SOO for the past 2 days I have been obsessively reading about Universal Studios vacation information and tips, and it has inspired me to continue my vacation blog and HOLY SHIT I just realized my birthday vacation was only 3 months ago and it seriously feels like we went to Florida over a year ago, what the hell?? I guess so much bullshit was jampacked into the past 3 months it feels like it was forever ago that I had the best time of my life; I keep trying to refer to our vacation as “last year.” Eitherway, it just finally dawned on me that there is a possibility we may go back again next year for the HARRY POTTER LAND EXPANSION (if everything is still smooth sailing and intact) which means it’s never too early to start obsessively planning since it’s what I do and I can’t sleep at nights anymore knowing we may go back because I lay awake thinking about all the deals I should check out to save money.
Back to the blog! Allow us to rewind to the not so distant past of 3.5 months ago, dated February 13th:
We woke up especially early at our Avanti resort hotel to take advantage of the short(er) line at the in-house Starbucks, grabbed some coffee, and hopped on to the complimentary resort shuttle. After a few stops at other hotels to pick up some other bitches, and 20-ish min later, we arrived at UNIVERSAL FREAKIN’ STUDIOS. I just.. I just cant even describe the magical-ness I experienced. Mind you, I have only ever been to 6 flags or Fiesta Texas, which (lets face it), are complete shit holes compared to Universal. Since this was my first ever legit vacation with no parents/authorities to supervise, I kiiiiiiinda went a bit nuts planning out every exact detail during our park trip. I should mention here that we got express passes (basically cutting in line ahead of all the poor people) only for my birthday which fell on that Friday of our trip.
We originally got 2 days of dual park passes which came with a 3rd day for free. The first day I decided to take us through Universal Studios instead of Islands of Adventure to the absolute SURPRISE AND SHOCK OF … well, no one but myself and Troy, really. Islands of Adventure (from here on out I will abbreviate as IoA) contains the Harry Potter Land (shut up that’s what I call it) which I have been desperate to visit since before it’s inception in 2010. Even before they decided to build it I always said I’d KILL to go to Harry Potter Land. I had been pining to visit HPL for flippin’ ever and one (no one) would think I’d start my vacation there; my decision to hit Universal first in lieu of IoA for that first day was purely strategic because I am one smart motherfucker. Here’s why:
You see, I seriously read and watched every article, video, blog, and rumor about the parks (mostly from OrlandoInformer.com, a crazy awesome website). I found a calendar which projects how busy the parks will be, and found that the 1st day we were visiting (Thursday) would be a Slow day. The following day (Friday, my birthday) would be under the Moderately busy status, and Saturday would be legitly Busy. Since we didn’t have express passes for Thursday, I deduced we should hit Universal Studios first as there would be little to no lines since Universal is seemingly less popular, and express passes would be rendered futile with no lines; we could then spend all the next crowd-busier day at IoA/Harry Potter Land with our Express passes, and bypass all the ridiculous lines.
When it comes to vacations and planning, avoiding people is my #1 priority. Having fun is just a distant second, and is usually just a happy accident of my intense planning to stay away from crowds.
When we walked up the entryway’s enormous staircase and across the connector (with moving walkways!) we noticed these huge groups of Latina girls all wearing matching jackets and backpacks and hair gel. I exclaimed outloud “FUCKING SHIT, DID WE COME HERE DURING A QUINCEANERA???” and in all seriousness I held on to this belief until about mid-day when I found out they were tour groups for some “young girl’s association” bullshit. We ran down the moving walkways (super fun it feels like you are the Flash and I highly recommend it) and around the insanely enormous group of matchy matchy Latinas to bypass all that bullshit of waiting in line behind them to enter the turnstiles.
Horrible collage because FUCK MSPAINT
We finally got through to enter Universal Studios side and it literally felt like we were walking through an abandoned lot of a movie set. There was almost NO ONE there and we had the run of the place! I just cant even describe the happiness and magic I felt all balled up inside me. We were 2 kids running around totally unsupervised in a magic play land. We could do whatever the fuck we wanted.
First stop was the Transformers ride!
You all may be familiar with the above pic since It’s usually my FB profile. I was so excited when we walked up I started jumping up and down and screaming. There was no one else in the building!
oooOOOoo a glowy thing!
We had to do army style rolls over and under all the rails because walking through the mile of unoccupied queue would have taken forever. We got to the front and I think we surprised a few of the attendants who weren’t expecting riders that early. They were like dejected losers in HS who sat off in the dinstance and watched all the popular ride attendants be all flashy n’ shit and get all the girls. Either way, they were all decked out in army gear and called us “recruits” or something. The ride itself was pretty awesome, but I don’t remember much of it because I was trying too hard to take it all in.
The gist is that you are in a squad car trying to apprehend the bad guys, and it’s all 3D with the glasses (BOOOO), and at one point Optimus Prime gets down on one knee to personally thank you for helping out. I do remember screaming like a little bitch and pressing an imaginary break pedal as hard as I could during all the crazy parts. When our car drove back up to the attendants waiting to help us out they all clapped for us and yelled that we did a good job. I found that this is a recurring theme with all the rides- each ride starts out like a normal run of the mill time but you somehow end up getting roped into an action packed mini-movie and then everyone applauds you at the end. It was a bit awkward having a bunch of grown adults clapping at just me and Troy with no other children in sight, which the theme is clearly geared for, but I was laughing my ass off the whole time, so it was all ok.
Would have been awesome if MY FINGER WASN’T IN THE WAY
The next stop was supposed to be the Minion ride right across the street, but at 9:30am the line was already too long so we did a switcharoo and went to Shrek, instead. Now… even with this trip being the absolute most amazing experience of my life, I do have to say that a few of the rides were a complete let down. Maybe it was because Transformers was recently built with better technology and Shrek was kinda dated, but I actually hated the Shrek “ride.” But lets get to the worst part, first, before I explain why the ride sucked.
You can’t see it, but it’s the 3 little pigs in the boxes
The above pic is the room you wait in before you get into the auditorium. This is Troy’s pic from his iPhone. I TRIED to take a picture with my camera, but in the pitch dark room I didn’t realize my flash was on. My camera emitted a split second blinding light, and all 50 people in the room immediately turned to face me to give me most blood curdling murderous looks possible; not only was that horribly embarrassing, but TROY basically disowned me and shook his head as he stepped back and pretended he didn’t know the idiot with the flash. An attendant told me to stop taking pictures or I’d be kicked out, and the guy in front of me kept turning around throughout the whole mini-show to give me looks like he wanted to kill me on the spot. Seriously, guy? It happened 8 minutes ago, you’ll have to let it go eventually. Maybe somewhere off in a distant blog he furiously wrote about the bitch with the flash who ruined his whole day at Universal Studios. GOOD I hope I ruined his day!
The doors finally opened to let us in the auditorium and I scurried in to sit off to the far left away from everyone. The show itself was just a big screen, 3D glasses, and chairs that kind of jerked you around. The story was really annoyingly stupid and the whole 15 minutes I was hoping it would just end so I could leave. I would only recommend this ride if there is no line and you really want to get out of the heat into a cool dark room, especially since you are misted with water a few times. *please note that my embarrassing flash incident had nothing to do with my overall judgement of the show!*
After that we headed over to the Mummy’s revenge, which was pretty sweet albeit kind of forgettable, but maybe that’s because we visited the SIMPSONS LAND after. You walk through the MIB area to get from Mummy to Simpson’s and the MIB area is kind of funny (they play dated nostalgic music, like Boys to Men), but once I saw the Simpsons MIB completely dropped off my radar and I made a beeline right towards Springfield.
In retrospect, I do believe the Simpsons part was a very close second to Harry Potter Land in terms of my affections.
All I want in life is to have my favorite shows come to life, and I want to live in them. Even though the Simpsons isn’t my absolute favorite show it was still so fucking awesome to walk around the area and see certain parts of the show look real. I was just so enamored with it all, and that’s just with the scenery; the ride is mother. fucking. spectacular.
The Simpsons ride is actually my favorite ride of both parks, I shit you not (but Harry Potter land trumps Simpsons land). The queue is kind of confusing, but once you get into the main room and are divvy’d up into one of 12 mini-queues you don’t really notice a wait because the story begins at that point. There are several screens all about the Simpsons themed room, and it sort of seems at first that you are just listening to the characters talk about semi-random stuff, but at the end you realize it’s a full story from the beginning to the end. From the mini-lines you are taken into a smaller room, which occupies about 6-8 people, and once again there’s a screen in the room that continues the story line. You are then ushered into an even small room and sat in a “car” and once the ride fully begins the car moves through a garage door and you are all of a sudden underneath the largest fucking giant domed screen; you cant even see any of the other cars so it seems almost like you are the only ones there. The rest of the story and the ride are just absolutely amazing and I was laughing and smiling with my eyes glazed over like a fucking idiot. I can’t even remember a time I smiled so much.
The only con of this ride (and with all of the 3D rides except for the brand new Minion one) is that it’s semi-dated which means the effects aren’t as realistic as they could be. When you crash into something or land in water there’s no aftershock feel to it, and your brain gets a bit confused so it takes away from the realness of it. Troy’s brain had enough of that confusion and he totally almost puked towards the end. My superior brain was just fine, but from that point forward we had to deal with a motion sickness obstacle (which turned out to be a total blessing in disguise… for ME).
After the ride we had to find a solution for Troy’s motion sickness so we headed back to MIB; I read in one article that the gift shop had Dramamine so we bought some of that, then headed to the MIB ride. OMG the MIB ride was SOO effing dated. It was like going through a weird carnie haunted house ride with really old hydraulic effects of aliens popping out on the sides. It only beats out Shrek for first prize in the Least Awesome ride competition because it’s tied to the nostalgia of my childhood. I honestly cant believe the MIB area is still at the park. It’s a sad statement, but true; it seriously cant keep up with the newer rides since technology has become waaaay more advanced since it was built. I would probably not do that ride again on our next visit.
SO my main objective was not only to avoid lines but also to avoid water rides and kid rides; at that point we had ridden everything on my list, and spent the next hour just having a lookabout and eating at the Monster Cafe. We finished with the Terminator show, which was pretty entertaining, but again pretty dated. We had planned to spend the whole first day at Universal but after 3 hours we had exhausted the whole park except for the Despicable Me Minion ride, but the line was so insane we moved the visit to day 2 when we had the express pass. With nothing left to do we decided to just check out IoA and get a better idea of how the plan would go down for Day 2.
Here’s the last of the Universal Studios random pics that were taken on Day 1:
1st sighting of Hogwarts from across the lake!!
Getting eaten? Or am I KARATE KICKING A SHARK
Sooo ENTER ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE FOR THE FIRST TIME:
first off, let me explain how lucky we were that I planned this whole shebang out. Apparently there were like, 4 different tourist/quinceanera groups roaming about, and while we were at Universal Studios they had all gotten their fill of IoA and appeared to be packing up.
Just walking up through the turnstiles you immediately realize you are in a whole different ballgame. All the money clearly went into building IoA instead of repairing Universal Studios. It’s much MUCH more detailed and extravagant, and compared to IoA Universal looks like a run down movie lot (ok that’s a bit harsh..but it’s just for dramatics). That being said, I will always go back to US when I get a chance as long as the Simpsons ride is still there. And the Minion ride. And Transformers.
Anyhoo. We meandered around a bit into the Marvel land and eventually headed into the Wizarding world part. I was almost hesitant to go into Harry Potter land because it was something I had wanted since before it was even built, and for some reason I thought it would never happen. But LO AND BEHOLD:
It was just so beautiful I maybe could have even cried but I didn’t. The crowd was triple what it was anywhere else, but that was ok. We just wanted to take a looksee, and didn’t even expect to go in or near Hogwarts. Well GUESS WHAT! I was able to flex my awesomeness once again, and I asked one of the random wizard attendants about the Hogwarts tour. They pointed us to go into Hogwarts and said to mention it to one of the other attendants, so in we went amidst the frantic masses trying to put their shit up in the free lockers to get in line quicker than the other bitches. As I was walking towards the front of the line, a wizardy attendant barked at me to go put my bag in a locker (since the ride in hogwarts is a no-bag ride), and I mentioned the Hogwarts tour. She unlocked a metal chain rope and said “ok, enter.” I honestly hope to god we looked like celebrities getting special treatment because NO ONE ELSE WAS ON THE TOUR. We walked up a special flight of stairs and into the Talking Portraits landing. It was by far the most awesome experience ever mainly because no one else knew about it. We were able to hang out and just stare and listen to all the amazing talking portraits seen HERE:
i was just too enamored to even listen to what they were saying. Troy got a video (sorry I have to pay wordpress if I want to add video) but he heard it was the founding wizards talking about .. some stuff.. Anyhoo, after a good while we moved on and experienced a tour of the rest of the castle, which was sectioned off right in front of the motherfucking longest line of fans waiting to ride the Forbidden Journey. I’m pretty sure everyone thought we were dirty cutters..
It was insanely dark and no one else had cameras because they aren’t allowed on the ride, but since I am awesome and knew about the tour we got a few. This pic is right smack in front of Dumbledore’s office, and if you are in the regular line for the ride you are about 20 feet further back. But we were right. there.
The tour misses a few parts that you don’t see if you are in the line for the ride, but you get to see everything else later when you eventually get in line to ride. But that’s a different story for my next blog because there’s another secret that gets you past the hour long wait for Forbidden Journey!
After that we exited Hogsmead and checked out the rest of IoA at our leisure. The Dramamine made Troy sleepy, so I got to ride the Spiderman ride alone. It was really fun, and was very similar to the Transformers ride. Poor Troy got to wait outside and hold my bag : ( The hotel shuttle was making it’s first 4pm pickup so we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. Overall I got to ride every ride I planned and then some, and never waited in any sort of line except for the Simpsons which you kind of have to wait for to get the story.
After we got back and showered we used our rental car to pick up some local pizza and some sourpatch kids and electrolyte water at a Kroger, and spent the rest of the night watching Tosh.O. It was the best ending to an amazing first day : )