Opening today, April 6th, is Universal Orlando’s newest attraction Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon. It’s been in technical rehearsals for about a month, but thanks to a special Universal Orlando Annual Pass event, we actually get a chance to ride the new attraction last week!
If you’ve been keeping up with all of the details about the new attraction, you’ll know for one, it replaced Twister: Ride It Out. The building was completely gutted and transformed to look just like 30 Rock on the outside and Studio 6B on the inside.
The ride itself has been the topic of much controversy due to it being a 3D simulator ride, but what else is new when it comes to new Universal attractions. We’ll get more into that later. Time to start with the review!
First things first is the overall theming. We absolutely love the building. I mean, come on. It looks gorgeous. Universal truly did a great job showcasing the Rockefeller building with the outside theming. You almost have no clue it used to house Twister. I only wish they would have continued the theming (Rockefeller or otherwise) all the way around the fully hide the ride building/sound stage.
The main entrance is wonderful. From visiting NYC myself, it looks perfect. Minus the larger than life Jimmy Fallon on top, it looks exactly like what you’d see in real life.
For anyone curious about trying out the test seat, it is located directly to the right of the main entrance. The seats themselves look stiff and uncomfortable, but when riding, I felt perfectly fine. Trust me, Universal has other attractions with seats more uncomfortable than these.
Also, it’s fair to note that while I’ve read many guests have had trouble with the seat belts and buckling, I found them pretty easy to use. But everyone is different.
Finally, the real reason you’re here: the attraction experience. **SPOILERS AHEAD!** As soon as we entered the building, we were greeted by a RTNY Team Member who handed each of us our color group (pass/ticket/assignment?). As you can see, it comes with instructions on when to go up stairs to the 2nd floor, and when to check in for the ride itself. Since this was a special UOAP event, it was pretty empty, so we were able to do as we please.
Before we move forward, a quick catch up on how the virtual queue is supposed to work for any of our readers who may not be aware. Basically, at the entrance will be stations you check in at, which will then give you a return time for the attraction. When you return and enter the building, you won’t actually be waiting in a line like we’re used to for so many rides. There are interactive elements to pass the time and places to sit while you wait for your color to be called. Once it is, it’s your turn to ride!
(It should also be noted that due to the event, we didn’t have to check in for the virtual queue. Therefore, we haven’t experienced that aspect of the attraction or how it works. Just the inside of it, which gives us a pretty good idea of what it should hopefully be like at full capacity.)
The NBC logo is everywhere, just in case you forget which channel Jimmy Fallon is on. Don’t you just love it?
After you get your color group card, you’ll see two windows featuring classic cameras and equipment used from previous incarnations of The Tonight Show. I always love seeing historical items of film and television!
The rest of the first floor showcases each of the shows hosts! Even, Conan O’Brien, who only hosted for one year, gets a window. We didn’t even realize how far back the show went, so that was actually really awesome to see. While on the first floor, you also had the chance to watch clips from Jimmy Fallon’s episodes of The Tonight Show. Just like The Simpsons, this is great if you’re a fan of the show.
Once finished with the 1st floor, you move up stairs via stairs or elevator. Here is where you are greeted with the seating areas, interactive elements, and even live entertainment. You wait in this area until the room turns to the color of your group card. When that happens, then it’s your turn to check in at the podium and ride the attraction.
The Ragtime Gals were definitely our favorite part of the upstairs. Their show puts a fun spin on great pop songs which provides big laughs for everyone. The audience ate it up.
In the seating area, there were a few of the interactive desks we’d read about. From what we saw, each desk provided the same four digital games you could play. We sampled a few of them and thought they were a really fun way to kill time.
Overall, we really enjoyed the ‘virtual queue’ and its waiting area. It was definitely smaller than we expected it to be. When we went up stairs, one group was just checking in to ride, one other group was ahead of us, and then there was our group. With 2+ groups up there, it definitely seemed full just enough. They could fit three, but four would feel overcrowded.
We loved The Ragtime Gals. While we were waiting, they performed twice, which surprised us as far as live entertainment goes, especially in the singing department. At the moment, we’re wondering if they’d be cut in time due to budget. But live entertainment like that is a bit different than scare actors.
Unfortunately, even with two different rides on two different days, we didn’t get to see Hashtag the Panda. Though from social media, he looks to be quite entertaining, so I hope to meet him eventually.
And finally, we really liked the interactive games. They were challenging just enough and perfect for the kids. However, while we read about those interactive postcards you’d be able to fill out and email to your friends, we weren’t able to find them. We were told it’s possible they’re on the other end of the room by the stage The Ragtime Gals perform on, so we’ll check there next time.
Eventually, the room changed to our color (awkwardly from purple to blue. A big too subtle. But thankfully, The Ragtime Gals were performing at the time of change and verbally announced what color it was for everyone.)
Don’t forget your Racing Goggles! Kid you not, someone in our ANNUAL PASSHOLDER preview did!!! They didn’t realize it until we were all buckled in our seat belts.
Surprise! You do stand in a line. After you grab your ‘racing goggles,’ you wait to enter Studio 6B. Depending which line they funneled you into, you’ll either be entering House Right or House Left. Yep, RTNY has two theaters for capacity. It makes me wonder whether they plan to load/unload both theaters together or alternate when running at full capacity.
If we counted correctly (forgive us if wrong), there were 76 seats in our theater, meaning 152 seats/riders per every two ride through. We don’t know how long the video itself is, but we imagine this isn’t the best capacity, especially considering load time.
Once inside whichever house side you’re assigned you, you’ll hear the safety video, rapped to you by The Roots’ lead singer while Jimmy Fallon flips through teleprompter cards to help viewers follow along.
When it was announced the video was going to be rapped, I was sure I was going to hate it. But, I, personally, enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. I actually wound up finding it a nice change from the standard reading of all of the safety rules and procedures. Plus, it was actually pretty entertaining.
The load process was normal, but seat belt check was… different. Even though each of the seat belts have a pull tab on them for the riders to tug on showing they’re properly latched, we were all only visually checked with a flashlight after being told to put our hands in the air.
As for the ride itself, unfortunately, no pictures or video allowed. But here’s our take away! Again **SPOILER WARNING!**
Once the ride began, I was immediately blown away by how good the depth and clarity of the 3D was. I’ll have to ride it again, but honestly, it seemed crystal clear almost the entire time, more than I can say for pretty much any other screen-based attraction Universal has.
The ride itself felt very, very smooth. The movement of the seating area was almost graceful like at times. But sorry guys, this is not the Soarin’ type attraction we were all hoping for, or at least expecting. The theater does not rise into the air, nor do the rows hang over each other. Think of the ride as a more-advance and immersive Star Tours. You are sat stadium seating and the screen is very large. Keep in mind sitting in the back may be a better ride experience because of this. (Think IMAX.) However, even though I’m describing it like Star Tours, it’s much smoother. And with all of these things together, it really did feel like we were flying. So really, Universal wasn’t really lying when they advertised it as a flying theater.
So, it’s time for us to admit something. Even though it’s named Race Through New York, we honestly had no idea it would actually be a race. Me? I thought race implied just driving/flying very fast throughout New Your City. But it’s not just that… it’s more. And I loved it! Having the audience literally race Jimmy with his car throughout NYC and having to his check points was genius. I was wondering the entire time how they were going to remotely pull off a story for this attraction and they succeeded it. Now if only we could get alternate endings, that would be an awesome twist.
Getting to see NYC was wonderful. It’s one of my favorite cities, so of course I sat there with a huge smile on my face the whole time. And the pizza smell in the one scene was delicious. Definitely a great effect for the ride. You get to see a lot of key areas of NYC, of course, such as Time Square and the Statue of Liberty. The ride is great, but really we do have one minor complaint. There’s so many places you’re able to go to in NYC, and yet, we go to the moon. While it’s fun (and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense), it just sort of wastes the city a little bit. But that’s just our two cents.
Overall, Race Through New York is a fun, silly, great family friendly attraction. All three of us loved it and it exceeded all of our expectations. We definitely think it’s a welcome new addition to Universal Orlando. It’s an attraction I could see myself riding multiple times and, unlike other attractions like Shrek and Minion Mayhem, it’s one I wouldn’t mind waiting for, especially on a hot day thanks to the virtual queue.
While we initially thought Universal took a risk building an entire attraction off of a talk show host (God forbid some scandal happens), the ride works so incredibly well. We were all expecting to hate it, or worse, think it was just meh… but we all came out smiling and laughing! And while many were concerned the attraction would be ostracizing to those of us who don’t watch The Tonight Show, the queue and pre-show do an excellent job at setting the attraction up for success for the rider. None of us watch the show, and yet, thanks to everything we saw while waiting, we (think) we caught everything joke and reference and were able to actually enjoy the ride. We had zero problems with that end of things. And what’s even better is, if you do watch the show, I’ve read there’s little Easter eggs hidden throughout the queue and ride itself. So keep your eyes open!
But really, in the end, great job Universal. For the most part, we think you knocked this one out of the park. Two thumbs up.