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Theme Park Showdown: Universal vs Disney Roller Coasters

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Image: Disney

The next two Disney attractions are both family-friendly and the (admittedly unfair) comparisons to Flight of the Hippogriff. The Universal ride is just a basic coaster with the Harry Potter brand slapped on it. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, on the other hand, deftly marries the dark ride with the roller coaster. For portions of the ride, you’ll sway back and forth on this uniquely designed coaster cart. The barrels swivel in unprecedented fashion. Between the entertaining coaster portions, you’ll see where the Seven Dwarfs work and play…and nap. I know that some people aren’t dazzled by this one, but I’m more than 50 rides in and still adore it.

Slinky Dog Dash

Image: DisneyThe other child-friendly Disney coaster is at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Slinky Dog Dash somehow recreates the sensation of a slinky from the perspective of a human. That is NOT easy to do. When you stretch in your coaster cart and then spring back together, you’ll marvel at the Imagineering involved. Well, you won’t because you’ll be having too much fun to think about the science of it, but I swear that it’s impressive. While Slinky Dog Dash is unmistakably entertaining, it’s too genteel to stand against some of the thrill rides listed here.  

Space Mountain

Image: DisneyIn the immortal words of The Highlander, there can be only one. In the roller coaster industry, Space Mountain is the one, the ride that triggered the country’s obsession. The continual coaster arms race is a byproduct of the public’s eternal love of Space Mountain.

I always hate to break people's hearts when I tell them that the max speed on this ride is 28 miles per hour. Nobody believes it because the sensory deprivation at play deludes guests into thinking that they're traveling at the speed of light. It's a brilliant exercise in deception, but it's also kind of a rickety, arguably outdated coaster. It's a problem of being the single-most imitated ride ever. I favor the significance of Space Mountain over any perceived shortcomings.

Final evaluation

This one is very, very close, and I would understand anyone who felt strongly about either park. When I look at individual coasters, Expedition Everest is my favorite followed by Escape from Gringotts and then Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The totality of the five coasters at each park is more challenging to evaluate. Universal is almost playing short-handed with Flight of the Hippogriff, far and away the worst thing listed here. Since Disney has the best coaster and two of the top three while Universal has the worst, I have to give a slight edge to #TeamMickey over #TeamHarry.

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