The coolest (and first, and still the only) Spider-Man ride in the world is in the "Marvel Super Hero Island" world, which is one of the five "Islands of Adventure" which make up the Universal Studios Theme Park of the same name in Orlando, Florida.
The ride is named "The Adventures of Spider-Man", and it is the jewel in the crown of this world-leading park. It opened to the public on May 28, 1999.
According to the ride's makers at Universal Studios, this is the first attraction in theme park history to combine rapidly moving, highly mobile ride vehicles hurtling through acres of vivid scene sets and extraordinary, specially filmed 3D computer-generated action with custom-choreographed live practical effects.
Thank God for corporate travel. In the summer of 1999, my co-worker and I were flown all the way from Denver, Colorado to sunny Orlando Florida for some software training. Since there was a full day between the end of training and our return trip, we decided to hit Islands of Adventure!
First off, a tip. If you have the opportunity to go to this park, make sure you have two days. Islands of Adventure is right next door to Universal Studios Orlando, and if you dump $85US (or around there), you get a two-day pass to both parks. As it was, we only had a day, so we had to pass on Universal Studios this time around.
I could tell you about the whole park, but that's not why you're reading this. I will, instead, concentrate on the sweetest part of the park (and I'm not just saying that), Marvel Super Hero Island. You cross from the entrance of the park, walking underneath the gigantic green Hulk Rollercoaster and over a bridge onto Marvel Island. I felt my psychological age descending back to the early double-digits (11 or 12, I'd say).
Once you enter the Marvel zone, the colorful, character-themed buildings are all adorned with giant character cut-outs, all drawn by fan-fav Adam Kubert, and look great. You feel like you're actually in a comic-book. But wait, it gets better!
Smack-dab in the middle of the island is the Daily Bugle, host to the Amazing Spider-Man ride.
The basic premise is that you are guests touring the Daily Bugle, where Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) works as a photographer. We then fall into a plot where evil villains have stolen the Statue of Liberty using an anti-gravity gun.
Drafted into a civilian force, you must help Spider-Man recover this national treasure. Cue 3D effects, motion simulators, light show, in-your-face movie magic, synchronized real-world effects, etc, etc.
From the minute you walk in the door, you're immersed in the life of the newspaper, and as you walk through the halls, video screens give you the lowdown on the history of the paper, and as you descend deeper into the bowels of the paper, through Peter's darkroom and the deserted newsroom, you're exposed to the news bulletins of the latest goings on.
It seems like the Statue of Liberty has disappeared! As you get closer and closer to your destination, the adventure unfolds before you via animated sequences flashing on TV monitors everywhere. It seems like Doctor Octopus has used his evil brilliance to craft a levitation cannon, and has kidnapped Lady Liberty with it! He's gathered together Electro, the Hobgoblin, Hyrdro-Man, and the symbiote Scream to form the Sinister Society, and they are demanding a gigantic ransom, or they'll use Ock's new invention to start levitating anything they can!
Then you join in the action. As you grab your handy-dandy 3D glasses, J. Jonah Jameson gives you a lowdown on the "Scoop", a powerful vehicle that can withstand numerous trials, all in the name of getting the news. You and your fellow "newsies" climb into the scoop, the bar comes down across your lap, and you're off!
The ride itself is just incredible. You're spun around as you travel through each "scene", jolted up and down, and rocked back and forth. You travel through the streets of New York and come face-to-face with Spidey as he lands right on the nose of the scoop! After a sharp warning, Spidey swings off to the action. You're taken to the warehouse where the Sinister Society is holing up, and once you're discovered, the bad guys decide to take a piece out of you!
The immersion of this ride is awesome. You're splashed with water as Hydro-Man fights with Spider-Man in the sewers. You're jolted as Electro hooks you up to 10,000 volts of current. You feel the heat of Hobgoblin's pumpkin bomb explosion as Spidey rescues you by the skin of your teeth. And you feel the vertigo as Doc Ock blasts you with his levitation ray and sends you rocketing up amidst the skyscrapers to witness the final all-out battle! And you almost lose your lunch as you're plummeted down to the street, with only a well-timed spider web to cushion your fall.
Just because I'm a total Spider-Man fan, don't discount it when I say that this is the best amusement park ride, ever! It beats out Disney's Indiana Jones ride by a mile, and is the closest any of us is ever going to get to being in a comic book. The 3D effects are absolutely gorgeous, and the synchronicity of the whole ride is seamless. Every minuscule detail has been attended to, even down to the levitating J. Jonah Jameson you see in the publisher's office as you disembark the ride. And, in classic US capitalist style, the exit from the ride dumps you out right into the Spidey-boutique where you can purchase just about anything with the webslinger's mug plastered on it.
My suggestion? Get to Orlando however you can and go on this ride! Whether you're a died-in-the-wool Spider-Man fan, or just love a good thrill ride, the Amazing Spider-Man ride delivers... in spades, with five webs on top.
As far as the rest of Marvel Super Hero Island goes, it's all pretty cool. The Hulk Rollercoaster is pretty awesome (and rollercoaster that shoots you out of initial ramp with the force of an F-16 automatically gets the 'awesome' moniker to me), and the whole environment is cool. Where else can you get a kick-ass photo-op with Dr. Doom, and purchase a Spidey tie-dye?