Everyone said Universal Studios was a don't-miss activity in Orlando. Last time we were there, we'd missed it (the wife wasn't very keen), so this time I was determined to go.
8AM - Wake up cranky family (me, wife, sister, daughter, and son), get everyone dressed, fed, and out to the car.
9:30AM - park ($8) and walk, like, 10 miles to Islands Of Adventure (admission: approximately one million dollars).
10am - It is already incredibly HOT. The sun is pounding down, yet the air is muggy. We arrive at the Incredible Hulk roller coaster already sweating and uncomfortable.
10:05am - One of the ubiquitious clean-cut teenage employees informs me politely that backpacks may not be taken thru the ride. The family stays in line and I go back out to rent a locker ($4). The backpack doesn't fit in because it's the rolling kind -- it has a stiff back that can't be crumpled up. Worst part: my wife had *told* me not to bring it and I had ignored her.
I put some food & sunscreen & stuff in the small locker and then walk the 1/2 mile back to the entrance where they have (slightly) bigger lockers. I get one of those ($7) and bend the backpack until I can force it in at an angle.
Back to the Incredible Hulk ride, joined the family in line. The main feature of the wait in line -- which lasts an hour -- is the music. It is BLASTING. There are speakers everywhere, and they are slamming out the rock tunes. You can't even talk to each other -- it's like being at a club -- you have to lean in close and shout in each others' ear. It's cooler inside, but I have a ripping headache from the noise by the time we get on the ride.
Good thing: the ride was really cool. You know how a typical coaster takes you up, up, up, click-click-click, and then once you're at the top, the ride starts? This one takes you by surpirse -- you're only about 2/3 of the way up the long climb when the thing suddenly takes off -- you're slammed back in your seat and shoot straight for the top. It feels like you're going to fly off into space, but then the whole thing flips you over upside-down and you're heading straight for the ground. It was a good ride.
I go to retrieve the stuff from the small locker. It's all done by fingerprint, so there's no key. The downside of taht is you have to either remember your locker number or try all the lockers in the general area while a small nation's worth of people waiting to open their lockers grits their teeth at you. I know this because I watched a miserable teenager go through this in front of me. I hadn't memorized my locker number either, but I got lucky and guessed right the first time.
Throughout the Marvel Superhero section, where some of the biggest rides were, the music was pounding --
they have speakers blasting everywhere there. It was hot, muggy, *extremely* crowded, and unbearably loud. Maybe I'm just old, but I found the experience profoundly unpleasant. The other parks seem to manage to limit the attendance to a level where the streets arent' shoulder-to-shoulder, and they don't feel the need to destroy your hearing either -- what's Universal thinking?
Anyway, we rode a few rides and got some lunch ($30), and it started to cloud over. They closed the FearFall ride (the one the kids most wanted to go on) for fear of lightning, but they let us on the Spiderman ride instead. It's a kinda clever 3-D thing, but it got out of synch or something halfway thru, and the sound/visuals didn't match what the car was doing. So they let us ride it again, and it was better this time.
By the time we got out of Spiderman, it was raining. Not little drizzly Seattle rain -- big warm Florida rain, with drops the size of quarters. They stores were selling ponchos, and I fought my way thru the 3rd-world crush at the counter to buy 5 of them ($35). The clerk took my business before that of a woman nearby, who apparently had been in line before me, and was now glaring. As the clerk rang up my purchases, I said "I'm sorry if I cut in front -- I didn't know you were in line ahead of me." She gave me a brittle little smile and said "Well, now you do." I think the loud music was making everyone cranky.
After that they closed all the big rides due to lightning, so we watched a skateboard/motocross bike show, and the Sinbad show, which were very good.
By the time that ended we had to get back to the hotel, so we walked back the long way -- the park is a big circle around an artificial lake -- to see the rest of the park as we exited. It looked like there were lots of areas that were
a) not so crowded
b) interesting and quite pretty
c) not so loud
IOW, we were basically doing it wrong when we spent so much time in Marvel Superhero Hell. Even so, if someone offered me free tickets to Islands Of Adventure, I'm pretty sure I'd decline.