|Day 6 Wednesday, October 23,
This was a day that we took a side trip (gasp! We left WDW!) to Universal’s IOA and their Halloween Horror Night. I’ll still include it here, although it is a little off-topic.
We had Tiffany Town Car take us to Universal. Consequently, we had no choice but to be ready on time. We had arranged an 8:30 a.m. pickup, and our driver met us promptly near the front desk of Old Key West (where the buses and so forth pull in). We had a great ride over in comfort and style, without having to figure out where we were going. According to my trip notes, the total round trip was $54, which was well worth it. Consider not only the cost of a rental car for a day, but the extra hassles and the cost of parking at a place like Universal. This was worry free and far more comfortable.
|The weather here was
the worse weather we had all week (before or after). It started raining
about 3:00 p.m., and rained on and off through the night. It certainly
dampened our enthusiasm a bit. But, the overcast dismal conditions
seemed to amplify the atmosphere of the horror night. Where did the
Universal fog end and the real weather begin?
A couple of the rides in the late afternoon were stopped because of lightening.
We had never been to Universal Florida before (we have been to Universal in California). We chose to do Islands of Adventure, because we thought the other park would more closely resemble the park in California. We could have done the movie park
||during the day, since the Horror Night
was at IOA. But, I’m glad, overall, that we chose what we did.
It gave us a chance to catch IOA in the sunshine, before the weather turned
on us. And there is a different atmosphere during the Horror Night,
so I’m glad we experienced the regular park first.
Overall, the best Island was Marvel Super Hero Island, with the best ride (on any Island) being Spiderman. Spiderman is the only attraction that I felt really competed with Disney--it is definitely a world class ride. The best thing about Halloween Horror Night was the atmosphere that they did in the street at each Island. The other Halloween enhancements (the Haunted Houses) were mediocre at best.
|We all felt that the
themeing at the park was really pretty good. But, it is not Disney
clean, and certainly does not have the attention to detail that Disney has.
But, it beats the pants off of Six Flags on both counts (there is a Six
Flags in Denver). Even Debbie admitted that IOA was a nice change of
pace, but not something we would want to do every year.
The sound effects and background music throughout the park are really very good, particularly in Jurassic Park, where dinosaurs roar and rustle though the bushes just out of sight.
Nick did just about every ride that was opened. There aren’t really a ton of rides here, and we were surprised to find some of them closed.
|There seemed to be a lot of water
rides and coasters here, with Spiderman (and Jurassic Park, I suppose) being
The food is no cheaper here than at Disney. The food that we had seemed to be not quite as good as the cheaper food at Disney. We didn’t really do a sit down restaurant like Mythos, so I can’t comment on the higher end.
I didn’t find IOA that easy to navigate. Basically, you move from Island to Island either clockwise or counterclockwise. So, it’s each isle in sequence (forward or backward), with no way to cross over in the middle. Also, it’s all foot traffic, with no enhancements like a steam train or monorail. I just don’t think it is that egress friendly.
|Tiffany dropped us off
where the buses and limos stop, and we took the walkway into City Walk.
We walked through City Walk without really stopping, just snapping a few
photos on the way. We instead strode right into IOA.
The themeing at the Port of Entry, as mentioned, was pretty good. We walked through pretty fast, and headed to Marvel Super Hero Island.
I really liked the themeing on Super Hero Island. There are a lot of giant cardboard cutouts and neon lights set against semi-futuristic building facades.
Spiderman is definitely a ride which could be put up against the best of the Disney rides. If you are not
||familiar with it, in this ride you
wear the polarized glasses that we are used to at the Disney 3D films.
3D film imagery makes up a large part of the ride. But, you are also
in a vehicle which has quite a bit of motion simulation, and appears to travel
along a track through the short length of the ride. The motion simulation,
3D imagery, and props are combined masterfully. When a 3D object or
character lands on or strikes your car, the vehicle recoils. There
are places where 3D water effects are accompanied by a real sprinkle, or
fire effects are accompanied by heat (even a couple of places where they decided
to use real pyrotechnics). I enjoyed the quality and coordination of
the ride, and enjoyed the story (an echo of my youth). The only small
complaint I would have is that the queue is pretty cheesy--kind of a plastiform
office setting, which is
|supposed to be the Daily
Bugle. An authentic office area would have been more effective.
You should also be aware that the ride motion here is rather rough.
It didn’t bother me, but it easily could if you were sensitive.
We rode Spiderman four times overall, once with some pretty messy malfunctions. It doesn’t break nicely like a ride full of animatronics, where you can just sit and admire the artistry. We went though the whole ride, with everything terribly out of sequence, seeing the back sides of things, having voices and images that didn’t line up. They did offload the people from the broken car and put us back at the front of the queue, though (and that ride was fine).
|Hulk sure is a big and twisty roller
coaster. We didn’t do it until late in the afternoon, on our second
trip to this island. Nick ended up riding it three times by himself
(in the late afternoon, and during the Horror Night). I’m not that
big on plain old coasters, so I hadn’t really planned to do it. I was
a bit surprised that Debbie chose not to ride with him, though. Nick
reports that this is a very good ride.
Nick also did Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall by himself. This is certainly no Tower of Terror--it is more like the pick em up and drop em ride at Six Flags. Just a metal post with some cars and cables attached to the side.
There was only one other ride at Marvel, some kind of spinner called Storm Force, or something like
|that. None of us
rode it. So, there aren’t that many rides, but the themeing and the
merchandising are good.
Characters abound at Marvel. Nick choose not to collect autographs, saying that his autograph book was for Disney only. We did get some good character shots with Nick, though, with Spiderman and with Rouge and Wolverine. There were plenty of other Marvel characters out and about during the day.
The merchandising in the Marvel store was good. We picked up some t-shirts, and some very nice pens (reminiscent of my Disney Villains pens). We also stopped in the comics store, and looked around at the
||high end lithographs and hard bound
comics. It brought back some very pleasant youthful memories for me.
After Marvel, we headed to Toon Lagoon. We kind of walked through, just taking pictures (this area is kind of neat visually), until we got to the Popeye ride. This area has some of the Sunday morning cartoons (Dagwood, Beetle Baily), and some other toons like Dudley Dooright and Popeye as themes.
The Popeye ride reminded me of Kali River Rapids in design, though it is not as deeply themed. The animatronics here is rather stiff and porcelain looking. I realize that Popeye is not “realistic”, but the animatronics (or is that a trademarked word?) could have been better done.
|At the coaxing of the
British family that happened to ride with us on Popeye, we stayed on the
ride for a second round. This turned out to be a rather bad idea.
We were pretty wet after the first ride, but were drenched after the second.
I think that we rode about 10 in the morning, and I was still not really dry
when it started raining after 3. In fact, you might want to consider
a change of clothes for even one ride here.
After the Popeye ride, we had some burgers at Wimpy’s for lunch. We would have gone to Blondie’s, but it was closed. There seemed to be a number of restaurants, attractions, and even some rides closed down. I think they shut down more in the off season than Disney does.
|At some point after Jurassic Park,
we must have backtracked to Toon Lagoon, as we rode the Ripsaw Falls.
This is a very rough, very wet water ride, themed to the old Dudley Dooright
cartoon. Debbie ended up loosing her hat, which was partly due to poor
planning. The final drop here is pretty rugged. After this ride,
we were even wetter, which probably did contribute to our day long soak.
The seating here was a little strange, as Nick and I were jammed into what was kind of one seat (him in front, between my legs). I guess I’ve seen seating like that before, but it was not very comfortable, and won’t work when he gets a little bit bigger (nor if I was a little bit wider).
|I was a little disturbed
as we stood on the bridge afterwards, watching the water in the wash from
this ride, and seeing the old bottles and other bits of trash floating around.
Eewee. And we were soaked with that water.
We did go pretty fast through Toon Lagoon, as we were pushing to make it to Jurassic Park. We had never even ridden the Jurassic Park ride in California, as it was down for refurb on the one and only time we had been to Universal since it was built.
The Jurassic Park ride is very good. I found the dinosaur animatronics to be quite good, but Disney’s are better. Those in Universe of Energy are certainly more lifelike. Nonetheless, there are some really
||edgy effects in the carnivore area,
and a nice drop at the end (Splash Mountain, overall, still having the upper
hand for the drop).
There didn’t seem to be a heck of a lot else on the Jurassic Park Island. A couple of minor restaurants, and a shop or two. Nick played in a large playground, that seemed like it may have been the site of a roller coaster at one time (hey, maybe you are supposed to think there was a ride there, but now it’s abandoned. How Jurassic Park like). Nick did have a good time doing this. I was trying to dry my socks.
There was also some sort of walking trail that was closed for the season.
|After Jurassic Park,
we hit the Lost Continent. There is a nice theme here, kind of a smear
between the midlevel world, ancient Greece, and Sinbad. It really does
flow rather nicely together, though. It’s probably my second favorite
Island after Marvel.
We all rode the Flying Unicorn twice, and Nick three times. This is a short, gentle coaster, which I can’t resist comparing to Goofy’s Barnstormer. It is not at all intimidating, and makes for a fun little ride.
Nick rode on the Dueling Dragons many times. Again, I was surprised that Debbie did not. Nick reported that it was a good ride, and really enjoyed the fact that the two coasters (one fire dragon and one ice dragon) swoop close to each other several
|times. The themeing of the ride
from the outside is pretty nice, with the dueling dragon motif. There
are also some nicely themed medieval shops nearby.
We didn’t do Poseidon's Fury until during the Horror Night. I very, very much enjoyed this attraction, and am glad we didn’t miss it. I’d even put it above the Jurassic Park ride, and right under Spiderman.
This is a walk through show, which takes place in several rooms, and involves an expedition which awakens Poseidon and some ancient rival of his. The visual effects, including some nice water curtain work, are extremely well done, as are the audio effects and some pyrotechnics. There’s also a neat
|water tunnel that you
walk through at one point. If you are going to do IOA, don’t miss this
We crossed into Suess Landing, spent some time there, then went back to Marvel, and bounced back to the Lost Continent for supper.
Seuss Landing is cute. Nick didn’t seem to care for it, perhaps he thought it was uncool. Debbie liked it quite a bit, and I thought it was somewhat charming. The only ride we did here was Cat in the Hat. Debbie insisted this was very cute. It’s really kind of a Pooh like ride, for want of a better description. Naturally, it is based upon the book we all know, with cutouts throughout the ride depicting scenes from the book. Actually, I have to admit I find Pooh
||a little more clever. This was
not a bad ride, though. We skipped the carosaul and One Fish Two Fish.
The facade of Mythos (in the Lost Continent) is very cool, and we had planned to have dinner there, but it was closed by 5. So, we ended up having a couple of turkey legs at the Enchanted Oak.
The Enchanted Oak is designed to look as though it is built in an enormous, hollowed out tree. There are some hidden faces here and there in the twisted wood. Again, the themeing is somewhere between Disney and Six Flags--not quite as good as the one, but much better than the other.
The turkey legs were good, standard state fair fare. We were eating about 5 p.m., and waiting for the Halloween Horror Night to start.
|It was pouring outside
at supper time, but we were holed up in the Oak anyway, waiting for them
to reopen the park.
They started the Halloween Horror Night a little early. Nick immediately ran from the Oak over to Dueling Dragons. We then walked over to Jurassic Park. They had fog machines going full blast at this point. In places, the fog was so dense that I couldn’t see Nick and Debbie walking in front of me. This was a very cool, eerie effect.
Throughout the park, there were costumed characters roaming. Those in Jurassic Park were half human, half dinosaur mutants, and torn up lab technicians.
|The characters in the streets were
better than those in the Haunted Houses.
As I mentioned earlier, the Haunted Houses were really kind of weak. They were not so much Haunted Houses as maniac asylums, with crazy people running around and a fair helping of blood and guts. That’s not really what I’d call a haunted house. I’d rather see at least one or two ghosts or magic tricks, instead of a guy in a mask with fake guts waiting around a dark corner to jump out and say “boo!” Ironically, we have been to much more creative and better themed haunted houses in Denver. But, if you just want to be startled, I suppose this was OK.
I do have to admit that at least the haunted house behind Marvel Super Hero Island did have Venom (or was it Carnage?) in it.
|Jurassic Park was a very
good ride in the twilight, and I was more forgiving of the animatronics.
As we passed through Toon Lagoon, the costumed characters were some bizarre Seuss like creatures. But, the highlight here was the mountain of foam (not quite dishwashing suds) that covered the better part of the island. Nick disappeared in and out of the suds several times, ending up covered from head to toe.
We stood for some time waiting to get into Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. We ended up pretty close to the front of the auditorium. This show was very loud, especially at the finale. But, it was also very good. There was so much going on at
||once that I didn’t feel like I could
tape or photograph it without missing a bunch of it myself. It was
a very funny pop icon stew, which included Bill and Ted, Doctor Evil, Minnie
Me, Fat Bastard Elvis, Selena (from Men In Black) Will Smith (from both MIB
and Ali), Darth Vader, Martha Stewart, the Osbournes, the Scooby Doo gang,
the Power Puff Girls, Austin Powers, Sexy Cleopatra, Anna Nicole, Spiderman,
the Green Goblin, fireworks, dancing, and some pretty good music.
It was a very funny send off of current pop culture ideas. We all
enjoyed it very much.
After Bill And Ted, we went back to Marvel, which had the best street show of them all. The story is that the super villains have won, all of the super heroes
|are dead, and Carnage
is running the city. There were characters in the street, super dense
fog, sirens, overturned cars, the sound of shelling and helicopters.
It was a very cool bit of atmosphere.
Nick did the Hulk and we all did the haunted house. The line for Spiderman at this point was just too darned long.
The stuff in the town square (at the end of Port of Entry) wasn’t even running when we passed by on our way to Suess Landing, so I’m not sure what it was supposed to be.
|Seuss Landing was scary and bizarre
at night. But, we didn’t get to enjoy it, because the rain was really
pelting us at this point. But, we did the Scream House behind Seuss
(mediocre), and drug ourselves over to the Lost Continent to do Poseidon's
Fury. We were glad we did, as I mentioned above.
At the end of the night, we stopped by the Enchanted Oak again for some ribs and a couple of beers. The ribs were not as good as the ones we had at Old Key West, but they were not bad. They were enforcing a pretty strange one beer per person rule at the bar. Now, I imagine this had something to do with the presence of underage youth here, but what a strange way to try to keep beers from the kids. All you would have to do is go back to the bar twice, as I had to in order to pick up a beer for Debbie.
|I do have to say that there was quite
a bit of alcohol flowing during the Horror Night, even out on the street
(some of the little street stands were selling beer). Overall, it seemed
like a slightly rougher, less considerate crowd than we had at WDW.
There were definitely less families in the mix. Nick is old enough
and big enough that it didn’t bother me too much, but If he were much younger,
I wouldn’t have been 100% comfortable.
The crowd was getting a little too ugly, so we decide not to wait till the very end. Besides, the weather wasn’t really cooperating.
||There were some rather good ghouls in the streets
of Port of Entry on the way out.
Tiffany picked us up at the bus loading area of Universal at 12:15 a.m., and we were home before 1:00 a.m. He dropped us right in front of our building, rather than over at the OKW front desk. How could this have been any better?
Overall, it was a worthwhile day, but I wouldn’t make it a habit. We’ll be back to IOA, but not next year.
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