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Trip Report MILESTONE TRIP! First Orlando Visit, Final Disney Park!

THE TIME HAS COME!

In just about a week, I will be starting my very first ever trip to Orlando…and all therein that may be explored.

As the title suggests, among other milestones, this trip will see me visiting my 12th and final Disney Park – Magic Kingdom itself! I have traveled extensively, with all the other Disney Destinations worldwide under my belt, yet somehow I have so far resisted the allures of the Vacation Kingdom. In this week days leading up to my departure, I’ll be going over “why not yet,” “why now,” my itinerary, maybe even soliciting some travel advice.

But for now…Who’s going?

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Me after a hike at Bryce Canyon (the real Big Thunder). My beard is much calmer now.

Just me. Doug. Typically I’m a regular of the Imagineering forums, but I'm just a dilettante on these Trip Report boards. Traveling solo, as is my wont.

Where? Universal’s Endless Summer Resort for three nights, then the Walt Disney World Swan for like a week.

When? September 21st – October 1st.

The broadest plan is to see as much of Orlando as I can (both Disney and beyond) in the week+ prior to Magic Kingdom’s 50th. That means plans to see Walt Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, even the Fun Spots.

Over ambitious, perhaps? Sure it is, but I’ve done my research, and I know my travel style and what I'm capable of! Let’s do this!
 
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Songbird76

Well-Known Member
Glad you’re enjoying it!

Nemesis looks incredible! Definitely one of the rides I most want to experience. Velocicoaster sounds ideal for your family. Your son would love it.



Yup, that picture is of Taronat Phantasialand. It uses the same Intamin Blitz model as Velocicoaster. I’m pretty sure someone at Universal Creative was taking notes.

Phantasialand and Efteling both are way way up there on my bucket list. There’s something about the theming in European parks which is just otherworldly. It sounds like you enjoyed your time visiting them even without joining your husband on the roller coasters. Like there’s a lot more to see and do as well.
They are both definitely worth visiting. Phantasialand was just kind of a last minute thing. My husband used to play a game on his phone called Ingress and there was some Ingress tour thing through Germany that he wanted to follow. Rather than us sitting at home while he went and had fun, I said we should just make it a family trip and we'd look things up in the neighborhood wherever the Ingress tour stops were. So Phantasialand was what we found on the way between two stops, and they had an offer that summer that when you bought tickets for the one day, you got a 2nd day free. So we went one day on the way to the tour stop and one day on our way home. We really had no idea what attractions they had or anything....we just got there, grabbed a map, and looked to see what everything was. I will say food options are not great in either Phantasialand or Efteling, though if you are adventurous, I'm sure you can find enough unique snacks to try that you can fill up. But it is mostly theme park food, or cafeteria style. You won't find any of the really awesomely themed restaurants there like Sci-fi Dine in, or Whispering Canyon, or 50s prime time, and I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as Character Dining, but if your priority is coasters, you probably don't want to take a lot of time to do a sit down meal anyway, and there's plenty of grab-and-go type stuff.
I'm mostly a Disney fan, so I'd take a Disney park over either of these any day, but I'm pretty sure my husband would take either over a Disney park....it depends on what your jam is. I did find my favorites in each park and I'd go again, for sure.
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Reentering Islands of Adventure's charming Port of Entry, I set my pace for the day: Meandering. While a fantastic collection of top tier rides awaited, I didn't want to lose sight of the park's simpler delights in the process.

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So I took a casual, indirect route through Port of Entry. Rather than just follow the central walkway inwards, I entered the shops during their early morning lull. I wanted to see what often-overlooked details Universal's designers had wedged into the interiors. There they were! Steampunk-ish airships strung up in rafters, artifacts from the park's various "islands," an adventure travel design motif throughout...plus huge swaths of depressingly generic Universal-branded merch.

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I'm not a souvenir guy in the best of times. I'll purchase a real item when traveling, like a 10'-wide hand-woven rug in India, which is now the centerpiece of my living room floor, but I don't do trinkets. So, yeah, saying this now: didn't buy a single bit of merch on this trip!

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This time I chose a clockwise route around the park. The circular lagoon layout is a blessing and a curse - super easy to navigate, but the lack of a hub makes for potentially longer walking distances. This isn't a problem when you're taking the park systematically, stopping first up in Superhero Island to fully enjoy most of its offerings before continuing onward.

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The Incredible Hulk Coaster was my first ride of the day. Also my second. This classic Bolliger & Mabillard roller coaster has been with IOA since it 1999 grand opening, which makes it archaic in coaster years. Hulk is not showing his age, though, thanks partly to a top-to-bottom retracking in the past decade which has Hulk running butter smooth to this day. Thanks too to the creative ride design from Uni and B&M, which makes Hulk a noteworthy ride even after so many later B&Ms have succumbed to formula. My three favorite Florida roller coasters are all in IOA, which means that Hulk in my personal rankings out-performs its B&M siblings in SeaWorld and Busch Gardens (the ones I managed to ride, at least). It really is that good!

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Free lockers are found to the right of Hulk's plaza. These are required, since you must pass through a metal detector to join the queue, once again without your phone or anything. If only the recent retracking/retheming could've seen this system improved. Velocicoaster demonstrates the way forward with irritating-but-necessary lockers. (They're tiny, by the way, only enough room for things in your pockets. Anyone with a backpack or larger still needs to pay an upcharge for a roomier locker, which sucks. Bad form, Uni!) I crumpled up my coffee cup, still a quarter full, so I could continue sipping after riding.

Hulk is far more gorgeous in person than in photos. I was skeptical about the bare steel infrastructure placed prominently over IOA's lagoon, but in practice they are a beautiful sight from throughout the park. Like a Calder sculpture. This is decoration instead of theming (Hulk never strives for immersion), but this is decoration on a level which more regional Cedar Flags parks don't muster. Between mist tunnels, simulated splashdown effects, the roaring launch, and a strikingly sci-fi lift hill structure - plus a simply eye-pleasing tangle of inversions - Hulk is one handsome beast.

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Hulk rides like a dream too. Despite the over-the-shoulder restraints (OTSRs), there's very little head-banging to be had. After one ride to get a sense of the forces, I stopped riding defensively. I rode with my hands up - nobody does this on Hulk - without a single issue.

The ride experience is decidedly distinct from Velocicoaster; these two are really well counterbalanced. While Velocicoaster is all about the ejector airtime, the hangtime, and the sudden transitions, Hulk focus entirely on aggressively strong positive-G forces. This makes Hulk less re-rideable, because it's harder on the body, but among B&M's high-G machines it is a much easier ride than their inverts or flying coasters. I never once greyed out on this thing, but I never get underwhelmed or shortchanged either.

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Hulk's entire first half is sheer roller coaster heaven! Universal designed the drive tire launch - B&M wouldn't deliver an in-house launch until Holiday World's Thunderbird over a decade later - which propels you immediately into the first of seven awesome inversions. Such a dramatic start! Hulk features the same inversions as most B&M multi-loopers, but they're taken in a different sequence, bucking the now-familiar formula, which makes the ride much more exhilarating for a seasoned enthusiast. The initial pacing is relentless, just inversion after inversion, with pulsing on-ride rock music adding to the thrill.

The second half after the mid-course brake run (MCBR) is sadly mediocre. It almost dips Hulk in my rankings. That's the sad nature of MCBRs, a necessary evil for high-capacity thrillers. Weaker forces, fewer loops, more meandering helix turnarounds. The setting changes too, from the epic lagoon panorama to a rather generic unthemed park space bounded by fencing. Visually, the ride's conclusion is the same as dozens and dozens of regional park coasters. Universal has improved their coaster theming integration since then (Hagrid's! Velocicoaster!).

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Even with these caveats, I greatly enjoyed Hulk. It's another trip highlight. I went straight from the exit right back into the queue, enjoying near walk-on crowds.

That was enough gamma ray bombardment for the time being, and so I collected my mangled coffee cup and my assorted pocket items and I resumed touring.​
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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I totally skipped out on riding Storm Force Accelatron next door to Hulk. It seemed like simply a covered, basic teacups ride, without the iconography of Mad Tea Party, paired poorly alongside the big green thrill machine. Nobody at all was riding it.

Superhero Island's theming doesn't truly start of assert itself until you're past the initial Hulk area. Then it grabs you immediately with its garish, overwhelming tangle of comic book colors. This is one of IOA's highly-stylized areas, which completely ditches any form of realism to instead recreate a comic book or a Saturday morning cartoon at full scale.

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Honestly, the Six Flags DC areas do something similar. Superhero Island has a better budget than Six Flags does, of course, with better texturing, better upkeep, and more artful initial design. So as tacky as the area might be, I enjoyed it. Also, too, having now experienced most of Disney's Marvel attempts worldwide, well, Florida residents should be grateful that Universal managed to bogart the theme park rights out east. This is better.

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Lots of enjoyable little things, too. A photo-op Fantasticar (which should've been a ride!), interactive coin-op NYC phones (which didn't work), semi-obscure characters like M.O.D.O.K. interacting (in cutout form) with A-listers like Steve Rogers.

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The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man was an easy walk on. I love this ride! Loved it in Japan with the hourlong Single Rider wait, loved it even more here with the convenience and with the ride dialogue in my native language. This is the dark ride which, for my tastes, has a real shot at being Florida's best. At unseating Disney in their chosen category. (Or if you'd rather, substitute with Forbidden Journey. I prefer Spidey.) Over twenty years old, and it hasn't aged a day.

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Part Indiana Jones Adventure, part Star Tours, but mostly its own wholly original thing - before every theme park in the world started shamelessly copying it - Spider-Man remains the most effective ride integration of screens and physical set pieces that I've done. The only real competitor is Shanghai Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride story is simple, digestible comic book pulp goodness, simply a battle between Spidey and Doc Ock and assorted C-list baddies, with riders caught up in the middle. There are some brilliant gags in here! Hobgoblin tosses a pumpkin bomb on-screen, then genuine flames burst from a nearby wall! Physically descending facades make the high-flying IMAX climax all the more tactile. Stan Lee cameos. The ride is never confusing, never overwhelming (take notes Transformers!), and it never overstays its welcome. A true classic!

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Afterwards I decided the heck with it, let's do Doctor Doom Fear Fall, it's right there after all. This is possibly IOA's worst ride. At its core, it's a wholly generic, off-the-shelf S&S Spaceshot drop tower. The ride experience doesn't even live up to many regional parks' drop towers, to say nothing of Disney's far, far, far better tower down the highway. The queue theming is okay, it's there, but, um, well, when Six Flags Fiesta Texas does superior superhero queues, then you're in trouble. The ride's twin towers are a blight on IOA's otherwise stunning vistas. If possible, they should remove this.

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Now, as said before, my goal for the day was directionless exploration. So while I'd completed (to my liking) Superhero Island's attractions, still I lingered. I roamed out to the water's edge, out past the Captain America Diner, to enjoy the lagoon views far away from any other theme park patrons. Islands of Adventure offers many overlooked opportunities to escape the crowds and the main walkways. Moments like these really endeared IOA to me.

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D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Toon Lagoon is cartoonish, stylized craziness much like Superhero Island. Apparently when Universal was first developing IOA, they were scrounging for media properties, and in the inspiration which comes from desperation they settled on Sunday newspaper funnies. They specifically got the license to King Features. Some of these comics were outdated when Disneyland opened in 1955! This is insanity!

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It's like a miniature CityWalk. It's a similar mishmash of illogical design choices, meant to stimulate in the moment even while making little apparent logical sense. There are stacks of discarded speech bubbles, or selfie walls involving thought bubbles in the background. Toontown-y interactivity features hidden away. I only recognize some of these featured cartoon characters, like…the Yellow Kid? Oh, and Grimm! I know Grimm! He’s filthy.

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I like this area, though I cannot explain why. I like how IOA's pathways meander, so that there's always a new sight around every corner, making every step through the park feel like a discovery. You won't be walking through King's Row here for very long, so it doesn't overstay its welcome.

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There isn't very much behind the surface. The facades are impressively layered, with a lot of depth and angles suggesting more activity than they truly contain. Their interiors aren't very large, their dining & retail options so very amusement park vanilla, so sadly there isn't much to explore here beyond the main boulevards. Outside of Hogsmeade, IOA is a little shallow on that front. Disney's best efforts, like their Kingdoms, both Magic & Animal, those offer a deeper exploratory experience. IOA wins with its attractions, but those parks came close on sheet design.

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Where Toon Lagoon isn't shallow is literally. Like, there's lots of deep water around here, because this is IOA's dedicated water ride destination. And they aren't fooling around! With a little effort, you could get totally soaked just wandering the main drag. The land's rides absolutely guarantee a drenching even Volcano Bay can't deliver.

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Popeye's Bilge-Rat Barges lived up to its hype as both the best and the wettest river rafts ride around. I did four of these things in Florida, and Popeye won out. It's the most enjoyable purely as a ride, with rough & tumble rapids throughout which toss your flimsy raft all over. It's thrilling. It’s spinning. It’s dizzyifying.

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This is the last time I will ever be dry.

There's always that initial suspense about exactly when you'll get wet - Will it be from this dip? From this arcing spray? - though you're thoroughly soaked with the ride only 1/3rd complete. Guaranteed that every guest will be going completely under a waterfall at some point.

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Popeye doesn't even let up with the lift hill. Themed to a nautical car wash, the water continues to fly at you from all directions.

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There's even a final rapids segment after the lift. At the point where most rapids rides casually return you to the loading turntable, Popeye unleashes the wildest typhoon of churning whitewater yet. It's a long, complete experience...one you'll only do once. This gets you so, so wet, making it hard to plan around during a casual park-going day. I intentionally wore my quick-drying outfit in anticipation, and even then I only did this once.

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Popeye has enjoyable scenery as well. This, thankfully, you can enjoy without subjecting yourself to the gushing torrents. Heading further into the Lagoon's Popeye-themed cul-de-sac, there is Me Ship the Olive Oyl, ostensibly a children's boat-themed playground somewhat like Donald's boat in Toontown, Disneyland. In practice this was a simple, bucolic space away from the crowds. More cozy walkways at the water's edge to again decompress and bask in the vibrant atmosphere.

This atmosphere was so pleasant, my next post will be made up entirely of photos...​
 

Suchomimus

Well-Known Member
View attachment 593103

Toon Lagoon is cartoonish, stylized craziness much like Superhero Island. Apparently when Universal was first developing IOA, they were scrounging for media properties, and in the inspiration which comes from desperation they settled on Sunday newspaper funnies. They specifically got the license to King Features. Some of these comics were outdated when Disneyland opened in 1955! This is insanity!

View attachment 593104

It's like a miniature CityWalk. It's a similar mishmash of illogical design choices, meant to stimulate in the moment even while making little apparent logical sense. There are stacks of discarded speech bubbles, or selfie walls involving thought bubbles in the background. Toontown-y interactivity features hidden away. I only recognize some of these featured cartoon characters, like…the Yellow Kid? Oh, and Grimm! I know Grimm! He’s filthy.

View attachment 593112

I like this area, though I cannot explain why. I like how IOA's pathways meander, so that there's always a new sight around every corner, making every step through the park feel like a discovery. You won't be walking through King's Row here for very long, so it doesn't overstay its welcome.

View attachment 593106

There isn't very much behind the surface. The facades are impressively layered, with a lot of depth and angles suggesting more activity than they truly contain. Their interiors aren't very large, their dining & retail options so very amusement park vanilla, so sadly there isn't much to explore here beyond the main boulevards. Outside of Hogsmeade, IOA is a little shallow on that front. Disney's best efforts, like their Kingdoms, both Magic & Animal, those offer a deeper exploratory experience. IOA wins with its attractions, but those parks came close on sheet design.

View attachment 593107

Where Toon Lagoon isn't shallow is literally. Like, there's lots of deep water around here, because this is IOA's dedicated water ride destination. And they aren't fooling around! With a little effort, you could get totally soaked just wandering the main drag. The land's rides absolutely guarantee a drenching even Volcano Bay can't deliver.

View attachment 593105

Popeye's Bilge-Rat Barges lived up to its hype as both the best and the wettest river rafts ride around. I did four of these things in Florida, and Popeye won out. It's the most enjoyable purely as a ride, with rough & tumble rapids throughout which toss your flimsy raft all over. It's thrilling. It’s spinning. It’s dizzyifying.

View attachment 593108
This is the last time I will ever be dry.

There's always that initial suspense about exactly when you'll get wet - Will it be from this dip? From this arcing spray? - though you're thoroughly soaked with the ride only 1/3rd complete. Guaranteed that every guest will be going completely under a waterfall at some point.

View attachment 593109

Popeye doesn't even let up with the lift hill. Themed to a nautical car wash, the water continues to fly at you from all directions.

View attachment 593111

There's even a final rapids segment after the lift. At the point where most rapids rides casually return you to the loading turntable, Popeye unleashes the wildest typhoon of churning whitewater yet. It's a long, complete experience...one you'll only do once. This gets you so, so wet, making it hard to plan around during a casual park-going day. I intentionally wore my quick-drying outfit in anticipation, and even then I only did this once.

View attachment 593110

Popeye has enjoyable scenery as well. This, thankfully, you can enjoy without subjecting yourself to the gushing torrents. Heading further into the Lagoon's Popeye-themed cul-de-sac, there is Me Ship the Olive Oyl, ostensibly a children's boat-themed playground somewhat like Donald's boat in Toontown, Disneyland. In practice this was a simple, bucolic space away from the crowds. More cozy walkways at the water's edge to again decompress and bask in the vibrant atmosphere.

This atmosphere was so pleasant, my next post will be made up entirely of photos...​
Next to Spidey and FJ, Popeye’s has been a must-do attraction for me every time I went on vacation to Uni, even in the spring season. I honestly cannot get enough of that ride, though part of me wishes it to lasts longer.
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Okay, here come even a few more tranquil waterfront photos for you before I resume the trip report play-by-play. We’ve reached the point where imagery outweighs commentary.

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This mosasaurus roll is the best thing in Florida

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Moving on now to Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, the log flume which serves as Popeye's sibling. This is such a bizarre thing to conceive and then to actually realize, creating an E-ticket log ride out of a minor character from "Rocky & Bullwinkle." I overheard guests audibly kvetching that they weren't familiar with the extensive, highly complicated Do-Right "mythos" (like...it's a cartoon parody of silent serials, it isn't deep). The façade sure looks wacky and intriguing!

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Universal must've known that competing directly against Splash Mountain, the best and best-themed log flume there is, that doing that would be a fool's errand. So they zigged instead of zagging, and created something with a pure focus on wetness and thrills.

Do-Right is a more interesting ride than Splash Mountain, simply regarding the mechanism and the physical things that it does. The logs traverse much steeper drops, they rush through tracked hilly segments which push this juuuuust within a hair of technically qualifying as a roller coaster (it isn’t one), they do all this with at-the-time world records I’m pretty sure. The parallel tracks on the final splashdown suggest that there was once a dueling aspect as well, apparently abandoned long ago. Anyone know about this?

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Do-Right is also exceedingly wet, lubricating riders well beyond most log flumes’ allowance. What little part of me wasn't soaking from Popeye - my pants, basically - got thoroughly drenched here. Ummm, from the flume waters. 🙄

Too bad that the logs' lap bars hurt. You sit in a cramped single-file position, with the restraint preventing even the slightest movement. It is uncomfortable. Just fixing this alone would do right for Do-Right!

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The scenery tries its damnedest to replicate Jay Ward's angular graphic design style, with its simplistic, primary color pop-art look. (They nail the sense of humor too with corny “dad joke” gags everywhere.) This look is the most effective in the major "mountain range" and splashdown scenes visible from the walkways. The on-ride sights don't work as well, particularly the static fiberglass figures of Dudley, Nell and Dastardly Snidely.

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This doesn’t rise to IOA’s best works, but it’s a noble flawed attempt. I hear that Intamin’s later generation extreme log flumes, like Chiapas at Phantasialand, offer a more comfortable ride experience with the same wild maneuvers. Could they simply switch out the logs?

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Thoroughly drenched, and loving it!
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Still dripping wet with flume waters, and just a bit of sweat, I pause at the Do-Right splashdown lookout point. There's a spot here where even passersby are at risk of a merciless drenching. There are $5 dry-off machines near every water ride's exit. These should be free, not an upcharge! Bad form, Uni! HULK ANGRY!

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There aren’t this many skulls in the entirety of Disney World! (Disneyland, however…)

Comically wet, I move on to Kong: Skull Island. Like Fast and Furious: Supercharged, this is a standalone clone of a Hollywood Tram Tour sequence. For its centerpiece moment, the ride uses the same wraparound IMAX screens to encompass you in the unfolding Skull Island action, as King Kong battles a trio of Tyrannosaur-like beasts for riders' affection. Or to eat us, either way. These screen-based segments leave me nonplussed on the Tram Tour - I more enjoy simply seeing the backlot - and they don't do much here either.

Everything else that Universal added in Florida, everything before and after the flagship screen scene, is much, much more enjoyable. The exterior area is beautifully realized, with impressive rockwork and with distant light blue mountain ranges creating a nice illusion of depth. The queue does a good job setting the tone, which is equal parts adventurous and scary. The initial ride segment outdoors offers up an excellent dramatic moment with the ape-sized gates spreading wide. The full-sized Kong animatronic at the very end (Kong's top half, at least), that's good too. Needs more banana breath stench! All of these moments remind me of Indiana Jones Adventure, one of my very favorite rides.

If Universal could have created Skull Island from scratch, and used an Indy-style ride system (like an EMV) which better suits the property, there was the potential here to rival Spidey or Forbidden Journey. Or they could’ve saved Kong until Epic Universe! A missed opportunity to do something befitting such an excellent ape.

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Skull Island is its own little mini-land, like an offshoot of the much more impressive Jurassic Park land. Tokyo & Singapore have JP areas too, but they cannot compare to IOA's. The premise simply works best when removed from the artificial Studios Park conceit. Here in the Islands, it is much easier to buy into the lush Isla Nublar setting. The jungle here feels genuine, mature. The manmade world is just a bit more fully realized, larger in scope while still remaining accessible. Universal Creative has clearly honed their craft in the past two decades, so the Jurassic World additions are even more impressively detailed (not to a Harry Potter degree, natch), elevating the overall island.

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The River Adventure - don't worry, we'll be going over that later, uh-hyuk! 😂 - dominates sightlines. Yet again, if you duck away from the main thoroughfare, you'll discover smaller nature trails which provide peaceful seclusion, and in this case also provide spectacular photo-worthy vistas of the splashdown. So many fun splashdowns today!

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Camp Jurassic adds a whole lot to make this particular Jurassic Park truly special. This is one of those exploratory playground-on-steroid areas, like Universal's answer to Tom Sawyer Island. Like Disney's, Universal's is an overlooked gem. Yet another, another, another private spot to decompress in between coasters and crowds! Even if you aren't interested in the tube slides or the rope bridges - all delightfully incorporated into the theme, by the way - a casual walk through this section is highly recommended.

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Velocicoaster's jagged rockwork blends in seamlessly with the older environment. I always appreciate these little glimpses of other attractions throughout a land; it adds so much kineticism and life. You'll find this more in parks which are strapped for space, parks like Islands of Adventure or Disneyland. You don't often find in it parks which enjoy a "blessing of size." This is a matter of taste, but I prefer the vibrancy of these smaller parks.

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Camp Jurassic is home to Pteranodon Flyers, an extremely difficult roller coaster credit. The ride rarely operates, it has lousy capacity, and if you're an adult then you can only ride if accompanying a child in between 36 and 52 inches. Needless to say, I didn't get this credit. All it would amount to is a brief, low-thrills sightseeing glide overhead. The few times I noticed the Flyers actually running, they added just a hint more vibrancy. Not as much vibrancy as the waterfalls or the twisting tree roots entwining the walkways. Perhaps a newer model, like a Vekoma Family Invert, could offer more?

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I'll sign off for now with simply some more pictures from Camp Jurassic. I really appreciated this little area!

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D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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This trip report must be getting predicable, because my path through Islands of Adventure is simply going like clockwork from ride to ride as they appear. So obviously the next stop is River Adventure, formerly Jurassic Park River Adventure. I'm guessing they dropped the "JP" when Jurassic World awkwardly upended the thematic integrity. Perhaps too they're considering upgrading River Adventure to the newer Jurassic World model, much like what happened back home at Hollywood. There are a number of dead effects on the ride presently, so it's due for an upgrade.

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Even in its imperfect present state, IOA's River Adventure is a classic. Or a dinosaur, if you prefer. This is a lengthy river ride full of old school practical dinosaur animatronic effects. The Florida version benefits from its location, since there's no Hollywood Upper Lot or Osaka suspension bridge or Flying Dinosaur coaster to wreck the immersion. (Also, Singapore's raft version simply isn't as good.) Without those distractions, the grand moment when the Jurassic Park gates open up to reveal the distant ride structure, that moment is so much more effective. "Welcome...to Jurassic Park!"

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I like the dramatic structure of River Adventure, which mirrors the classic 1993 Jurassic Park. Beginning with quiet spectacle and grandeur, then hints that something might be just a little bit off build slowly, subtly, until all Hell (and dinosaurs) have broken loose. The anticipation mounts as riders pass through less inviting industrial settings, as nastier dinos start to pop up. Tension breaks with that final awesome drop! The boats hook into a track, allowing for a surprisingly steep, forceful drop, yanking you downwards faster than gravity. Universal doesn't joke around when they make a thrilling ride. Bless them!

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Like how @Suchomimus feels about Popeye's, despite all this I've always felt that River Adventure could be longer. This ride takes up so much acreage, and that turnaround structure is so imposingly massive, it sometimes feels like there could - nay, should - be additional show scenes in the empty interior space. Sort of like Splash Mountain in between the first and final drops. Though as it stands, River Adventure is a rare example of a classic "shoot the chutes" flume ride receiving the fully-themed storytelling treatment. This is one of the few vintage carnival ride genres which Disney hasn't yet attempted, maybe because it would be hard to top Universal's offering.

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Wait for it...

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KER-SPLASH!

As my photos attest (since I'm mostly showing them in chronological order), I went and admired River Adventure's splashdown for a bit again after riding. River Adventure offers the perfect light amount of soaking for a hot, sunny day. I hadn't dried off yet from Popeye or Dudley, so that didn't amount to much, but it was still nicely refreshing. Programmatically, this is an ideal water ride for this park.​

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While Velocicoaster dominates the parkwide lagoon visuals, from within Jurassic Park's jungle interior it is carefully integrated into the preexisting scenery. I do love The Flying Dinosaur at Universal Studios Japan simply as a roller coaster, but it absolutely overwhelms everything around it. Universal learned from that. Velocicoaster is only visible behind paddock cell bars. It can be ignored or admired as your mood dictates. Me? Mouth agape, I watched the beautiful beast strut her stuff around that incomprehensible rockwork spaghetti bowl.

Naturally, I had to ride her again!

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The return pilgrimage to Velocicoaster covers the rest of Jurassic Park's acreage. I enjoyed little things along the way, such as the Pizza Predattoria sign, so amusing with its animated compy figures fighting over a pizza slice. I passed through the welcome air conditioning of the Discovery Center, which based on that bolding means that technically it's an attraction which I experienced. It's lovely place-making, no question there, with the stunning skeleton centerpiece feeling like a near one-to-one recreation from the film. The interactive exhibits - the DNA machines and dino eggs and whatnot - were largely afterthoughts, shoved aside so the ground level could serve its new role as a Velocicoaster post-ride store. The merch here did tempt me, simply because coaster enthusiasts like wearing proof of what they've ridden, which is something I need to start doing.

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This was my 2nd ride (of 7) on Velocicoaster. It was the best one! I got the back row, which is the wildest & most forceful seat, riding alongside a fellow Single Rider and coaster enthusiast on his first ride. (Velocicoaster became his #840, which is staggering.) The tracks were warmed up after several hours of operation in sunny weather, so the pacing was relentless. The top hat in these conditions approached Iron Rattler's cliff dive as my favorite mid-ride drop to date. It was paradise!

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The turn leading into the second LSM launch.

I got off from Velocicoaster precisely at noon, in a near wordless state of ecstasy. What to do next?​
 

Suchomimus

Well-Known Member
Perhaps too they're considering upgrading River Adventure to the newer Jurassic World model, much like what happened back home at Hollywood. There are a number of dead effects on the ride presently, so it's due for an upgrade.
When that happens, I honestly would not want the Mosasaurus scene to be carried over. Especially since it makes absolutely no sense how the ride could cut through the Mosasaurus Lagoon when it’s in the middle of the park in between Main Street and the hotels.
What I would think would be a better alternative (besides repurposing the Ultrasaurus) would be to incorporate the cave attraction from Camp Cretaceous series and its version of River Adventure.
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The old Paras could be replaced with Baryonyxes if that were to happen.
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Next on the docket was Hogsmeade: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I passed back through the Discovery Center in order to do the Hogwarts Castle trail approach. Hogsmeade is my favorite area at Universal Studios Hollywood. Florida's original version is largely the same, so I favored padding my ride count over exploration.

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Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a masterful dark ride, another contender for the best in Orlando. It rivals Spidey. The KUKA arm ride mechanism was without precedent when it premiered, the queue is one of the best ever, and the nonsensical ride experience offers a Harry Potter "best of" sequence which satisfies rider expectations. I am extremely familiar with this ride. I marathoned it like 13 times at Hollywood's passholder preview, then I’ve done it several times a visit on my less frequent USH returns afterwards. Also rode it in Japan. I love this ride.

My one time on Forbidden Journey in Florida was the only bad experience I've ever had on it! Got the full motion sickness effect. Consider this a combination of heat, humidity, Velocicoaster, and little substantial food; I was light-headed going into it. In this state, the bench's motions seems unmotivated and random, and the screen segments were so misaligned that I actually closed my eyes. I consider this one ride a fluke, an unlucky one-off.

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It was super easy to grab a quick coaster credit on Flight of the Hippogriff afterwards. This is definitely a filler ride. It's an off-the-shelf Vekoma Junior Skater - same layout as The Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom, if I'm not mistaken - with a paltry 50 second ride time and little substantive content. Hippogriff fills a programmatic purpose for IOA, as a "my first coaster" Junior Coaster for younger or more timid guests. It's pretty, too, suiting the Hogsmeade area nicely despite the exposed steel tracks. But it's thoroughly overshadowed by...

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Hagrid's Awkwardly-Titled Motorbike Adventure! Which was of course my next stop after Hippogriff, despite my ongoing dizziness.

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Thank goodness, in a way, that the Single Rider wait was a full half hour - which is nothing compared to the 120 minutes standby was posting. This lengthy pause was a chance to regain my composure. It was also a chance to chat up some enthusiastic Harry Potter fans waiting alongside me, themselves also on their first Universal Florida trip. This was the first of many Potter conversations of the day, each of them with the sort of sugar rush manic energy you usually only find at midnight screenings or fan conventions. Potter is obviously gigantic for Universal!

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Hagrid's at 1 PM remained a top tier coaster. This ride is perfectly pitched to delight both families and thrill-seekers. This time I rode in the sidecar, with a center of gravity closer to the tracks. The motorcycle to your right obscures views to that side, so wouldn't you know it, all the interesting on-ride scenery was intentionally placed on the left. Good design work!

After concluding Hagrid's, I still had 45 minutes before my late lunch reservation at Mythos. How could I possibly pass this time?

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WITH ANOTHER RIDE ON VELOCICOASTER! :D

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This time I opted to do the 20 minute standby wait. Single Rider would most likely have been quicker, but it's an x-factor, and I didn't feel like risking it. I also felt like seeing the additional standby queue details, such as the animatronic raptors or the window effect featuring the second launch.

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I got a middle seat this time. (For the most part, team members pick your seating for you, though there is a standby line for front row seats. No idea why there's no similar line for the superior back row.) The middle seat proved noticeably rougher. Still not a bad ride by any means, but decidedly lesser. Do not judge a coaster until you've ridden either the front or the back, folks!

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Suchomimus

Well-Known Member
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Next on the docket was Hogsmeade: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I passed back through the Discovery Center in order to do the Hogwarts Castle trail approach. Hogsmeade is my favorite area at Universal Studios Hollywood. Florida's original version is largely the same, so I favored padding my ride count over exploration.
Too bad the Hogwarts facade is incomplete on every single version. It's not only missing rockwork to cover the show building, but as well the northern half of the school.
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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With just a little bit of leisure time remaining post-Velocicoaster, pre-Mythos, I took the chance to finally explore the Lost Continent area. This is a fascinating little section! It's completely forgotten, overlooked, and during my visit it didn't have a single operating attraction. Lost Continent never had a ride; its opening day offerings included a Poseidon guided walkthrough, and a Sindbad stunt show. Both of these were long shuttered while I was there in September. Construction walls hid away the entire Poseidon courtyard, while the area surrounding Sindbad has long ago been transformed into a hidden secret garden for rest and relaxation and romantic liaisons. It was only much later that I realized the Middle Eastern palace area was once an attraction façade, and not simply another of the Islands' intentionally hidden photogenic pockets.

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I hope something good eventually happens to Lost Continent. I like this exotic adventure vibe they have going on, with its Ray Harryhausen feel, unencumbered by the dictates of a preexisting media franchise. There are always rumors about something replacing this (like Zelda). My fingers are crossed that they can preserve what's here now, and build on it in a more crowd-pleasing, substantive way. If expanded properly, Lost Continent could rival some DisneySea lands.

So here are a bunch more Lost Continent images to tide us all over before lunch begins...

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D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Loving your TR and amazing photos. Just one question though, do you think it would be ok to ride Hagrid’s bike if you can suffer from motion sickness. We would love to experience this ride next year.
Glad you’re enjoying the TR!

Have you done Expedition Everest? Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster? Hagrid’s has some similar moments. A few sections might be overwhelming. Hagrid’s is a delightful ride with nice scenery, but it’s just a hair more intense than the wildest Disney World coasters.

There are several high speed launches like RnRC, but it Hagrid’s doesn’t go upside down. There’s a backwards section like Everest with a reverse launch, which is the most disorienting part. There’s also a surprise drop in the dark.
 

D Hulk

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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Time for lunch at Mythos, one of the most celebrated theme park restaurants there is. Why is this place so revered? Well, it's in Orlando, so it's more mainstream. The food is genuinely good. And the setting in stunning, with imaginative decoration and theming which doesn't typically pass muster in the straight-laced outside world. It's a nice break from the rush-rush-rush of the park, it's relaxing without feeling stuffy, the food is interesting yet approachable. There's a lot to love here.

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The exterior rockwork is eye-catching, with the carved Greco-Roman gods and the whatnot. For some reason, the thing which really stuck with me was the themed ATM, since it's usually only in the best parks where you'll see smaller overlooked things like ATMs & trash cans & benches get thematic attention. (Gringotts had good ATMs too. The ATMS and garbage cans at the Efteling look next level!)

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The interior is good too, better even! None of the photos I've ever seen of Mythos - mine likely included, if you haven't been there in person - none every really helped me understand what exactly this place looked like. The lighting is too subtle - mostly indirect sunlight filtered through many surfaces - and the various dining spaces are too elaborate, too organic, to make much immediate sense.

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It makes sense in person, though. This is like a seaside grotto at low tide, with waveform sandstone walls and additional décor inspired by ocean organisms. There's a light hint of godly activity, but Mythos foregoes the extensive fan-baiting backstory which you'll often find in Disney's more ambitious eateries. Mythos is not sensory overload, which is nice. I truly appreciated the hourlong sit down in an air conditioned interior, with some tasty grub to serve as an intermission from the stomach-churning mayhem.

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Islands of Adventure generally doesn't boast especially standout dining. Seems like an overabundance of typical amusement park burgers and chicken tenders. I'm glad Mythos was an available alternative; I barely noticed how underwhelming everything else was. For my entrée, I selected lamb chops with cheese-stuffed pasta. They cooked it perfectly to medium rare, with a smoky char on the surface. The Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices made this memorably succulent, without - to my standards - being so out-there that it would offend casual middle-of-the-road Orlando diners. (My international travels, though, have really broadened my appetite. I’d eat scorpions.)

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For dessert I chose a wild berry panna cotta, with edible flowers for garnish. I don't find panna cotta often enough in my daily comings and goings, so I jump on the chance whenever I find it! This was a perfect light dessert - creamy, sweet but not overwhelming.

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I concluded lunch around 3 PM. This changed the day's energy, and with most of Island of Adventure thoroughly conquered for the day, I chose a more casual path. Universal Studios would remain open for less than two hours (closing at 5 for Halloween Horror Nights), so I decided to head over there via Hogwarts Express to take full advantage of the park hopping ability.

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Hogwarts Express is a really cool idea: A park-to-park ride taking full advantage of Universal's compact, contained layout. With Harry Potter attractions at both parks, this is lovely way to experience the entire Wizarding World with as little break in immersion as possible. It's also a way for Universal to sell more park hopping upcharges! ;) The execution may not be 100% perfect, but the concept is commendable.

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Of course the Hogsmeade train station was kinda bland. Larger in scale than the rest of Wizarding World, and more impersonal as a result. Wait times never dipped below 25 minutes, in either park, suggesting that capacity and/or efficiency isn't entirely there. Park hopping on foot takes no longer. So think of this like the Disneyland Railroad, a transportation attraction which is best enjoyed as a restful moment between the bigger rides, as something which deepens the parks' world.

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Hogwarts Express comes nearly as close as is realistically possible to riding the real Hogwarts Express, given the constraints of a theme park. It's an intimate ride, where smaller parties enjoy their own private train cabins. I sat with another batch of Potter diehards, and we went around in a group sharing our Hogwarts Houses. (I claimed to be on Team Muggle.) Window screens on the outside provide a view of the passing English countryside; fogged glass doors depict the silhouettes of beloved characters passing by. This was charming.

Arriving in the Studios with a fleeting 1 hour 20 to utilize, what would be my priority attraction? The most desperately important thing on property? That's right, everyone! Time for a mad dash back to Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster! :p
 

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