A friend described Universal Studios as Walt Disney World’s poor cousin and the park definitely falls a little flat having been to WDW. The problem is that Disney do their parks brilliantly, with a real attention to detail and finesse that unfortunately their neighbours can’t quite match. That’s not to say the place is terrible, but a lot of the park feels rather dated.
The Marvel section features a lot of the big name characters, but in their ’90s incarnations, which makes it feel like it needs a revamping. Similarly, Toon Lagoon is filled with retro characters like The Phantom and Flash Gordon, which seems a bit out of touch, I love those characters, but do kids know who they are?
The only real new part of the park is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which didn’t really appeal to me as I’m not massively fussed on the movies. And most of the Potter stuff is made up of shops, so it seems more like an extended gift shop. WoM, being a huge Potterhead, loved it.
Anyway, there were quite a few things I did like, so here’s my top 5 list:
5. The Big Pink
Okay, so number 5 is food related, and fully embracing the idea of being on holiday and not being rigid on the diet, WoM got one of the giant donuts on offer in The Simpsons section of the park. It was pretty tasty, and gave me a sugar high that powered me through the rest of the day.
4. Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts
As I said, I’m not the biggest Potter fan, but I was impressed by the light show they have in the evening. The projected images onto the Hogwarts Castle model is visually stunning and well done. It’s a real spectacle and despite the queue for it, well worth checking out.
3. The Jurassic Park River Adventure
So, the Jurassic Park section of Universal was easily my favourite part because I love those movies, and it had some cool stuff.
The centre piece of the area is this ride, which allows you to take a boat ride through the park. There are some cool dinosaur effects and some good jumps, and it climaxes with this big drop.
Now, WoM isn’t great with heights and neither of us are huge fans of big drops (probably why it’s the slower rides at Disney which are our favourites), so convincing her to go on the ride was no mean feat. Our friends, who had ridden it before, reassured us that the drop wasn’t too big, steep or fast, and after watching a couple of boats got through, she agreed to go on. I was very proud of her for doing this, as she is very good at confronting things she’s scared of and giving them ago.
Unfortunately, our friends had lied and when we reached the drop it was indeed steeper, faster and bigger than we had been lead to expect. It’s one of those things where you go up and then down quickly, so it makes your stomach go a bit funny. Afterwards I had a bit of a buzz, but as we looked down the ramp I definitely had an “oh, crap!” moment.
WoM and I agreed that having done it once, there was no need for us to do it again. Ever.
2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
A very fun 3D ride where you ride in the Daily Bugle’s SCOOP vehicle and get thrown around as Spidey does battle with the Sinister Syndicate (Doctor Octopus, Electro, Hobgoblin, Scream, Hydro-Man). The vehicle you’re in doesn’t move around that much, but the 3D effects are so well done it makes you feel like you’re being thrown about the place.
The design is really well done, with a good story and a fun vibe. It also includes a tribute to and cameo from Stan Lee, which I really liked.
1. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
My favourite ride was the one inspired by the awful 2005 King Kong remake, and is another 3D ride where you board an expedition truck across Skull Island. You get to see some giant bats, oversized bugs and then the main event when Kong throws down with some dinosaurs. The effects are jaw dropping and the vertigo inducing spills are quite thrilling. I really dug this ride and enjoyed the little story it tells along the way.
It’s a damn sight more fun than the movie.
So, that was Universal Studios, which was a good day out and had some decent stuff, but it suffers in comparison to Walt Disney World. Still got the cool globe going for it though.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.