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Six Flags Magic Mountain


Emily hates Six Flags.


I thought the issue was that I took her to the worst of the worst. In the past year, I took her to Darien Lake, Discovery Kingdom, and Great Escape. And she’s sick of Six Flags New England since I’ve dragged her to that park too often.


I had the best day I’ve ever had at Magic Mountain. The park was an absolute ghost town. And the park does an excellent job with Holiday in the Park. As for Emily? She still hates Six Flags.



It felt wrong to be at a Holiday in the Park when it wasn't sub-freezing temperatures.


I’m admittedly blinded by the coaster lineup (and the sparkling lights), but Emily took issue with the inefficient ops (fair, most things ran one train), park layout (fair, the Helpful Honda Express was closed), terrible food (fair, it didn’t seem fresh), and parts of the park smelling like raw sewage (fair, it did).



I'm guessing the park only had one of these signs since it was applicable at all coasters.


Well all operating coasters. Superman was closed.


Our day began with Full Throttle. It was a foreign experience for me to see that ride as a walk-on. And this was with it running just one-train (this was a theme for the day).


Me- Love the first and second halves. Not a big fan of the pause in-between. 8 out of 10


Emily- “Short, but sweet.” Thumbs Up



This shot would be so much cooler if there was a train on both sides. But I know that's impossible...there's no way SFMM could dispatch a train in time.


The first half ends on a high note, a treble clef specifically.


We then rode one of the most underwhelming hypercoasters in existence in Goliath. While most hyper coasters focus on airtime, Goliath hardly has any. The only real bit of airtime is the third hill.


Me- It’s fun, but bad by hypercoaster standards. 6 out of 10


Emily- Not a fan of the helix of death. Thumbs Down



"I love how unique Goliath's name is," said enthusiasts in the year 2000.


We then planned to ride Twisted Colossus, but it was having technical issues. This ride hates me. I’ve had it close early for the RMC Recall of 2016 and open 7 hours late in 2018. But I always do get to ride it, just not as much as I’d like.


So instead, we hiked up Samurai Summit to Ninja. This wasn’t exactly the walk Emily wanted to make a day after hiking Multnomah Falls, but the path around the mountain was closed due to construction on their “new-for-2019” attraction.


Speaking of West Coast Racers, we visited in mid-December and it was closed. The most activity we saw were water dummies sitting in the trains. But the twisted layout looks cool and I’m sure I’ll be back.




I love how this only opened in 2019 on a technicality.


Ninja is one of the last suspended coasters. It’s probably the worst Arrow suspended outside of Vampire, but I make a point to ride it since there are so few left.


Me- A few good swings, but it feels much slower than the posted speed. 6 out of 10


Emily- “Not worth the hike, but an ok ride.” Thumbs Sideways





I thought Apocalypse was still closed, but it was actually open. Better, it had been recently retracked! It’s no secret the ride had become a jackhammering disaster in recent years.


Me- Amazing sense of speed, some good pops of airtime, and smooth. 8 out of 10*


Emily- “Best coaster in the park!” Double Thumbs Up*


* These were our thoughts if we rode on the left. The operator on the right was brutally stapling riders. I have a bruise from my last ride when the operator jammed the restraint down so far, I was physically unable to push it down any further to unlock it after the ride. The operator had to do it for me.



This was still a more successful Terminator than the most recent movie.


Tatsu was magical during Holiday in the Park. Seeing all the lights while you twirl through the air was breathtaking. Tatsu really has one of the best settings of any coasters.


Me- The pretzel loop is insane and the rest of the layout is action-packed too. 9 out of 10


Emily- “Great until I thought I’d have an aneurysm (during the pretzel loop).” Thumbs Down



One of the few benefits of one train ops is not having to lie in that awkward position on the brake run.




I wasn’t sure if Emily would actually ride X2. She hates rough rides and she won’t touch SFNE’s Joker with a 10-foot pole. I warned her it was bouncy and had flipping seats, but she decided to give it a whirl.


Me- X2 is nuts. This coaster does things other coasters shouldn’t. It’s absolutely insane and I think the elements even crazier. It’s just not perfect because it is bouncy. 9.5 out of 10


Emily- When I saw Emily crying mid-ride, I felt like a jerk. She hated X2, just not for the reason I expected. She actually found it smooth and liked the motions. So why was she crying? The restraints. She didn’t feel secure and felt like she was going to fall out. Double Thumbs Down



X, X, X2


Emily still needed to recover from X2, so she sat out Viper. I love the inversions on Viper. The juxtaposition of the forceful vertical loops, floaty corkscrews, and awkward batwing is brilliant. I just wish the transitions between the inversions weren’t as choppy. 7 out of 10



Arrows are so photogenic.


Even more so if they have fresh paint...


Up next was a coaster Emily was looking forward to for sentimental reasons- New Revolution. Emily loves the original National Lampoon’s Vacation film, so she was excited to ride the coaster where Clark Griswold kidnapped the poor security guard.


Me- Poorly paced, but I like the setting and Schwarzkopf loops are always intense. 6 out of 10


Emily- “Why so many brakes?” Thumbs Sideways



I promise there's a train somewhere among those lights.


Twisted Colossus was back up-and-running so I eagerly took a few laps on one of my favorite coasters in the world. They were only running two trains, but I consistently got one duel per ride.


Me- I know a lot of people hate the lift hill mid-ride, but I don’t mind it. Both halves of Twisted Colossus are awesome. It’s like having two top-10 steel coasters spliced together. And each half has oodles of airtime mixed with a pinch of hangtime. 10 out of 10


Emily- She liked Twisted Colossus, but it was a one-and-done for her. Emily has a love-hate relationship with the frenetic pacing of RMCs. Sometimes, she can ride Wicked Cyclone multiple times without issue. Other times, the maneuvers make her feel queasy. Thumbs Sideways



Still one of the best coasters in the world.


We then walked onto Justice League. These are always nice contrasts to the rest of the Six Flags lineup, but the version at Six Flags Magic Mountain is particularly strong.


Me- I love the mix of screens and physical sets. One of the best shooters out there. 9 out of 10


Emily- “Did Six Flags steal this from Disney? It’s too well themed.” Thumbs Up


Emily was still feeling the after effects of Twisted Colossus, so she sat out Riddler’s Revenge and Batman the Ride. Two super forceful, old-school B&M inverts probably wouldn’t have helped.


Riddler’s Revenge is without a doubt the best stand-up coaster. It’s tall. It’s fast. It’s smooth (if you know how to position the restraint). And it makes your legs feel like jelly from the forces. 8 out of 10



From this angle, Riddler's Revenge could pass as Great Adventure's Green Lantern. Thanks SFMM for keeping Green Lantern's lights on despite that coaster being in another country!


Batman the Ride continued the assault on my legs. The snappiness of the inversions combined with those leg-numbing helices results in one of the most intense and draining coasters out there. 8.5 out of 10



This bat is good at aero-bat-ics.


I wanted to finish the night with rerides on Twisted Colossus and X2. I had no issue walking onto Twisted Colossus for a few extra rides. And it got better and better each time.


Unfortunately, I was not able to get on X2 again. I was spited by the brutal California weather. Get ready for this. Even Carowinds would poke fun at this.


It was dry and 58 degrees with barely any wind.


For those local to the park, is X2 really that valley-prone?



I don't think Six Flags Great Adventure owns one of these signs. And that's one of the reasons I love that park.


So as a consolation prize, we took a final lap through the park to admire the lights. Outside of Discovery Kingdom, the chain as a whole does a fantastic job on their holiday lights.



If only these reindeer could fly me around LA traffic.




I know this isn't part of their holiday lights, but CraZanity looks just as amazing.


Six Flags Magic Mountain is probably my favorite Six Flags park outside of Fiesta Texas. Emily says it’s the Six Flags park she hates least. I guess that’s sort of a compliment.

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SFMM looks like a coaster nerds wet dream park.


Absolutely! It has almost every coaster type.


Glad you enjoyed Apocalypse. I also rate that one very highly, and I rode it right after its 2016 retracking. Seems timing is key to enjoying it.


I'm just thankful they invested in extensive trackwork again.

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Even as a park full of "6 out of 10" rides, I am super excited to visit Magic Mountain at some point this year. I assume your rating for X2 was at least 9 out of 10 from your description; did I just miss it? Fun report!

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Disneyland- Christmas


Disneyland is always a magical place. It’s a place that can turn adults into children. And that’s especially true during the Christmas season.


It’s even more true when the weenies in SoCal (sorry to anyone who lives there, but this is true) go into a fallout shelter at the first sight of rain. This is the most dead I’ve ever seen Disneyland.


Don’t get me wrong, there were still people there. But we were able to grab front row seats to the parade shortly before it started and never waited more than 20 minutes for any ride.



Who needs an umbrella when you have a Dale hat and Minnie Mouse ears?


Also, since when is Clarice a walkaround character at the US parks?


While I’m talking about it, I’ll begin with the Christmas Fantasy Parade. I don’t think I’ve ever had front row seats to a parade (except maybe my town’s 4th of July Parade), so it was extra nice.


There were a lot of cool floats, but the highlight was when Chip ‘n’ Dale saw my chipmunk hat and excitedly pointed over. That definitely wouldn’t have happened if I were in the back of the crowd!




Look, it's Tim Allen.


In the Santa Clause, Tim Allen kills Santa and takes over. Did Mickey, Minnie, and Donald kill the elves and take over their duties at the North Pole?


Chip 'n' Dale took a break from their mischief to point out my hat.


Speaking of those beloved chipmunks, we also had a blast seeing them at the character brunch at Storytellers Cafe. And I cannot recommend this place enough.


Yes it’s a bit pricey, but I thought the food quality was excellent for a buffet. Keep in mind, we had just been to the revered buffets in Vegas. Being able to load my plate with Mickey waffles and prime rib was a dream come true.


As for the characters, they were all extremely interactive. Most of them joined us at our table. So we got into a habit of pulling out our chair for them. But when Mickey came around, he slammed the chair into the table with that static grin on his face. He wanted none of that.



I'm guessing not too many people wear this hat to the US parks.


Dale and I had a lunch date.


It ended with a kiss.


Meanwhile, Emily was on a lunch date with Minnie.


Until Mickey caught them smooching.


But Pluto didn't care. He was just happy to be out of the doghouse.


Moving onto the rides, Emily’s favorite was Space Mountain, or should I say Hyperspace Mountain. She loved the sense of speed as we rocketed through the star field.


As for me, I sort of wish they were running the original version since I love Michael Giacchino’s musical score, but the Star Wars overlay has better visuals. Regardless, this ride feels fast and has some serious laterals. 8.5 out of 10



Dale is my Simba.


One difference I noted from past visits was that cast members were being careful not to fully load a train. Even with the single rider line, cast members would dispatch trains with seats or rows empty. That was a bit of a bummer since this thing absolutely hauls when fully loaded.


One other interesting tidbit is that on one of our rides, we got stuck on the brake run. After a few seconds, the dome’s lights came on.



I think the most shocking part was that cast members had to manually push us from the brake run.


Another one of Emily’s favorite was Buzz Lightyear. She was determined to beat me. While her score improved each time; mine did as well. She was chasing a moving target.


Buzz Lightyear feels a bit on the short side, but it looks great and I love how this one doesn’t have the mounted guns of Florida. 9 out of 10



The Claw!


I always look bad in the photos for shooters since I'm focused on the targets. But the picture quality on this one was shockingly poor. Is it usually this bad?


Continuing our way through Tomorrowland, we then hit Star Tours. Emily is pretty ambivalent towards Star Wars (except for Baby Yoda, she loves that thing) and found Star Wars pretty bumpy.


I much prefer the rides with physical sets, but Star Tours is easily one of the best simulators. The visuals are fantastic and I love all the interchangeable scenes. 7 out of 10



Since when does Star Tours have a single rider line?


The last ride we experienced in Tomorrowland was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Emily was the perfect height to see everything while I had to hunch downwards.


But we both thought the same. It was just ok. The ride is very long and tasteful mixes in Finding Nemo, but it’s not the most exciting ride. 5 out of 10



Where's Uranus?


In general, Disneyland is an amazing park for a rainy day. However, there are a few rides in Fantasyland that are problematic on a rainy day. The one I cared most about was Alice in Wonderland.


Of the Fantasyland dark rides, this is easily my favorite. The ride still maintains its classic feel, but it also seamlessly integrates some modern effects. Emily felt the same. 8 out of 10



I sort of wish this random outdoor segment didn't exist so the ride could run in the rain.


The Storybook Land Canal Boats were also tricky to ride. I actually hadn’t ridden these since my first visit to Disneyland. And I quickly remembered why.


This is a cute ride. The miniature displays all look nice. But like the Nemo Submarine Voyage, we both found the ride a bit dull. 5 out of 10



Disneyland and small castles go together like Six Flags New England and boomerangs.


The rain and smart use of MaxPass allowed us to avoid most lines, but there was one that required a bit more effort- Peter Pan’s Flight. Few things are constant in life. But a long line at Peter Pan is.


Our original plan was to hit this ride at rope drop. I figured most people would speedwalk for Galaxy’s Edge. Much to our surprise, people sprinted to Peter Pan. And I don’t blame them.


So instead, we got in line right before closing and waited 15-20 minutes. That’s really what Peter Pan is worth. It’s a cute ride, but it’s way too short. I don’t think it’s even 2 minutes long. 7 out of 10



Up, up, and away!


Compare that to Mr. Toad, Pinocchio, and Snow White. These rides may only be a bit longer, but they never seem to have more than a 15 minute wait.


Pinocchio feels longer than most of the Fantasyland dark rides. It’s effects and scenes are pretty low-tech, but there are no dead spots. 7 out of 10


Snow White is probably my least favorite of the three. Like Peter Pan, it’s way too short. I’m interested to see if the rehab elevates this ride like Alice in Wonderland. 6 out of 10


Mr. Toad is the polar opposite of Disney, so that’s why I come off this ride smiling. This ride has reckless driving, beer, and Hell. 7 out of 10



Ready for our scenic drive to Hell!


One of the true miracles of Christmas is the fact It’s a Small World turns into a very enjoyable ride. I love the Christmas overlay! And I always have fun trying to spot the Disney characters integrated with the dolls. 9 out of 10




The Small World facade is an attraction in itself.


Speaking of that facade, that is actually where we watched the Believe fireworks. While it’s not the prototypical spot on Main Street in front of the castle, I’d argue it’s better. It’s less crowded and you’re actually closer to the fireworks. Plus, the Small World facade has some great mapping effects.



I'll be watching the fireworks from this spot going forward.


The one ride Emily hated at Disneyland was the Matterhorn Bobsled. She simply found the ride way too rough and jostly. And that’s a fair point. No one will ever call this ride butter smooth.


Maybe this is the amusement park historian in me, but I do enjoy the Matterhorn. The aggressive turns give the ride character and it’s just pure fun weaving through that mountain. 7 out of 10



Thankfully no more snow "melted" during my visit.


Emily didn’t feel the need to get the Gadget’s Go Coaster credit, so our time in Toontown was brief. It consisted of a lone ride on Roger Rabbit.


When Emily saw the cars spun, she quickly took the wheel. She didn’t want me spinning it like a lunatic. I guess she knows better having ridden the tea cups with me.


While Emily struggled to steer our cab, I admired the sights. I love Who Framed Roger Rabbit and this ride captures the feel of the film well except for one small thing. Where’s Judge Doom? 8 out of 10



This may be the only major ride in Toontown (for now), but I love all the interactive gags in the land.


Moving onto Adventureland, Emily was in disbelief at the corniness of the Jungle Cruise. She was extra disturbed when I knew some of the jokes by heart. And that narration is exactly why I love the Jungle Cruise. 9 out of 10



The 9th wonder of the world. The top side of water!


Next door is one of the crowing achievements of Disney Imagineering, Indiana Jones Adventure. It’s one of my favorite rides in the world. I love the ambitious physical sets combined with the aggressive movements.


Our first ride was terrible. About midway through the ride, our vehicle came to a stop. The narration cut out and none of the scenes activated. There was no rat screen, no air blasts, no boulder. There was nothing. It was even emptier than Dinosaur. Emily came off as confused as me.


Fortunately, she saw the light. When we returned to Indiana Jones, we got the full experience as intended. Well as full of an experience as Disney can offer (I’m still intrigued by that dry ice effect). 10 out of 10



Safety first.


New Orleans Square is home to two of the park’s best dark rides. That’s especially true during Christmas when the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay is active.


Having been on the Haunted Mansion as many times as I have, I love the freshness of this overlay. The ride feels way different. It’s impressive how extensive this overlay is. 10 out of 10



Tim Burton IPs lend themselves well to haunted houses.


Wheel of (Mis)Fortune


Emily rode Pirates in Florida, so she thought this would be identical. Needless to say, she was caught off-guard by the longer length and bigger drops. 9 out of 10



I don't have any pictures of Disneyland's Pirates, so here's a picture of the "ripoff" at Europa Park. Looks pretty good, right?


We also stayed in New Orleans Square for dinner. We finally tried the famous Monte Cristo sandwich from Cafe Orleans. And it was absolutely scrumptious.




Was this meal healthy? No. But was it delicious? Yes!


One of the biggest benefits of the rain was the line for Splash Mountain. Or should I say lack of a line. That was probably the best Christmas gift a Splash Mountain fanatic such as myself could’ve received.


California’s has the best drop and gets you absolutely drenched. It still is my least favorite of the Splash Mountains since the show scenes aren’t quite as strong, but it’s still a near perfect ride. 10 out of 10



As the temperature plunged, we did too into the briar patch.


As you can probably tell, Emily didn't want to get wet.


One ride that isn’t near perfect is Winnie the Pooh. I actually can’t remember the last time I rode the one at Disneyland. It’s an ok ride. It’s very short, but it tells the familiar story of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt without that amazing ride system. 5 out of 10



The empty vehicle speaks for Pooh's popularity with the locals.


I felt bad when I took Emily on Big Thunder Mountain since I hyped up the explosion effect on the final lift. I got excited when the dynamite lit, but the blast never happened. At first, I was optimistic we just got a bad ride like Indiana Jones. But after multiple rerides, it was clear the effect wasn’t happening.


As for the rest of the ride, Big Thunder is always fun. It’s arguably the best mine train out there with that setting, some deceptively powerful laterals, and some quick pops of airtime. 7.5 out of 10



Big Thunder at night is a must.


Our final land was one that I’m still not used to having at Disneyland, Galaxy’s Edge. Emily and I visited the land in Florida, and this one felt identical. And in no way is that a bad thing since Batuu is beautiful.


We missed Rise of the Resistance by a month, but we were able to try out some new positions on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. And we both agree, pilot is definitely the best position. It’s the most involved. 8 out of 10



If I were piloting that spaceship, it would've crashed and burned into the ground.


We also made sure to see Fantasmic. We had grabbed FastPasses and were escorted into the seated dining area. I’m guessing that was because of the low crowds, but we certainly weren’t complaining.


I absolutely love Fantasmic. The music, fireworks, and characters are perfect. While the dragon was in B-mode for us, the projection mapping effects during its demise were neat to see for a change. 10 out of 10




Mickey is blowing his load (of fireworks).


Disneyland is my second favorite park in the world. Only Tokyo’s park can top it. I love everything about this park (well except maybe the crowds on most days).



Disneyland's castle is cute like a puppy. Except this puppy doesn't grow.


Notice how Disneyland puts the tree on the opposite end of Main Street so it doesn't dwarf the castle.

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Disney California Adventure


There are two keys for me to have a perfect day at Disney California Adventure- arriving at least a half hour early and MaxPass.


It’s no secret Radiator Springs Racers is the runaway favorite at this park. This means Fastpasses disappear in a flash. If you’re familiar with MaxPass, you know you can get your next Fastpass after 90 minutes or your most recent reservation becomes active.


If you arrive before opening, you can get one of the first reservations for Radiator Springs Racers. This allows you to start getting other Fastpasses, which will probably be ready instantly. Meanwhile, everyone else will be waiting for that 90 minute window to pass on their Radiator Springs Racers reservation.



It may be called Pixar Pier, but no one dared take down Mickey's face.


Speaking of Radiator Springs Racers, that ride is incredible. Everything from the facade to the show scenes to the race sequence works flawlessly. Emily isn’t a morning person, but she was eager to get out of bed for this ride. 10 out of 10



Even after going to the Grand Canyon a few days before this, the facade still looked incredible.


We rode Lightning McQueen to victory.


Cars Land in general is a work of art...unlike the films this land is based on.


One of the rides we prioritized early in the day was the Pixar Pal-Around since it doesn’t have Fastpass. As you can guess, we boarded a swinging car.



And like any good boyfriend, I didn’t tell her about this Ferris wheel’s special feature.


I think Emily’s favorite ride was Toy Story Midway Mania. She’s competitive, so she always loves shooting dark rides. And this may arguably be the best one out there. The shooting mechanism is both rewarding and addictive. By the end of the ride, I’m in agony. But it’s worth it. I do it for Slinky. 10 out of 10



I need a shakeweight to improve my score.


Incredicoaster is a good coaster. I’ve said it before, but it just doesn’t feel like a Disney ride. I know it has the Incredibles storyline, but it’s still feels like California Screamin’. And that’s fine. It has some good drops, a decent launch, a forceful loop, and a few spots of airtime. 8 out of 10



Totally not biased or anything, but this coaster would've been so much better had it been themed to Slinky Dog. The tunnels could've been his coils.


Dale wasn't exactly 48" tall, but he stuck on anyway.


As a whole Pixar Pier looks stunning at night.


Compare that to Guardians. The ride has been completely reskinned from head to toe. And it’s an absolute riot. Rocketing up and down the tower to 1970s/1980s tunes is quite the experience. After my most recent rides, I may actually prefer this to Orlando’s tower since it’s action-packed start to finish. 10 out of 10



What did we break out of? The Hollywood Tower Hotel.


Soarin’ is visual eye candy at its finest. While I do prefer the old California film, the visuals are still breathtaking. I know people poke fun at this ride’s CGI, but I’m too oblivious to look that closely at what’s real and not real. 8 out of 10



This airport looks a *bit* better than LAX.


Like Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run was a complete walk-on. Emily sported a poncho; I didn’t. So per the natural law of water rides, I got soaked and Emily didn’t. I didn’t care since this one is beautiful and the spinning on the final drop is quite the thrill. 9 out of 10


But Emily’s favorite thing about Grizzly Peak was the feral cats prowling the woods adjacent to it. You could say she’s a cat fan since she has 5 of her own!



Mr. Grizzly is ready for the park's ugly Christmas sweater contest.


One of these mountains is not like the other.


Look at little Figaro off to the left.


The park also has two modern and well-done dark rides in Little Mermaid and Monsters Inc.


Little Mermaid is a clone of Florida’s, but since we really like that ride, I don’t mind one bit. The Little Mermaid has some of the best music of any Disney movie, so it’s nice seeing the movie retold. 9 out of 10



One difference from the movie is that Ursula's ending is much less gruesome.


Monsters Inc. was oddly the longest line we waited in over the course of two days. And it was only 20 minutes long, so we really lucked out with crowds and Fastpasses. As for the ride, it was good as always. 8 out of 10



Might as well call her Scrooge.


I also watched California’s version of Mickey’s Philhar Magic for the first time. And I’m torn. On one hand, the music and story were as great as ever. But the visuals on this one aren’t as effective due to the smaller screen. At least Donald is still there at the very end! 7 out of 10



My experience of watching Philhar Magic was like watching a movie meant for IMAX on a smartphone.


Last but not least, we concluded our day with World of Color- Season of Lights. It had been years since I last saw World of Color and it was the same type of show to some of my favorite Christmas songs. The combination of music, visuals, lights, and water was breathtaking. 9 out of 10



I guess Mickey likes to watch Donald and Daisy kiss. He's kinky like that.


Sensory overload.


As a park, I don’t like Disney California Adventure as much as Disneyland. But it’s still a great park and the best rides at this park rival that of any Disney park. And it still has the usual magic of Disney, just in some different settings than we’re accustomed to.



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Knott’s Berry Farm


Snow was a massive thorn in our side on this trip. First, it almost cancelled our flight out of Boston. Then, it almost made the roads to the Grand Canyon inaccessible. But it wasn’t until we tried to visit the Giant Sequoias that Mother Nature finally thwarted us.


Sequoia National Park was open; however, it was impossible to reach via rental car without voiding your rental agreement. Due to the conditions, tire chains were necessary. And as far as I can tell, no American rental car agency allows these traction devices.


So that left us with an extra day in SoCal. We decided to do some touristy stuff, but not before indulging ourselves in Mrs. Knott’s Fried Chicken Dinner. And since we were there, a ride on GhostRider was a must.



We couldn't "Knott" ride GhostRider.


Those blue skies didn't last, but more on that in a bit.


We arrived shortly after opening and hightailed it to GhostRider. I was thrilled to see it open with the park. Maybe I’ve been unlucky, but it has never opened with the park for me in the past.


It has been 3.5 years since the retracking and GhostRider is still riding like a dream. This is about as smooth as a conventional wooden coaster can be, which is mighty impressive considering GhostRider’s aggressive layout and cycle count.


And that layout is masterful. The ride is perfectly paced and feels way faster than its posted speed. The ride mixes airtime and laterals seamlessly. And it has two defining moments in that drop into the second half (crazy ejector airtime here) and unbanked final helix (you will fold over the seat).


Unfortunately, our visit didn’t allow for any night rides on GhostRider, but I was just content to get a back row ride on this incredible wood coaster. 9 out of 10




Even GhostRider was feeling festive.


This is an absolute godsend on a busy day.


One ride on GhostRider wasn’t enough, but Mother Nature had other plans. SoCal was (of course) spared from a snowstorm, but it did start to sprinkle lightly. I didn’t think much of it, but it was enough to close almost every outdoor ride.



Good thing it rarely rains in SoCal because the rain policy at Knott's is laughably bad.


The only two I saw operational were the water rides. And since it was 60 degrees, it was too cold for the locals to ride them. But it wasn’t too cold for New Englanders! So we happily walked onto the recently renovated Calico River Rapids.


Maybe my expectations were a bit too high after riding Movie Park’s Excalibur, but I thought there would be more theming considering the hype around the addition. While there were new props, the ride didn't feel radically different to me.


But it did have plenty of rapids to make us rethink our decision to ride it on a cooler day. With the new props, Knott's took an average rapids ride and made it slightly above average. 7 out of 10



Thankfully the water rides stayed open through a sprinkle.


Our visit to the park consisted of just two rides, but our visit wasn’t complete until we stuffed our face full of biscuits, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken. Mrs. Knott’s is not just one of the best theme park restaurants, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants anywhere.



To my defense, the knife couldn't cut through the chicken as effectively as my teeth.


Mickey looks ready to eat that pie.


Knott’s is undeniably a full day park, but this was an unplanned bonus for us. It was hard to miss rides like HangTime and Xcelerator, but some GhostRider is better than no GhostRider. Just avoid this park if you see a lot of rain in the forecast.

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Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, and Pacific Park


The glitz and glamor of Hollywood is often romanticized. Hollywood portrays Hollywood (that’s meta) through rose-tinted glasses, but I finally saw the town through my own two eyes.


Yes it’s a land of opportunity. And at first glance, the flashing lights are a beacon of hope. But when you look closer, you see streets filled with ticket sellers, desperate comedians, and costumed characters just trying to make ends meat.



Hollywood & Highland is one of the most recommended places to see the Hollywood sign, but it's nothing more than a spec on the horizon. I much recommend Lake Hollywood Park if you want to get considerably closer (the place I went to last year).


Mickey's Runaway Railway wasn't open yet.


I’ll start with the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many tourist attractions cannot be fully appreciated in photos. Take Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. As awesome as they look in photos, they look even more marvelous in person. The same cannot be said about the Walk of Fame.


Sure it was cool to pose with stars of my favorite celebrities. But we both left thinking, “Is that it?”


Most stars have nothing more than a name. No picture, no fact board, nothing. We both came away thinking your garden variety wax museum was more fun.



Disney plus...a bunch of other celebrities.


RIP Big Bird.


Does anyone else find it ironic Bill Cosby's star is by a Hooters?


And part of that may have been that we felt uncomfortable. We didn’t feel unsafe thanks to the droves of tourists , but it was frustrating to constantly have fliers forcibly placed in our hands and even have some people grab onto us when we tried ignoring them.



Nothing says classy like aggressively trying to sell this kid a chance to sit in this sports car. This sums up the extracurricular activities that take place on Hollywood Blvd.


By comparison, we had a much more pleasant time at Santa Monica Pier. I still think this is place is overrated as a tourist destination, but it does have an electric atmosphere. It feels like an upscale version of Old Orchard Beach.



Most people know about Santa Monica Pier.


And most people are aware there's a park there.


But only coaster enthusiasts know its name.


And for us coaster enthusiasts, you’re probably well aware of Pacific Park. Even non-enthusiasts probably recognize West Coaster since it’s featured in Grand Theft Auto and pretty much any background shot of Los Angeles.


The park is ridiculously compact. West Coaster circles around the perimeter of the park and there are several flat rides contained within.



The staff at Pacific Park is super friendly. Just look how they give each other hugs for warmth.


While there, we took a quick spin on West Coaster. The operator seemed perplexed we chose to ride in the back, but I knew what I was doing. Most enthusiasts bash this ride as boring, but the back has a surprising moment of sustained floater airtime on the “big” drop.


That moment alone is why I enjoy West Coaster. Beyond that, the coaster has two helices. The first is super slow, but it works to the ride’s advantage so you can appreciate the sights. The second helix isn’t too forceful, but the train generates decent speed by the end.


Yes it’s a bit pricey, but it’s par for the course for a pier park. West Coaster is iconic and while it isn’t a major thriller, it does have one good moment and it immaculately smooth. Plus, they give two laps. 6 out of 10



That's a very clever Christmas tree.


The "big" drop may not look like much, but it gives some legit airtime.


Do I regret seeing these iconic LA destinations? No. Do I plan to return? Not in the foreseeable future.


But these two destinations are so iconic that you almost feel obliged to check them off a bucket list. And at least Santa Monica Pier offers a decent coaster with it.

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^ It's a 9.5 out of 10. I can't quite give it a perfect rating since it's a bit too bouncy and Eejanaika exists.


I would go back to Japan (and brave Fuji-Q) *just* for Eejanaika!


I loved it that much.


but luckily, I got to ride it a bunch, so got it out of my system for a few years


I have to, at some point in the next year or so, book a weekend trip to California, to make it to SFMM. I've never been, and I have a freaking season pass!

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really like the Pacific Park sign too. . . all your night time photos always look great.


I agree with your comment upthread about Disney too. . as you may have noticed, i too take *hundreds* of pics while at Disney. (and it's not like you're not enjoying everything too.. . you don't even realize you're doing it as it's so magical).


Mrs Knott's chicken with a knife? would have razzed you as a heathen if you did! Fried chicken is meant to be eaten with your fingers !


did you find the flyer folks more aggressive on Hollywood Blvd than on the Vegas strip? because I've always found the Vegas strip folks way more aggressive (and way more pathetic in many cases, such as the state of the "character outfits"). . but maybe it's just cause i have no interest in a "date with a showgirl". . so it just feels like they are so much more pushy to me.

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^ It's a 9.5 out of 10. I can't quite give it a perfect rating since it's a bit too bouncy and Eejanaika exists.


I would go back to Japan (and brave Fuji-Q) *just* for Eejanaika!


I loved it that much.


but luckily, I got to ride it a bunch, so got it out of my system for a few years


I have to, at some point in the next year or so, book a weekend trip to California, to make it to SFMM. I've never been, and I have a freaking season pass!


And you get 90% of the same ride at Magic Mountain with X2. One word of caution going to Six Flags Magic Mountain on the weekend is that X2, West Coast Racers, and Full Throttle are one time only on the Flash Pass. For that reason, I try to visit on weekdays when I know the park will be dead so I can lap these coasters more easily.

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really like the Pacific Park sign too. . . all your night time photos always look great.


I agree with your comment upthread about Disney too. . as you may have noticed, i too take *hundreds* of pics while at Disney. (and it's not like you're not enjoying everything too.. . you don't even realize you're doing it as it's so magical).


Mrs Knott's chicken with a knife? would have razzed you as a heathen if you did! Fried chicken is meant to be eaten with your fingers !


did you find the flyer folks more aggressive on Hollywood Blvd than on the Vegas strip? because I've always found the Vegas strip folks way more aggressive (and way more pathetic in many cases, such as the state of the "character outfits"). . but maybe it's just cause i have no interest in a "date with a showgirl". . so it just feels like they are so much more pushy to me.


Thanks! The night shots are one of the perks of actually carrying a real digital camera instead of relying solely on my smart phone.


When I went to Knott's more recently, I got the chicken to go and ate it with my hands on the way to Disneyland. So I redeemed myself (that knife was provided, but not used).




The days I was in Las Vegas were on the chillier side, so I don't recall seeing too many people on the sidewalks. I saw all sorts of mobile trucks with advertisements though.

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Six Flags Great Adventure- Holiday in the Park


Twas three nights before Christmas, when most other parks

Not a coaster was stirring, not even a mouse.

At Six Flags the coasters were open with care,

In hopes that families soon would be there.


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of coasters danced in enthusiasts’ heads.

And my friend in his jacket, and I in my cap,

Had just driven down to Jersey for HITP.


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my car to see what was the matter.

Twas Bugs Bunny, some B&Ms, and the Flash,

Six Flags opened the gate in hopes for some cash.


…and that’s about the extent of my creative ability. I’m an engineer, not a poet.



It's a magical land where minimum operating temperatures don't exist.


Originally my buddy and I were planning on visiting Six Flags New England. Now I love that SFNE is open for HITP, but it’s such a tease seeing both Superman and Wicked Cyclone sitting idle. I jokingly said we should drive the extra 3 hours to Jersey and he was in full support.


And it ended up being a very wise decision. Here’s a screenshot of Six Flags New England’s coasters on the day we went to Great Adventure.



I'm convinced SFNE's SLC could withstand a nuclear bomb. That thing never breaks.


Meanwhile at Six Flags Great Adventure, I didn’t see a single ride go down all day. That’s a borderline Christmas miracle for HITP. Granted, the temperature was a “balmy” 35-45 degrees. I guess the rides are conditioned by now for sub-freezing temperatures.


Those “warm” temperatures led to this being the busiest HITP visit I’ve ever had. This was no Fright Fest crowd, but Nitro and Batman actually needed their second trains to prevent a queue from building up. And now I know the Six Flags app isn’t the most reliable for wait times, but Justice League was posting a 100 minute wait in the afternoon!


For that reason, we’re glad we hit Justice League first when it was still a walk-on. This ride is something I never thought would exist at a Six Flags park and it’s a nice change of pace from the coasters. 8.5 out of 10



Boo-yah! The animatronic is still working flawlessly.


Nearby Justice League are two flats with some of the most visually stunning light packages out there- Wonder Woman and Cyborg.


This was actually my first time riding Wonder Woman. And I thought the same thing after riding CraZanity at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but I think the cycles on the smaller ones are a bit better.


Wonder Woman is still a ton of fun and the airtime on the max swings is fantastic, but most of the ride is spent building up to those 3-4 max swings. Meanwhile the slightly smaller Harley Quinn (which feels just as tall) has twice as many max swings. 8 out of 10




Wonder Woman is really turned on at night.


This may be another hot take, but I actually prefer Cyborg to Wonder Woman.


…get your head out of the gutter. I’m talking about the rides.


…the amusement rides.


I know Cyborg gets a lot of flak for doing nothing, but I got non-stop inverting on both my rides. It’s not forceful, but the hangtime and near-misses are incredible. Both times, my buddy and I were the only two on the ride. So maybe less weight is how to avoid the rocking purgatory? 8 out of 10



Imagine what one of these things could do on the German fair circuit.


Great Adventure has two indoor coasters in Dark Knight and Skull Mountain. While we rode both once, we were more interested in contracting frostbite on the big B&Ms.


Maybe “big B&M” isn’t the correct way to describe Batman. It’s incredibly compact. And that’s why it’s one of the most forceful inverts out there. 8 out of 10




Superman may be the more powerful superhero, but Batman is the more powerful coaster.


Superman is another B&M that isn’t the biggest. It shows it has a set of balls during the pretzel loop, but Superman immediate castrates himself afterwards. In the summer, I find the overbanks pretty dull, but they’re mesmerizing during HITP with the brisk air and holiday lights. 7.5 out of 10




Superman shows his Kryptonian balls on the pretzel loop.


But then Lois Lane domesticates him for the rest of the ride.


One B&M that is one of the biggest is Green Lantern. I know this is one of the park’s more hated rides. And I used to be on the hate train. I used to hate this coaster more than the Green Lantern movie that is even hated by its leading actor. No seriously, just watch the Deadpool 2 post-credits scene.


But ever since I learned to adjust the stand-up restraints down to my shoulders, I now love B&M stand-ups. There is zero headbanging and the forces are incredible. My legs feel like jelly by the time we hit the brake run. This is up there with Riddler as the best stand-up and it isn’t close. 8 out of 10



In coldest day, in blackest night...


Green Lantern is an absolute delight.


However, the star of HITP is Nitro. Maybe that’ll change next year with Jersey Devil, but until then, Nitro is the coaster I always marathon. I always hit the brake run with tears running down my face. And those tears have usually froze by the time we return to the station.


Compared to a lot of other B&M hypers, Nitro’s airtime is a bit weaker. That’s especially true towards the front of the train. But it does have some sort of airtime on every hill and there’s just something magical riding this thing around Christmas. It feels unnatural. 8.5 out of 10



It's miraculous this thing has never valleyed considering the conditions they run this thing in.


We also took a few laps on Joker. I almost forgot since I don’t have any direct pictures of it since my loose articles were safely tucked away in a locker.


At SFNE, Joker is the star of HITP. And while Great Adventure’s Joker is every bit as wild and unpredictable, it’s only the fifth best coaster at this park during HITP. 7.5 out of 10



Here's a picture of the Christmas Tree that also conveniently pictures Joker.


Beyond the coasters, we also made sure to hit Houdini and SkyScreamer.


I’ve never actually been on Great Adventure’s Houdini, so I was interested to compare it to New England’s. In terms of the props and ride cycle, they’re identical. However, I do slightly prefer Great Adventure’s since it has narration from start to finish. 8 out of 10



Houdini seems to really love candy canes.


SkyScreamer was unequivocally the most frigid ride of the night. I forgot how the one at Great Adventure does that pause mid-ride before accelerating to its top speed. But our shivering was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the park’s lights. 8 out of 10



In the past I've ridden the Skyway to view the lights at night. I decided for a much more frigid journey this year.


In terms of food, we sampled some of the holiday offerings. Special thanks to coasterbill for recommending the bacon wrapped pork kabobs, as those things were scrumptious. I didn’t know Six Flags could cook meat that well.


We also grabbed a chicken comfort bowl. The warmth was definitely comforting and it was way better than the usual chicken and fries if you ask me.



This is something I'd expect from Knoebels, not Six Flags.


Why do I find the name "bowl of comfort" so funny?


With an hour before closing, there was only one logical stop for us- Nitro. I was surprised to find a full train, but it was a pleasant surprise since the park only opened the back if all other rows were filled.


However, slowly but surely, the crowds faded. Maybe it was the cold. Or maybe it was the fact some people had to work the following day. But eventually we got a (fro)zen ride on Nitro.


I know Nitro had been running all-day, but it felt like it was going to valley. The train absolutely crawled over the camelbacks. And the ride sensed it too. We braced ourselves for the usual slowdown on the mid-course, but we rocketed through it untouched.


This resulted in some serious airtime during the finale. We’re not talking El Toro levels of airtime, but the strength of this airtime was just below Fury 325’s bunny hills. I didn’t know Nitro had it in itself to do that. It was without a doubt the best ride I’ve ever had on Nitro.



It felt like our faces we're going to fall off. But it was worth it.


Holiday in the Park just may be my favorite time of year to visit Great Adventure. That’s almost a ridiculous statement since one of the world’s best coasters is closed, but the sheer ridiculousness of riding coasters (with no lines) in these conditions makes it special.


And assuming Jersey Devil is at least as good as the original Raptors, this event will only get better.

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You gotta love Six Flags. They give negative. Oh its below freezing? Open everything


Six Flags has one of the best weather policies in the business. It's their attendance policy that can give me concern on harsh days.


We had that happen during HITP too with Nitro not stopping on the midcourse. The bunnyhops were awesome!


Nice report!


Thanks! Only a few more weeks until they reopen.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios- Rise of the Resistance


Indiana Jones Adventure is one of my favorite rides in the world. To have a wild dark ride with imposing set-pieces based on one of my favorite film franchises was a dream come true. It would take something truly special to top Indiana Jones Adventure.


But Disney did it with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.


And I was torn if I wanted to wait until the ride’s operational issues were sorted out. On one hand, the lottery boarding system seemed like a nightmare. On the other hand, I was fearful some effects could be scrapped much like Indiana Jones Adventure (remember the dry ice?).


A lack of will power won out, so I found myself pulling into the Hollywood Studios parking lot at 5:30 AM.



5:30 am


Seeing this many people 1.5 hours before park opening brought me back to Japan.


Did I have to be there that early to get a boarding pass? No. I just needed to be in the park by 7.


So why was I there that early? To rope drop Slinky Dog Dash. One of the side effects of Rise of the Resistance’s virtual queue opening with the park is that early morning walk-ons are a thing of the past.


Not only was I on the second train of the day, but I also rode it three other times throughout the day. I was lucky enough to find two FastPasses and also hopped in line right before closing. The light package around Slinky really is fantastic.



10 minutes after park opening, Slinky's line was already back to Voyage of the Little Mermaid.


And there were no gaps. The line was solid from Slinky's entrance all the way to Little Mermaid.


This face gets me out of bed in the morning.


Weezy is fine, but really we want Slinky to sing to us in his raspy voice.


Experiencing Slinky Dog at night is a must.


You could say he gets turned on.


A Canobie Coaster approved butt shot of Slinky.


I also rode all my usual favorites like Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. I also made sure to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid. One, I remembered it being a good show (and it was). But more importantly, it was the fastest way to use all three of my FastPasses and start rebooking the better Tier 1 rides.



I've stayed at far worse hotels. This one actually has a semi-operational elevator.


Toy Story Mania, causing tennis elbow for Disney fans since 2008.


This ride is super unrealistic. You can never hit 57 mph on a LA highway.


The Little Mermaid probably has my favorite music of the animated Disney films.


Ursula looked even creepier on-stage than she did in the film.


I also tried out Alien Swirling Saucers. It felt like a PTC Crazy Daisy crossed with a whip.


But enough dilly dallying, here are my thoughts on the Big Kahuna- Rise of the Resistance.


Rise of the Resistance Boarding Passes


I had two days at Hollywood Studios. In the days leading up to my trip, I was getting nervous. Boarding passes were disappearing in less than a minute. That left very little room for error for a technology glitch.


I had practiced the technique to join a boarding group back home. I had the best luck if I clicked “Find Out More” at exactly 7 am. However, I almost got screwed on Day 1 since Disney opened the boarding groups a minute early at 6:59. Luckily I heard all the cheering behind me, so I realized something was amiss. I scored group 62. By 7 am, Rise of the Resistance was already onto back-up groups. Yikes!


On Day 2, I somehow got the first boarding group of the day! And I realized I had a major advantage over everyone else. Since I was a single rider, I was able to skip the “Select Your Party” screen. When you’re competing against thousands of other guests, those milliseconds count!



I won the game of fastest finger.


So here’s my strategy.


- Have the My Disney Experience app open on the home screen.


- Use LTE/data. Don’t trust the overloaded Disney network.


- Click Find Out More immediately after (but not before) your phone switches over to the park opening time. If Join Boarding Group isn’t lit up, hit back and try again. Don’t try refreshing. That didn’t work for me.


It’s also worth noting that Disney doesn’t drop the rope until after the boarding group madness is complete. And that’s smart. I can just imagine the carnage of a stampede of people staring at their phone screens.



It was an early morning, but it was worth it to avoid this sign.


Rise of the Resistance- Experience




This goes without saying, but there will be spoilers!


Rise of the Resistance is continues the trend of Disney attractions having well-themed queues. The queue is themed to the base for the resistance. Star Wars fans are sure to geek out at all the paraphernalia- thermal detonators, flight helmets, etc.




Seems like the perfect hideout for a rebel base.


Eventually you reach the first pre-show. For my early boarding pass, I walked right into the pre-show. For boarding group 62, I had to wait maybe a half hour.


After I’ve seen a preshow once, I sort of wish I could walk right onto the attraction. I already know the plot, so I’m ready to ride! But on Rise of the Resistance, I would be mad if I skipped the pre-shows. They are essential parts of the experience. You are truly transported into a full Star Wars story!



This pre-show set the tone for the level of immersion throughout the attraction.


After being debriefed by an impressive Rey hologram, you re-emerge into the daylight and are ushered onto a transport shuttle. Staff members tell everyone to hold on, but I sort of chuckled figuring that was just for show. But I was wrong! The transport is actually a restraintless motion simulator!


This was combined with some impressive animatronics and show scenes that unfolded out every window of the transport. It was a complete sensory overload.



Rise of the Resistance is two rides in one. I was not expecting that!


The Admiral Ackbar wannabe looked amazing.


Eventually your ship is caught by a Star Destroyer’s tractor beam and you’re detained by the First Order. I expected the back door of the transport to open, but much to my shock, the same door we entered reopened to reveal a gigantic ship hangar.


The reveal was magical. Shots of this room have unsurprisingly gone viral. The grandeur of the room with the spaceships, window into space, and 50+ Stormtroopers is overwhelming.



Pictures do not do the grandeur of this scene justice.


The First Order officers then shuttle you into a hallway where you’re grouped for your interrogation. These cast members were extremely intimidating and made the experience authentic. They were 100% into their roles. Anyone expecting the usual chipper Disney employees will be in for a rude awakening.



I dare you to touch the computers. I double dog dare you.


The second preshow takes place in this odd V-shaped room and I strongly recommend you to stand towards the back. I was in the front on my first ride and missed a few effects, including the one that leads to you boarding your escape pod and the main ride system.



Am I supposed to be scared of General Hux?


By this point, you’re been in preshows for about 12-14 minutes. That shows the level of immersion Disney was targeting with this attraction. And it culminates in an incredible trackless dark ride with so many mind-blowing animatronics and special effects.


The first room showcases the range of motion on the vehicles, as you dance about the Star Destroyer. This room is reminiscent of the first room on Antarctica, but thankfully the ride that follows actually has theming.


The whole experience is very tense since you’re being hotly pursued from start to finish. You’re attacked by laser blasts, lightsabers, and even the Force. All the effects are extremely well executed.



So many mind-blowing effects around every corner.


In terms of my favorite scenes, four come to mind. The first is the AT-AT scene. The sheer size of the walkers is mind-blowing. I knew they’d be huge, but I wasn’t expecting them to be that large. It’s something only Disney could pull off.


The second is a sequence where you’re dodging turrets firing into space. These turrets move forwards and backwards, so the ride vehicle has to strategically dodge them. This is something that could only be done with the trackless ride system.



This felt straight out of a video game having to dodge the turrets.


The third is the final Kylo Ren sequence. The range of motion on the Kylo animatronic is stunning and I love the effect where he’s blasted into space. It all comes together so seamlessly.




Both Kylo animatronics looked incredible!


The fourth is the finale. Rise of the Resistance is listed as a thrill ride. Everything up to this point, is mind-blowing. But none of the motion comes close to a Dinosaur or even a Spiderman. But then the finale happens.


You’re loaded into an elevator and drop maybe 40-50 feet. This drop is comparable to a drop track on a roller coaster or even a plunge on the Tower of Terror. My stomach dropped both times.


And without any pause, the vehicle then transitions into a motion simulator segment. Being able to effortlessly switch from a trackless ride system to a drop tower to a motion simulator in a 10 second span certainly caught me off-guard.



The awesomeness of Rise of the Resistance makes the wasted potential of Antarctica even sadder now.


End Spoilers




Rise of the Resistance was everything I could have ever wanted…and then some! The length and quality of the experience is unmatched by any other theme park attraction. Each element comes together seamlessly to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience.


Rise of the Resistance is the best attraction Disney has ever made. It’s also the best dark ride in the world. And I’d also slot in ahead of a few coasters in my top 10. That’s how special Rise of the Resistance is.

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