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Theme Park Showdown: Universal vs Disney Roller Coasters

Theme park tourists love to debate which parks and rides are the best. That’s why we recently introduced Showdown, a series that compares parks and rides to determine who’s better at what. Since the two heavyweights in the industry are Universal Studios and Disney theme parks, they’re the most fun to argue about.

We previously determined which park has the best dark rides. Now, it’s time to see who dominates in the all-important thrill ride category. In the latest Showdown, we’ll choose who has the best roller coasters between Universal and Disney.

Selecting the best roller coasters at each park

Image: DisneyThe culling of the list for best dark rides was pretty brutal. Since roller coasters are less prevalent due to cost and park styles at Disney and Universal, this step is a bit easier. Universal is cut-and-dried for the most part, while the primary Disney debate involves what should count. Here are my thoughts on both parks and their best coasters.

Discussing Universal’s finest

Image: UniversalAt the time of publication, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure isn’t open. With it off the table, picking the best coasters at Universal is pretty easy. I’m selecting the best five while acknowledging that one of these is inferior to the others. Let’s start with it.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Image: UniversalYes, I accept that Flight of the Hippogriff is called a junior coaster for a good reason. It's a simple, quick coaster that barely lasts a minute. I’m including it because a couple of Disney coasters skew quite young, and I wanted to offer some sort of counterbalance. Realistically, this ride is the weakest on the list by quite a bit. I happen to like it as a nice indoctrination for kids into the world of coaster fanaticism, but it’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for a roller coaster with only 1,099 feet worth of track.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Image: UniversalHow could two Harry Potter-based roller coasters be so different in quality? Escape from Gringotts is the peak of Universal Studios engineering at the moment. It's a masterful combination of dark ride and roller coaster, somehow blending a thrilling story from the movie and a white-knuckle coaster ride. This attraction is a perfect 10 and the current people's choice as Universal's best. I view only one Disney coaster as its peer, meaning that it's on the (very) short list for the best coaster at either park.

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