An Afternoon at Universal Studios

I’ve been a Universal Studios annual passholder for almost two years now. Almost immediately when I moved to Florida I went and bought my pass because I knew I would frequent the parks enough that it would be worth it. Originally I paid it all in full, so when my ticket expired, I decided to sign up using the monthly payment installments so I never have to forget when my pass expires and I only pay around $14 a month for the rest of eternity. Even if I don’t go every month, it’s still much more worth it with less hassle.

On Tuesday, Jay and I went to the park and stayed a few hours. Universal is one of those places that is fun to go to on a whim, but it’s not an all-day excursion for me. We rode the Hungarian Horntail side of Dragon Challenge, had an shortcut adventure at Forbidden Journey, and that about exhausted our desired attractions at Islands of Adventure.

We weren’t in the mood for Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Incredible Hulk is closed, Doctor Doom is nothing compared to the Tower of Terror, Jay doesn’t do simulators like Spider-Man, and we only walked through Seuss Landing and Toon Lagoon.

When we went over to the Universal Studios side of property, we went straight to Mummy and Rip Ride Rockit. After this, we were already feeling dizzy, hungry, and tired. The day was overcast and brought that lethargic, stay-in-bed-all-day kind of feel. We didn’t even make it to Diagon Alley (mainly because we are totally broke and would just want to walk around and shop), and instead walked past it and made Men In Black our last ride.

The afternoon was fun, as any day with the boyfriend is, but Universal days are always missing something. I love the parks, but I would never want to spend more than a few hours there. I remember going a few times on my college program with other people who wanted to stay all day. To be honest, I’m not interested in doing all that much there.

There’s the kiddie rides in Seuss Landing, which are cute, I guess, but I’m never that interested in the attractions in the area. I am an extreme fan of Dr. Seuss, so I love going through the stores and being there for Grinchmas, but the rides are not that fun. Toon Lagoon is cute, but dated and no longer relevant. The rides are great for a hot and sunny day when you’re planning on water rides. As much as I love the Sunday Funnies, there aren’t any characters that I care much about in the area to stick around too long. The Jurassic Park area is cool enough, but there’s only the one ride for adults. Like most of the rest of the park, I feel like there’s so much under-utilized space and so much potential. And what even is The Lost Continent? I have only ever gone there to get to Hogsmeade and just wish it was an expansion of the Wizarding World.

My problem with Universal is the disjointed feeling that follows you throughout the park. Even at Magic Kingdom going from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland doesn’t feel like such culture shock. There are so many big brands in their park that there is no way to make it flow from one to the other. To Universal, that isn’t such a big deal. It’s meant to make you feel immersed in the brand from the movies (at least that is my assumption).  But as someone who is so in love with the Disney parks, I wish the lands wouldn’t transition so harshly.

As both companies are aware, Disney and Universal are two completely different beasts. It’s probably wrong to try and compare them, but I can’t help it when I visit both resorts so often. Universal is great at big thrill rides, but Disney (to me) is more welcoming and I don’t feel embarrassed to ride Winnie the Pooh or The Little Mermaid. At Universal, I don’t want to go on the “baby rides” because I feel silly. Why is that?

I guess it’s because I go to Disney to feel the nostalgia, to feel the imagination and immersion into the story that Walt wanted guests to feel in his parks. Universal Studios is meant to put you in the backstage story of the movie set, not directly into the movie–hence the “Studios” portion of the name. With Islands of Adventure, there is a little more feeling of being in the story, but too much of it doesn’t feel relevant to me at least.

Who knows why I really feel the way I do about each of the resorts. I love them both in their own ways, but I’d much rather spend a full day at Disney than at Universal.

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