It’s Universal: the other reason to visit Florida

Is it possible for a 50-plus individual with spouse and four children in tow to survive — let alone enjoy – Florida’s Universal Studios, the self-proclaimed number one movie studio and theme park in the world? All hype aside, I grant this is a destination unlike any other with its plethora of rides, shows, animated characters, celebrity look-alikes, dining, shopping and street sets. “Street sets,” you ask? That feature is what saves the day.

One warning: All who enter must suspend reality. The first set you encounter upon entering the grounds is Hollywood, including names such as Rodeo Dr., Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. Take in a replicated Schwab’s Pharmacy complete with soda fountain, counter, and stools. Stroll across the street and see the excellent Terminator 2 show where, with the help of 3-D glasses, Arnie and the gang whisk you through a cyber-war so real it almost hurts. Next, hop on a flying bike with E.T. on his quest to save his dying planet.

Then there’s the World Expo street set, where the very young can enjoy Fievele’s Playground, A Day in the Park with Barney and Animal Actors. For the not-so-faint of heart, there’s the bone-jarring Back to the Futu ride which simulates the action of a high speed aerial chase — through time. Definitely not for those with back problems.

Next up is a quiet little New England town called Amity (ring any warning bells?) where, on a supposedly placid boat ride, you come face-to-face with a 32-foot, three-ton killer shark perhaps better known as Jaws. On to San Francisco where you’re whisked away on a special effects ride simulating the action of a subway train caught in a major earthquake. If that’s not scary enough, then a run-in with King Kong on an aerial tram ride through New York — with Kong panting at your heels — should do the trick.

Throughout the day, you can break up the high tension rides with shows like The Blues Brothers, The Wild Wild West Stunt Show and the very enjoyable Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue featuring the likes of Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein.

At the Hercules & Xena show you join the production crew and get to see how some of the scenes are computer generated. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Art of Making Movies, you view the making of the famous shower scene from Psycho.

Hungry? There are numerous spots to lunch — everything from pizzas to pastas to tacos. Rather more up-scale fare is available for dinner. During our dinner at Lombard’s Landing we were entertained by the very exciting Dynamite Nights Stuntacular, performed on the man-made lagoon, a James Bond-like stunt show enjoyed by all ages.

Parking and access to those with a wheelchair is exceptionally good. The latter are allowed specially designed areas and can enter the rides or shows before the regular lines are admitted (wheelchairs are available for rent on site). As well, there’s a very useful booklet entitled Studio Guide for Guests with Disabilities.

Admission price for a one-day pass is $42.14 U.S. (including tax) for ages 10 and up, and $33.92 U.S. (including tax) for ages three to nine; ages two and under are free.

Would we go back? Absolutely! But to really see everything you might want to take a two-day pass at $63.34 U.S. (including tax) for ages 10 and older and $52.74 U.S. (including tax for those three to nine. This will allow you to take in the older part of the park along with the newer attractions that are constantly opening.

Universal Studios is located in Orlando, Florida near the intersection of Interstate 4 and the Florida turnpike. With all the highway signs, you can’t miss it. Parking is available for over 9,000 vehicles and costs $6 for automobiles, $7 for RVs and trailers