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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Theme Park Thrills and Thrill-Nots

To celebrate summer, here is my review of local Southern California theme parks.

Knott's Berry Farm
Fun old-timey day at the park. The majority of the park is set in the times of the Old West, complete with craft shops, blacksmiths, and glass blowers

...although the back of the park has a '50-s theme with a Johnny Rockets and midway games blasting 50's music. Not sure how that fits in, but it's interesting nonetheless. Food sucks, shows are cheesy, but the coasters make up for that. Ghost Rider is an old-school wooden roller coaster. Fun and fast, a bit too jerky. My fave was the Xcelerator - blasts you off at a high speed up a 20-story hill with a 90 degree drop.

Some cons: Some rides only had one car/boat running - made the wait in line longer than it should've been; crowd management overall was lacking - mostly a free for all where line stanchions weren't placed.
Overall, a fun day. Skip the shows unless you need the AC, stay for the coasters.


As much as a cynic as I am, this truly is the happiest place on Earth. After you walk through the tunnel under the train track, you enter a different world. Everyone is walking around with a smile on their face, and for good reason. First, along a brick-laid road called Main Street, you come across shops with Disney paraphernalia, candy, and food. Even a movie theater showing old-school B/W Disney cartoons. At the end of the road, the Magic Castle is appears (which is actually disappointing up close as it's only about 30 feet deep, with a crystal/jewelry store inside).

The castle is in the center of everything. All around you are the entrances to the different 'lands' - my favorite being Adventureland and New Orleans with the Indiana Jones and Pirates rides. At the end of a long day, you head over to Adventureland to watch the live laser and water show 'Fantasmic' and and then the nightly fireworks, themed to the different lands. A grand day out.

And no, I never bought mouse ears - I don't get THAT happy.


California Adventure
Besides the flight simulator 'Soarin' Over California' and the 'Tower of Terror,' how are these rides California-themed? Maybe I'm just a killjoy since I was motion sick most of the morning there, but this park definitely isn't as enjoyable as Disneyland. The roller coaster is decent; the ferris wheel with its sliding gondolas scared the bejeezes out of me.

If you don't have little kids with you to enjoy the kiddie rides and character interactions, save your money and don't get the Park Hopper ticket. You'll be able to cover the entire grounds in just a couple hours, not worth the fee.


Universal studios
A fun park, but only if you're actually into movies. That said, the majority of the attractions are shows, not rides. I can count the number of thrill rides on one hand. The 3D movies and live shows need some updating. How many people under the age of 25 remember 'Backdraft' or 'Waterworld'? The one thing Universal has on all the other parks is the Studio Tour. Hop on the tram and take a ride down the hill through the backlot of the studios, where actual filming took and takes place - where 'Hollywood magic really happens.'


Six Flags Magic Mountain
Perfect for the roller coaster enthusiast. Though I haven't been there since they opened X2, the original X was my favorite ride. Only the X (which threw you in every direction) and Deja Vu (forwards, then backwards, both with a few second long free-fall) make me scream for my life.
(Taken from>

The other coasters are just as enjoyable - Colassus makes you think you'll lose your head in the tunnel; Tatsu gives you the feeling you're flying; The Riddler's Revenge makes you stand for the entire ride. An exhilarating day - just be prepared to wait in line a couple hours for the newer coasters.


However you spend your summer, make sure you have fun!

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