Ah, Orlando, a land of golf courses, alligators, a Publix every mile, and of course some of the greatest theme parks in the world. Between the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, the Orlando area has some truly great attractions to offer. I figured that before all of the new 2019 attractions open this summer, now is as good of a time as any to give you my top 10. But first, here is my criteria:
- Theming: This is arguably the most important category. We go to theme parks to escape the outside world, and how well a ride puts you in a certain environment has a huge impact on the experience.
- Thrill: Big e-Ticket thrill rides have always been the highlight for pretty much any park. How much of an adrenaline rush an attraction provides will greatly impact a guest’s opinion of it.
- Innovation: Nobody wants to do the same thing over and over again. In the world of theme parks, people are always looking for something newer and better. If an attraction is more unique, it will be rated higher.
- Miscellaneous Category: These are any positives or negatives that are specific to a single ride. They are features that not every ride is going to have. Things like a good soundtrack or a good ride vehicle can win points here.
And now for my list:
10. Mako at SeaWorld Orlando:
This may come as somewhat of a surprise, since I previously listed theming as my top criteria for rides. Mako doesn’t have much theming, and is really just a roller coaster. However, when a ride delivers as much of an adrenaline rush as Mako does, I can’t leave it off this list. When I’m looking solely at roller coasters and not attractions as a whole, this one is easily my favorite in Orlando (even though there are technically other attractions that happen to be coasters that are higher on this list). It’s smooth, fast, and provides tons of airtime. What more could you want from a coaster?
9. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Islands of Adventure
This is the ride that truly saved Islands of Adventure. I’m not even remotely a Harry Potter fan, and this ride still impresses me to this day. The Kuka robot arms used do an excellent job at giving you the sensation of flight, and the queue is an attraction of its own. However, I have started to notice a few of Forbidden Journey’s cracks. Things like being able to see the edge of some of the screens as well as the video quality leave some things to be desired. Those reasons ultimately keep it from being higher on the list. It still comes with a high recommendation, however.
8. Splash Mountian at Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain is easily my favorite of Magic Kingdom’s mountain range, and is one of my favorite attractions of all time. There’s so much to like here; the great music, tons of animatronics, and a great drop at the climax, just to name a few. It’s one of the best “first” attractions to take someone on at Walt Disney World. The only thing really holding it back is that some of the animatronics in the ride could really use some love. Still, it’s definitely is worth booking a fastpass for.
7. Men in Black Alien Attack at Universal Studios Florida
It has Will Smith, need I say more?… okay I will. In a park full of screens, it’s nice to have an attraction that still uses a ton of animatronics and practical sets to put you in the world of Men in Black. When it comes to shooter attractions, this really is the best there is. It even beats out Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in my opinion. And, like I said, it also has Will Smith, which is easily the best celebrity cameo you’ll find in any ride in Orlando.
6. Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
I know this is confusing, since I already said Mako was the best roller coaster in Orlando, but let me explain: Mako is my favorite roller coaster, but Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster is a better attraction overall. What do I mean by this? Well, Mako is a more thrilling experience in terms of the coaster, but Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster has much better theming and actually has something of a narrative. It’s not insane levels of theming, but it’s there. The Aerosmith soundtrack still holds up, and I’ll never get tired of hearing Steven Tyler countdown the launch. Speaking of the launch, it is also the best on any coaster in Orlando in my opinion.
5. The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Islands of Adventure
Like my previous entry, this is not quite as good of a coaster as Mako, but it’s still great in its own right. Like Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, it has superior theming, great music and still packs a punch. I’ll admit I prefer the theming in RnR, but Hulk is just so much more exciting. It has excellent pacing and keeps its speed through 7 inversions. This is one monster of a ride.
4. The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom
“Where hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls, whenever candlelights flicker, where the air is deathly still. That is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror, with ghoulish delight!”. When you hear those lines in the foyer of the Haunted Mansion, you know you’re in for an epic experience. The Haunted Mansion defines what a theme park attraction can be. It is the bar to which all others are compared. The music, the theming, the atmosphere, and the voice of the great Paul Frees are all perfect. And it ends with an open invitation to “Hurry back, hurry back…”, which is the perfect conclusion for the ride.
3. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Islands of Adventure
I don’t know if another ride will ever perfectly encapsulate a character quite like this one. From the start to finish you feel as if you stepped right into the world of the Spiderman animated series. From the great pre-show done in the original animation style, to the villains being portrayed absolutely perfectly, everything is authentic. And speaking of the villains, they might be my favorite part of this attraction. All of the members of the Sinister Syndicate are here, and I love their interactions between each other. The future of Spidey is uncertain given Disney owning Marvel and Marvel having an increased presence in the Disney parks, so make this a must do on your next trip to Universal.
2. Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped off of Avatar Flight of Passage. It simply blew my mind with how good it was. This is the best screen-based attraction ever. The sights of Pandora are simply breathtaking, and the unique ride vehicles really give you the feeling of flying on the back of a banshee. Right down to being able to feel the animal’s breathing beneath you. And the experience starts with a long and detailed queue with plenty to look at while you wait. Flight of Passage is so good, and is very close to being my number one pick.
1. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The original Tower of the Terror is still the king of Orlando attractions nearly a quarter century after it opened. The details are flowing out of every single inch, even before you get in line. You can find details from the story of the Hollywood Tower Hotel as you walk down Sunset Boulevard. When you get in line, you’re treated to my favorite queue ever, with a lobby that I wish I could just hang out in for a while. Playing in the queue is a fantastic music loop with a spooky echo that really sets the tone. The Tower of Terror is a fitting tribute to the original Twilight Zone series. It is chalked full of references to some of the greatest episodes in the series. When you make it onto the ride, it’s more than just your standard drop tower. There are so many brilliant practical effects used, and the elevator is more than just a drop tower vehicle without spoiling anything. The Tower delivers on the thrill side of things as well and will have you out of your seat for the finale. I invite you, if you dare, to step into the Twilight Zone for an unbelievable experience on the best ride in Orlando…
So there’s my list! Feel free to argue with me in the comments even though you’re wrong. 😛
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