After a yr and a half of pandemic-related lockdowns and protocol, theme parks are slowly returning to regular. Parks in Orlando, Florida have technically been working since final summer time, however on May 15, Universal Studios allowed vaccinated company to stroll the grounds unmasked. And on a transparent Tuesday in June, it’s as near regular as it may be within the park, with throngs of holiday makers gathering below the extraordinary Florida solar, and huge metal coasters looming above.
Theme parks at all times deliver again childhood ranges of pleasure. They’re pure escapism, and even when lengthy traces, sizzling climate, and overpriced meals threaten the right day, patrons at all times come again for the fun. Growing up in Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure particularly was the premier vacation spot for center faculty day journeys (if you’re an edgy preteen, you assume you’ve outgrown Disney). I’m going again sometimes once I’m round city, however this month, after such an extended time frame since moving into any theme park — or just about wherever enjoyable — hopping on board Universal’s new journey, the Jurassic World-themed, Velocicoaster, was a revitalizing rush. It was the sheer exhilaration of stepping off an intense coaster for the primary time and grinning at my classmates in triumph yet again.
Memories of the final yr take a look at the power of nostalgia. I’ll admit that swaths of unmasked folks nonetheless threw me off. I’m vaccinated, however I might solely hope for a similar for the remainder of the folks round me. I didn’t go to a theme park within the peak of COVID-19, and the conflict of a yr of lockdown life with an aggressive push to be again to regular is jarring. Beyond some PA bulletins about attempting to keep up social distancing (mainly unattainable due to simply how many individuals are allowed in at a time), there appears to be little reminiscence of what we’ve all simply been via. In pre-pandemic instances, theme parks have been sweaty and crowded and never everybody was on their greatest habits. Now they felt sweatier and extra crowded. Add the combination of uncertainty that comes with vaccines and masks and COVID, and a spot of complete childhood adrenaline turns into muddled by grownup issues.
With a model new journey and my vax standing on my thoughts, I concentrate on the thrill and privilege of being again in a park, which is (principally) outdoor and by all solutions from the CDC, protected for individuals who acquired their pictures. Universal Studios has developed since I’ve come right here on subject journeys, although some locations [cough the Marvel Island cough] have remained precisely the identical. The VELOCICOASTER — a journey title my telephone retains insisting on turning into all-caps, however actually, is deserving of the therapy — is a contemporary addition to Island of Adventures, and billed because the tallest and quickest curler coaster in Florida. It totally lives as much as that promise. When I’m on the Velocicoaster, the one factor on my thoughts is the exhilaration of the journey, and the anxiousness takes a backseat.
Lined up with the continuity of the Jurassic World films, the Velocicoaster launches riders right into a raptor enclosure. Movie characters, like Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, make appearances through movies, and animatronic raptors snap and growl. Seated on the journey, it turns into clear this isn’t a typical high-octane coaster: the restraints solely go throughout my lap, as a substitute of securing me totally within the seat. This is horrifying, in a great way.
I’ve by no means been afraid of coasters, however there’s at all times a second proper earlier than I jet off the place I feel to myself Ah, sure, I would be the one individual in 5 billion who falls out of the restraint and plummets to my dying. On the Velocicoaster, with solely a lap bar to comprise me, this sense is all of the extra evident. The actual twisted logic is what I inform myself within the subsequent second: If the Velocicoaster decides to assert me, so be it. It’d be a reasonably epic approach to exit.
In the takeoff, the journey prioritizes ambiance, rumbling via raptor cages the place I can see the outlines of dinos rattle towards the partitions. This is the one “slower” second, although the growling dinos and the swirling fog solely serve to intensify the anticipation. Once the coaster shoots from 0 to 50 mph in 3 seconds, it by no means lets up. There are drops and twists and inversions, and simply once I assume the journey can’t get anymore intense, the journey accelerates to 70 mph (You see, Velocicoaster works for each the phrase velociraptor and the phrase velocity).
Every time I attain a second that on every other journey would result in a mushy denouement, the Velocicoaster retains on giving. At one level, the journey skims so near the water that I nearly assume it’s going to drop into it. The coaster snakes and turns and plummets so shortly, by no means as soon as letting up. When it does lastly attain that finish, I’m nearly sure it’s going to select up once more due to how usually it felt like which may occur via the remainder of the journey. For their half, the cross-lap restraints do job of holding me in place — although sure inversions make me sweat for a break up second.
I’m not an enormous roller-coaster screamer. But on the Velocicoaster, I discover myself laughing and squealing to the purpose the place I assumed my face would possibly fall off. This isn’t the identical, unadulterated adrenaline of child’s first big-kid curler coaster, however rattling if after so lengthy it doesn’t come actual shut. For a couple of minutes, I soar via the sky and not using a care on the earth — no anxiousness in regards to the lots of those that await me again on the bottom, no worry about whether or not or not I’ll be judged for carrying a masks, no jitters about ready lengthy traces indoors — as a result of all that issues is clinging onto the restraints and feeling that wind hit my face because the coaster zooms alongside.