* * * *
Type: Water ride
Time: 5 minutes
Short Take: A wild, wet dino-tour with teeth
This is the attraction that will draw people to Jurassic Park. The pre-ride warm-up plays it straight. Video monitors in the queue line emphasize proper boarding procedures and ride safety, just as you would expect in the “real” Jurassic Park. The result: it’s nowhere near as entertaining as the Jaws warm-up at USF.
River Adventure itself is an idyllic boat ride that gives you an opportunity to view from close range some of Jurassic Park’s gentlest creatures. Unfortunately, on the trip you take with 25 other guests, things go very, very wrong. Your first stop is the upper lagoon, where you meet a 35-foot tall mama ultrasaur and her baby. Then you cruise past the park’s north forty where you glimpse stegosaurs and the playful hydrosaurs. Too playful, unfortunately.
Before you know it, you’re off course in the raptor containment area and on the lunch menu. In a desperate attempt to save you, the boat is shunted into the environmental systems building, that huge 13-story structure at the back of Jurassic Park. It is in this vast, dark, and very scary setting that the ride reaches its climax. After narrowly escaping velociraptors and those nasty spitting dinosaurs, you come face to face, quite literally, with T-Rex himself. After that, the 85-foot plunge down the “longest, fastest, steepest water descent ever built” in pitch blackness will seem like a relief.
Tip: You can speed your way through this ride by asking the attendant to point you toward the single-riders line.
This is a great ride to experience at night, especially once you enter the main building. The bright Florida sun tends to give away the approach of the final breathtaking drop; at night it comes as a real surprise.
The best seats in the house. Clearly the first row of the boat is where you thrill seekers want to be; just be warned that you will get wet. Of course, you’ll probably get wet no matter where you sit, although seats in the center of the craft are a little more protected. The ride attendants are more likely to accommodate a request for a seat that gives you some protection from a drenching than they are to put you in the front row. However, if you come early in the day or late at night, you may be able to pick any seat you want.
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