This year, Universal Studios has unleashed the power of the Transformers and added a Springfield touch to its Orlando theme park. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to experience their newest ride, Transformers 3D, as well as check out the newly-expanded Simpsons area. After checking out Transformers, my husband and I gave a Flaming Moe a try, chowed down on Chicken and Waffle sandwiches, and had Krusty Burgers. Afterwards, we hit up Despicable Me and the Curious George playground to let our son get soaked and let us relax after filling our stomachs with theme park cuisine.
The newest attraction at Universal Studios is Transformers The Ride 3D. When we first approached the N.E.S.T facility, we were greeted by a massive statue of Optimus Prime. Some guests have taken photos of themselves mimicking Optimus Prime’s pose in, what Universal calls, Optimus #Priming! If you have little kids, this is a fun picture to take before you enter the ride.
Once inside, we were greeted by “military personnel” who directed us into the Express Pass queue line. The Express Pass is Universal’s quick entry system that allows guests to wait in a shorter line to marquee attractions. Each pass allows you entrance into the Express Pass line once per attraction and can cut your wait down considerably during peak seasons. The Express Pass line is a lot less interesting to go through, however, so if you’re interested in the details and replica props–including the AllSpark and the Decepticon Grimlock’s tail scattered throughout the building–stick with the main queue line (this is best done as soon as you enter the park, so no dilly-dallying).
Admittedly, I didn’t ride Transformers The Ride 3D; I have a hard time riding Spider-Man over at Islands of Adventure and I was told Transformers has a lot of similarities to it. Instead of getting my own first hand account, I enlisted the help of my thrill-junkie husband and 7-year-old thrill-junkie-in-training son to ride it for me and give me their input. Once we got to the loading zone, I was shown the door into the child swap area and I watched my family jump into their Transformer escort, EVAC.
EVAC is the newest Transformer to roll-out with the Autobots and even though his only purpose is to be essentially the ride vehicle, he’s still a pretty cool Transformer.
A few minutes later, they met me at the child swap area and it was evident they’d had fun. My son had no problem letting out a loud scream of approval while we were walking out the exit so everyone around would know he enjoyed himself.
Once we were outside, my husband told me all about the ride.
“Visually, it’s stunning, especially the level of detail they went into. I know it has three separate floors, but I couldn’t tell we were moving from one floor to the next. Something that was really cool was at the end of the ride when you are going back to the loading zone, if you turn around, you can see Optimus Prime watching to make sure you get through safely.”
When I asked him what he thought the thrill level was on a scale of one (kiddy ride) to five (extreme), he said it felt like Transformers was about a three, because at times it really feels like you’re going fast down the track, when in reality it’s just the special effects messing with your head.
Be warned! Once you exit the ride, you will find yourself inside a tight-fitting gift shop. If you’re interested in t-shirts with the Transformers and Universal logo on them ($25 and up), this is the place to be. Little kids and big kids will find the selection of Transformers impressive—but almost all of the models can be found outside the park. The only Transformer you will not find outside of the park gates is EVAC.
Now, do you really think Universal would have created a new Transformer without making a toy version to sell in the gift shop? Of course not and my husband couldn’t resist picking up his own EVAC ($24.99) to take home and transform. My husband told me he usually pays around $12 to $15 per Transformer, so EVAC’s $24.99 price tag is a little steep. On the upside, my husband wasn’t disappointed in EVAC’s design, so he’s happy with his purchase.
When you’re done at the ride, head over to the Transformers Meet and Greet area to catch up with either Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, or Megatron. If you don’t see them in robot mode, they might be out in vehicle mode. Universal’s goal is to have at least one Transformer out at all times and they rotate on a set schedule, so my recommendation is if you want to see all three, stick around for the full rotation and get it done. The lines can get pretty long and the Transformers’ handlers are happy to tell you when to jump back in line for the next Transformer coming out. Professional photography is available, but it’s pricey—costing up to $50 for a photo package, so make sure you have your own camera handy and feel free to hand it to a N.E.S.T operative so they can take the picture for you.
After riding the Transformers, I was a little on the hungry side, so my family headed over to Moe’s Tavern and food court in the Simpsons area. While there, I noticed a sign on the wall that said “One Drink Per I.D.” I wasn’t sure how they monitored customers but the bartender explained to me that,
“The one drink per ID means one drink at a time. This is still a family park and we don’t want people walking around with more than one alcoholic drink at a time. If security sees someone walking around with more than one alcoholic drink, they will either ask that one of the drinks are thrown away or both are thrown away.”
This made me feel a little better about Universal selling alcohol all over their parks, rather than in just one area (like at the Magic Kingdom).
Moe’s Tavern’s signature beverage is the Flaming Moe, an orange soda drink with a dry ice touch and an expensive price tag ($7.99 per glass). This is a neat drink to try once, but after that, you may find Butterbeer satisfies your thirst a little better (and for the cost of one Flaming Moe, you can get two 16-ounce Butterbeers).
Located in the same area as Moe’s is the newly remodeled Simpsons food court, which includes restaurants such as:
- The Krusty Burger – featuring the heavy-on-the-cheese-sauce Krusty Burger.
- Cletus’s Chicken Shack – home to the Chicken and Waffle sandwich.
- The Frying Dutchman – specializing in fried fish.
- Lisa’s Teahouse of Terror – specializing in salads.
- Luigi’s – which specializes in pizza.
Lisa’s Teahouse of Terror is basically a refrigerator with pre-made salads, wraps, and sandwiches (entrees start at $6.99). This is the best option for healthy meals, so if that’s important to you, make sure you are in this area of the park around lunch time. Luigi’s also has a vegetarian pizza.
Even though it’s a food court, you still have to enter a line to get to the food locations, so I would eat lunch a little early, say around 11 A.M—certainly no later than 11:30 A.M, to beat the crowds.
The “Taco Truck” outside of the food court is also a great place to eat and has some of the tastiest steak tacos I’ve ever eaten (cost is around $8.99 for two tacos with guacamole, salsa, and chips). For picky eaters, this is a nice option because you can customize your taco with flour or corn soft shells, meat, and toppings.
We spent $40 for three entrees and two drinks for lunch. Included in that total is one Krusty Burger, one Chicken Waffle sandwich, one cheese pizza, one large soda, one Flaming Moe, and two cupcakes.
Moe’s isn’t the only location in Universal that sells alcohol. Many of the cart vendors spread throughout the park offer adult beverages for purchase–as do the restaurants–so no worries if you get away from Moe’s and suddenly have the urge for a cold brewski. For those interested in Duff Beer, I’ve been told the brew in the Simpsons area is unique and created locally.
Journeying to another area of the park, I went on one of my favorite Universal rides…
Despicable Me is the most kid-friendly simulator I’ve ever been on. I’ll go ahead and warn you the line goes really slow, because they can only load so many guests into the building at a time. Once you’re inside, it goes by a bit quicker and you have Gru and the girls to keep you entertained.
After you pick up your 3D glasses, Gru walks you through the process of becoming one of his minions. Unexpectedly, your training gets handed over to the girls and they take you on a ride through the minion lab and eventually you help save the day. As you exit the ride, the minions are there to great you with a dance party as you exit the ride. The downside is they’re only around for about five-minutes each time and only while the ride is exiting (in theme parks this is known as a “show-dump”).
Not everything worth checking out at Universal Studios is complete. Half of the fun can sometimes be in watching the progress of a new attraction take place.
It’s no secret that Universal is expanding the Harry Potter area in Universal Studios, and while not much is known about this area, it has been confirmed that Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and Gringotts Bank will be featured areas. I’ve heard plenty of rumors about what Gringotts Bank is supposed to be, but one thing is for sure: This is going to be a family-friendly marquee attraction.
Universal isn’t just for the big kids. For families traveling with little ones, make time to take them to Barney (hear me out here) for the indoor playground area, so you can get some air conditioning and they can run off some energy. Curious George is also a great play area, but be warned…you will not come out dry!
If you get a chance to head out to Universal Studios, make sure you hit up Transformers, Despicable Me, and have lunch with the Simpsons. My advice is to arrive before the park opens so you can hop on Despicable Me first and then go straight to Transformers when you’re done. Both rides can have over a 90-minute wait on a good day, so hit them first and get them out of the way.
Tickets start at $92 for adults and $86 for children for a one day one park ticket. Make sure you visit Universal Orlando’s website for the most current ticket prices. If you plan on coming down this year, my advice is to arrive just after Thanksgiving to avoid the Christmas peak season.
GeekMom received tickets to visit these attractions.