The six best roller coasters in Orlando
By Helen Wright
If any of you have followed me on Twitter for any length of time you will see that I end up spending a lot of my life in Orlando. My family had a villa there for years so I’ve actually visited the sunshine state at least once every year since 2000. That’s a scary 15 times, plus a couple of visits as a kid and this year I have already been three times for various work assignments. With this, I have designated myself ‘unofficial theme park ride expert’ and rated my top six Orlando roller coasters in order of brilliance. All views are my own (often upside down and with my eyes closed…). If you’ve got your safety belts fastened, here we go:
OUR PICK OF THE BEST ROLLER COASTERS IN ORLANDO
6. TEST TRACK (Epcot)
Okay, this is not technically a roller coaster but it does have wheels and kind of ‘coasts’ for a significant amount of time so I have decided it qualifies. I love Test Track. I appreciate it is not the most high-tech and thrilling pick of the bunch but it represents the good old-fashioned, educational fun that Walt Disney had in mind when he came up with the concept for Disney World in 1966. With a height restriction of only 1.02m it means that kids as young as four or five can ride with their big brothers and sisters allowing almost all the family to enjoy the fun. Sat in a manufacturing test car, the crash test dummies are taken through a variety of terrains, heat and impact factors before bursting through the factory doors and whizzing around a racetrack at 65mph. And before the upside-down-white-knuckle apologists start protesting, these speeds make it one of the fastest attractions ever to open in a Disney theme park. I know, as a marginally daredevil 33-year-old, my tummy flips inside out and back again on the last bit, so thumbs up to all those metre-high tykes who do ride!
5. THE INCREDIBLE HULK COASTER (Universal’S Islands of Adventure)
My favourite coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure used to be Dragon Challenge or, for the really old school, ‘Dueling Dragons’. I’m sad to say, this ride is now a distant memory for theme park nerds likes me since it was closed and dismantled in 2017. This is all to make room for an extension to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is going to be pretty cool but it did mean that I needed to choose a new coaster for my list! At the front of the park, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, fresh from a slick new revamp, was just waiting to burst out of the wings and so here you go! Prior to its redesign in 2016, Hulk was a bit of a bone rattler but now it’s a new, smooth, state of the art mega coaster and I LOVE it. From the accretion start to the seven inversions (including a zero-g roll, a cobra roll, two vertical loops, and two corkscrews for the real rollercoaster nerds), plus brilliant views of the park this coaster is totally brilliant. Some might say, a marvel…
4. THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF SPIDERMAN (Universal Islands of Adventure)
Now, I checked this one and it is officially a roller coaster. This ‘simucoaster’ (simulator roller coaster) was the first of its kind to combine a moving vehicle with 3D projection and physical effects. That was back in 1999 and since then, flashier more trendy attractions have been introduced to the park (Transformers: The ride-3D) but this is still a firm favourite for me. I was very pleased that the high definition update in 2012 didn’t mess with it too much because the best thing about this ride lies in the simplicity of its comic book roots. Marvel fans will love the high drama journey through New York helping Spidey chase the bad guys and there are plenty of twists, turns and surprises. Again, most kids can ride (another 1.2m height minimum) making it a must-stop for all the family.
3. MAKO (SeaWorld)
Often people are surprised about this, but SeaWorld is home to the tallest, longest AND fastest rollercoaster in Orlando, Mako. This ‘hyper coaster’ opened at the park in 2016 and I was lucky enough to be there for opening day. Read my review here. The idea behind this coaster is to make the rider feel as though they are gliding through the water like a Mako shark and it does feel like this! The super smooth coaster is also designed to lift you out of your seat so at some points along the 1450m track you are literally flying! SeaWorld is also home to Manta and Kraken (which used to be my favourite but I am not keen on the new virtual reality aspect, although it is an interesting experience). And this year, the new Infinity Falls water ride opens so as well as the wildlife exhibits it is also a brilliant park for thrill ride fans.
2. HARRY POTTER AND THE ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS (Universal Studios)
This ride forms part of the excellent new Diagon Alley area of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The mega popular Harry Potter world saw an expansion from Universal Islands of Adventure’s Hogwarts area over to the original Universal park, accessed by the Hogwarts Express train (also a great addition). I’m not sure I was quite ready for the twisting, turning, twizzling 4D adventure and was so overwhelmed by the experience I had to ride again almost instantly to take it all in (thanks single rider line…). This coaster is the ultimate in sophistication that theme park fanatics have now come to expect from the major parks. Dips, dives, backward tracks, 3D animation and plenty of scream-tastic moments have propelled this new kid on the block to 2nd place on the list.
1. ROCK’N’ROLLA COASTER WITH AEROSMITH (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
This speeding limousine-coaster blares Aerosmith tunes at you while accelerating from 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds…eeek! According to word on the Internet, each car plays different songs but I swear I only remember ‘Love in an elevator’ (re-recorded brilliantly as ‘Love on a rollercoaster’). But it’s hard to think clearly when you are zooming around in the pitch black, music drowning out your screams and secretly wondering if you left any of your small intestine back before the traffic lights turned green. This coaster has everything you could possibly want from a white-knuckle ride – speed, excitement and the urgency to ride again and again. Who knows what they will come up with next but it will be very hard to top this thrilling one minute 22 seconds. Happy riding!
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