Shove off, Hulk, and take a seat, Hagrid: The VelociCoaster is now the most intense coaster at Universal Orlando. The brand new ride, which opened last week in the Jurassic Park section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, is a coaster for coaster fans, an extreme thrill ride that sets a couple of new state records. It’s the tallest and fastest roller coaster in all of Florida, and you’ll feel every bit of that height and speed. All told, it’s the latest in a series of great new additions to the park over the last decade.
If you’re going to name something “the VelociCoaster,” it better go fast. I mean, it’s right there in the name—not just velocity, but the dinosaur the ride’s named after, the velociraptor, whose defining qualities in the Jurassic Park movies have always been speed, ferocity, and a weakness to gymnastics. And this beast absolutely goes fast, blasting through its tangled track at a top speed of 70 miles per hour. It hits that mark with the help of a couple of launches, the first rocketing you from 0 to 50 in just three seconds. Later, when most coasters are starting to settle down for their return to the loading station, a second launch shoots you up from 40 to 70 mph, pinning you tight against your seat as you barrel through its various twists and inversions.
Its signature element is a 155-foot-tall steel mountain that drops you 140 feet at an 80 degree angle. Known as a “top hat” within the coaster world, this drop is basically more frightening than anything in any of the Jurassic movies—yes, it’s even scarier than Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s banter from the Jurassic World movies. In addition to that plummet, there’s a barrel roll just a few feet above the lagoon that makes you think you’re headed right into the drink. And if you love airtime—that sensation of floating off your seat—you’ll feel it a dozen different times throughout the ride, including a 100-foot stretch that simulates zero gravity. You have to be pretty confident in your ability to both withstand and enjoy extreme coasters to even consider riding this one.
Effective theme park design isn’t just about the ride experience, of course. You have to factor in the building, the queue, the landscape, and how all these visual elements come together to tell a story or reinforce a theme. On that front, the VelociCoaster and its surroundings nail the look of the Jurassic World movies, for better and worse.
The lengthy queue features on-screen appearances from Pratt, Howard, and B.D. Wong, playing their Jurassic World characters. Howard’s no-nonsense business shark crows about the latest Jurassic World innovation, a roller coaster that takes you into the raptor enclosure, while Pratt’s surly trainer lobs witless insults at her while pointing out the obvious problems with her plan. Wong, meanwhile, says science stuff. (He’s the best.) Your mileage with these scenes will depend on how you feel about the Jurassic World movies.
The queue hints at how unpleasant a velociraptor’s life must be inside a place like Jurassic Park, with one show scene spotlighting a captive raptor’s head jutting out from a cell, struggling inside an electrified cage. Elsewhere you’ll find Easter eggs and various references to the films, including books by Ian Malcolm and Alan Grant. These design elements bring some life to a space that, due to its theme, is otherwise drab and colorless; the show building and its queue has the grey, cold look of an aquarium or museum, which is fitting for something that’s supposed to exist in the dinosaur zoo of the movie, but doesn’t make for the most fanciful or interesting architecture you’ll find at a theme park. It’s definitely not the Wizarding World, but it does fit its theme, so it gets the job done.
Once you’re through that building you’ll find that the VelociCoaster delivers on the implicit promise made by the name: It is fast, it is furious, and yes, you just might feel afraid as you rocket along its winding path. Also Chris Pratt does that modern day movie thing where he says lines that aren’t really jokes, but they’re still supposed to be funny because he uses a sarcastic tone and the cadence of a joke, which is probably about as true-to-life as a movie-based ride can get these days.
Note that you may not be able to enjoy the VelociCoaster if you’re of certain body types. It can be painful for tall people, and downright restrictive towards the overweight. Like many Universal rides, the size limitation is tight, and if you can’t get a green light on the test seat outside the attraction, it’s not worth waiting in line only to be kicked off the ride. Unfortunately you won’t have much privacy with the test seat—it’s right at the entrance to the ride, practically with a spotlight on it, so that anybody in line can get a front row view to your potential embarrassment. Of course it’s not your weight that matters but how it’s distributed, so there’s no easy guide to who will or won’t be able to fit; just know that if you’ve had similar issues at other Universal rides, you might run into them at the VelociCoaster, too.
Ultimately this coaster adds another top notch thrill ride to a park that has a solid handful already. The VelociCoaster can’t match Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure for storytelling or surprises, but it does lap The Incredible Hulk as Universal’s most thrilling coaster. It also gives guests even more to do in the already well-designed Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure, introducing a world-class thrill ride in addition to an exciting river flume and the kids-focused Pteranodon Flyers. It’s not an attraction everybody can or will enjoy, but for those who love coasters, this one’s a must-ride.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.