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Theme parks are cool
Jul 5, 2017
Richmond, VA
Good morning all,

Wrapping up my Florida trip today and flying back to Richmond so figured I’d debrief Universal as well after BGT. I had not been to Islands of Adventure since 2003, I went to USF in 2016 and while I did go there I was far more interested in IOA as it had been almost 20 years since I walked under that arch saying “The Adventure Begins…” which I have to say makes arriving at IOA just delightful and exciting. IOA after this trip is my favorite park and honestly always has been I just haven’t been in so long I forgot how much I loved this park.

The biggest draw for my return finally was obviously the VelociCoaster which was worth every bit of my coming to Florida and that’s before I consider the fact I went to SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot for the very first time. They were all fantastic and I loved every bit of them but my inner thoosie loved VelociCoaster THAT much. I didn’t expect it to take the bull down as my #1 but that’s exactly what it did. The best roller coaster I have ever ridden hands down and it makes me so happy we have an Intamin opening in Virginia with the same train design. I wrote up my detailed analysis on VelociCoaster in the VelociCoaster thread so if you really want to read that head there. I went to VelociCoaster first and began the day with a front row ride, then rode in the back and found myself on cloud 9.

After that I went to Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure which had a semi decent wait but nothing pervasive and it even went down as I was in the staging area to board. I really enjoyed this ride and thought it was great but I think I raised my expectations too high or something or ruined it by watching the POVs. It’s an excellent ride and the theming is top tier I do suspect riding immediately after VelociCoaster didn’t help but in hindsight I really enjoyed the ride.

Afterwards I went to one of the scariest attractions known to larger riders out there, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey I walked up to the test seat with a sense of dread knowing this was one of the least likely rides I’d be able to get on of the trip I sat down and pulled down the harness and…….green light. I was good to go. I felt an immense sense of joy surge within me as I was about to experience one of the greatest dark rides out there themed to one of my favorite IPs ever. After walking about 6 miles through the amazing queue that I couldn’t take the time to enjoy because the place was a ghost town today I walked right on. Wow Forbidden Journey is a special ride definitely one of the best rides I’ve ever experienced. It blends the use of physical sets and screens very well. The ride feels very long and I love how up close and personal the robotic arm is able to get you with the sets especially when you encounter the dementors. I loved this ride so much. I cannot wait to ride again one day.

Afterwards I went to River Adventure as back in 2003 unfortunately I did not ride this as we got to it late in the day and my uncle came up to me and said “you want to get wet again??” and made me feel bad so I didn’t ride. I sent a photo of myself I front of the sign to him and said “yes Uncle Todd I did want to get wet again” because to me this was a cool water ride with dinosaur animatronics and would be a great experience not “just a water ride” like my uncle thought I’m sure. I loved it being somebody who enjoys Escape from Pompeii so much.

Afterwards it was time for Kong also a walk on, the queue is kind of intense to walk through, there was no scare actors unfortunately but man I couldn’t imagine making children wait in that queue for awhile. The ride was cool I enjoyed it the video definitely had a huge malfunction during the ride but at the end the Kong animatronic really is amazing to see in person. The ride is fairly immersive and I definitely want to ride again down the road.

After that it was Toon Lagoon time, I rode both of these water rides when I came to the park in 2003 and loved them both. I did not care for Dudleys new lap bars at all. They suck. The ride was fun but I couldn’t wait to get out of those things. Popeye was the same as I remembered and a quality rapids ride and remains rapids king of the week.

Marvel Super Hero Island was fun to arrive at once again and I went straight for Hulk since I had not ridden it before. Bull is the most accommodating B&M with OTSRs I encountered and was able to get both seat types to click without much issue. Another thing I liked was that they had the modified seats in rows 1 and 8 as well and honestly really made me wish other parks would do that so bad, I enjoyed Hulk it’s a fun B&M I appeared to have some headbanging in some sequences (an interesting trend with the two B&M sit downs of the trip) but I loved it though my second ride we had no music which was a bummer. After that I rode Spider-Man my favorite ride from 2003 and it was exactly as I remembered just in HD this time. So fun love this ride.

Afterwards I did Cat In the hat which is a fun little dark ride to hit when it has no wait for sure. Definitely not one to miss if you grew up with Dr. Seuss books.

At this point I decided to go catch the hogwarts express to USF which I admittedly found it to be underwhelming with how much everyone recommends it to me. Convenient though for sure if there’s no wait to get between the parks.

USF is…….ugh not as good as IOA roughly half the rides are not worth riding at all and in a time crunch like me a lot of them have long pre shows that just felt like they were eating the clock ESPECIALLY Shrek. The good news is I got on Rockit another weight loss accomplishment for sure. I also caught a Bourne Stuntacular showing which I really enjoyed that fantastic show I would not miss that at USF. Mummy is my favorite ride at USF, I love Transformers, Gringotts is fun but slightly underwhelming and the Diagon Alley section as I remembered from 2016 was incredible.

Fast and Furious was meh I mean I went in with a the lowest expectations possible and it beat them so that was nice I guess but I still didn’t think it was that great of an attraction. Jimmy Fallon was ok I wasn’t crazy about it, despicable me and Shrek just felt like they ate an hour of my time. I rode ET for the first time since the 90s and that was great. At that point I had Simpsons and MIB left and it was around 5ish and I wanted more Velocilaps so I skipped both rides and I love MIB honestly but VelociCoaster is more interesting. Definitely didn’t care to ride Simpsons again. So I wrapped up the day with a hogwarts express ride back to IOA and 3 laps on VelociCoaster ending with a front row ride the same way the day began and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love Universal so much but man they need to invest in the studios side. Can’t wait to go back for more rides on VelociCoaster in due time.

Thanks for reading!
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