Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Other Parks: Islands of Adventure Day 2

On our second day we decided that, since the boys only got on two rides, we'd just return to Islands of Adventure again. This time we headed straight back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As was our habit on this trip, it was late morning by the time we got into the park, and it was crowded! They told us up front that they were bringing people in the other entrance to the land, closer to the Lost Continent.

So we went back there to queue up for entry into Potter World, and we were directed to a line where this day, unlike the previous day, we were given a timed ticket. We happily took our ticket, with the advice to return between 12:20 and 1:20 pm to get in. We went off to find somewhere to eat.

That "somewhere" ended up being in Seuss Landing. We went into Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, a "counter service" restaurant with fried chicken, pasta, pizza and burgers on the menu.

Now, we were used to Disney counter service restaurants; there are crowds and lines, but you seem to keep moving. At this restaurant, we got in line and stood for a long period of time, waiting to get our food cafeteria-style. This system is SLOW! You finally get to the front, then wait for them to assemble your burger and fries from a pan of burgers, most with cheese and some without. I think two of us ordered cheeseburgers except for my older son who prefers hamburgers without cheese. My wife ordered some kind of chicken sandwich. They take a pre-made basket with a bun and the fixin's, plop a chicken breast or a burger (with or without cheese) on it, then dole out some fries, and hand it to you.

It doesn't sound that hard, but for whatever reason, they are very slow at this. The cash register attendant was basically sitting there doing nothing half the time because after checking out one family, it would be a while before the next came.

The food was fine, and the restaurant was very cute. Very Dr. Seuss. I love the theming and the attention to detail in this area. But based on my two impressions of dining in this park, I'd have to say they have a ways to go before they approach Disney's level of efficiency.

Then it was back to Harry Potter land. It was almost 1 pm by the time we got back there, and there was a huge throng of people waiting to get in. They had barricades set up and were letting people through at two small entrance points. A couple of Universal employees were trying to keep the mass from blocking an aisle on the side where people could exit, with not too much success. One was getting pretty testy with the crowd. When one of the guys in the crowd told her to lighten up or mellow out, she told him something to the effect of "You don't want to mess with me, sir. I'm not in the mood for to take it." (That isn't exactly what she said, but it's close. Not very friendly.)

The problem was that they were creating this bottleneck. And most of the people waiting had tickets that were for later. (We were within our time window and couldn't really get through.) Some didn't have tickets at all. One couple next to me looked at the ticket in my hand as we tried to force our way to the gate, and asked what it was. When I told them that you needed a timed ticket to get into the land, they were disgusted and began working their way out of the line.

We finally pushed our way to the front. Our progress sped up as we got within hearing range of the guy calling out for times of 1 pm or earlier, and we waved our ticket and finally people moved out of the way enough that we could get in. Crazy.

Of course, once you're "in", you're not out of the crowds - you're just in a different mass of humanity. We headed to the queue for the Forbidden Journey ride, which showed 100 minutes, I think. There again, confusion abounded. It seems that there is a line for those with bags that need to be checked into lockers before tey go in, and if you don't have bags, they shunt you to the left and you bypass the locker line. We did the latter, but when we got in line, some cast member told us that we were in the single rider queue, and we'd need to go back and get in the regular queue. So we did, and then we were told that we were now in the queue for the castle tour (no ride), and where we were before was the correct queue. Annoyed, I told that employee about the other guy telling us to go there. Seemed like no one knew what was going on.

The line was almost two hours, but it does keep moving and it is interesting. So it didn't seem as bad. When we got out, my wife had some butterbeers, and we downed them and left the Wizarding World.

The boys proceeded to ride the Pteranodon Flyers and then we headed into Marvel Super Hero Island, where we all rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Had I ridden this before I rode the Forbidden Journey, I would have said that this was the coolest ride I'd ever been on. AS it is, it's just a hair below Forbidden Journey. We rode it twice; the waits were in the 30-45 minute range, and the queue is so cool that it goes by fast. The merging of 3D video effects with some sort of enhanced motion vehicle was incredibly effective.

We rode Doctor Doom's Fearfall after this; I rode it once and the boys went back a couple more times because it was a short (10 minute or so) wait. I'm not that much a fan of these sorts of rides; I didn't like Maliboomer in DCA, and Tower Of Terror is good but not one of my favorites. But my two sons loved it. Then they went on the Storm Force Accelatron, a Teacup-like ride that I had no desire to experience.

For some reason I thought that The Cat In The Hat attraction was a show, and didn't find out till later that it was a ride. I would have liked to do it but, too late now. The waits for it and The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride were always pretty high.

We left the park and ate at Emeril's for the high point of our Orlando dining experiences. I absolutely love Emeril's restaurants; they are unmatched for taste and service, in my book. This was no exception for us. I wonder if you can get to it without having to pay the all-day parking fees, or if there is a validation or something you can do. I see they do it at the theaters for parking. Because if you can, it will probably be on our eating agenda every time we go to Orlando from here on out. And if we make it to Vegas anytime soon, his restaurants there will be on our itinerary also.

The positives of Day 2 far outweighed the negatives. I'd like to go back and experience the Studios park, but that's not in the near future for us Chicagoans.

Bye, Harry, Ron and Hermione...


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