Sunday, September 6th. Universal Day 2
We had to get up extra early on Day 2 as we would be switching hotels. The reason behind this is we would be switching to an “onsite resort”, Loews Royal Pacific. The resort is nicer, closer to the parks, and as a perk you get to enter the parks an hour than normal. You do, however, pay a bit more. The extra value lies in the fact that you get Unlimited Express Ride passes for free as well. ($90 per person / per day). Not only that but you get passes for both the day you check in, and the day you check out. It was a no brainer in our eyes. So we checked out of the Fairfield, drove to Loews, checked in, got our fast passes, and were outside the park by 7:45am. All those early mornings working for Kiewit were paying off!
We decided to hit up Hogsmeade first (in Islands of Adventure) and went straight to the main attraction/ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The ride was in a giant structure made to look like Hogwarts, the school of wizardry and witchcraft. It took at least 10 minutes to even walk through to get to the start of the ride! During this walk you went through a number of different rooms detailing various areas of the school from the books/movies. The detail was pretty amazing. The ride itself was a motion-based dark ride (basically you are in a set of seats that pivot around while being held above the track by a robotic arm.) Very cool.
We then tried out the Dragon Challenge. This ride had dual rollercoasters that twisted, turned, and looped around each other. The coaster was a lot of fun and so we immediately went on it again. There was some cool theming including the flying car (the actual one from the movies) and the tri-wizard cup. In order to get pictures we actually had an escort guide us through the ride queue and then back out again. Reasoning behind this is that not only can you not bring any cameras on the ride, but nothing at all. You’re not even supposed to have anything in your pockets. They have employees at the front checking and a metal detector further in the queue just to be safe. There are actually a number of the roller coaster rides at Universal that do this. We saw some pretty frustrated people wait in line for a while just to get to the metal detector and get sent back because they had a phone/keys/wallet in their pocket.
Universal does have a good system so that you can store your belongings while on these types of rides. They have lockers just outside of the entrances to these types of rides where all you do is scan a fingerprint and you are assigned a locker. The system gives you a set amount of time for free, based on the queue that the ride currently has. (Usually with some extra time to spare). All in all the system is well done, although there can be some crowds in amongst the lockers / slow finger print reading.
Getting back to the Dragon Challenge ride, it was previously known as the Dueling Dragons. This is because the two rollercoasters would “duel” by meeting at a number of spots during the ride, passing within 18” of each other. Sadly there a number of incidents (involving loose objects), the worst one resulting in a man losing his eye. Universal took action immediately and the roller coasters no longer “dueled”.
The other ride in Hogsmeade was the Flight of the Hippogriff. Another roller coaster but a much tamer one meant for the younger crowd. With minimal crowds we still went on it twice. The corners were still pretty fun.
More “spell casting” and site seeing in Hogsmeade.
It was finally time to take a break from Harry Potter so we headed out and into the other areas of the Islands of Adventure. It was ride time! (Daryl had another butterbeer before leaving though, of course)
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Motion based 3D dark ride. Not bad.
We went to a place called Mythos for lunch. The food was good and the restaurant itself was like stepping into a large cavern with Greek Gods carved into the walls. Very cool place, highly recommend.
Jurassic Park River Adventure – It had just started raining so we figured, why not, might get a little wet. Amy got a little wet; Daryl (on the outside) got very wet. Daryl said he felt like he almost fell out of this ride last time he went on it as a kid. Much tamer this time, didn’t seem as high either.
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – Figured we would do all the wet ones at ones. Sadly part way in line thunder rolled in and the ride was shutdown.
With the rain not letting up and numerous rides shutdown due to the lightening we decided to make our way back to the resort for a break. The break wasn’t exactly relaxing as the resort was currently performing renovations. We swear it was the room above us and they had multiple jack hammers. We did get some money off our bill, so it worked out.
Extremely full from the delicious meal we called it a night and prepped for the final day at Universal.