Hey TPR! Hope you had a great Halloween.
There are many great things about TPR trips, but no doubt the best (and priceless) thing is the people you meet! Coming off of the USA Trip I had made two great friendships with Jared and Alex. They had planned a trip with some of their cruise/local friends to Universal and I was thankful to be a late addition. When I mention 'we' below, that will refer to about 9 of us (Jared/Alex/Me/Couple from NY/Couple from Chicago/Couple from MD).
Universal had always been a park I looked up to because of the groundbreaking attractions that I had always seen in books and shows growing up. The dark rides like Men in Black and Spiderman along with the coasters like Hulk and Mummy are some of the first attractions I think of tied to *theme* parks. But to be honest, on paper, Universal didn't excite me too much. I'm not a Harry Potter guy. I stopped reading and watching the movies years ago when certain spoilers were unavoidable. I looked at this trip as a fun vacation to hang out with Jared and Alex and meet some new people along the way with some cool rides mixed in.
I couldn't have been more wrong
Universal was amazing and I'm still buzzing with happiness from my visit. I'm a huge Halloween/horror/haunt guy, but with the cost + crowds to manage HHN combined with 7am-8pm regular park hours, I did not do HHN. I will see you in 2019, HHN! Enough gushing, let's get this started!
Friday, Day 1, 5PM Arrival. Harry Potter fan meter = 0. Didn't recap any movies or anything. Watched Evil Dead instead.
Do you guys like MCO? I love MCO. It makes flying fun with the monorail ride. Also the food options were stellar. It was SO easy to find the ride-share spot and it was $20 for a ride to the Royal Pacific hotel where we were staying. Mind you it was $20 during a rain storm on a Friday at 5pm so that's pretty cheap. Friday was all about hanging out at the new rooftop bar 17 Bistro with the Goodwins who were in town. https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/dining/bar-17-bistro/index.html
Every good trip starts with a beer picture! Thanks for the free beer(s), Southwest.
The Royal Pacific hotel is stunning. So convenient that you're less than 10 minutes to walk to IOA or Citywalk.
View from our suite! It had coffee tea, plenty of room with a giant table. Sorry I didn't take more pictures!
Jared hooked us up. Look at all this crazy A$$ candy!
Check out the view of Volcano Bay! It looks beautiful at night, and so does Orlando in general. So colorful.
The IOA/Universal view. Sliders, buns, and drinks were consumed. I recommend the place!
Day 2 - Up at 6am because we get 7am early entry at Universal Studios! It is going to be a long day since IOA is open until 8pm.
AM or PM? 6:45am ready to get on the water taxi to Studios.
YES HELLO GOOD MORNING I'M HERE AND EXCITED.
Citywalk all lit up, even super early in the morning.
11 hours of adventure let's get it!
Under this arch and into the park.
We went straight in and rode Gringotts and then went back to the gate to get the other half of our group, and it wasn't until I had an hour to take in everything that I started taking picture. It really is sensory overload!
Gringott's - I honestly had no idea what I was getting into with this ride. I didn't know when it opened, who made it, what type of ride it was, nothing.
It's an easy premise - you're going into this bank to get an item you need while leading them to believe you're just there to open an account or check your money.
The goblins looked hyperreal and the whole queue was stellar.
Escape from Gringott's - Wowie. I can't wait to check out the movie to see the scenes from the films. This ride will break your brain a part and put it back together. There are so many surprises, the screens for video portions are crystal clear, the physical sets are massive, and now I have a burning desire to check out Pandora and see what that's all about. Seriously this is what happens when you combine great storytelling with the latest technology.
We re-rode Gringott's and then took in Diagon Alley. All of the details are on point. There's so much going on - the wand tricks, the characters to interact with, dragon breathing fire, shops with different smells, train rumbling overhead, and the cleanest bathroom I've ever seen ever? Seriously there were 2 people mopping and sweeping at all times.
Is it magical? Yes. Especially Olivander's when you see younger guests interact with the wand expert - it makes your heart melt.
Harry Potter fan meter = Imagine the Grinch's heart starting to come to life.
Jared had warned us about the popularity of the train, so we did a round trip. I'd say this was the only ride that I wasn't thrilled about. It just took too long to get on. I mean it's there to transport you between parks which is great but it seemed like I almost could have walked to the other side just as fast. I had also heard about how they toned down the 'frightening' factor which makes me want to learn about the original version.
Can I go into the Forbidden Forest yet???
Round trip completed! We had been up since 6am, so by 11am we were hungry. The Leaky Cauldron is a great option for quick service, sit down. We were in and out pretty quickly and the food was hot/delicious.
Frozen butterbeer was great! I love butterscotch, so this was divine.
Time to check out the rest of the park! It's easy to lose track of time getting lost in everything happening in Diagon.
Pan from the back of the park looking towards the front.
Men In Black was so much fun! How old is this ride?! It doesn't show it. The set design was great and it was a shooting game that worked well. We tried to do the 'tour' to get up close with the animatronics but no luck on this trip. This ride was kind of like a time hop, seeing Big Willie Style Will Smith.
Simpsons part of the park was colorful and had so many great photo ops.
Sideshowbob was trying to figure out how he wanted to kill me but had too many options and ran out of time. Classic, Bob.
Simpsons ride made me feel ill, and half of the group as well. It seemed sitting in the back is a trick since you have people's heads in the way of the screen. It was neat to see the other vehicles while sitting in the front row but I have to believe that BTTF was just a better fit all around. The Simpsons in 3D is just wrong.
We did Transformers next. No one really liked it. It made half of us dizzy. When you compare this to MiB, you have to wonder what Universal is thinking. It's a slap in the face, especially when compared to ET!
Time for a break from the screens! Mummy was right around the corner and we were all pumped to ride our first true coaster of the day. Mummy is one ride that I knew a good bit about - Premier, the fire room, launched, one car train. There were still many surprises that got me. I always forgot about the backwards bit, too! There's just so much going on it's easy to be distracted. The airtime hill was great, the fire room lived up to the hype, and Brendan Fraser is the easiest person to laugh at.
An all around excellently executed experience.
Pretty much all you can see from the station.
They must have gone to get Brendan Fraser a double macchiato.
Let's go see what this 'afterlife' is all about.
Oh hey there's another coaster we need to check out!
This is such a weird coaster. I like weird coasters.
Okay, okay. I get it. The whole metal detector thing is awful. But no one said anything about the :30 second safety spiel on an endless loop!!!
That was by far the worst part of this whole experience, holy f***s***. The ride went down for 10 minutes so they could transfer a car off so we only ended up waiting 20 minutes, but the safety spiel is so loud and there is no break between the start and end of it. It's the sole reason I only rode RRR once.
The ride itself was pretty fun. It's so odd how steep the ups and downs are. I liked being able to pick from hundreds of songs with the secret list.
Woooo one park done! We were pretty satisfied with everything we had done and it was about 3pm, so we strolled through Citywalk to IOA.
Time for a break and some margs.
Afterwards we went to check out the other HP area, Hogsmead, the original HP area. The castle contains Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as well.
Hey I recognize that guy! It's Dumbledore!
This is the realm of Harry Potter that I read and watched the movies on, so I had no problem keeping up.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - Once again. Mind disassembled and reassembled. It's astounding to see this constantly moving ride-type. The pocket to put your stuff in the seatback is genius. Favorite part - face to face with the dragon. The combo of physical sets and screens worked well and it did make one person in our group dizzy, but she loved it still. Everything about this attraction is stunning. Yes, the putting-stuff-away part in the entryway can be a cluster, but we never had to put stuff away so it didn't bother us. The Hogsmead area was very cool, but I liked Diagon Alley much better - felt more intimate.
With just a few hours left, it was time to head into the Jurassic Park area.
All the stomach butterflies right now.
Who cares if we're wet for dinner, we want a River Adventure!
Such an amazing ride.
River Adventure was probably the ride I was looking forward to the most. Despite a main effect not working, I still loved it. I didn't know what wasn't working until I was shown a video and now I want to get back to see it in action! I got pretty wet each time - either getting sprayed by the umbrella dinos, getting the hit by splashdown, or the splash ricocheting off other people into me
I f*** loved everything about this ride.
We skipped this because we didn't want to be drenched since we were heading to Vivo Volo after park close. But it looks great at dusk! We rode Spiderman before Hulk, but I'll get into that later.
Damn this is such a cool set up.
The excitement was overflowing at this point as we were ready for arguably the best coaster Universal had to offer. It was so crazy to finally be in front of this ride after nearly 20 years of hype building. Not to mention it had been torn down and rebuilt! Hulk was great, and it had so many more inversions that I was anticipating. The line moved so quick. Posted wait was 65min. With express we were on and off in less than 15.
If I say bill 3x while doing the fins dance with a marg in my hand will he appear?
After that it was time for dinner at Vivo Volo, an Italian spot which huge portions and all very well priced given the quality and location. Service was a little spotty but we had 11 and it was prime time Saturday night. That wraps up half of this report! More to come from Universal + Disney's Polynesian resort.