Here’s part two of ‘favourite attractions by our 12 year old theme park expert’, this time we focus on the top choices at Universal Studios, Florida. Check out our previous post for Disney World’s top attractions according to a 12 year old.
Joe, the 12 year old expert in question, has reluctantly chosen his top 3 attractions. Well, let’s be honest at Universal Studios that’s not easy. Joe loves both Disney and Universal but the studios has a couple of trump cards over the World. Firstly Harry Potter. Joe and his peers have grown up with the Wizarding World and to be able to experience it in such a detailed and convincing way is totally magical. Apologies for the pun, there’s no other way to describe it.
The second reason he loves Universal Studios is because Joe wears glasses. For traditional rides, which rely on extreme movement to provide the thrills, we have to find a way of securing his glasses or him riding without them. At Universal studios because the rides are mostly movie based and the feeling of movement is generated by special effects his glasses are not an issue. He knows that for all the rides which use lightweight 3D glasses he won’t have any worries about loosing his glasses. These rides also have the added bonus of making him bolder in getting on the rides in the first place. As he has often told me. It’s not really happening, if you’re scared you can just shut your eyes. Which is exactly what I did on the sky scraper dive in Spider-Man!
So here are Joe’s top three pics!
#3 Transformers: The Ride 3D
When it comes to rides at Universal Studios, that showcase a cinematic experience, Transformers has to be one of the best of its kind. Coupled with a full 3D experience and ride vehicles which take you right inside the action this attraction is a boy’s dream come true.
The ride is a mix of movie footage and actual movement. The two put together really make you feel as if you are inside the story, watching close up two Titan Transformers as they battle on the city street. The thrills are created by movie footage which makes you feel as if you are moving. Whilst the ride vehicles do spin and move both forwards and backwards, the movement isn’t enough to dislodge the riders lightweight 3D specs. It didn’t take long for Joe to work this out, he loves the rides at universal, they are thrilling but not scary for him as they aren’t really moving much. Having said that , this is still a full on ride, noisy, fast, in your face and great fun.
This attraction also gained extra kudos when I told Joe that the cars are lifted from ground to first floor during the ride, but there’s so much going on you don’t feel the upwards movement. It’s sick (his words not mine).
#2 Flight Of The Hippogriff.
Flight of the Hippogriff couldn’t be anymore different to Joe’s #3 choice ride. Nestled at the foot of the amazing Hogwarts castle, which houses Forbidden Journey, this ride is dismissed by many as a ‘kiddy coaster’. Joe’s advice is, give it a try. The queues for this ride are often much shorter than other Harry Potter attractions. It also accepts the VIP Express Pass.
The attraction itself is a traditional roller coaster with theming provided by an animatronic Buckbeak at the beginning and Hagrids House which also forms part of the attraction. The ride vehicle looks like it’s woven out of wicker and shaped like an abstract basket weave Hippogriff.
The reason Joe loves this attraction is because the coaster has tight corners and steep drops and, although none of the drops are high, the coaster still builds good speed. This makes the short ride really fun and more exciting than it first would appear. That coupled with the fact that you can often re-ride the coaster without too much of a wait makes it even better. It’s also probably a nice ride for siblings to enjoy together.
#1 Escape From Gringotts
When Universal created first Hogsmead and then Diagon Alley it really pulled out all the stops. The quality, attention to detail and realism is breathtaking. Escape from Gringotts takes this to another level. Walking up Diagon Alley the Wizarding Worlds favourite bank can be seen with a fire breathing dragon perched on top.
Guests are invited to enter the bank and queue in the vast banking hall, an exact replica of the one in the films. Working at benches on each side are goblins, automatons, who look up from time to time making eye contact. As a result a hush pervades the queue, with everyone feeling the need to whisper so as to not disturb the reverence.
The queue descends down under the banking hall flanked by the moving newspapers and posters which are synonymous with the Wizarding World. Then we reach a room where Bill Weasley is waiting for us to tell us about the ride experience we are due to embark on. Descending down still further into the semi darkness this is where riders climb aboard the ride vehicles. At this point the environment is noisy with clanking machinery and the excitement builds.
There is a fantastic rider swap area here. It’s one of the things Universal does well compared to Disney, the room is spacious, has benches and the Harry Potter movies, which feature Gringotts playing on large TV’s.
I have spent time in the rider swap because Joe freaked out the first time we went on the ride. The queue experience was so realistic and atmospheric it was a bit too much even for a 12 year old. Once he did get on the ride, he loved it and is happy to ride again and again. It’s worth explaining to more apprehensive kids that the ride is nowhere near as scary as the queue makes it out to be.
There’s no spoiler alert here, the ride is amazing, fun, surprising and different enough to make you want to come back for more. The combination of traditional roller coaster, ride vehicles which behave in a non traditional way and the great movie tricks and 4D effects, work brilliantly. And for Joe the lack of Dementors is a huge positive. That’s the one reason Forbidden Journey didn’t make his list.
For the full experience treat yourself to a Butterbeer at the Hogs Head pub afterwards.