In this post, I’ll be answering questions from the YouTube Universal Orlando Resort tag! I’m not one who likes to get on camera so I’ve decided to just do a blog post with my answers.
1. When did you first visit Universal Studios Orlando?
I first visited Universal Studios in February 2001. It was one of my very first trips to Florida (as I lived in New York back then), so we visited a few of the Disney parks and stayed at my nearby grandparents’ house for a night. We squeezed in a day at Studios (not IOA, since my parents thought the rides were too intense for me), and I remember just being scared of everything. Some of my first rides were Back to the Future and E.T. Adventure, and I remember freaking out and crying the whole time. I can’t really blame myself, though – I was only four. We also visited Nickelodeon Studios and watched some game show of sorts, and I absolutely loved A Day in the Park with Barney. What can I say? I was a huge Barney nut when I was little.
Meanwhile, I first went to Islands on Adventure in Summer 2005 with my aunt and my cousin. We rode some of the big-name rides like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Jurassic Park River Adventure, and my cousin and I even rode The Flying Unicorn in the dark!
2. Which park is your favorite?
Islands of Adventure. IOA is like a nerd’s dream come true; where else can you fly the skies with Spider-Man and walk the streets of Hogsmeade and go inside Hogwarts? The park’s theming is so immersive that I feel like I’m actually in a comic book or journeying through the lost ruins of an ancient Greek village, even if some of the islands show their age. Some of my favorite attractions are here too, like The Incredible Hulk and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. IOA has inspired me so much throughout the years to create my own stories, just like the ones I had a chance to experience at the park.
3. What is your favorite ride at Universal Studios?
Revenge of the Mummy. It’s a dark ride and a roller coaster all in one, and with a horror theme to boot. The intense atmosphere of the queue never fails to unnerve me at times (and it’s even more fun when the Team Members are in character) and the ride itself is quite scary, taking you backwards and launching you unexpectedly. My favorite part has to be when you think the ride’s over, complete with someone saying, “We hope you enjoyed your ride!”, but Imhotep takes control and “it’s only just the beginning!” It never fails to make me scream.
I’ve got a few honorable mentions too. I’m glad E.T. Adventure is still around, because it’s such a classic dark ride. That forest scent is so good that I’m actually having withdrawals as I’m writing this. You get to relive the magical scene when Elliott and E.T. fly on the bike, and you even get to visit E.T.’s home, the Green Planet, even if the aliens are a bit creepy looking and E.T. doesn’t quite say your name right in the end.
Men in Black: Alien Attack is always a must-do whenever I visit Studios, just so I can try and get a score that’s over 160,000 for once. I literally study those ‘how to max out’ guides like crazy, and while I’ve found Easter Eggs worth lots of points (such as Steven Spielberg and Frank the Pug), I always seem to get a sappy score. I need more practice.
4..What is your favorite ride at Islands of Adventure?
I’m going to sound like the majority here, but I love Forbidden Journey. To visit Hogwarts and go on an adventure with Harry Potter is such a magical experience. It feels like you’re actually flying on your Enchanted Bench as you journey through the Forbidden Forest and on the castle grounds. Plus, you get to explore Hogwarts before you get on the ride! My favorite area is the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, for all the little details, as well as a visit from the Golden Trio themselves.
The Incredible Hulk is also one of my favorite IOA attractions, and with the recent enhancements I love it even more. It’s one of the most intense roller coasters I’ve been on, especially because of that launch. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is probably my favorite Marvel ride overall, and in my honest opinion, it’s one of the only ‘screenz’ rides at Universal that actually works for me, next to Forbidden Journey. It’s a perfect combination of animation, thrills, and special effects as you try to escape from the Sinister Syndicate.
5. What is your least favorite ride in Universal Studios?
It’s easily The Simpsons Ride for me. And it’s weird for me to even say that, because I used to work there.
(There’s ‘ya proof, featuring my favorite bathrobe in the background!)
It’s not because I’m not a fan of The Simpsons or because I think the story is terrible. Actually, I love the story, and the jabs at theme park cliches and Disney. I’m not saying I don’t like The Simpsons Ride because I worked there – I actually liked working there and have no ill thoughts about my former job. It’s just because I’m not a fan of the IMAX domes and the motion of the ride vehicles. I don’t usually get motion sickness, but on Simpsons I always feel ill after riding. Plus, I get terrible back and neck pain after being thrashed around, especially when Maggie takes your car in her mouth and sucks it like her pacifier. Let’s not forget Krusty the Clown’s nasally voice, which irritates me to no end. You can only imagine how I felt listening to his voice during eight hour shifts.
6. What is your least favorite ride in Islands of Adventure?
I tend not to do any of the water rides while I’m at IOA. I’ve actually never been on Ripsaw Falls or Bilge Rat Barges, so it wouldn’t be quite fair for me to say they’re my least favorite attractions when I’ve never even been on them. And I love Jurassic Park River Adventure, but because it’s a water ride and I hate getting wet, I tend to skip it unless I have a huge desire to visit with my favorite dinosaurs.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong was a bit of a disappointment for me. Sure, it’s fun whenever you get a new driver (I’ve had the ex-con twice and the island native once), and it’s interesting to hear the different reactions when Kate gets captured by the monsters. But at the end of the day, it’s just another ride that falls victim to ‘screenz’. It’s nothing like Kongfrontation, but I suppose it’s because this ride is based off of the Peter Jackson film as opposed to the original (and the 1973 one, I think). The Kong animatronic is pretty impressive, though, but that’s all I can really say.
7. What is your favorite show?
HORROR MAKE-UP SHOW!!!
You’re never seeing the same show twice because the hosts’ jokes change with the times. I’ve seen hosts joke about everything from Pokemon Go to Prince’s sudden death (in good taste, of course). I once watched the show where Alex Ross and Marty James (both played by two amazing women who are some of my favorite actors in all of Universal) just went to town for half an hour, sometimes even deviating from the script, and it was glorious. At this specific show an Amber Alert went off on everyone’s phones, so the show turned into dark humor as captured children jokes were made. I was crying in laughter the whole time… it was just that good. I kind of wish there was a video of it.
You do learn a few things about the art of horror movie making and makeup, but to be fair, the show is more about the comedy than it is being educational. I love whenever the hosts choose a foreign tourist to be their volunteer (and it’s even more fun when the tourist sort of resists and they have to try and convince her to do it) and when a kid is singled out for apparently throwing a rock at the curtain hiding Mark/Marty’s kids’ show project. Like I said, since Horror Make-Up Show relies heavily on improv, the jokes keep coming as some of the participants have interesting things to say back.
I’ve seen many different actors play the hosts. They’re all amazingly funny and work with the material well, but my personal favorite duo is the bearded blonde guy and the tall guy who may or may not ‘be friends with’ a certain Halloween Horror Nights icon.
I’ve got two honorable mentions here too. I love The Blues Brothers show with all my heart. It’s like being in a huge street party with upbeat music and some truly amazing voices, and it’s always fun when a little audience participation comes into play. And hate on me all you want, but I actually like Poseidon’s Fury, with all its cheesiness and that beautiful water vortex. If you get the right Taylor, the show actually becomes enduring enough. And plus, that transition at the end (the one with the changing wall) catches me off guard every time.
8. Favorite seasonal event?
Summer Concert Series! Ha, kidding!!!
It’s actually Halloween Horror Nights, in case you couldn’t tell. Ever since I started attending in 2009, I’ve been highly obsessed with the event. I love the amount of work and detail put into the haunted houses, whether they’re intellectual property or original stories, and the scareactors always give their all in the houses and out in the streets. I feel like I’m really traveling through Haddonfield Memorial Hospital or the Universal Palace Theater in some of the many houses I’ve been through, and in the streets you tend to forget that you’re in an area of Universal and instead in wherever environment the scarezone is themed after.
I seriously can’t put into words how much I love Halloween Horror Nights and its fan community. I’ve made so many friends, both scareactors and passionate fans, just through the event alone, and working it last year made me view HHN in a whole different way. I’m really excited to see what this year brings, and who knows? Maybe this will be the year where my dream of being a scareactor will finally come true.
(Click here to read my post about being an ‘Op’ at HHN through a fan’s perspective!)
9. What is your favorite place to eat in the parks?
In Studios, if I’m looking for atmosphere, air conditioning, and a secret area to charge my phone (hint: Bride of Frankenstein), then it’s Monsters Cafe. If I’m actually looking for food, it’s probably Fast Food Boulevard in Springfield. I like how there’s different themed areas (such as Krusty Burger and Cletus’s Chicken Shack), so there’s something for everyone. My personal favorite is the Chicken and Waffle sandwich. And whenever there’s EPA (Early Park Admission) at Diagon Alley, I always have the American Breakfast at The Leaky Cauldron.
Personally, I prefer eating at Studios over Islands, but I have a few favorites too. Croissant Moon Bakery is my favorite place to get breakfast at IOA (and especially comes in handy during EPA in Hogsmeade), and The Three Broomsticks has some great rotisserie chicken and baked potatoes.
10. What is your favorite drinks in the parks?
Butterbeer isn’t all that bad, especially the cold kind. That’s the only specialty drink I’ve had in the parks that I can think of though, unless you count Gillywater. Actually no, that doesn’t count.
11. Which Universal hotel is your favorite?
I’m torn between Cabana Bay and Portofino Bay. I’m a huge sucker for anything retro themed, so whenever I’m at Cabana I feel like I’m right at home. There’s just this quaint, calm vibe the hotel gives off (especially the lobby) that’s just… I’m not really sure what the right word is. Heartwarming? It really feels like my second home right in the heart of Universal, so to speak.
Meanwhile, I love Portofino for its atmosphere. It really feels like you’re at an Italian piazza as you walk around the harbor and visit the storefronts and restaurants. I highly recommend Sal’s for their pizza and mozzarella sticks, and their efficient take-out service. At night, the hotel is so beautiful, and occasionally they have Italian opera singers up on the dais singing to add some extra vibes. It’s quite grand.
12. Which is your favorite restaurant on CityWalk?
Three words. TOOTHSOME. CHOCOLATE. EMPORIUM. (And Savory Feast Kitchen)
When I went to Orlando for Spooky Empire a week and a half ago, I was quite adamant about visiting Toothsome again. Not because I was having chocolate withdrawals, but because this place is absolutely beautiful and so perfectly steampunk. So, so much of the food at Toothsome is delicious, from the chocolate bread to the quiche lorraine and my personal favorite milkshake, the Heavenly Hazelnut. And plus, you get character dining! Penelope Toothsome and her robot Jacques visit your table at least twice throughout your visit, and their quips are always so funny and blend in with the lore of the Toothsome family. Toothsome is another one of those places at Universal that I like to call ‘home’ – it feels so welcoming and immersive enough to draw me in.
For quick service, I love BreadBox for their three-cheese sandwich and their Nutella milkshake. Seriously, I think I may have been to BreadBox more times than I’d like to admit. It was getting to the point where Team Members were starting to recognize me! What can I say? I’m addicted to that place.
13. What is your favorite nightspot on CityWalk?
I’m under 21, so I can’t really speak for a favorite nightspot. However, I’ve been to Rising Star, and I thought it was rather fun watching my friends sing karaoke! I’m too shy to sing in public myself, but I will say it was highly amazing to watch a (possibly drunk) man singing Kelly Clarkson’s “SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE!!!!!” at the top of his lungs.
14. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s?
The only flavor I’ve had was Granny Smith, to be honest, I quite liked it! It had that crisp, sweet taste, just like an apple. Next time I visit Diagon Alley I’ll be sure to try some more flavors!
15. What is your favorite snack in the parks?
I like the themed chocolate bars they sell in some of the gift shops in the parks; my favorite one is the E.T. peanut butter bar with the Reese’s Pieces. I need to try that Simpsons chocolate and bacon one though, that looks pretty good.
I also like some of the Harry Potter candies (if they count), like the Chocolate Frogs and the Cauldron Cakes. The Fudge Flies aren’t that bad either. Oh, and I love those huge cookies they have at the gift shop at the end of the Seuss Trolley.
16. What is your favorite attraction that is no longer there?
Without a doubt, it’s Jaws. It was a perfect boat ride that combined both animatronics, special effects, and a live skipper for an unforgettable, thrilling experience. I remember there was always this weird chlorine smell throughout the ride, but personally I think it enhanced the atmosphere a bit. I always dreaded (though later on I was excited) getting row 6, since that’s where the shark comes right up to you, like inches away. The sarcastic wit of the skippers is surely missed and offered a bit of break to the tension and utter chaos that the shark brought. Oh, and we can’t forget quotes such as, “We’ll be shark bait in ten minutes!”
I was actually at Jaws’s ‘Last Voyage’ back in January 2012, but the line was so long (and it was pretty cold outside) that I opted out of riding and reluctantly watched Fear Factor Live with the rest of my family. But it was still bittersweet to walk through the village of Amity one last time and pay my respects to the great white menace.
17. If you could invent any new attraction what it would be?
I still clamor for a year-round haunted house in the style of Halloween Horror Nights, complete with meet-and-greets with the Icons and a museum of past props and the like, similar to the Aftermath shop they did for 25.
18. Who is your favorite character?
This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it’s The Usher. I mean, he’s an original Universal character, so he counts! He’s the perfect blend of creepy and comedy; he’s like a funnier version of The Phantom of the Opera. The Usher is special to me since he was the first Icon I’ve ever ‘met’ – 2009 was my first year so he’s kind of like a representation of that year’s event, and every time I’ve seen him since I always have some kind of awesome interaction with him. He’s not quite straight-laced like The Caretaker or wisecracking like Jack, but he’s kind of in-between.
19. What is your favorite souvenir?
I must have about eighty or so different pins from Universal, including some Halloween Horror Nights ones. I’ve got everything from Marvel to Harry Potter, and even pins from some closed attractions, like Jaws and Back to the Future, and even a Kongfrontation one. I also love anything I’ve got that’s from Halloween Horror Nights. I have around 25-30 shirts from all the years I’ve attended, plus shirts from years I didn’t go but admire, like 2003 and 2006.
20. What is your best memory of Universal? And when are you next visiting?
My best memory of Universal? I have too many, too many to even count. But if there’s one memory of Universal that sticks out to me the most, it’s all the friends I’ve made just through the fan community alone, as well as the friends I made while working Halloween Horror Nights and The Simpsons Ride. Everyone is so supportive of one another as we share the same passion for the parks and all the attractions. Universal unites us in a unique way, whether it’s through fan events like Spiffy Saturday and the Annual Passholder group on Facebook. It’s simply amazing to know that I’m not the only one who loves these parks in the way I do.
As for my next visit… I don’t know. I know some of my friends are reading this post right now, and I just want to say, I miss all of you. I will be back very soon, I just don’t know when exactly. I want to say it’ll be sometime before Halloween Horror Nights. I need to take a break from Universal for now as I try to fix up my life and start back up certain things, but once I’m ready to come back I’ll let you all know. It won’t be long.