A trip to Universal Studios with highs and lows

By Max Maier | Jun 29, 2012

Orlando, Florida — I just got back from a three day trip to Universal Studios Florida, and I had a great time. I've always loved amusement parks, ever since I was a little kid.

I've been to Bush Gardens once, I've been to Dollywood once, Disney World three times and now I've been to Universal Studios twice. So I've had my fair share of theme park experience.

Unfortunately, during my vacation, Florida was in the middle of a tropical storm, so it rained very hard for the first two days, with very little let up. By the night of the second day, the rain dissapeared and we were given sunny skies the rest of the time. The rain was annoying for sure, and cut down on some experiences, but it didn't ruin anything.

Also, alot has changed at Universal inbetween my two trips. They shut down the entire Jaws ride and the surrounding scenery set to look like the boardwalk from the famous movie. On the flip side, they added the new section, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is advertised to be one of the highlights of the park. So with that, let's start looking over the park.

I'll start with Harry Potter, because it's such a big part of the park, and it's one of the biggest sections. If you are a big Harry Potter fan, you will be very excited walking into the section. The scenery is gorgeous, and the attention to detail in astounding. Every detail and item in the Wizarding World was approved by series creator, J.K. Rowling, so this world is all approved by the original creator, very legit.

Although I can't imagine why she would approve how cramped every building in this section is. The stores are almost unmovable due to the cramped lay out, people can barely move in there and it ruins any enjoyment in their, and I certainly didn' buy anything.

Thanks to the rain i mentioned earlier, Wizarding World had that eerie vibe that Hogsmeade had in the movies. The most impressive part though, is of course Hogwarts itself. This castle is massive and nearly perfect on every detail. It really gave that feel of being at Hogwarts and was incredible. The castle also contains the biggest ride in Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Forbidden Journey is a moving ride that combines video and physical animatronics, that takes you through the outside of Hogwarts, the forest with spiders from the books, chased by dementors, a quiditch match and eventually a confrontation with a dragon. The physical animatronics of the ride are beautifully well done and great, but this ride could scare little children. In fact I counted three little kids coming off the ride crying.
The dementors and dragon are very scary and creepy in every right, ESPECIALLY the dementor section. So if you have little kids that are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter universe or are scared easily, pass on this ride. Also, the video sections of Harry guiding you are fuzzy, it's hard to pay attention to detail due to video quality. Overall though, the ride is great.

One other point i should mention is the wait line inside the castle. The first half of the line is outside and boring, typical stuff. Inside though, you are treated to a very detailed and gorgeous inside of Hogwarts. Unfortunately, the two rooms with Dumbledore, Harry, Ron and Hermionie talking to you go by too quickly and you are very likely to miss why exactly you are following Harry in the ride in the first place.

That leads to a big point of most of the rides at Universal, some of them aren't just rides, they are experiences. The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride was one of my favorites, because it's not just an awesome ride with Spider-man, it tells a story of you working with the newspaper in his world and following a big group of villains in town, and spiderman has to stop them, save the city and save you. It's a beautiful 3-D motion ride that was recently updated in its graphics. Spiderman and Dr. Octopus were given visual updates that look more like their movie counterparts. Being a Spider-man fan, I absolutely loved this ride and rode it several times. In the wait line, the story set up is told and gets you ready for the ride. If there is no wait or you express to the front of the line, you miss out on alot, unless you just want a thrill ride. But these stories add so much more to the experience.

The Simpson's Ride does a better part of handling this. The wait is usually very long, but you are forced to watch intro videos that set up the story for the ride. If you are not a fan of the show, the story gives a good explanation so you are not completely lost, but you might miss that part. Basically, the character Sideshow Bob is trying to get revenge on The Simpsons family while they ride Krusty the Clown's new roller-coaster. The antics that follow are hilarious and entertaining. This is also one of my favorite rides.

My favorite island in the park was Marvel Island, because I am a huge comic book fan, Spider-man being my favorite. To see all of the items and buildings dedicated to my favorite characters was great to see, especially when actors came out dressed as popular characters. It was entertaining to see, and I had a great time. Also, the Hulk coaster in Marvel Island is very fun and intense, not for the faint of heart. I rode it two times in a row in the front row and loved it. Highly reccommended for roller coaster fans.

The other sections of the park were good for the most part. Jurassic Park is a big section that has many restauraunts, a kid section, and a big water ride. This water ride is the main attraction in this section, but had errors while riding it that ruined the ride for me. Very dissapointing.

That wasn't the only ride to suffer from errors during my trip. The Mummy ride, one of my favorite rides, possibly my favorite, had timing errors in its effects that might ruin the ride for some. Fortunately they were few and far between. The Forbidden Journey was even shut down for 15 minutes due to technical errors. It concerns me that so many rides had problems, it's a shame.

There are many more sections in the park, but I didn't delve into them too much, especially the kid sections. They are good in their own right, but I am 20 years old.

Overall, I love Universal Studios. It offers an experience you can't get in other parks. Sure Disney is all based on its movies and such, but Universal has a line up of movies and content that appeals to the older attendee that might be sick of singing princesses. Is Universal a higher quality park? I dont know, but I sure loved my time there. This is Universal's 100 year celebration, and it's easy to see why. With movies like Jaws and Gladiator, Universal will be around for a long time. Which is good, because I love their park.