Islands of Adventure Trip Report

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One of the parks I have loved and admired my whole life is Islands of Adventure, just the level of theming and awesome attractions shames other parks into hiding. I am very pleased to have visited it during my recent trip to Florida, and I hope you enjoy this trip report!

First Impressions:

Oh my gosh, how does this not beat Cedar Point every year for best theme park, this is a work of art! In my opinion, this is America’s DisneySea, because the level of theming and immersion in this park is as good as it gets!

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I had a really good time just walking through Seuss Landing. The creative team behind IOA really pulled out all of the stops coming up with gags and ideas for this land. Walking through there, really does make you feel like a kid again, and like you are in a world taken directly out of the works of the doctor himself.

Even the Cat in the Hat dark ride, which I wasn’t planning on riding, was just, well, fun. Even though it wasn’t the most intense, or technologically advanced, it was just a goofy, fun ride. Oh, and the fact that everything in the ride, and the ride op spiels rhymed like in a Dr. Suess story was a nice touch.

IMG_2101Disappointments:

I only really have one thing to gripe about, and for me it’s a big one; the water vortex wasn’t working. 😦 Besides the grand finale, the most “blown up” moment of that attraction is the water vortex effect. I’m sad to say, that after the wheel spun out of the way, I let out a sigh of disappointment as I saw a bare blue tunnel ahead.

Hogwarts Express Construction:

One of the ground breaking attractions under construction for the WWOHP expansion, is a Hogwarts Express train linking both parks. Now, Universal is being VERY sercretive over this, as I went so far to ask cast members about the 4+ cranes onsite, and they said “I don’t know, it’s magic?” Now I could’ve gone and been a real jerk and went on about “Are you sure it isn’t a London expansion, and a Hogwarts Express linking both parks?” But we were at the front of the line for Olivanders and we were going in.

Night-Time Spectacular Construction

Okay, while not really construction, this is a story worth noting. Multiple survey markers/buoys have been placed in the lagoon, and many of us believe that Universal might be trying to cash out on the epic-ness of IOA with a night-time show. Remember this is purely rumour, because these buoys could have other purposes.

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And now, onto the full report!

IMG_2120We started the day like most do, by making a beeline for the Wizarding World, Forbidden Journey only had a 10 minute wait, and it pained me that my family was rushing through the queue, while I was trying to enjoy the details, and figure out how effects were achieved.

Overall the attraction was great, but with all of the hype surrounding it, I felt it didn’t live up to the insanely high expectations I had going into it. I felt like to much of it felt fake, and staged, while it had no overlying story and not much interaction with characters from the films. That said, it is a great achievement for the industry, and is putting heavy pressure on rivals to step their game up.

Dragon Challenge, (Dueling Dragons,) was closed until 1 for some reason, so we waited in the longest line of the day; Olivanders. You won’t believe how many times I was asked, “What attraction is this?” and, “Where’s the ____ ride?” in that queue by some family behind us. I don’t even think they knew I was an enthusiast?
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With low crowds, we didn’t really have a strategy that day, so we went to Seuss Landing and did a few rides just because we could, then backtracked to the Lost Continent. We ate at Mythos, which by the way is the only and best place you should eat at the park. The food is amazing, and atmosphere is unmatched, and believe me when I say, that every good thing you have ever heard about this place is true.

We then experienced Poseidon’s Fury, which was good, except for the fact that the water vortex wasn’t working. Even though I knew the storyline, the thrill of exploration takes over, and it ends up being a very enjoyable, and unique experience.

We actually headed to the other side of the park after that, enjoying all that Marvel Superhero Island had to offer. While a lot of people find the atmosphere cheap and tacky, I feel that it worked for the story they were trying to tell. Hulk and Dr Doom were fun, but Spiderman really stood out, not just in the land or the park, but in the industry, because in my opinion, it does a better job than Forbidden Journey of making the world inside of the attraction seem real. There were more real effects, more real sets, and it was hard to figure out the secrets to the effects, where in Potter, you can see other ride vehicles and the mechanism behind it.

We worked our way back around the lagoon, walking through Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. We weren’t in the mood to get soaked as it was only about 15 degrees Celsius at the park.

IMG_2236We made our way back to the Wizarding World. I rode both sides of “Dragon Challenge” next, (it will always be Dueling Dragons with me.) But, unlike many enthusiasts, I actually enjoyed Fire/Chinese Fireball more, because I have just discovered, how much I LOVE the corkscrew inversion on inverts. The exaggerated motion and slight pop of air and freedom of being pushed out of your seat make it the most enjoyable inversion in my opinion. Oh, and my sister and I lit up when the ride ops accidentally dispatched both sides at the same time, we almost thought they were going to duel, until they slowed down the other lift.

We re-rode Forbidden Journey and Spiderman after Dragon Challenge, then left the park to dine in Citywalk, and that was basically it! Be sure to check out my Universal Studios Florida Trip Report, and my work in progress Busch Gardens Tampa Trip Report!

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Universal Orlando Resort’s Current Projects

After just opening their New-for-2012 offerings, Universal Orlando Resort has already started on projects for the coming seasons! Lets take a look at what Uni.’s got planned for the future;

Soundstage 44/Transformers

Quite recently, Universal has demolished the vacant Soundstage 44. Due to the rapid demolition, and the recent openings of the famed Transformers rides in Hollywood and Singapore, many think we will see another incarnation of the Transformers ride be built at Universal Studios Florida. Based on aerial imaging, the show building for Transformers would fit, however they would need to dig deeper before putting in the foundation due to the three levels in the current ride.

More Potter?

Remember when Universal announced that they would be greatly expanding the current Wizarding World? Well, that expansion may be coming in the form of a Diagon Alley/London area taking the place of Jaws. Many blueprints and permits have been leaked that suggest this will happen. An additional note on this project is that we may see a Hogwarts Express link the two parks, as one station would be in Hogsmeade at IOA, and another would be in “London” at USF. We’ll just have to wait to see what will become of the Jaws wasteland.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Out of all of these projects, the only one we can confirm for sure is Universal Orlando Resort’s newest resort hotel; Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This will be UOR’s fourth resort hotel, and it has a planned opening date of sometime in 2014.

The theming for Cabana Bay Beach Resort

….will evoke the driving vacations so many Americans grew up enjoying with their families – spending time at sweeping motor courts just off the highway, where families relaxed and played after a long day’s drive. The new hotel’s hip, vintage look will be accented with bold design, dramatic, clean lines, bright, period colors and touches of neon.

The released concept art for the suites reflect the theme;

Presumably, this resort will be built at the intersection of Turkey Lake Road, and Hollywood Way, across from Islands of Adventure, (in the orange highlighted area.)

The resort will feature 1800 rooms; 900 standard rooms, and curiously, 900 family suites. Based on the fact that they say this resort will feature “900 family suites” I think that this is meant to be a direct competitor to Walt Disney World’s Art of Animation Resort. It should be noted that this will presumably be the cheapest hotel on property for Universal, especially if they intend to compete head-to-head with Disney’s value class of hotels.

All three of these projects seem interesting to me, and I’m really excited to continue to watch these projects grow and develop.  Disney’s got some tough competition!

First Photo Credit Inside the Magic

Universal’s Potter Madness

Back in 2007, Universal announced that they would be building a the first new “island” at Islands of Adventure. That island came in the form of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now Universal took this very seriously, and they worked tirelessly to make this accurately themed, even going so far as to collaborate with the book series author J.K. Rowling. The end result, is by far the new gold standard for theme park lands and attractions. In fact, the land’s biggest attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is often regarded as the world’s best dark ride, surpassing IOA’s own Amazing Adventures of Spiderman.

Now, in a surprising twist, Universal has announced the creation of two more Wizarding Worlds at Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Studios Japan. Both will feature the same high levels of immersion as the one in Orlando, and the famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. The Japan version will be the first to open, because no attractions need to be removed like in Hollywood due to space constraints.

Another point I find interesting is that not only does Universal plan on building these two new Wizarding Worlds, but greatly expanding the current one in Orlando. Rumours point towards this expansion actually linking Universal’s 2 Orlando parks via a Hogwarts Express train attraction that would go backstage from the existing Wizarding World to the supposedly planned Diagon Alley section replacing Jaws in the Studio park.

Is Universal going TOO far with Harry Potter? Now, I understand that it produces massive cash for them, but if it’s in every single Universal park, then it won’t be special. Like Jurassic Park or Revenge of the Mummy, they are just cookie cutter rides placed in each park, even the brand new park in Singapore! If Universal continues at this rate, we may see the Wizarding World being built into new parks like the ones planned in South Korea, and Russia.

Personally, as long as there is some differences between each Wiz. World, I’m okay with it. Like, if the one in Hollywood ends up being the exact same as the one in Orlando, (minus the dueling roller coaster,) I’ll be pretty mad! We’ll just have to see what Universal is going to do with this amazing concept.

May 2012 Recap

We’re almost half-way through 2012 and the theme park news shows no signs of slowing down. Over the course of the last month, we’ve seen openings, testing, announcements, and even new construction for next season!!! Let’s take a look at what happened in theme parks this month;

X-Flight Opening

The third B&M wing coaster for 2012 finally opened, in the form of the highly appraised X-Flight, at Six Flags Great America. Also, the park surprised us with a few water and fog effects to complement this cool coaster.

T0 see more photos from media day, check out http://sfgamworld.com/

Aquatica San Antonio Opening

SeaWorld’s second Aquatica waterpark opened in San Antonio this month. This one features the same tropical theme, with some new slides. I really think SeaWorld has a winner with this concept!

A full report can be found at http://behindthethrills.com/

Mr Freeze Reverse Blast Opening

Both Mr Freeze launch coasters have completed their train reversal and are now running backwards trains under the name of Mr Freeze Reverse Blast.

Read more about this chilling relaunch at http://newsplusnotes.blogspot.ca/

Shambhala Opening

What might just be Leviathan’s biggest competitor this year is Port Adventura’s Shambhala, which features a mid-course splash-down, and the new staggered seating trains from B&M. Can B&M make a BAD hyper?

The guys from http://www.themeparkreview.com/

Verbolten Opening

Busch Gardens’ themed launch coaster Verbolten made it’s debut recently, and I’ve really got to applaud the park for the amazing theming and backstory to this ride. The whole “Gunther and Gerta” characters, and the pitch black indoor section with the vertical drop section, makes this ride VERY unique.

A good review and gallery can both be found at http://www.adventuresbydaddy.com\

Transformers Opening

The highly anticipated Transformers: The Ride 3D is finally open, and based on what everyone else is saying, this ride doesn’t disappoint.

Read a full review at http://www.insidethemagic.net/

Manta Opening

SeaWorld’s second interpretation on the Manta concept opened in San Diego as a MACK launch coaster.

Skyrush Opening

What is this, the year of the mega coaster? The third new mega coaster to open for 2012 is Skyrush at HersheyPark. As the park’s 12th coaster, it joins amazing rides like Great Bear, Stormrunner, and the classic Comet.

http://allamericanthrills.com/

Goliath Opening

Deja Vu reopend in it’s new home as Goliath this month, and despite the normal technical difficulties, I think it’s better suited at Six Flags New England than it was in California. Now if only they’d remove Flashback………

http://sfneonline.org/

Harry Potter @ USJ Announced

The third Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been announced, and it is destined for Japan. Universal Studios Japan will be building another incarnation of the highly appraised land, the famed Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and presumably more for a 2014 opening date.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/has the full scoop.

Divertical Testing

Intamin’s new half aquatrax-half hyper splash has begun testing, and we should see Divertical open sometime soon.

Apocalypse Testing

The reworked and relocated Iron Wolf has begun testing at Six Flags America.

http://www.washingtonpost.com

Wildcat Closing

Cedar Point’s announced that WildCat would be removed this season, hopefully this means we’ll see some extra awesome rides next year!

Read all about is in my post here: https://purecoaster.wordpress.com/

The Storm Construction

Etnaland has already started construction of their new for 2013 coaster the Storm, the park must be aiming for a really early opening!

Roller Coaster Revolution



April 2012 Recap

The month of April has come and gone, and as we progress into the year 2012, the attractions the public anticipates finally open their gates. As for the rest, they are all checking the last things off their check-lists, and getting ready for openings in the near future. Lets take a look at what happened at theme parks this month;

Leviathan Preview

Canada’s Wonderland unveiled their beast-of-a-coaster Leviathan at the end of April, and the folks from PureCoaster were there!!!! I’ll have a full photo update on the site real soon, (sorry for the delay.)

Oziris Opening

B&M inverts have become coaster classics, and Oziris looks like it can live up to the legacy left by coasters like Nemesis and Katun. Sporting Egyptian theming, and Montu style track and trains, this looks like a winner.

www.rollercoasterevolution.eu

Nemesis Sub-Terra

“Your worst nightmare underground,” opened at Alton Towers and just by the fact that this is the only attraction to ever get an an age rating by the British Board of Film Classification, this is not for the easily frightened!

www.themeparktourist.com

Phalanx members

Disney Dreams Premiere

Now this is a show that lives up to the name “night-time spectacular!” Disneyland Paris’ Disney Dreams is  a castle show, and with water fountains, digital projection, lasers, and plenty of pyro, Disney Dreams has to be seen to be believed!

www.insidethemagic.net

Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories Previews

Disney Dreams isn’t the only new night-time show for 2012, Universal has begun showing their new night-time show that features numerous water effects, and of course fireworks.

www.attractionsmagazine.com

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Transformers Sneak Peek

Even though it’s not set to open for another month, Transformers is already in “Technical Rehearsals!” After all the hype this attraction has received since the announcement, this is looking REALLY good.

www.micechat.com

TurtleTrek Opening

Dubbed as the first 360 degree 3D attraction, TurtleTrek’s opening is the first of one of three attractions SeaWorld has planned for the next two years.

www.attractionsmagazine.com

Windseekers Openings

Continuing on the success from last year’s four Windseekers, Cedar Fair opened another two incarnations of this 301ft tower swing at Kings Dominion and Carowinds.

Carowinds @ www.thecoastercritic.com

Kings Dominion @ www.behindthethrills.com

Stinger Opening

Even though this is Dorney Park’s second relocated shuttle coaster, there’s something about this ride that makes me happy to see it open. Brought in from the almost sold California’s Great America, it’s a great fit at Dorney Park.

www.newsplusnotes.blogspot.ca

X-Flight Testing

The remaining “New for 2012” B&M wing coaster began testing this month. Think about it, it will only be a few weeks until we’ll be able to ride this epic coaster!

Shambhala Testing

Leviathan and Skyrush aren’t the only mega coasters opening this year, Shambhala has not only completed it’s track this month, but it’s begun testing as well!

www.park-logic.com

Verbolten Testing

We’re all one step closer to “Braving the Black Forest,” as Verbotlen is testing as well!

Mammoth Testing

Holiday World has beaten their own record for World’s Longest Water Coaster with Mammoth. Sitting next to it’s predecessor Wildebeest, Mammoth not only looks like a great ride, but it fits in with the Splashin’ Safari theme too!

www.facebook.com

Apocalypse Track Completion

After virtually no updates from the park, Six Flags America’s hand me down Apocalypse has completed it’s track this month. Additionally, they have started re-painting the supports to match this coaster’s hot new black and orange paint job.

www.themeparkreview.com

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Divertical Track Completion

Mirabilandia’s Intamin Hypersplash/coaster combo with multiple splash-downs and coaster segments has it’s circuit complete. We can expect to see water dummy testing soon!

www.coastercommunity.altervista.org

Sky Screamers Topped Off

Even though Cedar Fair has beaten Six Flags on getting their tower swings running, Six Flags’ Sky Screamers were all topped off this month.

SFGAd @ www.newsplusnotes.blogspot.ca

SGFT @ www.newsplusnotes.blogspot.ca

La Ronde @ Facebook

And please, if I have missed anything, comment it!

Universal Orlando 2012 Attractions/Entertainment

Today, was the big day at Universal Studios Orlando as it was today that they officially named all of the new for 2012 attractions and entertainment that the community has been following since last year. To see the official post click here.

Each of the following topics will be covered in this post:

-Despicable Me

-Daytime parade

-Nighttime show

(I apologize in advance for the insane length of this post.)

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

We already knew this was coming, but we didn’t know much else. Fortunately today they released some concept art and a video giving the world a sneak peek at what’s to come this summer.

Join Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes—and of COURSE the mischievous minions—on an unforgettable 3-D ride experience! When Gru recruits you for his latest scheme, you’ll become a minion! It’s a hysterical mix of chaos and family fun for everyone!

Begin the adventure in Gru’s super-villain home where you’ll undergo “minion training.” In typical Gru fashion things take a wacky twist, with you and your family landing in a laugh-out-loud adventure that ends with an interactive dance party where you can show off your best moves.

Universal’s Superstar Parade

Here’s something Universal hasn’t done in a while, a parade! Aimed at a younger audience, this parade will feature characters from Despicable Me, HOP, Spongebob Squarepants, Dora, and more!

Sing, dance, and clap along with some of your favorite characters like the minions from Despicable Me, E.B. from Hop and Nickelodeon’s Dora & Diego and SpongeBob SquarePants in this live, interactive parade! Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy performances and character meet and greets prior to the parade at select locations throughout the day.

And now the news everyone has been waiting for….

Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular – 100 Years of Movie Memories

Along the lines of World of Color at Disney California Adventure, this nighttime spectacular involves shooting fountains, vibrant lighting, and of course the thing that made Universal what it is today; movies. Opening this spring, it will be a spectacle not to be missed.

Relive Universal Pictures’ most beloved films during this multi-media nighttime show that projects legendary movie clips onto cutting-edge waterfall screens. Narrated by award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, the experience will take you on a journey through epic cinematic moments filled with heroes, horror, laughter, good, evil and triumph.

Having personally seen World of Color, it will be interesting to see how this compares to it on many levels. Because WOC is focussed on the fountains and less on the movies, using the movies as a backboard for them, and Universal’s looks like the fountains are to enhance the movies.

Between Seaworld, Disney, Universal, and Legoland, 2012 is shaping up to be a VERY big year.

Universal Rumors and Jaws Removal

It’s been quite a week regarding Universal and it’s parks. From rumored statements to the confirmed ones, a bunch has happened lately.

First of all the Wall Street Journal says that apparently next week, Universal will announce a Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed area for it’s Hollywood park. Now there are two big questions with this expected expansion; What? and Where?

What: What will exactly be in this expansion? Rumors point towards Hogsmeade,  plus a star attraction, (ala Forbidden Journey) I’m not sure the park has the room to build two new rollercoasters, but they’ll probably add a few new concepts in place.

Where: The park doesn’t have a whole lot of room to expand in either lot, fans assume it will replace the Terminator and European streets, or Waterworld and Gibson Ampitheatre. Either way, something’s got to go.

Here’s a link to the Wall Stree Journal post: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204397704577070691060558140.html

Also, more recently, Universal Orlando revealed their intentions of permanently closing the Jaws ride and Amity section of the park. Nobody knows what will replace it, but it will probably be large scale. (Remember when Universal cleared that backstage land behind Jaws?) As a classic attraction, The attraction officially closes January 2nd.