Attractions

Theme Park Confessions: My First Mistake

by on February 25, 2015

Dear readers,

I have a confession to make. I have not always been the perfect theme park traveler. I know it may seem that way but unfortunately I am not. Out of the many different mistakes I have made going to theme parks, the first was thinking I could handle more than I should. It was my first time at Knott’s Berry Farm–maybe when I was around 10 or so–and one of their main attractions was metal roller coaster called Boomerang (which is still there today). It is a short, fast, metal coaster that sends you barreling forwards and backwards at 47 mphs with two quick loops. I remember hearing about this attraction on commercials, and I was hyped to experience it. Even when I was in line, I believed I could handle it. Well, I was wrong.

Right after the ride ended, I was the first one to run off, crying, and not ever wanting to experience any roller coaster again. As a matter of fact, I was not able to go on any other roller coaster again for a few years. When I look back at this incident, I wish there was something that would have given me the ability to know what it was like to encounter this attraction beforehand. Even while standing in line, I did not truly understand what it would feel like to sit in one of those coast seats. This is why my advice to everyone–first timers or not–is to take advantage of ride through videos. It is the only way to truly know what you are going to get yourself into before stepping one foot into any theme park.

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards (AKA “The Burgys”)

by on February 21, 2015

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The most coveted theme park award of all… The Golden Burgy.

This week’s SATURDAY SIX presents the Inaugural 2015 Theme Park Awards. This weekend, while the rest of the world is preparing for The Oscars and spending hours watching awards given to films they haven’t even heard of, let alone watched (not to mention the outright Best Picture snubs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), readers of this column will be able to see their favorite theme park attractions get the attention they deserve. The Golden Burgy, theme park media’s highest award, is being handed out to the rides, shows, restaurants, and experiences that truly stood out over the past year.

Just as the Academy Awards hand out their lesser prizes before the main show, we’d like to present two of our minor awards before we get to the big ones. First, a Golden Burgy goes to the Holy Land Experience in the category of Best Theme Park Food Pun for their Garden of Eaten Chicken Salad Sandwich. Interestingly enough, Holy Land had all the nominees in this category including JerusaLamb, Land of Milk (no honey,and My Cup Overflows Souvenir Refillable Cup. The category of Biggest Theme Park Free Fall experience was the tightest race of all the nominees. Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens was the favorite to win, but the coveted Golden Burgy instead went to SeaWorld’s stock price. Now that’s a drop.

With those out of the way, allow us to present to you the Inaugural SATURDAY SIX Theme Park Awards, starting with…

# 6 – Best New Ride Experience – Diagon Alley’s Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts 

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The rotunda inside Gringotts bank includes an incredible view. And this is just the queue! (photo by Tom Bricker)

What else needs to be said about Universal’s newest E-Ticket attraction? The queue for Escape From Gringotts is one of the best in theme park history, loaded with magical details from the Harry Potter films. There are incredible goblin animatronics and million dollar chandeliers hanging above that make the Gringotts Bank lobby almost an attraction by itself.

Unlike IOA’s Forbidden Journey’s “best of” trip through the first four Potter films, Escape From Gringotts places guests directly into events from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Ingeniously showing a movie scene from another perspective, Escape From Gringotts takes Universal’s motto of Ride The Movies to the next level.

Worst New Ride Experience – Being attacked by bees on Rip Ride Rocket 

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“Oh the humanity!” Swarms of bees attack riders on Universal Studios Florida’s Rip Ride Rockit. (photo by Mike Sperduto and Matt Cleary.)

While just a minor blip on the radar in 2014, the story of Rip Ride Rockit having a minor problem with bees was enough for us to envision the plot of a new horror film.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 12, 2015

by on February 12, 2015

101Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’ll be stopping by Beach Club Resort and Epcot for dinner. Then we’re checking out what’s new at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and spending a little time at the Magic Kingdom for an epic view of the Festival of Fantasy Parade. I have so much to share with you, let’s get going! :)

On Friday night when we decided we needed a Disney style dinner we’d originally set out for Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. This is an awesome spot for a casual hamburger, but unfortunately it was packed when we got there and reservations weren’t available. With the My Disney Experience App we were able to find a table available at Tokyo Dining over at Epcot. We spent a little time strolling through the Beach Club on our way there. Wow, it’s beautiful! I haven’t stayed at this hotel since I was a kid. Look at it now!

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So who wants to visit Tokyo Dining with me? Click here to read more! 

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Experiences to Enjoy in a Group of All Ages at Walt Disney World

by on February 11, 2015

Photo - Michael DahlgrenJenna, an awesome reader of the TouringPlans blog, told me how she traveled to Walt Disney World with her family, ranging in ages 2-82 years old. She expressed how the group wanted to stay together the entire time, but it was hard to think of different attractions the whole group could do together and enjoy.

After hearing Jenna’s story, she inspired me to put together this list of activities and attractions that would appeal to a group of all ages.

You’ll notice that I did NOT include any attractions where a guest would have to get in and out of an attraction vehicle. I did this for two reasons:

A. You won’t have to worry about height restrictions!

B. If someone is confined to a wheel chair or electric scooter, that person will not have to stand or do any walking to get on the attraction.

Also, if you see an asterisk (*) next to an attraction, that means a FastPass+ reservation can be made.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things Disney Can Take To the Dump Along With the Sorcerer’s Hat

by on February 7, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things Disney Can Take To the Dump Along With the Sorcerer’s Hat. With Disney now finishing up dismantling the Sorcerer’s Hat and taking it to the landfill, we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices figured it was a great opportunity to get rid of some other things we want to see removed from WDW. Since the jackhammers and dump trucks are already out, why not take advantage of them and get rid of some other unwanted items?

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The Disney Landfill. It’s kinda like the Disney Vault except when things get put in here they never come back out. (Picture taken by Matt Cleary using an ESPN phone.

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So we put on our thinking caps, looked around the entire resort, and are here to present to you the six things we think Disney should just wash their hands of, starting with….

# 6 – Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama (Animal Kingdom)

If you have 30 minutes, a Disney Imagineer will explain to you the elaborate backstory to Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama and why its gaudy and obnoxious appearance works wonderful within the otherwise gorgeous Animal Kingdom park. But just like a joke that you have to explain probably isn’t funny, a land that you have to jump through hoops to explain probably doesn’t work either.

Let’s face it, Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama looks cheap. Anyone who has worked in Hollywood will tell you it takes a lot of money to look cheap, and while Disney spent a lot of time and money developing Dino-Rama, it comes across like they just threw it in the park with no thought whatsoever. It doesn’t matter whether it is true or not, perception often becomes reality. Where Disney triumphs above all else is drawing guests into a land, whether it’s walking down Main Street or the subtle transitions from Frontierland to Liberty Square, guests feel completely immersed and everything just feels right. Dino-Rama is like someone dropped an anvil on your head.

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Travel back through time? Please take me back to the moment right before I decided to ride Primeval Whirl. (photo by Tim Grassey)

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Best Worst Attraction: TWISTER… Ride It Out

by on February 6, 2015

We’re so happy to bring you an article from Marc Kleinhenz this week. Marc splits his time as contributing editor at Orlando Informer and staff writer at Theme Park Tourist. Between all that and his day job, Marc will also be writing regularly for the TouringPlans blog.

Maybe you’re looking to take a foot off the (extremely) well-beaten path to get away from the crowds. Maybe you have an appreciation for the under-valued (or a defiantly contrarian attitude, generally). Or maybe it isn’t your first rodeo, and you and your family need an injection of something different and fresh at the parks.

Regardless of the reason, it’s time for you to enjoy the smaller, more neglected, and – let’s be honest here – less-polished offerings that Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld have to offer. It’s time to experience the Best Worst Attractions.

TWISTER… Ride It Out

Park: Universal Studios Florida
Location: New York
Opening date: May 4, 1998

Twister... Ride It Out concept art

Image © Universal

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: February 5, 2015

by on February 5, 2015

1Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’ll be visiting Epcot to test FastPass+, stopping by Downtown Disney for some delicious dining, and finishing up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I can’t believe I fit so much fun into one weekend! You know I do it all for you, so let’s get moving! :)

We arrived at Epcot in time for rope drop, which we’re doing less and less now that FastPass+ is working so well. Since we were really just there to test the system and shop, we didn’t run to Test Track or Soarin’. Instead we sauntered up to Spaceship Earth and confidently scanned our MagicBands… and were turned away! For the first time since using the system I was told my FastPass+ wasn’t there and I needed to stop by a kiosk or join the standby line. Up to this point we’ve always been allowed into the FastPass+ line on the honor system. Since it was so early we were able to ride with a walk on wait, but want to hear about how our trip to the FastPass+ kiosk went? Be sure to click to read more!

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort According to Our All-Star Panel

by on January 24, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Best Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. We invited distinguished theme park experts from all over the world to come together and decide – once and for all – what the six best attractions are at the Universal Orlando Resort. Unfortunately, they were all busy. So instead we would like to introduce to you an all star, blue ribbon panel, made up of Universal experts. These include members of some of the greatest Universal websites (including Orlando United and Orlando Informer), the best Universal podcasts (including Parkscope and the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast), the most amazing Uni photogs (including Mike Sperduto and Brandon Glover), high ranking officials of the Theme Park Illuminati (such as Len Testa and Jim Hill), fan favorite park icons (including Scarlett Litton and Mark Diba), and the man who literally wrote the book on Universal, Seth Kubersky. We used a total of 25 individuals, in honor of Universal’s upcoming 25th Anniversary.

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SATURDAY SIX staff crunching numbers.

The Criteria: Each of the 25 experts voted on what they consider to be the six best attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. These attractions could be any ride or show currently in Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Special event shows – such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure or the Blues Brothers Christmas Show – were not eligible. Each attraction listed would be awarded ONE point, except for the attraction that the voter ranked in his #1 spot – that received TWO points. The votes were then sent to a top secret location in Florida and counted no less than 22 times (we’ve had some problems in the past. Sorry, Mr. Gore). The results are in, and we now proudly present….

The DEFINITIVE GUIDE to the SIX BEST ATTRACTIONS at the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT.

# 6 – MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack (14 Points)

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MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Jim Hill, JimHillMedia.com – Steven Spielberg was supposedly the guy who came up with Universal Studios Florida’s original catch phrase (“Ride the Movies”). But MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack was the first theme park attraction that really did allow guests to ride a movie. To immerse theme park visitors in this hyper-detailed environment that then tried to replicate the specific look & feel of a particular motion picture. So much of what Universal Creative has since been celebrated for when it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it first did with the April 2000 opening of this 70,000 square foot attraction. From the exterior to this enormous show building (which replicates the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion that played such an important part in the finale of the original Men in Black movie) to the insane level of detail found in this attraction’s queue (e.g., being able to listen in on the “worm guys” as they take their coffee break) to how interactive the actual “Alien Attack” ride is all by itself… The sheer ambition of MIB:AA is still kind of mind-blowing. And then when you factor in that upwards of 2200 Guests are able to experience this USF attraction every hour … Well, is it any wonder that the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) decided to give Universal Creative an Outstanding Achievement award in 2001 for all the great work that it did on this interactive, genuinely immersive attraction?

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: January 22, 2015

by on January 22, 2015

IMG_2409Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’ll be visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios for all the latest updates, stopping by Downtown Disney for a little food truck action, and finishing up at Magic Kingdom. Ready for some beautiful, blue Florida skies? Let’s get moving! :)

Early Saturday morning we set out for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I knew with the holiday weekend and awesome weather that we’d be facing a crowd. You can see from the photo that it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived, but that changed fast. Speaking of fast, check out the progress removing the hat! I can’t believe how fast it’s coming down. In the bottom right hand side of the photo you can see the actual top of the hat behind the construction wall. It’s so much bigger than it looks! Want to see what other fun stuff we found this weekend? Be sure to click to read more!

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A Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt

by on January 18, 2015

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Cinderella Castle

One of the most magical things about Disney World is that there is something to see everywhere you look! But just how much do you actually stop and look? If you’re up for a challenge, I have one for you. Whether you consider yourself a Magic Kingdom Master, or you would just like something extra fun to do at the park, I invite you to try this Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt!

I have photos of 15 things that you may or may not have noticed at the Magic Kingdom park and it’s up to you to find them. Don’t worry if you get stuck, there is a hint for each one. Also, to make things a little more interesting, especially if you’re the competitive type, finding each item is worth a certain number of points. The higher the points, the harder it may be to locate. For those of you aiming high, a perfect score is exactly 30 points.

So there are two ways you can use this Magic Kingdom Scavenger Hunt. First of all, you take this scavenger hunt to the Magic Kingdom yourself and see how many of the following you can find. It’s an interesting way to pass the time when you’re waiting in line or when the park is crowded, and is sure to make you appreciate the little Disney touches. It’s also a fun activity for the kids. Another way to use this scavenger hunt is to take a guess from home on where to find the following and see how many points you can win! If you get stumped, there is an answer key at the end of the post, so don’t scroll too far if you want to avoid spoilers.

Are you ready? Let’s start!

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