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Unique Universal


TONI YARDE

Unique Universal

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THE TOUR BUS pulled into the parking lot – there it was that prominent fixture of the familiar looking globe. With the elevated plush landscaping you couldn’t see on the inside but that didn’t matter because the signature globe was enough to signal where we were. We had now arrived at the second largest theme park in Orlando, Florida – The Universal Orlando Resort.

And like Disney, Universal offers various theme parks and attractions. There are Universal Studios, Universal’s Island of Adventure, Wet ’N Wild and Universal City Walk.

We were all anxious about exploring Universal Studios so that was agreed to be our first stop and it also ended up being our final one – at least for that day.

Yet again we had to prioritise and strategise as to how we were going to make maximum use of the time we had, given all the fun things available.

Universal Studios offers fun through shows, movie sets and attractions that put you right in the picture. Essentially, they create rides that incorporate the movie characters and set.

This means that the key to having a great time is finding the ride of a movie that you love. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well it wasn’t that simple purely because we found ourselves caught up in a “too much choice dilemma”.

We had a choice of exploring Harry Potter, Transformers, Despicable Me, Shrek, The Mummy and Men In Black among others.

As we strolled through the main street of the park, I looked to my right and saw a towering roof-top fixture of the leader of the Autobots and main character in the movie series Transformers – Optimus Prime.

We headed in that direction and came upon a snaking line.

Couples and groups with under four people were allowed easy entry. Larger groups like ours had to stand in line with a sign saying that the wait could be up to 90 minutes. However, we got lucky and the wait was not that long.

On entering, the voice of Optimus welcomed us into the “Autobots layer”. The inside of the layer was like a museum with things on display as you walked through. There was a range of interactive electronic gadgets and videos clips of the Autobots fighting their enemy, the Decepticons, a perfect build up to the wild ride ahead.

On approaching the actual ride the screams of those already on it could be heard from the distance.

We eagerly collected our 3D glasses got into the cart and braced ourselves. Oh, what a ride it was.

The ride was as real as it gets. It took us into the Transformers movie. We were “fighting” alongside Optimus and Bumblebee against the “evil Decepticons”. At times, we were in harm’s way and they would save us in the nick of time. We felt all the effects of the movie as we were thrown, pushed, pulled and at times even sent airborne. All this added to the excitement.

It was an adventure that must be experienced and not explained.

Anyone who has experienced 3D knows the effect the three-dimensional space has on you.

It creates the illusion of depth in an image.

After the ride that lasted for about 10 minutes we exited through a passage that lead to the Transformers souvenir shop.

We picked up a few items and were tempted to rejoin the line for a repeat of the fun ride.

We chose not to and headed over to Shrek.

The Shrek experience was simply fun. Not as exciting as Transformers but a great experience. It was the perfect movie cinema setting. We sat in bucket seats that tossed us all around. We felt the splash of water when Shrek and Donkey went to save Fiona as they ran through the forest. The 20-minute mini movie had in songs from the movie and words that encouraged us all to sing along.

After that ride Shrek, Fiona and Donkey were on the outside where we were allowed to take photographs with them.

Up next was The Mummy, a ride we truly underestimated.

The set up there was as scary as the movie. We were in a tomb. It was a real horror-type setting with howls, hissing, creaking of doors, and the voice of The Mummy warning to be prepared for a frightening experience.

We sat in the seats that took on the look of a roller coaster.

The ride was scary. So scared was I that at times I closed my eyes. It was just too real. The sound and visual effects of the “undead” and the sudden up and down of the ride added to the thrill.

It was a belly-dropping experience. I screamed, I held on tightly, I tried to brace myself for the sudden stops that were made often.

At a point I gave up as I realised there was nothing more left for me to do in order to control what was happening.

This experience lasted for 10 minutes. I was never so glad for a ride to end. As we left we walked through The Mummy store but I could not stop since I felt the need to sit and allow my head to settle.

That was it for me for the day in terms of rides.

But the day was not over. We still walked around and visited a few of the gift shops stocked with all the character items. We also took in a few videos on how some of the popular movies are made.

My daughter Toriann and the others wanted to go on one last ride  – the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride. And so they did. She said it was just complete mayhem.

As we left Universal Studios I looked to my right over at Universal’s Island of Adventure and spotted Spiderman and Jurassic Park rides among others.

We decided to forego exploring that “adventure” as the lines appeared to be long from where we stood.

Again we had no regrets since we all agreed we had enjoyed a day of fun, excitement and horrors thanks to Universal Studios.

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