Day #13 - Movies and Mammals

Today was our last day exploring the Universal Resort and today it was the turn of Universal Studios. 
I last visited this park in the first few months after it opened in 1990. Quite a lot has changed since then! I've always enjoyed all the "behind the scenes" stuff and the original Universal Studios in Los Angeles did deliver a lot of that in its original setting - in other words, you saw sets, props and techniques actually used in movies and TV shows you knew. When the Florida incarnation opened, obviously they couldn't have much of that "this is the actual location/set used" vibe, but they did their best to recreate it. 
Today wandering around this park, I do wonder if something has been lost in their move to present attractions based on movies, rather than to present the feeling of a working movie lot. A personal preference I guess. 
Having said all of that, Universal Studios in Florida is a great theme park with some stellar attractions. We started our day with one of the new big ones - Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Whereas the Islands of Adventure park had Hogsmeade village, the studios park has Diagon Alley and it is here you are invited to go on a tour of Gringotts Bank (you know, the one run by goblins). Inevitably, the tour goes wrong and we're plunged into a race to retrieve a Horcrux as part of Harry's mission to defeat Lord Voldemort. The ride is an amazing combination of a rollercoaster train and track system with 3D projections alongside practical sets and effects. The overall effect is overwhelming but exhilarating and really well executed. 
Like Islands of Adventure, the Studios park is based around a lake and so we took to walking our way around the lake, taking in the rides as and when. 
So next up was Men in Black: Alien Attack which was a fun dark ride where we had to shoot at the invading aliens as we travelled around the city. We followed this up with The Simpson's Ride which is another ride that fuses motion simulator technology with a 3D film. This one is housed in the old Back to the Future building and is very similar in many ways. While it was really well done, it did make you feel a little queasy by the end of it!
Following our path around the lake we came across one of our favourites from our previous visits, the E.T. Adventure. On this attraction you ride in a suspended car on bicycle style seats, as E.T. (suitably stowed away in the shopping basket at the front of the bicycle car) helps you escape the pursuing cops through the forest, out over L.A. and then in a blink of an eye, to his home plant to save the day! At the end of the ride, E.T. thanks everyone personally by name for their help in saving his planet (I still don't' know exactly what we did to make that happen, but I am happy we were able to help!). I think it's far to say that this ride hasn't really aged that well. The film is over 40 years old now (I know!!!!) and this ride, while charming, seems too much like Peter Pan's Flight from the Magic Kingdom that has been going since 1955.
After all that excitement, we took time to enjoy the Animal Actors on Location show. This is an animal show were trained animals (dogs, cats, birds, otters, skunks, porcupines and even a pig) performing tricks and stunts. All good fun. 
Next up was another big hitter, TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D - yet another motion simulator, 3D projection combo. This was very slick and in the integration between the moving cars, the projected film and sets was really well done. Again, the story didn't really make a whole lot of sense, nor did it matter as we were thrown around a city, dodging explosions and bad guys. It was all a bit nauseating but we both agreed it might be because we're getting on a bit! haha.
After a taco lunch, we entering into our second lap of the lake and picked up some of the other attractions that caught our eye. We revisited Diagon Alley to enjoy the ambiance of the setting since we rushed it in the morning. We had fun waiting for the fire breathing dragon to do it's thing!
We then continued around the park and rode one that really impressed us - are we getting a bit jaded with all these amazing rides we've experienced so far?! This was Revenge of the Mummy. This enclosed rollercoaster performed several surprising tricks during it's journey to escape Imhotep (the bad guy). There were impressive special effects and sets along the way to, all adding up to a great ride that was entertaining as it was thrilling - and thankfully not a motion simulator/projection combo!!
After that, and surveying the attractions we hadn't done so far, we came to the conclusion it was time to leave.  The rides that we didn't do were all motion simulator ones and the one rollercoaster left unridden looked a little too stomach churning. Not good after our lunch! 
So we went straight from Universal to Animal Kingdom which has really become one of our favourite parks due to it's relaxing ambiance and beautiful theming.
We once again took flight over Pandora in the Avatar Flight of Passage ride. Now this is you will remember, a motion simulator and 3D projection ride. However, this one is so well done, so smooth and so engaging, it really is an amazing experience. So we were happy to ride it again.
The floating rocks at Pandora
Animal Kingdom has one attraction that is larger than the whole of Magic Kingdom (110 acres vs 107 acres). That attraction is Kilimanjaro Safaris, a guided tour through different African habitats that are home to over 34 species of animals. Long before the safari or even Disney World opened, Walt Disney wanted to use real African animals for the river attraction Jungle Cruise. As we know, this didn't come to pass, so it's nice to know that Walt's vision and passion for animals came to manifest itself in another way eventually.
Some of the animals seen on our safari and the Gorilla Trail

We had an early evening meal booked at the lovely Yak & Yeti restaurant. Here they serve pan-Asian dishes in a beautiful Nepalese-style restaurant. We enjoyed Korean Fried Chicken to share as a starter and then Lo Mein Chicken and Korean Beef as mains. Both were delicious and full of flavour. We were good and skipped dessert.
Finally, we decided to squeeze one more ride in before heading back to the hotel and that ride was Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain - aka, The Yeti Ride! Everytime I ride an attraction I see something new, and this one has so many nice little touches both in the queuing area and on the ride itself, I definitely could keep riding it. Plus it's a thrilling coaster with a few surprises. 
As we approached the ride we bumped into an father (called James!) and his two children from Tennessee that were great fun to talk and he was able to do quite an impressive (if annoying) British accent! Meeting interesting and fun people is what makes traveling so fun.
So after all that, having been out for 12 hours, it was time to head home and have a quite evening in our lovely hotel enjoying each other's company - and that dessert we skipped earlier!!


  1. Well, that was a comprehensive account, Spencer. Glad you are having such a fab time xx

  2. I like to be thorough! Hopefully, I am meeting the Expected Standard. Not sure about Greater Depth!


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