Adrenaline-seekers and dinosaur devotees are lining up in droves at Universal Orlando Resort to ride the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster, the first major theme park thrill ride to open since the pandemic began. Equal parts impressive, terrifying and seamlessly immersive, it didn’t take long for the ride, which opened June 10 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, to roar up the ranks as one of the world’s great must-ride roller coasters.
I got to experience it ahead of opening day, and it blew my mind. Here’s why.
The VelociCoaster Has A Seamless Storyline
It’s rare for the mechanism of a thrill ride to integrate so well into the ride’s story. There’s no need to suspend disbelief because this isn’t a roller-coaster pretending to be something it’s not — Jurassic World VelociCoaster is meant to be a coaster. Set during the timeline of the 2015 “Jurassic World” film, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) explains in the ride’s pre-show that VelociCoaster is the latest thrilling addition to the Jurassic World theme park. Guests will join the hunt as their vehicle races alongside the pack of the park’s Velociraptors.
Fans of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World films will geek out throughout the ride’s Easter egg-packed queue at the incredible details and deep-cut references to the blockbuster film franchise’s 30-plus-year history. Mr. DNA, the cartoon character who who helped educate visitors to Jurassic Park in the 1997 film, reprises his role here by welcoming guests to the attraction. Look closely and you may spot a nod to that iconic cup of water showing impact tremors in the first film, books by Ian Malcom and Ellie Satler, and Owen Grady’s training guard for his arm.
As breathtaking as the ride itself is (we’ll get to that in a minute), your first look at the “living, breathing” stars of the attraction: two caged animatronic Velociraptors blink, pant and rattle their harnesses. These are easily the most realistic animatronics I’ve ever seen. You can even feel their breath.
Jurassic World’s Roller-Coaster Pre-Show
You’ll need to store absolutely everything (including phones) in slick high-tech lockers before boarding. Trust me, you won’t want to worry about holding onto anything for this one.
Claire Dearing (Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) appear in the pre-show video to set the stage, with Owen pacing alongside the raptor paddocks where riders will find themselves ready to launch with the pack moments later.
Inside the loading area, floor-to-ceiling windows reminiscent of the Indominus rex viewing area in Jurassic World give an intimidating look at the coaster track and jagged terrain in store.
Onboard the sleek ride vehicles, your legs dangle slightly off the ground, and a lap restraint keeps you feeling secure despite the ride’s multiple inversions. As you prepare to launch, projections of Velociraptors appear alongside the ride vehicle, ready to take off with you. What follows happened so fast I needed some time to process it when I got off.
Ninety-odd seconds deliver nonstop thrills: tight twists, turns, inversions (four!), airtime (a whopping 2 seconds!) and plenty of raptor appearances along the way (blink and you’ll miss them!). Two launches reach speeds of 50, then 70, mph and the ride reaches a breathtaking 155 feet above the lagoon at the peak of its “top hat.” Here’s a look at my very first ride.
Ride in the front for the best view of the Velociraptors, the impressive rock work and the absolutely wild path of the track. Go for the back for maximum thrills. And be prepared — wherever you sit, you’ll definitely disembark, as I did, with some serious “VelociHair.”
While this coaster isn’t for the timid, it’s a silky smooth ride that doesn’t bang your head around like other big coasters with shoulder harnesses. I’m also slightly prone to motion sickness, and this one didn’t bother me. Guests 51 inches and taller who can summon the courage definitely shouldn’t miss this one.
More Jurassic Action Around Universal Orlando
Jurassic junkies will find plenty more to experience around the Jurassic Park area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. At Raptor Encounter, you can meet “real” Velociraptors Blue, Bravo, and Baby Sierra. It’s hard to keep your cool in the face of these oh-so-realistic dinos. I clearly failed.
Jurassic Park River Adventure is a water ride that puts guests face to face with the film’s famed T-Rex. Younger kids can soar beneath the wings of a Pteranodon on Pteranodon Flyers and play on a prehistoric playground at Camp Jurassic.
For dino merch galore, the Jurassic World tribute store at the adjacent Universal Studios Florida theme park is both store and experience, with a series of elaborately themed rooms and exclusive merchandise. There are also some must-try themed treats and snacks. My favorite is the amber gummy that looks just like the fossilized amber from the films. It’s pineapple-maple flavored and uber-Instagrammable.
Are you brave enough to ride Jurassic World VelociCoaster?