Outside the park's gates, Hollywood Drive-In Golf at Universal CityWalk opened this spring. It features two 18-hole miniature golf courses, one with a horror movie theme (haunted mansion, cemetery) and one with a sci-fi theme (towering robot, giant space worm). Although it's family oriented, it's open way past kids' bedtime, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost: $13.99 adults, $11.99 children 3 to 9.
Spider-Man, a groundbreaking 3-D ride when Universal's Islands of Adventure opened in 1999, was updated early in the year. The ride track, the cars and the story line remain basically the same. But it has been reanimated with Infitec 3-D projection, 4K high-definition imaging and new audio, and the images updated, making it one of the best rides around. The reanimation added deeper, richer detail, although the scenery changes so quickly that it's hard to pin down the new detail (Universal says you can see the stitching on Spider-Man's glove and people in the windows of buildings if you look closely enough). Everything is a bit more in your face, and flying weapons will make you flinch, if not duck. Even the material used in the 3-D glasses is upgraded. And if you pay attention, you'll spot Spider-Man's co-creator, Stan Lee, in a couple of cameo appearances.
Also new: Universal's water park, Wet 'n Wild, opened Blastaway Beach, with 15 water slides and more than 100 soakers, jets, waterfalls and water cannons last week . And on CityWalk, Blue Man Group has a new show focusing on "the world's obsession with cutting-edge technology."
Coming soon is Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a motion simulator ride with 3-D animation in the space formerly occupied by the Jimmy Neutron ride. Here's the plot line, as described by Mike West, the attraction's executive producer: Gru, the super-villain from the movie, is planning another nefarious deed, but he needs more minions to carry out his plans. When park visitors come into his house, he recruits them to be transformed into minions. He speaks from his control room above them, appearing to be live with the new 3-D animation. "The depth and detail are absolutely amazing," West said.
The guests have to be germ-free before they enter the lab, so the floor vibrates, shaking any germs loose. Then the guests enter the transformation pods and see themselves on a video screen being turned into minions. There's a lot of chaos involving Gru's daughters, an antigravity room, the search for a lost gift, "super silly fun," and a stray rocket that hits a minor ray gun and turns the guests back into humans. The guests join a brief dance party, then exit through a gift shop (which opened weeks ago with all manner of minion souvenirs).
Coming later: an expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No dates or details have been announced.
When Merlin Entertainments purchased the former Cypress Gardens park with plans to turn it into a Legoland theme park, the old Splash Island water park was part of the deal. Merlin set that part of the property aside, however, while it built Legoland. After the main park opened last October, they turned to revamping Splash Island, which had been a fairly recent addition to Cypress Gardens and didn't need as much work.
The water park opened in late May with most of the former components still in place but with a Lego theme. The Joker Soaker is an enormous interactive play area with slides, water jets and cannons, a Lego joker who sits atop a front section of the structure, and a 300-gallon bucket that fills and dumps water on young guests approximately every two minutes. There's a Duplo water play area for the youngest kids, a wave pool, a lazy river with rafts that guests can customize with oversized foam Lego bricks (bonus: popular with parents), and cabanas that can be rented for an extra fee. Leftover from Cypress Gardens are two water slide structures that Legoland kept, even though they push the envelope of Legoland's target age group of 2- to 12-year-olds.
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