I had a wonderful trip to the West Coast. We flew from Flint, Michigan, to Las Vegas. We spent two weeks exploring Las Vegas, Southern California, and the Grand Canyon. Our trip included several rides and roller coasters. I'm not going to do a run down of the whole trip, but I'll comment on some things that may interest you.
Adventure Dome: We stayed two nights at Circus Circus which gave us some Adventure Dome coupons. We didn't have the time to make good use of a day pass, but with buy one get one free coaster coupons, I was able to get two rides on Canyon Blaster with my daughter and one ride on El Loco by myself. (my daughter wasn't willing to try El Loco so I paid for one single ride). Actually, I would have loved to do the all day pass for five dollars off (we had a coupon for that too) but it just didn't work out.
First ride was Canyon Blaster. My daughter wasn't going to ride because she didn't want to go upside. She decided to join me at the last minute and she loved it! (If I had foreseen how much, I probably would have done the day pass, but oh well). Anyway, it is a decently long, smooth Arrow looper with two loops and two corkscrews. It is a really fun ride in how in interacts with the rest of the dome. Both rides were a blast. I would have to say that it is probably the best Arrow looper that I've been on.
After that, I had no coupons left but decided that I had to splurge the ten dollars and try El Loco. Wow, what an awesome roller coaster. I have watched this on line as well as Steel Hawg and have to say that it is everything that I expected and more! Lots of great and unique maneuvers. It is also extremely smooth. I expect to see these things pop up in a lot more parks. I might get blasted for this, but I actually think that it would be a perfect fit for Michigan's Adventure. One more thing is that I'm a pretty big guy. Watching the ride, I thought that there was a good chance that I wouldn't be able to try it. The restraints are comfortable, secure feeling, and seem to be extremely accommodating. I was surprised when the employees didn't look at me with a (will he fit or not) concern. Once I sat down, I saw why. If a ride can hang you upside down like this one with only a lap bar then Intamin can certainly come up with something better for several of their rides.
This sight isn't about shows, but we did see two great ones during our time in Vegas. Le Reve at the Wynn Casino is an amazing production. All of the seats are close and comfy in the theater in the round. The show is wonderful with gymnastics, swimming, dancing, incredible special effects, and interesting music. I highly recommend it!
Also, the Tournament of Kings Dinner Theater at the Excalibur is a ton of fun. The food was delicious and the performers were wonderful. I also highly recommend that one.
Disneyland: I really love the Disney brand of roller coasters. They make up for the lack of extreme thrills by making every ride an event! They also have amazing capacity and really know how to keep a line moving.
Big Thunder Mountain: Apparently this ride was recently updated and it looked and rode wonderfully! Nice long mine train through the mountain. It has some surprising speed along the way and some unexpected pops of air time. Great ride. I was able to go on it three times with minimal waiting using fast pass. I really love fast pass. My daughter and wife really loved it too. It gave a very similar ride to its Florida cousin which I had been on before.
Space Mountain: This ride was very different than the one in Florida. It has two across seating like a traditional coaster and travels in trains of two cars. It is completely dark inside and you can not see the track at all for the most part. The ride itself is very smooth and seems quite fast. Like on Big Thunder Mountain, there are some unexpected pops of air. There is also a sound track that plays in your car and adds to the overall atmosphere. I got three rides on this one too. Much better than the Florida version in my opinion.
Matterhorn: It was neat to ride such a ground breaking coaster but ouch! The back seats for the cars have very little leg room (the front seat is much better). I ended up having to sit pretzel style while I rode in the back seat. I wouldn't say that the ride is bumpy, but the transitions are very jerky. My first ride, in the back seat, I was happy that it was over. My daughter and wife enjoyed it much more than me (shorter legs) and we lined up a second time since the line was so quick. I rode in the front seat and it was much improved. My third ride, was the next day with just my daughter. I wanted to wait for a front seat but my daughter talked me into not worrying about it. We ended up going on the other track (there are two) and I sat criss cross in the middle seat. That side was much rougher and I was really happy to get off on my final ride! Matterhorn is definitely not my idea of fun. Two tips: If you are a bigger person, choose a front seat. Also, the side that boards closer to Tomorrowland seems to be a lot smoother than the side that boards closer to Fantasyland.
Special mention to Star Tours. The updated film is lots of fun. I rode it twice and had completely different rides each time. It is a very fun simulator.
Overall, Disneyland was awesome. I enjoyed it a lot more than Florida's Magic Kingdom. Watch out for Disneyland's Splash Mountain though. The seats don't have much leg room (like Matterhorn) and I was once again, looking forward to the end of that ride. Also, my shoes got soaked and I walked around with soggy feet for the rest of the day.
My daughter did miss out on meeting Anna and Elsa because of two hour plus long lines, but that wasn't really a surprise. Also, the Tangled show in the princess theater area was a very nice surprise. It was presented in Renaissance Style with simple effects but a ton of energy.
California Adventure: is a beautiful park that I thoroughly enjoyed! There were several highlights.
California Screamin' is a really fun roller coaster! Very long, very smooth, and just all around enjoyable! It is also beautiful how it is designed into the overall Paradise Pier Area. Again, it is not the biggest or fastest, but it is just plain fun. My wife, daughter and I all really liked it. The line moved really fast and I ended up riding five times with my daughter without even using fast pass.
Goofy's Sky School wild mouse is probably the most painful roller coaster of that type that I've ever been on. Uncomfortable cars and restraints in my opinion. It seemed that many other people were sharing my pain. One trip was plenty. I usually love Wild Mouse coasters, but not this one.
Cars Land really is beautiful. We got one ride on Radiator City Racers by securing a fast pass early in the day. It is not mind blowing, but it is a very nice ride. I like the addition of roller coaster type bunny hills to the racing section. I always wished that Test Track at Epcot had hills like that.
Soarin' is a fantastic ride if you have not been on it. The feeling of hang gliding is very pleasant, relaxing and beautiful. Probably my favorite simulator ride.
Aladdin is a wonderful Broadway quality show. I would have to say that it is the best theme park show that I've ever seen. The Hyperion Theater is beautiful inside. Definitely check it out if you get to the park.
Grizzly River Rapids (or whatever its called) looked beautiful and extremely fun. I didn't ride it early in the day because I didn't want to get soaked. Unfortunately, we never got back to it. I kind of regret not giving it a whirl, but, oh well, at least I didn't walk around with soggy feet all day.
Finally, Tower of Terror is still an amazing attraction. I know that it doesn't have everything that it's Florida cousin has but it is still great fun! My only complaint is that, even with fast pass, we waited almost a half hour to ride. The line seems to move a lot slower than the line on the one in Florida.
World of Color is a terrific show. It made the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas look kind of wimpy. It would have been nice to be able to sit to watch it, but otherwise, bravo to the creators of the show!
Knott's Berry Farms: I probably should have planned to visit Knott's before Disney because Knott's felt a little underwhelming after our days at Disney. We ended up not doing as much as I would have liked there. The coaster lines seemed to move extremely slow and I did not have the $60 extra a person to shell out for fastlane. It is a very pretty park and I can see why so many people like it. I can also see how the early Cedar Fair years had a very negative effect that is now being rectified. The most recent additions and updates were wonderful! We only got on three coasters, but we had a nice time anyway. We really enjoyed the ghost town area. It was fun getting "held up" on the train. The Snoopy Ice Show was fun and the Indian Dancer was interesting and passionate. I didn't get a trip to the famous Knott's restaurant but the food that we did have was tasty.
Silver Bullet was a very fun invert. I don't know that there is anything special to mention about it. But we enjoyed our ride on it.
Coast Rider is a fun mouse with a unique layout. They were stacking cars like crazy and the trim brakes were catching way too much, but the ride was smooth and fun. I really like the larger hill at the beginning.
Ghost Rider is bumpy but I didn't think that it was so bumpy that it was unpleasant. Actually the ride is pretty darn fun. If the line had moved faster, it probably would have gotten a second ride. My daughter gave it a thumbs up too. My wife chose not to ride it. She is not a fan of wooden coasters.
Calico Mine Ride is a fantastic dark / train ride experience. It is very well done. It also loaded really fast. It was one of the few places where the employees were really hustling. I really like how the train engineer fills the train and then takes us through the ride. I wish that our engineer had narrated instead of the pre recorded spiel. He was really animated as he put us on the ride and I think that he would have done a great job.
Finally, Timber Mountain Log Ride is probably the best log ride that I have ever been on. Fun, fast, and relatively long. You get wet just as much by going around quick corners are you do by going down hills. This one was also loading really fast and it made a very long line go by quite quickly. We rode it twice and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Finally, a couple of other quick recommendations from our trip. The Grand Canyon really is grand and was worth the time that it took to go out of our way to see it. It you are headed south from Grand Canyon to Williams, Arizona, I recommend visiting Bearizona. It is a drive through safari that is wonderfully done plus is has a decent sized walk through zoo. We saw the sign and decided to check it out. It was well worth our time and money.
Candy Cane Inn is a wonderful hotel to stay at when visiting Disneyland. For about $200 a night (tax included) five people were able to share one room. the room included free room service breakfast each morning. The walk is only 10 minutes to the entrance of Disneyland and California Adventure and there is a free shuttle service that runs every half hour between the hotel and the park. It also has a very nice outdoor pool area.
The San Diego Zoo is amazing! It is the best zoo that I've ever been to. We spent 10 hours there and still didn't see everything.
If you made it this far, thanks for hanging in there. This ended up being longer than I planned. Also, I apologize for any typos, I have not proof read this.
Oh, I forgot one other observation and question. Why doesn't Knott's Berry Farms have estimated time signs on their rides? I've never been to a park that doesn't have those before.
Good account of the west coast Disney parks, I agree with your view on their coasters - they are just very well executed (and better than their Florida counterparts in my opinion, especially the new Space).
I'm surprised you didn't mention Indy. Not found in WDW, killer immersive theme and serious fun. Probably my favorite dark ride and one of the highlights of DLR for me.
I was also blown away by World of Color. Makes their fireworks shows seem so amateur by comparison. Glad you had a good trip!
You are right, I completely forgot to mention Indiana Jones. It is an excellent ride. I got to go on it three times by using fast pass twice and taking one solo ride (research for the family :)) in the early part of the day when the line was only 10 minutes long. I know that it is basically the same ride as Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, but I think that the Indiana Jones theme is a lot more fun. Harrison Ford's humor comes through clearly and adds a real fun touch to the whole thing. The only thing that would make it better is if were a little longer to give the story a little more time to develop. Also, the audio was a little too loud for my taste.
Also, I did forget to mention Gadget's Go Coaster which I did get a chance to ride with my daughter. Toon Town had a no crowd when we got back there and we were able to walk right on twice. It is a fun little coaster.
Finally, one last Disney surprise was the Roz character at the end of the Monsters Incorporated dark ride. It was neat how she said something specific to each car. My daughter got a kick out of the fact that she hit on me and asked me on a date. I didn't go back to accept. :)
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