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Theme Park Showdown: Universal vs Disney Roller Coasters

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Image: UniversalHere is where I lose some people. The ride experiences that I’ve had as a tall man on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit are less than satisfactory. Without being too specific on a family website, I reflexively cross my legs at the unpleasant memories of things that have happened to….parts of me on this coaster. I’m not a fan. Still, as someone who appreciates the craft of roller coaster design, I marvel at the bravado of the track layout on this attraction. Universal aimed for the sky here, and their daring is a gift to adrenaline junkies.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Image: UniversalThe true green machine of Orlando is The Incredible Hulk Coaster. This savage piece of architecture translates Dr. Bruce Banner’s constant feeling of rage into 3,800 feet of track. You’ll shoot down the track at 67 miles per hour, and you’ll experience seven aggressive inversions. The only downside here is once again length, as it’s less than two minutes long. I’d still rank it as the third-best of Universal’s coasters, behind only Escape from Gringotts and…

Revenge of the Mummy

Image: UniversalI view this wonderfully themed coaster as the hidden gem of Universal Studios. The Mummy as an intellectual property is way down these days thanks to Tom Cruise, but there was a time when Brendan Fraser anchored one of the most popular film franchises on the planet. During the time before The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this park had four great attractions based on movies, and Revenge of the Mummy was/is one of them. It's an exciting coaster that goes backward, sells the idea that you're on a descent into a flaming abyss, and kills off Fraser in the end. What's not to love?

Discussing Disney’s finest

Image: DisneyThe debate with Disney is how to approach the bicoastal nature of their American parks. Ultimately, I decided to focus on Orlando for both Universal Studios and Disney under the auspice that theme park tourists should debate based on what they can do in a single vacation. For this reason, I took Incredicoaster and Matterhorn Bobsleds off the list of possible selections. Then, I threw out Primeval Whirl because it sucks (come at me, internet!) and the Barnstormer since other child-friend Disney coasters are better. That left me with…

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Image: DisneySince 1979, guests have delighted in the opportunity to board a runaway mine train and, well, run away. This coaster affords guests a chance to visit a ghost town, albeit while speeding by at high velocity. The thing about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is that what once was an unparalleled experience in 1979 is now somewhat pedestrian. The immersive theming is what distinguishes the journey. I happen to love the ride, but it’s toward the bottom of this list.

Expedition Everest

Image: DisneyThis roller coaster is the one that I feel matches or possibly surpasses Escape from Gringotts. I see quite a few similarities between the two rides in that the theming matches the quality of the ride experience. While the Harry Potter brand is impossible to top, Expedition Everest tells a gripping story about an encounter with an apparently-not-mythical creature.

The ride design is just about my favorite ever. You slowly head up a mountain, only to recognize once you’re trapped that the tracks are broken. Your driver thrusts you back into the darkness in hopes of surviving a desperate situation. It just works and gets my vote as the best coaster on this list, even as I acknowledge that most people would favor Escape from Gringotts.

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