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Theme Park Tourist Roundtable: Our Favorite Rides

Hi, I’m David Mumpower, one of the content creators at Theme Park Tourist! Over the years, I’ve posted a few Disney Vacation Club Roundtables wherein DVC experts provide their thoughts on the important Disney topics of the day.  

This time, Theme Park Tourist is going to do something different. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to pull back the curtains, revealing a bit more about the staff here.

What will happen is that I will post a conversational question about the theme park industry. Then, all of us will add our perspective on the subject. The hope is that you, the loyal readers, will learn a bit more about us, the people writing the articles.

Let’s start with the most important topic for all theme park tourists…

What are your favorite three theme park attractions in the world, and what do you love about them?

Image: UniversalAmanda Kondolojy:

I mean, I haven't been super far out into the world, but I'd say right now my favorite three attractions are Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (when it works LOL) just because of the intense theming, crazy technology, and unexpected thrill factor. Next up would probably be the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios because it's a classic that, at least for me, never gets old, thanks to its timeless effects, different ride profiles, and its solid use of IP in a way that is not overbearing or requires the rider to be familiar with The Twilight Zone to enjoy the ride.

Finally, I have to give it up for one of the best (and most underrated) dark rides in history, ET Adventure at Universal Studios Florida. Everyone loves Peter Pan's Flight because it makes them feel like they're flying, but I'm just gonna tell you that ET Adventure pulls this effect off way better, plus it's got that whole '80s vibe... you just can't beat it. And when ET says "Goodbye Amanda"... I can't help but smile and say bye back. ET Adventure is a perfect dark ride. I will hear no criticism, comments are closed, the end.

Brian Krosnick:

Image: Disney"Favorite" and "best" are definitely different things! If we're talking "favorites," I feel certain that my all-time favorite is Indiana Jones Adventure. I love the mythos surrounding Mara and his three gifts; the build-up of the queue; the moment of facing the three doors; the reveal of the "big room;" the finale. It's just an epically-scaled ride in every way, making use of incredible technology, and set perfectly in Disneyland's Adventureland.

That said, the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has to be a tie if we're talking modern dark rides. And for that matter, I have to admit that I got off of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and felt, "I want all of my friends to ride this." That, to me, is evidence that you've found a favorite. Tokyo's Journey to the Center of the Earth has to be here, too, because riding it feels like summiting a mountain.

Image: Disney
My favorite roller coaster is the unassuming family coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Verbolten. I grew up at Cedar Point, Kings Island, and Geauga Lake, so I'm thrilled by thrill rides... but to me, story always beats it, and I feel that Verbolten is a shining example of how a seasonal, regional park can do more than just build a bare steel coaster. (My second favorite coaster would probably be Orlando's Revenge of the Mummy... though I expect Hagrid's will end up beating them both...)

I'd be remiss if I didn't include Orlando's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room (+ Dole Whip), Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Pooh's Hunny Hunt in Tokyo, and Radiator Springs Racers, which all feel like absolute masterpieces of their times and technologies.

Natalie Sim:

Image: Universal1)  Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Disneyland Paris) - It is such a classic Disney ride. I love how it is set out in the middle of the lake and riding it in the snow was truly magical in December 2010.

2) Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland) - Just a brilliant ride and again classic Disney, we rode it over and over when we went in 2008.

3) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Islands of Adventure) - I love the effects and just such a fun attraction to ride.

4) A recent classic I rode at Easter this year is The Wicker Man at Alton Towers. Such a spectacle and a non-stop intense experience. I screamed with joy from the top of the lift hill to arriving back at the station. We were really lucky to get on the front row.

Jett Farrell-Vega:

Image: DisneyMy #1 pick actually isn't even in a theme park, but it sort of counts. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire (at Disney Springs) is one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. It's so insanely realistic, we didn't want to leave!

Among traditional theme park attractions, I would say these are my favorites:

1) The Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland - I had the pleasure of being there for one of the special event openings of this attraction, and I still love it! Absolutely one of Disney's best of all-time! I'm a huge Indiana Jones fan, and the fact that the ride relies on practical effects instead of video screens makes it so thrilling. I'm still holding out hope that we'll get a version of it at Walt Disney World.

Image: Universal2) Test Track - While I miss the older version of Test Track, the create-a-car element of the new version is great fun. I have always loved the moment when you blast through the doors that open just in time into the open air and then see the speedometer rising as your car picks up speed. You just can't help but whoop once you hit that 60 MPH mark lol.

3) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure - I would almost include Transformers in here since they are so similar, but Spider-Man is such a great ride. The combination of digital and practical effects keeps it wonderfully immersive, and the whole ride is such a wonderful representation of the comics!

Ashley Varela:

Image: DisneyMy all-time favorite attraction is Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. It may not be as technically advanced as Smuggler’s Run (or the concept of Rise of the Resistance), but its incredibly immersive and its randomized destinations makes it a highly repeatable and enjoyable ride. As for the other two - it might sound cliché, but I really enjoy Animal Kingdom’s Flight of Passage and Islands of Adventure’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

When I first rode Flight of Passage, I fully expected it to be overhyped and underwhelming… until I found myself reaching down to pet the banshee I was riding. It’s one of those attractions that always leaves me feeling completely in awe of WDI and their world-building capabilities, especially as the ride exits out into Pandora. I get the same kind of rush from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - the attention to story and detail is so careful, and I always come away impressed by the sheer size of the sets and props that surround the ride vehicles. It’s overwhelming in a good way.

David Mumpower:

Image: Cedar FairOkay, mine certainly aren't like anyone else's. My top three are Millennium Force, Spaceship Earth, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.

As a roller coaster enthusiast, I'm always looking for the next big thing, but Millennium Force has towered over everything else for almost 20 years now. There's just nothing else like it. The way that it starts with a methodical lift straight up into the clouds guarantees that I'm not thinking about anything else. Then, the ride provides that panoramic view of Lake Erie that takes my breath away. Only seconds later, I'm shooting straight down at 95 miles per hour. It's intoxicating.

Image: DisneyThe other two are entirely different, but I love them for the way that they embody the best of Disney Imagineering. Only Disney could construct a monument as epic in scope as Spaceship Earth and then build a history-based dark ride in the hollowed-out interior. Plus, I love the "create your future" aspect at the end. I'll be crushed if Disney ever plusses the ride and removes that part.

As for the PeopleMover, it takes me past the Progress City model and then shows me parts of the best rides of Tomorrowland. And all the while, I'm thinking about the alternate reality version of Walt Disney World where Progress City is real, and the PeopleMover is an accepted form of societal transportation a la the monorail. It’s a small glimpse into one of Walt Disney’s dreams that is yet to come true. But I haven’t given up hope yet!

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