Sunday, August 29, 2010

Universal Studios - The Agony and the Ecstasy

Full disclosure:  I spent about 4 years living in Southern California in the late ‘70’s.  We had many visitors while we were there, and my stay included a number of trips to several of the nearby attractions including Disneyland, Sea World, and Knott’s Berry Farm as well as Universal Studios.  I loved them all.  I have many, MANY pleasant memories of those times, and they form the basis of what I consider good form in a tourist attraction.  It should be noted that any preconceived ideas I have about that business, are based on the California attractions and NOT the humongous, bloated Florida versions of the same attractions.

Of course, prices have risen considerably on everything over the years,  but JEEPERS CREEPERS, I wish my income had grown in proportion with admission prices! I had checked it out online beforehand, so there were no surprises there, but let me just say this ... the “Meal Deal” they offer once you get inside that sounds like such a good idea … isn’t.

The trip to Florida came about because Mommo and I are both huge Harry Potter Fans.  The very first words out of my mouth when I finished that first book were “I want to go to Hogwarts!”  When we first heard they were building the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal, we decided then and there that we were going when it opened.  We planned our trip for the week after school started here, and then chose a weekday rather than the weekend for our adventure, thinking that the crowds would have thinned out somewhat.  Apparently they didn’t get the memo.

The Harry Potter section was as far away from the Universal entrance as you could get.  After walking about halfway back we had to stand in a line winding its ways through other sections of the Adventure Islands.  There were so many people in the area we wanted to see that some of them had to leave before they could admit any more.  It was hot, and it was painfully slow.  It took a couple of hours just to get in the fairly small area that had just 3 rides and a couple of shops.

I wish I had more pictures to share with you.  I really didn’t get many because it was just too crowded in the shops.  There were some neat displays that would have made for good pictures but it was literally wall to wall people and you couldn’t move.  I really can’t say I would have purchased the souvenirs (if I could get at them) because those that I did get a good look at were all just plastic, disappointing in the extreme.

Two of the three rides were metal roller coasters, one bigger, one smaller.  Hagrid’s Hut was near the smaller one.

The major attraction was the castle, of course.

This is the ride that gets all the press.  It was another 90 minute wait, and they wouldn’t let me bring in my camera!  They said I had to put it in a locker, that it might clunk me in the head if they let me take it in.  ALL the cool things that I wanted to take pictures of were in the castle.  I was heartbroken.  They said that if I really wanted to, after the ride I could collect my camera and do a walk through, but after all that I was NOT going to wait in that line again!  Besides, for the most part it was pretty dark in there and much of it was moving, so I don’t think many pictures would have come out anyways.  Besides, we were STARVING by the time we got out of there, and the places we could eat at with our meal tickets were outside in another section.

Despite all my whining, I will say this about that attraction … it was all that and a bag of chips!  Barbecue … with change!  There were strange plants in the Herbarium (which the line passed through on the way into the castle).  There were the talking portraits and a visit from Professor Dumbledore, both very well done and realistic.  And the ride itself was just fabulous.  There were CGI screens all around you and it DID actually feel as if you were riding a broomstick with Harry.  I was indeed impressed!

Outside of the Harry Potter area, we waited an hour and a half for a hamburger (I don’t even want to go there). On one of the other Islands of Adventure (I think is was Superheroes), the Spiderman ride was equally impressive.  Other than that we went on a couple of water rides (which are fun, but basically the same everywhere) and got soaked.  Mommo had dry clothes out in the truck, but by the time we had walked all the way out there it was 7 or 8 and of course we’re hungry again by this time but neither of us could face walking all the way back to where we were designated to eat so we just left and stopped somewhere on the way home.

I’m glad we went but I think it’s the last time I’ll do anything like it again.  It was just too much.

Too hot
Too much walking
Too much standing
Too many people
And WAY too expensive.

I felt like the grouchy old man standing on the porch wanting to yell
“You kids get off of my lawn!”

It’s hell to get old.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for posting those awesome pictures of your visit to universal...
    now i don't have to pay the ridiculous amount to get in!! ha!!
    looks pretty cool...i like the harry potter stories! ((a few of my clients are HP fanatics!))