TR: USO/IOA Kong Skull Island, Jimy Fallon Race Thru NewYork
It's 2AM & I'm just going to start pulling this together and see how far I get, then maybe finish up later.
We arrived at IOA Sunday and got our season passes. Being Florida residents the passes ended up costing just a bit more than multi-park tickets, especially when you throw in parking, which is now $20 per visit.
We had no idea when we planned this trip that there would be a record heat wave, which basically dictated when we would visit each park. Forecast for Monday was 94 so we decided 90 on Sunday wouldn't be so bad.
Entering the park we were immediately drawn to Hulk... it sounded different than I remembered and recalled that it had recently been totally retracked. Hulk had formerly been Laurie's favorite ride, but felt that we should pass due to health (more later). So we stopped in to ride Spiderman, which had a short wait and is still IMO best ride in the park. No breakdowns this time.
On to Kong Skull Island. My last visit here two years ago it was under construction, so I knew it does not have a large footprint... probably comparable to its neighbors JPRA and Ripsaw Falls.
Wait times for the whole park were moderately light, with maybe 20 minute wait for Kong. The queue is lightly themed and simple, featuring one animatronic "old woman" from the Jackson movie (Laurie disagrees and says it's a man). At one point in the queue a cast member extends a costumed arm out thru a hole in the wall to frighten young girls in line, as in a Halloween maze.
Riders board a large "bus" which seats probably about forty people. The bus of course has a motion sim base, so the ride is more floaty than your typical safari ride. The bus exits the building and makes a single loop thru an outdoor jungle scene before entering Kong's lair.
At this point you don your 3D glasses, which it seems now about half of the rides in the park use this 3D/motion sim platform combo. The bus stops at several depth-enhanced "scenes" from the movie. (I haven't seen Skull Island movie yet). There are I think four stops or scenes, with the climax being some dinosaurs attacking the bus and King attacking the dinosaurs, with the action jumping from one side of the bus to the other and back again. It really is very realistic looking with great audio.
The ride seems short but really packs a lot of action into the short circuit.
We stopped at the Watering Hole in Jurassic Park for our favorite Pina Colada slushie and walked down to the lake behind the discovery center where they used to play a really cool Calypso version of he Jurassic Park theme music, but now it has some uninspired Kong themed jungle music. From there we walked thru Hogsmeade to take the train to the studios side of the park.
Crowds in the studios side were heavier. We entered Gringots but discovered the overflow queue was full so turned around and walked out, when one of the park associates accidentally bumped into us, apologized profusely and offered to comp us a ride (how could we refuse?) Without having to wait it turned out to be a great ride, no breakdowns this time, which happened pretty often a couple years ago.
We walked down to the new Jimmy Fallon ride, which is where Twister used to be. I loved Twister and the movie is one of my favorites. I will miss it, and of course, RIP Bill Paxton. Anyway, the new attraction is all fast pass only. To ride it you have to get a ticket from a kiosk with your return time. We were worn out and didn't feel like waiting so decided to leave.
As we walked past Minion Mayhem, Laurie asked an associate about the ride (she loves Minions) and again, the associate very generously comped us express lane access to the ride. I remember we rode this same ride about twenty years ago when I think it was called Jetsons meet Flintstones or somethign like that. Again, motion sim platforms and 3D glasses after a cute pre-show intended for a very young audience, but we enjoyed it.
We decided that we would return later in the week to ride the Race Thru New York. As we drove home we could see that they appear to be building some new highway ramps and a new auto entrance into the parking garages. The new Volcano Bay water park is visible from the highway as well.
We did indeed return today (Wednesday) and rode the Jimmy Fallon ride twice. I think I'll write about that tomorrow, before we head out for our Guardians of the Galaxy I & II sneak peak double feature tomorrow night.
Our day at USF and IOA was great one and especially thanks to several of the park employees who cut us some slack. It was very much appreciated.
I just found that Wikipedia has a good narrative description of the ride sequence if you're interested.
So yesterday (Wed) we returned to the studios side specifically to ride the new Race thru New York. Temps today predicted to reach 88 but where Sunday was cloudy, today was full sun so seemed much hotter. We headed straight to the ticket kiosk where you get to choose one of two return times... one sooner and one later, each a one hour window. No ticket scans needed, just choose your time frame.
We chose the earlier one and it was only about 15 minutes away so we decided to wait. Nice thing about USF is you never know when a gate will open and a parade appear right in front of you. We witnessed no less than three music shows that day in only a few hours in the park.
Entering the "30 Rock" building proper the ride associates are all dressed as pages (ushers). Entry and queuing all goes very smoothly. Inside you walk past tribute displays to each of the great hosts of the Tonite show... of course Johnny and Jay, but also includes Steve Allen, Jack Paar and even Conan. The lobby is richly decorated in art decco with lots of brass features.
Eventually you are given a color-coded entry pass (like your boarding group for a flight). You all gather and wait for a short time in a large almost living room like waiting area, with big screen TV's showing highlights of some of the funniest moments from Fallon's show, including the egg challenge and the box of lies. Hashtag the panda makes the rounds for high fives and selfies with the waiting crowd.
Before long your color is called and you queue to enter one of two theaters. The Roots "rap" the safety warnings, then in you go. It appears to be a single large motion sim platform that holds maybe 100 people. I quickly counted maybe eight rows of 16 seats, about. The seats have the obligatory seat belt.
The show begins with Jimmy welcoming you in his virtual race car, and Higgins drops the green flag to start the race, which goes thru the halls of 30 Rock before crashing thru a wall and ending up on the streets of New York. Lots of wrong way driving and fender benders, and finally down into the subways. Finally you take off over the Statue of Liberty and head to the moon, which is of course is now part of the Tonite Show logo. Eventually back to earth and into the studio to find out who won the race.
The ride was great and I commented that this ride is now what BTTF used to be twenty years ago.
We headed out and picked up another fast pass to return in an hour or so, then headed over to ride Mummy. after stashing Laurie's bag in a locker... practically all the rides now have these. Anyway there was no line whatsoever so we only had to wait in the loading gate. One of the ride op's demanded that Laurie remove her hat, which is tied under her chin. We lost the battle on this one, where we had been cut some slack the day we rode Gringots (more on this later).
Mummy is of course great as usual, and is still the favorite ride in the park for most anyone you ask. After Mummy we headed over to T2-3D, which was essentially empty. They have redone the pre-show video since the passing of Don Lafontaine ("in a world") and removed the butterfly on batteries and Murder She wrote and added modern day footage of drones and more up to date technology. Then John and Sarah appear and the original show continues.
The 3D effects in the theater seem to be a lot more fuzzy and less realistic compared to modern day 3D, so it doesn't seem as realistic as it was a couple decades ago, but everyone still enjoyed the show and the crowd, though rather small, still applauds at the end.
Back to Jimmy Fallon for our second ride, which we enjoyed every bit as much as he first. We then headed back to Kings Cross station to take the train over to IOA for another slushy. I remember we used to enjoy the Pina Colada slushy ALL THE TIME at Paradise Island by the lake at KI and also at IB, but these days it's become hard to find.
Since we had taken the Toon Lagoon route on Sunday, today we decided to leave the park thru the Lost Continent side. Of course we stopped listen to the magic fountain cracking jokes. Our first time in the park they had a guy who sounded like Steven Wright doing the jokes and over the years have found we're even lucky to find the fountain operating.
Anyway, we walked thru a basically deserted Suess landing and took a ride on the totally empty Cat in the Hat... a fun little ride to get out of the heat. Then we headed to the exit and I brought up maybe riding Hulk before we left.
To be continued...
Now that she recently completed chemo my treatment can begin and we scheduled this little getaway in between treatments to forget about cancer for a while and have some fun. Next week when we return she has her final scans to determine if she is in remission or must continue more chemo. The week after that I have surgery to implant a device (you don't want to know) and after that heals, my two months of radiation can begin.
Anyway, in the meantime, Laurie has no hair and I have tubes sticking out of me, all hidden under our clothing of course (not easy in this heat!) So when we want to ride something with restrictions I try to inform the ride ops of our conditions. We realize that there are children present and we don't want to shock them with our appearances and cause any nightmares. Anyway, at Gringots we got some slack, but on the Mummy Laurie had to remove her hat. But the ride was dark so probably no one could see that she looked like Sinead O'conner or Annie Lennox... and we had fun and hopefully no harm was done.
When Laurie had her mid-course scans they discovered that she has three bone fractures that she didn't even know about. Additionally the type of chemo that I am on also causes bone density loss, so we both had reason to be concerned about possible spinal compression from the G forces on the Hulk. She decided to sit out and I gave her all my lose articles and entered the single rider line.
They are really uptight about empty pockets on Hulk now. You enter thru a metal detector and they even wand you for pocket change or keys... anything that might become a projectile. The queue was crowded and the posted wait time was 20 minutes but even the single rider line took almost that long. The pre-show has been updated with younger characters and even She-Hulk. The station and the launch tube has new lighting and everything updated.
The launch is the same but without the "I think this time it's going to work" audio. There is sound but I couldn't make it out. The ride does seem smoother than a few years ago, but the horse collars are just as painful. Of course, this is still a Beemer not a Vekoma or Arrow, so the experienced rider can adapt without too much ear damage. I did grey out in one of the loops, but all the effects including the mist are working fine, making it a fun ride.
Unfortunately this may have to be my final ride on a thrill ride. Not a bad way to go out though.
I have started a small blog on the "cancer survivors network" named "cancer couple blog." You can probably google that full phrase to find it.
Next week we head back to Tampa bay to face the music, taking with us a few days full of wonderful memories. We plan to return to Orlando in the fall when we are expecting our sons and their families to join us here again. I don't know how much bench sitting we'll be doing. Anymore it's all we can do to make one round of the parks on foot. But we still have to check out Pandora at WDW. Tonite: Guardians of the Galaxy double feature.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your summer, and the coaster season.
Laurie had seen some blouses in the Mummy gift shop when we rode on Wednesday and we intended to loop back to shop but never got around to it. So that made for a good excuse to spend one more day at Universal. After buying two of the blouses we headed to Kings Cross for one more trip to IOA.
The traffic in Hogsmeade is horrendous! Groups of people waiting in line outside the shops clogging the walkways, plus of course the occasional group who just stop in the middle of the walkway to talk or take a selfie. Then there's "selfie bridge" between HP and JP... difficult to maneuver even with moderate crowd levels.
After stopping in at the Watering Hole (Home of the Lounge Lizard) for one last Pina Colada slushie, we headed off to Kong for a second ride. The wait time was longer than Sunday, probably 45 minutes. Grabbed our 3D glasses and were seated near the front. We were fortunate both today and Sunday to be seated on the left side, which is where most of the best action takes place.
First scene is on the right, but then the bus proceeds to the dinosaur/Kong confrontation on the left. This time I was able to pay more attention to what's going on. At one point the bus is being chased by a dinosaur, when I realized that the bus probably wasn't really going anywhere. They blow high velocity cold air over the riders and stream the scenery by, plus shaking the bus which gives the impression of a high speed chase. Well done!
The final scene features a life size robotic Kong figure which I realized does not require the 3D glasses. We agreed that we enjoyed the ride better the second time, as the first time thru we were still just trying to figure out what was happening.
On to Spiderman for the last ride of the day. This time it broke down near the beginning and we were cycled thru start/stop fashion and I got a chance to observe some of the scenery. I think they must now use DLP projectors and digital images, where I think when the ride first opened in 1999 it was film and traditional optical projection. Now there is no attempt to stop the projection when the ride vehicles stop, you're just left looking at one shot from the animation.
Also I got to see where Stan Lee appears four times during the course: 1) driving the dump truck, the one everyone notices, 2) running into the movie theater, 3) in front of the dress shop, and 4) at the end, in front of the police car.
When we got to the end we were escorted to the front of the line for our re-ride. So then we finally had to say goodbye to Universal, probably until around Thanksgiving. It's doubtful we would drive over there during the summer peak season, but already have plans to return in November.
Thanks for reading.