Theme Park Ranger
12:13 PM EDT, August 29, 2013
Now that the latest small wave of theme-park construction has passed, the official Theme Park Rangers list of top rides and attractions in Central Florida's theme parks has been updated.
This, of course, is not science. It's opinion. No math was used to determine these rankings. What fun would that be? Factors that do matter are the level of fun, imagination, ingenuity and uniqueness presented.
To make these rankings, I took the lineup from each of the seven Orlando-area theme parks — four from Walt Disney World, both from Universal Orlando and then SeaWorld Orlando — and determined the top attractions from each. I took those as nominations for the Top 50 list.
There was no peeking at the previous list, so there's shuffling near the top. You could blame my mood, but also remember that some attractions age better than others.
Here's what I ended up with for the Top 10 in 2013.
10. Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom. This dark ride is the oldest one in our top 10, debuting in 1971, but it hasn't rested on its laurels. Improvements have been made inside and out, with more interactive elements in the queue, and new scenes and stories inside. Old-school haunts — including the ghostly ballroom, singing busts in the graveyard, the stretching room and even the wallpaper — still charm though.
9. Toy Story Mania, Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's part ride, part video game, part Pixar party and it's one you immediately want to try again. … if only the stand-by line weren't so long.
8. Incredible Hulk Coaster, Islands of Adventure. Repeatability is an important factor, but I make a slight exception for Hulk. It's too intense to take back-to-back trips. It rattles our nerves, in a good way. And that first step is a doozy, right?
7. Manta, SeaWorld Orlando. The flying position makes this coaster special. The trip is a pleasure, once you get past the cheek-tugging G-forces of that first loop.
6. Transformers: The Ride — 3D, Universal Studios. The rockin' robots rolled into town with a reputation, having wowed crowds at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Singapore. It's here in a big way: big characters, big screen, big-time action.
5. Soarin', Epcot. I get a peaceful, easy feeling (plus that weird lightness of stomach) on Soarin'. I have always enjoyed the simulated flight over California scenery, but lately it has felt dated, been there, Soared that. So I'm putting a new version on my Disney World Wish List, the one where I spend lots of Mouse money.
4. Tower of Terror, Disney's Hollywood Studios. The thriller's theme starts working early — for folks still in the parking lot — and it's good to the last, harrowing, drop.
3. Kraken, SeaWorld Orlando. The steel coaster nails basic fundamentals of coastering: dramatic lift hill, surprising surges, zippy speed, carefree inversions before heading home with tight curves. The only drawback is the backstage stretch that's a bit barren.
2. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Islands of Adventure. We liked this from the start, and it's only grown on us. Its outstanding castle queue adds a behind-the-scenes mystique, and distinctive ride vehicles enhance the blend of on-screen action and real-life sets.
1. Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Islands of Adventure. Yep, Spidey is still the champ. The much-lauded Transformers is a fine ride, but what did it bring that our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man hasn't since 1999?
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