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Photo TR: Canobie Coaster's 2017 US Adventures

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Berkshire Mountain Coaster & Lake George


Last weekend, we made a quick day trip up to Lake George. My girlfriend had never been and it had been a few years since I visited what I consider the mini golf capital of the world. I made a pit stop at the Great Escape on the way home from Pennsylvania earlier this year to ride the Comet, but skipped it on this trip since she didn't have a season pass and I couldn't justify spending a majority of our day there with everything else available in the area. It felt like a foreign concept driving by a Six Flags park like that, but this one is also among the chain's weakest.


We did however get our roller coaster fix in at the Berkshire Mountain Resort. Instead of forking over cash to Massachusetts to take the Pike (they already get enough of my taxes), we took the scenic route. This allowed us to pass the most depressing fair ever (they only had a VHS sale, kiddie pool, and some paintings), an awesome looking fair that wasn't open yet by Reithoffer Shows, and most importantly the Berkshire Mountain Resort, which is home to one of the best mountain coasters out there.


The resort also has mountain biking if you are coordinated enough to not kill yourself and a great looking ropes course. But I wasted no time signing my life away to board the Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster. Unfortunately, it did have a bit of a wait (20 minutes), but the staff was doing a great job spacing everyone out so there was no one close to you. I'll happily wait 20 minutes to make sure I can get a ride at full tilt than to have a mother and daughter riding like it's a school zone down the mountain.


This mountain coaster is the longest I've been on and it's currently the longest in North America until the new one at Copper Mountain opens. Along with being a crazy long ride, this one is more intense. There are 5-6 little dips that give pops of air on the way down and the first few turns in particular are taken very fast and produce some amazing laterals. I'm a major fan of mountain coasters and this one along with the one at Attitash are in a class of their own. 9 out of 10



5 minutes later you will reach the top.


You get actual airtime on this one!

Two hours later, we reached Lake George and Route 9 which is one of those strips in a tourist trap town with all sorts of food, motels, and mini golf courses. Lake George is also a town proud of its history, so if you are a history buff you will also find all sorts of forts and historical reenactment areas. I'm not kidding about the latter, every tenth person I saw walking down the street was dressed like George Washington or Abigail Adams. No thank you; I'll stick with my $4 Lake George T-Shirts.



"An" historical impact... Whoever printed this is clearly from the south.

And of course there is a huge lake. We considered hiking but didn't realize just how large Lake George was since most of the good hiking trails were 35-45 minute trips from the town of Lake George. We decided to see the lake the American way and just drive up to the lake. Since it was a beautiful 70-75 degree day, we saw tons of people out on boats or parasailing. After dipping my toes into the frigid water, I was strongly against it.



Lake George is really beautiful.


Note the lack of people in the lake. That dog was the only brave soul in the water.

The first mini golf course we stopped at was Goony Golf. I am a sucker for mini golf courses with obstacles, so this course was wacky enough for me. Every hole had some type of obstacle to go through and some of them were truly crazy with my favorite being the dinosaur with a caveman on a yo-yo (yes you read that right). They also had a little arcade with some older games I hadn't seen in a while such as the skeeball variant with the basketball hoops.



Goony Golf is a very apt name.


The caveman is literally on the dinosaur's yo-yo. That's amazing.


The ghost on the left pretty much looks like a scrotum.


That's a menacing looking bird.

As amazing as Goony Golf is (it's probably in the top 5 of courses I have played), the two courses down the road are significantly better. That's not a knock on Goony Golf at all. Rather it's just how amazing the Around the US and Around the World mini golf courses are. Situated right next to the lake, there are two very well themed 18 hole courses with some of the best obstacles anywhere.



This is hands down the best mini golf course I've been to.

Around the US could only represent 18 of the states with holes (though they creatively made a Golden Gate bridge walkway), but they did a good job mixing in states from all regions of the country. Some of the highlights include the Texas hole that combines an oil refinery and football, the Las Vegas roulette hole (you launch the ball into a roulette and have a 1/4 chance of getting a 1, 2, 3, or 4, or if you're me you have a 100% chance of getting the 4), and the New York hole. The latter is a very well themed subway station (right down to the graffiti) that gives you a chance to win a free game.



Oil refinery? Check. Dallas Cowboys? Check. State Pride? Check. This hole sums up Texas perfectly.


I swear I always get the 4 on this hole. This is why I will never gamble in Vegas.


New Jersey had a cool hole too where you had to go through this carousel.


The subway is the highlight though. The attention to detail is amazing.


You can try to win a free game, lost some strokes on your score, or fail spectacularly like me.

Of the two, I prefer Around the World and I think that's a consensus judging by the crowds at this course compared to the stateside one. In an hour I was able to avoid being raped by Paul Bunyan in Canada, have Napoleon go all Captain Morgan on my golf ball, and smash a kangaroo in the face. The latter is involved with the best and most dangerous mini golf hole I have ever seen.


For Australia, there is a kangaroo. If you hit the ball off a ski jump and into the pouch, you get -2 of your score. You can either take this challenge or be boring and safely putt around the kangaroo. Thankfully no one intentionally does the latter since the results are hysterical. 5 out of 10 people miss the kangaroo entirely, 4 out of 10 drill the kangaroo somewhere other than the pouch, and 1 out of 10 will launch the ball into the parking lot or onto another hole. You may think I accidentally missed hitting the ball in the pouch, but I didn't. It's really dang hard to do so. My sister did it a long time ago, but that's the only successful shot I've witnessed. You still have to go for it though.



Beer for Germany. How fitting with Oktoberfest coming up.


Paul Bunyan looks like he is going to rape you.


Napoleon decided to Captain Morgan my ball and I somehow got my ball stuck under that yellow plate.


The infamous kangaroo hole. You are going to fail hitting it in that pouch, but you have to try.

We also explored the village for a bit. The place was buzzing at 9-11 at night. I'm not sure if this is the usual crowds or if it was larger because of the big Mayweather-McGregor fight that was happening that night. We got some great pizza at a place called Pizza Jerks, found a book store going out of business and almost bought the Great Big Book of Sex and a Children's Bible for $5 total (we really wanted to see the clerk's reaction), and stopped in a few arcades. The arcades ranged from older style games to the phone app/Dave and Buster style games.



So many tourist trap activities. This was a hybrid kiddie park/arcade.


We saw a drunk girl come out screaming and then run across the street yelling her name. That seems like a smart decision.


Big Bertha finally escaped after all these years.

The closest we got to the Great Escape was when we stopped for ice cream at Martha's across the street. After losing 2/3 rounds of mini golf, I owed her an ice cream. This place has the largest soft serve cones you will ever see as the large is 2 feet tall! Seriously Yelp this place if you want to see the largest ice cream cone you will ever see. And it was only $4 to boot.



This is the closest we got to the Great Escape. You can see Sasquatch towering in the background.

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Almost made it to Great Escape this year when I was in Albany, but alas it wasn't meant to be. Had I known some awesome mini golf was up there, I probably would have made it for sure. Just means I'll have to take a trip next time I'm somewhat in the area. Thanks for the non-theme park reviews, too! We love stuff like that.

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Canobie Lake Park- Screeemfest


I made my third and final visit of the year for their Halloween event, Screeemfest. Yes they spell it that way with 3 Es in a row. No that is not some weird New England thing. It's just some weird Canobie thing. As often as I've gone to Canobie, I have actually never been for their Halloween event so I was intrigued to check it out.


I had a loose idea what I wanted to hit during the visit. I wanted yo get a few Yankee Cannonball and Untamed rides, try out the new Ice Jet flat, and do the two haunts I heard good reviews on (Carnivus and Culling). When I arrived at the park, there was still some daylight. But about 15 minutes later, the sun succumbed to the darkness. It was nice to get 5 hours at Canobie in the dark. Usually I only have an hour after the sun sets and I ride the same 3 rides at that time (Flume, Mine of Lost Souls, & Yankee Cannonball).


I started with the Yankee Cannonball. I figured I could hopefully get a few rides in before the crowds arrived. 9 out of 10 times, it has a full queue, which is a 30 minute wait. I beat the rush so I got two quick rides in about 20 minutes. As mentioned in my first Canobie review, you can't wait for a seat. So it's a bit of luck what you get. I got the 3rd from the front and 2nd from the back, so two nice seats. It's the star of the park and is a perfect fit for the traditional park. It's impeccably smooth and has 3-4 pops of air. And they're good pops thanks to the buzz bars. 7.5 out of 10



The woody that gives any Canobie fan a woody.


Points for a Halloween theme. Double points for tying it into the Yankee Cannonball's theming.

The crowds had doubled Cannonball's wait so I moseyed on over to Star Blaster. A one cycle wait, it was fun. I used to be much higher on Star Blaster. It was my first drop tower, but then I rode others that went much higher and more importantly, weren't S&S versions. The ride isn't the least bit intense but it does have two nice pops of air. 7 out of 10



Blast the stars. Though this is the one area of New Hampshire you can't see stars thanks to light pollution from Mass.

Next was Untamed. With the single rider line, I was on in 5 minutes. After riding Hydrus at Casino Pier, I can't help but wish this one had those amazing lap bars as well. I actually got a mostly smooth ride on it this visit, which was great since the ride was still its normal intense self. The drop has some powerful ejector air and I really like the first and third inversions. I thought about going again but the single rider line was 5x longer than usual (aka there were 5 people there). 7.5 out of 10



Untamed looks even better at night. Still one of the most surprisingly well themed coasters out there.

I did the Cullen next, my first haunt. Overall the park was quite busy but the ride lines never went beyond 20 minutes. The haunts meanwhile got busier and busier as the night went on. I waited about 20 minutes for the Culling but the line doubled in length by the time I got off. Guess I got lucky.


For those unfamiliar with Canobie, the park has a corn field behind Untamed. The Culling takes place in that corn field. The setting alone could make the haunt creepy, but the park pumped in a boatload of fog and animal noises. The premise of the haunt is that there's a creepy cult (that from my experience only speaks gibberish). It's a pretty long and dark haunt. There were a decent amount of scare actors. I didn't find any particularly scary but they used their surroundings well. They bounced in and out of the fog, dressed like their environment, and hid behind laser projections. And there were plenty of lasers. 8 out of 10



It says the Magic Seed, but this was really the Culling.

Realizing the haunts were going to have the longest waits, I made a beeline to Carnivus. The queue was a little confusing. The map made it seem like the entrance was by the ballroom, so I stupidly pulled on the door with no luck. After looking like an idiot, I followed the crowd and realized the entrance was by the Boston Tea Party (which looked creepy being drained for once). The other confusing bit was that the queue for the Hotel Canobie haunt was right next to the one for Carnivus. I got in the right queue and ended up waiting 35-40 minutes.


I loved the premise of Carnivus and the execution was superb. It's themed as a haunted, abandoned carnival. Having been to my fair share of carnivals, it was definitely an ominious feeling walking down a lifeless midway without having carnies aggressively trying to rip you off. The detail was impressive and because I was so in love with the environments, I repeatedly let my guard down unlike when I'm walking through a spooky castle, dungeon, or something else of that ilk. Several of the actors popped out of well-hidden corners to make me jump. The second half also had some cool fun house effects such as a mirror maze (so that's where Tiki Maze went ) complete with scare actors and one of those vortex tunnels. It was a short haunt, but extremely well done. 9 out of 10



If you don't like clowns, Carnivus is not the haunt for you.


I'm not kidding.


It's a pretty terrifying entrance into an awesome haunt.

I tried riding the Turkish Twist, but right before I boarded the ride went down. Actually I shouldn't say the ride itself broke down. The latch on the door hiding the drum from the queue wouldn't lock, so they had to shut it down until maintenance could pull out their handy dandy screwdrivers. It was a bummer since it's the fastest rotor out there, but I ride it enough. I thought about hitting the Frisbee since it had just reopened after being down for a year (the closure was so long it was removed from park maps and the website lists it as "Now Open" almost as if it's a new ride), but I skipped it in favor of Ice Jet.



Speaking of their website, I think basketball fans will recognize the tall dude on the Pirate. It's none other than former Celtic Kelly Olynyk. As a player I don't miss him, but by all accounts he was amazing for the community. I believe in this photo he was there with a group of underprivileged kids.

Ice Jet is in a cursed spot, but I'm excited to finally see a ride there again. Most recently it was home to Equinox, which ran less than a 500 pound man, so it was removed. Before that, it used to be home to the Matterhorn, the world's fastest and best run flying bobs ride (though the one at Oktoberfest was just as good). They ran that thing so fast that it tore itself apart, but it resulted in swinging nearing 120-130 degrees!


I was hopeful the new one would run as fast, but realistically I figured it'd be tamer and I was right. It ran about as fast as the typical one you'd see at a fair but it ran in both directions. It also had a weird cycle where it would speed up, start to slow down, and then accelerate to its top speed. I've never seen a himalaya do that before and it caught me off-guard. One other thing that I was excited about was that the ride didn't have music. Usually that's a negative for these rides, but not when you're mere feet from a classic carousel pumping the midway with its glorious band organ. I don't see myself riding it every visit, but it's nice to have another option. 6 out of 10



First new ride in 6 years! Unless you count the ill-fated Equinox.

I made my way back towards the far end of the park. I noticed the Cannonball now had an almost full queue so I decided to pass a little time before returning for my last rides on the year. I decided to ride Wave Blaster. I hadn't ridden the ride in a few years since it has an odd location in Kiddieland. It's one of those bouncing rides. From my observations, it seems that the heavier the car is, the higher and wilder the bounces will be. I got 2-3 bounces with small, abrupt pops of air, but the two offensive linemen in front of me had a ride so wild the ops actually asked if they were ok. 6 out of 10


I was in the mood to spin, so I went with Over the Rainbow. It's one of those Zamperla balloon towers and they're one of my guilty pleasure rides. Since their primary audience is kids, they are exceptionally easy to spin. I treated myself to a ride that spun so fast my balloon started to bounce. 8 out of 10



Would you believe my first ride on this came before I saw Wizard of Oz? Sad but true.

One of the other unique attractions at Canobie is their pinball parlor. Pinball is hands down my favorite arcade game so it's amazing to see a room with 25 or so pinball machines from multiple eras just waiting to be played. I gave $5 worth of quarters to several machines (Star Trek, Spiderman, Star Wars, AC/DC, Monopoly, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and Shrek). I could have easily spent more time and money in there, but it was an hour before closing and it was time to hit Cannonball again.



You knew this machine was coming.


Shrek (pinball) is love. If you miss the reference, Google it and prepare to have Shrek ruined for you.


Pinball porn.

I finished off with 2 rides on the Cannonball. I got extremely lucky in that I got both the very back and the very front. As many times as I've ridden it, this was probably only my 3rd ride there due to the seat selection process. It was a great way to end the year.


Overall I really liked Screeemfest. All of the park's rides were running outside of the water ones and the Mine of Lost Souls. While the other haunts in New England have the haunts as upcharges, Canobie includes them with admission. I prefer Lake Compounce's haunt simply because of how long it is, but Canobie's is nice in its own right and I see myself making it an annual visit now.

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Foxwoods & Cape Cod Dachshund Day


I had planned to visit the Haunted Graveyard and get my last Boulder Dash rides of the year in on Sunday. Unfortunately Mother Nature would have none of that. Knowing that Lake Compounce can be a big trigger happy when it comes to closing for weather, I had a very strong feeling the park wouldn't be opening on Sunday when I saw a 100% chance of rain. I was right and to the park's defense, the storm was actually pretty brutal with high winds knocking out power in several towns across New England. Generally when I try to avoid a park on Saturday it's due to the crowds, but this time I actually had something planned on Saturday.


Judge me all you want, but that event was Cape Cod Dachshund Day. Yes it's a thing. If you want rides, just skip the next few paragraphs and photos of adorable weenie dogs. The festival was having its 10th anniversary and because of my unhealthy obsession for wiener dogs, I just had to attend once I found out it was a thing. The only word to describe the festival was interesting. The impact of attending would be that there was no way I could make it to Lake Compounce for opening. Thankfully they let you reserve a time for the Graveyard, which was critical since with how crowded the park was that evening, I don't think they had any standby tickets left.


But back to the dachshunds. This festival put everything in perspective. I love dachshunds, but it's all relative. With any hobby/obsession, there are the people who love their hobby but are perfectly capable of functioning otherwise. Many of us had a shared love of dachsunds, but we could also talk about baseball, movies, etc. But then there were the diehards whose wieners got longer than their dogs as they talked about the breed. I think coaster enthusiasts are a perfect parallel. You know those ones that can recite off every stat and have heated debates whether or not a ride is a coaster or not, I basically saw the same thing as a few people passionately tried to disqualify a dog from the fashion show because he wasn't a purebred. He was a hybrid of a Scottish terrier and a dachshund.



The patch wearing ACER vest equivalent in the dachshund world. He had 10-12 dachshunds in his two carriages.

The festival began with a rousing rendition of the Dachs Song. Everyone was wildly out of pitch, but it was so laughably bad that you couldn't help but enjoy it. Think of the wonderfully off-key drinking songs you hear at bars or college parties. That was followed by a fashion show/parade where owners showed off their wieners. The dogs that is. Many were dressed up and looking back, only a few of them walked. Many owners carried their dogs or pushed them around in a baby stroller for the entirety of the fair.



This isn't even the best dachshund song I know, which is a pretty sad statement.


That's one hot dog!

The highlight for me was the Dachshund Fun Run, aka the wiener dog race. I've always wanted to see these wiener dog races because it's hysterical watching a dog so awkwardly shaped run. While greyhound races are competitive and cruel for the breeds, the wiener dog races are completely tongue-in-cheek. Of the 5 heats, there were only 2 close finishes since the race was often determined by which dog decided to run forwards. Most of the dogs confusedly didn't run when the gate opened and others quickly became distracted by the other dachshunds tunneling their way underneath the side of the racetrack.



This captures dachshund racing perfectly. Note the ones confused and in the gate, the rare two that knew to run forwards, and then the random weenies tunneling their way into the racetrack.

The festival wrapped up at 3 so it was a little over a three hour drive to Lake Compounce from Falmouth. On the way, I decided to make a pit stop at Foxwoods Casino. Did I want to gamble away my last week's paycheck? No. Earlier this year, they announced a surprise addition, the Thrill Tower. One of those Stan Checketts/Soaring Eagles towers, it included a drop tower and sky sling. Foxwoods had been rumored to be interested in adding a theme park for quite some time now, so the addition of this thrill ride wasn't shocking. What was shocking was how quickly they installed it. I was probably the one rare nut who showed up to Foxwoods not to gamble, but the rides looked very intriguing.


To save you time if you decide to make your way to Foxwoods, the rides are located behind the Fox Tower. I figured it wouldn't be hard to find a 120ft drop tower, but it's almost entirely blocked by the skyscraper which stands almost 350ft tall. I didn't realize the tower was that tall until it dwarfed a drop tower. After parking in the wrong garage and walking around confused (people probably thought I was drunk), I eventually found a lovely little sign that led me to the rides.



I never thought it'd be this hard to ever find a drop tower. The Thrill Tower looks so puny next to Fox Tower.


Finally I found it!

The prices for the attraction were pretty steep, but as a thrill seeker I could justify the price as a one-time treat. It cost $25 for the Sky Launch, $15 for the Sky Drop, or $35 for the combo ticket according to their website. Not sure if the website was out-of-date or I just got lucky, but I was only charged $30 for the combo ticket. As an added bonus, I was allowed to take 2 rides on each as long as they were taken back-to-back. That made the cost more palatable for sure.


I started with the Sky Launch since that was by far the more popular of the two attractions. I didn't see anyone else ride the drop tower while I was there, but I saw 5 other people try the Sky Launch. The ride is a smaller version of the tower at Branson's Bigfoot Tower. This was my first time riding one of these nutty Soaring Eagle creations, so I was immediately taken back by how minimalistic the restraint system was. The ride only had a few seatbelts holding me in and combined with how open the ride vehicles are, it's a pretty terrifying experience. Before launching you have the option to select whether or not you flip. Of course I picked the flipping option. I wasn't going to pony up $20 to ride a neutered version of the ride. I wanted it to give me everything it had!


The launch didn't have much oomph to it, but it was sudden and the ascent up the tower was pretty freaky. I've done one of those slingshots before, but being enclosed in the ball took away the sensation of height somewhat. Not here. While much smaller than the adjacent skyscraper, it felt much higher than 120 feet during the ride. Once I reached the top of the tower, the vehicle shuffled slightly to the side and then I received two very wild flips that were accompanied by a stomach dropping sensation. I remember the flips on the slingshot being fluid and graceful. The Sky Launch's flips were aggressive and had some serious punch to them. The ride is a major rush. The only downside is how ridiculously short it is. I figured the first launch would be the best, but I didn't realize you only went up and down once. Thankfully they did give that second ride to make up for it. 9 out of 10



I loved the lighting package on the Thrill Tower.


The open cars, minimalistic restraints, and flipping made this a pretty terrifying and thrilling experience.

It felt only right to follow-up one terrifying ride with another, so I immediately rode the Sky Drop. While a 120 foot drop tower may not sound too special, this is a pretty freaky ride since the only restraint is a seatbelt. Yes Tower of Terror has seatbelts too, but you aren't in an open air gondola like on the Sky Drop. I was fortunate enough to have timed my ride right around sunset, so the views over the Connecticut forest were pretty nice. The one aspect of the ride that surprised me was the audio. There was some nice music during the ascent and it morphed into the sounds of a ticking clock at the top. I couldn't help put think of Compounce's nearby Down Time tower when I heard the audio, but I didn't mind them ripping it off since it's such an intimidating and effective sound atop a drop tower.


And then the drop came. I wasn't sure what to expect from it. I hadn't heard much about these Soaring Eagle towers other than the restraints. Since I saw Stan Checketts's involvement, I was worried the drop would be weaker like the S&S turbo drops. The second the gondola released, my fears had been squashed. The descent had a very powerful stomach dropping sensation and felt some great air the whole way down. The drop felt like one on those Larson drop towers. Without having a chance to catch my breath, I was sent right back up for my second lap and it again took my breath away. I think I slightly prefer the Larson towers for the restraints. That sounds kind of odd with how minimalistic the restraints are on this one, but the seat belt rests firmly on your lap. On the Larson ones, the OSTR leaves you plenty of room to come out of your seat and experience the air. Still it's just a minor nuance and just being listed in the same breath is a very good sign. 10 out of 10



No one else wanted to try the Sky Drop while I was there.

I loved the ride. Since Foxwoods is only 10 minutes off I-95, I'd consider stopping there whenever I pass by. The ride is scheduled to operate 365 days a year (weather permitting), so it may be a rare thrill ride fix for coaster enthusiasts in the cold New England winters. I personally preferred the Sky Drop, but I also admit that I am much higher on drop towers than most. I'd recommend stopping in to try both sides since they truly are wild and terrifying experiences.


After spending a half hour riding and grabbing some food, I left the casino without giving them a single penny. I had a reservation with the Haunted Graveyard and some nighttime Boulder Dash rides.

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Lake Compounce Haunted Graveyard


Lake Compounce's Haunted Graveyard is hands down my favorite Halloween event (theme park or any) that I've been to. Before anyone raises any pitchforks, I have only been to haunts in New England so I'm not comparing this to Knott's Scary Farm, Universal's event, etc. But compared to Fright Fest, Screeemfest, the haunted corn mazes, and overpriced houses, the Haunted Graveyard obliterates all of them in terms of quality and value. And it also helps being able to get night rides on one of the world's best wooden roller coasters as well.



Easily the best haunt I've been to.

Two of my biggest pet peeves with haunts are the cost and the lines. Six Flags suffers from both of those while Canobie only suffered from the latter. Lake Compounce suffers from neither. For only an extra $8-10, you can add a timed reservation for this spectacular hour long walkthrough. Sure there may be a 20-30 minute wait after you check-in for your designated time, but once you enter into the Graveyard, you have a full hour of haunts. I don't know of any other Halloween haunt that is nearly this long.


I had 15 minutes before my reservation, so I decided to ride the park's Wave Swinger. Usually swing rides are a relatively relaxing and mundane ride, but not so much at Lake Compounce. Ever since the park rehabed the swings a few years back, they have run the ride ridiculously fast. Usually on these swing rides, you can feel the swing slow a bit at the peak of the wave, but on this one the ride whips you through it. I don't know of any other swing ride with Gs comparable to this one. This was the perfect ride to stall before the Graveyard. 8 out of 10



Usually I'll skip these swings, but not when you run it like a bat-out-of-hell.

I didn't get any photos of the Haunted Graveyard since it was mobbed in the queue line and you aren't allowed to take photos on the inside. I've been going to Lake Compounce for 20 years, but last Saturday was the most crowded I had ever seen it. Because of this, the line for the Graveyard stretched through the park's kids area. Fortunately, the line was just because people were either late or early for their reservation depass a good chunk of them and only had an additional half hour to wait.


For the Graveyard, it's not just the length, but it's also the quality. There are hundreds of scare actors inside the Graveyard and they cover every single phobia someone could have- spiders, zombies, hospitals, chainsaws, and priests. The latter is particularly terrifying for boys in the Boston area. While the Graveyard is relatively similar year-after-year, that's fine by me since it's always a spectacular experience and the scare actors keep it fresh.


After leaving the Graveyard, I had 2.5 hours left to explore the park. On my way to Boulder Dash, I figured I'd hit Phobia. Remember how I said I had never seen the park this crowded? Phobia's queue was into the lower switchbacks. Unsure how long that line would take, I decided to skip it for the time being to ensure I made it to Boulder Dash. I was a little scared how long that queue would be considering I knew it'd be running one train. I'd say they were only running one train due to the accident, but let's be honest, the park probably wouldn't have had the second train running anyway based on their track record this year.


I reached Boulder Dash's queue and it was just beyond the pagoda, almost at the main entrance. I had a bad feeling the queue may take an hour, but it only took about 40 minutes, and that included me waiting for the front. The front is my go-to seat on Boulder Dash. The back is fantastic too, but nothing beats the beats the rush of wind on a pitch-black night ride through the mountain. The combination of the setting, relentless speed, strong laterals, and fantastic airtime makes it a top 5 coaster for me. It's not exactly a glass smooth ride, but it's not meant to be and (for me at least) it's not what I'd consider rough. It's a wild and aggressive ride from start to finish, but I find it very reridable.


Despite the cooler temperatures, I thought the ride was running as great as it was during the summer. The return leg in particular felt extremely fast and I'm happy to say the double up has fully broken in after it had a vibration to it on my early season rides. I immediately got back in line and again waited about 40 minutes for the front row. The Beast is often considered one of the best night rides in the coaster community, but I give my nomination to Boulder Dash. It's already a world-class ride during the day, but it becomes absolutely insane once the sun sets. There's no light whatsoever on the mountain. 10 out of 10



Boulder Dash is my favorite coaster for night rides.


I'm willing to bet the second train is off for rehab somewhere.


This is about as much light as there is during the entire course. It's absolutely insane.

I saw Down Time was a walk-on, so I decided to give the park's drop tower a whirl. I was a bit worried that the drop would feel dull after riding the insane version at Foxwoods, but I still enjoyed it. The drop has some good air at the start of the drop and I really love the clock effects at the top. The effects are particularly effective since they vary ride to ride. Sometimes the alarm goes off after the ticking, sometimes it doesn't. I don't know if that's intentional or not, but it makes the drop more suspenseful. 8 out of 10



One of the better S&S towers out there.

I decided to check back on Phobia and the line was quite a bit shorter. It was just past the station, but thanks to the speedy dispatches, I was on the back row in about 10 minutes. The ride is a nice compliment to Boulder Dash. It's smooth, has some solid launches, a freaky inline twist, and a really intense drop. The more I ride these Sky Rocket II's, the more I have grown to dislike the shin guards. On the other coasters I've been on, the shin guard cups around the shins. On the Sky Rocket II's, it rams against my shins pretty tightly and it gets a tad uncomfortable. Since it's a short ride, I can look past it though and enjoy it. 8 out of 10



It's still odd for me to see Phobia here after being used to the Enterprise, but I definitely prefer it.


I had plenty of time to watch it from the Boulder Dash line.

I had 25 minutes left. I considered riding the Sky Coaster since they usually have a $10 haunt special, but I passed on it. The price was $15 (which is still cheap for these), but the big reason was the queue. There looked to be 5 groups and I didn't want to risk missing a final ride on Boulder Dash. The park doesn't close the line until closing, so I debated going on Phobia again. Instead I decided to start queuing for Boulder Dash so I could ensure my last ride was again in the front. I don't regret my plan one bit.



The ride is challenging to photograph during the day. At night, it's nearly impossible.

On the way out, I took a look at Wildcat. It's no secret the ride's rehab took much longer than expected. The ride was essentially closed all year with the exception of one or two weekends at the end of the summer. I figured it'd be open for the Graveyard, but the park decided to start painting it at the beginning of October. The new color scheme looks odd with the black track and orange rails, but it definitely is vibrant and stands out. I'm looking forward to finally trying the retracked version next year since the few people who rode it said it was running much faster. Still rough, but at least it had some air to go with the rattling.



It's hard to tell from this photo, but the ride has an interesting paint scheme. I'm still bummed they decided to start painting it before the season ended though.


Lol...temporarily closed.

If you've never been to the Haunted Graveyard, don't hesitate and go next year. The haunt alone is worth it. Getting night rides on Boulder Dash is worth it, particularly since the park usually closes before sunset in the summer. And when you combine those two things together, you have a truly exceptional event that is my bonafide Halloween tradition.

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I saw someone waiting for the front row on BD around 9pm with TPR out on their phone, I'm guessing that might have been you.


Totally agree about the Swings, they are totally awesome. Same with Downtime, probably the best drop tower I've been on.


I haven't heard anything official about the other BD cars, but I'm willing to bet they might be in coaster heaven instead of the maintenance shop. The last two cars of the train running now are from the green train and I think the rest of the cars are either totaled or in need of serious work. Also the enterprise they had was Huss, I do miss it but Phobia is easily better.

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^ That very well could have been me. You should have said hi; I don't bite haha.


I thought they were able to salvage the blue one without having to make Frankentrain but maybe I misheard. Regardless the ride was running really well. Having the second train would have definitely helped for capacity but realistically I doubt they would have used it anyway.

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I was right where the line splits so I wasn't really close enough to say hi, but I do like talking with fellow enthusiasts while in line.


If you sit in the back, you can see a lot of green on the freshly painted cars. Thankfully they were able to get it running for October. I really hope they get a second train going for next year even if they have to buy a new one. I did also see a stack of older looking train chassis next to the station that appeared two weeks ago, I think they might be from the old red train because there were some solid grey seat dividers on top. Maybe they had old car pieces under the station and will try to make another train with the parts from those trains and the messed up cars.


Glad you enjoyed the graveyard too. I went through 3 times this season and it is always a great time. I would recommend going earlier in the season because there are less people that go through so it is less of a congested mess in the haunt. I saw the line in kiddie land at one point and that usually means they will be letting through giant groups of people as fast as possible which leads to some congestion and loss of some scares.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sea World Orlando


I have been to Orlando four different times, most recently in 2015. All of those visits were family vacations to Walt Disney World. While the mouse wants you to think otherwise, Orlando (and the surrounding area) has so much more other than just Walt Disney World. In my past trips, we’ve made day trips to Universal, but that’s it outside of Disney.


My office was looking for someone to visit some sites down in Orlando. While many groaned at the idea, I took one for the team. I guess I could take free airfare down to the theme park capital of the world. After business concluded, I had four days to explore the parks. My first instinct was Disney World, but I developed a different plan.


Since I was on my own, I decided to hit everything other than Disney- SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Legoland, and Fun Spot. I had one extra day left. I debated going to Disney. After all, they had opened Frozen and Pandora since my last visit. But I decided to visit Universal instead, just narrowly over the Holy Land .


It felt criminal going to Orlando and not visiting Disney World, but that’s what I did. While Pandora and Frozen have been added since my last visit, it’s likely that we’ll go down for another family vacation sometime in the next year or two. I also couldn’t begin to cram Disney World into a single day. However, it is possible to condense Universal down into one day.


My first stop was SeaWorld. While Orlando’s is often considered the best of the three, it was the only one I had yet to visit.



SeaWorld. The home of Shamu, 3 great B&Ms, and the bane of PETA's existence.


Olaf isn't the only snowman immune to melting apparently.

I arrived about a half hour before opening and was one of the first people in line. Usually I like to arrive early at parks anyway, but I was extra vigilant for SeaWorld due to Kraken. What should be a high capacity people eater sending trains out every 3 minutes is now closer to 3 dispatches per hour (I wish I were kidding).


They let us in the park about 15 minutes before opening and then staged us by Manta. Once the rope dropped, I expected a stampede. But I was stunned. Everyone was walking. Most walked at a leisurely pace and a few power walked, but at no point did I feel I’d be trampled like Mufasa.


I was the third person back at Kraken. The grouper seemed to be funneling VR users towards the center of the train. They seemed stunned I didn’t want to use VR (because a 150 foot coaster isn’t exciting enough), but they were happy to grant me the front row as long as I pinky swore that I wouldn’t use VR. The two experiences I have with coaster VR have been unpleasant. From it not working to falling off to being blurry, I’ll take the coaster experience au natural.


Kraken is often considered one of the better floorless coasters and it delivered. I loved seeing (literally in my case) the large straight drop like SFDK’s Medusa. I wish more B&M loopers had straight drops. The first half was pretty typical B&M inversions with the zero-G roll predictably being the star. I think it’s a shame when any B&M looper lacks one of these (looking at you Dominator).


What really stood out for me was the second half. I loved the whip of the subterranean dive after the MCBR (even if it was just a concrete pit) and the subsequent vertical loop. This second loop was considerably more forceful than the first. I also loved how the final corkscrew, which is really snappy too, occurs immediately after a tunnel.


Since the masses had yet to reach Kraken yet, I immediately grabbed a second ride in the back. Again I went no VR and was treated to another great ride. Despite Kraken’s massive elements, they’re all still decently forceful. It’s also mostly smooth. There’s a bit of a rattle to it (more-so in the back), but nothing that detracts from the ride. It’s a shame VR has crippled this ride’s capacity since it’s one of the better floorless coasters out there. 9 out of 10



Why does a coaster this imposing need VR?


The subterranean dives were easily the best part of Kraken.


I wasn't going to wait 15 minutes for a train. Just imagine one there.

The one other ride that I heard can command long waits is Antarctica Empire of the Penguin, so I made my way there next. The park boasts that the ride reaches temperatures of 32 degrees. To that I say BS. It’s cool. But nowhere near freezing. As a New Englander, I think I have appropriate authority on that topic.


The trackless ride system was extremely cool. But beyond that, the ride didn’t really have much to offer. I honestly think all of the ride’s budget went towards the trackless ride system (which was admittedly very cool) and the ride’s air conditioning. That left almost nothing for the rest of the ride. There were just some half-baked screens and a lack of practical sets.


My biggest grip with the ride system was how forced it felt. I chose the “wild” side and I felt like the vehicle was shaking and spinning just for the sake of it. The movement didn’t feel coordinated with the film at all. So I’m really torn on the ride. This ride system should create an impressive ride and while it was fun, I think it was a squandered opportunity. 6 out of 10


I honestly think the penguin exhibit after the ride was superior. I’ve never seen that many penguins in one room before. I spent a few minutes watching them awkwardly waddle and swim about.



"That trackless ride system looks amazing. Hopefully it will distract guests from the rest of the ride."


The penguin exhibit at the end was amazing though.

I made my way over to Journey to Atlantis next. Recent reports of the ride said the ride was gutted and a shell of its former self.


If there was a story, I couldn’t tell you what was going on. But the outside building and interior scenes looked really nice. It made the bits in-between drops much more enjoyable. Speaking of the drops, the first one was spectacular. It was larger than expected and provided some surprisingly good airtime.


I made sure to avoid riding in the front row. A few reviews noted those in the front got drenched and not in the way you’d expect. After riding, I can see how. There’s a sneaky drop outside after the first drop. It can’t be more than 5 feet tall, but the splash ricochets off the rockwork and floods the front of the boat. I’m sure glad I wasn’t sitting up there!


As someone who never previously rode it, I was thoroughly impressed. It was eons better than the theming on the San Diego or San Antonio versions. Honestly, I thought it was better themed than Ripsaw Falls while I’m at it. I know it’s technically a coaster, but it feels more like a flume. As far as flumes go, this one is just behind Splash Mountain and Chiapas. 9 out of 10



I found the lost city.

I backtracked towards the front of the park to hit Manta next. I was hopeful crowds hadn’t flooded the flying coaster since it was right by the entrance. I was greeted with by far my longest wait of the day. It was a whopping 15 minutes. I think that’s all you need to know about lines at this park.


I absolutely love the ride’s placement and how well it interacts with its surroundings. Soaring over the midway on the first drop is exciting, but it’s particularly awesome soaring past waterfalls, rockwork, trees, and ponds in the second half. I’ll take that over the parking lot and grass you soar by on Superman any day of the week.


I got several rides on Manta, including the very front and very back. My favorite row was by far the back. The inversions, particularly the pretzel loop, were amazing in any seat. But only the back had an extra kick between these inversions. It’s most noticeable on the first drop and MCBR drop when you’re riding in the back. I honestly think the latter gave some air which is an unnatural feeling on a flyer.


I personally prefer Tatsu simply because of how high in the air all of its inversions take place, but Manta isn’t far behind thanks to its wonderful layout and landscaping. 9.5 out of 10



Manta's interaction with pathways, trees, rocks, and the water is truly special.


And it still has all the forces you could dream of in this pretzel loop.


Obligatory Manta water shot.


And there were real mantas too.

I then made my way to Mako. Normally I’d make a beeline for the park’s newest coaster at opening, but for whatever reason Mako had the shortest wait of any coaster in the park. And that includes the kiddie coaster. Every single seat was a walk-on and that included the front row. That is unheard of for a hyper coaster.


After being blown away by Shambhala, one of the newer hypers, I was hopeful Mako would be equally as impressive. Unfortunately it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a very good coaster. It just rode like Apollo’s Chariot, Nitro, or Silver Star. What that means is that every single hill had copious floater air.


The first half was pretty typical of a B&M hyper, but the second half differed. Instead of the returning bunny hills, Mako ditches those in favor of an oddly twisty return. The banked turns weren’t taken overly fast, but they provided some nice laterals.


I got many rides on Mako over the course of the day. While I probably think Manta was a better ride (I’m splitting hairs there), I got more rides on Mako because of the line. 9 out of 10



I probably could have waited a minute to get a train, but I was too eager to ride.


The first half had the air. The second half had a series of funky twists.

It was time to refuel so I stopped at Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen. I love soft pretzels and the ones I had at Busch Gardens are the best I’ve ever had. They soundly beat the mighty Wetzel’s Pretzels and Auntie Anne’s (and don’t get me started on Super Pretzel). SeaWorld has the exact same pretzels. I love how doughy and buttery they are (my doctor probably cringes at that statement).


Of course I had to get the twisted bacon pretzel. Bacon makes everything better and soft pretzels are no exception. The pretzel I got was piping hot and fresh. It was greasy. It was unhealthy. But it was oh so good. This is my version of Cinnamon Bread, aka coaster enthusiast crack.



I can't decide if this or Manta's pretzel is better.

After trying to give myself a heart attack, I stopped in to see Shamu. No not the show. That’s right, I went into Shamu’s Happy Harbor to ride the daunting Shamu’s Express. I was actually pretty stunned to see a coaster that large.


I was expecting the mini little oval kiddie coaster. This one actually looked respectable! Unfortunately it was more uncomfortable than most kiddie coasters. The seats were hard plastic with absolutely no padding. 2 out of 10



I was expecting a coaster far more embarrassing. This one is at least taller than my house.

I decided to try Wild Arctic next. I had heard Wild Arctic was dated. That assessment is correct. The pre-show video is so 1980s. The video isn’t much better. But I did enjoy the ride. It felt significantly wilder and raw than any of the simulators at Disney or Universal. I actually appreciated that aspect of it. I’ll still take many of Universal’s simulators over this, but it’s a solid ride. 7 out of 10


Like Antarctica, the exhibit afterwards may top the ride experience. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any polar bears, but I saw several seals and manatees.



Wild is an understatement. This was a really violent simulator, in a good way.

I had planned to hit the Sky Tower, but unfortunately it was listed as closed for the day by the time I reached it. That was unfortunate since I figured it’d give some amazing views. No bother, I spent the rest of the day checking out a few of the animal shows and exhibits, as well as reriding all the coasters except Kraken (for obvious reasons).



It was open early in the day, but unfortunately it went down by the time I reached it.

I really enjoyed the sea lion show. I thought it was about as good as the one at San Diego. But my favorite animal exhibit was probably feeding the sharks. Call me a murder, but there was something ever so enjoyable about dangling shrimp above a pool of carnivores, throwing them in, and watching the sharks rush to gobble them up.



Shark (I think).


There was something rewarding about throwing these innocent little shrimps into a big pool of carnivores.

SeaWorld was a really nice park. It’s really unfortunate that Blackfish has impacted the park’s attendance. It was beautifully landscaped, had some excellent coasters, and all the animal exhibits. It’s easily the best of the SeaWorld parks and I’d honestly take it over Animal Kingdom.



Please be like River Quest.




By late afternoon, I had ridden everything a few times. Since I had a platinum pass, I decided to make the jump over to Aquatica. I was most interested in Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, but I also planned to hit a few other slides if the lines weren’t too bad. Since the 80 degree weather was chilly to Floridians, lines were no problem at all.


I didn’t bring my camera into the water park, so I apologize for the lack of photos. Aquatica reminded me of Dolly’s Splash Country in terms of landscaping. As opposed to the concrete jungle that most water parks are, Aquatica has dense landscaping around every corner. The shade combined with water sprayers on the walkways made it feel as such I wasn’t walking on lava for a change.


I began with Dolphin Plunge since it was right by the main entrance. Without my glasses, I bumbled around for a bit trying to find the entrance. To my defense, I honestly don’t even think the slide had a sign by it. There was just an opening along the pathway that led up to a swinging rope bridge and eventually the slide tower.


I always questioned just how well you’d really be able to see the dolphins. The tube is only clear for one second, if it’s even that. And unfortunately my fears were confirmed. Even though I tried slowing down for the big moment, it was over before I could even register what was going on. The rest of the slide was pretty average. While it’s a cool visual off-ride, it’s too fast to be enjoyed during the ride. 5 out of 10


Many parks have racing mat slides. But Aquatica’s is noteworthy because of how large the final plunge is. Usually these slides consist of several smaller “humps” on the way down, Taumata Racer has one surprisingly large drop. It’s probably 50 feet tall. So when you careen out of the tube and blast down the drop with a full head of steam, it’s pretty exhilarating. There was no air, but it was still a rush. 8 out of 10


I saved the best for last, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. The tower consists of three drop pod slides and one traditional speed slide. I absolutely love these drop pod slides. The initial plunge is really intense and the rest of the slide usually isn’t too far behind.


Ihu’s was no different. After the initial plunge, the slide is a rush. All of the turns are taken unbelievably fast and I had absolutely no idea which direction I was going. And best of all, the slide is immaculately smooth. That’s important because with this slide’s intensity, it’d be a back breaker.


I actually enjoyed the non-drop pod slide best. The initial plunge had some terrifying water slide air. But what really made it stand-out was a surprise little dip about halfway through that provided some air as well. 10 out of 10


My visit was brief (probably no more than 45 minutes), but it was all that I needed. I appreciate a good water slide every once and a while, but I probably couldn’t spend a full day at a water park. But as far as water parks go, Aquatica is among the best. It has a great collection of slides along with the great landscaping you’d expect from a SeaWorld/Busch park.

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Damn, I'm way behind on this so I'll just comment on these individually.


Lake George

Great report! I love Lake George. Visiting Lake George village is a much better use of your time than going to Great Escape. At this point if we're ever in the area we go in, ride Comet, the log flume and the bobsleds and then leave and go to Lake George Village. All three of the golf courses you mentioned are among the best I've ever played, but it's been awhile since I've played them so I'm glad they stand the test of time. I have a hard time picking a favorite. Does the windmill at Goony Golf still spin at about 8,000 mph?


Canobie Lake Park

I'm nawt fahkin surprised they used three 3 Es in Screeemfest. They fahkin love vowels up theah. Mainly As byt Es are cool too. They hate cawnsinants though. Pronouncin' ah's is wicked fahkin hahd.


In all seriousness it sounds like a nice event. Why is Mine of Lost Souls closed though? That's a bummer.


Foxwoods & Cape Cod Dachshund Day



Lake Compounce

As everyone knows I'm totally down on this park right now, but Haunted Graveyard is tremendous and at this point probably the only time the park is worth visiting. Obviously I prefer the Florida haunts, but I love the fact that Lake Compounce features a single, super long, insane house. By default, it's the best singular haunt maze I've ever seen at a park.


As for Boulder Dash, we clearly caught the thing on a sh*t day because everyone else loved it this year. The ride has always been aggressive (I'd never consider it smooth) but it's always been part of it's charm. The day we rode it, it was f*cking miserable everywhere and everyone on the train seemed to hate it. I've ridden it a ton though and never had a bad ride before this year so I'm assuming we just caught it on a bad day. Your review reinforces that theory even more.


Phobia is phenomenal. It makes Tempesto look like pure sh*t and I have no idea why.


Sea World Orlando

... now we're talking


It felt criminal going to Orlando and not visiting Disney World, but that’s what I did.

If going to Orlando and not visiting Disney World is a crime, then I'm Paul Manafort.


I made sure to avoid riding in the front row. A few reviews noted those in the front got drenched and not in the way you’d expect. After riding, I can see how. There’s a sneaky drop outside after the first drop. It can’t be more than 5 feet tall, but the splash ricochets off the rockwork and floods the front of the boat. I’m sure glad I wasn’t sitting up there!

Yup. Every other drop is fine in the front seat, that stupid little thing is such an a**hole though. Oh, and nobody knew what the storyline was before the makeover either. It was always a clusterf*ck. Personally I love the ride, and don't care at all about the update.


I totally agree about Manta. It's an elite flying coaster (for America), Tatsu is probably a tiny bit better but both coasters are infinitely better than the Superman clones. Personally I think Manta is easily the best coaster in Orlando unless you want to be a douche and count Gringotts (though I guess you could argue Mummy and I couldn't really argue).


... the report needs more Shamu though.

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Lake George

Great report! I love Lake George. Visiting Lake George village is a much better use of your time than going to Great Escape. At this point if we're ever in the area we go in, ride Comet, the log flume and the bobsleds and then leave and go to Lake George Village. All three of the golf courses you mentioned are among the best I've ever played, but it's been awhile since I've played them so I'm glad they stand the test of time. I have a hard time picking a favorite. Does the windmill at Goony Golf still spin at about 8,000 mph?


My girlfriend didn't have a Six Flags season pass (she does for 2018 though) so I didn't want to run in just to ride the Comet. I did that once this year already anyway. I do like the Alpine Bobsled, but that line is so painstakingly slow that I only will ride it if it's a walk-on. I know you love flumes. I like flumes too, but I think Great Escape's is among the worst out there.


And yes that windmill still spins absurdly fast. Though the stupid thing about the windmill is that it's so high above the green that it can't even hit your ball.


Canobie Lake Park

I'm nawt fahkin surprised they used three 3 Es in Screeemfest. They fahkin love vowels up theah. Mainly As byt Es are cool too. They hate cawnsinants though. Pronouncin' ah's is wicked fahkin hahd.


In all seriousness it sounds like a nice event. Why is Mine of Lost Souls closed though? That's a bummer.


The Old Canobie area is turned into a haunt known as the Village. Because of that, Mine of Lost Souls is inaccessible. It's a shame since I'd take the dark ride over that haunt.


Foxwoods & Cape Cod Dachshund Day



I like weenie dogs like you like flumes and sky rides. It's an unhealthy obsession.


Lake Compounce

As everyone knows I'm totally down on this park right now, but Haunted Graveyard is tremendous and at this point probably the only time the park is worth visiting. Obviously I prefer the Florida haunts, but I love the fact that Lake Compounce features a single, super long, insane house. By default, it's the best singular haunt maze I've ever seen at a park.


As for Boulder Dash, we clearly caught the thing on a sh*t day because everyone else loved it this year. The ride has always been aggressive (I'd never consider it smooth) but it's always been part of it's charm. The day we rode it, it was f*cking miserable everywhere and everyone on the train seemed to hate it. I've ridden it a ton though and never had a bad ride before this year so I'm assuming we just caught it on a bad day. Your review reinforces that theory even more.


Phobia is phenomenal. It makes Tempesto look like pure sh*t and I have no idea why.


How bad are the lines at the Florida haunts? Usually that's my reservation with haunts. I would rather wait an hour for a coaster than a 5 minute haunt walkthrough.


Yeah 2017 was far from Lake Compounce's best year, but as long as Boulder Dash is running (though even they butchered that this year at one point), I'll keep coming back.


Sea World Orlando

... now we're talking


I made sure to avoid riding in the front row. A few reviews noted those in the front got drenched and not in the way you’d expect. After riding, I can see how. There’s a sneaky drop outside after the first drop. It can’t be more than 5 feet tall, but the splash ricochets off the rockwork and floods the front of the boat. I’m sure glad I wasn’t sitting up there!

Yup. Every other drop is fine in the front seat, that stupid little thing is such an a**hole though. Oh, and nobody knew what the storyline was before the makeover either. It was always a clusterf*ck. Personally I love the ride, and don't care at all about the update.


I totally agree about Manta. It's an elite flying coaster (for America), Tatsu is probably a tiny bit better but both coasters are infinitely better than the Superman clones. Personally I think Manta is easily the best coaster in Orlando unless you want to be a douche and count Gringotts (though I guess you could argue Mummy and I couldn't really argue).


... the report needs more Shamu though.


I personally think Hulk is the best coaster in Orlando. But Manta and Mako are both really close. Gringotts is fun, but it's not close to those coasters in my opinion.


That's a shame they never were able to get a coherent story in Journey to Atlantis. It has everything else going for it.


I saw the One Ocean show at SeaWorld San Diego and was very underwhelmed by it. Of the shows there, that was easily my least favorite. Sure it had the killer whales, but they never really did much other than drench the victims in the front row. I much preferred the dolphin and sea lions shows. But to each their own.

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I do like the Alpine Bobsled, but that line is so painstakingly slow that I only will ride it if it's a walk-on. I know you love flumes. I like flumes too, but I think Great Escape's is among the worst out there.


Agreed on both counts, we got really lucky last year and caught the bobsled without a line. As for the log flume, it's not one of the better ones (though the one section before the drop is cool) but I still feel like it's in the top 3 rides in the park by default. What else are you going to ride? Steamin Demon? Boomerang Coast to Coaster? The next best ride in the park is probably the f*cking Condor which is sort of pathetic.


I like weenie dogs like you like flumes and sky rides. It's an unhealthy obsession.


Lol, nah I get it. I'd just be more worried about the sanity of the other people at the event than anything. I love Dachshunds, I just don't know if I could deal with a Dachshund event or people getting pissed off over a dog is a purebred. F*ck you you arrogant b*tch.


How bad are the lines at the Florida haunts? Usually that's my reservation with haunts. I would rather wait an hour for a coaster than a 5 minute haunt walkthrough.


Oh, they're bad. If you go early in the events and go on Thursdays they'll be less bad but they're still bad. If you don't want to wait in line you'll definitely need a skip the line pass and they're absurdly expensive. The atmosphere of the events can't be beat though.


I much preferred the dolphin and sea lions shows. But to each their own.

Clyde and Seamore is totally my favorite show at SeaWorld Orlando but if that ever gets back to Brit it'll be a bad day for me. Sea lions are adorable, they're like puppies with flippers.

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Thanks for the SWO update! Can't wait to visit so soon!


Liked the Compounce update as well, those swings are nuts!


edit: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I think you'll enjoy the trip. It's one of the cleanest and most well run parks I've been to. Plus they have some great coasters and all the animals.


As for the log flume, it's not one of the better ones (though the one section before the drop is cool) but I still feel like it's in the top 3 rides in the park by default. What else are you going to ride? Steamin Demon? Boomerang Coast to Coaster? The next best ride in the park is probably the f*cking Condor which is sort of pathetic.


I'd probably go with Blizzard, but that's a pretty sad moment when a scrambler is one of the top 3 rides at a Six Flags park.


Great report of my personal favorite park in Florida! Surprised you'd take Manta over Mako, but I'd actually probably take a back row ride on the ray than a front row on Mako.


Like I said, I'm splitting hairs with the two. I'm giving the edge to Manta since it's a more unique ride for me. I've been on several B&M hypers similar to Mako, but I haven't been on flyers with a layout and a setting quite like Manta.

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Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure


In light of Islands of Adventure removing Dragon Challenge, I felt somewhat guilty for visiting Universal. Dragon Challenge was an amazing roller coaster and it’s still surreal to me that the coaster no longer exists. But when I put down the pitchfork, I have to admit Universal Orlando is still one of the best theme park resorts in the world.


It was a Saturday with perfect weather (80 degrees and sunny), so I was expecting heavy crowds. Fortunately Universal has single rider lines on almost every single one of their major attractions, so I was able to avoid waits for the most part.


I decided to start on the Studios side for a few reasons. First, while the Rockit has a single rider line, I remember it moving painstakingly slowly during my last visit. Second, I wanted to try the Jimmy Fallon ride before the virtual queue started up. And third, neither Simpsons nor ET had single rider queues.



I'm sure you've never seen this shot before.

I began with the Rockit. After depositing my possessions in a locker, I was treated to a scan even more thorough than TSA to board. Is it frustrating having to put everything in a locker? Without a doubt. Especially since I know to keep my phone safely tucked away in zippered pockets. However, since lockers are free I don’t really object since it genuinely appears to be in the name of safety.



TSA or Universal? Not sure if there's a difference.

I was able to get three consecutive rides on the Rockit without waiting. The coaster seems to be bashed upon quite a bit, but I actually really enjoy it. It’s probably my favorite ride on the studio side. It’s a bit rattly, especially in the very back, and barely has any theming, but it’s a darn good coaster.


The drops all give really nice air in the back. Even the front row has some really nice air on the ascents up the surprisingly steep hills. Then the funkily profiled helixes and turnarounds dish out far more Gs than anticipated. I also like just how odd and quirky the layout is diving through buildings and soaring over pathways. 9 out of 10



Rip, Ride, Rattle is a quirky but really fun coaster.


The helixes look like throwaway elements, but they're surprisingly forceful.


And there were a ton of Christmas decorations out too.

I know part of the experience of Race Through New York is the queue line, but I didn’t want to be held captive for 30 minutes by Jimmy Fallon and Hashtag the Panda. Fortunately the virtual queuing had yet to begin so I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. The queue line is incredibly well-themed and if you’re a Jimmy Fallon fanboy/fangirl, you’ll basically have an orgy in there.


The ride itself was exactly what I expected. Universal is the king of simulators and Race Through New York is no different. It shakes you around, spits on you, and has 3D. The story is a complete WTF though. I was expecting something insane, but I really think this was conceived by two drunk college students. At least the ride recognizes its own absurdity.


I actually liked the ride far more than expected. The visuals were well-done, the movement was well coordinated, and it was good, goofy fun. 8 out of 10



My girlfriend was so jealous that I got to ride Jimmy Fallon.


Having no standby queue is pretty awful, but the "virtual queue" they had is pretty darn cool. There are a ton of displays.

I hit Revenge of the Mummy next. I appreciate a well-themed queue, but I don’t know if it’s just me, but I almost wiped out on the stairway because of how dark the queue was. Disaster averted, I was on the coaster within 5 minutes. I love single rider lines.


The Mummy is the complete package (the ride at least, the movie is an entirely different story). The dark ride bits are very well executed and I love their reliance on practical sets unlike all of Universal’s newer stuff. Then the coaster section is excellent as well. The launches aren’t overly fast, but they have more kick to them than you’d expect.


The rest of the coaster section has a little bit of everything. There’s some strong pops of air, particularly after the first launch. There are several wild turns. And there’s even a helix that started to cause me to grey out. 9 out of 10



So much better than any of the movies.

From one movie franchise I dislike to another, I made my way over to Transformers. My issue with the movies is that they’re so chaotic I cannot tell what’s going on during any of the action scenes. The ride is pretty similar in that regard.


The ride’s strength is the reuse of the Spiderman ride system. But the action is so fast paced and over the top that I was lost for a majority of it. The guns and explosions looked cool, but I couldn’t tell who or what we were fighting. Still it’s a decent ride. Just towards the bottom of the Universal dark rides. 7 out of 10



Spiderman is to Indiana Jones Adventure while Transformers is to Dinosaur.

I debated going to Diagon Alley next, but decided to hit the other two rides that lacked single rider queues. ET Adventure is one of the most underrated rides at the resort in my opinion. I also know Universal will never design a dark ride quite like it ever again. That honestly may be part of the allure for me.


The bicycle ride vehicles are a simple touch, but they really heighten the immersion and uniqueness of the attraction. I also love all the practical scenes. The trucks, the city, and ET’s acid-trip of a home planet all combine to make this a memorable ride for me.


I really hope the park keeps ET Adventure around since it’s based on a classic movie and it’s a very well done dark ride. 9 out of 10



Make sure to pick a funny (but appropriate) name. I gave my real name. OJ of course.

I was still in luck, as the Simpsons Ride was a walk-on as well. Regrettably, I never got to try the Back to the Future Ride. But in some regards, I’m not clouded by nostalgia for the old and can appreciate what’s currently there.


I’ve never really watched the Simpsons, but I really like the smart, quirky humor of this attraction. And it’s not just during the ride. The jokes are spread during the queue line and safety videos as well.


The ride itself is unique for Universal- it only shakes you. There’s no water or 3D. But as far as simulators go, it’s one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for the amusement park setting and the movement is very well coordinated with the ride. 9 out of 10



Practicing my JJ Abrams lens flare.

Men in Black is one of my favorite franchises. And I love shooting dark rides. So Men in Black Alien Attack is right up my alley. This is the pinnacle of shooting dark rides. I love the massive sets and wide range of aliens. And not all of them are out in the open. Several are hiding in 3rd story windows, behind cars, etc.


The ride also has some unique bits. The random spinning is surprisingly forceful and actually more intense than a tilt-a-whirl. I also love the bit where you can take aim at the opposing cart and mercilessly victimize them.


The ride is insanely addictive and I probably rode it 4-5 times in a row. After the Rockit, it’s probably my favorite ride on the Studio side (yes I like it better than the Mummy and Gringotts). 10 out of 10



This was just some World's Fair exhibit. The last thing I remember was a bright flash of light and some agent in black was telling me I had a bad dream about an alien invasion.

I had been making extremely good time thus far, so I decided to test my luck with Diagon Alley. I set foot down the cramped alley way and immediately bailed out. It was shoulder to shoulder. When I checked the app, Gringotts was posting a 90 minute wait. No thank you, I’ll come back later.


In just over 3 hours, I had basically ridden everything I wanted to on the Studio side (without an Express pass) outside of Gringotts. I decided to take a leisurely lunch on CityWalk before jumping over to Islands of Adventure.



Time to hop over to my favorite of the two parks, Islands of Adventure.

I knew exactly where I was going first. I was lured in by the unmistakable B&M roar of the Incredible Hulk Coaster. I had ridden the coaster in 2008 and 2015. I absolutely loved the coasters relentless intensity and unique layout, but did find it a bit of a head-banger. I was hoping the retracking would eliminate this.


The off-ride upgrades were striking. I remember fading paint in my last visit, but this time the green was really popping. The new main entrance is incredible with the Hulk throwing the old train. But my favorite upgrade was the launch sound effects. The pulse and subsequent Hulk roar can be heard throughout the park and I couldn’t help but direct my eyes towards the launch tunnel every time I heard it.


I grabbed a locker and with the single rider line, I was seated in the back row within 5 minutes. And holy moly. I remembered the Hulk being great, but not this great. The launch into the zero-G roll is one of the best starts to a coaster out there. And that’s followed up with the most intense cobra roll out there (sorry Kumba). I was greying out and that continued through the forceful vertical loop.


Hulk doesn’t stop there as the first corkscrew is taken surprisingly early and is very snappy. But it has an added surprise. After the element, it immediately transitions into a drop and is followed by another forceful vertical loop. I just love how odd the coaster’s layout is.


The finale only has one more corkscrew, but it has some wild transitions. It’s not as intense as Intimidator 305, but there’s some rapid twists and even a moment of air coming off the brake run. My breath was taken away by the new Hulk. It was still a rush from start to finish, but now it’s immaculately smooth. Honestly this is my favorite coaster in Orlando. 10 out of 10



It appears one of the trains has derailed. I love this new entrance.


I just loved the ride in general. "New" Hulk was considerably smoother than the old and still one of the most intense coasters out there.


The Hulk is one of the most photogenic coasters out there.


There used to be a debate if this were the best B&M in the park. Well...that debate has been settled. And it's not because of the fantastic upgrades to the Hulk.

With my Hulk locker rental still valid for another hour and a half, I decided to hit the two soaking water rides. You’d think the one with the giant splash boat (Jurassic Park) is the most drenching, but nope it’s the log flume and river rapids. The latter makes perfect sense, but rarely do I have to game plan to ride a flume. Ripsaw Falls is different.


Since it was “cold” for Floridians at 80 degrees, Ripsaw Falls was only a 5 minute wait. Anything is better than that awful 2 hour wait I had when I first rode it in 2008 after the lap bars were added. I still find the lap bars ridiculously awkward, but I don’t blame Universal to protect people from their own stupidity.


I think the most evil thing with Ripsaw Falls is how it gets you wet. You would think it’d be the climactic plunge at the end. Nope. It’s the soakers are the tiny drops on the inside, the sprayers, and the waterfall. Yes this flume has a freaking waterfall and there’s no way to avoid it.


The story is pretty loose, but any theming is always a welcome addition. But the real star are the drops. The two smaller ones have some pretty good zip to them, but the ride’s bread and butter is that final plunge. It’s extremely tall and steep for a flume. And it packs a stronger punch than most coasters. 10 out of 10



Florida Guest 1 would prefer something warmer than Ripsaw Falls... Meanwhile this Massachusetts guest relished the opportunity to cool down on an 80 degree day.

Already soaked to the core, I doubled down are rode Popeye next. Also just a 5 minute wait, I was eager to reride my favorite rapids ride after it was closed during my most recent visit. The ride uses every single trick in the book to soak riders.


Huge rapids. Check. Waterfalls. Check. Sprayers. Check. Misters. Check. And all of these elements are very well themed. But the most soaking bit is the finale. The “car wash” lift is cleverly themed, but the trip down is the absolute soaker.


I wouldn’t call it a drop per say, but it’s a non-stop downhill segment where the raft generates some surprising speed. And the resulting splash is colossal. I usually will lift my feet up to save my shoes on rapids rides, but that was no use here. The cascade of water barreled over the seats (note that I say seats, not the side of the raft) and soaked everything. 10 out of 10



There's no way to come off this ride dry. Unless you get evacuated 10 seconds in.

On the way back to the Hulk locker, I couldn’t pass up a ride on Spiderman. I’m a huge comic book nerd, so this ride is crack for me. The story is easy to follow and well executed, something far too many dark rides seem to butcher. Then the combination of movement, 3D effects, and screens are so flawlessly executed. 10 out of 10



A comic book nerd's wet dream.

Along with Race Through New York, the other new ride for me at the resort as Skull Island: Reign of Kong. I was psyched to see another single rider line. Unfortunately this one wasn’t particularly fast. The main queue was posted at 40 minutes and I think my wait was in that ballpark.


That’s the game with the single rider line. 9 out of 10 times it saves time, but this was the one instance it didn’t. I realize that. However, people around me were getting pretty irate. They were floored when the grouper asked for parties of two instead of taking two people from the single rider line. In fact, two girls got so furious behind me that they tried to sneak into the main queue before being busted.


I purposely didn’t spoil the ride prior to riding. When I saw the huge trams and giant gates to Skull Island, I was optimistic this wouldn’t be a screen ride. Nope. When I got to the boarding station I saw the 3D glasses. I’ll say this about screens. I prefer a well-executed ride with practical sets over 3D screens. That being said, I can still like the latter if it’s well done. Kong was well done.


Having the screens on both sides was a unique configuration. I was fortunate enough to be on the outside of the tram so I had an unobstructed view of one side. I thought it was cool having the action bounce between screens on the right and left. But the finale was the highlight. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it was visually impressive to say the least. 9 out of 10



It may look like a non screen-based attraction, but after a brief outdoor detour that gets your hopes up, the screens make their triumphant return.

I completed the trifecta of water rides with the driest of the bunch, Jurassic Park. Again with the “cool” weather, it wasn’t more than a 5 minute wait. Jurassic Park is the perfect IP for a theme park attraction and it’s used to perfection here. The dinosaur animatronics are massive and very well done. All of the water effects were also working, something I haven’t been too lucky with on past trips.


But the highlight is the final plunge. Ripsaw Falls gets all the attention, but I think Jurassic Park’s drop is superior. It’s larger, steeper, and has the surprise right before it. I personally think that this is my favorite of the water rides. It has the best theming, the best drop, and it doesn’t get you so ridiculously wet that you could melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. 10 out of 10



I still can't answer why this is dryer than the flume.

At this point, the only major rides I had left both resided in Harry Potter. As I walked towards Hogsmeade, I saw the bridge packed to the gills. I was worried it could be at max capacity. I was walking shoulder to shoulder, but they weren’t restricting people from entering.


I really want to like the Harry Potter areas. The theming looks incredible and I can’t believe just how much they pulled from the books/movies. My issue is just how ridiculously crowded it gets. Because of the crowds, I sneak in for the rides and quickly duck out.


The area really needs another high capacity attraction to pull people off the walkways. I'm just spit-balling here, but something like a dueling B&M invert would fit the bill. Oh wait...


Hogsmeade seemed even more crowded than usual. Just after the train, I hit a wall. This wasn’t Platform 9 ¾. No this was a wall of people and they weren’t moving. What was going on? Turns out they were about to start the projection show. Thankfully the park set up a lane to travel to and from Forbidden Journey.


Of course you had those jerks try and cheat the system and stop to watch the show. The employees had to keep prodding them like cattle. I didn’t stop, but I was able to see bits of the show. It looked quite impressive. The projection mapping technology looked similar to the castle shows at Disney.


Eventually I made it to Forbidden Journey. The main queue was posted at 45 minutes, but my good friend the single rider line got me two quick rides in the span of 15 minutes. This is arguably my favorite dark ride after Indiana Jones.


The theming is outstanding, as the ride seamlessly mixes between practical sets and screens. The immersion is truly spectacular. But what makes the ride is the Kuka robot arms. The ride system is ingenious. Rather than the grandparent friendly dark rides of old, this transforms the dark ride into a legitimate thrill ride with the wild movements. 10 out of 10



I really want to like the Harry Potter areas.


The rides are awesome and the area looks outstanding but...


It feels busier than the malls at Black Friday. At least these wizards and witches don't fight for parking spaces or claw you over the last DVD on the shelf.

The projection mapping show was wrapping up. I knew I only had a few minutes before the stampede would flood Hogsmeade Station. It was about 90 minutes to closing and I still needed to get on Gringotts and get my night rides in on Rockit and Hulk. Getting on the Hogwarts Express would be a big time saver.


Fortunately it was just a 10 minute wait. As a theme park fan, I kind of wish I could see Universal’s back stage areas, but I still appreciate how well-themed this train ride is. I like the mix of outdoor scenes with the silhouettes in the hallway.



All aboard the fastest way to park hop.

Diagon Alley was still incredibly busy. It was nowhere near as bad as Hogsmeade, but it was still pretty awful. Gringotts had a 50 minute wait posted, so I decided to use the single rider line. I know it skips the incredible queue, so before you rake me over the coals, I have experienced the full queue before during my visit in 2015. The single rider line was busy, but I still saved time and got on in about a half hour.


Gringotts is a really interesting mix of a coaster and a dark ride. If you don’t want any spoilers, please ignore the next paragraph.


I absolutely love the tilt track segment at the beginning. The sudden drop is pretty powerful and gives that gut-wrenching sensation like a drop tower. Until the surprise launch at the end, the rest of the ride is more of a dark ride. I really appreciate how this one incorporated in Voldemort. I always found it odd how the Forbidden Journey didn’t include Harry Potter’s archnemesis even once.


I prefer Forbidden Journey and a few of Universal’s other dark rides to Gringotts, but I still do enjoy the ride for its innovative ride system and well-done scenes. 8 out of 10



Diagon Alley is newer, but it feels just as congested as Hogsmeade.


The newest Harry Potter ride (for now).

I had about 45 minutes left, so I was hoping to get one ride on the Rockit and one on the Hulk. My plans were changed when I saw the Rockit had been closed early due to a concert.



That concert ruined my chance for a Rockit night ride. Thankfully there was a green beast nearby.

As a consolation prize, I park hopped over to Islands of Adventure. I put my belongings in a locker and was optimistic I could get 2-3 rides on the Hulk with the single rider line. After passing the metal detector, I tried to bear left but was told the single rider line was closed. I was shocked they closed it early. It was annoying, but 45 minutes later I was seated in the back row again and treated to another great ride.



The Hulk looked absolutely amazing at night.


It's just a bummer they closed down the single rider line.

Condensing Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios into one day can be done, but it’s definitely a rushed day. You also need to use the single rider lines like me or splurge for an Express Pass. Someday I’ll have a longer visit to the park so I have enough time to explore more in the park outside of the main rides.


Universal has received a lot of hate for removing Dragons. I strongly opposed that decision from an enthusiast standpoint, but from a business standpoint I can understand why it happened. But looking past that, I still have to say that Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure are two of the best parks out there. The theming is close to Disney and the rides are much wilder.


Since the park closed at 8, I was looking for a fun spot to spend the night. Conveniently, there was a place called Fun Spot next door.

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It felt criminal going to Orlando and not visiting Disney World, but that’s what I did.


I felt the same way when I went to Orlando for the first time ever back in August, especially with Pandora having just opened, but I only had four days and riding Dragon Challenge before it closed was the purpose of my trip. I do not regret my decision as I had three great days at Universal Orlando including a good day at Volcano Bay, and a fourth day at both Fun Spots before flying home. I really liked Universal Orlando resort, and felt there was plenty to do there. Sure, there are a few redundant attractions with the same ride system, but Fantasyland at Disneyland has several dark rides with a similar ride system to each other, so is it much different than that? It sucks that Dragon Challenge was removed and had it been in another location of the park it would have been safe, but even without it Islands of Adventure is still a great park and Universal Orlando offers plenty of attractions for thrill seekers that also likes immersive environments. Escape from Gringotts might have been my favorite ride at the Universal Orlando resort and if the new Harry Potter attraction is at least as good as that, then we're in for a treat.

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I really wanted to visit Volcano Bay, but the nightmare stories I've heard about Tapu Tapu had me delay it for a future trip. Krakatau looks like Wildebeast in a fake volcano and those trap door slides look like some of the most terrifying slides out there. How bad were the queues on your trip? In particular I remember hearing 4-5 hour Tapu Tapu times for Krakatau and I couldn't spend that long in a lazy river.


You definitely made the right choice getting to Universal before Dragons closed. Those were two of the most forceful inverts out there and they had two of the most unique layouts as well. Even if the new ride is as good as Gringotts, I personally can't see it passing Dragons in my book. But a new Potter themed ride is going to be a bigger long term draw. It's a shame but the reality of the situation.


Overall I prefer Disneyland over any singular park at Walt Disney World. Indiana Jones is my favorite ride there. The California Space Mountain is better. And while the dark rides are similar, the ones in California seem to have more/better effects. The most obvious one is the California Pirates which is twice the length of Orlando's. But for a longer trip, Walt Disney World wins. Each park feels considerably different and several unique to the resort like Everest, Test Track, etc.

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Great report! Just a few random comments from the peanut gallery as I read through...


1) I was starting to think I was the only one that didn't mind Rockit. I've had a few rides on it that werre glass smooth, a few that delievered bit of a beating and a few that were sort of in between but it's a fun coaster, even when it's running rough.


I'd consider it the worst adult coaster in the history of Universal Orlando pretty much by default, but it's still fun.


2) Holy crap, someone else who liked Kong! I was starting to think it was just me. lol


3) Nobody's going to believe this, but I have to agree with you on River Adventure. Everyone knows how much I love log flumes, but Ripsaw falls is almost absurdly drenching for a log flume ride and because of that and the dumb grouping / lap bar system it's one of my least favorites.


River Adventure on the other hand is an all around fantastic attraction. There's an "acceptable amount of wetness", awesome theming and the ride features 100% real sets to keep the "Universal has nothing but screens" crowd happy. It's one of the best rides on Universal property and it's criminally underrated.


As for Popeye, I've never ridden it. I just assumed I would get off the ride soaked to the bone and miserable. lol


4) Nice to see the Potter stuff getting some love around here. Personally I think it's absolutely mind blowing and I was suprised to see I seemed to be in the minority in the enthusiast community.


God I can't wait to get back to Universal.

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After riding one of the other X-Car coasters in Germany, several of us noted the ride was very smooth in the middle rows but rattly in any other row. I have a feeling Rockit is similar. Still I love the funky elements of that ride.


Everything about the Potter area is amazing outside of the insane crowds that make it hard to enjoy the area. If I could ever get some time in there on a day that it wasn't packed to the gills, I have a feeling I'd be singing its praises more. Until then, my evaluation is limited just to the rides. And Gringotts and Forbidden Journey are two of the best dark rides out there.


After riding Ripsaw, Popeye's isn't that much worse to be honest. If you ride one, you mind as well ride the other since you're already soaked. The worst part of the Ripsaw lap bars is that you're unable to lift your feet to avoid soaking them. Same thing happened on Chiapas.

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