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Tobias's whirlwind of a Saturday (9/22)

Discussion in 'Universal Orlando' started by Tobias, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. Tobias

    Tobias Member

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    So thanks to landing a fulltime job that gives me weekends off, I was finally able to head back down to hit up Halloween Horror Nights for the first time. Now this was also beneficial considering I haven't been down to USO (let alone Orlando) since July of 2006! Even though I only had a partial day to see what I could before Horror Nights, this is how it went.

    My trip started off rather wonky, as my plans for a red eye flight that'll get me in Orlando at 6:05am got rather delayed due to a mechanical issue with the plane and we had to switch it. Thankfully they high-tailed it to Orlando ASAP once we did take off, so I arrived around 8:20am. After a quick sedan trip, I found myself at one of the new things for me, Sapphire Falls.

    Sapphire Falls

    I'll admit I've been a little wary of moderate/value resorts, partly because I've been used to staying at a Deluxe resorts. (Wilderness Lodge at WDW, Royal Pacific at UO) An I've read and heard a fair share of mediocre/horror stories from value resorts at WDW. Thankfully with the glowing word of mouth for the UO resorts, I was eager to give Sapphire Falls a try. (Now I was really tempted to do Cabana Bay, but SF being just a bit closer/water taxi sealed the deal.)

    I have to say I was impressed by Sapphire Falls! It's a really nice hotel, it gave off a wonderful relaxed vibe, and it was within easy walking distance to and from the parks which is such a huge advantage that Universal has.

    Now while my plans to do early entry, then a hour of the studios and then IOA was thrown out the window due to the flight delay, I rolled with the flow and walked over to CityWalk and across the bridge where I started hearing my favorite entrance music of all time, for I was finally back home at...
     
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  2. Tobias

    Tobias Member

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    Islands of Adventure

    IOA is still one of my favorite theme parks around, and after 12 long years I had to start things off with one of my favorite attractions of all time...

    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

    What can I say, it's really one of the best around. An new for me was the 4K refurbishment which makes the ride look fantastic! Apparently I arrived at the right weekend too, as I also saw the just added projections to the levitation scene. I thought the people in the windows were part of the 2012 update, but none the less it's great to see them still plussing it to this day!

    Hulk

    Since I was last at UO, Hulk definitely changed a bit. Full-track refurb, new queue/story, soundtrack and the mandatory lockers/metal detectors. This was my first time having to really use the lockers at the park, and honestly it was fairly simple and painless. As for the metal detectors, while I've seen people on other forums just go on and on about how much they despise them...they honestly didn't bother me. An since I don't see them adding this to future coasters, throwing any kind of fuss over them just seems silly. *shrug*

    The new queue is pretty nice, the little videos of the various test subjects were amusing as well, and as for the ride, Hulk's still got it! Even though I feel the original's launch quip was the best (Ok, I think it's going to work...) I do like the screen/projections in the tunnel since it's a effect that works well even during the day. As for the soundtrack, couldn't hear a dang thing for the first half, but it was nice to hear during the second.

    After Hulking out, I made my way back through PoE, Seuss Landing and Lost Continent (which is definitely on borrowed time) to check out the addition which has seemingly changed everything...

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade

    So I walked through the main entrance, saw the train on my right and saw Hogwarts peeking up in the back over the town...and I got chills. The land looks wonderful, and I'd probably would've spent a lot of time to take it all in. However since I was crunched for time, I was moving briskly to the back to check out the start attraction.

    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    First off, that castle fa├žade is something else as you feel tiny approaching and walking under it! Second, I'll admit I've seen videos way back of the ride, and I thought it looked pretty good...but it seemed like a hodgepodge of a story and not much of a climax, so I didn't know if it was up there with the likes of Spider-Man.

    Since I was crunched for time, I decided to just use the single rider line and immediately got a entire bench to myself. I was whisked away, proceeded to drop the loudest F-Bombs I have every dropped on a ride thanks to Aragog and the Dementors, I got off the ride...and immediately ran back into the single rider line and did it again.

    I was legitimately blown away by this ride, and there is no doubt why this got duplicated in Osaka and Hollywood, it is just that good. Videos don't do the ride justice, as a video can't replicate the crazy maneuvers the ride performs, it doesn't show how freakishly close the AA's/set pieces get to you, and it doesn't replicate the amazing sensation of flight the ride pulls off. Yes, the story is still a bit of a hodgepodge and doesn't have the same kind of WHAM climax like Spider-Man, but it's such a assault on the senses from beginning to end that the issues aren't really glaring.

    Now is it as good/better then Spider-Man? Spider-Man is still tops for me, but FJ is a really close second. Either way, I feel these two attractions are some of the greatest in the world, and proof that when the creative team can really flex their muscles, they're gonna' give you something uniquely amazing.

    Later in the day, I did go through the queue and thought it was really impressive. The Musion effect for Dumbledore and the trio are really impressive, and same can be said for the moving portraits and the Sorting Hat.

    Skull Island: Reign of Kong

    I was pretty excited to check this ride out, especially since I actually avoided any kind of videos for this one. Starting with the queue, it's a pretty killer queue! I love how progressively creepy it gets, which was clearly evident by the line being slow due to a poor kid who was getting legit freaked out. The room with the shamaness was awesome, and the loading area was quite nice with the AA worm and such.

    As for the ride itself, I honestly enjoyed it. The 3-D is great, there's a lot to take in especially with the 360 room, and the motion was pretty sweet. An the big guy himself was pretty jaw dropping in AA form, so overall it's a wonderful addition to IOA. Oh yeah, one more thing. I didn't expect to get a taste of HHN in the queue, guess that answered my thought if they were going to keep that element around!

    Now after Kong, I went back to the hotel to meet up with my friend, and I found out he's never been to Universal before! So I immediately took him on a crash course through IOA, hitting up Spider-Man, Hulk and Forbidden Journey (He loved all three!) and then we decided to head over to the studios.
     
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  3. Tobias

    Tobias Member

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    Hogwarts Express

    Plain and simple, this was a really nice transportation attraction! The overall effect was nice, and I'll admit I got chills watching the train come into the Hogsmeade station. Also, it's really weird stepping out into a completely different place afterwards.

    At the Studios, I was mainly showing my friend around the park to give him a good sense of the layout and game plan for HHN. However we did take a ride on something that was both drawing our attention.

    Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

    While I've heard mixed reviews on this coaster, I enjoyed it quite a bit! It was a funky coaster that was a lot of fun, and the sound system was really good as I could hear "Kickstart My Heart" during the entire ride. Even though my upper body got tossed around a little, I didn't find the coaster to be rough. For me, rough is getting bashed and/or the coaster is trying to give me a headache/spine readjustment right on the spot. HRRR did neither of those, so I was plenty fine with it.

    After HRRR and doing a little shopping, we headed back to the hotel to rest for HHN, having some nice sandwiches and wraps from the Dutch Trading Co. (Plus saving one of them in the mini-fridge to have after HHN.) before heading back to the studios for our HHN adventure.

    Now during HHN, we hit up Men in Black (Still awesome, though unfortunately the second half didn't have the spinning element working.) , Mummy (Still awesome as well.) and we also visited Diagon Alley.

    Diagon Alley / Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

    Like with Hogsmeade, I got chills walking into Diagon Alley. This land was seriously impressive due to how it fully envelopes you into the world. An the bonus of doing this during HHN is there's not that many people around, so we really got to take the area in as we pleased.

    As for Escape from Gringotts, this was another impressive attraction. The queue is amazing in it's own way with the sheer number of AA's right at the beginning, to the pre-shows which felt like a nice mini attraction to the ride itself. The ride is a whole lotta' fun, be it the tricks that it pulls off, to the musion/3d screens which look great. An with the 42" height requirement, it's a great HP attraction that'll give some nice thrills, but it's more family-friendly then Forbidden Journey which can be a bit scary/overwhelming.

    *Also, fitting for HHN, as we were going through the queue to pick up the glasses, one of the Gringotts staff totally scared a group of girls in front of me by reaching out through one of the empty glasses shelves before the actual ones. That got a nice bit of applause from the line.
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    Whew, that was a lot to get through. While I wasn't able to see or do all the stuff I wanted, I had a blast of a day and it's great to see how much the resort has seriously improved since I was last there. Thankfully I don't have to wait another 12 years before returning since I'm already planning a return for next year, this time for at least a couple full days to really take it all in. By then, I'll also have a very awesome looking Potter coaster to look forward to, and Volcano Bay, and several places in CityWalk, and Transformers, and trying any of the food and drink in Hogsmeade/Diagon Alley (Yeahhh, I dun goofed by not trying any of that when I was there.)...
     

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