After months of anticipation, last week we finally got to experience two of Central Florida’s newest attractions: The Pirate River Quest at Legoland Florida and Universal’s Great Movie Escape. Both rely on atmosphere and interactivity to immerse guests in nostalgic intellectual property rather than high-speed thrill rides, and both were created by reviving long-dormant venues. But you might be surprised to find out which adventures I thought were worth the trip and which just took a bite.

pirate river quest, An ambitious new ride at Winter Haven’s Legoland Resort takes guests on a 20-minute tour of the historic Cypress Gardens Canal, infested with a rowdy crew of plastic marauders. Passengers are tasked with retrieving the stolen treasures of Captain Redbeard, who has been cursed by a tribe of mischievous monkeys and banished to the “Sea of ​​Lost Bricks”, including colored gems and giant monsters scattered along the riverbanks. count coins or join similar preschoolers. friendly challenge.

The closest comparison of rides in the Orlando area is the Magic Kingdom’s iconic Jungle Cruise. Both are slow boat rides through minimally animated outdoor scenes, but there are some big differences. First and foremost, LEGOLAND’s boats are completely free-floating, navigating natural bodies of water rather than being guided along man-made river paths. In other words, Pirate River Quest captains let the pre-recorded narration (synchronized with music and simple special effects as they pass by the ship) take care of the spinning and avoid hitting the canal walls. increase.

Morris, my skipper during the media preview, was a tour boat leader at Cypress Gardens in the 1990s. Since taking over the facility over a decade ago, the Legoland horticultural team has always done an excellent job of preserving the vintage botanical exhibits that were Central Florida’s first tourist attraction decades before Disney arrived. But the work they have completed on the canal is truly amazing, restoring eroded waterways and introducing new life-sized creatures and characters (including the giant octopus-like Kraken). , integrating without compromising the natural integrity of the region.

click to enlarge Captain Morris of Pirates River Quest was a tour boat leader at Cypress Gardens in the 1990s. - Photo by Seth Kuvelski

Photo by Seth Kuvelski

Captain Morris of Pirates River Quest was a tour boat leader at Cypress Gardens in the 1990s.

Another key element of Pirate River Cruise is that two of the fleet’s 10 ships are fully ADA accessible, allowing standard wheelchairs (or light power wheelchairs) to board immediately. There are no height restrictions (although life jackets are provided for guests 6 and under). “It’s a true family ride for the whole family,” said Kelly Hornick, Legoland’s head of marketing.

As a lifelong Lego fan, I found Pirate River Quest’s Skalawag landscape to be very appealing. And even a toy-hating adult suffering from his painful PTSD from stepping on plastic bricks will be soothed by the finale his float along the open waters of Lake Eloise, inhabited by waterfowl and waterfowl. Otters can also be seen along the swampy coastline.

Before I make the 80 minute drive from Orlando, my only caveat is that the theoretical capacity of this attraction is less than 250 people per hour as there are only about 12 passengers per boat. That’s it. In short, we recommend arriving at the park opening and making Pirate River Quest your first stop, or preparing your loot for the long wait in the queue.

At Universal Orlando, the creative minds behind theme parks and haunted houses venture into the popular escape room genre, dismantling the CityWalk nightclub formerly known as The Groove, and setting it in the bones of the original Art Deco theater. used as Two of his attractions inspired by his two of the studio’s biggest franchises. Universal’s Great Movie Escape Back to the Future: Outer Time is on the first floor, and Jurassic World: Escape is on the second floor. Each individually ticketed experience can accommodate up to eight guests at a time and consists of eight highly themed rooms where participants must solve various puzzles as they progress through the story. increase.

The sequential multiroom format is just one way Universal deviates from the traditional escape room model. There are no ticking clocks or chances of failure, and all groups progress through the 50-minute game at approximately the same pace. This is because you will not be penalized for failing a challenge, just repeatedly given extra tasks for solving puzzles quickly. There is also no human interaction with the host once you enter the room. All backstories and instructions are pre-recorded, and major characters in the film are referenced but never seen.

I tried the Jurassic World escape game. In this game, participants are cast as geneticist trainees in an ill-fated park. Thanks to sets and props that faithfully recreate the atmosphere of the film, and spot-on sound and lighting effects that provide effective jump scares, the immersive walkthrough was very impressive as his attraction. But as a veteran of dozens of escape rooms, Universal believes in the basic principles of good game design, such as giving clear feedback as the player progresses, communicating the consequences of mistakes, and providing hints that aren’t just repetitive. I was frustrated with not following the first of the unclear instructions. I then found out that my team (consisting of stranger families randomly paired with me) only scored 11 out of 20, but failed and succeeded along the way. There were no signs of anything to do.

Finally, Universal’s escape room was designed with operational efficiency in mind, relying more on touchscreens and video projection than on tactile props that employees might need to manually reset between groups. Unfortunately, this system robs players of the sense of exploration and discovery that is usually the genre’s greatest asset.i’m big BTTFMore Being a geek, I’d return to experience other stories, just for Christopher Lloyd’s narration and references to the extinct simulator. I don’t think you need to revisit Jurassic World unless you do. If you find yourself trying to escape Universal, ignore the desperate instructions. Enjoy it as an expensive, slow-paced haunted house.

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