Central Florida’s two newest attractions both rely on atmosphere and interactivity, and both revive long-dormant venues | Arts Stories + Interviews | Orlando

Soon after months of anticipation, last 7 days I eventually received to experience Central Florida’s two newest points of interest: Legoland Florida’s Pirate River Quest and Universal’s Great Motion picture Escape. Relatively than superior-speed thrill rides, both of those of these choices count on environment and interactivity to immerse friends in nostalgic intellectual attributes, and both of those have been designed by reviving extended-dormant venues. But you may perhaps be stunned to master which adventure I thought was really worth the journey, and which 1 simply just bites.

Pirate River Quest, the formidable new trip at Winter Haven’s Legoland Resort, will take visitors on a 20-minute tour of the historic Cypress Gardens canals, which have grow to be infested by a rowdy crew of plastic pillagers. Passengers are tasked with recovering
the stolen treasure of Captain Redbeard, who has been cursed by a tribe of mischievous monkeys and banished to the “sea of misplaced bricks,” by counting colored gems and big coins that litter the riverbanks and participating in similar preschooler-welcoming worries.

The ride’s closest comparison in the Orlando space is the Magic Kingdom’s legendary Jungle Cruise, because the two are sluggish-relocating boat rides past minimally animated outdoor scenes, but there are a couple of important distinctions. Very first and foremost, Legoland’s boats are fully no cost-floating and navigate a natural system of h2o, in its place of being guided on a observe along an artificial river. That signifies the Pirate River Quest captains leave the spieling to the prerecorded narration (which synchronizes with audio and straightforward special effects as you sail by) and target on not bumping into the canal partitions, which continue to happens on celebration.

Morris, my skipper in the course of the media preview, experienced been a tour boat direct at Cypress Gardens all through the 1990s, and stated, “I’m so happy that we have carried out this, I was worried the canals ended up just heading to go to pot.” Since having over the property a lot more than a ten years ago, Legoland’s horticultural workforce have often carried out an admirable occupation of preserving the classic botanical displays, which have been Central Florida’s initial tourist attraction decades ahead of Disney’s arrival. But the work they have now concluded on the canals is actually impressive, restoring the eroded waterways and integrating new everyday living-sized creatures and characters — which includes an massive octopus-like Kraken — without the need of ruining the area’s purely natural integrity.

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photo by Seth Kubersky

Pirate River Quest skipper Morris was a tour boat lead at Cypress Gardens throughout the 1990s.

Yet another critical factor of Pirate River Cruise is that two of the fleet’s 10 vessels are totally ADA-available, permitting a standard wheelchair (or lighter electric powered just one) to roll proper aboard. You can find also no peak restriction (though existence vests are delivered for company age 6 and beneath) generating it, as Legoland’s internet marketing head Kelly Hornick claims, “a genuine household helpful journey that every single one member of the household can journey.”

As a lifelong LEGO supporter, I uncovered Pirate River Quest’s scalawag surroundings totally charming, and even toy-hating older people who are suffering PTSD from stepping on agonizing plastic bricks will be soothed by the finale float along the open waters of Lake Eloise, where waterfowl and even river otters can be noticed along the marshy shoreline.

My only caveat, just before you make the 80-odd-minute generate from Orlando, is that with only about a dozen passengers for every boat, the attraction’s theoretical carrying capacity is underneath 250 guests for each hour. That means you would much better both get there at park opening and make Pirate River Quest your to start with vacation spot, or prepare your booty for a very long wait around in the queue.

Around at Common Orlando, the innovative minds powering their theme parks and haunted residences have attempted their hand at the well-liked escape room genre, gutting the CityWalk nightclub as soon as known as the Groove and utilizing the bones of its primary Artwork Deco theater as the setting for a pair of sights inspired by two of the studio’s most important franchises. Universal’s Good Movie Escape characteristics Back again to the Long run: Outatime on the 1st flooring, and Jurassic World: Escape upstairs. Just about every individually ticketed practical experience accommodates up to 8 visitors at a time, and is made up of eight highly themed rooms in which members have to address a variety of puzzles though advancing by means of the tale.

The sequential multi-home format is just one way that Universal’s take deviates from the common escape area model. You can find no ticking clock or probability of failing, and each and every team will progress by way of the 50-moment match at around the similar speed. Which is simply because you will find no punishment for failing any of the challenges, and solving puzzles promptly is only rewarded with repetitive supplemental tasks. There is certainly also no human conversation with your hosts once you enter the rooms all backstory and guidance are pre-recorded, with the movies’ main people referenced but never ever viewed.

I tried out the Jurassic Environment escape game, which casts participants as trainee geneticists at the unwell-fated park. I was really impressed with it as an immersive stroll-through attraction, many thanks to sets and props that authentically re-generate the cinematic environment, as very well as place-on audio and lighting outcomes which supplied a handful of productive leap-scares. But as a veteran of dozens of escape rooms, I emerged pissed off with Universal’s failure to observe fundamental principles of fantastic activity style and design, this sort of as giving apparent responses when a player would make development, speaking penalties for faults, or offering hints that usually are not basically repetitions of the first unclear directions. I found afterward that my group (consisting of myself and a household of strangers I was randomly paired with) only scored an 11 out of 20, but there was under no circumstances any sign along the way of exactly where we ended up failing or succeeding.

At last, Universal’s escape rooms are built for operational efficiency, relying on touchscreens and video projections about tactile props that could possibly have to have an employee to manually reset in between teams. Regrettably, this system robs players of going through any sense of exploration and discovery, which is ordinarily the genre’s greatest asset. I’m a major BTTF nerd, so I will return to practical experience the other tale simply for its Christopher Lloyd voice-over and references to the extinct simulator. But at $50-$60 per human being, I you should not truly feel the need to revisit Jurassic Environment except they wholly rethink quite a few of the puzzles. If you obtain your self escaping from Universal, truly feel cost-free to disregard the frantic directions just test to love it as an high-priced, sluggish-paced haunted household.

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