“Hold on to your butts.”
Fans of “Jurassic Park” know that when you hear those words, chaos is about to break loose.
This prehistoric monster is 14 stories tall and reaches speeds of 70 mph. If you’re brave enough, you can ride it.
We’re not talking about a dinosaur. This terrifying behemoth is the VelociCoaster, the newest attraction at Jurassic World at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.
The highly-anticipated extreme roller coaster reaches dizzying speeds and nearly vertical drops. It is not for the faint of heart.
Inspired by the “Jurassic World” films with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, this epic ride will launch thrill-seekers 155 feet in the air into an 80-degree drop, propel them up to 70 mph and twist them into an intense barrel roll right above the Islands of Adventure lagoon.
As if that isn’t enough, the fear factor is boosted by the fierce pursuit of the films’ velociraptor pack: Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo.
The combination of immersive storytelling and a high-speed roller-coaster was key in the ride’s design, according to show producer Shelby Honea.
“We wanted to make sure that the team was really united around three core things. First, we always knew this is going to be a thrill ride, and we were going to elevate the thrill wherever we could.
“And then making sure that the environment was protected but also elevated: There’s this beautiful paddock full of rock waterfalls and tall grasses like you see in the films, and that’s elevating the thrill as well,” said Honea. “And the third thing that is very important is the Jurassic. The teeth, the dinosaurs; it is not a Jurassic attraction unless you’re coming face to face with dinosaurs.”
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I was invited to test-ride the VelociCoaster as part of a recent media event, and I brought my 18-year-old son. I should note that I am not an extreme roller coaster kind of lady.
Touted as Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster, the experience immerses guests in “Jurassic World” from the start.
The queue winds visitors through a research facility where we see appearances from the original cast from the movies. Pratt, Howard and BD Wong reprise their roles as Owen Grady, Claire Dearing and Dr. Henry Wu to set the scene for the high-speed chase.
As we reached the front of the line, I knew I was in trouble.
The ride vehicles have been specially designed to intensify the experience. Nothing but a lap bar holds you in place. The floor is just out of reach, so unless you are very tall, you cannot brace with your feet.
Just my luck, we ended up in the front seat. Let that sink in for a moment. The front seat. There was nothing in front of me but a lap bar and empty air.
My fear must have shown on my face, because my son laughed, “Don’t worry, Mom, the front is the best!”
My inner voice started screaming, “Nope, nope, noooooooo…” But it was too late. The ride started and we lurched out of the gate, accelerating and twisting into an immediate steep drop.
My inner scream became an audible scream of terror, probably loud enough to be heard all over the park.
The merciless ride accelerated to 70 mph in 2.4 seconds. I shrieked full-voice as we spun into a barrel roll right above the lagoon, followed by a zero-gravity inverted stall that flew us upside-down across 100 feet of track. We were literally lifted from our seats, upside-down, hurtling through space. (Don’t believe me? Watch the video above.)
Next to me, my son was laughing. Laughing! And screaming, “YEEESS!”
I knew the biggest drop was yet to come. We entered a tunnel, and I expected a slow ascent leading to the drop — but nope. The ride accelerated even faster, shooting us up a twisting track to a height of 155 feet, cruelly pausing ever-so-slightly at the crest to make sure we had a good view of the ground far, far below.
Then we plunged. Face-first. So. Fast. My brain couldn’t even process what was happening. My scream stuck in my throat as the earth rushed forward, but I’m sure it was piercing as we flew straight onto another inverted section of track.
For me, the ride was sheer terror. It was a three-minute-long, heart-pounding, adrenaline-soaked horror show, the kind you never forget as long as you live.
My son absolutely loved it, although his hair was standing straight up at the end of the ride. “That was awesome!” he laughed. “I’m going to do it again!”
I could barely walk straight, let alone articulate coherent sentences. With what little dignity I could muster, I told him he was on his own.
He later admitted that he didn’t think I would actually go on the ride, let alone sit in the very front. As much as I screamed my fool head off, I’m pretty sure I racked up some serious respect points from him.
For a change of pace after the VelociCoaster, Jurassic World has also opened the Raptor Encounter experience. You’ll meet adorable baby raptors and think, “Aww, they’re so cute.” Carried by handlers, the babies sniff and blink and squawk, lulling you into a sense of security.
Then you approach the paddock.
Something rustles ominously in the tall grass. The next thing you know, you’ll come face-to-face with a fully-grown, ravenous raptor. When Blue sniffs you, you get the sense that your minutes are numbered. When she shrieks and lurches at you, just try to keep your composure.
Jurassic World merch
Want to take some Jurassic World home with you? Stop by the Summer Tribute Store by the iconic Jurassic World gates.
You’ll find themed rooms inspired by the films, including:
Control Room: Guests can visit the Jurassic World VelociCoaster control room, where they’ll discover coaster-related goodies and explore a variety of dinosaur vitals.
Raptor Paddock: Guests brave enough to enter the paddock may see a member of the raptor pack as they shop for dinosaur-themed souvenirs and apparel.
Lab: Guests will get a behind-the-scenes look at authentic props that were used in the original “Jurassic Park” films, including “Mr. DNA” merchandise.
Masks, COVID precautions
Universal Orlando continues to implement health and safety guidelines. Face coverings are no longer required for fully vaccinated guests, but those who are not fully vaccinated are expected to wear face coverings or masks while indoors. Social distancing is encouraged. The park does not require proof of vaccinations.
As an additional measure, Universal Orlando offers a contactless payment method – Universal Pay, available on the App Store or Google Play. The app allows guests to pay for purchases at most merchandise and quick-service food locations.
Although our group for the media event wasn’t large, the rest of the park was pretty crowded. As COVID restrictions are relaxed, you’ll see people wearing face masks, and many without. At the most popular attractions like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll find people shoulder-to-shoulder.
I wanted to wash my hands a lot, but overall I felt safe.
At least, as long as my feet were touching the ground.
If you go
Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Where: Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando
Tickets: From $109
On the web: universalorlando.com
On social media: #VelociCoaster; #atUniversal; Instagram @UniversalOrlando; Facebook: Universal Orlando Resort; Twitter: @UniversalORL
Christina LaFortune is the Entertainment and TgIF Editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/christinalafortune, on Twitter at @lafortunec, or send her an email at [email protected]
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