I wanted to start with a definition of the thing I’m writing about, like any good critical piece of writing would. But when I googled ‘theme parks’, the first thing that came up was Diggerland! A land of diggers, dumpers, bulldozers, plus a swing in a giant JCB scoop! I have been there, it is amazing! Moving on! Theme Parks or Amusements Parks are a group of entertainment attractions, rides, and other events in a location for the enjoyment of large numbers of people.
I’ve had my fair share of theme park experiences; Diggerland, Thorpe Park, Chessington, Peter Pan’s Playground (it’s now called Adventure Island, but it will always be Peter Pan’s). They are all the same. Rollercoasters, rollercoasters, rollercoaster. Some ‘baby’ rides you sneer at because you’re tall enough to do everything, food places and those stalls that extract money from you until you can win a giant cuddly toy you immediately regret fighting so hard for as soon as the cheap material touches your skin. What I’m trying to say is, I like rollercoasters, and good amount of rollercoasters in one place. Which is probably why I was actually disappointed with Orlando.
I’m going to have a quick count. I’m going to take Thorpe Park and count, what I would call, rollercoasters. Then I’m going to count the rollercoasters in Islands of Adventure. Hang on. Right, I count eleven decent thrill rides at Thorpe Park and only three at Islands of Adventure. Well, the dragon challenge is two separate tracks so you can have that as two, so four. I was surprised by the number of simulators: a track with pauses and shakes to match up to our visual experience on the screen.
The first simulator I went on was also my very first ride in Orlando: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man. With the help of some 3-D glasses, we follow Spider-man as he tries to stop Doctor Octopus from shrinking everything in Manhattan. Spoiler alert: he totally saves the day. My mind was truly blown! There was water, fireballs and genuine ‘that almost hit me’ moments. I wanted more. How naïve I was.
Oh past me, you will grow sick of this and it will make you feel sick. The idea of following Harry Potter himself around the Hogwarts grounds may make you pee your pants with excitement but you’ll also need at least half an hour afterwards to try and regain some normality. In Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’s defence, I did do Revenge of the Mummy, Transformers; The Ride – 3-D and The Simpsons Ride all in the same day. Flying Quidditch stands was just the tipping point.
No rollercoaster is smooth. There’s the initial chug-chug-chug to gain height, the loops, the turns, the usual brain mashing but the simulators were too much. Throw you this way, watch this, whiplash to the right, watch this, whiplash to the left, we actually got Ralph Fiennes, more whiplash. You can’t sue us, we gave you enough warning.
Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing and the few rollercoaster there were so super cool. Shout out to Incredible Hulk Coaster, Dragon Challenge and Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit! Oh wait, that’s all of them. But I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed and disappointed. If it hadn’t had been low season, I may not have noticed; but after a couple of hours there, I’d found I’d done everything I wanted to. All that was left was to win a giant cuddly toy.