Wednesday, July 19, 2000: Today I went to Universal's Islands Of Adventure theme park with Gen.
This is the first time I've gone to a non-Disney theme park (other than Great America, which isn't as great as its name implies). So I couldn't help but compare it to Disney. The word 'Disney' conjures up images of movies, of classic theme park rides, of TV shows; the word 'Universal' conjures up ... not a heck of a lot. So therefore the Universal park is free to draw its ideas from a wider range of places, but it needs to work harder to capture the imagination of its visitors.
The most obvious difference I noticed between Islands Of Adventure and the Disney parks was that IOA has more thrill rides. It wasn't long before I noticed something else, too: some areas of IOA are lavish productions with obviously a lot of money spent on them, while other areas are a mess, with the queue areas graffitied and vandalized by park guests. It's a study in extremes.
Many parts of IOA felt like a direct ripoff of Disney, which I suppose is only fair, since the Disney/MGM Studios park was created as a ripoff of Universal's idea to build their original theme park (Universal Studios) here. The similarities begin with "CityWalk," a group of stores outside the park which are a clone of Downtown Disney, except that these stores are spaced out further, and they're not as mainstream as the Disney stores. Also, it costs $7 to park in the garage to get to CityWalk.
The only interesting store I saw there was 'The Endangered Species Store,' selling animal-related stuff.
The entrance to Islands Of Adventure has the same sort of 'curtain' that the Magic Kingdom has, an archway you walk under to mark your entry into the park.
The park is designed as a circle of connected 'lands' around a central lake. We went counter-clockwise around this, and hit the Dr. Seuss land first.
We had lunch in a restaurant shaped like a circus tent (they actually sell alcohol there!), and then we rode the Cat In The Hat ride, which is very similar in mood to the new Pooh ride at the Magic Kingdom. I actually think this might be better than the Pooh ride, because it swung the car around a bit more wildly, and the scenery in the ride was cleverly done.