I've never really seen an in-depth look at Legoland! It looks like a really awesome park (lacking on thrills a bit) I would've loved to have gone there when I was younger! I can't wait for the Florida Version!
Now that Memorial Day weekend is here, the summer season has unofficially started, and waterparks are beginning their operating schedules. With the news that this year will almost certainly be the last for Wild Rivers in Irvine, I decided that it would be an appropriate waterpark to visit to start the season.
I used to go to Wild Rivers very frequently as a kid, but it has honestly been almost 20 years since my last trip. It was pretty neat finding several attractions virtually unchanged from way back then. Though the park has of course added new attractions, Wild Rivers feels much more like an "old school" waterpark than a "modern day" one. You'll find several waterslides that aren't very common elsewhere, certainly not in Southern California anyway.
The park is essentially divided into three sections. Wild Rivers Mountain is on the right once entering the park. It is the location of just about every big waterslide you'll find here, which all form sort of a waterslide complex built on and around Wild River's manmade mountain. To the left after entering the park is Explorer's Island, which contains the lazy river surrounding a bunch of water activity areas. In the back of the park is Thunder Cove, where the wave pools are located.
The park was only open from 11 am to 4 pm each day this weekend. That seemed kind of lacking to me when I looked this up beforehand, but it turned out to be plenty of time to do everything, as the crowds were relatively light. The park will have extended hours during the busy part of summer. I actually bought a season pass so that I'd be sure to come back and visit at least once more before the summer (and therefore the park's tenure) ends.
Here we are.
An overview of one side of Wild Rivers Mountain. Congo River Rapids is the main slide that travels down the mountain, but you can also see parts of the Cobras, the Abyss, and the SBNO Edge and Ledge here. (Notice the lack of access to Edge and Ledge.)
Farther down the mountain, with a more complete view of the Cobras.
Congo River Rapids starts at the top of the mountain, which actually has a little bit of theming while you wait in line inside the structure. The ride attendant pushes you on your way (forward, backwards, sideways, however you like; you're not going to stay in any one direction for long).
You can ride in a single or a double tube, but even with a double (and especially with a single) you got jostled around all over the place. In a very fun way. This 360-degree turn actually has a couple ledges that you drop off of to travel downward. The whole ride is relatively lengthy and sort of moves in fits and starts, but that makes it feel realistic, how I imagine running actual rapids would be.
There's plenty of good speed and sloshing up the sides by the time you reach the bottom. Overall, this was one of my three favorite slides at the park.
The start of one of the Cobras, which is actually a pair of intertwined slides. They are pretty much your standard body slides.
The splashdown pool for the Cobras. If you lie down during this one, you can actually get some pretty good speed by the end. I got nailed in the face (eyes, ears, and mouth) by water during the final three turns as I sloshed up the sides. If you sit up, however, this one is pretty mild. Probably a good starter slide for that reason. Interestingly, I noticed that all of the slides on Wild Rivers Mountain had a height requirement of 44".
Right next to the Cobras is Wipeout, another pair of standard body slides. Noteable about this one is that, unlike the Cobras, it starts fast at the top and ends up slowing a bit as you go along. The reason for this is that you actually get "flushed" down the slide by a holding tank of water that the attendant releases to get you going. I didn't get a really good picture of the tank in action, but it's kind of unique. Also unusual is that there's no depth at all to the splashdown pool. I expected to dump into it but instead just kept sliding along it at the same level.
Wipeout and the Cobras share the same pool (though the Cobras side is deeper). Except for the way you get started, these are all pretty much the same slides, and they look more or less identical meandering down the side of the mountain. (I guess Cobras is a little wider.)
New since my previous visits is the Patriot, which is built on a tower that is located in front of the mountain (nearest to the park entrance). It's a raft slide that can seat four people riding inline. It basically twists and turns its way down from the top of the tower.
At the bottom is a drop. You'd think that would be the end of the ride, but actually...
...you then travel up this spike, which gets you shuttling back and forth until you come to a stop. Kind of cool.
Sharing the same tower as the Patriot are the Bazooka Bowls, more new slides for me. I've been on this type of slide once before (at Alabama Adventure), and I remember it being pretty intense.
It's a pretty intimidating, dark, narrow chute when you first climb in.
You then slide down this steep drop, at an incredibly fast speed. It looks pretty long, but it's amazing how quickly you shoot through it.
I imagine they have to start you fast, because once you begin spiraling around the bowl, the speed somehow abruptly stops. If you were going any slower entering the bowl, you'd probably completely stall before being flushed out.
You then drop into the very deep (and very cold) splashdown pool. This guy probably had the smoothest fall into the pool that I saw. Most people tend to end up going head first, sideways, on their back, etc. Overall, this is a fun slide to do once, but it is VERY painful on your back. Add to that the crazy scary fast drop, and I'd call Bazooka Bowls the most hard core of Wild River's slides. Others must agree with me, as, even though this is a newer slide, it was a walk-on all day.
The rest of the slides are on the other side of the mountain. Sweitzer Falls is another one that I remember loving as a kid, and it didn't disappoint as an adult either. Such a simple concept, but an awesome drop, awesome speed (if you lie on your back), and an awesome fall into the pool. This thing ends about three feet above the pool, leading to a great launch into it. Another of my top three.
Sweitzer Falls shares its pool with Bombay Blasters, without a doubt my favorite slide at the park. How often do you see a waterslide shoot out from underground?
Here's the beginning of the slide. And yep, the very beginning and the very end are all that you see. The rest is buried in the mountainside. You drop down a ways, curve to the right, curve to the left, and then pop out. The whole thing only lasts a couple of seconds because it is another of Wild River's INSANELY FAST slides. I rode this one many times while young, but I do not remember the ridiculously fast speed. So much fun.
And now for the segment titled "Graceful Ways By Which People Get Flung Out Of Bombay Blasters."
Why let Bombay Blasters get all the credit? You can torpedo just as well off of Sweitzer Falls.
Almost as much fun to watch as to ride.
And the winners for most graceful splashdowns. Seriously, no matter how you launch or flop off of either Sweitzer Falls or Bombay Blasters, it's totally comfortable. The water is deep and the pool is heated more than any of the other slides' pools. Two great attractions you just can't find anywhere else that I know of. It's going to be a shame to lose these when Wild Rivers closes.
Serengeti Surf Hill is your typical mat racing slide. Pretty fun, though I suppose it could be hit or miss. I saw some people shoot way past the finish line, while others got stuck somewhere in the middle of the slide and had to inch themselves along.
The black slide above Sergengeti Surf Hill is the Abyss...
...and right next door to it is Nairobi Express. Though the slide layout looks pretty similar to Serengeti Surf Hill, this is a feet-first, on-your-back body slide, not a mat slide. It apparently only operates on the busiest of days, which today wasn't, but I do remember riding it when young and enjoying it.
On the other side of Serengeti Surf Hill, also traveling beneath the Abyss, is Wahtubee, a triple dip tube slide.
Wahtubee is fun, but nothing spectacular. The Abyss finishes right alongside it.
Speaking of the Abyss, it's a completely enclosed single- or double-tube slide that is, I believe, the longest ride in the park. It certainly feels long while riding. It's also pitch dark and quite warm inside (kind of stuffy warm, which is I guess common for slides that are completely enclosed). It was enjoyable though, especially spinning around while riding in a single tube.
I thought I'd throw in a few pictures of Edge and Ledge, as it remains standing in the park but has otherwise been completely forgotten about (it's not on the park maps at all). Note that Edge and Ledge may not even be the correct name for this pair of slides. I saw an old leftover entrance sign with that name on it while on the mountain, so I figured this is what it was for.
Does anybody know the history of this ride? I feel certain that I rode it during my early visits to Wild Rivers, though it's odd that I can't remember for sure, especially since I imagine this would be pretty terrifying for a young child.
Except for the section of tubing that is discolored on the drop, it still looks to be in good shape.
In the back of the park are Wild River's two wave pools. Monsoon Lagoon is the gentler of the two, which makes it fun for everyone and therefore much more crowded.
Hurricane Harbor is the other pool, producing larger waves designed for bodyboarding.
I think you need to get a special wristband to even enter this pool. I'm not entirely sure how it works since I'm not a bodyboarder and therefore didn't really feel the need to look into it. It does look like fun though for those who know what they're doing.
Between the two wave pools is a nicely-themed jacuzzi.
Safari River Expedition is Wild River's lazy river. It encircles the entire Explorer's Island section of the park. It was relaxing and just the right temperature, though I think it could have used some more cover or secluded areas or theming or something.
It did have a few added touches here and there.
Lake Victoria is a large activity pool in the middle of Explorer's Island.
Also in this section of the park is Typhoon Lagoon, a kiddie area with scaled-down versions of some of the bigger slides. Here you can see kiddie Bombay...
...and kiddie Congo. Overall a great idea, and I imagine tons of fun for the little ones. The park also had a variety of reasonably elaborate water play areas for the kids.
Finally, I'll end with Chaos, which is the only large waterslide that is separated from the others (it's located just outside of Explorer's Island and the Safari River Expedition). It's advertised as having special effects inside, but it's another one that only opens during higher attendance days. I'm pretty sure it's relatively new, as I don't remember it at all, so I'll have to go back and try it out later this summer. Good thing I got my season pass!
Last edited by biosciking on Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:27 pm.
Excellent Trip Report! Wild Rivers is the closest waterpark to where I live, and it is one of my favorites since it has so many unique attractions. I used to go here at least once every summer, but have only gone once in the past few years. It will be very sad to see it go. Since this is the last year, I'm going to go at least once this summer (possibly twice, but it all depends on my schedule).
I can respond to a few of the things addressed in your picture captions.
1. The rides you mentioned as being newer all opened in the 90s or early 2000s (not entirely sure, but I believe Chaos was 1994, Patriot was 1998, and Bazooka Bowls was 2002). Of those, Patriot usually seems to be the most popular (probably second in the park only to the Abyss) and Bazooka Bowls is the least popular. Bazooka Bowls is probably my favorite attraction in the park, but as you said it really hurts your back. I don't think I've ever rode it more than twice in one day, and even in it's opening year I've never seen a line off the platform except on the most crowded days.
2. According to my dad, Cobra opened with the park and Wipeout opened the next year. I'm guessing the flush system was probably not working quite right at first. I remember when they used to use the full tank and you would blast down the slide (I'm almost certain I've ridden on the top half of the tube before), but now it seems like they barely use any of it. Speaking of the flush system, however, there is one other ride I've been on that uses it. It is called Blast Off and is located in Pyrite Rapids Water Park, which is part of Fiesta Village Family Fun Center in Colton, CA. Wipeout, however, is significantly better.
3. Bombay Blasters, and particularly Sweitzer Falls, are definitely a lot more fun than they look. Both slides look really simple, but they are among the best in the park. I'm always surprised by how fast Sweitzer Falls gets going. For whatever reason, neither of these rides ever seen to get that much of a line.
4. Nairobi Express and Chaos used to operate all the time, but in the past ten years or so they have not been operated regularly. I think I have been twice in that time when Nairobi Express was operating, but Chaos has run probably every other visit. If you go on a weekend, Chaos will almost certainly be open. It used to have sound and light effects in it, but none of them work anymore. Nairobi Express is a fun ride, as well as a very fast one, but the ending can be uncomfortable.
5. Hurricane Harbor requires a bodyboard rental as it is only for bodyboarding. You must go to the rental hut to recieve a wristband. If you aren't good at bodyboarding, you'll probably end up riding one good wave and spending the rest of the session trying to get back out there. I did it once and it was fun, but I'm not a wavepool person in general so I haven't done it a second time yet.
6. Finally, the Edge/Ledge. These slides have been at the park for quite some time, although they were not original attractions (I think my dad said they opened in the late 80s, about the time the Abyss did). When they opened, they were among the most intense rides at any waterpark. The Edge (left slide) featured a 30 ft drop at a 45 degree angle, while the ledge (right side) featured a high speed ramp finale in the dark. At some point, the Ledge was modified, and the drop was replaced with semi-transparent tubing (the reason it looks discolored). The rides operated like this for a number of years. [note: this part is just what I have heard and I am not entirely sure it it is true] Then (I think around 2000-2001), there was an accident on the attraction. I don't know what happened, but I believe it had to do with the steep drop on the Edge. Most modern drop slides consist of only the drop, so you go over the top very slowly. On the Edge, however, you were travelling at a significant speed when you reached the drop, causing riders to completely lift off the slide for a very brief period of time. I don't think the person involved fell off, but I think they injured themselves by twisting in mid-air and landing badly. [end unconfirmed part] Anyway, the ride was closed down for a year or two after that. When it reopened, both sides were identical with the ramp finale, although the former Edge was still in complete darkness. At this point, the ride was renamed The Liquidator. It operated like this for several years, then closed down suddenly. I last remember it operating in 2006. The staff at the park said it was closed for renovations, but each time I've gone since then it has gotten more and more abandoned. It was (in order): walled off, removed from the map, sealed off on the lower end, had the cover taken down, and allowed to become overgrown. Now that the stairs have been removed (and the park is soon to close), I think it is safe to say it is never coming back. It was a fun ride, but it was worse on your back than Bazooka Bowls (you were probably moving at nearly 40 mph when you hit the runout at the bottom).
Glad to see you enjoyed Wild Rivers. It is always sad when a park closes, and even worse when it is a more unique one. It has been rumored for quite some time, but I still thought this park would last at least a few more years (I believe the amphitheater's lease doesn't expire until 2014, and I don't know why anyone would want to live next to an amphitheater).
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)
Yay... one of the few instances where I can be helpful as I am a former employee of wild rivers for 3 years. I totally don't know if this is "public" or not, but what I was told from my supervisors was that someone broke their jaw on the transitional part of liquidator when the slide begins the steep drop. It's funny... after working there I have no desire to go back... and it's not that I don't like the place... I just did everything SO MANY TIMES it got old after a while.
rcdude wrote:The rides you mentioned as being newer all opened in the 90s or early 2000s (not entirely sure, but I believe Chaos was 1994, Patriot was 1998, and Bazooka Bowls was 2002). Of those, Patriot usually seems to be the most popular (probably second in the park only to the Abyss) and Bazooka Bowls is the least popular.
This was definitely the trend I noticed. The Abyss and Patriot were the longest lines of the day, while Bazooka Bowls was empty. The last time I went to Wild Rivers was probably in the very early 90s, so Chaos, Patriot and Bazooka Bowls were new to me. Do you happen to remember when Wahtubee opened? I'm not sure I remember it either, but I could just be forgetting about it. I distinctly remember all of the other older waterslides (Bombay Blasters, Sweitzer Falls, Nairobi Express, Congo River Rapids, Wipeout, etc.).
rcdude wrote:Bombay Blasters, and particularly Sweitzer Falls, are definitely a lot more fun than they look. Both slides look really simple, but they are among the best in the park. I'm always surprised by how fast Sweitzer Falls gets going. For whatever reason, neither of these rides ever seen to get that much of a line.
I completely agree about them being among the best in the park (they were actually my favorite two). And they never had a line of more than a few people. I wonder if it's because they're so short and they can process people so quickly that a line never really gets a chance to form.
rcdude wrote:I think I have been twice in that time when Nairobi Express was operating, but Chaos has run probably every other visit. If you go on a weekend, Chaos will almost certainly be open.
This is exactly what I was told by an employee. Chaos is generally open, while Nairobi Express opens only on the very busiest of days. I guess I'll have to go on a Saturday in the middle of summer (when I would normally be staying away from a park) if I want to ride Nairobi.
rcdude wrote:Finally, the Edge/Ledge. These slides have been at the park for quite some time, although they were not original attractions (I think my dad said they opened in the late 80s, about the time the Abyss did). When they opened, they were among the most intense rides at any waterpark. The Edge (left slide) featured a 30 ft drop at a 45 degree angle, while the ledge (right side) featured a high speed ramp finale in the dark. At some point, the Ledge was modified, and the drop was replaced with semi-transparent tubing (the reason it looks discolored). The rides operated like this for a number of years. [note: this part is just what I have heard and I am not entirely sure it it is true] Then (I think around 2000-2001), there was an accident on the attraction. I don't know what happened, but I believe it had to do with the steep drop on the Edge. Most modern drop slides consist of only the drop, so you go over the top very slowly. On the Edge, however, you were travelling at a significant speed when you reached the drop, causing riders to completely lift off the slide for a very brief period of time. I don't think the person involved fell off, but I think they injured themselves by twisting in mid-air and landing badly. [end unconfirmed part] Anyway, the ride was closed down for a year or two after that. When it reopened, both sides were identical with the ramp finale, although the former Edge was still in complete darkness. At this point, the ride was renamed The Liquidator. It operated like this for several years, then closed down suddenly. I last remember it operating in 2006. The staff at the park said it was closed for renovations, but each time I've gone since then it has gotten more and more abandoned. It was (in order): walled off, removed from the map, sealed off on the lower end, had the cover taken down, and allowed to become overgrown. Now that the stairs have been removed (and the park is soon to close), I think it is safe to say it is never coming back. It was a fun ride, but it was worse on your back than Bazooka Bowls (you were probably moving at nearly 40 mph when you hit the runout at the bottom).
You're right, the exit of the slide was off limits to park guests (just as the entrance was), and what I could see of the final straightaway was very overgrown. Kind of sad, but maybe a good thing if it was too intense and painful and bordering on dangerous. Then again, I am pretty sure I rode it as a kid (apparently in one of its early incarnations), so it must have been doable. Anyway, thanks for all the great info. Hopefully the park will find a new location to call home, though I'm not going to hold my breath.
Last edited by biosciking on Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:27 pm.
biosciking wrote:Do you happen to remember when Wahtubee opened? I'm not sure I remember it either, but I could just be forgetting about it.
No, I do not. It has been there as long as I can remember, and I started going to the park the year Chaos opened. I don't think it was an original attraction, but I'm almost certain it opened before the Abyss and Edge/Ledge. One interesting thing I do know about Wahtubee is that it was modified relatively recently. Originally, the ride did not have start tubs or a waterfall, and the top was almost identical to the top of Serengeti Surf Hill. This works okay for a mat slide, but attempting to get on an innertube when it is on a steep, slippery downhill slope is not easy. I saw more than a few people that either had difficulty holding on and went early, or slipped getting into their tube and heading down without one.
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)
Universal Studios Hollywood did not open a major new attraction this year, though the park did introduce a couple new additions last year. Since I somehow managed to not visit Universal at all in 2010, those attractions were still new to me this year.
The major attraction that the park opened in 2010 was King Kong 360 3-D, a replacement for the old King Kong Encounter on the Studio Tour that was destroyed during the 2008 backlot fire. You'd actually think this was a "new for 2011" addition, as Universal still advertises and promotes and hypes it to the same extent they did last year. I imagine it has proven very popular for the park.
Interestingly, 2010's other new addition was never really advertised at all. The Special Effects Stage took over the show building that has previously housed Creature from the Black Lagoon, Fear Factor Live, Spiderman Rocks, Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue, Adventures of Conan, and probably some others that I'm forgetting. The Special Effects Stage is a revamp of the former Special Effects Stages that was removed to make way for the park's next big addition, 2012's new Transformers ride.
Universal Studios Hollywood is an interesting park in that there are only about a dozen attractions. However, it is still very easy to spend the entire day, as many attractions require a decent investment of time. The shows run about 15 to 25 minutes in length. The famous Studio Tour tram ride lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. The park is divided into an Upper Lot and a Lower Lot, separated by a very large system of escalators called the Starway. It is not the simplest of tasks to travel back and forth between the Upper and Lower Lots, as it takes some time to head up or down the Starway. This is not by any means a complaint; it just makes the park quite unique.
There is also an exciting feel throughout Universal that I attribute to being in a theme park based on movies that also serves as a working studio in the entertainment capital of the world. Where else can you find a theme park that fits that description?
The iconic Universal globe just outside the park, with the entrance arch in the background.
You don't have to be famous to walk the red carpet when entering (or exiting) Universal.
Let's start the day at the world famous Backlot Studio Tram Tour, of course featuring the new King Kong 360 3-D.
The tour begins by taking guests past a history of Universal films in the form of a timeline of movie posters. You then briefly pass through the front lot of the studio before heading into the backlot.
The first stop in the backlot consists of the new Metropolitan / New York sets that have mostly been rebuilt since the 2008 fire.
What's nice about the new sets is that Universal has added some more modern looking buildings into the mix.
In addition, the classical looking New York sets are still present.
Also found amongst the Metropolitan sets is Courthouse Square, which was of course seen in the Back to the Future films. I also learned for the first time that this was also the courthouse building seen in To Kill a Mockingbird. The courthouse survived the 2008 fire, so this is the actual set seen in the films, not a rebuilt version.
An overview of the recently rebuilt Metropolitan / New York sets. You can see the courthouse in the back center of the picture.
After the New York sets, it's time for the current headliner attraction at Universal, King Kong 360 3-D.
Peter Jackson gives a brief intro to the attraction and the King Kong film history.
The attraction itself is very impressive. It is billed as the world's largest 3-D experience, consisting of two long screens that run the length of both sides of the tram. The screens are designed to look like the images are surrounding the entire tram, as Kong and the dinos he's battling leap from one side to the other. What I like most about the attraction is that the 3-D is not meant to be "in your face" so that you are consciously aware that you are watching something in 3-D. Instead, it is simply meant to look real. I've always felt this way about the Terminator attraction in the park as well, but this one takes it to even the next level of realism. Although the tram stays stationary, there are several cool effects, giving the impression that you are speeding along while being chased by dinos, falling off a cliff, or being jumped on by Kong himself. Though the whole thing only lasts a few minutes (as do all of the individual Studio Tour attractions), it is very well done, and I would say worthy of the hype. Each time I rode it received a round of applause.
Just outside of Kong is the old Collapsing Bridge, which I'm pretty sure is being used just as decoration these days rather than as an actual working attraction. This is sort of a shame, as it was always fun to ride over, but not too terribly disappointing, as there are plenty of other attractions on the tour that will jolt you around (especially Kong and Earthquake). It is always somewhat of an uncertainty throughout the entire tour what specifically you will experience, as they are constantly adjusting the route to accommodate any filming or other work. I rode the Studio Tour twice during this visit, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. The first time we traveled through Little Europe and the old Parting of the Red Sea exhibits, yet we skipped these later that same day. (I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of them the first time around.) There's also always the possibility that you might actually glimpse a movie or TV or music video shoot, or even a celebrity, though that is pretty rare.
Next up on the tour are some prop cars that have been used in various movies, the most famous of which is probably the Back to the Future DeLorean.
Speaking of cars, into what award-worthy attraction are we entering now?
The attraction bascially consists of two cars that get set into motion by an explosion.
They leap forward...
...and then dance for us. I know the Fast and Furious movies are popular and make a ton of money for Universal, but this is honestly the dumbest thing in the park.
Moving on, the tram passes by several props from the Jurassic Park films (mostly the second film, The Lost World).
Next is Old Mexico, the setting for the Flash Flood attraction.
After Old Mexico is the Old West. This area includes some of the oldest sets in the park, from back during the days of Universal's silent westerns, long before it was a park.
Soundstage 50 is the next stop. We're told we are getting a special treat by being allowed to enter.
In actuality, this is the show building that houses the Earthquake attraction. It's designed as a subway station that essentially "crumbles" all around the tram once the shaking begins.
Amity Island is the next destination.
I know the Jaws attraction is old and cheesy and fake-looking, but it's a classic and still remains one of my favorite parts of the Studio Tour.
For you Desperate Housewives fans, the tram travels down Wisteria Lane. I'm actually more familiar with this house as 1313 Mockingbird Lane, the home to the Munsters before it became the home to Teri Hatcher (or whichever housewife lives here).
The Whoville sets from How the Grinch Stole Christmas follow the Desperate Housewives sets.
Another of my favorite stops on the Studio Tour is the Bates Motel and Psycho House. In years past the tram used to just pass by the sets. Now there is a live scene in which Norman Bates comes out of the motel, stuffs Marion Crane's body into the trunk of the car, and then proceeds to approach the tram wielding his knife.
Mrs. Bates can also be glimpsed in the window of the Psycho House as the tram passes by.
The War of the Worlds crash site is very impressive.
This is an actual 747 that Universal destroyed, not just a fake prop.
Tons of great detail throughout the set.
You may recognize this cabin from the Great Outdoors movie or the Coach TV show.
The final stop on the Studio Tour is the Mummy's Tomb, which is essentially one long dizzying funhouse tunnel. This has previously been themed as both an avalanche and a volcanic eruption (Dante's Peak), both of which I think I preferred, though there is kind of a funny gag now involving some scarab beetles and the tram guide.
Speaking of the tram guide, Jimmy Fallon recently became the Studio Tour host, replacing Whoopi Goldberg. Each tram car has a few video monitors that show clips throughout the tour. Jimmy Fallon comes on every now and then in a short comedy sketch that usually involves whatever set the tour happens to be viewing. Each tram also has a live tour guide, who actually provides most of the information. Jimmy Fallon does sing us out, though, bidding us a "tramtastic" day. Overall, I highly recommend the Studio Tour, though I'm sure you don't need my recommendation. It's easily the most famous and popular attraction at Universal.
Time to check out the rest of the attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood. The Simpsons Ride is the park's newest ride, replacing the old Back to the Future ride. While I very much enjoyed Back to the Future and a part of me will always miss it, I do like the Simpsons even better. It's a giant simulator ride that is rough but wild the way a simulator should be, with a storyline that is a bit incoherent but hilarious, involving typical Simpsons humor spoofing theme parks with all kinds of in-jokes. My favorite: Don't worry, a theme park won't kill you as long as you've got a dime left in your pocket.
All of the park's shows are found in the Upper Lot. My very favorite is Terminator 2 3-D. There's a lot of talk about this show being dated and a replacement being in the works, but I completely disagree and hope the show stays for a long time. This is actually my favorite 3-D show at any theme park. It so perfectly blends an awesome pre-show (how often is a pre-show awesome?) with the main show, which itself blends live action, a 3-D film, and 4-D effects seamlessly. And as I mentioned above with King Kong, the 3-D here is not meant to make you jump or reach out and touch; it is meant to look real. And it does. Everything about Terminator 2 3-D succeeds flawlessly.
Shrek 4-D is a newer attraction than Terminator, but it isn't quite as good in my opinion. It's not by any means bad, and I do very much enjoy it. It's just that Terminator is so awesome that everything else sort of pales by comparison. The pre-show here actually drags a little, but the main show is admittedly entertaining, blending typical Shrek humor with 3-D and 4-D effects (including some very bouncy seats).
Waterworld is another show around which rumors of replacement constantly swirl. I'll agree that this one is a bit dated, plus it's based on a movie that wasn't that good in the first place. However, as a stunt show, Waterworld actually works quite well.
There's a lot of acrobatics on jet skis and water skis.
The sea plane that gets launched into the stadium always receives tons of "oohs" and "ahhs" from the audience.
There's an impressive high fall by the villain, who has been set on fire.
The heroes escape just before...
...the entire set explodes. Overall, the stunts are very good, the pyrotechnics are great, and the show has a catchy musical score. However, there's a lot of corny dialogue and hammy acting that gets old after a while. I won't be too upset if Waterworld gets replaced, as I've seen it so many times, but I'll also be happy if it stays. I think it's especially popular with first-timers.
Universal's Animal Actors is a pretty typical trained animal show, which is fine, since trained animal shows tend to be entertaining.
All of the animals in Universal's show have appeared in film or television. Famous dog stars that may make appearances are Lassie, Benji, or Beethoven.
The orangutan always steals the show.
Other animals include cats, pigs, rats, birds, and this cute little kit fox that was new to the show.
The park's newest show. The Special Effects Stage showcases the use of classic practical effects plus modern visual effects in the making of movies and TV shows.
I thought that this show would basically be identical to the old Special Effects Stages (with just on one set instead of three), but they actually made it pretty different. They seemed to reuse more of the props from the former Creature from the Black Lagoon show, such as this boat, than from the Special Effects Stages show.
They also reused the cables and harnesses from Black Lagoon. This was for the finale of the show, in which an "audience member" is rigged up and made to look like he is floating through space. I think a show like this is definitely needed in a park like Universal, and I'm glad they tried to modernize it by including a discussion of visual effects (which the old Special Effects Stages lacked), but I think I'll still give the edge to the old show. I really liked the horror movie component of that one (a little of which was reproduced here), as well as the sound effects component (which is now completely absent). Maybe I was just used to the old show's format. I'll save final judgement for this one until after I see it again.
One attraction that I absolutely love is Universal's House of Horrors, a year-round walk-through haunted maze themed to all of Univesal's classic horror films. This is very elaborate and incredibly lengthy and just extremely well done. You get to walk through scenes from Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Psycho, Child's Play, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and more. This has previously been themed exclusively to the Mummy and Van Helsing, but it works so much better as a mix of all the Universal classics.
They've added more live actors into the House of Horrors over the past couple of years, making it a truly scary haunted maze (which means probably not appropriate for little kids; I've seen many come out bawling). It's especially creepy if you're walking through alone with just your group, which can happen especially at the end of the day. However, don't race through at a panicked pace. Take your time and really enjoy the atmosphere and details. I can't emphasize enough how exceptionally well done it is, especially for what is considered a "minor attraction" at the park. It would rank as one of the best haunted houses I've ever been through, and, believe it or not, possibly my favorite attraction at the park.
That's it for the Upper Lot. Time to head down the Starway to the Lower Lot.
The Starway is an elaborate system of escalators that connects the Upper and Lower Lots.
The Lower Lot is the location of Jurassic Park The Ride, an awesome boat ride that opened 15 years ago but still remains among Universal Studio's best.
Everyone's favorite dinosaurs from the movie make appearances here, including Dilophosaurus (the "spitter").
Velociraptor is of course present too.
Tyrannosaurus rex terrorizes you before you make the final thrilling drop to safety. The ride will splash you throughout but definitely won't soak you, so it should satisfy everyone. A definite must for fans of the movie.
This guy (Spinosaurus from Jurassic Park III) can also be found creeping around outside the ride itself.
Next door to Jurassic Park is Revenge of the Mummy The Ride, Universal Hollywood's only coaster (an indoor roller coaster). For the most part, I really like it. I love the dark ride portion that begins the ride. I love the launch into the forward section of the coaster. I love the transition from forward to backwards that includes a visit by scarab beetles. However, the very end of the ride (the transition from backwards to forward) is completely anticlimactic and unsatisfying. I have not yet been on the Florida version of the ride, but it sounds like it has an infinitely superior ending. However, I do rank everything else about Hollywood's Mummy very highly.
That's actually it for the Lower Lot. The old Special Effects Stages and Backdraft used to be down here too, but they've been taken over by construction of next year's headliner ride, Transformers. Something to look forward to and a reason to come back in 2012!
Last edited by biosciking on Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:28 pm.
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