Register or Login to Hide This Ad for Free!
Aug 17, 2010
869
1,121
210
Over the past year I was able to spend a good bit of time exploring the many theme park adventures that the Sunshine State has to offer. It was quite an enjoyable time, and the experience was fantastic. I was able to visit both Universal parks, all of the parks of the Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World Orlando, and BGT before taking my first trip back to BGW in over a year. It was a whirlwind, and I was left with some key takeaways from each park and how they compared and contrasted with our beloved Busch Gardens Williamsburg. So I suppose this is a veritable Venn Diagram of an essay. Allow me to pontificate if you will be so kind...

Also, I plan to keep most of my thoughts on the Florida parks relatively succinct, but if anyone would like anymore information or more legitimate trip reports, I can expound upon it somewhere else, but this forum doesn't feel like the right place.

Universal's Islands of Adventure is really a fantastic park. Every time I visit, it just gets better. This was my first trip since Harry Potter was built, and they did such a wonderful job. I can't wait to see what the HP expansion at USF will bring. IOA is a perfect mix of incredible theming, family attractions, and thrillingly unique rides. It's quite possibly just a few quality rides short of becoming my favorite park.

Universal Studios Florida had changed significantly since my last visit: Jaws was closed, Earthquake was revamped, and The Simpsons, Rip Ride Rockit, and Despicable Me had been added. The HP expansion looks like a great replacement for Jaws. My only concern is that Universal will become too dependent on Harry Potter, but it is a massive draw. Earthquake's re-imagining to Disaster Studios was the biggest surprise of the trip. It was clever and just a lot of fun. The Simpsons was a good Back to the Future replacement and probably the funniest theme park ride I've ever experienced. Rip, Ride, Rockit and Despicable Me were disappointing, however, and though I once loved T2, it really needs to go. The nighttime show is really cool as well, and is on the same level as World of Color.

I was thoroughly unimpressed with Sea World. This was my first real visit since I was a wee lad some 15 years ago or so, and it left me cold. The Shamu show is not what it once was, although the safety of the trainers is the most important factor of the show. The dolphin show really feels like their flagship show now, and it was pretty fun. The rest of the shows, however, were rather bland and startlingly unenjoyable. Kraken is a solid coaster, and Manta is a lot of fun. Journey into Atlantis is an odd little ride. I'm not sure what the goal was, but it did cool me off on a hot day. Turtle Trek was a decent experience. The new penguin area was underwhelming. The animal exhibit was good, but the ride was very hokey. Sadly, Wild Arctic was a highlight. It was the most laughably bad ride I've ever been on in my life. Everything from the pre-ride video to the end of the ride just reeked of B-movie glory. The most disconcerting aspect of this visit, however, was the staff. No one smiled. No one seemed happy. No one ever even said "Welcome to Sea World!" It was pretty bothersome.

I'm excited for the future of Disney. It is, however, a timidly odd excitement. Universal is taking it to them in every way right now, and I think Disney has finally realized it. I can't wait to see what they'll come up with. The new Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom shows that Disney can still create an enchanting, incredibly well-themed area with solid rides. The new Snow White ride looks pretty cool, and the animatronics on Under the Sea are phenomenal. Seriously, the Ursula one is sick. Splash Mountain also received a really good update. One thing really bothered me, though. Why do so much work on Magic Kingdom? It's still far and away Disney's best park. People will still go there for years, but they risk losing a lot of visitors from DHS and DAK to Universal.

Epcot has so much potential. It's a very pretty park. I'm a big fan of Soarin' and Mission: Space. I wasn't crazy about the Test Track update, but it's still a fun ride. World Showcase feels like such a waste, though. Each country has a well-done, unique theme, but there just isn't anything to do except spend money. Also, Journey into Imagination and Ellen's Energy Adventure are two of the worst rides I've ever been on. (Such a waste of Eric Idle and Bill Nye).

Hollywood Studios could one day be my favorite park. I love movies and I love thrill rides, but DHS has not found a good balance of these. Tower of Terror is one of my all-time favorite rides anywhere, and despite what the Golden Ticket Awards say, I think Rockin' Roller Coaster is the best indoor coaster around. Toy Story is fun, but the lines are insane. The theming here, though, feels jumbled. Is it supposed to be a backlot studio? Sometimes. Is it supposed to put you into the movies? Sometimes. It just feels all over the place.

Ditto that sentiment for Animal Kingdom. This is the park that Disney should never have built. It could have been great, but it was halfhearted. Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of Disney's finest attractions, and Expedition Everest is a fun coaster. But Dinoland USA is terrible. Primeval Whirl is a horrible herky-jerk of a ride, although I'll admit that there is something to Dinosaur's cheesiness that is fun. DAK's shows are still the highlights here.

I took my first trip to BGT to see how it held up against Williamsburg. The theming is nowhere near as good. I couldn't distinguish Timbuktu from Egypt; it all looked the same. There are some good rides here, though, particularly Montu, which I found to be surprisingly far superior to Alpengeist. Kumba was a bit of a letdown, however. Cheetah Hunt was good fun, and it was a nice, long ride. What really struck me was the quality of BGT's animal exhibits, though. I must say, they outdid DAK, which I would never have expected. Kudos to BGT there. Also, they had a special going for all-you-can-eat dining for thirty bucks. With that, I ate a value that far exceeded the price of admission. I'm not proud of that, though. Well, maybe a little bit.

After all of this, it was back to BGW. This trip just lacked something from past visits, though. I suppose it could be that this trip came on the heels of a tour of what Florida had to offer, but there was something in the heart and soul of the park that was missing. And then it hit me. BGW, as it stands now, is somewhat of a strange amalgamation of every park I visited in Florida. Obviously, BGT was relatively comparable (although I would rank BGW higher). Like Sea World, the staff was unpleasant and unfriendly. Like Universal Studios Florida, there were new additions that I still liked (Verbolten). Like Magic Kingdom, I couldn't help but feel like renovations were being focused on unimportant areas, even if some of the magic was still there. Like Epcot, the park was beautiful, but seemed lacking in some respects. Like DHS, there were some rides that still I loved, and like DAK, the theming was somewhat disjointed. IOA seems like a great picture of what BGW could be if they do things right. At the end of the day, though my visit to BGW was somewhat disappointing, it was still a good park with overall good theming and some fantastic rides. And so I will remain cautiously optimistic for the future of BGW, even if perhaps I should not.
 

Zachary

Administrator
Sep 23, 2009
15,929
46,530
260
Virginia
I agree with every last bit of that assessment. I'm going to pull this bit out though:

Franco said:
I was thoroughly unimpressed with Sea World. This was my first real visit since I was a wee lad some 15 years ago or so, and it left me cold. The Shamu show is not what it once was, although the safety of the trainers is the most important factor of the show. The dolphin show really feels like their flagship show now, and it was pretty fun. The rest of the shows, however, were rather bland and startlingly unenjoyable. Kraken is a solid coaster, and Manta is a lot of fun. Journey into Atlantis is an odd little ride. I'm not sure what the goal was, but it did cool me off on a hot day. Turtle Trek was a decent experience. The new penguin area was underwhelming. The animal exhibit was good, but the ride was very hokey. Sadly, Wild Arctic was a highlight. It was the most laughably bad ride I've ever been on in my life. Everything from the pre-ride video to the end of the ride just reeked of B-movie glory. The most disconcerting aspect of this visit, however, was the staff. No one smiled. No one seemed happy. No one ever even said "Welcome to Sea World!" It was pretty bothersome.

This is very reminiscent of what I saw on my last trip to SeaWorld Orlando. No one employed at that park seemed to care that I even existed. It was very odd- especially since it's such a stark contrast to my experiences at the other Orlando-area parks. Tis quite sad. :(
 
  • Like
Reactions: Franco

Ben

Apr 12, 2012
1,744
857
250
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Awesome trip report, agree with everything except one small thing:

RRR is fun! It wasn't rough at all IMO( no more than Alpie) and Me and everyone else I traveled with loved it. I seem to be the rides only supporter :(.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Franco
Dec 23, 2011
7,132
5,078
250
I must say that with the diverse parks in Florida, you get each park focusing on different things trying to provide something different whereas BGW is by its lonesome self up here, kind of. Since there is nothing else for the most part they focus on everything all at once providing what you described.

I really find your report to be accurate.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Franco
Jun 22, 2013
956
2,240
210
Tampa, FL
www.wdwtourcompany.com
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all the parks, it's nice to see others' perspectives, especially comparing the various park experiences.

We've only made it to SeaWorld once this year, but we had the same experience - no one was really friendly. Little eye contact, no one saying hello... I even walked up to a stand to get a drink and the employee just kept on talking to a co-worker for a good 30 seconds before acknowledging me even though she saw me the moment I got there.

As for BGT, I think you're spot on with a lot of what your said. I think some of their animal habitats are better for viewing than others in comparison to Disney's Animal Kingdom. I prefer the gorilla habitat better at Animal Kingdom, but the lions sure win at BGT.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Franco

Ben

Apr 12, 2012
1,744
857
250
Virginia Beach, Virginia
I haven't been to AK or SWO since like right after Everest was installed but for animal parks IMO its BGT>AK>SWO.

I have always thought SWO was incredibly overrated( haven't ridden Manta though), however I find whales and Dolphins boring considering I live 5 miles from the ocean :p.

AK has a couple decent attractions,(Safari and Everest)but besides those and the animal exhibits (although BGT's are better IMO)the rest is crap. Worst Disney park by FAR as I could easily spend a full day in all the others.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Franco

Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
11,088
29,436
260
Arlington, VA
Ben said:
Awesome trip report, agree with everything except one small thing:

RRR is fun goddammit! It wasn't rough at all IMO( no more than Alpie) and Me and everyone else I traveled with loved it. I seem to be the rides only supporter :(.

I like RRR, too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ben
Aug 17, 2010
869
1,121
210
Zachary said:
I have to wonder if Franco even associates us with our original usernames. :p

Of course I remember you Swift- er, I mean, Zachary!

Ben said:
Awesome trip report, agree with everything except one small thing:

RRR is fun! It wasn't rough at all IMO( no more than Alpie) and Me and everyone else I traveled with loved it. I seem to be the rides only supporter :(.

I'm glad someone enjoys it! :p I don't think the ride is rough, just kind of blasé. It's a novel concept. I like the on-board music, but the ride isn't long enough to derive as much enjoyment from that as I would like. The 90-degree lift is cool, but the layout just doesn't do much for me. To each his own.

My biggest issues with most of these parks is the pricing. I know Disney can command the 87 bucks per park, but I feel like Magic Kingdom is the only one of the four that is anywhere near worth it. I find the $70 dollar entrance fee at BGW a bit steep, but the fact that BGT charges $92 is ridiculous. If they weren't offering the free all-you-can-eat deal with it at the time, I probably would have just skipped it entirely. You can't charge more than Disney for that quality. On the flip side, I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to Cedar Point last year where my ticket cost me less than $45, and that trip was more than worth it.
 

Shane

ParkFans Founder
Silver Donor
Jun 2, 2011
2,875
4,998
250
Raleigh, NC
parkfans.net
I'll chime in on SWO as well. In fact I feel that the entire SEAS chain is lacking in the customer service department; this includes BGT, SWO, and BGW. Additionally chain wide the food has gone to crap. I had the worst theme park food experience at SWO, worst food I ever ate.

I myself find Kumba to be one of my favorite steel coasters, in fact I think BGT has an excellent steel coaster collection.
 

Zachary

Administrator
Sep 23, 2009
15,929
46,530
260
Virginia
Shane said:
I had the worst theme park food experience at SWO, worst food I ever ate.

Oh my, so much this. SeaWorld has absolutely horrendous food. Busch Gardens Williamsburg's food quality may have gone down, but SWO makes BGW look like a five star restaurant. I love Kracken, Manta, Journey to Atlantis, and a few of their shows, but at times it's hard to imagine that the two Busch parks are under the same ownership as SeaWorld Orlando.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nora

Nicole

Administrator
Jul 22, 2013
11,088
29,436
260
Arlington, VA
I thought the food at Sharks had improved when I was there in August, actually. That said the "international cuisine" in Antarctica was standard, uninspired food court fare.
 
Jul 22, 2010
3,014
1,466
250
Franco said:
I'm excited for the future of Disney. It is, however, a timidly odd excitement. Universal is taking it to them in every way right now, and I think Disney has finally realized it. I can't wait to see what they'll come up with. The new Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom shows that Disney can still create an enchanting, incredibly well-themed area with solid rides. The new Snow White ride looks pretty cool, and the animatronics on Under the Sea are phenomenal. Seriously, the Ursula one is sick. Splash Mountain also received a really good update. One thing really bothered me, though. Why do so much work on Magic Kingdom? It's still far and away Disney's best park. People will still go there for years, but they risk losing a lot of visitors from DHS and DAK to Universal.

New fantasyland is all visual with no substance. A heavily overpriced restaurant with subpar food than even an Outback statement is no bueno. It is successful on Hype and hype alone. I am curious as to how you found Mermaid to be a decent ride with mostly static AAs and only one true multi dimensional one. The incomplete story also portrays Ursula as the good guy. Story progression shows Ariel losing her voice, then making out and getting married. Littler Mermaid: Ursula saves the day is more like it. Storybook Circus is zero immersion with no substance. Dumbo was doubled as a way to make better use of the NextGen giant Datamine operation. Splash got a MUCH needed overhaul... not update ;)

MK gets more updates due to have the higher price than the three parks. WDW admitted the others were lacking when MK was priced higher.


Franco said:
Epcot has so much potential. It's a very pretty park. I'm a big fan of Soarin' and Mission: Space. I wasn't crazy about the Test Track update, but it's still a fun ride. World Showcase feels like such a waste, though. Each country has a well-done, unique theme, but there just isn't anything to do except spend money. Also, Journey into Imagination and Ellen's Energy Adventure are two of the worst rides I've ever been on. (Such a waste of Eric Idle and Bill Nye).

Look up the original JiYI and you will see why it sucks. Ellen was good in the 90s; I mean look at Trebek and the Jeopardy set. EPCOT relies on Food Wine and now Flower Garden which has become the Spring Food Wine. It is a high end dining facility with an astronomical cover fee.

Franco said:
Hollywood Studios could one day be my favorite park. I love movies and I love thrill rides, but DHS has not found a good balance of these. Tower of Terror is one of my all-time favorite rides anywhere, and despite what the Golden Ticket Awards say, I think Rockin' Roller Coaster is the best indoor coaster around. Toy Story is fun, but the lines are insane. The theming here, though, feels jumbled. Is it supposed to be a backlot studio? Sometimes. Is it supposed to put you into the movies? Sometimes. It just feels all over the place.

Theme was lost when the TRUE Backlot Experience was shuttered for LMA. Blame TS lines on lack of family offerings and a park with next to no rides.

Franco said:
Ditto that sentiment for Animal Kingdom. This is the park that Disney should never have built. It could have been great, but it was halfhearted. Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of Disney's finest attractions, and Expedition Everest is a fun coaster. But Dinoland USA is terrible. Primeval Whirl is a horrible herky-jerk of a ride, although I'll admit that there is something to Dinosaur's cheesiness that is fun. DAK's shows are still the highlights here.

Dinosaur is over 55% dark due to wanting to maintain the Dino AAs in it. EE is lost with a static Yeti that has a strobe AKA Disco Mode.

WDW is pumping money into their NextGen DataMine ugly bracelet plan what you ride 2+ months out program. AS a result the Star Wars addition has been slowed, show scenes cut from the C Ticket Snow White Coaster, Cars slowed, Avatar slowed, and much more. The focus of WDW is to find the best ways to separate guests from their wallet without offering true top tier entertainment and quality.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Haberdasher1973
Mar 30, 2010
3,105
2,045
250
Tell us how you really feel!

Though, I do agree with most of that. But I love LMA! That, Muppets, and probably the Indiana Jones show where the highlights of the trip to Hollywood Studios. Didn't get to try the Toy Story ride as the line was almost 2 hours long.
 
Aug 17, 2010
869
1,121
210
Atlantis said:
New fantasyland is all visual with no substance. A heavily overpriced restaurant with subpar food than even an Outback statement is no bueno. It is successful on Hype and hype alone. I am curious as to how you found Mermaid to be a decent ride with mostly static AAs and only one true multi dimensional one. The incomplete story also portrays Ursula as the good guy. Story progression shows Ariel losing her voice, then making out and getting married. Littler Mermaid: Ursula saves the day is more like it. Storybook Circus is zero immersion with no substance. Dumbo was doubled as a way to make better use of the NextGen giant Datamine operation. Splash got a MUCH needed overhaul... not update ;)

MK gets more updates due to have the higher price than the three parks. WDW admitted the others were lacking when MK was priced higher.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with this. Yes, Be Our Guest is overpriced, but every Disney full-service restaurant is. It is inordinately popular (booked six months out - the max for reservations) and finally gives MK a real sit-down restaurant. I was not able to eat at Be Our Guest during my stay, but from the many guests that I have spoken to about it, popular opinion is overwhelmingly positive. Under the Sea is a pretty traditional Disney ride. It's what I like to call a "sit here and watch stuff" ride. Some of Disney's most popular attractions are in this category. It's not my favorite ride, but like I said, I was mesmerized by the animatronics. I forgave any story shortcomings because I think the assumption is that you've seen the movie and you know what happens. I understand, though, if you feel differently in that regard. I found the entire section, Storybook Circus included, to be very beautifully done. The grotto at Under the Sea and the mountains being constructed for Snow White look incredible. I felt immersed in the land based on that aspect alone. Plus, I think the Rapunzel's castle bathrooms are some of the nicest bathrooms I've ever seen, especially for a theme park. Themed bathrooms? Only Disney would put money into that. Also, doubling Dumbo was a pretty wise move - it still gets up to a 100 minute wait on occasion with both Dumbos running. Ok, so Splash got an update. It still looks great now. :)

Atlantis said:
Look up the original JiYI and you will see why it sucks. Ellen was good in the 90s; I mean look at Trebek and the Jeopardy set. EPCOT relies on Food Wine and now Flower Garden which has become the Spring Food Wine. It is a high end dining facility with an astronomical cover fee.

I have not been able to visit Epcot during Food and Wine, but I was fortunate enough to visit during the Flower and Garden Festival. It was amazingly beautiful. They really did a great job with those topiaries. I agree, though, the admission price is ridiculously high. Rumors are, though, that a big new ride is coming in 2015. Maybe they're planning to utilize the vacant Wonders of Life pavilion. Who knows? That'll help the park out. Plus, Soarin' over the World (or whatever they're going to call it) will likely debut sometime around 2016, and that is a much needed overhaul. Or update. Whichever is right. :D
 
  • Like
Reactions: Zachary and Bill
Jul 22, 2010
3,014
1,466
250
Franco said:
I'm afraid I have to disagree with this. Yes, Be Our Guest is overpriced, but every Disney full-service restaurant is. It is inordinately popular (booked six months out - the max for reservations) and finally gives MK a real sit-down restaurant. I was not able to eat at Be Our Guest during my stay, but from the many guests that I have spoken to about it, popular opinion is overwhelmingly positive. Under the Sea is a pretty traditional Disney ride. It's what I like to call a "sit here and watch stuff" ride. Some of Disney's most popular attractions are in this category. It's not my favorite ride, but like I said, I was mesmerized by the animatronics. I forgave any story shortcomings because I think the assumption is that you've seen the movie and you know what happens. I understand, though, if you feel differently in that regard. I found the entire section, Storybook Circus included, to be very beautifully done. The grotto at Under the Sea and the mountains being constructed for Snow White look incredible. I felt immersed in the land based on that aspect alone. Plus, I think the Rapunzel's castle bathrooms are some of the nicest bathrooms I've ever seen, especially for a theme park. Themed bathrooms? Only Disney would put money into that. Also, doubling Dumbo was a pretty wise move - it still gets up to a 100 minute wait on occasion with both Dumbos running. Ok, so Splash got an update. It still looks great now. :)

I have not been able to visit Epcot during Food and Wine, but I was fortunate enough to visit during the Flower and Garden Festival. It was amazingly beautiful. They really did a great job with those topiaries. I agree, though, the admission price is ridiculously high. Rumors are, though, that a big new ride is coming in 2015. Maybe they're planning to utilize the vacant Wonders of Life pavilion. Who knows? That'll help the park out. Plus, Soarin' over the World (or whatever they're going to call it) will likely debut sometime around 2016, and that is a much needed overhaul. Or update. Whichever is right. :D

Mermaid is a failed darkride in contrast to every other dark ride. Such a let down when it could have had flaws fixed as it IS a direct clone. It is sad that the queue line has so much more to offer than anything in the ride. Such a shame that DIS was too afraid to tell the actual story to not frighten a 3yo. I know Haber remember before Snow White was toned down. Two Dumbos was not needed. Putting a sweat splash and play in pee area was a joke. Canning Snow White to put a Meet Greet and Grope there was another mistake. It is pretty bad that after all the money spent that only one ride was gained. So so sad, TDO.

Oh yea, write off the "major new attraction to EPCOT in 2015 off. I KNOW that that one is not happening. Minor overhaul of Imag is in the works (that has already been delayed and chopped) and Soarin' which is going to fall to the same fate of the current one. Other than that just look for more booze.


Haberdasher1973 said:
I'm 100% with Atlantis.

I'd like to add, though, that SWO felt completely different before the IPO...

It really did, even in 2009 after BlackStone bought it. Hell, even in Feb it felt entirely different.

You know WDW's priority right now!
 
Jul 22, 2010
3,014
1,466
250
pandorazboxx said:
Tell us how you really feel!

Though, I do agree with most of that. But I love LMA! That, Muppets, and probably the Indiana Jones show where the highlights of the trip to Hollywood Studios. Didn't get to try the Toy Story ride as the line was almost 2 hours long.

Blame FastPass. Just expect lines like Pirates and It's a Small World and Mansion to get even longer now that FP+ is being used on those. See Indiana while you can, it is closing sooner than later, and LMA.
 
Nov 2, 2011
153
137
120
I have gone to SeaWorld the past two years its not ment to be something like BGW or even BGT its a different kind of park I dont think it is fair to compair these parks each has its own nitch if they were the same there would me no need for all of them to exist, I visit BGW over 40 times a year no I dont get bored with it and yes it has everything a park needs to enjoy me, rides, food and best of all the shows and beauty of the park makes it a treat just to walk around and enjoy the beauty. Just my 2 cents worth
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nicole
Consider Donating to Hide This Ad