Share thoughts, photos, and reviews from visits to Carowinds or any other amusement park
The Universal Orlando parks have been on my bucket list of parks to get to ever since I saw a POV of Transformers. I had never seen a ride like it that seamlessly integrated 3D with practical sets, so to me, it looked like the ultimate form of immersion. Six years after seeing that POV, we finally made the trip in celebration of my high school graduation.


We drove into Orlando at around 5PM on Sunday, and our hotel was offsite. So if you're looking for a nice play to stay without necessarily breaking the bank by staying on site, I highly recommend Comfort Suites Near Universal. It's just a short drive away and they offer shuttle service by appointment if you're not looking to drive.

We headed to Citywalk around 6PM to get something to eat. I could see the parks from the Citywalk lagoons, and my first impressions were that Rockit looked much taller in person, and Hulk much smaller. Nonetheless, I anticipated both very much.

We ate at Bob Marley: A Tribute to Freedom and it was pretty decent. I think there's much better and more authentic Jamaican food here in Charlotte, but for the price of the meal, they at least delivered on portions. I don't know if I'd eat here again but I'd probably still recommend it to first-time visitors.

After dinner, we headed browsed some of the gift shops in Citywalk and eventually headed back to the hotel. I could barely sleep with the anticipation I had. But eventually, I dozed off, poorly-rested up for the first day.

Day 1:

Our first park of the trip was Universal Studios Florida, as the forecast called for it to rain/storm for a good part of the day, and we figured it would be better to be at the park with more indoor attractions. We got into the park around 10:30, and made a beeline to...


I rode in the second row and it was really enjoyable! Our train voted on "Stronger" as the song, and that really made the ride for me. There's a decent amount of floater and ejector airtime, especially in the non-inverted loop, and it was butter smooth. A great way to start off the day.

After jumping off Rockit, we headed to the attraction that I came here for:


We had about an hour queue, though the app only read about 40 minutes, but the ride was about as good as I expected it to be. The screens seemed to integrate seamlessly with the sets just as I had expected; and the heat, water, and wind effects added another dimension to this already fantastic ride. I particularly enjoyed the missile scene.

After getting off Transformers, we wandered about the New York area searching for a restroom and a bite to eat, and excluding Diagon Alley, this was definitely the prettiest section of the park. It looked like an authentic New York street, open fire hydrants and all, and every building looked incredibly detailed. After a bathrom break and a pit stop at Auntie Anne's, we headed to...


The queue for this is like a museum exhibit on steroids which is probably the aesthetic they were going for, so kudos to Universal Creative. The ride itself is both one of the best dark rides I've been on and one of the most fun coasters I've ridden, with incredible special effects (fire, projections, animatronics) and a layout that kept you guessing. My brother and my mom agreed that this was the best ride of the day at USF.

We took a quick mid-day break and headed back in around 2. Our next attraction was on the other side of the park, and it was...


With most of the rides at the park being thrill-based, E.T. was a nice change of pace. It was a scenic, leisure ride through the forest and to E.T.'s home planet, with some truly amazing sets and animatronics. I hope whatever they do to Kidzone in the future doesn't involve this ride's removal, because it is an absolute gem.

After checking the Universal Orlando App, we headed to...


We only waited about 30 minutes. However, I'd say that this was definitely the least impressive ride of the trip. I couldn't shake the feeling that the ride needed 3D, and despite the jokes, it still felt like a run-of-the-mill simulator attraction to me. The queue was great, but I'd probably never ride this again if I returned.

Following this, we made our way to...


I don't remember the cast member's name, but she made the queue experience really fun. The elevator room gag was really funny, and a great way to set the mood for the ride.

The ride itself is the best shooter I've ever been on. There's plenty of animatronics, but the most impressive scene by far is the "big bug" that you pass under which is absolutely massive. The spinning added a thrill to the ride and wasn't too nauseating. Overall, I'd put it as a mid-tier attraction and definitely one I'd ride on a return visit.

Men In Black was our last non-Harry Potter attraction for the day. After exiting the ride, we made our way to London and headed into Diagon Alley. We had to cut out a lot of stuff on this visit due to crowds, but if there's one thing I actually regret, it's not fully exploring the Wizarding World beyond the rides. This was the most detailed, most immersive theme park land that I had ever been in, and exploring the land itself could have easily taken up a day. All the more reason to return, I suppose.

We made our way to the area's flagship attraction, which is of course...


Oh my god, the theming here is incredible. The queue line itself is worthy of gushing over. The moving newspapers, the goblins in the lobby, the elevator shaft down, etc. The queue itself was an amazing attraction. The ride didn't disappoint either. It mixes coaster and simulator elements perfectly, and the music accompanying the ride was beautiful. Honestly, as pure attractions go, I enjoyed this on the same level as Mummy, but as I'm a coaster enthusiast, my tastes tend to skewer towards more coaster-based attractions, so Mummy took the title for best ride at Universal Studios Florida.

After getting off Gringotts, we picked up some Butterbeers from a nearby shop, and I do not regret spending over $25 on these during the trip. They're delicious and I wish I could take them home with me.

We made our way to King's Cross to ride the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure and get our money's worth on the park-hopper tickets. The ride itself was pretty cool, with views of the English countryside out of one window, and dementors in the other. I just wish the temperature dropped significantly when the dementors appeared, it would have really added to the immersion. Unfortunately, we did not ride the train back to USF and ended our day at Islands of Adventure. We were exhausted, so we decided to bail on riding anything in favor of dinner and going back to the hotel.

Universal Studios Florida is an awesome park and definitely one of the my favorite, but this is only part one of the trip. As I'm exhausted from the drive back to Charlotte, I'll be posting my thoughts on our second day at IoA tomorrow.
User avatar
By gabed
The theming on Gringotts blew me away. I seriously have never experienced that level of immersion on a ride before. My sister and I felt like our legs were still wobbling after the elevator shaft even though we both knew we really had not moved at all.
coasterbruh wrote:No pictures?!?!?!?

They're coming, I promise. They're not particularly good though. :D

Day 2:

Since we were starting off at Islands of Adventure, today's plan was to make a beeline to Hogsmeade in order to avoid crowds. However, the app was showing Hagrid's at a 300 minute wait, so we decided to avoid it for now. Our first attraction of the day ended up being...


Again, the trend with these Harry Potter attractions is that the queues themselves could be E-Ticket attractions with the level of detail poured into them. The paintings of the founders were incredible, the musion effects were entertaining to watch, and the sorting hat animatronic was a joy to see. And we're not even on the ride yet!

The ride itself is now my favorite attraction of all time. The mix of flight simulator and traditional dark ride is astounding, and the animatronics in here are MASSIVE. If you can even make out the dementors, dragon, and whomping willow from a POV, they look EVEN LARGER in person! I could go on for days about how amazing this ride is, as by itself, it's worth the price of admission.

After exiting Forbidden Journey, we made our way over to Jurassic Park. Surprisingly, the construction walls seemed way less intrusive than they appeared from pictures/videos. As the area's name suggests, our next attraction was...


I gotta say, this was a bit of a disappointment. The animatronics were in desperate need of a refresh, so it was a bit like riding a boat through Dinosaurs Alive. Independent of the maintenance needed, the finale on our ride was ruined by some idiot with a gopro out before the drop. So because of that dude, the T-Rex didn't lunge out at us before the drop. I just want to make it clear though that that Patron is the one at fault here and not Universal. The drop itself was excellent. Despite that, I welcome the Jurassic World update with open arms if it means the animatronics get overhauled. The only thing I would change is the placement of the Mosasaurus tank closer to the Raptor Containment area instead of the beginning.

It was about 1:00 by now and it looked like it was about to rain. We decided to head over to Skull Island and get inside, where our next attraction would be:


I love everything about this attraction. Though I've praised the queues for Harry Potter, the queue for Kong is easily the best one at the entire resort. The skull room with the shamaness is incredible, with an eerie atmosphere and amazing effects. The shamaness herself is extremely lifelike, and the fire effects in the skulls lining the rooms were just a beauty to look at. The scare-actors in the queue at an extra thrill to the wait. Even the loading area had me convinced that we were on a deserted tropical island with no escape.

The ride itself gets a lot of hate for essentially cloning the Kong 360 segment of the USH tram tour, so having watched a POV beforehand, I knew what I was getting into (which was the case with most of the rides at the park). So because I didn't go in with any false expectations, I ended up absolutely loving Kong. The bat animatronics were unsettling in the best way possible, and the 3D was the most effective on this ride more than any other attraction at the park. And just like the animatronics on Forbidden Journey, the Kong animatronic is even bigger in real life than on video. It's absolutely incredible to look at. All in all, I think Reign of Kong was probably one of my top five favorite attractions at the resort.

The rain had let up after we exited Reign of Kong, and we decided to make our way over to Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. However, while in line, the weight ballooned to 120 minutes from the initial 35 minute wait shown on the app. As much as I would have loved to ride this thing, we were pressed for time and didn't have it as a must-do on our to-do list, so we ended up skipping it. I definitely need to spend more time in Toon Lagoon next time I visit.

So instead of Dudley, we made our way over to Marvel Superhero Island for lunch. My mom and brother both got burgers and I opted for chicken tenders. It was probably the most okay meal that I've ever had at a theme park, nothing to write home about whatsoever. After lunch, we decided to see how much our stomachs could endure by heading to...


OH MY GOD WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? I actually think this might be my new #1, and I don't even rank coasters anymore. The launch is insanely powerful, made all the more intense by its uphill slant. From there, the ride just keeps going and going, smashing through inversions and absolutely tearing sh!t up. There's even a couple pops of airtime! It's the most intense B&M I have ever ridden (the fact that I was seated in row 7 probably helped), and perhaps one of the most intense coasters I've ridden. Why hasn't B&M made more launch coasters when (in my opinion) the best one they've made is launched?

After getting absolutely destroyed by the Hulk, we made our way over to the area's other flagship attraction...


I love the character of Spider-Man. He's my favorite superhero, my favorite fictional character, and I even try to live by the ending words of Amazing Fantasy #15;

"With great power there must also come -- great responsibility!"

So I really wanted to love this ride.

Don't get me wrong, I still think this ride is absolutely awesome, and I'd probably take it over Transformers. The queue through the Daily Bugle is hilarious to read, and the fact that the preshow is essentially the Spider-Man cartoon from the 90's is great. I think I just overhyped the ride in my mind and expected it to be my absolute favorite at the park. But it's still one that I wouldn't miss, gabed, because it's still one of the best rides in the entire resort.

Finally, Hagrid's wait time on the app dropped to under two hours, so we decided to head back to Hogsmeade, and man, do I have some stuff to say about this experience...


...has been delayed due to inclement weather. Imagine hearing that line for an hour straight and that pretty much described the waiting experience. The queue time said two hours on the app, but we waited well over three hours just to ride due to weather. Now I don't fault the park, since they can't control the climate, but it really seems like the capacity is a bit low for a park with IoA's attendance. Idk, maybe it's just me being too critical.

After navigating through Hagrid's Maze of Misery, we finally got to the boarding room which had a rather impressive display on the ceiling, showing the silhouette of the motorbike flying over the rotted roof. We had waited so long at that point that it was hard to even look up. But enough complaining, let's talk about the ride...

The launches on this are far more powerful than you'd expect. I wouldn't say any of the animatronics were super impressive, but they did the job and I particularly loved the Ford Anglia with the Cornish Pixies on it. I'd say the most impressive thing visually on the ride was the drop track room with the Devil's Snare. Having done Verbolten, it wasn't anything completely foreign to me, but it's still fairly startling and a highlight of the experience.

Overall, rating the ride independent of the waiting experience, it's something really fun. I wouldn't say it's incredible, just because I personally don't feel it's as immersive as either Forbidden Journey or Escape From Gringott's, but I think it's a more enjoyable experience than the latter and probably one of the top five rides at the resort for me.

It was almost 8 by this point, so after grabbing a butterbeer and a dusk ride on Hulk, we finally headed back to the hotel.

Islands of Adventure is my favorite theme park or amusement park that I've ever visited. It's perhaps the most well-rounded one too, featuring incredible dark rides that you'd expect from an Orlando park, as well as some coasters that would put the ones at a few regional parks to shame. The addition of Velocicoaster and the rumored Jurassic World rehaul make a return in 2021 extremely tempting. Despite any criticisms I have of the park, I'm absolutely dying to return and I can't wait to see how this park evolves in the future.
Well, I promised pictures! So here are the ones that I think look decent enough to post:

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Last edited by tarheel1231 on November 13th, 2019, 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
I wish you could have seen the parks pre-potter. That's when I liked it the most to be honest. What all parks have you been to?
coasterbruh wrote:I wish you could have seen the parks pre-potter. That's when I liked it the most to be honest. What all parks have you been to?

So far, I have visited:

-All four WDW parks (albeit more than a decade ago)
-Cedar Point
-Darien Lake
-Six Flags Over Georgia
-Busch Gardens Williamsburg
-And now USF & IOA.

I still need to get out more but so far, that’s the list of major parks.
coasterbruh wrote:Guess what I rode this weekend?????

That's right, Hagrid's!!

What did you think of if? Personally, I think the early reactions overhyped it, but it’s still a well put-together attraction.
User avatar
By coasterbruh
It was fun but it was NOT the next best thing in the world of theme parks. The pacing is kinda too fast for me. Like they are telling a story but you are missing it. It's, to me, an outdoor gringotts. The seats are comfy though . . .
User avatar
By tarheel1231
It’s definitely fun, and I think it was a perfect addition to the park since they didn’t really have a “family” coaster (debatable with the height-requirement), but it’s not Universal’s masterpiece. I’d say Gringotts is more immersive, even with (and actually, due in parr to) its screens. Idk, maybe it’s just the “animatronic good screenz bad” mentality.
By LocoDriver
As much as I like Gringotts, I like this much better. Gringotts is just not long enough. Once it gets going, it's over with. Kind of like The Mummy. The new attraction was lengthy and with the added transitions just eclipsed Gringotts IMO.

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