A year without the Jurassic Park ride was like... a year without being splashed by dinosaurs. This summer's relaunch of the favorite Universal Studios ride was eagerly anticipated, though truth be told some of us who were big fans of the old ride were also just a little bit wary. Would Jurassic World: The Ride live up to its Jurassic predecessor? Or would it become just another virtual reality replacement of a classic analog adventure? It's a relief to be able to report that Jurassic World remains one of the best reasons to visit Universal Studios—and that Universal really did find ways to make our favorite ride even better.
We generally start our day at Universal by heading straight for the lower lot, and particularly on a hot day it's all about getting a good soaking at the hands of dinosaurs. I had heard that there was a VR element to the revamp and was worried, as I trekked down the hot escalators, that I might only be heading for a virtual soaking. I can put your mind at rest about that right away: all the things we loved about the old ride were still there, including a good old-fashioned splashfest.
The 2019 upgrade does, as rumored, include some virtual design features, but it's oh-so-much better than the usual make-you-think-you're-flying-through-space type VR experience. The first major change we encountered was a whole section in the early part of the ride that simulates a massive float-through aquarium, housing tanks of prehistoric creatures on either side. The effect is remarkably realistic—particularly when critters we assume aren't really there somehow manage to splash us. In fact, it all takes a turn reminiscent of the Jaws shark on the studio tour, when a mosasaurus seems to want out of one of the tanks...
The triceratops encounter feels irresistibly real.
The ride continues past familiar, but improved, animatronic dinos popping up out of the swamp to playfully spray us, and then onward to the foreboding indoor area, where, as before, something has gone very wrong in the predator section. No spoilers here; suffice it to say that the thrilling part of the ride is not only more thrilling than before but also seemingly longer—which delighted our group, as you can imagine.
And just when we thought we couldn't be surprised (because we knew what must be coming next), we were still surprised and screamed for the camera like good theme park guests.
Jurassic World also features some new dinosaur visits outside the ride. Regular visitors know that there have always been dino encounters throughout the day near the entrance of the Jurassic ride, but there are some new and more impressively realistic critters among the crew now. Most notably, an amazingly realistic triceratops now delights mobs of kids, with a handler giving clear instructions about which parts of him are OK to pet. A bit like a mall Santa, who cares if this guy is a real—he's thrilling to see either way.
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The final conclusion of our tough-to-please teen panelists? Jurassic World is definitely an improvement on a ride we didn't even realize needed improvement, and was for sure all of our favorite ride on a hot summer day. Put this one on the list of things to do to keep summer alive, even after school begins.
Photos by the author unless otherwise noted