My car was running like a dream. Except for that odd grinding noise whenever I'd brake. But for the time being, life was good. We made our way to Universal Orlando to visit Universal Studios. As a wee lad vacationing from New Zealand, I'd visited Universal Studios in Hollywood and was amazed by pretty much everything there. One of the highlights of my life was being able to sit inside K.I.T.T. from Knightrider and talk to the car. Universal Hollywood had no rides, a few shows, and most of the attraction was the backlot tram tour. I expected mostly the same sort of park here. I was wrong.
The first indication that I was totally off the mark was when we entered the Universal complex and first encountered Universal CityWalk. A complex of shops, nightclubs, and restaurants that completely captivated me. They have EVERYTHING there. A place for jazz, a place for Motown, a dance club, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Hard Rock Live, NBA City, and even one of Emeril's restaurants! It's great fun after the park closes--the music, shopping and fun go on until 2am in CityWalk!
We took a right once we got to the lake separating Universal's two theme parks, waited patiently in line to buy our tickets, then entered Universal Studios Orlando. The first stop we made was Twister: Ride It Out. And that's where I noticed that there were movie props EVERYWHERE. In the line for Twister, they have vehicles from the movie, opened up so you can see all the details inside. They even have Dorothy II from the film sitting alongside the queue. Twister was really neat too...except for the pre-show film they make you watch. It stars Bill Paxton. And he talks about how tornadoes are an evil spirit or something. All I really noticed was his complete lack of expression and how obvious it was that he was doing a really bad blue screen shot as opposed to being in a destroyed town. Helen Hunt comes on another screen looking hot. And standing in front of a set that's NOT a blue screen shot. But that's not enough to save it. The actual twister bit of the ride is worth the wait, even though it's only a couple of minutes long.
The closest thing to the Universal Hollywood backlot tour is Earthquake where you learn about special effects, then spend time in a fake subway enduring a fake earthquake while fake bad things happen all around you. And here's where I get to a main point about Universal. Universal loves fire. Universal loves fire a LOT. Nearly every single attraction at the studios contains fire. Twister, Earthquake, Kongfrontation, Jaws, basically everything involving bad things happening has fire. And it's HOT. During the Jaws ride, I was less afraid of the shark than I was that I'd leave the park with no eyebrows.
Sprinkled throughout the park are random movie props from Jurassic Park, Terminator, and other Universal films. There are also many trick photography points where you can take a picture and through the wizardry of special effects you can be doing something impossible. Like standing in front of the space shuttle. The space shuttle in this shot is less than 3 feet tall. Cool, eh?
Halfway through the day, we decided to eat at Universal's international food court. Wes had Mexican. I had Chinese. There wasn't much of a difference between the two. In fact, if I hadn't had lo-mein noodles on my plate, we would have had the same dish. They even tasted the same: Extremely nasty. Don't eat the Mexican OR Chinese food if you're there (except churros, which are incredibly addictive).
It started to rain a little, and to get out of the rain, we ducked into a building that contained all sorts of props from the Grinch movie. If I had seen the movie, but I would appreciated them more. And if a Christmas tree hadn't fallen into an aisle where I couldn't see it and I hadn't run into it and gashed my leg, I CERTAINLY would have appreciated it more. If I get tetanus, I'm getting a lawyer. Moving on to bigger and better things, we headed toward the coolest thing in the park.
T2-3D blew my mind. The combination of the 3-D movie and the live action are insanely cool. There are several parts where you can't decide which is movie and which is live action. Except for the very first time we watched, things went flawlessly in the show. The first show, however, was confusing. Evidently the show's hydraulics had broken down, necessitating obvious entrances cut into the screen, and motorcycle noise, but no motorcycle. The other three times we went, though, the show was perfect. And it gets the first Matt Scale rating of over 10.
After doing everything that looked interesting, we headed over to NBA City to eat dinner. And it was good. Being good little Indiana boys, we HAD to eat at a basketball themed restaurant, and the food (which usually isn't great at themed restaurants) was great! From there we headed to CityWalk and joined in the festivities until near midnight. And only left then because we wanted to be ready early in the morning to head for the climax of the trip, the Mecca of thrill parks on the other side of the lake.
Click here to see what Matt thought of all the attractions he visited at Universal Studios Orlando.
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