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Day 5 – Universally Speaking / The First Time 2011

Day 5 of The First Time 2011, the first of my Disney Trip Reports, is here! Today we finally get to Universal Studios for the first time!

The First Time 2011 Trip Report Index has the full list of days for the trip. You can also check out my 2011 Pre-Trip Planning Report to find out more about us!

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Day 5: Universal Studios

Mel’s Drive-In, Chick-fil-A

8th August 2011

Guess where we went today? That’s right! Universal Studios!! (finally!)

Universal Studios Tickets 2011

A little later start today at 8:45 am, and we encountered a bit of traffic on the 192 – although nothing compared to the jams we have over here!

Eventually reaching Universal, we parked in Cat in the Hat 360 and made our way to City Walk, this time turning right towards Universal Studios!

Cat in the Hat 360

We walked through City Walk, soaking in our surroundings….

…and caught sight of the iconic Universal globe, we took an obligatory photo of it…

…before making our way through to arch into the theme park. Yay!

We had a bit of trouble with Liam’s fingerprint when going through the ticket machines into the park, but eventually, we were in.

We decided to just go with the flow as we had pretty much the same tactic for Islands of Adventure a couple of days ago.

Liam’s first decision was to have popcorn for breakfast – as a responsible parent, I of course said “yes”. We’re on holiday dammit!

So, purchasing a refillable bucket (which we didn’t actually refill!), he happily munched his way through the popcorn during the day.


Walking down the road towards Shrek 4D, we spotted The Simpsons! Double yay!!

So we joined the queue to have a photo taken with them. We were last in the line before they would be whisked away for a Duff break.

Looking at the map as I typed up this report, I realise how many character meet-and-greet opportunities we actually missed!

Next time, I think I would like to have a map in advance to plan the timings of things, rather than trying to figure it all out during all the excitement of being in the park.

Meeting The Simpsons

After meeting Homer and his family, we joined the 20-minute queue for Shrek 4D.

It didn’t feel like we had to wait for too long before we shuffled into the waiting area to watch the back story, which went on for a little longer than I thought necessary, but the ride (show?) itself was wonderful, so that made up for it.

I love the Shrek movies and this was like watching a whole new film.

If you’re arachnophobic though, it might be one to miss!

Plus-size rider guide: Theatre-style seats that were fine for my chunky butt! (UK size 24/26, with most weight around my middle.)

As we came out, we saw the Mystery Machine drive by with Shaggy and Scooby-Doo – a childhood favourite of both mine and Liam.

We would see them again later, but didn’t get a photo with them (I can’t even remember why now).

We also saw a little caboose go by with the Woodpeckers – Woody and his…um…wife? I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend!

There was also Curious George and a moose whose name escapes me along for the ride too.

Continuing our walk through Universal, we saw that the Horror Make-Up Show was about to start, so we ran into the theatre and sat down.

Plus-size rider guide: Theatre-style seats that were fine for my chunky butt! (UK size 24/26, with most weight around my middle.)

It was a great show and pretty funny too, with audience participation.

The poor woman that was picked, really looked like she DID NOT want to be there! But she was a good sport.

Horror Make Up Show

We exited into a gift shop, that I think is the same gift shop for the T2 ride.

Had a goosey in there before deciding that, because we’d not had breakfast, we were pretty hungry and popped over to Mel’s Drive-In for an early lunch.

It was heaving in the restaurant, but amongst the chaos – and it was chaotic – Liam found a table and bagged it, whilst Steve and I queued, which took f.o.r.e.v.e.r!

The service was really really S-L-O-W, and considering it was a fast food joint, it was painful.

Mel's Drive-In at Universal

I wanted to go in here because I’m throwing a 50s-themed birthday party for my 35th and wanted some inspiration, which I am pleased to say, I got. From the cool cars outside…

…to the layout of the menu…

…and the décor, I definitely got my inspiration!

We all got the Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries. Steve got Chilli Cheese Fries (another tick on the ‘foods to eat in Orlando’ list), Liam had some Onion Rings and I ordered a Vanilla Shake. The total bill was $38.36.

The food wasn’t very hot, which was a shame, as the burgers were actually really good!

But with a huge queue snaking through the diner, we really couldn’t be bothered to take the stuff back.

Liam definitely enjoyed his grub!

Next up was T2 which I had been looking forward to the most at Universal Studios.

Terminator 2 is my favourite film; well, one of them, who can only have one favourite movie?!

We didn’t have to wait too long before grabbing our 3D glasses and going into the holding area for the presentation, which again, I felt was unnecessarily long.

The poor actress wasn’t getting much interaction from the audience either, so she was even more annoying. Super!

Into the theatre (again, I was fine in the seats) and the awesomeness began.

I can’t explain how brilliant I thought this was!

From the live action in front of the screen to the action on the screen and the amazing 3D effects, it was entertaining from start to finish (apart from the annoying pre-show).

T2 did not disappoint! (Sadly, since writing the attraction has now closed completely.)

We exited the ride into the rain, but we just carried on whilst everyone else ducked for cover!

Walking through Hollywood and into World Expo, we only stopped to take some photographs…

…then made our way to The Simpsons Ride…and a 45-minute wait – the longest I think we’ve encountered so far!

The queue was hot and seemed to take forever…clips from The Simpsons were showing on the TVs dotted around the lines and helped to pass the time, and the ride really was worth the wait.

It was wicked! We love, love, LOVED it!

I did have to shut my eyes a few times due to the fact that I get motion sickness on simulator-type rides (after that, I learned to chomp down on a travel sickness pill before going into theme parks which really helped!).

For a simulator ride, it was brilliant, and I highly recommend this ride.

If the line wasn’t so damn long we would have gone on again (and again), but then, I may well have vommed!!

Plus-size rider guide: a shared lap bar across the whole bench (it was just the three of us in our row), which was fine for me (UK size 24/26, with most of my weight around my middle), and my slim boys were going nowhere, so no worries.

Into the Kwik-E-Mart next for a peruse and purchase of Simpsons-related goods and then onward…

…but first, let me flash back to yesterday when I thought it was a good idea to wear flip-flops.

I don’t often wear flip-flops and I probably won’t be wearing flip-flops again through the whole holiday.

Why? Because I managed to get a huge blister between my toes on my right foot…owwie! (Don’t worry, I’ve not taken that photograph!) and it was starting to give me some gip. I hate flip-flops!

I was wearing Crocs today (and always wore around the parks), so it wasn’t those that were hurting, just this horrid blister.

Steve suggested trying to find a First Aid Station, which, after looking at the map, was nowhere near where we were.

So I said “let’s just go on the rides in between here and there and we’ll find it when we find it” – aren’t I a brave little soldier?!

We saw that the Men In Black Ride was a 45-minute wait and didn’t fancy queuing for so long again after the long line at The Simpsons Ride, so we decided to walk (well, I hobbled) towards Amity for the Jaws Ride. That was a boring, hot queue, but it moved steadily towards the boats.

The ride was a trip around the lake with a very animated boat driver, and you couldn’t help but jump as Jaws charged at the boat. Liam loved it!

Steve and I thought it was a bit ‘meh’. But it’s a classic ride, isn’t it? So it had to be done!

No restrictions here for us plus-size riders. A long bench, spread your butt as much as you need to!!

I’m glad we did this ride because, as of 2012 it is closed permanently.

Back to Men In Black where the queue was still horrendously long.

I was quite happy to give this ride a miss, but Liam really want to go on it.

So after depositing the backpack into one of the lockers nearby, we joined the queue.

And what a long, boring queue this was…it was in three stages: outside, in a holding room, and then inside the facility.

I got all excited at one point when they re-routed the line, thinking we were soon to be at the front, but no.

I was excited again when we went into the holding room thinking we’d be on the ride next, but no. So yeah, a long queue!

By the time we got into our vehicle, I was ready to shoot some alien butt for making me wait so long!

Plus-size rider guide: Three people to a row with individual lap bars. No problem for me (UK size 24/26, with most weight around my middle).

So, off we went, shooting at the aliens. I bounded into the lead, but out of nowhere, Steve whipped both mine and Liam’s scores.

I tried to remember something about pressing a red button at some point but forgot.

It was a long wait for a not-overly-impressive ride – I’ve been on better shoot-em-up rides before. But Liam loved the ride, and to me, that’s the important thing.

Sending the boys off to collect the stuff from the locker, I sat down to survey my war wound.

We then all had a drink and a quick squirt of sun cream, before making our way around to Disaster.

We joined a non-moving queue that said 45 minutes on the clock, and I guess, with them having to re-set the ride, this is what gives it a long wait.

A bit of a shuffle along, but we didn’t make it to the next ride, so had to wait again…

People sat down on the concrete floor, some were playing cards, and others playing the harmonica. I think I even saw someone set up camp, the wait was so long. But eventually, we were let in – hallelujah!

Into a holding area where we were given some spiel about making a disaster movie.

Volunteers from the crowd were picked to be actors in the movie and we walked through into another area where we were treated to a hologram of the director (played by Christopher Walken) which was very clever and my favourite bit of the ride.

Next, we walked into a studio where we sat down on benches to watch the “actors” do their takes for the movie before the timer buzzed to tell us we needed to go and film the action.

Sitting on the subway train (no restraints, just benches), we were told to play the role of people caught in a disaster movie and to ham it up and react to e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

Being a drama school kid, I hammed it up to the max, and that was the most entertaining for me sadly, as the ride itself was a bit of an anti-climax.

Maybe it just looks better when I’ve seen it on TV or something.

They then combined everything into a movie which they played back to us on the screens, and admittedly it was pretty funny.

I even spotted us being complete twonks on the screen!

Sadly, we missed Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue, and I’m gutted that we did. We also missed The Blues Brothers (better planning next time)

Up next in our journey around Universal was The Revenge of the Mummy Ride.

Stopping first at a first-aid station for a bandaid and some antiseptic cream.

Whilst I meeped at the pain (I’m such a wimp!), I spotted a snow cone cart and like a little kid, I was all “I wanna snow cone, I wanna snow coooone!” (it’s on the list of foods yadda yadda).

So one cherry snow cone was bought for me and a blue one for Liam. Steve didn’t want one. We parked ourselves on a bench and gave ourselves a brain freeze!

So, The Mummy Ride. It was just a five-minute wait, see we jammed the backpack into a locker and we made our way through the line.

Liam wasn’t sure, but I told him to just close his eyes and hold on tight (I am wicked!).

I sat in, and much to my horror, the bar wouldn’t click far enough to be safe…no matter how much I sucked it in.

I could say I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t. I was just absolutely gutted. I thought I would be fine with this ride, but it wasn’t to be.

Liam however, breathed a sigh of relief as it meant he didn’t have to ride.

We sat in a waiting room for Steve to journey through ancient Egypt. When we caught up with him, he said “it was a really good ride, and you would have loved it!” (cue a death stare from me!) “but Liam would probably have been petrified!!”

I really hope this one is still there in 2013 when we go back because I WILL go on it!

Another exit into a gift shop, before grabbing our stuff from the locker and walking to Twister.

A small queue into the holding area for a, to be quite frank, boring presentation from Bill Paxman and Helen Hunt (who star in the movie that this ride is based on, in case you didn’t know), before going through into another area…snooze…sorry, but I want some action, not actors on a small screen talking to me.

Finally, we got into the ride area itself, which was pretty impressive, and whilst you probably don’t come anywhere close to experiencing what a real twister is like the thought of it as you feel the wind, hear the sounds and see the twister, is frightening!

Having done pretty much everything we wanted to do, we started to make our way to the exit. The sky was starting to look a bit suspect so we walked quite briskly!

We saw Rip-Ride-Rockit on the way out. I knew it would probably be pointless to queue for it, so we missed it on this occasion.