After lunch we set out to explore the rest of Islands of Adventure. The park is often billed as one of the best themed in the world, right up there with Tokyo DisneySea. And if I hadn’t already been to Tokyo DisneySea I might have been tempted to believe that…
On the Lost Continent, Poseidon’s Fury looked pretty cool from the outside, but we decided to come back later cuz it eats up 25 whole minutes.
Instead, we staggered around Seuss Landing in the blazing heat, searching in vain for a patch of shade. I guess it’s the color scheme, but that place is so blasted bright, I actually had to plunk down $20 for a crappy pair of Universal Orlando sunglasses!
The first thing we did was take the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride so we could get an overview of the land. The Universal Orlando 2011 guide tipped us off to the train on our right as we entered the loading area, which supposedly has a more interesting route than the one on the left and takes you through the Circus McGurkus Restaurant. This is good because there was no way we’d be eating there.
I think I was expecting more of a Peoplemover-type experience, but the ride is very short and very slow—like Casey Jr.’s Circus Train with less theming and charm. Our next ride was The Cat in the Hat, which had an eerily empty queue and boarding area. Apparently people won’t even go on this one to escape the heat!
Wow. This one was bad—even lamer than the train ride! Except for a couple of neat figures and details, it was just a series of desperately under-themed vignettes with blank walls in between. The animatronics were barely articulated, the storytelling was virtually nonexistent, and the scenes looked like they were lit by a single 60-watt bulb. I get that Dr. Seuss’ style is spare and simple, but that’s no excuse for plunking a handful of mannequins on turntables in a stucco box and calling it a ride…
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is like Dumbo if the fountains actually squirted you. We decided it was not worth waiting and sitting in the sun for. Patrick commented that it seemed like every ride so far at IOA was geared toward either little kids or thrill-seeking teenagers, with nothing in between.
Off to Marvel Super Hero Island!
Like Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this land uses its theme as an excuse not to theme. In my book, painting buildings in primary colors and slapping oversized cutouts of super heroes on them doesn’t count. Somehow I don’t think Peter Parker’s New York City features a giant picture of Wolverine on the side of any building. And while I know it’s supposed to be like we’re stepping into the pages of a comic book, the designs of the buildings are so generic you might as well be at The Block at Orange (i.e., an outdoor mall in Anytown, USA).
OK, this was my biggest disappointment at Islands of Adventure. You see that sign? It says “Ben & Jerry’s.” When I found out Universal’s parks sell Ben & Jerry’s, they went up a notch or two in my estimation. I mean, the only way to get good ice cream at Disney is to go to Downtown Disney for Haagen Dazs or Ghirardelli. Well, guess what? Ben & Jerry’s at the Universal Parks is a big, fat stinkin’ LIE! If you can find one of the stands open, you will discover that it is staffed by one overwhelmed employee running a filthy, leaking SOFT SERVE machine! Soft serve is not Ben & Jerry’s! The whole point of Ben & Jerry’s is that it’s premium ice cream with over-the-top inclusions. Not runny soft serve made from powder that tastes exactly like soft serve everywhere else. I almost asked for my admission back…
Our first ride was The Incredible Hulk Coaster cuz the wait was only 5 minutes. It doesn’t even really have the pretense of theming—it’s just a fast, fun roller coaster. I really enjoyed it right up to the end, when it kinda knocked my head around unpleasantly.
I guess the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman was top dog at IOA until Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey opened. Maybe having been on that ride made me underwhelmed by this one. I like the idea—a combo of 3-D movie and ride that takes you places you don’t expect to go on a movie-based ride—but I spent most of the experience wincing and jerking my head back from the effects. I’m not sure if the planned upgrade to HD projection will fix that or make it worse. Also, the line was the longest we waited in outside of Harry Potterland, about 25 minutes. Aside from the mildly interesting newsroom setting at the start, it’s mostly just a big room with a queue and a pre-show on too-short of a loop.
Toon Lagoon had us in stitches, but not in a good way: it was the combination of virtually noting to do with any hilariously obscure, bottom-of-the-barrel comic character that Universal could get the rights too. Don’t get me wrong—comics like Pogo and Krazy Kat are gorgeously drawn classics. But all Universal has done is slap them on signs and the sides of buildings as photo ops designed to appeal to… whom, exactly? The current generation of kids barely knows who the Muppets are, let alone Broom Hilda!
The line for Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls was really long AND we had to pay for a locker to stash our stuff, but we went anyway cuz it was so dang hot. I hope Universal took the recent fire as an opportunity to do a thorough rehab, because this was THE worst maintained theme park ride I’ve ever been on. The entrance is a set of rusty metal stairs that looks like a fire escape. At the bottom, someone pulled us out of the line through a side door to the loading area to fill a boat with two empty spots, and thank goodness, because I would have been ticked to have to wait in line for this one. As we rode, we marveled at the decay. Paint was peeling off the show scenes in sheets, and there was mildew everywhere. The lack of upkeep was probably more shocking than the final drop!
From there we continued on to Jurassic Park, where Patrick stopped to look for directions…
I was leery of going on Jurassic Park River Adventure cuz I hate getting wet and the one in LA scared the tar outta me. But Patrick really wanted to go. The sign said there was a 40-minute wait, but it was actually about 5. Hooray! Sometimes employee ineptitude can be a good thing! While we waited, we played Patrick’s favorite in-line time-waster, “Douchebag or Tool?”
The last drop wasn’t as scary as I remembered, but I still hated getting wet. I’m not sure why, since we’d just been soaked on Ripsaw Falls… The overhead flying ride thingie (Pteranodon Flyers) was closed or only open to kids or something, and there were no animatronic dinosaurs out, so we did a quick circuit of the Discovery Center on our way out. I think Patrick really liked this because it felt most like an actual place you would go if dinosaurs were real and on display in captivity. For me it was kinda like, “Meh, I paid for a theme park, not a museum!”
The back of the Discovery Center is a great vantage point for taking panoramic photos of the park that will be reduced to a tiny sliver in your readers’ web browsers…
The bridge back toward the Lost Continent offers another great photo op—the backside of Hogsmeade!
We couldn’t figure out a way to “game” Poseidon’s Fury so that we didn’t have to wait, so we just waited…. The theming outside is really spectacular. Too bad the show is not.
It does have some interesting effects, like this one that you can’t see what it is…
And apparently it was a big deal that the spinning water tunnel was working that day. I mean, I think they practically told us it was a big deal, it was such a big deal. (Spinning water tunnel not pictured.)
I probably should have been more impressed by the effects—there really was a whole lotta fire and water shootin’ off all around us. But it just kept reminding me of the cheesy animatronic show at the mall at Caeser’s Palace in Vegas! Heck, I probably should be telling you what Poseidon’s Fury is about, but frankly I can’t remember. Archeological dig… haunted chamber… something goes horribly wrong…lots of stuff blows up—you get the idea!
After that, we went back to Wizarding World of Harry Potter to kill time until the crowds began to thin and the light got better for taking photos.
The plan was to do all the shopping we’d skipped at Honeydukes earlier, and we went kinda nuts…