This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Springfield USA. In case you were living under a rock this week, this Wednesday was Back To the Future Day. October 21st was the day Marty McFly took the DeLorean and traveled Back to the Future. With it brought the news of Nike actually creating power lace sneakers, a five star must-watch video of Marty and Doc Brown arriving in 2015 on Jimmy Kimmel, and a BTTF themed cover of USA Today (which even appropriately came out on Thursday, because Marty and Doc went back a day before the paper came out to stop the events from happening.) What does any of this have to do with theme parks? I’m glad you asked. BTTF used to have a ride in Universal Studios Florida until it was replaced by The Simpsons Ride in 2008. Since then, the area around The Simpsons Ride has expanded into an entire land in Springfield, USA. While no one can touch Diagon Alley as a whole, Springfield is one of our favorite areas in any theme park, and hands-down the funniest. Today we are going to going to countdown our six favorite parts about this wonderful land that truly brings an animated television show to life. So sit back, live out your Brewster’s Millions fantasy and crack open that bottle of Pepsi Perfect you bought off eBay for $500, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – Fast Food Boulevard
With Fast Food Boulevard, Universal pretty much did the impossible. Previously, the area was home to the International Film & Food Festival, a food court which made the offerings in Fantastic Four Cafe seem Michelin star worthy in comparison, and was certainly one of the worst themed areas in the entire park. Fast Food Boulevard brought to life Krusty Burger, the Frying Dutchman, and Luigi’s Pizza straight from The Simpsons television show. It also gave us Cletus’ Chicken Shack, which was rumored to originally be Kentucky Fried Panda (and if true, was a good decision by Universal.)
The Simpsons show has a long history of mocking restaurants, and seeing places like Krusty Burger in the real world is a dream come true. Now you can finally order the Ribwich (a sandwich the show created to mercilessly parody the McRib,) a Krusty Burger, and the Clogger, all straight out of canon. Springfield USA has almost 30 food and drink items you can’t get anywhere else inside the Universal parks, including the incredible Chicken & Waffle sandwich, tater tots, and curly fries.
A great bonus for theme park fans is that there was a writer’s strike going on in Hollywood when Fast Food Boulevard was being created, so you see the trademark humor from the show on display as actual Simpsons writers help develop the area. Heat Lamp Dog and “Mom’s Choice” fruit cup are just two examples of why this area is so great. The seating area inside Fast Food Boulevard plays a running loop of Simpsons episodes featuring antics at restaurants and you’ll also find themed napkins. Universal took their worst food area and turned it into their best, and that is an achievement in itself.
# 5 – Kwik E Mart
Springfield USA’s gift shop is modeled after Apu’s own Kwik E Mart and features a ton of great Simpsons items. There are items straight from the TV show (including several personalized items featuring the name “Bort”) along with plenty of other pieces of merchandise exclusive to the parks. One of our favorites is the “I went to Krustyland and all I got was this shot glass,” but what makes this gift shop stand out from any other you’ve ever been to is there are non-stop jokes throughout. It is a scathing take down of theme park gift shops and has possibly the funniest gags in Florida. Be sure to keep your head on a swivel as you walk through the store as there are jokes everywhere, and even a “Do not accept checks from” sign straight out of the show!
Also be on the lookout for the payphone attached to the Kwik E Mart. When you walk by there is a good chance you’ll hear it ring. Pick up the phone for a fun surprise…
# 4 – Kang & Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
Quite possibly the first ever spinner attraction in a theme park that is just as fun for adults to ride as kids, Kang & Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl is an attraction we also just like to stand by with a Duff beer and watch. The jokes said during the ride are terrific. The theme of Twirl ‘n’ Hurl is that guests have been recruited by Kang & Kodos to help destroy Springfield, so while you spin around (and up and down) you also have the ability to “shoot” several famous residents of the town (and trigger sound effects) all while Kang hurls insults at you and the human race. The younger set will enjoy aiming the ride vehicles’ guns while parents will be smiling thanks to the dark humor throughout. Don’t be intimidated by the name, it’s much more twirl than hurl. The star of the show is Kang, and everything from the safety spiel to the unloading of the ride is worth paying attention to.
As a bonus, the queue is just loaded with terrific bits of satire making fun of long theme park lines (along with gags on destroying the human race) and even has TVs playing classic clips from the TV show featuring our favorite aliens. If you could take a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode and adapt it into a theme park ride, Kang & Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl would be the end result.
# 3 – Moe’s Tavern
Moe’s Tavern is one of the main set pieces on The Simpsons show, so Universal needed to get it right, and boy did they. From a pitch perfect facade to an inside that brings you right into the show, Moe’s Tavern is one of the best themed areas at Universal. The Love Tester is here, as well as Springfield’s resident drunk Barney Gumble, and the walls are filled with references to the TV show. When it was announced that Moe’s was coming to Springfield, the question was how would Universal recreate the bar’s signature drink: The Flaming Moe. With a customized cup and clever use of dry ice, The Flaming Moe is served like it is literally boiling up and smoking. It is extremely cool to see in person and – unlike the show’s version – is nonalcoholic so that kids can enjoy it.
# 2 – The Simpsons Ride
When a beloved attraction is replaced, the new ride better be good or you are never going to hear the end of it. At EPCOT, Horizons fans will be moaning until the day they die because their ride was torn down for Mission: SPACE. At USF, both the Kongfrontation and Jaws attractions have die-hard supporters, but their replacements in Revenge of the Mummy and Diagon Alley are so good that the vast majority of people are happy with the change.
Back to the Future: The Ride was a lot of fun. However, the queue was bad (almost Soarin’ bad) and nothing was truly exceptional other than that we love the BTTF characters and the DeLorean ride vehicle will go down in the top ten in theme park history. It’s replacement, The Simpsons Ride, has one of the best queues in the park. It has so many great things that you probably won’t be in line long enough to ever see them all. Outside, there is a wonderful map of Krustyland that most people just walk by without giving a second look, but if you check out the details on that map you are in for a treat. While in the outdoors queue, you’ll see clips from classic episodes of The Simpsons where the family visits theme parks. These are great, but Universal also added in new material exclusively for this attraction. You’ll get to see Homer Simpson complaining about the price of food inside the theme parks, and even an appearance by Doc Brown himself as a short video explains how Krusty took over the home of the former BTTF: The Ride!
Once inside the show building, even more jokes are thrown at you, including fake ads for attractions parodying The Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents, and even EPCOT’s old Kitchen Kaberet show. Then you are led to another pre-show room where more of the ride’s story is explained, including a wonderful scene where Sideshow Bob threatens The Simpsons family and tells them to “get into that ride!” Lisa says they’ll never get in but Homer has already entered with the explanation “I’ve waited in line an hour for this thing and I’m riding it!” This comes right after Homer lamented that Bob was trying to kill them on vacation and would rather it happened on a work day. Just wonderful material. Then the actual ride begins with cameos by a ton of Springfield residents and theme park jokes galore including the show stealing “Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end in the gift shop!” from our favorite aliens Kang & Kodos.
# 1 – Duff Brewery
Butterbeer changed the future of the Universal parks forever as millions of Potter fans finally got to live out their fantasy of drinking this cherished drink from the Harry Potter books and films. Fans of The Simpsons have also longed for a drink from that universe, and Universal delivered when it created Duff Beer, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry. Brewed by the Florida Beer Company and exclusive to the Universal parks, this year Universal even debuted the first ever seasonal version of Duff with DUFFTOBERFEST. This ties in perfectly with the world of The Simpsons as there many versions of Duff including Lady Duff, Duff Stout, Duff Ice and Duff Special Reserve.
Duff Brewery sits lagoon side in USF, directly across from Fast Food Boulevard, and is the perfect place to relax with a Duff during your busy park day. There is plenty of seating both at the main bar and nearby tables, and a whole bunch of great photo ops including Duffman himself along with the hilarious “7 Duffs” topiaries. One of the small touches we absolutely love is the banners hanging above the bar mocking beer ads. There is even a prop which brings back a classic moment on The Simpsons where Homer learns Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry all come from the same beer line and just separated into different containers.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck
Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck is the first thing guests encounter in Springfield USA as they make their way from the Hollywood and Kid Zone sections of the park. The truck is over the top, but what may surprise you is that it makes really great tacos. They are made to order with a surprisingly high quality ingredients. Our recommendation? Get the Carne Asada or the Korean Beef tacos along with an ice cold Duff beer and enjoy a relatively inexpensive, tasty meal water side.
DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION: Brain Freezing D’oh-nut Sundae
Right next door to Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck is Lard Lad Donuts. Believe it or not, Lard Lad himself outside stands taller than Optimus Prime over at Transformers: The Ride 3D. Lard Lard offers one of the best snacks on property with the Brain Freezing D’oh-nut Sundae. A warm donut is cut in half and in-between is a generous serving of soft serve ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, or swirl) along with one topping (we bounce back and forth between Oreo cookie and Reese’s Pieces. A first ballot Hall of Famer in the area of Universal desserts and whoever created it deserves a star on the Universal Walk of Fame in the front of the park.
So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Springfield USA. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)