2015 Trip 1, Feb. 18, Florida in Winter

Orlando, FL Wed. Feb. 18

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Universal Studios Orlando. That was our day today. We have been to Disney World Orlando four times and loved it each time. (2013, 2008, and about 1993 and 1986.) We thought we should give Universal Orlando Resort a try. Universal is much less expensive (although certainly neither is cheap); 3 day basic passes were $144 each compared to $274 for Disney World. Disney has four theme parks, Universal two. Today we did Universal Studios Florida. Thursday we will do Universal Islands of Adventure.

That being said, Disney is far better in our minds. We just found so many ways that Universal was not impressive for our interests. Today’s weather was breezy, very cool (below 50 degrees F) early and late, pleasant in mid-day. Tomorrow should be cooler. But this did not affect our thinking; we were prepared for the weather. What follows is a variety of thoughts, reporting, and opinions; not in any particular order or in any priority.

When you first enter through the gates, signage is lacking to direct you between the two parks. We very nearly went to Islands of Adventure, which was not our plan for today.

We arrived around 8:30 and the gates were opened around 8:35. The entry process is slow as each person’s ticket and finger are scanned; a small number of gates meant it took 15 minutes just to have your ticket processed.

Diagon Alley of Universal Studios Florida

Diagon Alley of Universal Studios Florida

The Harry Potter experience is a big reason to do Universal, it is better done and the visitors are excited about it. Wizard capes and wands were everywhere throughout the park. Without the Harry Potter aspect, we would not find the day worth it. Even with the Potter experiences, based on just the first day, we do not see any reason to ever make a return trip here.

The building exteriors and store displays are well done. The landscaping is very basic with nothing dramatic for picture-taking.

Diagon Alley store

Diagon Alley store

We were strolling by the Men in Black ride at 9 AM as it opened so we were its first riders of the day. Pleasant but not overwhelming. This delayed our arrival at The Escape from Gringotts ride; Chris chose not to go on the ride, realizing it provided more motion and thrills than she prefers. I found it a good ride, although the clarity of the voice projections here and on several other rides was poor.

The wait at the Escape from Gringotts was 30 minutes; this was about average for the day. You probably know the drill; a long line snakes circuitously around a series of barriers, you finally turn a corner to face another series of barriers, then (maybe) you enter a holding area where there may or may not be something to entertain you, then you enter another holding area where the turn off cell phones/take no pictures/move all the way over or watch your step spiel is repeated, sometimes with an announcer that tries to get audience participation going. It is the second price (time vs money) that you pay for the experiences but you know it in advance.

Beetlejuice Graveyard Review

Beetlejuice Graveyard Review

During the day we also hit The Blue Brothers, Shrek 4-D, Simpson Ride, Ollivanders Wand Ship, Disaster, E.T. Adventure, Terminator 2, Twister, Beetlejuice Graveyard Review, and the Parade. I am sorry to say it but the parade is nothing. I could not believe it was over so quickly. Twister, about tornadoes, promised some real thrills but was lame and a disappointment. Blue Brothers would have been a pop up show at Disney, I think they performed for 20 minutes on a street corner after being listed as one of the major shows of the day.

E.T. was cute and enjoyable. Disaster was not too bad; although Chris and I differed on it. She thought it was comparable to the Disney show, I thought it was shorter and less dramatic although still enjoyable. Beetlejuice Graveyard Review was decent. Shrek was enjoyable but the hype before while you were waiting for the show led you to expect a different story line inside.

After the 5 pm parade we caught one more show and decided not to wait for the 7 pm nightime lagoon show. It was getting cold but we were prepared to have dinner on-site and watch the day-ending lagoon show. Even if it was better than the parade, it was unlikely to justify our waiting around.

This may make it sound like our time was wasted. No, we are glad we went, we enjoyed our day. But we were disappointed and not likely to visit again if we return to Orlando in future years.

Ed and Chris 10:30 pm

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