Thursday, October 14th, 2021
I recently returned for the first time since pre COVID from a wonderful three night stay at Universal Orlando Resort. The main purpose of my visit was to experience two new attractions that opened while the US/Canadian border was closed, The Bourne Stuntacular located in Universal Studios and VelociCoaster found inside Islands of Adventure.
If you’ve never visited before, the first thing that you need to know about the Universal Orlando Resort is that it is NOT the same as the resort complex down the street. And that is a FANTASTIC thing. I mean why would you want to spend your vacation time and money on a similar experience? Universal is many things, but above all else, it’s an absolute must do for Harry Potter fans and/or thrill seekers. I happen to fall into the latter category.
Not that I dislike Harry Potter, but I never cared for the franchise. I did read all seven books and saw the corresponding movies. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I read six and a half books. I was so bored when I reached the tent scene in the Deathly Hallows, that I stopped reading and asked my husband to tell me how it ends. So – unlike most – my enjoyment for Harry Potter didn’t come from reading the books or watching the movies. It came in 2012 during my very first visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter when I felt as though the pages of the books came to life before me. And now, it’s safe to say that experiencing it has turned me into a fan of the Harry Potter franchise.
Theming at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is like nothing you’ve ever come across before. You can stroll the streets of London and enter Diagon Alley, where you will find some of the wizarding world’s most famous establishments. Beneath the fire breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon, you can join Harry, Ron and Hermione as they hunt for a horcrux and face off against he who must not be named. You can dine at the Leaky Cauldron, pick up a magical gag at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, shop for school robes and so much more.
After you have all your school supplies, you can travel through platform 9¾ and take the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade. This snow-capped wizarding village is filled with enchanted wand shops and more. At the top of the village, you’ll find Hogwarts Castle, where thanks to a spell from Hermione, you’ll take flight and soar above the castle. You can also go well beyond the school grounds to join Hagrid and venture into the Forbidden Forest. And when you’re ready for a drink, I highly recommend the frozen butterbeer, as I simply can’t get enough of this butterscotch and marshmallow deliciousness.
While several muggles will spend a lot of time exploring both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, there is much to experience at the Universal theme parks beyond the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So after my second butterbeer and too many chocolate frogs, I was ready to check out my first of two new experiences: The Bourne Stuntacular.
This show replaced the “SUPER” Terminator 2: 3D, a show I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through every time I visited Universal Studios. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Terminator 2: 3D was a live show, where performers interacted with a 3D film. The effects of this show were excellent for its time. But The Bourne Stuntacular has taken those same effects, picked them up and ran away with them.
If you’ve never seen the Bourne movies, go ahead and watch them all right now. Go on, I’ll wait. But all you really need to know to enjoy Stuntacular is that Jason Bourne is on the run, he’s dangerous and he’s the good guy.
In The Bourne Stuntacular, you’ll observe fistfights, helicopters, high-speed car chases and more, all thanks to a 130 ft wide, 28 ft tall screen that blends in seamlessly with mobile set pieces. And in a similar fashion to its predecessor, the action transitions between live performance to the screen and back again. As much as I enjoyed Terminator 2: 3D, The Bourne Stuntacular is by far the best stunt show I’ve ever seen and is the textbook example on how to make a great attraction even better.
I purposely saved riding VelociCoaster for last. Because not only am I a thrill seeker, but one of my all-time favourite movie franchises is Jurassic Park. As such, I’ve always loved the theming and details found in this area of Islands of Adventure. So, I was over the moon when I heard that Universal built a roller coaster in the middle of the Raptor paddock!
Taking a lesson from John Hammond, Universal “spared no expense” when building VelociCoaster. The story for this ride takes place right before the first Jurassic World movie. Once here, you have entered Jurassic World Resort and are about to race through the velociraptor paddock with “trained” raptors racing alongside you. The indoor (yay, air conditioning!) queue will keep you entertained, and fans will very much enjoy the nod to Dr. Ian Malcolm and other clever Easter eggs from the original 1993 Jurassic Park movie.
As for the coaster itself? Hold on to your butts. No matter how much you mentally prepare yourself, you won’t be ready for the launch. And after the fact, you will be too busy screaming from your first of four inversions to think about it again. The ride pauses briefly in the paddock area before launching you even faster, this time at 70 miles per hour in only 2.4 seconds, pushing you 155 feet into the air and then immediately dropping into an 80-degree vertical drop.
You might think at this point, the coaster is going to slow down and return to its loading station. But you would be wrong because you can’t race with raptors without experiencing a 360-degree barrel roll just inches above water! And if you enjoy zero gravity – the sensation of floating in your seat – you’ll feel it about a dozen times throughout VelociCoaster.
Did I mention that all this takes place while strapped in only with a lap bar? I’m not going to lie; I didn’t even notice the raptors because I was too busy fearing for my life. The VelociCoaster is relentless and extremely intense, but the design of the vehicle and tracks make for an unbelievably smooth experience.
If you have visited the Orlando area and have not yet made your way over to Universal Orlando Resort, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. Here, you can play, scream and laugh all at the same time. So, live in the moment, embark on your epic adventure and let yourself “WOAH”!
– Christine Fiorelli
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