What To Love About Disney, Universal, SeaWorld Roller Coasters – Orlando Sentinel

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Jun 11, 2021 at 6:10 AM

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Jurassic World VelociCoaster is open officially and running at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, so it’s a good time to take stock of the roller coaster lineup in Orlando theme parks.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Universal’s new coaster, gives relentless rides to annual passholders

Rather than try to rank them, dividing them by pros and cons, I’ve listed the rides along with two things to love about each of them. This started off with just one thing, but that became a roundup of drops, twists, launches and weightlessness. Listing two items gives us room to breathe and scream. The items aren’t necessarily the top two features of each coaster, and they aren’t listed in order. I could invert them all tomorrow, depending on the mood.

The roundup skips junior coasters because, well, I usually skip junior coasters in real life. I like the view of Hogsmeade from IOA’s Flight of the Hippogriff, though — I like the legroom more.

I’ve clumped the coasters by park, and we’ll start with IOA since it has something shiny, new and, as you may have heard, relentless.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster: Not to give away too much, but the approach to the top hat is unforgettable (the view’s not bad up there either). Among the inversions, I like one soon after the big drop, where you see Upside Down Hogsmeade. Don’t blink. Incredible Hulk: There’s no tension going up the Hulk lift hill … for a while. Who doesn’t like surprises? Then, coming out of the prominent cobra design and down into the water, under the walkway and sometimes through the mist is the kind of maneuver that makes you wonder what you got yourself into. (That roar is also a warning.)

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure puts passengers atop motorcycles or in sidecars. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: That first long stretch out of the station is faster than it looks, and it feels unique. Turns out that motorcycling is fun. The dead-end/reverse movement, though not a shocker in Orlando, is effectively well hidden.

Universal Studios visitors roll through a New York facade while aboard Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. (JOE BURBANK, ORLANDO SENTINEL)

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: Literally right out of the gate, we go straight up, looking skyward. People on the ground are freaked out about it, but I like it. Later, after the loop and the brake, we go down and into the backside of a facade, which is fun and different. (See also the billboard bust-through on — junior coaster alert — Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom.) Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: Let’s lump the pitch-black stretches at the beginning and end into one thing we love. The standout move is when the cars disconnect from one another and security trolls fling us along our way. Revenge of the Mummy: Although the internet loves to talk about the Brendan Fraser coffee demands, “Death is only the beginning” is my favorite line and it actually comes during the ride. Mummy is intense, but I’m drawn to the slower, décor-driven stretches with pop-up soldiers, mummified Reggie still wearing a red cap and scarabs.

Riders in the last row feel the full impact on the Manta roller coaster in 2009. (Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)

Manta: Once secured into the seat, there’s a groaning noise and you’re shifted into a parallel-to-ground position. If it were yoga, it would be Sitting Superman. After the horrific hill and G-force loop, I look forward to gliding over the water, sideways. Mako: Climbing the hill is pokey, but it builds anticipation for the drop to come. Plus, you might see nearby Kraken in action. Best of all is the airtime going through the second hill. It’s how airtime was meant to be. Kraken: This is another deliberate ascent, but the tension continues as the car turns the corner into that first drop. Several inversions later, I’m happy to end with the curves near the ride entrance. Journey to Atlantis: Surprised to see this on the list? Sure, it’s mostly a water ride, but and then when it actually does turn into a coaster, it’s freewheeling.

Space Mountain has been making Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland feel modern since 1975. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel)

Space Mountain: The trippy tube after leaving the loading station is a classic. There’s a certain sameness to the rest of the ride, a very dark experience with the occasional nearby shriek. For my second like, I’m going with the exterior, which has screamed Tomorrowland since 1975. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Just as I’m almost brave enough to raise my hands in the air, there’s a wooden structure overhead that seems just too close to chance it. Also, the ride’s length and design make folks surprised when it’s not quite over yet. It’s bonus rail! Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: It’s a simple pleasure. “Heigh Ho” by 7D lovingly distracts from the drop to come. Coming out the other side, there’s a chance to see the castles of Cinderella and Eric.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom visitors ride up into the mountainscape of Expedition Everest before meeting a Yeti. (John Raoux/ Associated Press)

Expedition Everest: Again, a dead-end gets me, followed by a backward stretch in the dark (did that get more prolonged somehow?), then down. It’s a good combo. Going up the big lift hill at night somehow gives you Florida beauty (and faux Florida beauty.)

Slinky Dog Dash roller whips by Hollywood Studios visitors on the day after the theme park reopened from the COVID shutdown in 2020. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster: Well, duh, that superstretch limo launch at the beginning is everything. Later, going through the “O” of the Hollywood sign is genius, perfectly themed and Day-Glo. Slinky Dog Dash: The first major drop allows you to make quick eye-to-eye contact with folks on the ground (frequently standing in the SDD queue). Do them a favor and look mortified. After the go-go-go launch, I like the humps in the backstretch heading back to the station. Friends have told me that’s the worst part of Dash, but they’ve been wrong before. Somehow this disagreement leads to a warm-versus-frozen butterbeer argument, even though we are miles from either park (and the correct answer: classic butterbeer). We’ll shout it out next time.