral Reef was awesome. Thanks to having an adorable, little girl with us, we were able to get a table right next to the tank. Having all of the fish swim right past you while you eat was really relaxing. It probably wouldn’t be relaxing for the fish if they knew what the people outside were eating.

We had a great meal that ended after the park was over so we made our way home and called it a night. Cass was passed out, so I got to work off my dinner by carrying her from our table in the restaurant to our car which must have been at least a half mile walk, if not more.

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