Universal Studios Orlando

By Gen Mc Bride
Ready for an adrenaline rush? That’s what you get just stepping onto the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. The Universal Citywalk hints at the excitement ahead with its myriad of shops and restaurants. But that can wait, because no matter how old you are, once you spy the park with its multitude of spirals, loops and towers from a distance, your steps quicken and the heart starts pounding for the thrills and adventures about to unfold.

The Universal Orlando Resort features two incredible theme parks. You have Universal Studios Florida where, like its California counterpart, actual films are shot and real television shows are recorded. As the number one movie and TV based theme park in the world, you can go behind the scenes and become part of the action. If that’s not enough for you, there’s the Islands of Adventure just a quick walk across the resort where the screams of thrillriders on high-speed roller coasters welcome you.

My favorite attraction had to be the newest, which was The Simpsons Ride. I’m not alone in my estimation because it was voted the “Best New Theme Park Attraction” worldwide for 2008. It was entertaining before we even got in the car with hilarious new animation created for the pre-show and the queue areas. We board a car with the Simpsons at Krusty the Clown’s low-budget theme park called Krustyland and soon we were careening this way and that, crashing into just about everything. This crazy ride was the first ride where I laughed throughout.

Universal Studios Florida hosts live shows and eleven other attractions like Men in Black Alien Attack, a dizzying ride that lets you blast aliens. Disaster provides a different twist on the old earthquake segment of the back tour ride. You get an inside look at the making of disaster films then you take an active part in the explosive finale scene of a disaster film. Twister…Ride it Out literally puts you face to face with a tornado, while the Shrek 4-D experience not only let’s you see and hear the action, but you actually feel it, as well.

Opening later this spring is the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit which the resort claims is the most technologically advanced roller coaster in the world. You’ll pick out a song to rock out to before you strap in, then rocket straight up with the song thumping, screaming at 65 mph and soaring 17 stories high over Universal Studios. But instead of a picture of you with your eyes shut and mouth wide open, you can have a video of you with your eyes shut and mouth wide open. Set to music! Right on!

Still, there’s more to do right now when you head over to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I found myself overwhelmed with all the choices of rides and attractcions in the five different whimsical islands: Suess Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon and Marvel Super Hero Island.

Hang on for the a breath-taking 3D thrill ride with your favorite superheroes when you enter The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man. Need to cool off? Head to Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at the Toon Lagoon for a big splash at the end of an entertaining log ride. Need a breather from all the thrill rides? Look or some prehistoric education and adventure at Jurassic Park Adventure Center where kids can explore amber mines, climb dinosaur nets and more before you board a river raft to get up close and personal with a T-Rex. Or indulge your inner child with all the Dr. Seuss whimsy come to life at Seuss Landing. Younger kids especially will enjoy the gentler rides and interactive play areas.

The Lost Continent lets you explore a land of ancient myths and legends and is home to the world’s first inverted dueling roller coasters, the Dueling Dragons. You pick a Fire Dragon or an Ice Dragon, then soar 125 feet in the air and go as fast at 55 mph as you hurtle towards the opposing in a roller coaster dogfight. Three times you come within inches of your opponent in the 2 minute and 25 second flight of corkscrews and loops with zero-g and Cobra rolls.

A portion of The Lost Continent was closed due to the construction of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The theme park within a theme park, where fans will be immersed in the adventures of the word’s most popular wizard is scheduled to open in 2010.

From our recent visit I learned several things. Most travelers know this already but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: wear comfortable shoes and lots of suncreen. Schedule ample time to enjoy both parks. Two days at the very minumum, so you can enjoy each park thoroughly, three if you want to schedule a day to catch your breath in between the two. Believe me, there’s plenty to take your breath away.