I want to talk about my favorite amusement parks. In addition, I want to bring up a few bucket list parks. And I think some of those latter parks are totally doable.
First I want to bring up Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I last visited BGW in October of 2020. Unfortunately this was not my best experience with the park. See, it was dreary, overcast and rainy that day. Not to mention COLD! So all those aspects combined made for an “interesting” experience. I visited during the Covid influx in Virginia during a Halloween event, so it was a bit eerie. That plus the park was DEAD! Granted, they had staggered “openings” and I was in the mid afternoon into evening. I would have loved to visit when the park was dark and spin its prime but oh well. Of the seven (soon to be eight) coasters BGW has, only 4 were open. But I lucked out here. I got a ride on the world-famous Loch Ness Monster BY MYSELF! I have a video to prove it. The other things I like about Busch Gardens Williamsburg are the atmosphere and their camera policy. Most parks have a no cameras policy on their rides, even if it is secured. Busch Gardens and their affiliates allow cameras as long as they are secured to you. I had a chest harness and a GoPro and was given a special pass to film on the rides. The atmosphere is top-notch! Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been voted the “Most Beautiful Park in the World” multiple times and it shows! Not to mention the park is in a historic town, and if you know anything about me, you know I love history!
The second park I want to discuss is actually a “relative” park to Busch Gardens. This is SeaWorld Orlando. I have been to the SeaWorld in San Diego as well but this outshines it with no comparison. Again, I visited on a dead day…and it was AMAZING! The weather was perfect. Most, if not all, the rides were walk-on. Hell, I rode one of my all-time favorite coasters, Mako, an astounding FIFTEEN TIMES in one day! The longest I waited was 20 minutes for a trackless dark ride themed to penguins. I guarantee that’s because because of the air conditioning. The shows were phenomenal as well! I saw Blue Horizons- the Shamu show-and Sea Lion High, a hysterical show themed to sea lions going to school. I got drenched during both shows since the shows were semi-crowded and I sat in the Splash Zone. Actually during Blue Horizons, I sat next to a park employee who warned me to cover my camera during the wet parts. Manta, a B&M flying coaster, is my favorite flying coaster ever! I would LOVE to go back someday since they are opening a new coaster.
Third, my “home away from home” park, Hershey Park. Ok, technically my home park is Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. But I have been to Hershey way more and prefer it to Six Flags. Some of my earliest memories of rides are of going to Hershey and loving it. And this theme continues to this day. Hershey Park is as charming as ever and despite my riding all the roller coasters more times than I can count, HP never feels “stale” or “old”. One of my favorite coaster, purely for nostalgia, is here. This is the Trailblazer. It’s not particularly tall or fast, but it brings back memories of my youth. I ride it every time I go to Hershey. Actually, Hershey gets better every time I go! I know for sure when I have kids, you can bet I will bring them here the way my mom did me.
Before I get to my Top Two, I want to give an Honorable Mention to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Yes, the rides are mostly screen based (not roller coasters) with some exceptions. But I visited during a pseudo-Halloween event during Covid. The park was busy, but not much Halloween stuff was happening. This kind of bummed me out, since I love Halloween and the macabre. Regardless, the rides are top-notch. The Amazing Adventures of SpiderMan is probably my favorite non-coaster ride ever. It is THAT GOOD! One of my favorite coasters ever, and my favorite coaster in Florida, is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. This ride has SEVEN launches, a crap ton of animatronics from the Harry Potter franchise, and is LONG! The whole damn ride lasts about three minutes! That is amazing for a ride like that! The Incredible Hulk coaster is one of my favorite launched coasters ever. The end is kinda meh, but the single launch rockets you from 0-42 miles per hour in 2 seconds. It’s top speed is 60 mph.
And now for my Top Two. At Number Two, controversial as it is to the roller coaster and adrenaline junkies, is Cedar Point. They say “One does not simply spend a day at Cedar Point”. And that’s true. Cedar Point is a HUGE park! I have had the opportunity of visiting CP three times. The previous two I stayed at Hotel Breakers, a luxury hotel essentially in the park, and loved every second of it! That plus it has my favorite roller coasters in Millennium Force and Steel Vengeance. Millennium Force is a 310 foot tall, 93 mph roller coaster. It is somewhat overhyped by some, but I love every second of this ride! Steel Vengeance I had a little bit of difficulty getting on. See, the ride has metal detectors to make sure you aren’t sneaking anything on the ride. Well I have a pacemaker and told the park this. After two hours of waiting, I was told I could not ride. The next day, I didn’t say anything and was allowed to ride. I waited probably close to three hours for this thing, but riding Steel Vengeance in the front row in total darkness at midnight, made my one ride memorable. Top Thrill Dragster BLASTS you from a dead standstill to a whopping 120 miles per hour in 3 1/2 seconds. The ride is just one hill and only 15 seconds long, but those few seconds are the most intense 15 seconds you will ever experience! I love Cedar Point so much!
And coming in at Number One (drumroll please): the Disney parks in Orlando. Ok, this may be cheating seeing as this is three separate parks, but they are owned by the same property so it’s all one to me. Hollywood Studios is home to my favorite non-coaster thrill ride EVER! I am referring to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This thing has an eerie queue line, facade, and pre-Covid, pre-show from the original Twilight Zone series. And that’s before you even ride it! The drops are great with only a loose bar holding you in. No shoulder straps here! The downside to Hollywood Studios is the Star Wars expansion. (Sorry). I missed out on Rise of the Resistance but managed to get a ride to myself on Smuggler’s Run. I piloted the Millennium Falcon and was on Cloud Nine! Plus the Toy Story area made me feel like a kid again. Animal Kingdom is my favorite park Disney owns. This is primarily for the Pandora area. The first time I visited this park in 2019, it was during Spring Break and was MOBBED! This time, again thanks to Covid, I rode my favorite motion simulator, Flight of Passage, five times in the course of about two hours. Expedition Everest was a walk-on for three of my seven rides that day and I never waited more than 10 minutes all day for it. Not to mention I rode in the front every time. That was not by choice. They assigned seating for social distancing and every time I rode, they told me to sit up front. And trust me, I wasn’t complaining! But for pure nostalgia I have to put the Magic Kingdom at Number One. This is the flagship park in Disney and Florida, and people love it! Count me in as one of them!
As for the parks I would like to visit, Kings Island in Ohio tops the list. I have been fascinated with this park for awhile now and would love to experience it someday. And since KI is only a few hours (7) from my house, it would be an easy weekend road trip. I also would like to visit Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario, Canada. Again, this is a few hours from my house, so it is completely doable. I also am dying to go to Dollywood in Tennessee and Carowinds on the North and South Carolina borders. Some parks overseas are Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. This is for one reason only, and that is Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster at 156 mph. Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disney are also candidates.
So those are my picks for favorite parks. I hope you enjoyed this post and, per usual, feel free to comment!