Share thoughts, photos, and reviews from visits to Carowinds or any other amusement park
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By gabed
#107333
Well, not quite Floridian yet. You’ll have to wait until Tuesday for that I guess.


2016 Vacation of Righteousness: http://carowindsconnection.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4596

2017 Vacation of Righteousness: http://carowindsconnection.com/viewtopi ... d5271808ac

2018 Vacation of Righteousness: https://www.carowindsconnection.com/vie ... f=4&t=4832



Day 1 - Part 1

Fellas.

It’s been awhile, but at long last I have returned with a week’s worth of overwrought trip reports from theme parks you’ve probably already been to. Though if I am being totally honest there was a while where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make this post. Between work and preparing for college later this summer I’ve had a lot on my plate and it seemed coasters may have had to take a spot on the back burner for the year. Fortunately, ’tis not the case as I’m here today to write about yet another coaster road trip. Florida has been on our minds for awhile. Really all the way back to 2016 when we were planning the first major coaster trip, which would turn into a trip through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We tossed the idea of a Floridian trip around for the following years and finally settled on making it happen this summer. After a few months of planning and revising, the final plan became:

Sunday 6/23: Six Flags Over Georgia
Monday 6/24: Wild Adventures and The Fun Spots
Tuesday 6/25: Islands of Adventure + Universal Studios Orlando
Wednesday 6/26: Islands of Adventure + Universal Studios Orlando
Thursday 6/27: Volcano Bay
Friday 6/28: SeaWorld and ICON Park
Saturday 6/29: Busch Gardens Tampa

Of all the parks on the list, Six Flags Over Georgia is only one of two that I have visited in the past, though I was still just as excited to go back given it’s been three years since I was last here. After four hours in the rental car and binge watching old Survivor episodes, we made it to the first destination





Hmmmmmm what’s this?

I’d be lying to you if I said a certain conversion of a certain terrible wooden roller coaster didn’t play a pretty big factor in having Six Flags Over Georgia added to the itinerary for this year’s coastercation. All the off ride footage of this ride looked great, and while the reviews for the ride were not out of this world, they were nothing short of high praise. Given my experience with other Rocky Mountain Construction creations, I must say I was very excited to give Twisted Cyclone a ride.



While it’s definitely no Steel Vengeance, Twisted Cyclone is a very impressive little thing that does not let up even for a second. Of the five RMC coasters I’ve now ridden, I’d put Twisted Cyclone at the bottom of the pack. Don’t let that be a knock against the coaster, because Twisted Cyclone is easily the best coaster in the park, which is really a testament to how good Rocky Mountain Construction is at what they do.



Though it may be short, the ride really impressed me with how much it was able to do in its tiny footprint. There is not a single dead spot on the ride, every inch of track is utilized and every element matters. The reverse-cobra roll that acts as the first turnaround is nuts and the wave turn that follows is unlike anything I have experienced on a coaster before. The second half of the ride is a rapid succession of airtime hills and a barrel roll that feels too smooth to be real. By the time the ride hits the brakes though, I’ll admit I was left wanting a bit more. Yeah yeah I know RMC only had so much to work with, but I’m still going to nitpick because I can. Overall, great ride.

By this point the lines were already starting to pile up. Despite having been to Six Flags Over Georgia twice before, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the Flash Pass anyways. If I wanted to get more than three total rides in for the entire day, that was the only way I’d be able to do it.





And the first coaster to be ridden after shooting my checking account in the balls was this hidden gem. Its capacity is a complete joke, you can stop reminding me I know I know, but for me that did not take away at all just how much fun the ride is. Granted it’s not like I really waited that long or anything. As far as the coaster itself is concerned, it is even better than I remember it. Smooth as butter thanks to the lap bar restraints and a decent amount of forces through the transitions. The barrel roll at the end of the ride gives off similar vibes of Copperhead’s jojo roll, though I feel like our baby does it just a little bit better.
Last edited by gabed on June 28th, 2019, 6:04 pm, edited 4 times in total.
#107334
Day 1 - Part 2

Speaking of hidden gems…



Per usual, the ride did not fail to impress. Still running as if it were brand new, Mindbender ended up being one of the highlights of my day. Shame there are not more Shwarzkopf coasters in the south, but if all goes to plan Mindbender won’t be the only one of Anton’s creations I’ll be riding this week.



Gotham’s favorite vigilante was next because why not. I’ve never been crazy about the Batman clones but given it has been more than two years since my last one in St. Louis (which was an awful park), it made sense to give it another shot. Eh? I just don’t get the hype for these guys. I understand that what I am about to say is an unpopular opinion, but there comes a point where a ride is simply too forceful. Inverts like Afterburn, Talon, and Banshee are so great to me because they manage to nicely balance forces out with gracefulness, rather than just making you grey out the entire time. I can see why the clones are so popular with everyone else, they just are not for me.


Hmm, I don’t remember this thing from the last time I was here…

The park’s newest ride was next on the list and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very excited about this thing as well. Ever since my experience on Black Widow at Kennywood last July, I’ve become a missionary in spreading the good word of Zamperla frisbees. MaXair fanboys can step aside, Zamperla frisbees are where it’s at and good on Six Flags for buying them in bulk. The ride experience is a blast with some impressive air reached on some of the final swings. Makes me curious how frisbees like Great Adventure’s Wonder Woman and Magic Mountain’s Crazanity are, because Pandemonium here felt massive as it was. It’s a very good fit for the park and if I’m being totally honest, it would be an amazing fit for a park about 4 hours north of Six Flags Over Georgia located on the Carolinas’ state line.



Finally! After nearly four long years since my last ride on this beauty in the fall of 2015, I would finally get to ride this coaster once again… or so I thought. My luck with Superman has been laughably bad since my rides during my first visit. On my second time here I made it all the way to the station (in the regular queue might I add) just to have the ride go down on me for the rest of the day. Assuming it was just a one time thing, I gave it another shot today, but if the clouds in the above picture are any indication, Mother Nature had other ideas. Once at the station, of course, the sky bottomed out and thunder shook the city of Atlanta, closing every single ride in the park. Not feeling like getting drenched, I headed out and found a tunnel to wait out the storm, giving me this depressing view for about an hour…



The rain would eventually taper off, but the thunder was in no rush to leave which left just about everything closed except for Justice League.



I honestly had no plans to do this thing while I was here. I’m not too much of a dark rides guy (hopefully Universal and Islands of Adventure will convert me) and I had already ridden the Justice League in St. Louis. However, when only one ride is open in the whole park and you emptied out your wallet on a Flash Pass, you get your money’s worth any way you can. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the ride, can’t say I remember having this much fun on the St. Louis version of the ride. Sally and Six Flags did a great job on these, especially to be regional theme parks. I’m a Cedar Fair fanboy through and through, but the Triotechs I’ve ridden are nothing but screens, where as the Justice Leagues are loaded with props, have a cohesive storyline, and even have some added movement to the ride vehicles. And by the way, I don’t mean to flex too hard on you guys, but I finished in the top 30% so yeah that’s kind of a big deal.
#107335
Day 1 - Part 3

Since my flash pass only worked on Justice League once, I was stuck having to wait out the inclement weather like all of the other peasants. After another hour of draining my iPhone battery scrolling through Reddit and watching old Survivor episodes, the skies finally cleared up and the coasters started rolling again.


You can probably guess from that picture which one I headed to first.


And it looks like everybody had my same idea.

This is such a hit-or-miss coaster for me. On my first visit here it became one of my favorite hyper coasters, if not my favorite hyper at the time. Round two wielded disappointment as I found the ride’s rattle to make the ride unenjoyable. Third time’s a charm I guess because whatever rattle I felt in 2016 was gone and the ride was nothing but glorious. Floater airtime did not fail to make an appearance on each and every camelback and the ride’s turnaround was incredible. The ride’s last few moments are easily my favorite though. The way the last few hills interact with the pathways while still failing to deliver anything less than ejector airtime really upped Goliath in my personal rankings. Better than Mako? Nah. Better than Intimidator? Maybe, I’ll have to think more on that.



Last time I rode this guy he was still red and white while going by a different alias. Although the fresh new paint job and cool new name are not the only new things this coaster has to offer its riders.



These shmexy new trains are, in theory, supposed to eliminate head-banging and provide a much smoother ride experience. Which, overall I’d say the new trains did a good job at doing just that. However, the ride itself is still nothing special and really did not do a whole lot for me this time either. Blue Hawk is definitely an improvement over Ninja, but in my opinion a Raptor would have been an improvement over Blue Hawk. At least there is still plenty of space beside Blue Hawk for one of those. Some day…

After a ride on SkyScreamer, I made my way to Superman, yet again, in hopes of finally getting back on the ride. Everything looked good, the ride was cycling with happy riders and the skies were still blue. Made my way back to the station, got my pass scanned, and hopped in line. Sure enough, like a cruel joke, as I was about to walk through the gates and onto the train, a message came over the loudspeaker announcing the ride would be down due to maintenance for the remainder of the day. At this point I’m convinced that it is fate that this is as close as I will ever get to Superman again.



With my time running low, I made my last ride of the day one final lap on Twisted Cyclone, which actually was operating unlike my faithless hero of Metropolis. Ride number three on this little ball of fire did not disappoint and was a good way to make a positive end out of an otherwise semi-frustrating day.



That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you later with a trip report from Zombieland.
#107342
Day 2 - Part 1

After a rainy day in Atlanta, Mother Nature decided to cut us some slack in Valdosta with clear skies and a 0% chance of precipitation. She did however hit us with 95 degrees of heat and humidity, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Regardless, we had a very, very busy day ahead of us and wasted no time getting down to the Georgia-Florida state line for the first park of the day.



Wild Adventures, aka the place where they filmed Zombieland, is the third and forgotten Herschend park that nobody really seems to care about. Though I really don’t blame anyone who dismisses the park as an afterthought. If I’m being truthful the only reason I wanted to stop here was to divide up the drive and add to my coaster count because I’m a pathetic little human being. As for the coasters themselves, they’re nothing special. In fact, every single coaster in this park is a clone except for one, which ironically was the only coaster down for the day. That said, do not expect this to be a very lengthy trip report.



First coaster of the day was the park’s Vekoma junior coaster. Fine little coaster for kids trying to work their way up to the big kid rides, but nothing special overall.



I’ll admit I was particularly excited for this coaster. For those unfamiliar with the film Zombieland, it was on this exact wild mouse clone that Woody Harrelson kicked zombie butt for a solid two minutes. Did not see any zombies myself, but like every wild mouse I’ve ridden before I enjoyed the coaster for what it was.

After riding the rest of the park’s kiddy coasters, I headed over to yet another Vekoma (this park has quite a few) so that I could wonder why on Earth I continue to invest in this hobby.



Not terrible, I’ll give it that at least. Definitely not something I would ever willingly ride again. To be as old as it is I’m surprised I did not experience more head banging, but I’ll take each and every blessing I get with gratitude.



They have one of these too because why not. Like their boomerang, Twisted Typhoon here was not too rough. Considering that the ride is celebrating its twentieth year of operation that truly is a shock. Guess it does warrant giving Wild Adventures credit for taking care of what coasters they do have, regardless of how bad.



One of the last things I did before heading out was the park’s set of flying scooters. If there is anything that I’ll take from this trip, it’s that I will never again take Mountain Gliders for granted. I’d consider myself a fairly good snapper on our flyers, but I don’t think there is anything anyone could do to snap on these. I suppose the rumors about Larson flyers were true after all.

With nothing else to ride and a three hour drive to Orlando still ahead of me, I left the park far earlier than I had expected and met up with the rest of the group. After a stop at Panera Bread for lunch, we were back on the road again.
#107343
Day 2 - Part 2

Fast forward three hours and we finally arrived to both Orlando, Florida, and the third park of the trip; Fun Spot America. By no means at the peak of my bucket list, but if we’re being real there isn’t a single unridden coaster on the planet that isn’t located somewhere on my bucket list. With three of these unridden coasters waiting for me in Fun Spot America, it was time to get to work.



Vekoma may have let me down tremendously with Twisted Typhoon, but I’ll take Freedom Flyer as an acceptable apology. Great family coaster that fits the roadside feel of the park quite well. I think I’ll give the edge to Dragonflier, but Freedom Flyer has several years of nonstop operation under its belt whereas Dragonflier has not even been open for two whole months yet. So the coaster was good, but operations on the other hand were not so great. Incredibly slow unfortunately, with ride ops waiting for around half the train to fill up before dispatching. Given the park was dead you can imagine how long I sat in my seat waiting to go up the lift hill.



I was surprised to find that the park’s mini Screamin’ Swing was not an uncharge attraction like most of these models are. I was sure to take advantage of both this and the nonexistent line and gave it a ride. As always with these flats, ton of fun! The breeze was very well appreciated given the near-hundred degree temperatures in Orlando. After getting off I snagged the kiddy credit and walked over to the last coaster waiting for me.



Yet another fantastic coaster from Great Coasters International. It’s no Thunderhead or Mystic Timbers, granted I doubt that surprises anyone. Pops of floater air on each and every hill with a fairly forceful turnaround. Short but sweet. I would have sat and marathoned it for and hour or so, but I had other business to attend to…



Fun Spot Kissimmee obviously.

Mine Blower has gotten some fairly mixed reviews, either you love the airtime or can’t get past the rattle. I’ve got a weak tolerance for rattles so I was a tad bit nervous if I’m being honest. After a ride in the front row with an entire train all to myself, any doubts I had about the ride were swept away. Wow. I don’t really know what to say, this coaster is just incredible and far exceeds something that you would expect from a park like Fun Spot. This coaster is proof that you do not need a ton of room in your park to build something incredible. For a ride this short, I could not believe just how long it felt. As much as I loved Twisted Cyclone, the ride feels like it ends just as it starts. Mine Blower is paced so perfectly that you don’t even realize that you’re on a coaster with less than 2,300 feet of track.

As for the ride experience, airtime abounds with each and every dip that the ride takes. The first drop caught me by surprise on each of the four rides I got as it whips you down and up into the coaster’s inversion. Speaking of which, I have never, and probably will never again, felt hangtime on a wooden roller coaster. Add to this the fact that while you are upside down in the barrel roll, you are flying right above the coaster’s station. The rattle I had long heard about was definitely there, but nowhere near to the extent that I had been expecting. If Mine Blower has a bad rattle, then Thunderhead is unrideable. I’ve been let down by certain Gravity Group coasters in the past, (sorry Voyage) but this thing has me really excited to some day try more of their creations.



Before heading out of the park, I got my kiddy credit and took a ride on the park’s spinning wild mouse, Rockstar.



I learned the hard way that a single rider on one of these things should take an edge seat. I decided to sit in the middle of the train and was slung all around during the spinning portion of the ride. Not too enjoyable I must say, but at the very least I now have another coaster under my belt.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow I’m off to the Universal parks for the first time where I will try to brave the not-so-good weather forecasts.
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By gabed
#107358
Day 3 - Part 1

You know I was really starting to think that I was the last coaster enthusiast on the planet that had never been to the Universal Orlando resort. Well, whether that was true or not, it no longer matters as I was finally, and I mean finally, able to cross Islands of Adventure and Universal Orlando off of my bucket list today. After waking up at 7:30 and seeing that the rain had been called off until late into the evening, we optimistically headed over to the parks. Fast forward twenty minutes through navigating traffic, parking garages, and the largest metal detection line I have ever seen, we made it.



Just in case you somehow have not made it to Universal yet, allow me to fill you in on how entry to the two parks works. After getting situated in a parking garage, you first have to walk through the beautiful CityWalk, which is a long line of shops and restaurants. At the end of all this the path splits in two for the two parks ahead. The choice for which park we would hit first was obvious…



Getting our tickets processed at the main gate took a hot minute, but before long we were finally inside the park, and my first impressions were very good.



The architecture for the park’s main entry plaza is absolutely gorgeous and the attention to detail is unreal. (Get ready to hear me say those words a lot during this trip report). If not for Hulk towering over the water close by, you would nearly forget you were even in a theme park at all. The level of immersion in this first plaza alone puts every other park I have been to to shame, and this is only the beginning. As this beautiful section of the park came to an end, we headed to the Marvel themed area and I think you already know exactly what the first ride of the day was.



After setting our belongings in a locker, we headed into the queue line and were instantly impressed by the amount of theming that it contained. Yes you heard me correctly, theming in the queue line. Heavily themed queues would prove to be a common trend for the vast majority of Universal’s attractions. On top of it all, the ride ops for each and every ride have a unique uniform to match their respective ride. All of this culminates together to create excitement and give you an exciting experience and sense of immersion before your ride has even begun. Speaking of rides, let’s get on to my thoughts on Hulk.





I obviously never had the opportunity to ride the original Hulk, but Hulk v2.0 was smooth as could be. The launch may not have been the most intense, but the inversion that immediately followed was incredibly exhilarating. I feel like on their own, the first inversion and the coaster’s launch would be fine, though average elements. However, together they create this incredible 1-2 punch that really starts the ride off with a bang. The cobra roll and the loop that follow are fantastic and very intense, ended up near-blacking out on the loop. The second portion of the ride provides more of a twister layout as the track weaves in and out of itself while providing a few more inversions here and there. Overall I found it to be a great ride and the perfect staple attraction for the park. As good as Hulk was, I can’t say it was my favorite coaster at Islands of Adventure, but we’ll get to that later…
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By gabed
#107359
Day 3 - Part 2

Towering right beside Hulk on the main midway was Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, which was our second ride of the day.



After a brief wait in the ride’s queue, we made it indoors where we would wait to board our ride vehicle. The doors opened and at last, it was time.



Fun, albeit a short ride. If you’ve ridden any of S&S’ shot towers then you likely have a pretty good idea of how this one went.

After getting off Doctor Doom, we wandered around the park for awhile and admired all the detail put into making Islands of Adventure the special place that it is. It was during this that we came across Kong, and decided why not give it a go?



I’ve never watched the film that the ride is based on, but that did not stop me from enjoying this ride as much as I did. After boarding into your Jeep, the ride takes you through a brief outdoor setting before bringing you back inside for a variety of scenes. Just about everything inside the show building minus the massive Kong animatronic was essentially just screens. While practical effects would have been nice, the way Universal is able to sync up the Jeep’s movement with every little action that occurs on screen really took my breath away. Kong would only prove to just be the beginning of what Islands of Adventure and Universal had to offer. The true technological marvel of this park would prove to be waiting for me over in a certain wizarding world next door.



I’ve heard loads of praise about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and after seeing it with my own eyes I completely understand. No corners were cut and not one expense was spared in the making of this area. The blood, sweat, and tears that Universal poured into making this section everything that it is really shows. I’m not exactly a Harry Potter superfan, or one at all for that matter, but even I was excited to be there in the moment. And boy, if just when I thought Kong was technologically impressive, I had another thing coming with the Forbidden Journey.

In many ways, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey feels like two rides in one, with the queue line itself being a breathtaking experience.





Know that what you saw was not the ride, but the line to get on the ride. Seriously. I’m sure those of you who have been to the park before are shaking your heads. Just remember that prior to this I thought The Flying Cobras had great theming. Guess that’s what I get for sticking to basic amusement parks when I travel. Anywho, onto the ride itself, holy mother of God.

I have yet to ride one of these “robotic arm” dark rides, so the ride experience that awaited me was a mystery. If Kong was impressive, then Forbidden Journey was out of this world. The robotic arms move riders gracefully, giving you the sensation of flight and levitation throughout the entire ride. The storytelling throughout the ride is done very well, with scene transitions happening so smoothly you almost don’t notice. The synchronization between the screens, the practical effects, and the robotic arms’ movements all worked together in perfect harmony to create a ride experience like none other. It’s been awhile since I visited the Disney Florida parks, but if memory serves me right, Universal’s technical feats are light years ahead of Disney’s attractions. I mentioned a few days ago how I hoped Universal could convert me into a dark ride fan, and they did it with Forbidden Journey. I understand that not every park can afford to go above and beyond and build a ride like this, but this is a true statement of what a dark ride can be with proper resources.
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By gabed
#107360
Day 3 - Part 3

After getting off of Forbidden Journey, we made a quick detour to Flight of the Hippogriff to add to my ever-expanding coaster count.



Typical kiddy coaster, though it is themed to the moon and back in typical Universal fashion.

Around this time it was nearing eleven in the morning and we decided to head to CityWalk and grab some lunch. However…



Even before we left for Atlanta, I had gone into this whole trip with the expectation that I would not be riding this roller coaster. The waits were exceeding three hours on a daily basis, it was allegedly suffering from mechanical issues because Intamin, and for all we knew we could easily get rained out of the ride if we decided to wait three hours in Orlando’s unpredictable weather. With all this in mind, we passed the entrance thinking nothing of it until we had a brief conversation with a park associate standing out in front of the coaster’s roped off entrance. We were told that the ride would be opening at some point in the afternoon and that if we wanted, we could wait in a temporary queue that had been set up in The Lost Continent section of the park. If not for my little sister who was accompanying me at the time, I would have shrugged it off and moved on. Knowing how passionate I am for this type of thing and even wanting to ride it for herself, she convinced me to give it a shot and wait it out. So, we walked next door to The Lost Continent and waited with the growing crowd.



At the very least, we did get to meet a certain someone while we waited who was generous enough to take a picture with us.



Even though my sister was optimistic, I still was not 100% sure we would be able to get on the ride. For about an hour the line continued to grow behind us and still no word on an opening time for Hagrid. Then, after we had lost a combined total of ten pounds through sweat alone, we heard cheering. Against all odds, the coaster was open, and we were now walking to ride it.

Now coming back through Hogsmeade and entering underneath the ride’s archway, things were beginning to get real.



Neither of us could believe that this was about to happen, yet here we were getting closer and closer to our motorbike and side car with every step. The theming all throughout the queue, both indoors and out, was truly incredible. For those who were not aware, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (yes that is the full name of this ride) came at a cost of $300,000,000, making it the most expensive roller coaster ever built. To put that in perspective, that money could buy you:

- Three Expedition Everest coasters
- Ten Fury 325s
- Fifteen Storm Chasers
- Thirty-three Wicked Twisters


Moral of the story, that is an insane amount of money and it really shows all throughout the ride experience from the start of the queue to the last moments of the brake run. Speaking of the queue line, I love how Universal used very few switchbacks and kept the line twisting and turning so that you never spend too much time looking at the same prop or scene. There’s no time to get bored while you wait to hop aboard your motorbike because there is just so much to do and see. After weaving through this intricate line, my sister and I boarded, her on the bike and myself in the sidecar. We started to roll out, and anticipated what was to come...
#107361
gabed wrote:You know I was really starting to think that I was the last coaster enthusiast on the planet that had never been to the Universal Orlando resort.


You’re not the only one! Can’t wait to visit in August, though I’ve probably spoiled more of the rides for myself than you did.
#107366
Day 3 - Part 4

What was to come however, was one of the most unique, most fun roller coasters I have ridden to date.





Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Monster Jam is everything that you could ever want it to be. Borrowing different aspects of various types of roller coasters to create one insane experience, it is just a ride like none other. The coaster features six unique launches, all of which are surprisingly forceful for what is billed by Islands of Adventure as a “family coaster”. Through countless twists and turns, the ride is an exhilarating experience that never seems to end. Hagrid’s pacing is certainly interesting as the coaster will frequently come to a stop for a brief show segment, only to then launch you back into the course. I would not necessarily call this a bad thing, just not something you see often on roller coasters. One of these moments actually involves the use of a drop track, my first one since riding Verbolten in 2015. After this element, the coaster takes riders through one final launch which leads to a turn into the brake run.

My jaw was left hanging wide open from start to finish on this roller coaster. I really cannot think of another ride I’ve ridden that is like it, it’s a one of a kind experience that you have to ride to believe. By far the best roller coaster at either of the two Universal Parks and quite possibly one of the best coasters I have ever ridden. I always say how some coasters are not necessarily thrilling, but just a blast to ride. Copperhead Strike is probably the best example of this kind of coaster, but Hagrid is honestly right up there with it.

By this point it was early into the afternoon and neither of us had eaten since eight in the morning on a quick Starbucks run. To celebrate our unexpected victory of getting to ride Hagrid, we left the park and made our way to Hard Rock Cafe just outside of CityWalk.



Apparently this is the largest Hard Rock in the world, so hey now I can add that to the list of things I’ve done before. That or every Hard Rock says that, in which case, oh well. Regardless, after a grilled chicken club was inhaled by myself and a burger by my sister, it was time to head over and check out Islands of Adventure’s neighbor.



My excitement for the day had definitely been more leaning towards Islands of Adventure, I’ll admit that, but I’m always down to check out a new park and see what it is all about.



The longer I’m invested in this hobby, the more surreal it feels when I get around to riding older coasters. I still remember watching POVs of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit from when it opened in the summer of 2009, which is when I began to reply get into theme parks. Ten years later, here I was about to ride it for the first time. It’s a cool little coaster, with a surprisingly forceful layout. Its got a slight rattle here and there, but for its age and how little time it gets to rest, it was running great. The non-inverting loop following the first drop was very nice, and being that we were seated in the back, we managed to get some nice pops of air on all of the drops following the (many) mid course brake runs. The speakers in the back of the seats have been well-maintained over the years as mine were crystal clear the entire time. Not a half bad music selection either, I chose to blast out Daft Punk which probably helped me enjoy the ride even more.



Now this was a coaster that really exceeded my expectations. From POV footage on YouTube you would think this is just a glorified dark ride, but it actually turned out to be a pretty fun launch coaster. The ride does a good job at filling out the park’s lineup as a good family coaster. A great ride for children who are not quite ready for Rockit but are too big for Woody Woodpecker. Imagine a family-friendly Flight of Fear with a pre-show and much better theming. If I had to make a small nitpick, it would be that the timing of some of the practical effects were a bit off, but I am more than willing to give the ride a pass given just how impressive those effects are on their own. All in all, a really good ride that, while a little dated, is a ton of fun.
#107367
Day 3 - Part 5

After Mummy, we wandered around the park for awhile and took everything in.



I’ll be completely honest, while both Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure are both incredibly stunning parks, the former does not hold a candle to the latter. The whole “studio backlot” feel that Universal has is nice and all, but I think that I would have liked it a lot more if it was confined to a single area, rather than the atmosphere of majority of the park. What makes Islands of Adventure so great is that the landscape is always changing. Getting tired of dinosaurs? Try wizards. Tired of that? Go visit an entire lost world! And so on. Not to mention that the transition is so smooth between these areas too. With Universal, what you see is what you get, well for the most part anyways. It’s done very well, don’t get me wrong, I just like to see a change of scenery when I visit parks.

Ramblings aside, our next attractions of the day were the Men In Black and E.T. dark rides, both of which I found to be highly enjoyable. Men In Black was a great shoot-em-up style dark ride and E.T., while VERY dated, was an adorable little ride that I couldn’t help but love.

After a ride on the park’s kiddy coaster, we walked back to the other side of the lake in hunt for Diagon Alley. I love how hidden this section is, if you weren’t paying attention you’d walk right by it and not even notice. Once you find the literal hole in the wall that the area’s entrance is hidden in, you are transported back into the magical world of Harry Potter.



Just like the park across the lake, the Harry Potter area of Universal Orlando is beautifully done. Like everything else in either of the Universal parks, the attention to detail here is mind-boggling. After checking out a few shops and taking in all the sights, we headed to the last coaster of the day, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts.

I’m afraid to even voice my thoughts about this ride out of fear that I’ll just be repeating everything that I have been saying this entire trip report. The theming throughout the queue line is incredible. I mean really, just look at the inside of Gringotts!



The story begins from the moment you hop in line to the moment you exit the ride vehicle. Everything is just so well done that you can hardly even believe that what is happening is even real. Everything at both Universal and Islands of Adventure is just insane, truly incredible the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that they have poured into their parks. It only makes me more and more excited to see what they do with the upcoming fourth park that they are currently working on.

Gushing over Universal aside now, Gringotts was a pretty fun ride for the most part. It is by no means a game changer roller coaster, but I do not really think that is what Universal was going for. It is more of a dark ride with roller coaster elements thrown into it (yes I still counted as a coaster calm down). Overall as far as the ride experience goes, it gets a solid 10/10 from me.

Afterwards once we were finished with Gringotts, we headed back out of Diagon Alley and walked to the 9 3/4 for a ride back to Islands of Adventure before retiring for the evening. Just when I thought that Universal could not raise the bar any higher, they went and built a life size train station, terminal and all, for the Hogwarts Express.



And this is not your mother’s train ride either. Like a dark ride on wheels, the Hogwarts Express tells the story of you, the rider, making your journey Hogwarts whilst being saved by Harry Potter himself from the dementors, which I have heard are the worst part about prison. After arriving at Hogsmeade station, we made our way back to CityWalk and down to the drop-off lot to hitch a ride back to our house for the night.



Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure did not only live up to the hype, but far exceeded my expectations that I had set. I had convinced myself beforehand that both parks were wildly overrated and could not possibly be as good as people made it out to be. In what I saw in my first day here, I was truly blown away by both the attention to detail and technical feats that their rides managed to accomplish. First impressions were great, now to get some rest for the next day.

Until then, thanks for reading!
#107368
tarheel1231 wrote:
gabed wrote:You know I was really starting to think that I was the last coaster enthusiast on the planet that had never been to the Universal Orlando resort.


You’re not the only one! Can’t wait to visit in August, though I’ve probably spoiled more of the rides for myself than you did.


Imma be real with you man, I honestly don't see how anyone could spoil some of these rides without actually riding them for themselves. You'll have a blast man! I really was not that excited for these parks and ended up loving them by the time I left.
#107376
Day 4

After knocking out everything we had hoped to ride during our first day at the two Universal parks, there was no rush to get back to the resort early for our second day. After a good night’s rest, we were up and on the road once more.



Whereas the day prior we went to Islands of Adventure first, we decided to reride our favorites from Universal Studios first. Though, while we were making our way to ride Rockit, my sister dragged me onto… this thing.



Yeah, we actually did it. Yes, I am sorry. Having been spoiled by the other rides in Universal, I was expecting a lot out of this one and, eh, I was not too impressed. If this was at a regional park then it would easily be a Grade A dark ride. However, with Forbidden Journey across the lake and Gringotts literally in the same park, Minion Mayhem is very underwhelming. The final product feels very rushed, as though Universal wanted to cash in on the minion craze before it went out of the mainstream. For those that remember the Spongebob Squarepants ride that used to occupy the Action Theater at Carowinds, Minion Mayhem is essentially the same idea. A short film with moving seats, except here the film on screen features the characters from Despicable Me and of course…

sigh



m i n i o n s

So I guess I’m kinda-sorta glad I can say that I rode it for whenever this inevitably gets removed in favor of something worthwhile. For those visiting for the first time, don’t hesitate to skip this one, you’re not missing much.



After the previous snoozeefest, we were finally out and about getting another ride on our favorites from the day before. Starting with Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (God Universal loves long coaster names), the second ride was just as good as the first. I blasted Daft Punk once again while the coaster whipped me all around. I’ll definitely miss this thing when I get back to the Carolinas, it’s a good one.

After another ride on Mummy we took the 9 3/4 back to Islands of Adventure for some final rides.



Not so much a ride as much as it is a tour/show hybrid, Poseidon’s Fury is an interesting walk through attraction led by a “comedic” tour guide. The special effects were pretty good for most part, while the acting from our live and onscreen actors was completely atrocious. Without spoiling anything, there are a few impressive moments throughout the ride where Universal’s technical genius really shines through, but for the most part the show is a second tier attraction at best.

Our last ride at Islands of Adventure was a final round on Hulk, serving as the grand finale of our two-day Universalfest. Round two was just as good as we had remembered, perhaps even more forceful the second go-around. After exiting the train, we made our way out of the park, through CityWalk, and to the drop-off lot. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are truly amazing parks. I know my reviews sounded a bit more on the negative side today, but overall, both parks are true feats on engineering and creativity. No expenses are spared and every little thing you could think of, Universal does it. The excellence of these parks has me very excited to see what comes out of the fourth park, as well as the Jurassic Park coaster that is currently under construction. Hats off to Universal for the great two days, you lived up to the hype.



Though the original plan was to hold off on ICON Park until Friday, we had plenty of time left to spare and figured why not go ahead and knock it off the list. It was only two miles away from Universal and the weather was beautiful, so the choice was a no brainer.



The Orlando Starflyer stands at an incredible 450 feet above the ground, though you are not swinging anywhere near that high. Still, to be a Windseeker-and-a-half tall, it is a very thrilling experience. The view from the top is insane, with just about all of the major Orlando parks in view on a clear day. The ride’s program is a bit wonky, as it continues to spin at full speed all the way down to the bottom of the tower before bringing you to a stop.



Definitely the more relaxing of the two, the 400 foot ferris wheel at ICON Park is very nice with its massive indoor and air conditioned cabins. The entire ride experience lasts for about fifteen minutes, giving you more than enough time to take in all of your surroundings as if the Starflyer next door didn’t already do that for you. If you’re in the area, give ICON Park a try. It’s more of a retail and shopping center than an amusement park and the rides are definitely more on the pricey side. But, it’s a good time and after all you are on vacation so why not? Curious to see what becomes of the place after their drop tower and sling shot rides are complete. I imagine upon their openings this place will creep higher on most peoples’ bucket lists.

That’s all for today. As always, thanks for reading this nonsense.
#107381
tarheel1231 wrote:Wait, were Transformers and Spider-Man closed during your visit?


I uhh...

may or may not have forgotten those

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