Review of "Universal Studios"

published 22/04/2013 | karalouk
Member since : 15/07/2007
Reviews : 368
Members who trust : 85
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Been away, everything's changed :(
Excellent
Pro A fun and varied theme park, Lots to see and do, Enjoyable for all ages
Cons Maybe a little too 3D based? Lots of long pre-shows, Tiny bit dated, Expensive admission
exceptional
Prices
Is it worth visiting?
Transport links
Family Friendly

"The best theme park in the universe(al)?"

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

I have just returned from 2 magical weeks in Orlando, Florida.

During our stay we visited many theme parks, including Universal Studios. There are 2 Universal Studios parks in Orlando - the original Universal Studios (which first opened in 1990) and the newer Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure (which first opened in 1999). This review will focus on the original Universal Studios park.

We caught a taxi from our hotel and back again. There is a taxi rank right outside the parks and we didn't have to wait for a taxi. Car parking is also available for $15.00 per vehicle, per day. Universal Studios is nearby all the other main theme parks in Orlando and is only roughly a 20 minute drive from Walt Disney World. When you arrive you have to pass through Universal Citywalk which is full of bars, clubs, shops, restaurants and general entertainment (mini golf, cinema etc). We didn't stop at Universal Citywalk (only for photos) but it did seem quite lively in the evening. You don't need a ticket to enter Universal Citywalk. This is where you decide what park to choose - right for Universal Studios and left for Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure. The entrance to Universal Studios has a big archway and huge iconic Universal Studios globe statue, which spins around and looks great lit up in the evening!

We bought our tickets at the gate, you can also buy them online. One day park tickets cost $88.00 for adults (these can be used in either Universal Parks but not both) and children cost $82.00. One day park tickets to BOTH parks cost $123.00 ($117.00 for children), although you will certainly need more than one day to cover both parks. We wanted to visit both Universal Parks, so we purchased the most sensible and cost effective tickets - 2 day park-to-park. These tickets cost a whopping $139.99 for adults ($129.99 for children) and allow you in to both parks, for 2 separate days. Tickets are very expensive but if you want to visit both Universal parks I would definitely advise paying an extra $16.99 for a 2 day park-to-park ticket. Park hours vary between 8am - 10pm. Park hours during our visit were 9pm - 8pm and we spent the whole day there.

As the name suggests Universal Studios is owned and run by the American movie production company Universal. Universal are behind some of the best and highest grossing films ever made (some of which include E.T, Jaws and Jurassic Park). The park is centred around movies. All of the rides, shows and characters have something to do with Universal movies. There is movie memorabilia scattered around the park (such as the car from Back To The Future) and parts of the park are set up to look like you're on a movie set. Anybody with a keen interest in films will really enjoy this park.

We had children in our group ranging from 4-8 years. The 4 year old got on most rides (except the roller coasters of course) but children any younger many struggle to meet some height requirements. Be sure to bring an autograph book because there are lots of characters to meet! We visited on a weekday and although the park was quite busy, we didn't have to queue very much for rides which was excellent and allowed us to cover most of the park. Avoid weekends and American holidays if possible! If you want to jump all of the queues in the park you are also able to purchase Universal Express Passes which range from $29.99 - $59.99 per person, per day...

We started our day with the E.T ride. There was absolutely no queue and we were given a 'space passport' (whilst also giving our names to a staff member) before entering the ride. The queue line is set up to look like you're in the forest that E.T visits in the film. It's really enjoyable. Each person sits on a bike with a safety bar over your lap and handle bars on top to hold on to. The bikes are all stuck to a platform so nobody actually has to pedal! You ride in groups of 12 (4 rows of 4) and each group has a basket on the front of their bikes with E.T inside! You start by riding through the forest to escape the 'bad guys' who are trying to catch E.T, you then begin to fly until you reach E.T's home planet where there are lots of funny looking aliens that are very pleased to see that E.T has returned home. The ride ends with E.T saying goodbye to each individual person on the ride (that's what you needed the space passport for) which is a nice touch. There is also an E.T gift shop at the exit, for all of your E.T needs! In my opinion this is a classic Universal ride, it's a little bit dated but it's still very enjoyable. It's nostalgic for adults and good fun for children.

Next to the E.T ride is an area called 'Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone' which is designed especially for little ones. There's a short but sweet roller coaster called Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster which our kids enjoyed and 2 exciting play areas ('Fievel's Playland' and 'Curious George Goes To Town'). There are also 2 shows - Animal Actors on Location and A Day in The Park with Barney. Unfortunately we missed both of these shows but I think our kids would have been too old to enjoy Barney anyway. We met a number of characters around this area which included lots of Spongebob Squarepants characters, characters from Hop, Scooby Doo and friends, Curious George and Woody Woodpecker. There is also a Spongebob Squarepants store, which is situated inside a pineapple!

Next up was The Simpsons Ride. The ride looks great from the outside and even has a Kwik-E-Mart! You can also meet Bart and Lisa. This was the ride we queued the longest for but it only took about 20-25 minutes. The Back to the Future ride was (sadly) replaced with The Simpsons ride a few years ago, but the ride still has a similar set up. It is a simulator ride in which each group (of up to about 8) sit in individual carts and the ride takes place in front of a giant screen. You ride and crash around Krustyland theme park, whilst also trying to escape from a psychotic Sideshow Bob! It's a really fun and thrilling ride, and is maybe one of the best simulator rides that I've been on. Although there were other carts riding at the same time, you couldn't really see them so it felt as though you were the only people on the ride! Everybody in our group enjoyed it and I would say it's definitely worth doing if you're visiting Universal Studios. Visually it looked great (and somehow realistic!), even though it was a cartoon and wasn't in 3D.

Men In Black Alien Attack is the nearest ride to The Simpsons. You are required to put your bags and possessions in to a free locker. But be careful because these 'free' lockers are only free for half an hour. Anything over half an hour will result in you will be charged at least $6.00 to get your locker open! The lockers work on a unique fingerprint system. I liked the queue line for this ride as it looked like you were really in the MIB headquarters! You sit in cars of 6 (2 rows of 3) and each person has their own gun. It's set up like MIB agent training and as you ride (and spin, lots!) through the city you have to blast aliens. Each person has their own individual score, so everybody can get competitive! We all enjoyed this ride, although I don't think it was anybody's 'favourite' ride. It lacked something that could have made it great, but I still think it's definitely worth doing. Next to Men In Black Alien Attack is Fear Factor Live which sounded pretty good ('Put yourself to the test at the most extreme audience participation show ever') but unfortunately we never got round to doing it.

The centre of the park is simply called 'Hollywood'. Among the glitz and the glamour, you will walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame and may even see the odd celebrity - we met Marilyn Monroe! Here you will also find Universal Orlando Horror Make-Up Show which sounded good but we avoided as we didn't think it would be very suitable for children. 'Lucy - A Tribute' is an excellent attraction for fans of I love Lucy and Lucille Ball. It contains tons of Lucy memorabilia and has a lovely gift shop too. Terminator 2 3D is a mix of 3D show and live action. We were all rather stunned as 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' drove out of the 3D screen and on to the stage in front of us! I don't really know how the kids felt about this one (other than a bit stunned and confused!) and I thought the pre-show was a bit long, however the adults loved it. It was a bit dated but the film is a bit dated now too, so why not!

Next we moved on to 'Production Central' which is home to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4D. We all loved Despicable Me Minion Mayhem which is a new ride and which we managed to get complimentary Universal Express tickets for (long story). I was relieved we managed to jump the queue for this ride as it seemed to be the most popular ride in the park. It's a simulator ride, much like The Simpsons ride (but in 3D). Although slightly less intimate than The Simpsons, as you can clearly see that you are in a room full of people. Experience the thrills and spills of being a little yellow minion! Although this ride is probably aimed more at children I would recommend it to everybody (all ages), especially if you're a fan of the movie. At the exit is a dance floor (with big screen to see yourself) and a fantastic gift shop. You can also meet Despicable Me characters throughout the day outside of the ride. I found Shrek 4D a little disappointing. It had a long and drawn out pre-show and it wasn't a ride or show, it was a short 3D movie. The plot was that Shrek had to save Fiona from Lord Farquaad's ghost. The kids didn't seem too keen on the ghost aspect and I thought the movie was a little bit long. There few a few fun 4D aspects but nothing that we hadn't already experienced in other 4D attractions. It's not a terrible attraction but it just wasn't as good as I'd hoped. The last ride in Production Central is Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and it's not one for the faint hearted! This is one of the best roller coasters that I experienced in Orlando and it seemed to last longer than most roller coasters. At the start of the ride you are able to choose what music to listen to for the duration of the ride and you are secured in to your seat by a plastic bar which sits across your middle (it looked very insecure and dodgy!). It has all the makings of a great roller coaster - twists, turns and drops aplenty! For me the scariest part was going up the vertical drop at the beginning (coming down actually wasn't so bad!). You also get filmed on board this ride, so beware!

The next section of the park is 'New York' which includes Twister (Ride It Out) and The Revenge Of The Mummy. Twister had a really long pre-show, it set the scene nicely but it was just a little drawn out and Bill Paxton just made me cringe. No offence Bill but you are incredibly cheesy! You are then led through to a big room and in front of you is a live scene of part of a small town (with house, car, petrol pump, trees etc). A hurricane is simulated which involves lots of wind, rain (you don't get wet), fire and explosions. The roof that you're under rips away and the floor shakes beneath you, there's even a flying cow! Overall this was a good attraction but not amazing. It maybe needs a little bit of updating and it definitely needs more wind. It's a good idea and is enjoyable enough, not my favourite attraction but it's definitely one to do if there's no queue (which there wasn't during our visit). The Revenge Of The Mummy is a roller coaster. It isn't as extreme as Rip Ride Rockit (it doesn't go upside down) but still isn't one for the faint hearted! The ride is set in the dark and is full of surprises which include drops, riding backwards, scary ancient Egyptians and lots of fire! There is a surprisingly good gift shop at the exit. Something which I'm really disappointed about is that we missed The Blues Brothers Show. I've seen them before and they are brilliant! Jake and Elwood put on an entertaining outdoor show, full of great music that appears to appeal to everybody of all ages.

At the back of the park is 'San Francisco' which is home to BeetleJuice's Graveyard Revue. I wasn't sure if it would be suitable for children but it turns out it is, in fact they loved it! It's a fun, all singing, all dancing, rock 'n' roll show which lasts about 20 minutes. Beetlejuice is joined by Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein. The guy who played Beetlejuice was very convincing - he had the same voice, mannerisms and looked similar. He had some great (or terrible) gags too! In my opinion this is one to do, especially if you're a fan of Beetlejuice, classic horrors and enjoy a good sing along! The other attraction in San Francisco is Disaster. Disaster had a very long pre-show (in fact there were 3 pre-shows!) but the attraction itself was a good idea. You are invited to take part in a major movie picture and the star is YOU! Members of the public volunteered to be part of the attraction whilst everybody else watched on. They were put in to different scenarios and filmed. Afterwards everybody went on a tram ride and we were thrown in to a disaster of our own as the underground station we arrive at experiences an earthquake which involves fire, water and a lot of tram rocking! There are cameras installed on every tram and you are instructed to do different things during the disaster ('scream, call for help, cover your ears, shield you eyes'). At the end you are shown your movie trailer on a overhead television. It combines edited footage from the earlier volunteers, along with snippets of everybody in their trams! The first half of this attraction is really quite boring but the second half (filming the volunteers and the tram) is really fun. Everybody was laughing at the movie trailer that we had made at the end and everybody seemed to really enjoy it.

During the middle of the day there was a parade. It was a children's parade which included all of the characters from Dispicable Me, Spongebob Squarepants, Hop, Dora and Diego. It was nice and great for the kids to see new characters (not Disney characters), but it was quite short and not quite as spectacular as the Disney parades. Still worth checking out if you have young kids though.

There is a lake in the middle of the park. In the evenings they put on a fireworks show, which I didn't see but some of my group did. They said it was good but again, not half as good at Disney! Universal Studios will also be unveiling their newest ride in the summer of 2013. It's a Transformers ride (which looks like it's going to be amazing) and you can meet the Transformers outside of the ride! In 2012 Universal Studios shut their Jaws ride. This was my favourite ride and I think it's a big loss to the park. However there's still a photo opportunity with the rather iconic Universal Studios Jaw shark (nearby Disaster). There are plenty of places to eat in Universal Studios. There are restaurants and kiosks dotted all over the park. We grabbed lunch at Mel's Drive In which is a fast food restaurant themed like a 50's diner. It has beautiful classic American cars outside (great photo opportunity) and the food wasn't bad either. The vegetarian burger was particularly enjoyable! Two veggie burgers and chips cost us $17.00 (no drinks as we already had some. Bottles of soft drinks cost $3.00 each and are larger than UK bottles, of course!). Shops and eating places are quite expensive but I suppose that's to be expected in these places. All of the staff were all really friendly and welcoming too.

Overall we had a great day out at Universal Studios. To summarise the negatives I would say that some of the attractions are slightly dated (although I don't think that's such a bad thing on rides such as E.T). If you're looking for bigger rides and better technology, then head over to Universal Studios Islands Of Adventures (the Harry Potter and Spiderman rides are excellent and use really advanced technology). Another slight negative is that they seem to focus quite heavily on 3D, which was ground breaking about 10+ years ago, but not so much nowadays. I also found that most of the rides had pre-shows, many of which I found to be too drawn out (especially when you can't sit down and you have children with you). To summarise the positives I would say that the park is a good size - it's quite large but not too large. Even though there are lots to see and do, we managed to do most of them. It was set out in a good way too, so you didn't have to keep going back on yourselves. I love movies so I enjoyed the theme of the park and thought it was really well done. Universal Studios can be enjoyed by all ages, there's plenty for both adults and children to enjoy. The things I enjoyed most were E.T, The Simpsons Ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Lucy - A Tribute, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, The Revenge Of The Mummy, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue and seeing all the different characters.

I give Universal Studios 4.5 stars out of 5 - If you're in Orlando, I definitely recommend a visit.

Summary: A great day out at the original Universal Studios park.

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Comments on this review

  • 80smusicreviewer published 27/05/2013
    Excellent review. E.
  • supersonic75 published 26/04/2013
    E x
  • Brownie_Queen published 24/04/2013
    Another one back with an E x
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