on November 21, 2011
Having just written a whole set of reviews for Disney in Orlando, it seems only fair to review their competition, which is made up mainly of Universal Studios and related theme and water parks. As I said in the Disney journal I have visited Orlando several times since I was a child and Universal Studios seems to have got better and better each time I visited. Now this is either because I was getting older and watching more of the non-Disney films that are in Universal Studios or because Universal Studios had received a lot of investment and improved many things. Personally I think it's a bit of both and all it means is that given the size of Disney as well as the current size of Universal Studios you're going ot struggle to get round everything in a 2-week holiday. Universal Studios is part of two-theme parks on the same site and you can by a pass that allows you to hop between them in one day, if you're really stuck for time, however I would try and get to each park on seperate days and really enjoy yourself.When you arrive at Universal Studios you park in one of their car parks, which are not as huge as Disney's, but you still need to be remember whether you're in the Jaws, Jurassic Park, King Kong, or whichever other car park you end up in. Then starts the magical walk towards the front gates, you head along moving walkways, with music from your favourite movies playing all around you. You then arrive at CityWalk, which you don't need a ticket to visit and has a whole load of shops, restaurants, bars and a multiplex cinema that you can browse in. After passing through CityWalk you head to right around a lake that has both Universal theme parks at either side and the Hard Rock Cafe directly opposite between the two. The next thing you will see is the giant Universal logo rotating in the sunlight....a great photo opportunity. Then it's onto the front gates, where you may or may not have to queue to get in, depending on the time of year.Inside the park is set out mainly as a bit of a movie backlot, with themes that match the rides in each part of the park. As in Disney there is lots for everyone here and plenty of shows and play areas for small children and older guests to the park. In this review I'm going to talk about the rides that I liked the best, and they also happen to be the high adrenaline, fast-paced rides more than anything else. My first stop (mainly because it is near the entrance) is my absolute favourite ride, Terminator 2 3D. The last time that I visited it wasn't running constantly as in the past, but at specific times, so you will have to have a look and see what it's doing when you visit. The ride itself is a total immersion into the world of Cyberdyne Systems and the Terminator franchise, I won't completely describe it, as that would spoil the experience, but it's a mixture of live action and 3D movie that is amazing.After that excitement, we usually stop for a coffee in Mels, a 50s style diner round the corner from the Terminator ride. Sitting there and soaking up the sun and listening to 50s music, you will feel like you've stepped back in time. If you're really lucky you will see something very surreal, like the ghostbusters wandering past, or even the Flintstones in their car. Just like Disney, Universal has characters from their films wandering around, so there is plenty to amuse little and big kids alike!Our next stop is a little more sedate, but no less magical...it's the E.T. ride, a truly brilliant tour through the film, helping Elliott get E.T. home on giant bicycles. Even standing in the queue for this ride is brilliant, as you head through a cool forest, complete with scenes from the film and background forest noise. Although this ride might frighten very small children, any over the age of 4 (providing they can sit on a bike) should be ok on this ride and is a nice family one to go on. Right next to E.T. is the main children's section, with lots for small kids to enjoy and an animal show if you were interested in that. We being young adults and teenagers skipped this section and headed straight for The Simpsons ride. I was just a little bit gutted when we visited this time as the Simpsons ride used to be a Back to the Future ride, which was one of our favourites. Obviously the young today don't know what the Back to the Future films are and so it got changed. The ride is still a brilliant simulator and I like the Simpsons theme, but I still miss Back to the Future. At least they had left the model of the Dolorean on the walk over to the Men in Black ride.The Men in Black ride sees you enlisted into the Men in Black and head into a full on shoot 'em up, targeting rogue aliens. It's face paced, loud and incredibly good fun, especially as you get a personal score at the end. Expect long queues with this ride, it was very popular when we visited and we decided to buy the queue hopper passes that are available. However, if you're not bothered about sitting together on a ride a good option that Universal Studios offers is that you join the much smaller queue for single riders and you will get on the rides in much less time. Obviously if this is your first time to Universal Studios you may want to stay together as a group, but as this was our fifth or sixth visit we took full advantage of the single-riders line.On from Men in Black is Amity and the Jaws Ride, a must for shark fans, then onto the Disaster film set ride and the BeetleJuice Graveyard Revue....an amazingly brilliant show that is a must see. It runs at specific times, which you can find at the front entrance but is well worth getting to as Beetlejuice is hilarious and there are lots of rock and roll classics to sing along to.If you're lucky when you leave here you'll find the Blues Brothers performing on the street, which is a nice way to have another cup of coffee and build your reserves for The Mummy Ride, a full on rollercoaster in the dark, that goes forwards and backwards. When we visited we took my Dad on this and halfway through when the rollercoaster seemed to have stopped he turned to me and said 'phew that was good' just as the car starting to move again, but this time backwards!From the Mummy it's onto the Twister ride and onto the newest roller coaster (which I didn't actually go on) the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, where you pick the music as the rollercoaster goes around. Then to finish your day I would recommend Shrek 4-D and then perhaps dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on the way home.Universal Studios is much smaller than any of the Disney Parks in terms of size. However, it packs so much in that you don't ever feel short changed. It also means that you can actually get around the whole park in 1 day, something that isn't possible with any of the Disney Parks. If you visit Florida, don't miss this theme park, it's epically good fun and just what a group of teenagers need!
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