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Matt N’s Frolic in Florida 10th-24th June 2023 (17th June 2023: Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Florida)


Matt N

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17th June 2023 (Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Florida)

After a little detour away from Universal yesterday, my parents and I headed back to the Universal Orlando Resort today! It had been 5 days since we went to Islands of Adventure and 4 days since we went to Universal Studios Florida, so we were excited to get back to the two parks and reride some of our favourites, as well as go on a few attractions that we didn’t try the other day! Our original plan was to just visit Islands of Adventure, but we ultimately ended up park hopping, as I’ll explain later!

 

Unlike the last few visits, we decided to try an afternoon/evening visit. As such, we did not leave our villa until gone 2pm, and as the drive was a little quicker at just under an hour, we arrived at Universal at around 3:15pm:

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After going through security and negotiating CityWalk, we entered the park at around 3:45pm due to repeated issues with our tickets scanning. One thing I have forgotten to mention so far is that our Universal tickets were initially printed with a small black spot obscuring part of the barcode, so their ability to be scanned has been somewhat inconsistent so far. Today, they did not scan, so the barcode numbers were inputted manually and we were sent to Guest Services to get our tickets reprinted. By the time we got our tickets reprinted and we entered Islands of Adventure, it was almost 4pm:

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Once we got into the park, we decided to start on a previous favourite that we hadn’t done yet…

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Spider-Man was on an advertised 25 minute queue, so we decided to have a go on it. We were initially sceptical that the queue was only 25 minutes, as the queue was spilling out of the ride building, but the queue times board was if anything overstated, as we were on within 15-20 minutes; the queue moved quickly! But how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered absolutely loving Spider-Man back in 2016, and I’m happy to say that the ride lived up to my memories of it and then some; this is an absolutely phenomenal dark ride! Most enthusiasts seem to have a vendetta against anything vaguely screen-based, but perhaps controversially, I would easily take this over any wholly physical prop-based dark ride I’ve ever done; of the dark rides I’ve done, I think this may well be my favourite anywhere! I think that the screens are excellent and really well integrated with the physical set pieces, there are some truly incredible effects on there (that levitation and free fall still get me every time, and there are some more understated, yet incredible physical effects matching the events on-screen that I’d never noticed before), and all in all, I think it’s such a thrilling, dynamic and spectacular dark ride! Overall, I absolutely loved Spider-Man; it was a phenomenal dark ride that was possibly even better than I’d remembered, and even though I loved TransFormers the other day, I would say that I easily preferred Spider-Man of the two:

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After Spider-Man, we headed towards Hogsmeade, but we did take a detour on the way to ride another dark ride…

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Kong was on an advertised 25 minute queue time, so as we’d thoroughly enjoyed it the other day, we decided to take a ride. The queue looked shorter than it did the other day, but it didn’t move quite as quickly, so the queue times board stayed true to its word and we were on within 20-25 minutes. So, how was the ride? Well, as with our ride the other day, we all thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was an absolutely fantastic ride; we all noticed new details we didn’t notice the other day, and the physical scenery and action sequences on the screens were still just as awesome as they were before! Having now ridden Fast & Furious: Supercharged (a similar ride system) as well, I would say that I prefer Kong by a fair distance; the 3D definitely adds something to it for me, and the whole thing just feels a fair amount more impressive and overall more exciting than F&F, in my view:

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After Kong, we headed into Hogsmeade to ride the main Harry Potter ride in Islands of Adventure that we hadn’t yet done…

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Forbidden Journey was on an advertised 25 minute queue, so we decided to have a go on it. By the time we headed to the area, the advertised queue time had dropped to 15 minutes, and this was initially looking pretty accurate, as we walked far further through the stunningly themed Hogwarts queue line than I ever have in the past before we met the back of the queue. However, the ride did go down for quite a few minutes, so our rapid entry was stymied and we ultimately waited around 25 minutes. With that being said, that is still considerably shorter than the 1 hour+ queues through Professor Sprout’s greenhouse that I remember from previous visits, so I can’t really complain! But how was the ride? Well, I’ll admit that I’m in two minds about Forbidden Journey. On the one hand, I think the effects, physical scenery and screen integration are all pretty impressive, albeit perhaps not quite as impressive as on something like Spider-Man earlier on for me; from an immersion standpoint, it does really well. However, I’m not a fan of the ride system; it does lots of jerky motions, and it does definitely make you feel a bit nauseous. It’s definitely one of the most intense dark rides at Universal in terms of ride system forces, in my view, and I didn’t personally find the motions the most pleasant to experience. Overall, Forbidden Journey is a great ride from an immersion standpoint, and the queue line is truly spectacular (it and Gringotts have possibly my two favourite queue lines anywhere in the world), but I do find the motions of the ride system somewhat unpleasant, so I probably like it a fair bit less than most:

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After Forbidden Journey, I pondered a ride on VelociCoaster or Hagrid’s, but the queues for both were absolutely huge (somewhere in the region of 2 hours), likely due to both having reopened not that long ago from stormy weather earlier in the day. As such, we instead decided to hop over to Universal Studios Florida via…

Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios Florida was on an advertised 35 minute queue, and a key attraction on our hit list at Universal Studios had reasonably attractive-looking queue times, so we decided to hop on the train over to the other park. The 35 minute queue time was most certainly overstated, as we were on the train within around 15 minutes; it’s always great when that happens! But how was the ride? Well, I have to say that while the ride is not massively complex, I find it to be incredibly effective, and really quite a magical, feel-good way to park hop! I’d say it might well be my favourite theme park transportation ride; I love watching the film on the way over, and while the immersive mechanisms are simple compared to, say, a full-blown dark ride, I think they create a very compelling immersive product! Overall, I really enjoyed our journey on the Hogwarts Express; I think it’s a great way to hop between parks, personally:

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Once we were in the other park, we quickly headed into Diagon Alley to ride the other major Potter ride we hadn’t ridden yet…

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Gringotts was on only a 35 minute advertised queue time, and we had been unable to ride it on our first visit to Universal Studios due to downtime, so we decided to have a go on it. The queue time board stayed relatively true to its word, as it took us around 30-35 minutes to get on the ride itself, including the time we spent in the pre-show and fake lift. With memories of having waited 3 hours for this ride in its opening year lingering in the back of my mind, I was very happy with this wait time; I believe it’s the first time where I’ve ever entered straight into the bank lobby itself without queueing through the extended queue line out the back! So, how was the ride? Well, I have to say that it was a fantastic dark ride, and perhaps controversially, it’s quite easily my preferred ride out of the two Harry Potter dark rides. Even though the ride is quite heavily screen-based, there are some surprisingly impressive physical sets in the ride, and the screens and action scenes themselves were absolutely excellent, with the coaster sections themselves, although brief, also being better than I’d remembered! With that being said, I would still say that Spider-Man is my favourite dark ride, and I would also say that I prefer Revenge of the Mummy out of the two enclosed coasters in Universal Studios. Overall, though, Gringotts was a fantastic indoor coaster that I’m glad to have gotten back on:

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After Gringotts, I headed alone to ride a favourite of mine from the other day…

Revenge of the Mummy

Revenge of the Mummy was on an advertised 25 minute queue time, and I really enjoyed it the other day, so I fancied a ride on it. However, as I was riding alone, I used a secret weapon… the Single Rider Queue! I’ve always found the Single Rider Queue very useful on The Smiler back at Alton Towers, so I was interested to see how they stacked up at Universal. I was sceptical given I’d heard that rides like VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s often have Single Rider Queues longer than the main queue, but I have to say that Single Rider worked very well indeed here; the queue was empty, with me walking past switchbacks full of people in the main queue, and I got batched into row 4 the second the operator saw me! So, how was the ride? Well, as with the other day, it was great fun, with a great coaster layout, excellent theming and some absolutely immense fire effects:

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After Revenge of the Mummy, I waited for my parents (due to the walk-on Single Rider Queue, I was on and off the ride before they’d even made it back from Diagon Alley!), and as it was 7:15pm by this point, we exited the park together:

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So, that concludes our evening at Universal Orlando! We had a great evening, and even though we only spent around 3.5 hours in the parks, I got on 6 rides (5 if you exclude the Hogwarts Express), which I’d consider a pretty successful tally, personally! I loved getting back on some old favourites for the first time in 7 years, I was also really glad to get back on some favourites from earlier in the trip, and I also loved park hopping for the first time this trip!

 

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this report! We’re having a rest day tomorrow, as it’s Father’s Day, but I’ll be back on Monday with what will probably be another Universal Orlando report of some description!

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