Everything to Expect from Jimmy Fallon’s New Universal Studios Ride
The worst part of going to theme parks is about to be completely fixed — and you’ve got the host of The Tonight Show to thank for it. In Universal Studios Florida’s newest attraction, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, the SNL-bred comedian competes with a theatre of parkgoers in a competitive 3D race past the lights of Times Square and through the New York City subway to see who’ll return to NBC’s Studio 6B first.
The exciting simulator ride is set in a motion-enhanced theater and honors Fallon’s tenure on The Tonight Show throughout, with references to segments like “Ew!” and “Tight Pants” and appearances by house band The Roots. Yet, the ride debuts something else no other theme park attraction has: instant access. You won’t wait in line to experience Race Through New York, because Universal Studios Florida’s newest ride doesn’t have a line at all.
In lieu of lengthy queues that plague vacationers, Universal Orlando has unveiled its new Virtual Line reservation program exclusively with Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. Now, instead of rushing to the Florida park to stand around for hours, guests can select hour-long windows to return and immediately enter the attraction during later in the day.
Kiosks inside the park offer Virtual Line Passes to those without smartphones, but by downloading the Universal Orlando Resort App, guests won’t even need to enter the park to select return times. Virtual Line Passes can be booked in-app anywhere on Universal Orlando Resort property once the park opens each day, allowing travelers to hold their spot in line while having breakfast at their hotel, pulling into the Universal parking lot or having lunch at a restaurant in Universal’s CityWalk.
They’ve planned for all potential problems, too, allowing guests to hold only one Virtual Line return time (no hogging!) and reserving the last hour or two of the day for open entry, in case hopeful riders weren’t able to grab Virtual Line spots before all were claimed. There’s another way in, too — the Virtual Line service is offered free of charge, but guests with Express Pass, a skip-the-line perk offered complimentary to Universal Orlando hotel resort guests or for $75 per day can board at anytime, thus bypassing the new system.
This lack of long lines and endless switchbacks has completely changed Universal’s approach to their newest attraction and the design inside reflects it. Race Through New York actually begins the moment guests “return”, as they’re handed a colored ticket and invited to explore the lobby gallery, which is filled with artifacts and awards from The Tonight Show’s iconic history. When the familiar NBC ding-ding-ding chimes, network peacock icons on the walls will illuminate; if their color matches the ticket you’re holding, you’ll proceed upstairs, where everything changes. Yes, you’ll have to wait for another color-coded announcement to actually head towards boarding the attraction, but between the comfortable couches lined with outlets, rousing Tonight Show clips playing on oversized screens and table-sized tablets packed with Jimmy Fallon-enhanced games and virtual “Thank You” notes to send to friends back home, there’s plenty to do — and that’s only if there isn’t any live entertainment. Throughout each day, the Ragtime Gals take to the stage to perform Top 40 hits in a barbershop quartet style and Hashtag the Panda, Fallon’s unofficial show mascot, poses with guests and dances unwillingly, as he does on The Tonight Show.
From the moment you enter this theme park version of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, it’s as close as you’ll get to sitting in the audience of the epic nighttime show, until the ride begins. Race Through New York actually takes you well beyond the streets of Manhattan, but the unabashedly fun adventure contains the same goofy charisma and infectious joy that Fallon brings to his late night program each evening. (After all, a virtual version of attending The Tonight Show would be...watching The Tonight Show from home.)
It is bit of a misnomer that you won’t wait at all, as the lobby gallery and upstairs area are essentially top-notch holding rooms, but Fallon’s debut at Universal Studios Florida marks a turn for theme parks. Now, the attraction doesn’t begin once the waiting ends; it starts the moment you enter the building. That’s why Universal Orlando Resort, which is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and thrill rides themed to popular franchises like Transformers, The Simpsons and soon The Fast and the Furious, is betting big on this technology. Race Through New York is currently the only attraction using Universal’s new Virtual Line Return system, but when Volcano Bay water park opens Memorial Day, it will be utilized en masse. That’s because, like Fallon’s thrilling new ride, the entirely new aquatic theme park will have absolutely no standby lines.
Universal is not the first theme park resort to embrace virtual lines, as the nearby Walt Disney World Resort offers FastPass+, a digitized system allowing guests to book their choice of attractions up to sixty days in advance. Yet, the downfall of Disney’s program remains the stringent early scheduling with minimal availability day-of, something Universal’s Virtual Line system tackles head-on.
A summer of fun with no boring waits? Your dream family vacation is finally possible.