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I and my family have had annual passes to Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure for several years now.  We’ve had Preferred Annual passes so long, we still have the old-school plastic cards that they don’t give out anymore (except to people who have Premiere Annual passes for almost $100 more).  We try to make a trip from Atlanta down to Orlando at least a couple times a year.  The weather’s much better down in Florida which helps mitigate the Seasonal Affective Disorder I sometimes suffer; and the water and roller coasters seem to have a very positive affect on the behavior of my boys in mitigating their Autistic tendencies. However, until this most recent trip, there were always smaller attractions in the park we’d skipped.  We resolved that oversight. While going through the park this time, I twittered about my progress.  Some of my friends made the suggestion to “go to MiB” without realizing I’d not only been to MiB many times, but had gotten Galaxy Defender multiple times.  I realized I’d never put my thoughts down about Universal (and it’s sister park Islands of Adventure) and will now resolve that.  That way, if someone says again “Oh, you gotta do The Mummy if you like coasters” I can point to this post and say “Duh!”. . . but in the nicest, kindest possible way ;-) Production Central – This is the section immediately as you enter the park.  Just walk straight ahead and there you are. Jimmy Neutron – As a father of two young boys, I’ve been on Jimmy Neutron more times than I can remember.  The introductory film in amusing and very much in the style of the cartoon.  The ride is a motion simulator ride where Jimmy and Carl try to get back the Mark IV, a new rocket Jimmy developed, from an alien who stole it.  During the trip, they go through several other cartoons from late ’90s era Nickelodeon (with cameos from “Hey Arnold”, “Rugrats”, “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Wild Thornberrys”).  The riders load into many different “Mark I” ships which seat two rows of 4.  The animation works seamlessly with the motion of the various Mark Is.  If you have pre-teen kids who aren’t jaded and bitter, I highly suggest going to this ride.  If you were someone who enjoyed the heyday of Nickelodeon cartoons, this is great for nostalgia. Shrek 4-D – Riders marshal into a torture room where an the story is related by a Magic Mirror, Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man.  Essentially a ghostly Lord Farquaad is trying to kill Princess Fiona so they can be together forever in the afterlife.  The show is a 3-D movie with some physical effects (shaking seats, water spray, etc) which is marketed as “4-D” (hence the name “Shrek 4-D”).  If you care about where this ride fits into Shrek continuity, you’re a bigger dork than me (though it’s pretty clear it happens between Shrek and Shrek 2). I’ve seen the show many, many times and it’s still enjoyable.  This is a great kids ride.  If you like the Shrek movies, it’s definitely worth a ride to see the same characters again in a nice mini-adventure. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit – This is a new coaster at Universal.  I wasn’t able to ride it because of the poor weather while we were there.  I very much want to ride this. and will update this post when I’m able to ride it. Hollywood – This is section has palm trees and a facade meant to look like Hollywood Blvd in Tinsel Town, CA. Lucy: A Tribute – A museum of Lucille Ball’s history in television.  If you have any interest in the early days of television in general, and Lucille Ball in particular, this is a must see.  If you’re not into either of those, you can safely skip this attraction. Terminator 3-D – This is a 3-D movie with live action elements.  Riders are corralled into a room where a fake Cyberdyne PR person extols the virtues of robotics.  The PR person is interrupted by live action John and Sarah Connor actors who tell the riders to walk through the doors to see what’s really going on (aka “move into the theater so we can start the show”).  Once everyone’s seated and wearing their 3-D glasses, the movie starts.  The movie’s story follows Terminator 2 and involves John and Sarah Connor going into the future to fight Skynet directly alongside your friendly T-101 (played by the Governator himself).  The movie graphics are a little dated (the ride first opened in 1996), but still very good. This is a must-see show, at least once. Universal’s Hollywood Horror Make-Up Show – This is a comedy show in the middle of a history of Universal horror movies.  The lobby of the show has some props from the long, storied history of Universal movies. Props from Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and others are on display.  Moving on to the show, there are two hosts doing prop demonstrations between movie clips. The presenters I’ve seen have been very smooth and comfortable.  This is likely because the show’s been going on for almost 20 years.  A definite must see at least once. New York – An area of the park made up to look like a New York neighborhood. Twister…Ride it Out – Riders are corralled into an area with two screens showing scenes from the movie Twister interspersed with talking sequences by Hellen Hunt and Bill Paxton.  After the film the riders move to a room made up to look like a house that’s experienced a tornado.  A quick video presentation is made on some televisions hanging from the roof, then riders are moved on to the main event.  The riders stand on a tiered platform while watching a simulated tornado wreak havoc on a drive-in theater.  This show is short, boring and not worth the wait. If it’s a really slow day and you’ve got nothing else to do, feel free, but it’s the most skippable attraction at the park. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride – This is a straight ahead indoor roller coaster with an Egyptian theme.  The coaster itself is amazingly tight. Some of the animatronics are dated, but the sets are still beautiful and the ride is smooth.  If you like coasters, this is a must ride.  Multiple rides are definitely recommended. Blues Brothers – A show that happens during busy times in the park.  It happens down one of the side streets periodically.  When the show is happening, you’ll see Jake and Elwood cruising around in their car from time to time promoting the show.  They do several classic blues songs with their band.  They’re definitely not the originals, but they’re a good cover band.  If you’re a fan of the music of the Blues Brothers, this is definitely worth the 20-30 minutes to stop and listen. San Francisco/Amity – The San Francisco area is a recreation of Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Amity area is a recreation of the festival area of Amity with lots of carnival games. Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue – This stage show has Beetlejuice, Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, Bride of Frankenstein and two of Beetlejuice’s “Ghoul Girl Cheerleaders” singing and dancing several pop songs.  Between songs, they toss jokes back and forth. During some of the songs, the performers will run/dance out into the crowd.  The performances are good and the jokes, while corny, are in the spirit of the show.  I don’t know that this would be a must see every time you go, but it’s worth going at least once or twice to see the good stagecraft (including some fireworks/explosions during the finale). Disaster! – This is a re-working of the old Earthquake ride.  The new ride starts with “casting” some of the crowd to be extras in a new movie being made by Frank Kincaid (played by Christopher Walken) by his assistant. The first section is a fake screening room which uses some visual effects to allow a filmed Walken to interact with the live action assistant while showing clips from historical disaster films. After this, the audience moves on to the “filming set”.  Here, the people who were cast previously film various scenes. After all the scenes are filmed, the riders are loaded into a replica of a BART subway train for filming of a “exciting finale”.  The train travels down to a mock station where the riders undergo a simulated earthquake.  When the train travels back from the earthquake, the riders are shown a trailer for “Mutha Nature” incorporating the scenes previously filmed of the chosen riders before they unload.  I rode the ride when it was “Earthquake” and the new version is fabulous.  I ride this almost every time I go to Universal. This is a must ride if you haven’t ridden before, primarily for the Christopher Walken performance, but also for anyone interested in green screen techniques and special effects. Jaws – You ride a tour boat for a fake tour company that sails out of Amity, but never fear because “it’s been years since the last shark sighting”.  Your boat is the lucky boat that encounters a large mechanical shark in various locations while your boat pilot keeps shooting grenades at it with a poor aim usually associated with the blind.  After blowing up a gas refinery, the pilot eventually blows up the shark after it gets caught up in some electrical lines.  While pulling back into port, the pilot asks you to keep this “our little secret” since it’ll affect tourism in town.  This is an enjoyable ride, but gets old pretty quickly. Fear Factor Live – This is a show where volunteers chosen before the show go through several challenges (hanging from a bar, swimming through eels, collecting flags from an obstacle course, etc).  I haven’t seen this because my wife dislikes the insect challenges and I don’t really like them that much myself.  This ride is only run during peak times.  If you liked the Fear Factor show, you might like this.  If, like me, you didn’t like the show, feel free to skip it (like I do). World Expo Men in Black – Riders are loaded in via a fake elevator and then proceed through a queue that winds through a mock up of the MiB headquarters.  Riders are eventually loaded into carts that seat six at a time.  Generally two cards are sent out at a time, but during slow times only a single cart will be sent.  Riders will use laser guns in the cart to shoot at alien targets.  Every successful hit will score points for the shooter. During the ride, there’s a point where you get to shoot at the other MiB cart.  At the end of the ride you’re devoured by a giant alien (where you should hit your red button to get a bonus score), then your score is tallied.  Depending on your score, you’ll get rated as Bug Bait, Cosmically Average or Galaxy Defender (from worst to best) then Will Smith will zap you with his Neuralizer to make you forget your MiB testing before you exit the ride being told we are alone in the universe.  This is a must ride and gets better with each successive ride. The Simpsons – This is a motion ride similar to Jimmy Neutron with riders loading into carts that are then lifted and moved along with the movie which takes us through The Simpsons Universe.  The ride is good, but causes me nausea. I had the same issue with the Back to the Future ride which was replaced by The Simpsons ride.  I recommend riding it at least once to see if you have the same nausea issues.  My son loves riding this and would ride it over and over if he could, so he recommends it very much as well. KidZone A Day in the Park with Barney – This is a stage show where Barney and friends sing and dance.  The songs are typical fare for Barney and the show is well produced. I’m not the audience for this show, but the kids liked it.  If you’ve got young ones 8-9 years old or less, they might enjoy the show.  Everyone else can give it a pass.  After the show, there’s an indoor playground that’s a great place to Fievel’s Playland – This is an outdoor play area based on An American Tale.  While mainly for kids, there’s some fun to be had here for teens as well.  The big attraction of this area is a water slide. You ride in a rubber raft, but you’ll still get wet.  In the summer, the water slide is an enjoyable way to cool down. Animal Actors On Location – A stage show where animal trainers bring out various animals (birds, dogs, cats, monkeys, pigs and more) to do various tricks.  The performance shows how animals are used in films and shows some of the tricks they can do. There’s a good amount of humor in the show, but the big attraction is the amazing things the animals can do.  This is a great show, but I don’t think it’ll stand up to too many repeat visits. E.T. Adventure – This is a ride where you ride mocked up bicycles through an adventure to help E.T. get back to his homeworld so he can help regenerate the planet and turn it green again.  I have a fair number of gripes with this ride.  There’s a registration part where you stand in line to get your “Interplanetary Passport”.  You give your name and, at the end of the ride, E.T. will say your name. . . if it’s in the database. . . but neither of my son’s names are in the database.  Also, the registration part slows down the queue and delays your entrance into a mock up of the forest from the movie E.T. (which is cooler than the heat outside and looks really good).  Also, the story Steven Spielberg gives you in the queue about needing to help E.T. save his planet by finding his friends. . . it’s crap.  The friends are there, but they don’t do anything other than sing “Welcome home” and other such.  So, based on this, I probably am recommending skipping the ride, right?  Well, not so much.  It’s still fun and, if the wait is 10 minutes or less, I’d give it a try to see how you like it.  The animatronics are a bit dated, but still hold up after almost two decades in service.  This is a ride that I’ll go on if it’s a slow day at the park, but one that can be skipped during busy days. Curious George Goes to Town – An area with two sections (water area and ball area) where kids and adults can play and enjoy themselves.  I pack swim trunks for myself and the kids especially during the summer since this is a great place to cool down and have fun.  The ball area’s fun as well, but is best used for tiring kids out in the afternoon/evening so they’ll sleep good when you get back to the hotel/rental. Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster – A short roller coaster with a Woody the Woodpecker theme.  The seats are a little small for adults with long legs, but this is a very fun coaster that I recommend.  This is a learner coaster to use to get your kids acclimated before moving them on to something bigger (like Mummy or Rip, Ride, Rockit).  Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Conclusion So, that’s all the rides/attractions in the park.Here’s the summary of the rides: Must Rides Every Time: The Mummy, Disaster!, Men in Black and Woody Woodpecker’s Coaster. The Simpsons is here if you can handle the ride without motion sickness. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit will likely be here if/when the weather and attraction let me ride it. Must Rides if you have Kids: Jimmy Neutron, Shrek 4-D, Barney’s Play yard, Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland. Must see at least once: Blues Brothers Live, Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue, Jaws, E.T. Adventure, Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show and Terminator 3-D. Things you can skip: Twister and Lucy: A Tribute