Wednesday, 23 January 2013 – The plan for today was to head into Los Angeles to knock over Universal Studios in a few hours, then head to Hollywood Boulevard and take a walk along the Walk of Fame and having a reasonably early night. Oh the best laid plans! I had pre-booked preferred parking at Universal so our aim was to be at Universal Studios around the opening time of 10am but had not taken into account the notorious LA traffic. It was a lovely day for a drive; the Red Baron had satellite radio so we were entertained, there was not much smog around – we actually were able to see the Hollywood sign on the drive! That was a first for me as there had always been too much smog layering the metropolis of LA to be able to see it up in the Hollywood Hills. Eventually we arrived at Universal City, parked and made it into Universal Studios closer to 11am. Crowds were very light as it was mid week and most of California was at work so we just had to dodge the overwhelming number of Australians and jump in and have photos with the many characters from the Universal studios collection.
|Entry into 'Krustyland' for The Simpsons Ride|
The first ride of the day was the Simpsons Ride - a simulator ride and uses computer generated 3D animation and state of the art technology. The ride itself is four and a half minutes long and is based on riding a rollercoaster in the In cartoon theme park Krustyland built by Krusty the Clown. Sideshow Bob, however, is loose from prison to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpson family. And so mayhem, water squirts and discombobulating 3D ensues! Heaps and heaps of fun! We then went to watch the Shrek 4-D show which turns out is exactly the same as the one in MovieWorld on the Gold Coast (could’ve missed that one….)
We decided to head down the 5 sets of escalators to the lower lot known as the Starway. There are 3 thrill rides at this section of the park and we were gonna ride em all at least twice! Easily done as most rides we walked straight through and on and away! Of the big three, The Revenge of the Mummy was up first. This ride is an enclosed steel roller coaster based upon the popular Mummy movie franchise.
|Entry into the Mummy Revenge ride|
Once we had made it through the maze of the queuing area based on Ancient Egypt, we jumped into the buggy, had our seatbeats checked and were promptly launched complete standstill to a top speed of up to 70 kph! The ride featured warrior mummies, treasures and tombs, a scarab beetle attack, forwards and backwards motion and surround sound speakers inside the vehicles. @#$!!! Awesome!!! (Did I mention that you get squirted with a water mist??) As we came out of the ride, we could see up the end of the street a queue to have a photo with Bumblebee from the Transformers. The eternal child that wells up in me when I’m at a themepark squealed with joy as I took off with Justyn behind me to have my photo with Bumblebee. Those that know me that I love, love, LOVE Scooby Doo and love, love, LOVE Transformers (so Universal is the best!!!) The Transformers ride was still being built on our last trip and when everyone caught up with us, we headed into the new Transformers 3D: The Ride. Reported to have cost US$100 million to build, expectations were high! The ride vehicles are modelled after an Autobot named Evac and moves on a track through each show scene and around 360 degrees at different angles. It was like all the action of a Transformers movie was crammed into one five-minute, 3-D package and it was jaw-droppingly amazing. (Surprise surprise your get squirted by water during the ride.) Back out into the sunlight and Bumblee had been replaced by Megatron so back into the photo-queue we went to have our pic taken beating up the evil leader of the Decepticons. While deciding if it was warm enough to ride the Jurassic Park ride, a soft-serve Ben & Jerry’s ice cream jumped into our hands so we milled around with the various characters including tall Eyptians, Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego while we watched the splashzone of the next ride.
|Splashdown! Jurassic Park the Ride|
Most of us decided that we were up for the risk (how wet could we get??). The Jurassic Park ride is a water ride about the Jurassic Park movie adventures. Lasting for about 5 minutes, the ride starts out with a lovely quiet ride through scenes with very life-like dinosaurs of the non-threatening type. The ride starts to get bumpier and yes, you guessed it, wetter. Meaner dinosaurs start appearing and ends with a humongous T-Rex looming down at us before we plunge down 26m into the splashzone. With the exception of dad, we all though we survived without getting wet until near the end when a little dinosaur popped up and squirted me directly in the face! Oh well, it wouldn’t be a Universal ride without a squirt!
We all definitely wanted to ride The Mummy and Transformers again, so after experiencing these again, we headed back up the Skyway to the Upper Lot for lunch, and went our separate ways for a bit. Mum, dad, Justyn and I went to take in the Blues Brothers show and then catch up with the others to finish with the Backlot tour. Unfortunately the Blues Brothers show was cancelled with no reason, but we could see fire engines and areas blocked off so we weren’t sure if there was an issue in the area where they were building a new ride but the Universal people kept on smiling!
|Fire engines on the job - no props!|
Jake and Elwood still made an appearance so we managed to grab some photos with them and went to grab a late lunch. I found out later that a firefighter was hurt in the process of extinguishing a minor blaze in the former Terminator 2 building – starting around 1.15pm, the fire was brought under control in around an hour with no one the wiser!
After lunch, we found everyone and headed down to catch the last Backlot tour of the day – so much for whizzing through Universal in a few hours! The Studio Tour is a 45 minute ride which uses tram vehicles to take you through Universals back-lot. The tour is the signature ride at the theme. After passing the Starway, the tram arrives at the lower lot and passes through the stages where film productions take place. The television show ‘Parenthood’ was filming that day so on various parts of the tour we had to keep quiet until we passed through the various studio sections. The tram then takes the guests to Courthouse Square section and then other buildings in the backlot. Afterwards, the tram enters a tunnel leading to the attraction: King Kong 360 3D.
This is the world's largest 3-D experience. You don 3-D glasses as the tram enters a sound stage dressed as a re-creation of Skull Island. For 2.5 minutes you watch in 3-D glory as all around you (in all your peripheral vision including the ceiling) King Kong and a Tyrannosaurus Rex fight. Another astounding visual effect that needs to be experienced to believe! Travelling through various sets from the Universal films we see the Bates Hotel from Psycho, War of the Worlds after the plane crashed into the street and How The Grinch Stole Christmas are visited in the tour. We also saw 'general purpose' sets, such as the neighbourhood Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, and a neighbourhood that is made to look like an old west town. Apparently this ‘western area’ has six streets, each with the essentials of a saloon and sheriffs station. Before the advent of sound, up to six westerns could be shot at once here! The trams also stops at The Fast and the Furious: Extreme Close-Up show and it then travels to the Flash Flood attraction where we of course got splashed! We were attacked by Bruce the shark from Jaws, and finally the Curse of The Mummy's Tomb which is a spinning tunnel so you feel like you are falling…
|Parting of the seas|
The backlot changes each time you tour it which always makes it a highlight of the visit. By now it was late afternoon and the park was closing at 5pm so it was decided that unfortunately we would give Hollywood Boulevard a miss on this trip. The boys all wanted ride The Simpsons again so while mum and I did some souvenir shopping they hit the ride once more.
|Bruce the shark from Jaws!|
At 5pm, it was time to head back on the Los Angeles freeway and set a course for Anaheim. But with one stop on the way! Peter took the kids directly home, but we wanted to hit the Citadel outlet mall as it was open until 9pm. That gave us a few hours of shopping (well a couple of hours after we limped our way there in the traffic). Shopping bonanza! Mum and dad went one way and we went the other – lucky Red Baron had a big boot to fit all the shopping in (including another bag for us to bring our purchases home in!). We arrived back at W Laster around 9.30pm to a home cooked meal that Peter and Sally had prepared for us – a great way to end the day!