I attended An Event Apart in Orlando at the end of October, and I was able to re-visit the theme parks while I was there. I know this post is several months late, but I wrote down some thoughts about the theme parks that I wanted to go ahead and post.
Tickets, Lines, Etc.
- Disney MagicBand is pretty great. I was able to use it for my hotel room key, my park passes, and even for payment while I was staying on Disney property. Paying for things with my MagicBand turned out to be way more convenient than I thought it would be.
- It was nice to be able to book Disney ride reservations early with FastPass+ (which is way better than the previous version of FastPass the last time I was there), but at times it made me feel restricted. I wasn’t able to just freely wander around the parks as much because I knew I needed to be at certain rides within a specific time frame in order to spend less time waiting in line. Part of this feeling could have to do with my limited amount of time in each park due to the conference schedule though.
- Disney’s Park Hopper ticket option was nice to have once again. I jumped to three parks on my last day in Disney World, catching many of the things I had missed throughout the week. This is the only way to visit multiple Disney parks in a single day. I thought I would be able to jump around by just using multiple days on my ticket, but that is not the case. Luckily, I looked this up before purchasing.
- Universal’s Park-to-Park works just like Disney’s Park Hopper, but Universal has found a way to force more people to buy it by restricting the Hogwarts Express ride to only those who have Park-to-Park tickets, as that ride connects the two parks.
- Universal Express just seems like a way to try to squeeze more money out of customers. This seems like a major fail when compared to Disney’s free FastPass+ service.
- Speaking of squeezing more money out of customers, Universal had some pretty cool people dryers outside of the water rides in Islands of Adventure, but it cost $5 to use them.
- Universal includes single rider lines in most of their rides, which is one big advantage over Disney World. Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster was the only ride I found at Disney World that had one. I spent quite a bit of time on my own in the Disney parks, and it would have been nice if there were more options for single riders.
- Universal had a really nice “child swap” feature for many of their thrill rides. One parent can wait in a designated area with the kids while the other parent waits in line for the ride. Once the first parent finishes the ride, the other parent can hop right on without waiting. The only place I found this option in Disney World was on the Star Tours ride.
- It was weird how short the lines were at Islands of Adventure (where I spent most of my Universal time). It did get much more crowded in the Harry Potter areas, but everything else seemed pretty empty on the day I was there. This may have been because of the Halloween event going on there later that night.
- The use of mobile apps was a big change from the last time I was in Orlando (when I didn’t even own a smartphone). It was great to be able to constantly check wait times in each ride around the parks, which helped me choose where to go next. One gripe about the Universal app was that I was unable to check wait times until I was actually near the parks. Being able to check the Disney wait times weeks in advance helped me plan my visit a little better.
- My favorite new ride (since my last visit to Orlando) was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure. I actually ended up riding this thing five times (thanks to the single-rider line). While the ride was really fun, it was also a bit confusing. It seems like they were trying to involve some kind of story, but I must have missed it. It ended up feeling like just some random things happening during the ride. It was a lot of fun though.
- The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom was a bit of a disappointment (but still a pretty good ride). It was rare to see the wait time for this ride at less than an hour, and all the FastPasses were gone by the time I tried to get one. I ended up waiting through the line and riding it once, but it was difficult to justify the wait time.
- Other notable new attractions since my last visit to Orlando include:
- Captain EO at Epcot
- Soarin’ at Epcot
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios (which I didn’t get to ride)
- Dispicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios (which I didn’t get to ride)
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios (which I didn’t get to ride)
- Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios (which I didn’t get to ride)
My favorite rides (as of now):
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Expedition Everest
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster
- The Simpsons Ride
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Star Tours
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Test Track
After this trip, I would rank the Orlando parks in the following order:
- Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Universal Studios Florida
I recently read a great article this week called “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband”, which talks about the creation of the MagicBand.