Photo Trip Report

Dec. 31, 2012

When I was in Orlando last month, I strictly stuck to Islands of Adventure because I wanted to get big coasters in. I was saving Universal Studios for another trip. A month later, and I'm there for New Year's Eve.

I entered the fairly crowded park and headed straight to Revenge of the Mummy. I got in the single-rider line and waited around 20 minutes to board. I was seated in the front seat on the right side. It's a really fun ride. I love the theming and the effects. The ride drops backward after stopping at a wall where a bunch of bugs come out, and then it launches into part of the course. It's a fun ride. Nothing spectacular, but the fire and other effects add to it. 7/10.

   I went to Twister...Ride it Out next, which I remember from my visit in 2001. The preshow is probably the best part of it. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt take themselves so seriously, but especially Paxton. They talk about how dangerous it was to film the movie and how scary things got even though it was all fake. After that, we're all herded into the show room, where a little tornado forms. High winds are blown, rain pours down, a fire starts and we get to experience a tornado. This attraction is cheesy, but it's a good break from more exciting rides or the heat of the day. 4/10.

Next I went to Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, the newest roller coaster at the park. The single-rider line had about a 40-minute wait, which I thought was unusual, but it was still shorter than the rest of the line. I was seated in the second car in the middle row. The trains are interesting -- the rows are elevated, so each row gets a view; the trains have bright lights on them; and the lap bar is just a big, U-shaped bar. There are speakers next to your ears on the headrest, and you can choose from six songs in six genres before the ride starts. I chose a ZZ Top song, and it played throughout the ride.

The vertical lift hill is interesting because I haven't been on many of them. The first drop isn't steep at all. The first element is a non-inverted loop, which instead of going upside down, there's a twist entering it so you're straight up at the top of the loop. The rest of the ride is just a lot of block brakes, some high-speed turns and a overbanked turns, a turn that's banked too high for the speed it takes (my body fell a bit to the right in the turn, but it quickly exited the turn), and it ends with some low turns and some drops. It's not too exciting, and the non-inverting loop is easily the highlight. 5/10.

I walked clear to the other side of the park, through the San Francisco set and to The Simpsons Ride. This is one I'd really been looking forward to. I rode this when it was Back to the Future in 2001. I was looking forward to a ride themed to my favorite cartoon show and a better projection system. There is no single-rider line, so I waited about half an hour to get on. The sun set while I was in line.

The line's great because the TVs play classic "Simpsons" scenes. I laughed most of the time in line. The ride is themed to a visit to Krustyland that goes awry because Maggie gets into a radioactive room and becomes giant and Sideshow Bob is evil. There are fun bumps and scenes (it's just a simulator), but nothing too interesting happens. I'm not a huge fan of simulators, but I did enjoy this purely for the Simpsons aspect. I also really like the midway. The games are all themed to the show, and there's a Kwik-e-Mart, which is where I bought a Duff beer and Flaming Moe Homer. They're energy drinks. 7/10.

Islands of Adventure closed at 8:30, and it was about 7:30, so I hopped over to that park to ride Hulk and wander around. I love this coaster. I also shot some long exposures in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I got some frozen butterbeer. I actually really enjoyed the drink. Because it was night now, I went to my car to get my tripod and headed back to Universal.

There was a free concert going on with a band that was doing a bunch of covers. I just walked around taking pictures for the next few hours until finding a spot to watch the midnight show. I got a spot near the water, and at midnight, a water and fireworks show began. Happy new year! The show lasted about 20 minutes and included the water effects and plenty of fireworks. There also was music, though it loses points for playing "Gangnam Style." I hung around for about 20 more minutes to let the crowds clear out a little, then I headed home.

I love having an annual pass to these two parks. Universal's theming blew me away, and I really enjoyed all the Simpsons things there. Next time I go I'll check out more rides and maybe a show or two, and the new Transformers ride is opening this spring or summer. 7/10.