Growing up in Southern California, one of my favorite things to do was go to Universal Studios and ride the Jurassic Park ride. Long before my mother felt comfortable letting me watch the film, I was staring wide-eyed with wonder at the gigantic animatronic dinosaurs and screaming in terror while we were being chased by raptors and a giant T-rex descending from the ceiling. However, over the years, the ride had not aged well. No one could deny that the ride needed some TLC. There were elements of the ride that no longer worked like the jeep that fell off the cliff. There was animatronics that operated in a janky fashion while years of being in the sun had stripped away their paint. That’s why when I had heard that Universal was upgrading the ride to reflect their successful JURASSIC WORLD franchise, I was excited to see what changes would be made. And, overall, it did not disappoint.
Imagine my giddy excitement when I got to go on the new JURASSIC WORLD: THE RIDE. The queue of the ride got a much-needed update and, for many who will be waiting in line, there’s plenty to distract you while you wait. There are brand new information videos featuring Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong). Also, throughout the length of the queue, there are informational poster boards that give detailed breakdowns of individual dinosaur species that populate the world of JURASSIC WORLD. For any dino nerd, these posters will be enough to keep you occupied and may help bring forth some whimsical fangasms as you digest knowledge in line.
One of the first things you encounter on the ride while you’re in the boat is a brand new “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” display, which replaces the once heavily foliaged tunnel that the old ride had. As the gates open, you are then taken into a large aquarium that has been given the Universal Studios’ touch by making it virtual. It’s not long before you see the large and in charge Mosasaurus chomp down on a Great White Shark. The Mosasaurus’s natural movements throughout the aquarium provide a much-needed splash factor for guests. If you aren’t a fan of getting wet, I highly recommend getting a poncho because I got drenched during this portion.
As you move past the Mosasaurus’ home, you are then reintroduced to a section that features the original ride’s animatronics that have been given a much-needed paint upgrade. It was a nice surprise being able to see these cutie pies given some more love and it helped make this fan connect more via nostalgia as we went through the ride.
Then comes the part where the big bad ol’ dinosaur is on the loose. The Indominus Rex has broken out and now you have to be evacuated to safety. As you go up the familiar ramp, gone is the darkness and the much-needed tension to get guests concerned about whether or not they are going to make it out alive. Instead, you have Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady giving a talk about keeping your hands inside the vehicle for safety. I get why this happened because this is generally a time when guests would try to engage in some shenanigans, but seeing Pratt kind of took away from the tension. Whereas, in the previous ride, the guests were kind of left to seemingly fend for themselves, Grady’s inclusion sort of helped put guests at ease in a way.
In the final segment of the ride, the boat is deposited in what used to be a freshly abandoned control center. However, in the revamped ride, this area is tropical and full of dinosaurs on the defense. As you round the corner, you can see the Indominus Rex poke its head out and looking all cute. But that’s about it. There’s no real terror factor there, which is kind of a letdown. However, you do have a T-Rex that pops out right before you descend down the drop. My note on the one time I rode the ride was that the timing of the T-Rex seemed off when we were about to descend. If the intention was to make us feel like we were about to be in the middle of an epic fight between the two dinosaurs, the T-Rex needs to swing up seconds before we dropped. It took 30 and you could feel the awkwardness as it hovered there before we dropped.
My favorite part of the evening happened right after we got off the ride. One of the things that I had been looking forward to was being able to interact with the brand new dinosaurs that Universal had added to their dino encounters. While I didn’t get the chance to snuggle up to Juliet, the gentle giant of a Triceratops, I did get the opportunity to play with the newly revamped Blue and the baby raptor, Tango. I am grateful to the handlers that were assigned to Blue and Tango because they gave me the opportunity to be silly and practice my raptor speak. As a child, I had always wanted to play with dinosaurs and this really served as a wish fulfillment moment for me and I’m glad that the handlers just rolled with my silliness.
Overall, I thought the majority of the newly revamped JURASSIC WORLD: THE RIDE was great, but lacked some of the magic and tension that the original had possessed. However, with the inclusion of the new re-vamped Jurassic Café outside of the ride where you can get delicious Central American influenced food, and with the new additions to the dinosaur encounters outside of the ride, there is plenty to keep guests fully immersed within the realm of the JURASSIC.
With so much to see and do at Universal Studios Hollywood, the all-new 2019 Season Pass invites guests to experience the fun throughout the year for $149 when purchased online. Blackout dates and restrictions apply. Visit www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.