Another big day – a long stint at Universal Studios to take on 2 parks and their Halloween event. The free shuttle bus takes about 7 minutes to get us there and we head in about 10am. Universal is split in to 2 parks; the studio for film based rides and experiences (ET, Men in Black, The Mummy) and Land of Adventure which has themed areas with several rides for each (Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Marvel Comics). It’s not overly clear what the criteria is for the division as you’ll notice that 2 of those are films. You have to pay for each park, which is probably the main reason it’s split.
We headed in to the studio park with a strategy to take out the rides furthest from the door first. We jump straight on to Rock-It – a roller coaster with a sharp climb then standard downhills and loops. It still beats anything in the UK – and lasts a good few minutes (take note, Oblivion at Alton Towers).
It’s a great start, but the next 2 underwhelm. Men in Black is a ghost train with laser guns and The Simpsons is a static cart with a big screen to emulate the movement. They are well made with great built up but they clearly have the space for real coasters, so the simulated ones feel like a cheat.
Harry Potter and Spider-Man rides mix ghost-train and simulated screens at points to give more movement, but these still don’t give a great thrill.
Outside of these rides, the parks have some great experiences like The Hulk, The Mummy and ET. All of which out-do anything in the UK.
We were fortunate to have picked a quiet day as we waited for no longer than 10 mins for each ride, and most of that time was spent walking through the excessive but empty queue lines.
As it got dark, the Halloween event began and the park was bathed in smoke with actors in suitable costumes and make-up roaming the park and jumping out at people. This was tonnes better than Six Flags as expected.
The biggest part of the Halloween nights is the ghost houses. The park uses the empty studios to put up maze-like houses filled with various illusions and people jumping out on you. Much like the rest of the park, the attention to detail was stunning – full houses recreated even down to the smell. We got through 2 relatively quickly – one themed on The Walking Dead.
The final experience of the day was the Penn & Teller ghost house. The queues had started to reach an hour plus, so this was our longest wait by far. It was still good, but after 12 hours at Universal Studios standing in a queue for up to 90 minutes isn’t appealing so we headed home.