It’s hard to say exactly what makes Walt Disney World feel like Walt Disney World. We can talk about background music, exquisite theming, cleanliness, and friendliness as much as we like, but ultimately, there’s something about that patch of land in Central Florida that makes things just feel different from other places.
But just because something feels different than Disney doesn't mean it’s any less excellent.
Take Universal Orlando for example. Long an also-ran in the Orlando theme park scene, Universal launched a direct assault on Disney with the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2010. And now, four years later, they've opened the long awaited Diagon Alley and King’s Cross Station expansion.
These additions created a new energy in Universal, certainly, but more importantly, they've encouraged guests to discover some of the lesser-known attractions that have been wowing Universal fans for years.
What follows are some attractions that, with an open mind, even Disney’s most ardent fans couldn't help but enjoy:
5. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
When Universal opened Islands of Adventure in 1999, it didn’t make much of a dent in Disney’s enormous market share. That wasn’t for lack of trying, certainly, as IOA was chock full of some truly brilliant and innovative attractions.
One attraction, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, took a traditional log flume and transformed it into a headlining theme park ride.
Much in the mold of Disney’s Splash Mountain (no olfactory pun intended), Ripsaw Falls tells an elaborate story starring the Canadian Mountie that twists and turns until its dramatic and very steep finale. Unlike Splash Mountain, however, Ripsaw Falls can get you very, very wet. But if you admire the elaborate theming and charming design of Splash Mountain, you’ll enjoy Ripsaw Falls and its disarmingly silly story.
4. The Cat in the Hat
Here’s how dedicated Universal Creative was to creating a beautifully constructed environment when they built Islands of Adventure:
One of the titular islands is Seuss Landing – a themed area devoted to the works of children’s author Dr. Seuss. Seuss Landing is unique in that, much like the artwork created by its namesake, it contains no straight lines anywhere in the design.
The result is an area as whimsical and wondrous as the source material it is derived from, and the area’s centerpiece attraction, The Cat in the Hat, perfectly embodies this whimsy.
The kinetic and frantic energy of the ride is a bit faster-paced than anything you’d find at Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, but the aesthetic is similar – bright colors and simple storylines, all created to take guests inside one of their favorite stories from childhood. It’s not unlike The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in that regard, and fans of that attraction will feel right at home watching The Cat in the Hat wreak havoc during an unusually blustery day.