We bought our adventure this last week right along with hundreds of thousands of other Spring Break revelers in Florida. Julia, our 10+ year-old granddaughter, got to pick a personal week with the grandparents anywhere in the lower 48 for her 10th Birthday present. To no one’s surprise, of all the American cultural highlights and recreational opportunities in the continental United States, she picked Potter-ville, also known as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Fortunately we had the presence-of-mind to curtail the amusement park experience to two days, and she took maximum advantage of the operating hours, affording us 14 1/2 hours the first day. Since we didn’t manage to break the “fun barrier” on the inaugural visit, we did a touch-n-go at the motel that night, and were in the line with the first 5,000 people the next morning.
I managed to accompany her on all the class 5 rides and Stanna did her turn on the class 3 versions that only evoked cries of glee rather than those higher class rides where excitement verges on terror. For a guy that hasn’t been near a roller coaster in 50 years, I was amazed I didn’t coat my seat companions with something intestinal, and you evidently have two or three choices to “void” your system. There has to be something deeply tribal about wanting to wait in interminable lines for 110 seconds of “joy”.
Orlando – where you pay to park, pay to play and pay to pee (not really), but you line up to park, line up to play and DO line up to pee. I guess it’s no secret that these theme parks can get “sold out” as was the case at Disney World (when they reached capacity of 100,000) the same day. If it weren’t for the cold front here (high today of 62), I figure the Universal twins would be at capacity as well. It’s standing room only in Harry Potter World and the only way we beat the 120- minute wait time was to start our queue at 9:30 PM and only wait 75 minutes.
Lines at the 8am day-two start flag were in the single digits for about 45 minutes. Probably ’cause it was 48 degrees and windy, but by the time we made it half-way round Islands of Adventure the 9:30 am lines were over 120 minutes and Hogsmeade was virtually grid-locked.
Julia never slowed a beat during the ordeal, I mean experience. And we really lucked out as she chatted-up another 10 year-old girl and her 15 year-old brother escort on the second trip on the Dragon Challenge front row class 5+ ride, and the newly bonded best bud’s trekked and traipsed round the two adjacent parks for the next 12 hours. We simply shadowed the triumvirate, paying for sustenance and nutrition as necessary.
It is worth revealing several important facts about the two Universal Parks: First, purchase an “Express Pass” for the first day, totally ignoring the usurus charges for the privilege of cutting to the front of the lines. 90- to 120-minute waits can be cut down to 10 to 15 minutes. Second, there actually are several adult-enjoyable rides, the best known as the Forbidden Journey in the Hogswort Castle (Harry Potter Land) and the Spiderman ride is also quite remarkable, as it has similar mechanical, sensory and visual effects that put realism in your gut.