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The low down on all Disney/Universal USA theme parks by someone who's been there (me)

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DOWN

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Edit: Some in this thread seem to feel you should give a minimum one day to each park and I can see that so I'll just mention it here. Also Disney World has a lot to see outside the parks so maybe a day for that.


Original:

Ok so I have been to all the Disney and universal parks in the USA more than once and here's the low down. Disclaimer: I moved to Orlando this year and have been to the Orlando parks cumulatively like no joke 300+ visits in my life. But I've been to the Cali parks more than once now and as an adult so here we go.

1: you can make a vacation to the region either group are in (Orlando or LA), but the LA parks should only be your vacation destination as part of a full blown LA trip. There's only three total parks versus 6 in Orlando and they are smaller at that so you can cover both Disney LA parks in one day. But LA is a cool destination so just know it depends on what kind of vacation you are in the mood for. For an all out impressive theme park vacation, you're going to Orlando. For the LA parks, you need to plan a varied trip that does more than the parks in that region.

2: When it comes to the kings, all the Disney and Universal parks are worth a visit in your lifetime as a US resident because all have something unique. Even the duplicated parks - Universal Orlando has the fantastic Diagon Alley and city faux backlot where you can take the Hogwarts Express over to the other park, but Universal Hollywood is in the Hollywood hills and is literally connected to Universal Studios backlot where they give you an excellent tour of real famous sets and around the sound stages of active shows (Universal Orlando used to be a working studio too but no longer is). The Magic Kingdom doesn't look like a tiny shitty movie set and has the prettiest castle and a sprawling size, but Disneyland has been

3: Okay, yes, Disneyland is rad in some ways as it has a cool Louisiana area and a better Star Wars Space Mountain and some other different stuff.

4: Here's a list of the Orlando parks and how they are-

Magic Kingdom: it's pretty, quite big, and polished above all the other parks. There are lots of famous Disney properties, sweet music, and nothing feels like it is there simply because it is too pricey to renovate. It is also, however, the most kid oriented park. The roller coasters are cool themes and architecture but not extreme - they exist to bring you into an atmosphere of PG-13 and under fun. The edgiest this park gets is Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, which are both safe and just spooky. Features several very well contained zones that go above movie set cheap looking and stuff like a little frontier island you have to ride a raft to get to. Overall, this park feels fairly plush, friendly, and sweet. It's wholesome and classically adventurous and you paid a lot for it.

Animal Kingdom: this one suffers from what I call 3rd world simulator. There's a dumb fixation at many theme parks (especially less established ones than Disney branded ones) to essentially build a place that looks like an impoverished African nation. Much of Animal Kingdom is this. You walk through supposed Safari villages that glorify some less exotic zoo exhibits while Disney says please come back when we get that Avatar zone finished. That said, there is a great legit Safari type experience on a massive habitat, an impressive looking humongous fake tree, and a few other genuinely good rides (Dinosaur is surprisingly scary and intense, and Everest is a very fun coaster). This one is a little more fun for adults looking for a different kind of big park as it has the money of Disney but stays away from the now common fairy tales and action movie themes better when it comes to atmosphere - but that means it does remind me of zoos and Busch Gardens kind of tier parks that struggle. It's the only Disney park that I would say you can skip if you struggle with the cost. Overall this one is pretty family friendly, but at the risk of exhausting with its atmosphere being that of no luxuries.

EPCOT: the best park for a couple who likes to romanticize traveling or an adventurous geek - but don't think it's adult focus makes it a substitute for seeing Magic Kingdom. It starts with a sci-fi heavy premise of futuristic ideals and rides to engage that excitement, then it sets you off to its best feature which is the lake that features a number of beautiful snapshot pieces of notable countries. You can spot landmarks from Japan, France, Mexico, Germany, England, and more across the big lake before you even start the walk. Each zone has something to see, from artifacts and quality brief films and food, to rides like Frozen in Norway. Now this park has a few killer rides, but most of them are the science and futurism fare, not in the countries where you get the cool cultural exhibitions and vignettes. But a nice German beer and a walk is likely to please you after you finish the rides at Epcot. It's a beautiful festive park.

Hollywood Studios: this is sort of their cool park these days. Soon to be home of Star Wars land, it has some great rides like Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror (not that Guardians of Trash Chute that Cali is getting), Rock'n Rollercoaster with Aerosmith, and the Star Wars lite zone that will hold you over before the big zone opens. It has great old Hollywood looking streets and a fun bit of movie magic type homages, like a famous Indiana Jones show. It's cool and has the most nostalgia built into it as a love letter to Hollywood and your favorite big movies that Disney can touch. This one is the best mix between adult and kid thrills to me. The adults see the old world charm and the kids see their Star Wars and Pixar favs everywhere.

Universal Studios Orlando: first I will say this park is on the up and up, with a new Jimmy Fallon experience and a Fast & Furious ride on the way (though that one is likely another weird copypasta from California that I'll touch on). So I actually have an annual pass to the Universal parks and it's tough to explain why, but the answer is probably the Wizarding World because it is that good. Studios is A decent park but plagued with a mix of licenses that you know Universal doesn't own, some stuff that is obviously from back when they had no money yet, and some rides that straight up have no licensing and are just generic theming (Monster Cafe for no apparent reason that has no resemblance to the film franchises they are pushing, Rip Ride Rocket is a music coaster that seems like a weird inspired-by of Disney's Rock N Rollercoaster except it is outdoors). The Simpsons area is simultaneously the most interesting food and worst ride. It actually is the worst ride I can recall that still exists in all the parks I'm discussing. There's a greater problem here at fault but we will come to that when I discuss the other Universal park. The park has a lovely Hollywood street and an even lovelier New York backlot that pays host to the Brendan Frasier heavy Mummy ride for whatever reason. Harry Potter brought Diagon Alley as the newest area and it's fucking great. This is where universal is a champ. They have put the most beautiful quality detail and atmosphere into any theme park areas ever with how well they've handled the Harry Potter stuff. The buildings and merchandise and lightning and music are brilliant. Gringotts is gorgeous and it really looks like a surrealist London. This is what you came for tbh, and now let's literally take a train ride to the other attached and more popular little sister...

Islands of Adventure: A rad park that seems to be the park based on Blockbusters (and some shit that no one recognizes because it is again remnants from before these parks had money). There's two areas with their days numbered which are the Lost Continent (generic mythology place with no licensed properties, but hey there Nintendo) and Sunday comics whatever (very few famous comics involved, just like Betty Boop and Rock & Bullwinkle). Another that's in a weird state is Marvel, which can obviously not change much and is stuck with only the comic book art, with no MCU stuff. So it is plastered with some very 80s looking art and horrible costumes for their heroes and the redone Hulk ride feels like a good try that was aiming to leave behind the comics but had to do a generic animated TV series approach. So that's it for the heavy downer stuff because the rest is quite charming. Harry Potter's first foray is Hogsmeade/Hogwarts which has a beautiful castle and snow covered village that can be reached by a cinematic literal train ride on the Hogwarts Express. The ride is great and the castle inside has all the movie atmosphere. Butter Beer is the one thing I'm guaranteed to buy every time. Beyond that, Spider-man is a fun ride, Kong is cool... check online for lists of all the specific rides but let me come to my beef with Universal. They cheap the fuck out on rides in the form of simulators. The vast majority of their headliner rides are simulators. In Studios: Transformers, Shrek, Minions, Harry Potter, Simpsons, and soon Jimmy Fallon, Fast & Furious (im probably forgetting something). In Islands: Spider Man, Harry Potter, Kong. You put on 3D glasses and experience minimal coaster and moving set pieces. They're the best simulators, but they are simulators and several even have a formula they share that you will catch on to.

5: California parks-

Disneyland: Tragically small in a few ways, it is quite cheerful and feels like a park rather than a magical land. Main Street looks like a little movie set and the castle is fucking funny small - like a two story house if I can be a little dramatic. But it has a neat Space Mountain via good Star Wars audio and theming, a longer Pirates of the Caribbean (oddly the longer section is supposed to be night in a swamp but on your right hand side the whole time is the bright viewing windows of a restaurant lighting it up) located in a very nicely done southern New Orleans area that also houses a totally different looking and more authentic Haunted Mansion. It's a neat time and some of the charm is in its yesteryear qualities.

Disney California Adventure: This park had a weird launch and got an awesome revamp. It has a beautiful roller coaster and tipsy ferris wheel on a boardwalk, an incredible looking Cars land (with a sister to EPCOT's Test Track which rolls through awesome outdoor canyons and old highways instead of a future facility), cool American mountain north area, and overall just a neat tribute to iconic Californian activities. Like Disneyland, the park isn't huge, so it can be paired for a single day outing. It's lovely and probably was the most relaxing park of the California parks.

Universal Studios Hollywood: Legit a studio location. It's in some gorgeous hills which makes it have arguably the best looking view of a castle via Hogwarts III. Their Harry Potter zone is just the Hogsmeade/Hogwarts stuff with no sign of them getting the same big Diagon Alley that Orlando got (and until recently they had awful 3D on their Harry Potter ride but had to change to 2D so it is now near identical to ride as Orlando). It's a pretty equal quality to the Orlando one but despite the better views around the castle above you, at ground level the landscaping isn't as pretty due to being crowded by Shrek and other park areas. The Simpsons area is less fleshed out in spacing but is also pretty comparable. Their Mummy ride has less effects but a more logical facade. The backlot tour is amazing. Packed with iconic sound stages and real prop vehicles. Has the weak Kong simulator fight sequence and weaker Fast and Furious simulator integrated into the tour, but they are harmless charm at worst. It really is a pleasure to a film fan to see stuff like the town square from Back to the Future or the plane crash from War of the Worlds.

6: oh and both Universal Hollywood and Orlando have a cool shopping plaza called CityWalk but I'd say the Cali one is vastly better and cooler looking, though the Orlando one is fantastic already. Disney in Orlando has an amazing redone outdoor mall kind of district called Disney Springs that is great for a night of shopping and dinner. Disney Cali has Downtown Disney which is nice but none of them beat the new Disney's springs and CityWalk.

7: also at the Disney parks you have to take transportation from the parking lots no matter what coast. But in Florida they offer monorails and buses and stuff between the parks since it's miles. Monorail is cool.
 

captive

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Ok so I have been to all the Disney and universal parks (yes those are the only ones I call major)
i stopped reading here
How you gonna say that this is "all the major parks" and not mention Cedar Point?

seriously, poor choice of words by the OP. There are some great non Dinsney/universal parks.
 

DOWN

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How you gonna say that this is "all the major parks" and not mention Cedar Point?


Google:
That park has like an eighth of the visitor count of just the Magic Kingdom alone, is located in Ohio, and is not internationally expanded
 

deadscreensky

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I can maybe understand ignoring places like King's Island or the Six Flags parks. But no Cedar Point? Your comparison is flawed from the start.
 

MattKeil

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Disneyworld is awful except for the tequila bar in that international whatever area.

With the exception of Epcot and Expedition Everest, there's nothing there that isn't equaled or better at Disneyland's equivalent, with the added bonus of not having to take buses everywhere. Overall the food at Disney World is better, but in Anaheim if you're not eating at Downtown Disney or the Blue Bayou you're doing it wrong anyway.
 

Dishwalla

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Google:
That park has like an eighth of the visitor count of just the Magic Kingdom alone, is located in Ohio, and is not internationally expanded

It's well renowned for it's roller coasters. Disney and Universal are known for the atmosphere, but parks like Cedar Point can and do offer up more fun and more thrill, all for a cheaper ticket price.
 

captive

Joe Six-Pack: posting for the common man
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Major is a subjective word and I state which parks I mean in the first line of the thread and my first reply

and thats why you're getting blowback, congrats you sabotaged your own thread from the start.

Also visitor count is a terrible way to judge something as 'major' Cedar point is world renowned for its rides.
 

LQX

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One of my wishes since I was a kid is to go to Disneyland. I still remember being in like second grade and this girl(fuck you Sheila) came to class and was bragging about going to Disney Land and seeing Minnie Mouse. I wanted to pick up a chair and throw it at her I was so jealous with rage. The closet I had ever been to Disney was watching the parade on TV. Man it looked magical to my eyes as a kid. I have only been to Coney Island and Great Adventure but hoping one day to still go to Disney.
 

DOWN

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It's well renowned for it's roller coasters. Disney and Universal are known for the atmosphere, but parks like Cedar Point can and do offer up more fun and more thrill, all for a cheaper ticket price.

and thats why you're getting blowback, congrats you sabotaged your own thread from the start.

Also visitor count is a terrible way to judge something as 'major' Cedar point is world renowned for its rides.
Can we maybe also touch on one being an amusement park while the ones in this thread are true theme parks?

Anyway y'all should have figured out from sentence one what level of recognition and attendance I'm getting at and I'm not gonna write about a smaller less known park I've never been to
 

wildfire

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Cool thread. Looking forward to the youtube version if you ever decide to make one. This was a fascinating read.
 

sir_kevith

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Can we maybe also touch on one being an amusement park while the ones in this thread are true theme parks?

Anyway y'all should have figured out from sentence one what level of recognition and attendance I'm getting at and I'm not gonna write about a smaller less known park I've never been to

Well I think "Roller Coasters" qualify as a theme
 

cwmartin

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Disney parks are for children, and the parents of children. Walt played the fuck outta all ya'll.
 
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Can we maybe also touch on one being an amusement park while the ones in this thread are true theme parks?

Anyway y'all should have figured out from sentence one what level of recognition and attendance I'm getting at and I'm not gonna write about a smaller less known park I've never been to
Have you been to Semanticsland?
 

Swig_

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Disney parks are for children, and the parents of children. Walt played the fuck outta all ya'll.

I went to Disney Land as an adult with my gf a few years ago. I thought the same thing, but she forced me to go. We had a blast.
 

Kordelle

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Since I'll be in LA next April, this thread got me interested in these parks.
Then I checked the prices... 180$ for a fast lane ticket (Universal), seriously? Parks are crazy cheap compared to that here in Europe.
Is Disneyland in LA similair to the one in Paris or is the price difference justified?
 

cwmartin

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I went to Disney Land as an adult with my gf a few years ago. I thought the same thing, but she forced me to go. We had a blast.

I went as a kid and recognized exactly what it was. I will never go back unless my kids want to go lol.
 

GoldenEye 007

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What's more likely on a worldwide scale. Someone would come visit the US and be aware about and for Disney and maybe Universal. Or Cedar Park?

Cedar Park certainly is known for roller coasters, but I don't put it in the same category as theme parks like Disney or Universal.
 

jett

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What about Knott's Berry Farm??? jk

One of my wishes since I was a kid is to go to Disneyland. I still remember being in like second grade and this girl(fuck you Sheila) came to class and was bragging about going to Disney Land and seeing Minnie Mouse. I wanted to pick up a chair and throw it at her I was so jealous with rage. The closet I had ever been to Disney was watching the parade on TV. Man it looked magical to my eyes as a kid. I have only been to Coney Island and Great Adventure but hoping one day to still go to Disney.

I wonder what's it like to go for the first time as an adult. Can't be the same as a kid.
 

lightus

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Neat thread. I've been to all the Disney parks dozens of times so it was interesting to read about their LA counterparts.

You nailed it with the awkwardness of Universal/Islands. I love the parks but a lot of the themes are dated or nonsensical. For me the 1.75 hour drive is totally worth it. I can't confidently say it'll be worth it to fly from out of state/country to experience though.

Disney on the other hand nails atmosphere perfectly but sort of putters with the rides themselves. I love the rides myself because of nostalgia and I'm a little kid at heart. I have to say I always feel bad when people talk about going to Disney for the first time to "ride all the rollercoasters". Unless you are including the tame "mountain" rides, there's not much in the way of fast paced rides.

Someone in the thread mentioned Disney being for kids and parents of children. That's definitely true. I disagree with having been played though. I associate Disney with my childhood and to me there's very little other places I can visit to bring me back to that wonder quite like Disney World does. It's certainly not for everyone, but there's a significantly sized population who it is for.
 

Brakke

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If you're going to rag on Disneyland as a destination, you could at least say Knott's Berry Farm out loud. It's miles better than Universal.

Also dudes: it's "Disneyland", and "Disney World".
 

jstevenson

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Oh man, so much wrong with the OP.

A. If you talk about parks in SoCal, he leaves out Magic Mountain (one of the best roller coaster parks in the world), Knott's (not as fun but still cool), and of course you have San Diego points of interest like Sea World, Wild Animal Park etc.

B. Disneyland > Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It doesn't look like a shitty movie set, it's just an actual place that was built. It feels lived in and real. Disneyland is terrific.

C. Disney World is great, besides the four major parks, there are water parks. Ragging on Animal Kingdom is insane. It's the best themed US Disney park outside of Disneyland itself. Yes it looks like improvised nations in places but it's kind of the point to give you that safari feel. Adventureland has this a bit too. The overall Disney World resort, between the various hotels, restaurants, activities, and parks is top notch.

D. Orlando is awesome because you get Disney World + Universal, and the two Universal Parks make for a great day or two.


And for all the crap about Disney Parks being for kids -you folks are so dead wrong. I spent a 9 days in Orlando this year and it was awesome. Ate well, relaxed, rode rides, saw shows, swam. There's much fun to be had.
 
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The lowdown on all the major USA coffee shops from someone who's been there (me).

Guys, I've been to a Starbucks AND a Dunkin' Donuts! Ask me anything.
 

cwmartin

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"I'm too old to have fun"

Fun =/= designed for kids.

At some point it's fine to understand when a piece of media, or content is designed for the child audience. Kids get to have things made for them too. Not liking it, is not equivalent to not liking fun. The same way that liking it doesn't make you an actual child.
 

Sub_Level

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Cedar Point
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Tagyhag

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You should check out Six Flags.

How you gonna say that this is "all the major parks" and not mention Cedar Point?

I mean, I'm sure Cedar Point is cool, but could you really compare it to Disneyland or Universal when it comes down to it? People from other countries don't come to the US for Cedar Point.

Plus, you'd have to actually set foot on Ohio! :p
 

DOWN

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What's more likely on a worldwide scale. Someone would come visit the US and be aware about and for Disney and maybe Universal. Or Cedar Park?

Cedar Park certainly is known for roller coasters, but I don't put it in the same category as theme parks like Disney or Universal.
This seems like a duh point to me. Sorry y'all but I'm talkin about an echelon that this no brand Cedar Point Ohio and six flags stuff are not in and you can't seriously be confused by my choice of words
 
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