December 20, 2018
After arriving in Orlando I picked up my minivan I headed to the resort, checked into my suite, got cleaned up, and headed to Universal Studios Orlando Resort. I picked up some food at Wawa on the way and after about 30 minutes I was heading into the parking garage. I took a photo of the parking row information and walked towards CityWalk.
Although they’re highly manufactured and I’m not exactly into that anymore, CityWalk does have a lot to offer. I quickly headed towards Islands of Adventure. It wasn’t raining at the moment, but it had been. The skies were still cloudy. I didn’t see much of a crowd being at the parks today and I’d never been to a Universal park that wasn’t pretty packed. I went over to the self service kiosk to redeem my ticket. I wish more parks had these, though I understand why not all parks outside of Orlando don’t invest.
It had been nearly a decade since I’d been to Islands of Adventure. I’ve always really liked the park. The last time I was here they were busy constructing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The old HULK coaster was still running, as were the Dragons. I miss the Dragons. They gave an awesome ride and were visually stunning. But change is constant and Islands of Adventure has changed a lot in the last 9 years. My first stop was to the left of the Port of Entry. It’s a new credit for me because they replaced nearly all of the coaster as well as the trains. I liked the original, and I was excited to try the new one out.
Incredible HULK Coaster-I placed my stuff in a locker and got in line. The updated queue is really cool and still looks fresh and new. It was about a 15 minute wait for a train and I made it on the last row. The upgrades to the launch tunnel was really cool. HULK still delivers. After the launch into the inversion you drop down into the cobra roll and up into the vertical loop. All of the misters were on and the way that this coaster interacts with the lagoon and midway looks visually stunning. There’s a quick succession of inversions and hills that follow. The ride was smooth and the second half of the ride is still really fun and intense.
All of Marvel Superhero Island looked far more colorful as opposed to my last visit, where the entire park looked faded and in need of paint. This was a nice change. The Marvel themed street looked much more like it jumped off of the pages of a comic book. I picked up my things from the locker and headed down the street. Up next was the first of two rides I’ve now ridden in Japan and Orlando.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man-The wait for this was shorter going through the main line than what I waited on my previous visit when using Universal’s Express Pass. The queue is still the same, but has definitely been maintained and still looks like a real world comic book set. We picked up our glasses, got into the vehicle, and headed in. This ride is much better since they’ve converted the videos to 4K. This was the original mega dark ride of this type, and is still a lot of fun. The motions match up with the video and it really can feel like you’re in the action, with heat, air blasts, water effects, and more making you feel like a part of the story.
Once I got off I continued around the park, walking through Toon Lagoon while snapping a few photos, then onto the Jurassic Park section, where I ran into the first true new attraction at the park for me, one that I’d forgotten was there until I saw the entrance. So I may as well try it out.
Skull Island Reign of Kong-The wait time was about 20 minutes. The queue is massive and highly detailed. It puts me in mind of the queue for Journey at DisneySea. There are gags and animatronics in the queue. There was even a section where they employ live actors to scare people in the queue. It was highly effective. I really enjoyed it. After boarding the ride you head into the cave section. I know there is a lot of complaining within the enthusiast community about Universal’s continuing to add attractions that basically just use 3D screens to tell the story, and I don’t disagree. But Kong was impressive. The storyline is a little corny, but the 3D is very well done. The jungle tunnel sections was fantastic. It really felt like we were speeding along even though we were not moving forward. And the final Kong animatronic is very reminiscent of what has been done by Universal before, a fitting homage.
I took a quick bathroom break in Jurassic park before watching the River Adventure boats splash down. There was a decent crowd of people all through out the midways, but there were no rides or attractions with more than a 20 minute wait, with nearly everything being a walk on. It may have been wet, and it may have been gloomy, but the rides were open and I was enjoying my return to Islands of Adventure.
I headed to River Adventure next. My only ‘gripe’ about the ride is that I wish the dinosaur that causes the boat to ‘detour’ was more impressive, and I wish the box gag before entering the building was a little better. I feel it could fall faster. The final T-Rex looks really good in the mist before the drop. I didn’t get too wet from the splashdown, but the rain had picked up while riding, so I’d gotten wetter from the rain than the ride.
Just before I walked on to River Adventure I walked over to the kid’s section to see if they were enforcing the no adults without children policy on Petradon Flyers, which I’ve still not ridden, and they were. I need to borrow a kid from a friend one of these days to finally ride. Thankfully all of my close friends with kids have kids in this age range, now if I could just convince them to go to Islands of Adventure!
Jurassic Park flows right in to Potterville (Hogsmead). The gigantic construction cranes building the new roller coaster do break up the illusion a bit. Stepping into Hogsmead was familiar from my visit the previous year to the one in Osaka. I’ve yet to see a single Harry Potter movie or read a book, but this is my second trip to a theme park area themed to the powerhouse brand. I walked over to the main attraction. No, not butter beer (though I’d pick some up later).
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey-The Japanese versions of the ride was still in 3D when we rode. It broke down with us near a final scene (and in a precarious position from the Kuka Arm, half twisted to the side), and after it started back up I got nauseous. That, coupled with the facts that I only understood about a 5th of what was being said in Japanese meant I looked forward to riding with being able to understand what was going on as well as hopefully riding without a breakdown. I put my things in the locker, utilized the single rider line that knocked off about 15 minutes from the wait, and very quickly found myself sitting on the ride vehicle. The ride, much like the Japanese counterpart, is very well done, using not only 3D screens but extensive real world theming and animatronics. However, I quickly realized that this type of ride isn’t for me. I spent most of it feeling pretty sick, even with cool air blowing in my face. I enjoyed the ride, but I was glad to get off.
I went over and got in line for a butter beer. I’d had the stuff in Osaka and really liked it. I decided to try the frozen one this time. I love butterscotch. I sipped on my butter beer and walked through Hogsmead. The area was packed, and the line for Olivanders was fairly decent, but it wasn’t in any way an unbearable crowd level. Just enough to add to the atmosphere. I headed into the Lost Continent next. Poseidon’s Fury was next on the list. The wait was basically the amount of time it takes to get a group through the attraction, about 20 minutes. This was the longest wait I had all day.
The story is kind of silly. I’d have liked to have seen it with the original story line. But this was the first time that I was able to experience the ride with the water vortex effect working, and it was impressive. I remember being impressed with the revealing in the last room of the attraction, with an effect much like the transporter at the former Star Trek The Experience attraction in Las Vegas, but this time it seemed as if the change took a little longer, with the lights being out longer, which had a slight negative impact on my perception of it. The projectors used to projects Poseidon and Darkon onto the water needs upgrading. The attraction is fun, and honestly I’d do it just for the water vortex.
I’m glad that they’ve kept the Lost Continent section. I hope that eventually it gets at least one more attraction. The talking fountain was messing with some tourists. I was getting hungry as it was past lunch at this point and decided that I’d give Mythos a try, as I’ve always heard the food is good. The restaurant looks just as nice inside. My waiter was very good. I had a shrimp panko fried sushi appetizer and a knife and fork grilled cheese in a tomato bisque.
Once I’d finished eating I made my way into Seuss Landing. I’d wanted to ride the Trolly Train Ride, but once I got in line and saw how long it was (maybe 30 minutes), I decided I didn’t want to wait for it. So I went over and rode the CarouSuessEl, which I’d never done before. Following a spin on the carousel I took a ride on The Cat in the Hat. I’d forgotten how much fun this simple dark ride was.
I forked ahead, back around to the Port of Entry and then back into Marvel Superhero Island to take some photos. I took some photos around the lagoon in several of the park’s Ports. Then I went into Toon Lagoon to ride yet another water ride. Dudley Dooright’s Ripsaw Falls is one of the better log flumes out there. The ride is thematically on the level of something like Splash Mountain, but with a significantly different type of theme. I lament the addition of the lap bars on a log flume, but the ride is fun, and I was soaked afterwards.
Making my way back to Jurassic Park, I checked out the bottom floor of the Discover Center to check out what they had down there. Then I walked back through Hogsmead, picked up another butter beer (non-frozen this time), and continued around, taking pictures.
It was close to 5 pm. I had honestly ridden everything that I’d set out to ride. I was tired from such a long day, so I decided to call it a day at Islands of Adventure. I still really enjoy the park. However, other than a visit for their next new coaster, I can’t see myself returning until they complete whatever they have plans for with regards to Nintendo. I will be back, but I definitely don’t feel the need to rush back. I spent the evening at my resort. I regret that I didn’t make more of the resort and the many pools and activities there, but maybe I can talk my nephew into getting another cheap room the next time I’m there.
Saturday morning I had breakfast at Cracker Barrel down the street before heading to my sister’s house to meet up with my parents. That evening I hung out with my family and my Brother in Law’s family, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, while getting to meet their awesome wives. My brother, sister in law, and nephew arrived later before I headed back south. I toyed with going and riding coasters and having some fun…but I was very tired and needed to get up early on Sunday for wedding prep. Sunday was chaotic, but turned out amazing. I went shopping with my sister in law for food to make a charcuterie table that I helped put together, and it turned out amazing. The wedding was beautiful. I went back to my sister’s home for a bit before heading back to the resort yet again.