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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 624: Stella Luna and Terra Nova resort details released!

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My plan over the next couple years was to finally start traveling to new parks and areas of the country I haven't visited yet. However, my wife talked me into blowing that plan completely to hell and instead we are now Universal Annual Passholders. Honestly couldn't be more excited...IOA is far and away my favorite park right now, plus we just really enjoyed the atmosphere at City Walk and Aventura (which is like...$120 per night with a season pass). Having a place in Florida to take $80 RT Frontier flights to every few months sounds good to me.

Maiden voyage on our new passes is in 4 weeks, which will be my 3rd trip to Orlando this year (which is 3 more times than I've been to Agawam, MA this year if that says anything). Can't wait to race some dinosaurs.

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Sorry if this seems off-topic, but does anyone have footages of Universal Studios Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 1997, 1999, and 2000, including the footages of those year's haunted houses? Knowing what was it like to experience these haunted houses would be greatly appreciated.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I took a Florida trip last week and here's some thoughts on Universal.  It was my 2nd visit, so I focused mainly on new stuff and favorites from last time.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Velocicoaster of course.  My new #1.  Got to ride it 3 times (front, middle, back) and it was heaven each time.  It's obviously not as immersive as something like Gringotts, but for a big thrill coaster, I appreciated the level of theming.  The queue is awesome, the landscaping works, and the finale over the lake is unbeatable.  Also, the operations were flying, consistently sending trains in under a minute.  Universal has got ops and efficiency DOWN.  And once again... the mosasaurus roll... sent me to another plane of existence.
  • Bourne Stuntacular.  Absolutely my favorite non-coaster in either park.  Rather then feeling like a cheap substitute for physical sets, the use of video serves the experience in a creative and really boundary-pushing way.  The show constantly one-ups itself into bigger and bigger wow moments.  It seems like it doesn't get a lot of attention being tucked away in that corner, but it's a marquee attraction in my book.  And I love seeing live entertainment shine in ways that you can only get with real people actually in front of you.  Sinbad lost its edge a long time ago and Orlando needed its own Waterworld.  This is it, and it I hope it sticks around for longer than the Bourne movies are even relevant.
  • Halloween Nightmare Fuel - Wildfire.   Without a doubt, this was the biggest "wow" of HHN for me.  Acrobatic shows are really popular around Halloween, but I'm so tired of circus / carnival theming.  That's why I really appreciated how Universal  gave it a new framing, and then cranked the spectacle up to 11.  The performers were all fantastic, the choreography and music choices were fresh, and the fire was HOT.  Like... they did not call this show Wildfire for no reason.
  • Gringotts.  Repeat visit to this one.  In my book, it remains the best immersive theme park attraction in my America.  But the fog effect for the screen keyhole in the last room needs work.  Very clearly saw the hole open because the fog was super weak.
  • Food.  Especially during HHN, Universal's food consistently slaps.  So many options, and everything I had was delicious.

 

MEDIUM LIGHTS:

  • Hagrid's.  This might be controversial.  I liked it, I think it succeeds at what it set out to do, but it didn't blow me away.  I can appreciate the completely insane technology and complexity of the ride system.  Maybe I should have done this before Velocicoaster, but it was closed for the first few hours of the day so the decision kind of got made for me.  I may have also had more fun if the line was shorter?  RIP to the Fire Dragon though.  One of the coaster loves of my life.
  • Revenge of the Mummy.  I know, another controversial opinion.  This moved down a tier since my first visit.  It's definitely bigger than Hollywood, and it has a much more satisfying finale.  But what I noticed this time around is that the ride's pacing is incredibly choppy.  Each chunk of the ride is quite short and you don't get to spend as much time appreciating the coaster.  I feel like Hollywood's breathes a little more.
  • Fiesta de Chupacabra and Dead Man's Pier HHN houses.  These were the two standouts of the night for me as far as the HHN houses.  I though the Chupacabra concept was a nice break from the typical Dia de los Muertos vibe that we usually see from theme parks.  Dead Man's was beautifully made and had some more interesting scenes as well.  The Weeknd probably would be on the list but I skipped it because I had to prioritize and already did the one in Hollywood.  I liked the Hollywood version a lot though.
  • The HHN Tribute Store.  I loved it, but there was a severe lack of Dracula merch.  That was my beef that moved it to medium-tier.

 

LOW LIGHTS:

  • Most of HHN.  I really expected a lot more from the Big Daddy of Halloween events. and I was bored.  The movie houses were "meh" the original concept houses were a mixed bag (two above were fab, Spirits of the Coven was horrible).  And not to personally insult any employees, but Universal's reliance of effects triggers has created an entire army of monsters who don't know how to be scary.  The button does all the work for them.  And it totally defeats the immersive construction & design work of the attractions to have talent that isn't allowed to act and truly inhabit the world that was created around them.  I've gotten more scares at home haunts.
  • Need another way to park hop.  I took the Hogwarts Express once, and it was lovely.  But later in the day, the line got up to and beyond an hour.  So then it was just hiking all the way out and around.  And I had to do that twice.  If there was some other pathway that connected the two closest points within the parks, that would be a God send.

 

WRAP UP:

  • Despite being rather disappointed with HHN, I will continue to sing the praises of Universal Orlando Resort.  Commitment to quality and guest experience around every corner.  Imaginative and innovative attractions that run the spectrum of experiences.  Healthy live entertainment presence.  The on-property value hotel I stayed at was lovely, and getting early park access was a great perk.  Prices have definitely started rising, but the overall value is still unquestionable.
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Cedarflags I agree with most of what you said. Universal has always been my favorite park. Although I love Hagrid's but probably more because I've always been a big HP fan. I too thought it would be nice if they had another way to get from park to park and it might cut down the line at the train somewhat. Not sure if there is geography or infrastructure in the way of that happening or what.

The Bourne show is not only the only show my son goes to without grumbling, he goes several times on every trip.

My biggest disappointment with HHN, we were there in 2019, was the massive conga line style of sending people through and all of the non scare actor staff that are standing in the houses. I get why they kind of have to on both counts but just took away from the atmosphere for me.

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Wrapped up night 1 of HHN last night. Really good time overall, was able to get through every house (and two we did twice) without express. Crowds were quite manageable for a HHN, surprisingly enough. The main houses peaked at 120-130 minute, but died down late and most others stuck between 30-45 most of the time between surges. As usual, wait times are typically inflated and end up 10-15 shorter than posted. Our max wait was Halloween at the very end of the night at 40 minutes (85 posted), but otherwise longest was 30-35 prior to that. Of course, Stay and Scream allowed us to get half the houses done in the first hour and a half, so that is always a must.

Overall, my biggest complaint is having to hear the Weekend non-stop everywhere. Like seriously, it's horrible. The house is also OK at very best (same with Hollywood), but to play his music everywhere in the park is maximum level annoyance. Keep it in the specific house queue, sheesh. I must have heard Save Your Tears a solid dozen times or more. Anywayyyyyy.

My three top houses were Descendants, Pier and Chupacabras. Bottom was Halloween and (first half) of Blumhouse. Rehashing of Halloween over and over does nothing for me and the house itself was very meh. The Black Phone portion of Blumhouse was really good, though. Should have been it's own full house. 

Zones are weak again this year. Not really much to say there.

Love the food options, spent some time trying a few items and they were all quite good. Planning on more stuff tonight we didn't get to try yet.

Back tonight for the final night and hoping crowds are like last night, or better! 

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If anyone wants to come pour a few out for our friend Woody tomorrow and get some final laps in, I'll be around.

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Just kidding, I'll be on the Dinosaur thing. First things first though, I need to get there. My Frontier flight is supposed to be taking off from Hartford right now but instead it's currently taking off from Orlando to come get us.

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If Epic keeps to 2025, I think this would open before. With Disney going crazy adding new stuff lately, wouldn't hurt for Universal to keep some interest coming their way a year or two before the new park.

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36 minutes ago, tndank said:

Rumors suggest it's just a retheme and will turn the area into more of a DreamWorks area. Coaster will be rethemed. Nothing huge or too exciting here for most. 

Seems like an awfully big chunk of land to just retheme everything but that's a project that could move quickly and modernize and fairly dated section of the park so could work.

I'd love to see the Woody Woodpecker coaster replaced with something a little different. Doesn't have to be anything crazy but the fact that there's a nearly identical coater right next door at IOA has always been odd to me. Maybe go with a pair of dueling Vekoma family Boomerang coasters or something. Increase capacity, new ride style/system, throw a DreamWorks theme on it. why not.

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Some notes from yesterday: 

Most of the parks were very uncrowded. Walk ons on Spiderman, Hulk, Mummy, Transformers, ET, Simpsons, Forbidden Journey. VelociCoaster never longer than ~25 minutes. But for some reason Hagrid NEVER posted a line shorter than 2 hours. I mean...I like the thing but if that continues today I guess that'll be an easy skip.

Had my first Mummy rides in 10 years, forgot how fantastic it is! Legit airtime a couple times in the coaster section, the sets are great, just a total home run.

I did get in one more Woody ride!

Transformers is just super bouncy Spiderman.

Rode VC in front for the first time. Quite terrific, but the back has more teeth.

Incoming storm had Hogwarts looking spooky as all hell.

1102221921.thumb.jpg.3850787fa737b05a6a395dc55ced59ac.jpg

 

Back it today and probably here on Sunday as well.

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Thursday notes!

Entertained myself for at least 45 minutes by standing on a bridge next to one of the soaking water cannons on Popeye's and watching people get absolutely demolished by the thing. They might as well just hand everyone a bar of soap. Idk how people ride this thing in blue jeans or sweatpants. 

Ate Green Eggs and Ham for lunch. Actually a pretty filling meal. Check it out if you grew up on Dr. Seuss books like I did.

It was kind of a weird day. VelociCoaster didn't open until after 2pm. Hulk also had an extended breakdown midday. Thus, lines for the other stuff got a bit long midday but in the afternoon everything was back to normal. This resulted in us riding and reriding things like Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish, and the Sky Trolley. 

Spiderman is officially my favorite ride on Marvel Island. Sorry Hulk, you're cool and all but Spiderman is my 2nd favorite dark ride of all time (and also 2nd in this park, we'll get to that later). Anyway, for some reason the effects seemed more on point than usual today and the ride was fantastic. 

Kong is pretty fun. We won't talk about its counterpart in the other park. Not sure I'd wait very long for it but other than the big hitters, this park has been walk on city the last couole days.

The holiest ride in the park is totally unchanged since the dinos escaped during Ian. The building didn't seem any brighter to me, but maybe I wasn't looking in the right place. Came off bone dry from the downtown. The baby dinosaurs that squirt water at you got more moisture on me.

Ever since I met @PKI Jizzman at the Hogs Head and proceed to chug a beer near the station for Forbidden Journey because the line was non existent, I've kind of made it a tradition to do it every trip into the park now. Even managed to run into Logan from ElToroRyan at the bar. Grabbed a Strongbow with a cinnamon whiskey shot which was amazing. It's no secret how much I love Forbidden Journey, it's my favorite dark ride on earth. But Forbidden Journey with some booze in you means you might as well be flying around the quidditch pitch on your very own broom.

Headed down the John Williams musical highway to wrap up the night with a back seat ride on VC. I wish I could just move into Gryffindor tower and have FJ and VC a short walk away whenever I please. Whats the Zestimate to buy that kind of real estate?

Wife has some conference to attend this weekend. Might dick around the parks while shes there, and definitely will make a Fun Spot appearance or two. But we'll definitely be back at the park Sunday afternoon and evening before heading home.

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21 hours ago, Zand said:

But for some reason Hagrid NEVER posted a line shorter than 2 hours. I mean...I like the thing but if that continues today I guess that'll be an easy skip.

I don't know if this is the case right now or not, but considering it's a slow time and the park would have 100% expected it to be a slow time, it's possible that they're refurbing a drop track on Hagrid's right now. When they're down a drop track, that line crawls.

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32 minutes ago, coasterbill said:

I don't know if this is the case right now or not, but considering it's a slow time and the park would have 100% expected it to be a slow time, it's possible that they're refurbing a drop track on Hagrid's right now. When they're down a drop track, that line crawls.

I heard this last night too. Guess that means "only" 6 train ops or so?

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1104221310_HDR.thumb.jpg.f10cc43ba87fb6320880267dabb75abb.jpg

When 500 people just GOTTA get that dragon pic for Insta.

 

Spent a couple hours on the Studios side this morning. Rockit in row 2 was good...this thing is like an old wooden coaster. Best to avoid the wheel seats. The mix of exciting airtime hills and MCBRs never gets less bizarre.

Mummy great as always. Keep getting assigned the front row which would usually be great, but this is a back row kind of ride.

Some guy gave us 4 paper fast passes. First went to Gringotts where the girl checking fastpasses told us to keep them and use them elsewhere. This thing is objectively the worst of the major potter rides and the worst of the park's indoor coasters, but that doesn't mean it sucks. I just think the crazy pills that people take to consider this better than Forbidden Journey and Mummy are the same ones as the pills that lead to people saying Iron Gwazi is better than Steel Vengeance. 

Took the fastpasses to Men in Black where the fastpass line ended up being longer than the standby line (which was showing 20 mins despite being a walk on, so yeah...glad we wasted them there). If spinning coasters spun as much as this stupid thing does then I would like them a lot better. Thought Tasmanian Devil was controlling our car.

Wrapped it up with Minions via fast pass on the way out although again the standby line was dead even with the fastpass line (the longest line at the time was Fast & the Furious...like WTF people?!?!?). Anyway, this is like the Simpson's to me...ride it for the humor and not the ride experience. You do more standing around than actual riding. 

Fast forward 8 hours, spent a couple hours at Old Town. Mine Blower was as Mine Blowing and chiropracting as always but I love the damn thing. Rode Hurricane twice and its jankiness and airtime will never go underappreciated. The Screamin Swing blows here btw...like a 20 second cycle. Moreys Piers it ain't.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/4/2022 at 3:39 PM, anonymouscactus said:

I was today years old when I learned there's more than one path on Hagrids. (I've only been on it once, but this is the first I've heard of anyone speak of it)

El Toro Ryan has a length video on Hagrid's the mentioned the multiple track switches and stuff.  Pretty interesting if you are into the nitty gritty of how attractions work.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just checking on thoughts on visiting Feb 13-14.   I think thats probably still relatively quiet in the parks but I havent been in a few years.  My youngest turns 11 in January so we are continuing the tradition of bringing the kids to Hogwarts, since they start wizard school at 11 in the books.

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