USA 06/22 – Kennywood

Day 2

The excitement of our long awaited trip finally beginning made me forget all about the previous day’s misfortunes, and the fact I had only had 2 hours sleep max.

Kennywood

The 3 hour drive to the park flew by quickly as the excitement grew further, and the much needed energy drink kicked in.

Kennywood was easily one of the more anticipated parks of the trip, for me at least. The ride line up is so different than most other parks out there, mixing unique modern coasters with no less than 3 old school woodies. I’d heard the place compared to Blackpool Pleasure Beach many times, for many reasons, and for me at least, that’s a strong compliment.

Steel Curtain

As you may have gathered from the introduction I try to keep tabs on Kennywood, and one thing I’ve learnt is that having Steel Curtain open on your visit is not always guaranteed. So that’s exactly why we headed there first after seeing it running.

I went into Steel Curtain with as open a mind as possible, but I couldn’t shake the voices in my head that were telling me it probably wasn’t going to be a top 25 coaster. And it wasn’t, but is it about as good as it could possibly be to just miss out.

Steel Curtain is a fantastic coaster, with a terrifying lift hill, pre drop, dive drop start, that leads into a fast paced layout full of fun and snappy inversions and strong pops of airtime, all while sitting in a very exposed position.

No one part really stands out and slaps you in the face, but Steel Curtain as a package is awesome and was the perfect welcome back to the US coaster scene.

Phantom’s Revenge

But it wasn’t as good as Phantom’s Revenge…

Before this trip, whenever I saw someone rank Phantom’s Revenge in their top 10 I thought they were going insane. Now though, I can absolutely understand the love this legendary coaster gets.

First off, if I felt exposed in the Steel Curtain trains, which I did, Phantom takes it to the next level. It honest to God feels like you are sitting in your favourite arm chair at home, not about to drop 228 feet, travel 85mph and get ejected into space multiple times. I love it so much, it adds so much character to a coaster that’s already dripping in it.

Then the layout, oh my God, talk about a coaster with 2 clearly defined sections.

The first half of Phantom’s Revenge (not including the lift hill) is great fun, and what all old school hyper coasters should be, smooth, fast and with a few decent airtime moments. The second half however is absolutely outrageous with some of the strongest ejector airtime moments I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve experienced a lot.

You can never prepare yourself for the second half of Phantom’s Revenge, and if you’re anything like me you’ll spend the whole first half of the coaster trying to ready yourself, fail completely, and then spend the whole second half laughing in disbelief at what you’re experiencing.

Phantom is amazing and was easily one of the best surprises of the whole trip.

Thunderbolt

Next up we rode the first of the park’s old school woodies, and easily its best, Thunderbolt.

While I’ve certainly ridden better old school woodies, I thought Thunderbolt was good fun, with its location and interactions with Phantom’s Revenge certainly enhancing the experience.

Ghostwood Estate

In the slightly lengthy queue for Ghostwood Estate, the park’s interactive ghost train, we tried to work out if it would be a better idea to phone all the hotels separately to update our card info, or to phone head office and get them to do it for us. It turns out both ideas are awful, but not as awful as Wyndham themselves. We will pick this up in a second…

Ghostwood then. It wasn’t great if I’m honest, plus our car kept getting stuck throughout the layout, which I’m putting down to 2 chunky women batching themselves into the back of our car while the staff weren’t paying attention.

We needed to head to the car for snacks, and to reapply sunscreen, so while there we decided to get this hotel crap out of the way once and for all.

Our hotel for the night was currently staffed by a woman who was at best useless. She wouldn’t let us update our card info on her system and kept saying you’d need to phone the head office.

Then you phoned head office, got a confused foreign man, who then told you to phone the hotel.

Getting angry now, Heartline phoned head office 1 more time. Explained how upset he was with the whole situation (read about it here) and asked 1 last time for them to fix it or to explain what we’d need to do to fix it ourselves.

After they hung up on us, and we got back through to the same man, he gave us the only solution he could think of. Cancel all your booked hotels that have the expired card info and rebook them now, 1 by 1, on the phone, at much higher prices.

I don’t think I need to explain everything wrong with that statement, but I will tell you that at that moment we officially decided we’d face all the hotels 1 at a time and stretch resolving them over the whole trip.

You know what would calm us down man, more Kennywood.

Jack Rabbit

Starting with Jack Rabbit, the second of the park’s old woodies.

It wasn’t all that great, but thanks to a family sitting behind us it damn sure was amusing.

We are bouncing along, not much happening, no one else on the train really caring either. Then suddenly this woman behind us shouts “here it comes! airtime! woo!”, and she wasn’t wrong. The coaster delivered a vicious pop of ejector air, it was great, the whole train loved it, then we went straight back to riding in silence, bouncing along with not much happening, it was so strange.

Sky Rocket was meant to be our next ride, but it was currently experiencing a delay, and it was far from the first one we’d seen today.

So, on a bench outside the currently broken Sky Rocket, while I was waving at the amazing Kenny the Kangaroo (see the mural outside Thunderbolt), Heartline phoned our hotel for the night, 1 last time, while knowing we had many different options for the night if they didn’t want to play ball.

Of course they didn’t. So they were told to shove it in as many words as possible while we powered through the short queueline of the now reopened Sky Rocket.

Sky Rocket

Sky Rocket was far better than I was expecting, and so much better than the terrible Sky Rocket 2 models.

Fun punchy launch, good airtime moments, snappy inversions, and all while being perfectly smooth, a good little coaster.

Racer

Racer was next and the last of the park’s old woodies, and honestly probably the worst.

It didn’t really do much, positive or negative, and the racing aspect didn’t even work properly with 1 train winning every time.

I can’t fault it too much though because from the second we stepped off of Racer the park stepped up its game and transformed into the Kennywood I’d read about online, and became one of the best parks of the trip.

It all started with our 3rd lap of Steel Curtain.

As we took our seats in the train, nervous that we wouldn’t have enough time to complete the park, and spend quality time with the Phantom, we were asked to leave our seats and step back behind the airgates because there was a fault with the restraints.

It was the after market seatbelts, the ones that have caused multiple headaches in the coaster’s short life.

Cue around half an hour of comedy gold, including but not limited to.

  1. The ride operator cycling the seatbelt system every 30 seconds, producing a fast paced clicking noise, that we could perfectly replicate in our axe damaged hire car.
  2. The ride operator answering a question from someone in the queue with, “I’m just pushing buttons”, which once again we adopted into the hire car.
  3. The already displeased engineer dropping his spanner through the track 30 feet to the floor below.
  4. The sheer excitement on a new staff member’s face that they were now trained to operate the coaster’s handicap elevator.

Best of all though, they managed to solve the fault and we were able to get a 3rd lap, which was probably the best of the whole day.

Exterminator

With Lil’ Phantom and Old Mill both being closed, Exterminator was the last ride we needed at the park before we finished the day at Phantom’s Revenge.

The queue for Exterminator was awful, dark, loud and crowded, it helped to remind me that I’d only slept for 2 hours. The coaster itself though was pretty great, just for how much it spun and how intense it was to experience that in the dark.

Then it was Phantom time, and my God, it was awesome.

No queue, hyped up staff and the coaster running even better than it was earlier in the day. The perfect way to end a great day at Kennywood.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 3 of trip report, where we visit the fantastic Kings Island.


USA 06/22 – EVERYTHING Goes Wrong by Mega-Lite

Day 1

It was finally upon us. A trip discussed in mid 2019, planned in early 2020, delayed and adjusted more times than I care to remember. This was the big one, the one we’d all been waiting for, the even greater follow up to my favourite trip of all time (USA 2019, which you can read here).

We were ready, but it would turn out that the World still wasn’t…

If you read my recent Florida trip report you’ll remember that we had a rather close call checking in for our flight thanks to the (at the time) mandatory Covid tests. This time though, we were prepared.

A friend drove us to the airport, and I made sure to ask him to get us there early. I’m talking early enough to do the Covid test and still be early enough to be at the check in desk before it even opened. He did us 1 better, he got us there even earlier than that.

Even better, the queue for the Covid test centre was far less than it was when we needed it for our Florida flight. This is going to be a breeze…

Just as expected, we were Covid free and in the first group of people to be at the check in desk ready to go.

Boarding passes in hand, luggage checked in, it was time to head to security.

This was the era in the UK when security queues at airports were on the news daily for being 6 miles long and 4 hours at all times.

While I can’t say that didn’t happen at some point, I can say that although the queue we entered looked awful, it was in fact only about 40 minutes long.

We did the maths while we queued, we should still be about an hour early for our flight even after this mess. Also various budget airlines were combing the queue and fast tracking you out of it if your flight was nearing. I’m certain that the team at American would do the same for us if we were in any risk of not making it.

So we get to the front of the security queue and have to go through the barriers that let you into the main bit with all the scanners.

We scanned our boarding passes and were both presented with a message to seek assistance.

In the confusion of scanning it a 5th time to see if it was really us or a Heathrow problem a security bloke came over and asked us where we were flying, and then escorted us off to the side where several other poor souls were standing.

“Your boarding passes aren’t letting you through because American Airlines deem it impossible for you to get through the scanners and to your gate in the over an hour you have left. You’ll have to go downstairs to the check in desks to get them to sort it out”.

Many questions were floating around now, such as, “why didn’t anyone come get us out of the queue then?”, “we joined security straight after we checked in, straight after check in opened, what more could we possibly have done?”.

None of that logic mattered though, as the security bloke just told us there’s nothing he can do, you’ll have to go see American downstairs.

So we all headed there. To a closed desk…

So we all headed back to exactly where we left off, back to the same security man at the side of the scanners.

He started phoning people while still going on about how this is 100 percent an American Airlines issue and not Heathrow.

5 minutes later an American team member came sprinting up behind us, shouting “let em through!”.

A wise girl in our group of stranded souls asked him a simple question that we were now all thinking. “Because of all that running about we’ve just had to do we are now getting a bit tight on time, can we fast track what’s left of security?”.

“If you get through these barriers, you’ll get on the flight”, he replied.

What was left of security didn’t take all that long, but with time now tight, nearly all of our stranded few decided to sprint to the gate.

It was all for nothing though…

We got to the gate, plane still sitting there, “sorry you’ve missed it.”

It was at this point I was glad that all the other stranded passengers were American and from the parts of the US where words don’t get minced and tempers fly high.

The duty manager was summoned, he wasn’t much use though…

“First off, no one is getting on that flight.”

Cue all the previous comments made at the security man but this time angrier.

“Chill out guys, we’ve got, hundreds of flights to the US departing today, you can fly anywhere you want, free of charge, you won’t even need to go back to check in, there’s a special desk between gates X and X.”

Off we went, all feeling defeated, but hopeful. If there really is that many flights, maybe the wait won’t be long and maybe we fly somewhere that might make things slightly easier. It would mean Heartline would have to rejig the plans for the 50th time though…

We all get to the desk, and it wasn’t great…

No shade on the lady working there, she was friendly and understanding, and clearly not in the position to do anything close to what the man had promised us.

We had 3 choices. Fly in 3 hours to New York, fly in 5 hours to New York, via L.A., or wait 23 hours for the flight we just got screwed out of.

Option 1 please.

This meant we’d need to switch terminals, and go through all the security faff again at a different location though…

Would we miss another flight today?

Thankfully not.

I’d struggle to call it a victory, but there would be a silver lining to this mess. In the queue for security I contacted BA asking them to urgently phone me because I’d need to change my pick up location for the car. At the gate a friendly lady phoned me and told me that changing my location will save me nearly 500 pounds, that makes this sting slightly less.

Once we finally got in the air the flight itself was fine, as it always is with American. But now it was time to let it sink in that a 4 hour drive to almost Kennywood, had just become a 6 hour drive to almost Kennywood, and we’d also be arriving much later than before. This was going to be a rough night.

We landed ahead of schedule and immediately launched as fast as we could towards the hire car pick up, where thankfully there was no line, just a man complaining that the car he was given through choosing the “wildcard” option didn’t suit his needs, well yeah…

The car we were given looked like it had been attacked with an axe in several places, but we were in a rush and didn’t want to go through the faff of changing it, if we even could. We brought the damage up with one of the staff members as we left though, she made a note on our forms and commented, “I’ve told them not to rent this one out anymore, and that was 3 renters ago!”, yeah that sounds about what I’d expect.

The sat nav told us we’d arrive at our hotel between 1 and 2am with no stops, and because we’d now past the free cancellation window it was set in stone, we’d have to make it there no matter how ruined we were.

Or not…

We phoned the hotel when we around half way there to let them know we’d be arriving so late. I mean you shouldn’t have to, but we’ve been burned before by not making the effort.

“I’ll be here all night sir, arrive when you arrive”, “awesome, thanks”, “could I just check the name though?” “sure”, *gives name*, “oh I’m sorry, we’ve been trying to contact you all day, the card you used to book the room has expired, so we’ve cancelled your room, don’t worry though we have rooms, and we can check you in for the day rate price once you arrive”, “I see….”.

I’ll make a very long saga short here. Wyndham hotels are one of the most useless companies out there, with an awful website and terrible customer service on their helpline.

Because this trip had been booked so long ago and changed so many times, most of the Wyndham hotels were booked on a previous credit card. When booking more recent hotels for the trip a new up to date credit card was used and stored on the website.

It turns out though, the hotels are only able to use the card you originally booked to stay with them on and will make no attempt to sort this out.

They will not contact Wyndham or use the website to get the up to date credit card, nor will they phone you to ask for an up to date credit card. They just get to 6pm, see your card is expired, and then cancel the room.

Needless to say this was quite the situation and not one you want to deal with at midnight when your flight has already messed with your plans.

We decided we’d attempt to deal with sorting the hotels for the rest of the trip tomorrow, and tonight we’d just forget our previously booked hotel and find one that means less driving tonight.

So, while I was feeling like death, and Heartline was begrudgingly eating a McDonalds, we found a decent looking and well priced hotel right next to Hersheypark, a park we were very excited to be revisiting later in the trip.

This trip would end up redefining the phrase “oh, I’ve stayed at worse” and it all began tonight at a hotel with views of Skyrush.

The hotel room was dirty, dated and falling apart, and located next to a major road, that from 3am onwards was nothing but trucks, all using their horns.

This led to me probably getting 2 hours sleep on my bed that was seconds from falling apart while it sounded like the jump scare from the Dark Knight coaster was endlessly replaying outside, a rough night indeed.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 2 of my trip report where we visit the awesome Kennywood and ride the outrageous Phantom’s Revenge.


Florida 04/22 – Fun Spot Orlando + The Unexpected

Day 11

The final day of the trip was here, and although it’s always a sad time having to go home, this time more than ever I felt that we had completed and got the most out of everything the place had to offer.

With the exception of the last few things that we were going to round up on a big (time sensitive) loop from our hotel to the airport.

Starting with American McDonalds for breakfast, their Canadian bacon McMuffin is about the only thing that American McDonalds do right.

Fun Spot Orlando

Before driving 5 minutes over to Fun Spot Orlando.

Because of its location, Fun Spot Orlando felt much more like an actual park than the Kissimmee site, but also because of its location, the Orlando park had almost no atmosphere, at least when we visited.

No atmosphere and no customer service either it turns out.

Where the staff at the Kissimmee park ranged from slightly caring to so friendly it was a little awkward for my English brain to understand, the Orlando site was staffed entirely by people who didn’t want to be there.

We didn’t have a discounted purchased in advanced wristband like we did at Fun Spot Kissimmee, so instead would need to buy a points card in order to ride today, thankfully we only needed 1 lap on each coaster.

So we went to the ticket counter, the woman serving wasn’t at all interested in being there, and then managed to rip us off too.

It would later turn out that this wouldn’t matter (spoilers) but at the time it wasn’t the greatest of first impressions of a park.

Sea Serpent

We started with the park’s E&F Miler kiddie coaster, the first of the park’s completely cloned line up.

Freedom Flyer

Before making our way over to Freedom Flyer, the park’s Vekoma SFC, and riding the worst example of this layout yet. It was however 100 times better than Flying School at Legoland Florida.

White Lightning

The final coaster left to experience at the park was White Lightning, the park’s twice cloned GCI woodie. I’d ridden both clones multiple times before White Lightning, and I’m sad to say that once again this is the worst version.

And that was Fun Spot Orlando, expensive, and not very good.

Right, clock’s ticking, let’s go.

Next up we visited a K-Pop shop and a Walmart, where we managed to spend so long that all other plans had to be cancelled, it was time to head to the airport, it was time for everything to go wrong…

We got to the airport, with the traditional 3 hours to spare for international flights, had some food, flew through security and then took a seat way too early at our gate.

Then we were delayed, then delayed again, and again…

Then with no staff at our gate, the screens changed from delayed to cancelled… With no text or communications from British Airways, the airport website also changed our flight from delayed to cancelled…

I’m so thankful that Heartline was here during the whole thing. He has experience in this sort of crap that I don’t, so he knew exactly how to react to all of it.

Step 1, we need to sprint back to the check in desks and raise hell.

We were in the first 6 or 7 people to make it to the gate but were immediately told to stand aside so they could check in people for the flight after us, we will make an announcement soon.

And oh boy did they.

A scared man, stood up infront of the 10 of us now and told us:

Your flight has been cancelled because a storm earlier meant your plane landed in Miami. When that plane took off later to come here, the staff on board ran out of flying hours so they had to go back to Miami. There’s nothing we can about that. Also, we phoned BA HQ and they have informed us that even though there are plenty of seats free on the Heathrow flight, they will not be putting any of you on that flight. Once again there’s nothing we can do. We also can’t book any of you onto the next Gatwick flight here because we don’t have permission, you’ll have to do that yourselves.

Step 2, find somewhere to sleep for the night, keeping all receipts so BA can refund it later.

While I phoned every hotel on a special list of nearby hotels that help during this sort of thing, Heartline went on Booking.com.

It began to dawn on us during this search that hundreds of flights had been cancelled. None of the special hotels on the list had a room, and prices on Booking.com were soaring as we went on.

Finally Heartline found us a hotel at a “decent” price, now all we’ve got to do is get there.

Hire car or taxi?

Hire car would be easier in all senses, let’s go down that route.

OH. MY. GOD.

There was honest to God a 3-4 hour queue for every single car hire company. With rumours also flying around that cars were close to selling out…

Thankfully we got to chatting with a very friendly American man in the queue, who after hearing about what we needed the car for, hearing how long the taxi queue was (possibly longer than the car hire one), suggested we try Uber.

It turns out, this man is a genius, and Uber is a lifesaver.

Install app, give details, press find me a driver, then in less than 15 minutes a friendly man arrived and we were off to our hotel.

Which just so happened to be pretty much inside of Fun Spot Kissimmee, for better, and for worse.

On one hand we were sleeping a 2-3 minute walk from one of my new favourite wooden coasters. But on the other one we were sleeping next to a set of traffic lights on a major junction, while also being in a hotel that’s part of the almost 24 hour entertainment area that attaches to the park, either way BA would be the ones paying for it.

Day 12

Thankfully I was still able to sleep rather well, which isn’t all that surprising considering the intensity of the trip that had come before.

How did we spend our free (sort of) extra half day in Florida? By watching Battlebots and chilling in the hotel, but we knew we couldn’t leave for the airport without one more ride on the beast.

So, with 1 hour to go before leaving, we walked back into Fun Spot, topped up the points card we were overcharged for the day before, and made our way back to Mine Blower for 1 last lap. It was amazing, and the perfect send off to the amazing trip that Fun Spot Orlando certainly was not.

Then it was time to once again journey to the airport and deal with more crap from BA.

Because 2 of us booked our flights through American and not BA directly it took over an hour to check us in to the flight. Not an hour plus of come back again soon, but a literal hour plus of standing at the check in desk while they seemingly had no idea what they were doing.

One of the most memorable moments of the saga was being told to go speak to the team at American who were not best pleased at the BA implications that it’s probably American’s fault, go see what they can do. “You’re flying with BA, they are the ones who will have to check you in, I don’t understand the issue”, with an eye roll summed it up perfectly really.

Finally though we were in and it was time to come home, but not without another delay of course. Now the only issue would be getting our money back and squaring the missed hours up at work.

Thank you so much for reading my trip report.


Florida 04/22 – Legoland Florida + Busch Gardens Tampa

Day 10

Legoland Florida

It ended up being for the best that Legoland was just a inconvenience, a stepping stone, and +3 on route to more rides on Iron Gwazi, because my God, the park was more than a step down from every park that had come before it on the trip, in literally every category possible.

It was a bit of a blast from the past too though, because the park, today at least, ticked all the boxes of Merlin when they were at their very worst in the UK, something they have thankfully moved on from, this side of the Atlantic at least.

The entrance plaza wasn’t too busy when we arrived just before opening, this was most likely due to the forecast wet weather this morning. Looks like we will be able to breeze in, get the creds and breeze out again man, if only we knew…

First up we headed to Dragon because it made most sense geographically.

We walked all the way through the open and empty queueline, into the station building, before a panicked staff member told us that they weren’t ready yet and they couldn’t say how long it would be.

They looked like they were doing last minute station checks and it woudn’t take long, but it wasn’t worth waiting when other rides would be walk on, we will come back soon.

The Lego Movie: Masters of Flight

So we headed to the nearby flying theatre, which was operating, and being operated terribly.

Despite the queue being short we waited far too long to make it inside the show building, and when we did we discovered the reason, the loading of the ride was laughably slow, to the point that even those around us were wondering what was going on.

As for the ride itself…

Well, it was leagues behind Legoland Windsor’s Flight of the Sky Lion, both in terms of media and implementation, but I’ve certainly ridden more insulting flying theatres. This was fine, but I wouldn’t want to exist through those operations to have another go.

We walked back to Dragon, which now had a member of staff standing at the entrance, “Dragon isn’t ready yet”, “do you know how long it might be?”, “no”.

Coastersaurus

So we made our way to the park’s wooden coaster, Coastersaurus.

It was actually raining now, and after seeing how the rest of the park was running we were worried that operations had been suspended, but no, they were just painfully slow.

Coastersaurus sucked. Yes I know it’s designed as a child’s first woodie, but I can think of several children sized woodies that kick Coastersaurus’ ass.

We walked back to Dragon, the staff member was still standing at the entrance.

Flying School

So we headed to Flying School at the very back of the park.

The rain meant most people were now heading to indoor attractions or cafes meaning there was almost no one else at this end of the park.

Thankfully operations weren’t too bad here, but it would be truly impressive if you could make loading 8 people take 10 minutes.

Not so thankfully, this layout of the Vekoma Suspended Family Coaster, combined with the stupid and unnecessary over the shoulder restraints led to a rather unpleasant experience.

We weren’t the only ones who thought this either. There was a father hyping up his son while we waited too long at the air gates, and while we travelled up the lift hill. But by the time we arrived back in the station, ears bruised, he had nothing left to say.

If this is what flying is like, count me out.

We walked back to Dragon, where we asked again, “do you know when it might open?”, their response was the expected, “no, I wouldn’t want to say”, then something about a piece of theming not working. Right.

So we headed to the worst Miniland I’ve ever seen in order to kill yet more time.

The whole thing was under some tatty looking tent canopy, was small in size and had almost nothing interesting to look at or interact with.

We walked back to Dragon, where several other guests were now camping out, looking unimpressed that it still wasn’t open. They now had 2 members of staff there, to control the disgruntled masses, they still weren’t offering anything useful though.

Lost Kingdom Adventure

So we went to ride the park’s shooting dark ride, Lost Kingdom Adventure.

I’m almost certain it’s a clone of the not very good Laser Raiders from Windsor, and as expected, it wasn’t very good.

We walked back to Dragon, where they now had entertainers trying to calm the masses (all 6 of them), and the ride still wasn’t open.

So we headed to Ninjago, to ask if we could film it for the Dark Ride Database.

As soon as we hit the back of the short queue, 10 or so people from boarding, the ride broke down, and it appeared the staff had no clue how to react to it.

An announcement was made only to those on the ride, which pretty much read like, we don’t know what to do, stay seated ya’ll, while they left those in the queueline completely in the dark about what was happening, time to leave…

We walked back to Dragon, the situation was unchanged.

We were getting a bit fed up now, both in terms of the coaster not opening and costing us Iron Gwazi time, and the frankly useless information the staff members at the ride were giving us.

At Disney, the lady at Frozen told us with a wink and smile that it won’t be long, I’d stick around.

At Universal, the VelociCoaster ride team were playing the “nothing to fear” temporary fault announcement every 2 minutes.

Here though, there was no information, would it take 10 more minutes, we are working on it, or is it closed all day, give us something please.

So we went to guest services and asked a slightly scared but otherwise friendly bloke, who told us, “it’s open guys…”, “WHAT?!”.

We walked back to Dragon, and he was right, it was open, we would be completing the park after all.

Dragon

Honestly I’m still confused how they managed to add the rather lengthy dark ride section onto the front of a pre-exisiting Vekoma Junior clone, and that instantly makes it the best coaster at the park, not that there is any other competition.

Park complete, but with how well asking that man went before, let’s try him again.

We had purchased our Legoland tickets from a discounted ticket website available to Cedar Fair passholders. We bought them before Peppa Pig opened next door, and despite our best efforts were unable to either refund our Legoland tickets or upgrade them to include Peppa.

Let’s go see the man.

This time he told us we’d need to go see the team at Peppa Pig to see what they could do.

Absolutely nothing, but with an attitude it turns out.

Fair enough, Iron Gwazi.

Busch Gardens Tampa

Back to Busch we went, and this time with nothing to lose and everything an extra it was a much more relaxed experience, further cementing that I like the park, but the Williamsburg one is better.

Iron Gwazi

They don’t have Iron Gwazi though, and they certainly don’t have walk on Iron Gwazi.

Seemingly the rain in the morning had put the Floridian masses off and this led to (for 90% of our half day visit) us being able to stroll straight onto one of the greatest coasters in the World, currently 7th in my top 25 in case you forgot.

I had this massive fear before the trip, that even though we were visiting during the less busy season we’d be struggling to get enough laps in on major coasters to form proper opinions of them, but no, over our 1 and a half days at Busch we got a silly amount of laps on Iron Gwazi.

Opinions remain from the last visit, best RMC I’ve ridden, outstanding.

We broke up our walk on Iron Gwazi’s by re-visiting the park’s other major attractions.

Montu

Starting with Montu.

Going in knowing that Montu isn’t an elite tier B&M Invert and that it wasn’t going to blow my mind made my 2nd lap slightly better than my first, but I just wish it was all the things I wanted it to be.

Side note, has it always looked this bad? In my mind Montu was heavily themed, or is that just another thing I wanted it to be and it isn’t?

Kumba

I blame Heartline fully for this re-ride.

I begrudgingly agreed to join him on a re-ride after he promised me an inside seat, that we’d sit nearer the front and it should be much less rattly and awful there. It wasn’t. To his credit though, he came out of his outside seat and agreed it wasn’t great, correct.

SheiKra

SheiKra was still absolutely forceless, but smooth as butter, I can’t complain too much.

Cheetah Hunt

Finally something worth re-riding.

I fell even harder for Cheetah Hunt on this re-visit.

Like I said before, going in knowing exactly what Cheetah Hunt is going for, and embracing that, rewards you with a long ride that’s great fun, with a few intense suprises along the way. Easily the 2nd best coaster at the park, and I’m quite relieved I never visited when it was the best.

Cobra’s Curse

While Cobra’s Curse was exactly as I remembered it from last time, it’s still a great little coaster and more worth your time than 2 of the park’s major B&Ms.

Re-rides complete, it was time to settle in with Iron Gwazi for the night, but not before spending far too long attempting to check in for our flight home tomorrow, a task that would end up being completely pointless, spoilers.

The final hour or so of Iron Gwazi time became slightly frustrating with multiple breakdowns and a constant 30 minute queue, which sucked after we had been walking on it all day.

This did lead to us meeting the lovely Rollercoaster David though, who we had a nice chat with, mostly about his very obscure T-shirt, before he offered us the use of his annual pass to buy ourselves an Iron Gwazi one at a massive discount. Thank you once again David, I love getting to represent “God damn” Iron Gwazi at any opportunity.

Thank you for reading, click here for the final part of my trip report, where we visit the very underwhelming Fun Spot Orlando, and then everything goes wrong.


Florida 03/22 – Hollywood Studios + Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Day 9

With Florida for the most part now complete, it was time to revisit some of the most stand out, life changing, poll wrecking, World class attractions that we had experienced thus far, starting with Rise of the Resistance.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Because we didn’t want to pay over 50 dollars for parking today, we opted to take the sketchy hotel shuttle bus 1 last time.

We didn’t plan to or want to stay all that long at Hollywood Studios anyway, but the shuttle bus now gave us a deadline that had we to stick to, unless we wanted to miss Velocicoaster, pay lots of money or faff like we’ve never faffed before, it was a fun challenge to be fair.

Knowing what we were doing now, sort of, meant we took the sketchy shuttle bus to the Disney transport hub, walked to the nearest Disney resort hotel, jumped on their bus and in less than 10 minutes we were at the gates of Hollywood Studios. Putting the claims of 2 hours to get from the transport hub to Hollywood Studios by our sketchy bus driver totally to shame.

Tower of Terror

Because we missed Tower of Terror last time, this was where we needed to start today, and it was a good thing we got there not long after opening.

The ride was running with not all the lift shafts in operation meaning the queue was moving far slower than normal, and it was rapidly filling up behind us.

Eventually though, after much sitting down on the queueline walls to rest our ruined legs, and meeting Goofy, it was time to enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel itself.

This ride man, the atmosphere it creates is ridiculous, from the moment you step into the hotel until you leave, I can’t put it into words, it’s just something you have to experience.

I loved the dark ride section on route to the lift shaft that’s unique to the Orlando version, it’s a nice change from staying in the shaft the whole ride, plus it helps build the dread perfectly.

As for the drop section, I’m so glad to report that the Japanese one was tamed down, because Orlando’s ToT hits every bit as hard as I remember the French one hitting, and when these are running as they should they are just so much fun.

Rise of the Resistance

If anything, Rise of the Resistance was even more intense a second time around.

This might be difficult to explain…

The shock value was still there for certain, how could that ever wear off? But knowing roughly what I was about to get myself into as I entered the first preshow was such an exciting experience. Then being able to sit back a little more, and breathe the ride in a little more, instead of trying to take it all in the first time around, it felt a lot more rewarding.

It was a little sad that a key show element, which was in B mode last time we rode, was once again in B mode, but you can’t have everything I suppose.

Opinions remain from last time, absolutely stunning, simply incredible, one of the best dark rides ever created.

With what we came to do complete, we still had around 45 minutes before we needed to head to the bus park. “What’s the queue for Runaway Railway?”, “80 minutes”, “Star Tours is only 30 though”, “let’s do it”.

Star Tours

To almost 100 percent validate how great RotR and Smugglers Run are, I still don’t really like Star Tours.

This is going to be hard to explain, and annoy everyone…

Please remember I’m not a fan of Stars Wars, and to date have watched 1/3 of one of the movies, and it was one of the new ones, I did like it though.

I really like the serious, high stakes, modern feel of the new Star Wars rides. They are easy to understand and don’t require you to know much about Star Wars to enjoy them. Being a Star Wars fan just elevates the experience to new heights.

RotR you’ve followed the resistance to a cave network and get yourself in big trouble for daring to side with them.

Smugglers Run you are asked to pilot the Millennium Falcon, a ship everyone knows, to do some misdeeds for an eccentric character, and some money.

Then Star Tours just feels built 100 percent to cater to die hard fans.

We’ve flying to planets only fans will know, why are we as park goers even allowed to fly there? There’s tons of weird humour and inside jokes, the kind of stuff that puts me off watching the original Star Wars films.

Then the ride hardware, I mean I can’t complain too much, it opened before I was born, but it’s very primitive these day.

I’ll stop moaning before I annoy too many people. Hopefully in the future Disney can update it though because right now it feels like the Star Wars ride you ride if Smugglers Run has too big of a queue.

With that bonus ride we were done with the park and took a casual stroll to the bus park for our hotel shuttle bus, which of course was late…

After a quick bite to eat, which I recall as being a Subway, it was time to get back on the road, this time in the hire car, and launch to Islands of Adventure. Side note, even though American Subway is 15 times better than British Subway, how can it exist in a country where Firehouse and Quiznos do business?

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Powering from the parking lot to the entrance of Islands of Adventure once again felt like a real pilgrimage, and then, in almost no time at all (the crowds were much lighter at this time of day) we were on the edge of the Forbidden Forest ready for another lesson with Hagrid.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

This time there was no locker faff, the queue was slightly shorter, and even better, the preshow was now working.

And thanks to Hagrid and Arthur Weasley being 2 of the most entertaining characters in the films, this preshow instantly became the best Harry Potter preshow at the Resort and was a nice cherry on top of what is already an incredible attraction.

As for the ride itself, much like RotR, a second lap, this time as the sun was going down, allowed me to really sit back and experience the coaster to its fullest, and it’s amazing.

We also got to experience a temporary block brake stoppage at the bottom of one of the drop tracks. As someone who’s almost as impressed with the techinical aspects of Hagrids as I am with the actual show experience, this was awesome to be part of.

It wasn’t so great for the couple a few rows in front though, who were convinced something terrible was going to happen. Maybe this experience will convert them into coaster nerds and they will do their research and learn how truly impressive Hagrid’s ride system is, but more likely they are probably scarred for life.

Opinions remain from last time, absolutely stunning, simply incredible, one of the best family coasters ever created.

VelociCoaster

Then it was time to go see the dinosaurs again.

A fellow UK based coaster fan happened to be having his Florida holiday at the same time as us, and we had seen from his social media that earlier in the day VelociCoaster had been struggling with technical issues. Sadly these issues were still present tonight, but all credit to Universal they always got the beast up and running again. These issues just meant we weren’t able to marathon the coaster as much as we would have liked, but I’d for certain say we got enough rides tonight to be content and to be sure of how we truly feel about it.

Not much had really changed from last time, but possibly getting more familiar with the layout hurt it slightly. Nothing to fear though, VelociCoaster is still amazing, still a World class coaster and the Mosasaurus roll is most certainly still one of the most ridiculous elements I’ve ever experienced.

That marked the end of our slightly more chilled out day of revisiting the best Disney and Universal have to offer. Thank you for reading, and click here for day 10 of my trip report where we give Busch Gardens and Iron Gwazi the same treatment, but not before visiting the rather frustrating Legoland Florida.


Florida 03/22 – SeaWorld Orlando + Fun Spot Kissimmee

Day 8

SeaWorld Orlando

Today it was time to visit the least exciting of the major Orlando attractions, SeaWorld. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited to visit though, the park is home to several attractions I wanted to experience.

Manta

Manta wasn’t one of them though, but only because I’ve ridden its clone, Acrobat, in Japan, and didn’t want Manta to unintentionally damage the reputation of a coaster I really enjoyed. Spoiler alert, it did, but we will get to that.

First off I need to mention the queue for Manta, which was amazing for both the theming and the sealife, as well as the air con because the heat today was intense.

As for the coaster, I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did Acrobat but I’ll hold my hands up right now and say that I think half of that opinion is me becoming jaded with B&M Flyers. The other half though, it just wasn’t as intense as I was expecting.

I know it’s illegal to moan about large scale coasters being cloned, and I know Manta came first, so I’ll say something positive and move on. The pretzel loop on Manta is one of the most intense experiences out there, I’m still not sure my lungs have fully recovered from it. Also, the freshly repainted track looks amazing.

Next we managed to get lost on route to literally any other coaster, leading us to stumble upon a large building signed Empire of the Penguin. “Wait, isn’t that a dark ride?” “It used to be I think.” This needed investigation.

The results of our investigation revealed that it in fact used to be dark ride but it is certainly one no more, and these days is only home to a smelly penguin walkthrough. Though we did get to see dust covered control panels from the attraction’s ‘better days’.

Journey to Atlantis

Much like Poseidon’s Fury 2 days ago it really felt like Journey to Atlantis opened just for us. The coaster/dark ride hybrid had been down for a couple of months for extensive retracking and all rumours led to us missing the attraction on our visit. That was until a week or so before we arrived when the park announced that it was finally back in operation.

I’m really on the fence on an opinion of this ride and it annoys me. On 1 hand what I experienced was fine, the dark ride parts were decent enough and the coaster parts were your typical Mack water coaster. On the other though, knowing what this attraction used to be, and knowing I experienced it as a shell of its former self upsets me slightly.

With that being said, what I experienced was alright, thank you SeaWorld for opening it in time for our visit.

Kraken

Freshly repainted Kraken was next, and it was good fun.

Nearer the top end of the B&M Floorless models I’ve ridden, but not up there with the best, certainly leagues better than Kumba and Hulk though. It had a little more character than just going upside down many times and wasn’t anywhere near as headache inducing.

Mako

While Kraken isn’t even in debate for being the best B&M Floorless, Mako might just be the best B&M Hyper ever created.

Coming from a man who normally has to be dragged back on B&M Hypers for rerides because they normally offer almost nothing interesting to me, Mako is special and I fell hard for this wonderful shark themed coaster.

Let’s be clear, Mako isn’t going to blow anyone’s minds or offer anything super intense or different, it’s just great fun and delivers the perfect combination of the ‘sensation of speed’ and possibly the best floater airtime in the industry.

By the end of the day Mako had become my most ridden B&M Hyper, an accomplishment in itself, but more than that, I wasn’t getting bored, if anything I was enjoying it more every time.

Mako is the best coaster at SeaWorld and I’d feel bad for it if it wasn’t at least mentioned in a list of the “best coasters in Florida”.

Infinity Falls

Infinity Falls was next, and while I enjoyed my ride, it wasn’t anywhere near as memorable as the carnage of Bilge Rat Barges.

Also, the drop on Infinity Falls really wasn’t anything all that special. It might be the same height as the drop on Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure (Singapore) and 4 foot taller than River Quest’s largest drop but it doesn’t even compare to the sheer terror those 2 drops offer.

It’s alright.

Super Grover’s Box Car Derby

Better than the World’s only Zierer Force Three for certain though.

Ice Breaker

I feel like Ice Breaker, the park’s newest coaster, from Premier Rides, is getting unfair hate, and unjust praise, so I’m here to lay another opinion on the table, it’s a great coaster, that’s massively flawed in several ways.

The good first. The coaster layout itself is very good fun, with a punchy triple launch and several super intense moments of ejector air.

Now the bad. Comfort collars, while they don’t completely kill the awesome ejector, you can’t experience it to its fullest. The awful train design, meaning no one can get in or out properly, slowing operations to a crawl, in a park home to 3 B&Ms all capable of doing silly numbers every hour. Stupid glasses rules, they made Heartline take his glasses off his face, where they are more than safe, to hold them in his hand on a coaster with an intense triple launch, strong laterals and intense ejector airtime, you know, the situations where you might need to brace with that hand.

In short, I really like the coaster, why did they sign off on those trains though man…

With the park now complete, we decided to pop out for a bit before returning later in the evening for rerides.

Our first stop was Firehouse Subs, just over the road from SeaWorld. Firehouse have stepped up to be probably my favourite sandwich franchise, and possibly my favourite thing to eat in the US, they are amazing and it hurts me that they aren’t in the UK. I guess it’s for the best, we’d probably ruin it anyway…

Fun Spot Kissimmee

Our second stop was Fun Spot Kissimmee, a location we’d become quite accustomed with by the end of the trip…

FSK was quite a bit less of a park than I was expecting, and more a collection of rides at the side of the road. While we never experienced anything ourselves, and we were there far longer than anyone could have predicted, the park does give off a bit of a vibe for somewhere trouble might happen. Then again, they have Mine Blower, so it’s worth the risk.

We arrived, parked in the free car park, almost connected to the $12 dollar car park, powered in, collected our wristbands, and launched straight to…

Galaxy Spin

Galaxy Spin! But only because Heartline was delaying his fray with Mine Blower for milestone reasons.

It was fine, nothing too memorable as these spinning coasters go, but we did find money in the ride car, the park’s paying itself off already!

Kiddie Coaster

Next up was Kiddie Coaster, a tiny E&F Miler coaster, and one of the first times I’ve questioned if we’d be turned away for being too big in the US. We weren’t, and better yet we were able to obtain the location of the parks last coaster, Hurricane, which we still hadn’t spotted.

Mine Blower

That can wait though, it’s main event time.

Mine Blower, the parks infamous Gravity woodie is absolutely outstanding and far exceeded my expectations to comfortably sit 9th out of 106 in my Wood rankings.

Heartline for years had been banging on about how great Gravity are, but I only had 2 previous experiences with the mid to large size extreme ones, and they weren’t anything like he was selling to me. Cú Chulainn was good fun but nothing special and Xiamen’s Jungle Trailblazer was incredibly disappointing.

I feel this only helped to make Mine Blower even more shocking and memorable.

This coaster is easily one of the most intense wooden coasters ever created and is relentless from start to finish, brutal doesn’t do it justice. An insane first drop, a vicious inversion and then almost non stop ejector airtime, all while it feels like you’re doing a million miles an hour and rattling around (like wood should) creating an almost unrivaled out of control experience.

Hurricane

Our rides on Mine Blower convinced us we’d need to return again, after our return to SeaWorld, in order to test the beast out at night.

So for now let’s take a break from Mine Blower and check out the parks final coaster Hurricane.

Hurricane is a large E&F Miler, standing at 52 feet, and it was so much fun that I really want to go ride the largest they ever built, an 88 foot one that is soon going to reopen in Texas after a relocation.

Hurricane rode way too fast and intense for the track and train design, it felt truly frightening in the best ways. I’d love have to given it another go, but for some reason when we returned later there was no staff at the coaster.

SeaWorld Orlando

Back to SeaWorld we went, where we rerode everything that had earnt it, while taking it easy and breathing the park in a little bit more.

This return helped to convince me that the park, at least when we went, was a nice place to exist in, much more relaxing than the crowded paths of Disney and Universal.

It also helped to elevate Mako to possibly the best B&M Hyper position, and regardless of that, proved that it was a wonderful coaster and a true asset to Orlando.

Fun Spot Kissimmee

Then after a bite to eat at the hotel, we launched back to Fun Spot, God I love how close everything is in Florida (except you Busch Gardens…), in order to get our mines totally wrecked by the wooden weapon that is Mine Blower.

Yeah… This thing got even more intense at night. We were tired, the coaster was fully warmed up, we were getting full trains every time, you couldn’t see the layout as well, it was ridiculous.

I hope at least some of you understand what I’m talking about when I say that during these many rides on this amazing coaster, with lots of weird and wonderful people, the experience transcended from just I’m riding a very good roller coaster to this is truly special and a memory I’ll never forget.

That doesn’t happen often for me but when it does, God Damn, what a coaster.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 9 of my trip report, where we revisit Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.


Florida 03/22 – Universal Studios Florida

Day 7

Universal Studios Florida

I never knew that the divide in quality between Islands of Adventure and the Studios park itself was so great. While much of that is down to Islands of Adventure adding Hagrid and VelociCoaster recently, even without those 2 monsters I still feel that the Studios park feels incredibly lacking when compared to its neighbour. I can now absolutely see why the park removed Jaws to add Escape from Gringotts, because without it, it really does feel like you’d only ever visit the Studios park out of courtesy.

Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit

Thankfully though, the park is home to Rip, Ride, Rockit, and that’s where we headed first.

This coaster really has no reason to be as good as it is. The queueline is bad, dirty metal switchbacks under a slightly rusting roof, I suppose it isn’t much worse than Hulk’s queue though. The presentation is bad, with dated queueline videos telling you how we are going to create a totally awesome music video dude. The station is bad, it doesn’t even really have one. The coaster model, if my maths are correct, has a 1 in 3 chance of being God awful.

Yet despite all of that, the coaster itself is extremely good fun, helped immensely by the on-board audio.

Hauling around this intense coaster, getting ejected out of my seat on entry to every block brake (of which there are many), while rocking out to Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’ was amazing and I’m more than happy to be in the minority of people who are proud to say they like Rip, Ride, Rockit.

After triple R we went on a walk to find the kiddie coaster (naturally) and on route discovered that the Studios park being not as good does have its advantages. You can comfortably walk between rides without having to dodge around thousands of people, it was a nice change after yesterday.

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

Would you look at that, a Vekoma Junior at a Universal Resort that doesn’t have a 90 minute queue, I could get used to this.

E.T. Adventure

Next it was time to go see E.T., or go save his friends, or something like that.

I’d heard a lot about this dark ride over the years, from it was one of the scariest things in the World (unintentionally of course), to it’s one of the best dark rides ever I can’t believe they got rid of it at the Hollywood and Japan parks.

It was alright, definitely showing its age though, which is fair enough when it’s even older than me.

The one thing I will never forgot about my ride on the elusive E.T. Adventure though is the key moment being ruined.

So as pretty much everyone will know, you give your name to a ride host when you enter the attraction, this all comes full circle with E.T. himself saying your name at the end of the ride. Well in our case, just as E.T. began to say our names the ride operator started shouting at someone for filming, completely cutting off E.T., it was hilarious.

The Simpsons Ride

From a proper “old school” dark ride to the first of the park’s many slightly different motion simulators.

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Simpsons Ride if I’m honest. Jiggling around while some video played that wasn’t very Simpsons in either tone or animation just didn’t do it for me. The best part of the whole attraction was the clips from the actual show that they showed in the queueline, but we’ve got those at home.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Then it was time to enter the only part of the park where you couldn’t walk freely, the Harry Potter bit of course, in order to ride Escape from Gringotts.

Not a criticism of the ride, but my God the queue for this thing never ended. Endless switchbacks in 1 location outside (must be near the front now), queuing in the bank foyer (I reckon we get on just through that door), queuing in a corridor (think it’s just at the end there), going down a lift, queuing in another corridor (I think I see the end now) and then finally going down lots of stairs, this ride loves teasing you.

As for the ride itself, I really enjoyed it. More so for how impressive it is on a technical level though, than as a story driven experience.

That comes down to me being a Harry Potter fan and them taking characters already portrayed rather poorly in the films and going even more off the rails with them in order to make some of the gimmicky stuff play out.

Then it was time to experience the trio of terror…

Fast & Furious: Supercharged

Starting with Fast & Furious.

While it certainly deserves the awful reputation it has recieved, and I fully stand by the Universal high ups calling it the biggest mistake of their careers, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. All those on board and all the staff members on route kind of gave off the same impression of, it’s bad, but let’s try to enjoy it, which I can get behind.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon was worse, way worse.

After, for better or worse, skipping 90% of the preshows and set up, we entered the theatre room, all atmosphere left the building, and it never returned.

71 people bouncing about infront of a screen in silence while Jimmy Fallon delivers awful one-liners, and an ex-employee of the ride explains aloud “it used to be better trust me, they used to spray the smell of pizza in”.

Awful.

To regroup we visited CityWalk and had the best Panda Express of my life. I can’t stress enough how much I like the setup of Universal Orlando. The ability of launch out at any time, recharge at one of the many CityWalk restaurants then launch back in is fantastic.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but, Minion Mayhem, was, alright.

I thought the story was quite cute and heartfelt, which I really wasn’t expecting from Despicable Me. Then the simulator stuff was nothing special but slightly more than I was expecting.

Yeah, was alright that.

I’ve just read that it replaced Terminator at the Hollywood park though, and that’s not alright.

Men in Black: Alien Attack

With the trio of terror out of the way, it was time get back on track with a dark ride that I’ve wanted to ride since I saw it on TV 20 odd years ago, Men in Black: Alien Attack.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the ride coudn’t live up to 20 years of hype, and much like E.T. felt like it was really showing its age it parts, I did still enjoy it though.

Transformers: The Ride

The answer to the question asked yesterday of does Spiderman or Transformers use the ride system better is, Transformers, by far.

While Orlando’s Spiderman had us coming off doubting ourselves about how good the Japanese one was. Orlando’s Transformers kicks exactly the same amount of ass as we remembered it doing on the original in Singapore.

Frantic, brutal, a fun story, huge set pieces and tons of special effects, Transformers really is a real gut punch of an experience from start to finish and I love it.

With that we were done, so while Heartline’s wife enjoyed the Mardi Gras parade, it did sound quite fun actually, me and Heartline went for another lap of Rip, Ride, Rockit.

This time we both tried to access the hidden song library and both failed to get what we wanted. The guide I read was wrong so I got some trap beat with a man repeating the same 2 words for the whole ride, and Heartline yet again was unable to lock his song in before dispatch, leading to him once again getting a song where a man repeated “I guess I didn’t know” for the whole ride. This only helped add to the experience and once again we got a great ride on triple R.

That was Universal Studios Florida, and despite it not being anywhere near as impressive as Islands of Adventure, I still had a great time there.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 8 of my trip report, where we visit SeaWorld, before riding the absolutely insane Mine Blower.


Florida 03/22 – Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Day 6

Today we decided to once again deploy the hire car, as we wanted to waste as little time as possible, on possibly the most intense day of the trip.

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Unlike yesterday, Universal Studios as a whole was exactly how I pictured it, with the only exception being that CityWalk was far larger and more impressive than I’d assumed.

I actually quite enjoy the, parking lot, central hub, CityWalk, then pick your park set up of Universal Orlando, it really helps gradually build your excitement as you press forward.

If travelling under that doesn’t increase your heart rate then you might be on the wrong website.

The right of passage lighthouse shot. Islands of Adventure really is beautiful in places, anywhere but Toon Lagoon actually.

That’s your greeting as you enter the park itself, stunning, just try to ignore that Hogwarts is now located behind an Intamin launch coaster.

And that’s exactly where we are heading, (the Intamin, not Hogwarts) but not before one of the most physically demanding theme park journies of our lives, and that’s coming from someone who sprinted the length of Busch Gardens last night.

It’s not that long of a walk distance wise but there was just so many people and things you had to keep dodging around in the intense Florida sun. I wouldn’t want to visit the park when it’s near capacity in the hotter months.

VelociCoaster

Finally though we made it and it was time to experience the 2nd best coaster in Florida and 17th best coaster in the World, currently, according to me. It’s statements like this that make me not bothered it took me so long to visit Orlando, the coaster game only got truly World class in the last couple of years and now it seems almost unfair that VelociCoaster and Iron Gwazi live about an hour from each other.

Let’s start with the theme. I love it to pieces, in fact, the more I think back to it the more I miss and appreciate it.

Sticking an Intamin multi launch coaster in a raptor paddock and having them hunt us is totally something out of a Jurassic Park/World film. The queue videos are all so iconic, I find myself saying “welcome to the VelociCoaster” on an almost weekly basis. The raptors in the queueline are amazing, as are all the fictional and not so fictional ride posters in the locker area.

Quickly speaking of the lockers, they are handled almost perfectly at VelociCoaster. You place your items, all of them, in lockers about 10 minutes before boarding the train. This means you can have your phone for most of the queue (for photos and K-pop). It also means locker and metal detection faff doesn’t affect the loading of the coaster, a win win situation.

Now onto the coaster itself, it’s amazing, but neither the best multi launch coaster in the World or even the best one from Intamin.

I’m certain this opinion comes from my preference for intensity, and I’m almost certain VelociCoaster was designed to be somewhat tamer as to not wreck the masses on what will be one of the most ridden coasters on a yearly basis.

That’s not to say VelociCoaster doesn’t have moments of intensity, in fact let’s enter the paddock and go on a virtual ride through. This will need to be much less descriptive than normal because describing VelociCoaster moment by moment won’t do it justice.

The first half of the coaster reminds me of Taron, but with added inversions.

This equates to a fun launch, followed by a couple decent inversions, some twisty stuff, a twisted airtime hill that kicks ass, even more twisty stuff and then a drop down into the second launch, exactly like Taron.

It’s from the entry to VelociCoaster’s second launch that things start to get truly interesting and it begins to ride much more like Intamin’s finest multi launcher Taiga.

The launch, rolling, from 40 – 70mph is brutal and must be one hell of a wake up call for those thinking VelociCoaster was going to ride like its first half throughout.

Next up is the 155 foot tall top hat, providing the strongest moment of airtime on the coaster and an amazing ride back down it for those in the back seats.

Zero G Stalls are always great fun and that’s what follows the top hat, before you are sent hurtling into what I’ve heard described as the Maverick section.

A crushing overbanked turn transitions into a vicious change in direction over water. While it doesn’t ride as intensly as the moments on i305 or Maverick it still rather alarmingly attempts to throw you out of the train.

Another overbank then lines you up for the single greatest moment of VelociCoaster, easily one of the greatest inversions on the planet, maybe even slightly better than the death roll, the Mosasaurus roll.

So while VelociCoaster has slowly been stepping up the intensity as it goes, this inversion is something else and feels like we’ve skipped many steps on route.

The Mosasaurus roll hits so damn hard that it’s even impossible to prepare for on rerides. The inversion is taken so fast that your being won’t even know how to comprehend it, all while the coaster is also trying to launch you sideways out of the train into the water below.

People are describing the Mosasaurus roll as a tamed down, modern recreation of Maverick’s infamous heartline roll. If that’s true then I can absolutely understand why that element was removed, but I still want to experience it either way…

That was VelociCoaster, and I love it, just not as much as I would have if it rode like its second half for the whole coaster. But then I do really like how it slowly builds up the intensity and then ends with one of the most intense moments on any coaster… I’m torn OK? VelociCoaster was one of the hardest coasters ever when it came to ranking it…

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

From one amazing Intamin multi launch to another.

But getting to it wasn’t without issue, and it turns out it was all due to locker related faff.

We entered the Wizarding World and much like its Japanese counterpart it was so busy that you couldn’t even move. After powering past many people we finally got to the entrance of Hagrid’s, but then we had to follow staff members holding up signs all the way out of the Wizarding World into the Lost Continent, this isn’t looking good…

After queuing our way back into the Wizarding World, at some point we were batched as our group into the lockers room, which was an absolute mess, but never mind we’ve made progress. But no, after leaving the lockers room we were instructed to enter the official stand by queue for Hagrid’s, which was no where near coming out of the entrance. Meaning we have just queued nearly 30 minutes and already got a bad impression of the coaster and Wizarding World in order to use lockers, there’s got to be a better way guys…

Enough moaning, how was the coaster? Incredible.

Hagrid’s just has to be the best family coaster on the planet and even holds up very strongly amongst the World’s other multi launch coasters. 7 launches (with the final one kicking ass), a powerful drop track, a reverse section, animatronics and some of the best theming that I’ve ever seen, this monster seriously has it all.

I absolutely adore this technological marvel of a coaster and wish we had gotten more rides on it over the trip, which I’m certain we would have, if VelociCoaster didn’t exist.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

In order to end the debate of if Forbidden Journey is one of the greatest dark rides ever created, or just a robot arm bouncing about an inch from a blurry screen to make you sick (like it was in Japan), we subjected ourselves to more locker faff.

I’ve no idea what the Japanese were doing wrong, I’ll put it down to the language barrier and their one using 3D glasses, but my God, I actually like Forbidden Journey now.

It actually has a story, isn’t just blurry screens an inch from your face, the robot arms aren’t trying to murder you every 2 seconds and the queueline is actually really cool and not an absolute chore.

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman

Don’t be too upset though Japan, you have the better version of Spiderman.

In order to end the debate of if Spiderman or Transformers makes better use of the ride system we knew we needed to ride both at the Orlando resort. And yeah, either I’m getting jaded with extremly high tech dark rides (quite possible) or Orlando’s Spiderman doesn’t hit anywhere near as hard as the Japanese one, your move tomorrow Transformers.

Incredible Hulk

Next up it was time for Hulk, the second B&M sit down in two days, and it wasn’t great…

Firstly the queueline was not what I was expecting, concrete, rust, loud noises and 40 second poorly animated Hulk transformations on TVs were just a bit disappointing after experiencing VelociCoaster’s and Hagrid’s queues earlier.

The station, which I assumed would have a really great atmosphere, didn’t, it was just loud again.

Then the coaster itself. It wasn’t Kumba bad but it wasn’t good. The launch was fun, then it was just inversions and giving me a headache.

A clear one and done coaster, in a park that contains 2 of the most rerideable coasters on Earth. At least it looks nice.

The Cat in the Hat

After a quick lunch of ice cream and nothing else in CityWalk, we re-entered the park and first made our way to Seuss Landing to check out The Cat in the Hat dark ride.

It wasn’t good by any means, but it was so not good that it was rather enjoyable, especially on a trip with some of the World’s greatest dark rides.

Poseidon’s Fury

Next up was something special, that I still feel lucky to have got to experience.

Poseidon’s Fury, the park’s special effects heavy walkthrough had been closed since the start of the pandemic and had only reopened about 2 weeks before our visit.

Yeah it’s a bit cheesy and silly in parts, but I really enjoyed it, the effects were great and I couldn’t shake off the feeling of how cool it was that I was experiencing a piece of Universal history, that felt like it had opened just for us.

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Then it was time to check out the Toon Lagoon water rides, which we had left until this point in the day, sun going down, park dying down, as earlier on they had some of the worst queues in the park.

The next 2 hours or so will never leave my mind and might forever go down as one of the funniest in my coasting career.

It begins by walking up to the entrance of Ripsaw Falls, worrying about what to do with our bag. “Do you have lockers?” we asked the staff member. “Yes we do, 5 dollars.” was the reply. It appears the bag is taking the falls with us then.

Next we power through the completely empty outside queue before heading inside, all the while trying to fashion some form of waterproof set up for the bag.

There was no need to panic, there was a queue once we headed inside. Leading to either me or Heartline saying aloud, “bit of a queue, Dudley Do”, which to this day is still one of the funniest things ever.

We spent the next half an hour continuing to fashion our waterpoof bag solution, saying “bit of a queue, Dudley Do” and watching the Dudley Do cartoon on the queue tvs, which at the time was hilarious, then it was our time to board.

The seating and restraint system on Ripsaw Falls is one of the worst and funniest on Earth. I’m too chunky to get in, Heartline is too tall, and his wife, who’s now 90% waterproofed bag is in an even worse position. Once we were finally in though, it was quite cosy, but not at all reassuring we weren’t about to get destroyed by the falls.

Ripsaw Falls itself then, on that night, in those circumstances, in that frame of mind, with that group of people, it was amazing.

With my favourite moment being during the indoor section hearing Heartline screaming “Oh no!”, then speakers on the ride announcing, “I seem to have lost my train of thought”, only for Heartline to scream even louder “OH NO!”. Does he know something I don’t? Drop, life ending amount of water on my crotch, all 3 of us screaming, fantastic.

Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges

The bag scare and not wanting to get wet again led Heartline’s wife to sitting out Bilge-Rat Barges, which to this day I’m forever thankful for, because what happens next can only be described as a massacre.

Me and Heartline power through the completely empty queue and were directed straight into a boat with 2 other young blokes. They were sitting opposite each other, soaked head to toe, but for whatever reason neither me or Heartline stopped to think why.

Then the boat left the boarding area and we were underway.

The first few corners were fine, your typical rapids ride, a few splashes of water leaping into the boat, nothing to fear!

Then….

We pass under a water effect that dumps so much water into the boat that me and Heartline are instantly soaked to the skin, shoes full of water and screaming in shock.

But it didn’t stop there, it was relentless, the next minute of so was non stop effects as wet as the first, not making us any wetter, because that was impossible, but just attempting to drown us.

My memory only truly comes back as we began to climb a lift hill, which had life ending water effects all the way up. I assumed this lift hill was taking us back to the loading area but one look over the edge proved this theory very wrong.

Heartline was now blind, so I had the task of trying to explain it to him. “There’s a drop coming man, and it looks BAD.” And it was…

The tidal wave of water from the drop and then yet more insane water effects proved that it was in fact actually impossible to get us any wetter.

We re-enter the boarding area, the staff seem unphased, the 2 young blokes haven’t made any noise during the ride, me and Heartline are in shock.

Our minds were gone, so we spent the next 20 minutes or so in a toilet, not even the nearest one to the ride, trying to do something, anything, to tame down the situation, but nothing really worked, so let’s go ride Kong.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Dripping wet and leaving foot prints where we stood we slowly strolled through the very cold horror themed queueline of Kong, hoping the scare actors weren’t there because there was nothing we could do if they were.

We boarded the ride vehicle, instantly soaking the seat, and tried our best not to get the people sitting next to us wet too. And then we were off…

Yeah, it wasn’t very good at all. Blurry screens of King Kong punching dinosaurs, while the entire tram screamed at slight side to side jiggling was 90 percent of the experience.

I think the conversation I overheard as we left the ride summed it up better than I ever could. “Why’s everybody screaming?”, “cause it’s scary!”.

After that wisdom it was time for Heartline to do some maths.

We have about an hour left, we need a night ride on VelociCoaster and we still need to ride Flight of the Hippogriff. If we ride VelociCoaster and then run we can join the Hippogriff queue just before it closes and cheat the always 90 minute queue it has, sounds good to me.

A few weeks before we went on this trip Universal posted a POV saying how great night rides are on VelociCoaster, and they weren’t wrong. This already stunning coaster is in fact even greater under the cover of darkness. Even better it even helped us dry off a little.

Flight of the Hippogriff

This meant we were able to run to Hippogriff and queue only 10 minutes for the most cloned Vekoma Junior on Earth.

The perfect ending to a great day at Islands of Adventure, which is a great park with a truly World class coaster in VelociCoaster and a stunning secondary coaster in Hagrids. I do however have to ask how much would I have enjoyed the park if I visited before 2019?

Thank you for reading, click here for day 7, where we visit Universal Studios Florida.


Florida 03/22 – Busch Gardens Tampa

Day 5

Busch Gardens Tampa is located over an hour from Orlando, even longer when you get lost looking for a Quiznos, so today public transportation was thankfully once again off the cards.

The park was one I’d been dreaming of visiting for years, strangely though, almost immediately, Busch Gardens Tampa was nothing like I’d imagined.

In my head I pictured us driving into some massive car park, with cars as far as the eye could see, a grand entrance plaza waiting for us at end of the sea of cars. But no, you park in a sketchy looking car park at the side of a busy road and then take a road train, via almost the ride area of Montu to the park entrance, which wasn’t all that grand at all.

I mean none of that really matters, but I thought it was quite interesting.

After a security check and a walk through the park’s rather cramped and barren entrance area, things did begin to make sense though, well kind of.

There’s Iron Gwazi, that’s what we’re here for, but I didn’t know it was right at the front of the park, that will make marathoning it easier later!

Iron Gwazi

Well then, how strong do I want to start this?

Iron Gwazi is the best RMC I’ve ridden (out of 13, including Steel Vengeance) and is 7th in my top 25 (out of 1,157 coasters Worldwide).

Yeah I think that sets the scene quite well.

Before I dive in too deep I need to mention that I really like the styling of the ride, the logo, the crocodile theme, the station exterior, the train and the slightly faded purple track it all just works so well in my opinion. I also massively enjoy the name for being both impactful and hilarious on multiple levels.

Now onto the ride experience itself.

In short, it’s incredible, paced perfectly, is admittedly a little short, but God damn is it intense.

Iron Gwazi is easily the most intense RMC that I’ve ridden and it’s for that reason, combined with the outstanding pacing that makes it my favourite RMC. There are no wasted moments and every single element hits harder than those found on other RMCs.

Join me on a virtual ride through and I’ll try to explain the insanity.

You start with a 206 foot drop, which is awesome, but not much different than the drops found on Steel Vengeance or Zadra.

What is different though is the immense amounts of positive Gs Iron Gwazi pulls at the bottom of the drop and up into the next element. I was greying out nearly every time and not getting my vision back until we crested the top of the outwards banked airtime hill, which provides intense ejector airtime.

Then you are sent hurtling back down through the structure. This is a good time to mention that unlike most other RMCs, Iron Gwazi feels fast, wild and out of control from the bottom of the first drop to the brakes. It really uses its 76mph top speed to its advantage and it’s amazing to experience.

Next up we pull out of the ride structure into an upwards banked right hand turn full of positive Gs before we are thrown left into Gwazi’s famous deathroll element. This barrel roll downdrop is so fast, so intense and so perfectly executed.

Before you even have time to work out what has just happened you enter an overbanked turnaround and are now hurtling towards an element that’s almost as good as the deathroll.

On the ground it looks like any other waveturn, but my God the lunatics at RMC have finally figured out how to make these more than just a “wow we are going sideways” gimmick. Iron Gwazi’s example is insane, launching you clean out of your seat as you fly sideways, it really is a sensation that’s almost impossible to prepare for.

No time to comprehend that insanity we are now hurtling towards the true airtime section of Iron Gwazi and only Twisted Timbers can rival the airtime intensity that’s coming up.

A hill that doesn’t look like it should have airtime tries to eject you into space, then you go through a baby waveturn (which still pops you out of your seat), before hitting a zero G stall.

Then it’s a vicious twisted airtime hill, followed almost immediately by a double down that might just be the most intense moment of airtime on any RMC, please don’t throw apples at me Twisted Timbers.

One more brutal airtime hill sends you flying into the brakes, where I’m still conflicted if the ride should or shouldn’t end. On one hand I’d love for the coaster to continue, but on the other would pressing on bring down the overal intensity and pacing of the coaster? I guess we will never know.

That’s Iron Gwazi, that’s my favourite RMC, that’s my favourite new coaster of 2022, that’s the best coaster in Florida (spoilers) and that’s the best coaster by far at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Oh wait yeah, there are other coasters at Bush Gardens Tampa, let’s go check those out…

Air Grover

Starting of course with the kiddie coaster, one of the many areas of the park where you can see Iron Gwazi and question why you aren’t currently riding it.

SheiKra

Maybe I’m just 17 years too late but I really expected SheiKra to have much more of an atmosphere around it. Instead we just walked through a tatty empty queueline, strolled straight into a mostly empty and uncovered station and in no time at all were riding what was probably once one of the most important coasters ever.

I’ve never been a big fan of dive coasters and SheiKra is no exception to that rule, I will however give it points for being 17 years old and still glass smooth.

Tigris

I’ll give no points whatsoever to Tigris though, my 4th Sky Rocket 2, which is 4 too many if you ask me.

I’d learn later on this trip and on another US trip later in the year that Sky Rockets can be quite good, when they aren’t this layout.

Kumba

If it counts for anything I really did want to like Kumba, but I can’t, and I’ve got a pretty solid reasoning as to why.

It suffers from the same instant headache issues that Dragon Khan does, but worse. I’m talking the constant rattling and bouncing, but also combined with unavoidable head and restraint contact. You can massively lessen this issue by not taking a wheel seat on Khan but on Kumba it’s every seat.

What makes it even worse for Kumba is, Dragon Khan actually has a decent layout, that has fun moments to break up the inversions, Kumba does not.

So with Khan, take a middle seat, cross your fingers and you’ll most likely get a pretty kick ass ride. But with Kumba no matter where you sit, what you do, you’ll get a headache while being dragged through endless inversions.

Sorry Kumba.

SandSerpent

Next we queued longer than we’d queued all day for a poorly operated clone Mack mouse. Which both triggered cred anxiety and Iron Gwazi rerides anxiety.

It wasn’t even a good Wild Mouse either…

Falcon’s Fury

Now let’s go ride something that’s the polar opposite of a Wild Mouse coaster.

Falcon’s Fury is one of only two Intamin Sky Jump drop towers in the World. This model slowly tilts you as you climb the tower, until you are fully laying on your front by the time you reach the top.

As a man who’s absolutely terrified of drop towers this seemed like a bad idea, but I had to give it a go.

I loved it, but not for the drop itself, which honestly was a little weak, I loved it for its gimmick.

Laying face down, facing the ground, 310 feet in the air, with hands so sweaty they keep sliding off the restaint causing even more terror was one hell of an experience.

Cheetah Hunt

From one kick ass Intamin creation to another.

Confession time, I wasn’t the biggest Cheetah Hunt fan after 1 lap, but after a few, after accepting what it’s going for, I really like it.

Cheetah Hunt is a nice long ride, it’s twisty, the launches are fun, there’s a couple of good airtime moments, it’s just a fun time all around. In short, “a good little ride that”.

Cobra’s Curse

Next up it was time to challenge Cobra’s Curse, the park’s Mack spinning coaster, I thought it was pretty great.

The queueline is well themed and tells the ride’s story via a projected preshow every few minutes.

Then the ride itself, while no Cheetah Hunt in terms of family coasters, did still provide a fun experience helped massively by the spinning ride vehicles.

Montu

Montu was next, the final of the B&M triple and the penultimate coaster of Busch Gardens Tampa.

I’ll start with the positives, Montu is the best B&M at the park, Montu is the 3rd best coaster at the park.

Unfortunately though, much like its sister coaster Alpengeist, Montu in my opinion failed to live up to its legendary status.

I fully expected Montu to hang with the elite inverts (Nemesis and Pyrenees) but instead, to me at least, it rode like an inverted tour through B&M’s inversion catalogue with not all that much character.

Side note, the park have done Montu real dirty with its recent paint job…

Thanks to Scorpion being more closed than open, and always closed when we needed it, we decided we’d start our Iron Gwazi marathon now and launch if the app showed life from the aging Schwarzkopf.

On route we checked out parts of the zoo.

Cheetah Hunt.

Iron Gwazi.

At some point, in a blur of greying out on the World’s best RMC, eating an amazing banana nut muffin and using the facilities, Scorpion finally opened. And thanks to nothing but excitement from how good Iron Gwazi is, we somehow found the strength to sprint the entire length of the park to Scorpion, I suppose that gives it less time to break down again.

Scorpion

Was it worth the run? Kind of, yeah.

Scorpion was staffed by a couple of truly hilarious operators and the coaster itself offered a smooth as silk and intense ride.

Maybe Gwazi had just softened us up, maybe it was riding it at night, maybe it was all thanks to the operators, but tonight at least I can honestly say that I enjoyed what is essentially a Schwarzkopf Looping Star, a coaster model that did nothing but disappoint at Nagashima Spa Land.

A slightly more leisurely walk took us back to Iron Gwazi, where we stayed until they kicked us out.

Huge shout out to the engineering team at the park who went above and beyond to make sure that everyone in the rather short line got a chance to ride the coaster even after it went down after official park close.

That was Busch Gardens Tampa, and while it wasn’t quite what I expected I had a fantastic time at the park. Iron Gwazi is truly one of the World’s best coasters and the park has some rather awesome supporting rides too.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 6 of my trip report where we visit Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and ride the amazing VelociCoaster.


Florida 03/22 – Animal Kingdom + Epcot

Day 4

It felt so great to be back in the car again today. Two days of public transportation had made us miss the comfort and convenience that only comes with having your own 4 wheels.

Animal Kingdom

This made it easier to part with $30 for Disney parking, as did the fact that you can park hop with the same ticket all day. I mean $30 isn’t all that bad for all day parking (8am-midnight) on Disney property, I’ve seen more offensive parking prices for much less return.

What you do have to contend with though, if you bring the car, is the massive walks from the parking lots to the park entrances. It was a long and hot walk at Animal Kingdom, but it would be far worse later.

Soon though we arrived at the entrance, and it was far more impressive than the one at Hollywood Studios.

Also more impressive than Hollywood Studios was the park’s centre point, the beautiful Tree of Life. Both these photos also show how green and pretty the park is, for the most part at least.

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Speaking of the Tree of Life, that’s where we headed first to check out It’s Tough to be a Bug.

This 4D cinema, inspired by A Bug’s Life, was great fun, but I think I prefer it the least out of all the 4D cinemas at the resort, Disney World has a strong 4D cinema game.

It was really funny watching half the audience launch out of fire exits after Hopper showed up and things got intense though.

DINOSAUR

Then it was my turn to get scared on the amazing Dinosaur.

I love everything about this ride.

The entrance building full of bones, the wonderful cheesy information videos, the intense loading area that got me even more nervous than I already was. I really am a big baby when it comes to getting jump scared in the dark.

Then the main ride itself, damn! Dinosaur sits right on the limit of being too much for me but never crossed that line. I had such a great time aggressively bouncing around, shouting “that’s not our dino!” and laughing until it hurt.

Best ride at the park (Everest was closed) and probably one of the best at the Resort (Everest was closed).

Kali River Rapids

Because ‘(Everest was closed)’ we walked past it with a tear in our eye and headed to Kali River Rapids.

While visually very impressive, Kali was neither all that wet (it was hot) or all that impressive as an actual rapids ride.

After Kali we took a long walk, almost back to the park entrance, to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar.

I know even less about Avatar than I did about Star Wars, but once again first impressions are very strong, how does this even work?!

Avatar Flight of Passage

We ended up at Flight of Passage first and not wanting to get lost in Pandora, it’s a bit of a maze, it was time to check out the land’s star attraction.

Well not before queueing over 2 hours for it…

At least there’s lots of interesting things to look at, while you’re outside at least.

The ride itself though, it was pretty cool, but certainly, in my opinion, not worth queueing over 40 minutes for. Flight of Passage is essentially a very high tech and fancy flying theatre attraction and no matter how much tech you throw at it or what film is being shown that style of attraction will never really do much for me.

It’s a must ride for sure, but easily a one and done attraction and one that would be best to catch when the queues are low, if they ever are.

Na’vi River Journey

Then it was time to check out Pandora’s other ride offering, Na’vi River Journey.

After a much shorter queue, around 45 minutes, we took our seats on this boat ride around a Na’vi rainforest.

It was alright, I think Heartline summed it up perfectly with the statement “a sit down and some blue”, because it was a nice way to rest our legs, and the Na’vi are blue.

Nothing really happens, it’s very short, there’s not all that much to look at and there’s only 1 animatronic, she’s very impressive though. Once again a one and done, probably not worth queueing more than half an hour for.

With that, with Everest being closed and us not being all the interested in doing the animal stuff, our time at Animal Kingdom had come to an end. Opinions?

A half day park indeed, a beautiful one though, with an insane dark ride I wish we could have ridden again.

Thanks to being ahead of schedule, we treated ourselves with a quick trip to Disney Springs to grab an Earl of Sandwich. I remember really enjoying the one I had at Disneyland Paris, and this one was even better, certainly worth the speed run of Disney Springs.

Epcot

It turned out we really needed those calories too, because the walk from the Epcot parking lot to the park entrance was insane. A solid 10 minutes of brisk walking on unshaded concrete, not the greatest of starts.

Admittedly all was immediately forgiven once we entered the park though, because damn, Epcot visually might just be my favourite out of any Disney park.

Spaceship Earth’s gigantic geodesic sphere surrounded by all the other funky retro futuristic buildings in the distance is just an incredible first impression and I’m happy to say this level of visual quality continues throughout the park.

Spaceship Earth

Speaking of Spaceship Earth, we are here, let’s ride it.

I loved it. I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that was saying, “you’re riding Disney history in a massive sphere, holy crap.”

Then when I thought it was over, I was shown a picture of my sweaty face superimposed onto a crude vision of the future and that’s exactly how this ride got escalated from fantastic to iconic.

Mission: SPACE (Intense/Orange)

Then it was time to experience one of the most physically intense attractions Disney have ever built, and it was awesome.

I’d watched many Disney YouTubers say that they can’t ride Mission: SPACE any more because it makes them unwell. I just dismissed them as being weak, but now I can see how if you weren’t used to high G forces this might end you.

Mission: SPACE is a 4 person interactive motion simulator attraction, but not your standard boring motion simulator. No, this one puts you in a centrifuge, puts screens an inch from your face and places controls inches from your chest, so it really feels like you’re in a cramped space craft.

Then it applies sustained strong positive Gs (up to 2.5) during key parts of the experience. These moments sync up perfectly with the screens to create an incredibly realistic and intense ride.

I loved it and if we had enough time I would have certainly ridden it again.

Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Next up we journeyed into imagination with Figment.

I’m quite torn on my opinion of this ride.

On one hand it’s (for better or worse) an iconic part of Disney and Epcot. But on the other hand in its current state the ride is pretty unpleasant. I’m not able to prioritise one over the other so in short it’s alright.

Living with the Land

You’d think that sitting down in a boat for 15 minutes to go float around some greenhouses would be a waste of time, but you’d be wrong.

Firstly, Living with the Land feels very Epcot, with its emphases on innovation in the farming industry. Secondly, the dark ride sections are fun. Lastly, a 15 minute sit down after standing all day is amazing.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

I would however let you say that The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a waste of time.

The only thing I can remember about this omnimover attraction is that it wasn’t good.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

Keeping the trend of disappointment going, we headed to Mexico to ride Gran Fiesta Tour.

After having to power through an overcrowded building to find the entrance, and after queueing in an extremly cramped queueline, we finally took our seats on what can best be described as Mexican Small World, but it’s worse, and Donald Duck’s there. I can’t recommend it.

Frozen Ever After

Next we headed over to Norway to go see Elsa, but her ride was currently experiencing a delay in operations and the castle gates were closed.

We spoke to a cast member outside who was both friendly and helpful. She told us that they were working hard to get the ride open again shortly and in her opinion it wouldn’t be that long of a wait. A very refreshing answer in an era of every single park not wanting to give out any helpful responses in case they are wrong and they get fired or something.

This delay gave us a reason to stroll around the Norway section of the World Showcase, which I thought looked great.

Not that long later the queue reopened and we were 3 of the first people to head through the gates.

While there certainly are issues with the ride – I don’t really like the face projected animatronics, you can tell it was held back by having to reuse the layout of Maelstrom and there’s no clear progressive story to the ride, I still loved it anyway.

I’m a huge fan of Frozen, its songs and its characters, so to see the franchise with its own ride, even if it’s a bit flawed, made me happy.

Test Track

We had fully accepted that we both didn’t need to ride Test Track, nor would we have time to ride it. Thanks to the queue being exactly the right amount of time that we needed to kill before the night-time though, we figured what the hell.

This ended up being the best decision ever because Test Track is awesome.

The create your car bit, which I didn’t even know was thing, was tears of laughter levels of funny.

Then the main ride itself was far more intense than I was expecting, with the indoor section being far longer than I was expecting. All the while our created car kept popping up on screens to make everything even funnier.

Test Track kicks ass and was the perfect way to end our day at Epcot.

We ended up missing a little of the night-time show, but it wasn’t all that great anyway so it was nothing to get upset about.

I really enjoyed my visit to Epcot and unlike Animal Kingdom I really could see myself spending a whole day there.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 5 of my Florida trip report, where we visit Busch Gardens Tampa and ride the incredible Iron Gwazi.