I enjoy theme parks as much as the next person, but as empty-nesters, they’re not high on our vacation destination list. However, when the husband’s business trip took him to Orlando, it just made sense for me to tag along and add a few days for pleasure.
We were in Orlando 20 years ago when our kids were five and nine and had a lot of fun at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and Universal Studios. We visited Disneyland seven years ago with our son and did the whole SoCal theme park tour, including Six Flags, Universal, and Knott’s Berry Farm.
Without kids, we didn’t see a reason to do the full-blown theme park experience, and since this was a business trip we only had three free days. In addition, this was an extra vacation for which we had not budgeted, so we wanted to keep our entertainment dollars to a minimum.
The husband really enjoyed Universal Studios in Orlando and Hollywood, so that was his top choice. We chose not to get the “park-to-park” ticket because we really didn’t think we’d have the stamina for two parks in one day and settled on Universal’s newer theme park, Islands of Adventure. That decision saved us $70. We also chose to forego the Universal Express Pass, which allows you to skip lines at $30 per person. The pass may be a timesaver during peak season or a good investment if you have small, impatient children, but it really wasn’t necessary for us. We breezed through most of the lines – even those with a posted 30 minute wait time.
We got in line for The Incredible Hulk Coaster, but it was temporarily shut down due to inclement weather, so we moved over to Dr. Doom’s Fearfall. I cannot express how unprepared I was for this ride. They should really consider selling Depends at the entrance! We got wet on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Jurassic Park River Adventure, but dried out on the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. We were pretty disappointed in the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Lots of jerking.
We took a break to get away from the crowds and rehydrate as it was pretty humid and we were doing quite a bit of sweating. Both were easy to do in The Lost Continent area.
We walked through Seuss Landing and I couldn’t resist having my picture taken in front of If I Ran the Zoo. I think most people who have worked in zoos contemplate the thought of how operations would change if they were in charge. I know I certainly have!
We circled back to The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which was up and running, but we had had enough roller coaster rides for the day. We decided The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man would be our last ride. It was better than Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey and had some good effects.
If I were grading Universal’s Islands of Adventure park, I’d have to give it a C. If we had small children they might have enjoyed Seuss Landing, but overall I wasn’t that impressed. When we’d visited the Studio parks in Orlando 20 years ago and in Hollywood seven years ago, we enjoyed them much more. Those rides seemed to be well-masked in a theme, and we were caught up in the story. These seemed rides seemed, well, like rides. It was kind of like visiting a State Fair, only much more expensive.
Regardless, it was fun to be away from the day-to-day routine and our DIY projects and just spend some time together. I’ll review our visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Kennedy Space Center in future posts.