Monday, July 26, 2021

Florida Adventure, Day 1

[Composed 7/16/2021]

We just finished up a very full day at Universal Studios, and boy am I exhausted.

Typically, a visit to an amusement park involves a sort of mental tug of war. On one hand, I don't like rides or the pre-canned adventure they offer. On the other, I feel like I should embrace the moment and appreciate the parks for the spectacle that they are.

Today, we were a group of 10, so I didn't have time for such a dialog. Instead, I spent the day counting and re-counting heads to make sure we didn't lose anyone. I'm proud to report, we left the park with the same number of kids we arrived with. And in between, everyone (even me!) had a blast.

While amusement parks may involve philisophical debates for me, for everyone else, they were treated to a thrilling day of top notch enterintainment. M. wanted to ride the biggest, baddest coasters Universal offered. To set the tone, we started our day on 'Hulk,' a twisting, turning roller coaster that I couldn't begin to fathom riding. He, and the rest of the older crew, loved it.

We met my Sister-in-Law and our four nieces and nephew at the park. My Sister-in-Law in particular knows the ins and outs of the park well, and it was a real treat to have an expert guide us through the day.

My highlights included getting early admission and walking through the entrance and leaving hundreds of people behind us in line, and the discovery of Parent Swap Waiting Rooms. Parent Swap is a feature Universal offers where parents and kids get in line, and right before the ride begins all those not riding duck off to a little waiting room. When the riders return, the parent who waited can opt to rejoin the line right at the point of boarding.

I didn't take advantage of the riding ability, but I loved watching the kids in an air conditioned space where we could sit in relative comfort.

After every ride I'd ask M., P. and B. how they ranked the ride on a scale of 1 to 10. Here's how the rides stacked up:

  • Hulk: 8/10. Adrenaline. Awesome.
  • Spiderman: 7/10. Fun!
  • Kong: 5.5/10. Too short.
  • Jurassic Part: 7/10. Nice drops. Slow inbetween.
  • Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure: 9/10. Amazing. (Shira takes points off for it malfunctioning and being stuck in the hot sun while waiting to offload.)
  • Forbidden Journey: 8.5/10. Wow. Best Simulation.
  • Rip Ride Rocketc: 8.9/10. Fear. Repetitious.
  • Gringots: 7.7/10. Good. Too short.

As our day closed out, I encouraged us to all watch the Bourne Identity Stunt Show. It was a masterful display of techonology and choreography. However, after a very long day of cooking in the Florida Sunshine, it was hard to get too excited about anything.

The food at the park was OK. Our veggie kebab at Doc Sugrue's Desert Kebab House was tasty enough, as was our milkshake at Mel's Drive-In Diner. Still, if I had to it do again, I'd probably opt to bring sandwiches rather than wait in line for a meal. On the other hand, water re-fill stations were relatively plentiful, so I'd probably bring less water and expect to get it at the park rather than carrying it my backpack.

About the only let down of the day were the wait times for the coasters. In many cases we were lucky enough to use my Sister-in-Law's express pass. But for the cases where this wasn't possible, we'd have to wait well over an hour to get access to the rides. I know this is a thorny problem, but c'mon Universal, there has to be a better solution than expecting people to just wait.

Overall, the day was terrific. All the kids were entertained and it was a true pleasure to watch them revel in the adventure.

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