My family and I recently visited Universal Studios Florida (USF) and Islands of Adventure (IOA). We spent two afternoons experiencing the thrills, adventures and summer heat and humidity that only Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) in August can provide.
Walking through CityWalk, construction on the NBC Sports Bar and Grill continues and is expected to open sometime this fall. It is a prime location for USF guests and those needing to check the current scores and sports action and will be a popular venue.
Walking under the entrance arches to USF, I was excited to see the 25th Anniversary banners and the Minions Movie promotion signage.
One of the appealing characteristics of UOR in the last few years is things are always changing and progressing. Not surprisingly, the Minion signage and anniversary banners have been removed since my visit.
At Universal Studios Florida, the crowds were heavy with posted wait times ranging from 25 minutes for Men in Black to 75 minutes for Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit’s entrance approach has changed. Guests entering the attraction must walk on the right-hand side of the pathway and exit the attraction on the left-hand side of the path. The paths are separated by short fencing barriers. This new path will ensure guests walk through the locker area to store any prohibited loose items first before passing through the ride queue metal detectors.
In the London Waterfront section of USF, I waited to take a picture of Kreacher peaking out #12 Grimwald Place but he never appeared. I asked a TM nearby and he explained that Kreacher was sick that day. I’m assuming that a mug of butterbeer improved his health because recent reports indicate he is again peaking out the window.
In Diagon Alley, we were luckily assigned to the sixth row of the ride vehicle on Escape from Gringotts. This row is our favorite especially during the first drop caused by the wicked Bellatrix Lestrange. Every time we ride this attraction, we like it even more than the time before. Plunging through the dark, spinning around and encountering not only trolls but Belliatrix Lestrange and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacking our vehicle, this attraction has become one of our favorites at UOR.
We were also entertained by the enchantingly talented Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees as they performed on the stage in Carkitt Market, singing and dancing to songs only Wizarding World of Harry Potter fans, and especially Molly Weasley, could fully appreciate. This stage show is not to be missed while exploring all that Diagon Alley has to offer its Muggle visitors.
Since my last visit to USF, the NBC media center is completed in the Garden of Allah Villas area. The distinct signage is not overpowering of the charming garden.
I was able to investigate the recently opened The Film Vault store located across from Transformers. For fans of classic films including Back to the Future, Jaws and the more recent Jurassic World among others, this store offers a variety of commemorative items including but not limited to photo frames, t-shirts, backpacks and smart phone covers.
Unique, higher priced items are also available at the Film Vault, including a Flux Capacitor for $668.00.
I decided to tour the Lucy A Tribute exhibit this visit to USF due to the OI podcast and other reports that this attraction would most likely be replaced by a Hello Kitty store in the near future. I’m extremely glad I did because UOR closed the exhibit three days later (more evidence UOR is constantly changing).
I took photos of all the displays commemorating Lucille Ball’s illustrious career in film and television.
I grew up watching I Love Lucy reruns and appreciate the outstanding contribution she made to sitcom television. I suppose the exhibit has diminished in its appeal to the general public. Hello Kitty is a very popular merchandise brand and hopefully the new store will be successful for UOR.
For more photos from my visit to the Lucy A Tribute exhibit, please visit the OI Gallery.
The following weekend my family and I visited Islands of Adventure (IOA). Walking from the parking garage, one of the first things I noticed from the week prior were the new safety signs found at escalators and moving sidewalks. Although smaller signs have always been posted at these locations, the newer, standing signs were much more noticeable for guests arriving at UOR.
The day was equally as hot as the week before and crowd levels seemed larger than our visit to USF.
The posted wait times for IOA attractions ranged from moderate to long with the family fun Cat in the Hat dark ride 20 minutes and the guaranteed-to-get-soaked water coaster Dudley Do-Right’s Rip Saw Falls 75 minutes.
The Confisco Grill building located in the port of entry was wrapped for refurbishment but the restaurant was open to park guests.
When we arrived at IOA, we headed directly to the Oh the Stories You’ll Hear show since our son, who has autism, was having a difficult morning. We thought the music could help improve his mood. Arriving at the show, I noticed new covered seating arranged near the stage. Covered seating is unquestionably needed on hot summer days in this area.
The Storyteller and the characters started the show and due to threatening skies, the show did not include the usual singing and dancing. However, the Storyteller did read a story to the guests and the characters were available for meet and greet photos.
One of the reasons we adore visiting IOA is the fact that the storyteller is always genuinely happy to see our son and makes an effort to welcome him. Her interaction with him made him smile and as a result, he was happy the rest of our visit to the park. For that simple but meaningful gesture by the Universal Team Member, we were truly appreciative.
The construction of Skull Island: Reign of Kong is another perfect example that UOR is constantly changing and progressing. As seen from Camp Jurassic, the detail, size and intimidating façade to the attraction is amazing.
While walking along the construction fence, the structure is even more imposing. I’m eager to see the progress next month and especially its completion next year.
Before leaving Islands of Adventure, I wanted to savor the sound of the Incredible Hulk Coaster as it roared overhead. UOR announced this attraction will be closing on September 8, 2015, and will reopen in the summer of 2016.
I’m excited that the Incredible Hulk Coaster will be updated but it will be surreal approaching Islands of Adventure from Citywalk without the exhilarating sound of the Hulk Coaster as it roars along the tracks.
We had a brilliant time at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. I look forward to visiting again next month and happily anticipate sharing new updates and changes at Universal Orlando Resort.
When is your next visit to these phenomenal theme parks? Let us know in the comments.