Florida Trip...Which Parks to Skip?

Edited: July 28, 2020, 4:17 PM

Okay, here's the deal...

Back before all this happened, a friend of mine announced that they were doing a wedding at Walt Disney World in October followed by a week-long party at the parks. While I didn't have any plans to go back to Florida this year, I'm not going to turn down a visit when directly invited. Fast forward to a week ago, when they confirmed the event is still on and released the schedule. Essentially, they'll be at a specific park each day, and it is up to everyone going which day(s) they would like to attend.

Looking at dates, it appears that I will have six park days in Florida. So, here is the dilemma:

-One day is reserved for Disney's Hollywood Studios, as that park has added a substantial number of new attractions since my previous visit in 2017.
-One day is reserved for Islands of Adventure, as it is my favorite park in Florida and I haven't yet experienced Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
-One day is reserved for Busch Gardens Tampa, as I have a SeaWorld Platinum Pass and am unwilling to pass up Iron Gwazi (assuming it opens) and several other great coasters.
-One day is reserved for SeaWorld Orlando because of the SeaWorld Platinum Pass getting me free admission, plus I had a subpar day here on my previous Florida trip and want to give the park an opportunity for redemption.

That leaves two remaining days but four remaining parks...

-Magic Kingdom is my favorite park at Walt Disney World, but they really haven't added anything in the past few years. However, I did miss Splash Mountain on my previous visit due to maintenance and I may never get to ride Florida's version if I don't hit it this trip.
-Epcot is hosting Food and Wine during the time of this trip and is the best park for simply hanging out with friends. However, $100 for a full day at that park is pretty steep with their limited attraction collection.
-Disney's Animal Kingdom contains some of the best attractions on resort property, but has probably changed the least of any of the parks since my previous visit.
-Universal Studios Florida has the new Bourne Stuntacular which is reportedly excellent, but their only other new attraction since my previous visit is Fast & Furious and a day here costs more than a day at Walt Disney World.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to persuade me which parks I should skip this trip. Keep in mind that I visited all of them on my prior trip to Florida three years ago, and that at this time I do not know when my next trip will be. Note that I may be able to get an extra half-day by flying out late on the last day, but in any case at least one park will not make the cut this time.

Looking forward to any input from more regular Orlando visitors, and I'll definitely consider all of it before making a decision next month on what I'm doing.

Replies (10)

July 28, 2020, 5:53 PM

Skip Magic Kingdom - it's just Disneyland with a few attractions added and subtracted.

Universal Florida and Animal Kingdom are two of my favorite parks, but I've only been to Epcot once and think it's also very unique. I'd try to do Universal and Animal Kingdom, and if you can do the half day do a full day for Epcot and a half day at Animal Kingdom. I've been to AK twice, neither times for a full day, and had a blast. Once, I could only go for three hours (this was Pre-Pandora, mind you) and still had a great time enjoying the atmosphere, hitting up the bigger rides, and reriding Expedition Everest a bajillion times.

Please leave a trip report for all of us stayer-insiders to ogle over :)

Edited: July 29, 2020, 2:18 AM

I would say do Magic Kingdom because it's still great and as you said, be fun to ride Splash Mountain one last time.

The last one is tricky as much as I love Epcot, a bit rough now with so much renovation. AK is also good for Everest/Pandora but not sure of a full day. If you can fit AK in morning for those rides then head to Magic Kingdom for the rest, that can be good.

I would say Universal can be a while, an all-day visit for sure and so worth checking out just for the other half of the Potter stuff and other great thrill rides. I guess it comes down to what you really prefer and logistics where to go.

Although I might say second-guess heading to Sea World as reports are it's not as strident on masks/rules etc right now plus still not that much worth spending a full day on. Really, I wouldn't pick it over the other parks and if your last visit wasn't that good, doubtful it'd be better now.

July 29, 2020, 4:28 AM

Trying to socially distance in Magic Kingdom sounds like a nightmare to me, so I'd skip that. Plus - next time you go they'll have Tron.

That said, how strongly do you feel about Splash Mountain? If you count it as one of your favourites, then maybe you do owe it to yourself to get at least one ride in. WDW's version is noticeably different, if you're familiar enough with the original.

I agree Epcot's probably the best for a social experience, even if they are halfway through a bunch of construction projects. And if you're there for a wedding, isn't that kind of the point?

Edited: July 29, 2020, 5:33 AM

First of all, I love the 4 parks you say you’re already going to. I’d be doing the same exact thing (if I could co-mingle Disney in with other Parks, on the same trip, which I usually don't do).

For me, I’d 100% be taking Magic Kingdom out, if I didn’t have kids with me. Think about what you can do there that you can’t get at Disneyland, and of that what would be the highlight of the day ? As an adult, you’d get so much more out of a day at USF. Is the WDW version of Splash Mountain really that much to be missed, especially if you can get another chance or two to ride the Disneyland version (which I’ve always preferred) ?

The Second choice is not an easy. Epcot I think is one of those parks that you either love it, or it’s just OK. Sounds to me like it’s the latter for you. If you loved it, it’d be a must, because that’s something you will only get in Florida. Animal Kingdom on the other hand, you’ve got some quality attractions. If you’re worried about having experienced those great attractions 3 years ago, then what is Magic Kingdom going to offer you that you haven’t done in longer than that ? I hope more than a slightly different version of Splash Mountain, Stitch’s Great Escape and an unquestionably inferior version of Pirates. If you’re one of those who prefer the WDW version of the Haunted Mansion (I’m not BTW), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see that again, as it ain’t going anywhere. What is the draw to Magic Kingdom, that is worth passing up Pandora, Expedition Everest, and all the awesome attractions at USF ?

One last Wild Card...did you consider a free day at Aquatica with your SW Platinum pass ? That’s my favorite water park without question (I should mention I have not been to Volcano Bay yet), and we usually not only do a full day there, but a second half day on the fly home day as well. For me, that one is always a must. The fast moving lazy river itself is worth the price of admission, and oh yeah your price would be free.

July 29, 2020, 9:39 AM

I'd skip Magic Kingdom and Epcot and definitely do AK. As far as USF goes, I love it, but I'm not sure it's a full-day park for the money. I have an annual pass and jump between it and IOA multiple times a day when I'm there. I can't see paying the money to JUST do USF.

I'll second Chopper31's wild card with the recommendation that you consider Volcano Bay. I visited last September and LOVED it. The water slides are great, the water coaster is awesome and they've got the best lazy river I've ever been in.

Either way, have fun!!!

July 29, 2020, 10:46 AM

I wouldn't advise anybody to come to Florida, especially with the potential of this crap getting far worse come the Fall.

And the parks see it being that way too, with the cancellation of the Halloween events.

Good luck AJ, that's all I can say

Edited: July 29, 2020, 12:56 PM

I wouldn't get your hopes up for Iron Gwazi AJ. It doesn't sound like the RMC record setter is anywhere close to opening, and will almost assuredly be in the same state come October.

Also, from the sounds of it, Splash Mountain is unlikely to come back up anytime soon. It's currently down with the water drained from the flume, and I doubt Disney is going to bring it back online before it gets its Princess and the Frog makeover. If they have it closed (and drained) during the heat of the Florida summer, I highly doubt they'll be in a rush to get it open for the fall.

As far as the additional parks to choose from, I don't quite understand your financial calculations. If you're already planning to visit other UO or WDW parks, adding extra days to those tickets is not a separate transaction. Obviously, you get more bang for your buck as you add more days to any single pass, but UO's multi-day tickets have more value than WDW's when you add extra days. Also, there's the ability to park hop at UO, which is currently forbidden at WDW (and I doubt it's going to change before the end of the year).

With that said, I think it would make the most sense to add 2 extra days at UO. If you pay a little extra for park to park privileges, you can ensure that you don't miss anything in the event of a long line or extended downtime for Hagrids. Also, as others have mentioned, you can visit Volcano Bay, which is a pretty fun park.

If you weren't crazy about Volcano Bay, and couldn't stand to visit a park for more than one day, I'd probably add DAK over MK or EPCOT (or an extra day at DHS - again, in case you can't get to everything in a single day).

July 30, 2020, 10:43 AM

If I'm not mistaken, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure should be up and running by October, which (unless you've experienced the attraction at Walt Disney Studios in Paris) makes for a compelling argument for Epcot. I experienced this year's abbreviated Food & Wine festival 2 weeks ago, and I thought it was fantastic. Given that this is a wedding, I don't think there is a single park on Earth more suitable for social celebrations than Epcot.

I hate to go against the grain here, but I don't quite understand the Magic Kingdom slander in some of these comments. MK is a MUCH different park than Disneyland, and in case you couldn't infer from my username (LOL), I do think a trip to MK is well worth it for one last ride on MK's Splash Mountain alone (which is, hands-down, the best of the American iterations of the attraction). Of all 4 parks I visited on my recent socially-distanced Disney trip, MK had the greatest sense of normalcy, which was astonishingly significant and something I really appreciated. It was a perfect bookend to the trip. If momentarily escaping the harsh realities of the coronavirus is something you seek, look no further than the Magic Kingdom.

P.S. Rise of the Resistance is great, but get excited for M&M's Runaway Railway. Heavily underrated in the shadow of RotR, this ride is now firmly cemented in my top-10 favorite Disney attractions in the world.

Hope you have a fantastic time at the wedding and in the parks. Excited to read about your experience!

July 30, 2020, 12:25 PM

Just checked your Top 10 Disney World Rides For When You Return comment and the ride counts are in (including your 11th honorable mention):
Animal Kingdom (3)
Magic Kingdom (3)
Hollywood Studios (4)
Epcot (1)

Just wanted to remind you in case this changed any opinions. Also remember to take into account which atmosphere you like most since ride lines will be short (for me, AK, probably seconded by Epcot).

Edited: July 30, 2020, 2:16 PM

Thanks for the input everyone! I'm glad to see such a wide variety of opinions. I'm still welcoming any input as I likely won't be deciding for sure for a week or two, but between here and other friends I've asked, these are the current standings...

Magic Kingdom: 4 Yes, 7 No
Epcot: 3 Yes, 8 No
Disney's Animal Kingdom: 6 Yes, 5 No
Universal Studios Florida: 6 Yes, 5 No

So, in response to these and some of the comments above, here's what I think...

My original plan for the trip was to get a three day park hopper for Walt Disney World, which would allow me to do MK, DHS, and DAK, then hop to Epcot as desired on any day I cared to. However, the lack of park hopper ability is complicating that. At the time I'm going, a two day ticket is $123 per day ($246 total), while a three day ticket is $119 per day ($357 total), a difference of $111. Since four days of the celebration are at Walt Disney World (the other two are at Universal...BGT/SWO are on my own), I definitely want to spend at least two days there (so no three days at Universal option, despite the current promotion). The real question is do I want to pay that much for a third day at Disney given the current conditions?

First off, Epcot is definitely out. I asked the host directly and he said that was the least worthwhile park due to the shape. Very few shows are performing, half the park is under construction, F&W is minimal this year, and Ratatouille has been postponed until next year. Based on that combined with the high cost to visit (due to extra F&W expenses), it just isn't worth it this time. Therefore, two Disney parks remain for consideration.

I agree with some of you that Magic Kingdom is quite similar to Disneyland, but disagree that that makes it automatically worth dismissing. From my previous visit, about half the attractions had notable differences between the two versions, and there were still several that either don't exist or no longer exist at Disneyland. Additionally, Magic Kingdom is the only park at WDW I feel confident has enough operating attractions to fill a full day. Plus, there is the Splash Mountain issue (which indeed is currently operating as Splash Mountain). If I had ridden the ride previously, or if I was confident it would still be around for a few more years, I'd probably skip Magic Kingdom. However, when the Disneyland version is in my top five attractions at the park and Walt Disney World's is generally considered superior, I think I would be bummed if I passed on it when I had the chance. Lastly, as I mentioned above, Magic Kingdom is my favorite of the four parks at WDW, so even with no new attractions it would feel a little odd to not visit it. Therefore, I think I'm probably going to go against the majority and include a day at Magic Kingdom in this trip.

As for the other park, this is where things get tricky. Between Universal Studios Florida and Disney's Animal Kingdom, I prefer Universal. However, it costs $119 more to add a second day at Universal (one park per day...not doing park-to-park this time) vs. $111 more for a third day at Disney. I do like Diagon Alley more than anything at Walt Disney World, but outside of that I'd take Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safaris over Men in Black, Mummy, and Transformers. The two biggest strikes against Animal Kingdom are that they have added literally nothing since I visited three years ago (they've actually subtracted attractions since then) while Universal has at least added a new show (we're going to pretend F&F doesn't exist), and I'm not confident I'd be able to spend a full day at DAK without running out of things to do while I am pretty sure I could go all day at USF. I'd say I'm probably leaning slightly toward Universal, but that's definitely not a final decision. I may check flights and see if I can get a late departure, which would allow me to fit both of these parks in by moving SeaWorld to departure day and doing just a half day there.

As for a few of the other suggestions...

-SeaWorld has confirmed Iron Gwazi will be a 2021 attraction, so I've given up on that one. I will most likely attempt a return trip to Florida in a couple years specifically for the attractions I'm missing this time. However, I am still planning to hit BGT on this trip as I'm too much of a coaster person to pass it up when I've got a pass that includes it. SWO is similar...I've got a pass that includes it and it's right in Orlando, so I'm definitely stopping by for a visit.
-Two days at any one park is definitely out this trip, as with reduced crowd levels and limited attraction ability I feel it would be a waste. The only park I might consider it would be IOA just because of how unreliable Hagrid's is, but if I do two days at Universal I could always upgrade to park-to-park if I miss it on my first day.
-I visited Aquatica last time I was in Florida, so I don't really have a desire to go back there (especially with such limited time). I have considered Volcano Bay and would absolutely include it if I could devote three days to Universal, but unless I can extend the trip it's just not going to fit this time. Then again, it is only $40 more to add it to a two day ticket...perhaps I'll see if it's possible to stretch the trip.
-As for COVID, I'm not going to say I'm not concerned and that the virus isn't an issue, but I am going to say that I feel a lot of the hype and hysteria over it is somewhat overblown. I recently returned from a road trip through Texas and Missouri (report coming soon), and in my opinion 90% of the places I visited felt safer than 90% of those I've gone to in California. I wouldn't pick this year to visit Florida if it weren't for the wedding, but if I'm going I'm making my plans while there independent of anything COVID related (except something like a bar...not setting foot in one of those).

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