Universal Studios – Orlando, Florida

“Kenan and Kel was recorded infront of a live audience at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, at Universal Studios, Florida.”

I always knew this was a place I wanted to go. I knew someday I would. Someday when I’m an adult and I have a job and I save enough money. Someday when I’m with someone who wants to share that experience. Someday I’ll plan the holiday of my dreams.

Someday was last November. Its gone now, long gone, all that excitiement behind me. I did it. I got to Florida, I got to America. Okay, so Nickelodeon Studios was not open for visiting and Kenan and Kel haven’t been heard of since that death rumour hit Facebook (I can’t even remember which one they were speculating over) but the experience of Universal Studios was all I wanted. Yeah, there is Disney (AND IT WAS AWESOME) but when we planned this trip all we wanted to see was Universal.

First day in Florida this had to be our destination. Our holiday rep at the hotel met with us in the morning to explain how to see these places but we’d already figured it out the night before and as soon as that meeting was over we were on the shuttle bus to dreamworld.

Just looking at this photo brings back that hopefull optimism of a paradise yet to come;

and it did not disapoint.

James and I were there for the rides, no doubt about it, but the experience in general was electric. It felt like we turned up at a movie set, or a street where all the actors hang out. There were costumes, straight off we saw Shaggy and Scooby with the Mystrey Machine. There were fake shops and fake traffic signs and palms trees lining the streets. What I love about a theme park completely new to us is the thrill of just wandering and seeing what we come across.

Our first ride was E.T, but before we loaded we got an extra special treat – NO QUEUES! Perfect timing by us. Mid-late November is the best time to head out to Orlando. We hot-footed it through the queue line happy in the knowledge that this would not be a wasted trip. We were ushered straight onto our bikes and we rode in the front seats as if we were in the film itself. We are all about the monster rides but this was like being dropped into the story. I’d been on nothing like it.

This experience was followed by many similar ones. Men in Black, The Mummy, Shrek, Jaws. We sat through the Terminator stage show/film but were slightly gutted about the quality of the writing. But the shop was great. James couldn’t take his eyes of the Terminator Robot in the centre and was contemplating the option of spending thousands to purchase it. (In another lifetime, maybe.)

We stopped off at a small 50s style diner for lunch. We both loved it enough to go back on our second trip. (Yep, that’s right, we went to Universal Studios TWICE.)

One of the ride highlights was The Simpsons simulator. The no queue deal actually destroyed the story on this ride. The queue lines show clips of The Simpsons mixed with new scenes that tell the story leading up to the simulator. It really is worth stopping to watch these. Before you’re seated you stand in the room to watch the last part of the story which only made a little sense. But after going back and re-watching the queue line footage its rather entertaining. The ride itself is unreal. I was never a fan of simulators until I landing in the Simpsons ride car. It took a few turns round the realise there were other cars lifted up and looking at the same screen we were. But the entire projection matches the car’s movements and it is quite realistic. It even gives a few smells to add to the experience (although the smell of Maggie’s mouth did revolt me on the last few trips round).

The other stand-out ride was Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. You select the soundtrack for your ride. Not sure if there is something for everyone but it was nice to have a selection. I found listening to Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It” really improved the experience and I’m not even much of a Peas’ fan. Best moment on queuing for this ride (yeah, sometimes we did queue a little) was standing at the top of the stairs with still a queue that strecthed to the end of the platform and back. The guy showing people onto the ride was hollaring for a pair of riders to come forward to fill the seats. “We’re a two.” James said. The ride guy shrugged, opened a chain link and let us on. Great. Even better when it turned out that ride didn’t need a two and we got the front seats on the next one. Booya!

James was gutted about missing out of the Back to the Future ride that had been replaced by The Simpsons recently. We spent some of the day searching for the Delorian and Train from the films. By the end of our first day we stumbled upon it and started out photo session. On our next trip who did we bump into but the one and only Doc Brown! (The fake, dressed up as Doc Brown one I mean). James had a chat with him and tried to trick him out, but the actor was clever and started telling us about his travels all through time. Miss you Doc!

We met the Simpsons too, but only by chance. The problem with a lot of the big ‘Stars’ is that they have massive queues for a meet and greet. We were walking along and a queue formed around us so we stayed. Was a laugh though and the actors stayed in character. Bart grabbed the Bart doll I had won on a sideshow game and started holding it like a trophey, then Homer grabbed it to strangle.

We also saw Marilyn Monroe standing outside a shop with a ‘bodyguard’. Well I saw her, when we got round the corner and mentioned this to James he was completely confused and thought it was just a random girl hanging about.

As a young couple this destination was so ideal. All the rides were relevant to us and they did a fantastic job of building the atmosphere before you even get on the ride. Something I’ve noticed Thorpe Park and Alton Towers have started to work on. The shows were a great break from rides as well. Plus we got to enter the Kwik-E-Mart! But last words – a dream come true.

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