The Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando Resort opened with a New York style ticker-tape parade down the streets of the Universal Studios theme park. When I first heard Universal was building a Jimmy Fallon ride, my response was… huh? How do you base a ride on a talk show? But they did it, and in creating “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” Universal addressed a common theme park problem that’s plagued guests forever. LINES! Universal Orlando essentially eliminated the line as we know it with the new Jimmy Fallon ride.
The number one complaint of visitors to any amusement park is standing in long, boring lines. The more popular the park, the longer the line, and nothing drains excitement and enthusiasm than waiting for hours in a mind-numbing queue. The Official Universal Orlando app allows guests to make a reservation for “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and reserve a spot in the virtual line. Nothing new here. Disney pioneered this system with FastPass+ that allows you to reserve spots for attractions through its MyDisneyExperience app. With Universal’s Virtual Line, when your turn to ride arrives, you head to the “NBC Studios” entrance, and that’s where Universal got really clever.
You enter “NBC Studios NYC 30 Rock” facade, receive a colored Peacock card, and continue along on your Studio Tour. The color on your Peacock card corresponds with lights throughout the studio. When the lights change to your color, it’s your time to board the ride. But what do you do in the meantime, stand and wait in line? Nope.
You’re free to wander about the first floor Memorabilia Hall filled with props and artifacts from each and every era of The Tonight Show dating all the way back to 1954 with Steve Allen on up to the present day version with Jimmy Fallon.
Once you’re done looking over the exhibits on the first floor (totally at your own pace), you can head upstairs to Studio 6B representing where The Tonight Show is currently filmed in NYC. Here you’ll find an entertainment lounge complete with couches and charging stations to sit and relax while you wait for your time in the Studio for the Fallon ride. But wait, there’s more… Universal wants to entertain you here too. Mascot of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Hashtag the Panda is on hand to dance and greet guests, and the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet also perform live.
As far as the Jimmy Fallon ride itself, when it was first announced on The Tonight Show, Fallon described it as “it’s just like the Harry Potter ride but Jimmy Fallon.” I don’t think I’d go that far. I would describe “Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon” as – it’s just like the Minion ride but Jimmy Fallon. It’s a 3D simulator that takes the theater audience on a race through New York City pitted against Jimmy Fallon. You pass iconic sights such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, subway, a famous NY slice (that’s pizza of course), and even get sent to the moon and back. If you’re familiar with these type of 3D simulator rides, like Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, at Universal Orlando Resort, then you have the basic gist of “Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon.” And I’m not knocking that, Universal does 3D simulator rides very well. In fact, when I visited Universal Orlando with a group of college students recently for our alternative break trip to Give Kids The World, many in my Millennial group said this was their favorite ride.
Samantha Cytryn said, “my favorite part of both parks was the Jimmy Fallon ride.” Now Cytryn’s a New York college student who doesn’t like roller coasters, but she wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it. “The ride made it feel like the audience was really interacting with The Tonight Show characters, said Sam Norway, “and the 3D glasses made the ride feel like you were really flying, falling, speeding, etc.”
I commend Universal Orlando for continuing to innovate with attractions, and improve the guest experience during the wait. Look for more of these virtual and “queue-less” attractions to come especially when Universal Orlando opens its Volcano Bay water park on May 25. Check out “Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon,” it’s a great place to get out of the sun, sit and charge your devices, enjoy some live entertainment, and you just may feel like you’re transported to NBC Studios in New York.