Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Universal Studios Orlando - Florida - USA

We awoke in our budget ‘Days Inn’ hotel room to a beautiful day in Orlando.  The room was great value and only a fifteen minute walk to the park.  Having no car we knew better than to rely on public transport and didn’t fancy our leaving time being dictated to us by having to use a hotel shuttle service.  We had bought four single day tickets which meant once in we couldn’t move between the two parks which was fine with us.  We also purchased the meal deal ticket that came to $20.99 for all you can eat at certain restaurants as we expected the food in the park to be expensive and the packed lunch rules were a bit confusing as to what exactly you could and couldn’t bring in.  The park was a spectacular sight during the day and the first park we visited was Universal Studios for two days, deciding to leave Islands of adventure and especially Harry Potter for the grand finale.

The approach to Universal Studios Florida

Kate with the Mystery Machine!

The first attraction that we saw was Shrek 4-D, fortunately we didn’t have to wait in the heat for too long and there were water fountains where we could refill our bottle and stay cool.  It was a hilarious mini adventure with all the usual Shrek suspects involved in rescuing the princess whilst being rocked around, sprayed with mist and wind whilst various things made their way towards your face with the benefit of the 3-D glasses.  I could have watched it again straight after but there was too much to see!  Following this we decided to begin making the most of our all-you-can-eat meal ticket and assaulting the waistline by grabbing a double cheese burger and fries from an American Diner style eatery along with a cookie each for desert.  Over the coming days we would be forming a vast collection of cookies to nibble in our spare time and whenever the restaurant queues weren’t too bad we would pop in to stock up on an extra cookie or two.     

Munching the fast food in an American Diner

Classic cars on display outside the diner

The squirrel also had the Meal Deal ticket

The Simpsons ride was impressive and intelligent.  The queues were a doddle owing to episode highlights being consistently shown whilst you waited which was great!  Even in the room before boarding the ride there were themed sets with Simpsons characters piping up now again on screens with witty dialogue.  The ride involved you sitting in a car under the illusion that you were about to embark on a rollercoaster only to be raised up and ride a rollercoaster simulator on the biggest screen ever.  There is so much going on that even having ridden it a few times I always saw something new and people were screaming when the projected cart flew off the tracks as though we were in the cartoon ourselves, it really does disorientate you!

The amazingly colourful entrance to the Simpsons Ride

The Kwik-E-Mart

One of our favourites had to be the Men in Black ride which hurtled you around in a cart whilst armed with a gun, you were required to shoot aliens popping out all over the set.  It was great to see and the interactive nature made it all the more fun, that and the fact you were also competing against another team.  We were able to ride a fair few times until the opposition didn’t stand a chance.  Another favourite was the Revenge of the Mummy ride which to simply call a rollercoaster would be an understatement.  There were fireballs and strobe lighting as you went backwards and forwards along a track that was often in complete darkness, a really cool experience. 

Standing outside the Men in Black ride

Jaws was a pretty cool ride, as you would expect there were robotic sharks moving around underneath the boat as your guide armed with a shotgun took potshots at them and tried to steer you to safety again with some good pyrotechnics.  ‘TWISTER… Ride it Out’ consisted of an amazing array of special effects whilst you stood and watched a tornado devastate a set with yet more pyrotechnics, wind effects, amazing projected displays and even a cow flying past on a wire.  E.T. adventure was a fun ride for all ages and you got to meet the little alien and his friends.  The ride takes you up and over cities in the magical bike that had E.T. in a basket in the front, Kate nearly dumped some stuff on his head before the ride began not realising that the basket was in fact part of the ride!     

The E.T. ride entrance

The view from the queue on the Jaws ride

Something was found lodged in the shark's mouth

The Terminator 2 3-D show was great.  It was a brave and successful attempt to combine original on screen footage in 3-D with live actors coming down from the ceiling and even at times through the screen combining to form an amazing and engaging viewer experience.   There was action all around and it was often hard to know where to look on the panoramic display and although it was recommended for the family it was pretty intimidating at times even for the grownups!  Hollywood Rip-Rockit rollercoaster ride was great although the wait was quite long as it was having issues, especially the second time around when we were stuck in the queue for about an hour on top of what was expected.  Still it was worth the wait and lets you select your tune that it pumps through the headset whilst you wiz round the track.  Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ was a great selection and really matched the adrenalin rush as you went round, on our first go we queued up longer to ensure we got to ride at the front which was well worth it.  In between rides we visited the Beatlejuice’s Graveyard Revue show that was good fun although would have been better if the crowd had participated more, for all the performers’ effort nobody else seemed to get going but we were clapping and having fun throughout the singing and cheesy jokes.

Waiting for the Terminator 2 3-D show with our glasses

The performers and lighting effects during the show

The ‘Disaster - A Major Motion Picture Ride Staring You’ was different and quite entertaining if not a little confusing.  Personally I would prefer just a proper ride instead of a filming sequence followed by a ride!  We were moved between rooms by a great compare who kept us entertained throughout as actors were picked from the crowd to take part in a the movie.  There was direction given and after the finale on the train where we were subjected to earthquakes and fire the movie was played back to us.  We finished our time in the Universal Studios Florida Park by partying in the sun with the Blues Brothers as they sang alongside a great saxophonist and people clapped along, even forming a mini conga line at one point on request!  We messed around in the shops for a while before leaving, both of us loved the build your own SpongeBob toy that was for sale in the shop albeit a bit out of our price range though we still had fun playing with it.

Partying with the Blues Brothers

Build your own SpongeBob

There were tantrums when we couldn't buy it

Kate Simpson

After a long day we went to the Hard Rock Café to soak up the atmosphere and have a couple of beers in style to make the perfect end to a great couple of days in this park.  Both nights we had managed to smuggle a pizza, salad and even deserts like cookies and jelly from the park meaning we could really save money by not buying dinner, even if it was a bit of a pikey thing to do.  We were really looking forward to the attractions that the other park, Universal Islands of Adventure, had to offer especially the Harry Potter World that we had heard so much about.   

The cadillac above the bar

Enjoying a refreshing beer out of the heat

The exterior of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando


  1. great tips, they come in handy as I will travel to disney world this week and we have a looong way to go! thank you very much for the post!
    BTW I found this awesome site through a friend if your looking for a place to stay there: orlando.hotelscheap.org

    Have a good one everyone!

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