Pick two from Disneyland, Disneyland California, Magic Mountain and Universal Hollywood

Edited: June 30, 2015, 5:04 AM


We went to Orlando a few years ago and had a very theme park centric break. We're going to the West Coast later this year and are going to be spending a few days in LA, so we'd like to hit up a couple of theme parks there too.

Our favourite park in Orlando was probably Universal Islands of Adventure (Spiderman, Harry Potter, Hulk, amazing water rides etc) so for that reason we're quite keen to go to Universal Hollywood even though the rides are quite different - my girlfriend also wants to brave the Halloween Horror Nights again after a hasty exit a few years ago :)

Six Flags looks to have the best assortment of roller-coasters by far, and despite loving roller-coasters (Hulk, Kraken and SheiKra were all huge highlights in Orlando!) I'm struggling to get excited about a visit to Magic Mountain for some reason.

As for the Disney parks... it was a real mixed bag in Orlando (we both thought Epcot was terrible) but some of the attractions between the two parks look great, in particular Indiana Jones Adventure, Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania and of course the shows like Fantasmic are a big draw.

Any suggestions please? We'd be staying quite centrally in LA and won't be hiring a car if that makes a difference... I know the Disney parks in particular can be a bit of a pain to get to by bus.


Replies (14)

June 30, 2015, 6:40 AM

I have only been to Disneyland, so hopefully I can give you the top 5 things to do in each park (not in any order)

1.Fantasyland - Besides some of the awesome rides, get a feel for the whole European-style village - it just has a more magical feeling

2.Indiana Jones Adventure - The only domestic version of this ride (other one is in Tokyo) and it's amazing, but get a fastpass ASAP!

3.New Orleans Square - While home to two classics (Haunted Mansion & Pirates), NOS is easily the best themed land in the park. Just walk around and appreciate it.

4.Space Mountain - With a smoother track and awesome music, it kills Florida's version

5.Alice in Wonderland - After the 2014 refurb, this dark ride is INCREDIBLE! Just don't youtube the new version if you haven't already

June 30, 2015, 7:20 AM

Why are you staying centrally in LA? You're visiting LA for the theme parks so you should stay near a theme park. You absolutely need to rent car. The public transportation in LA is for commuters and the poor. Service is bad on after-business hours. You might get lost or lose your connection.

I recommend you stay in a local hotel near Disneyland Resort for a few days that's within walking distance to the park or free hotel shuttle. You'll need at least 3 days to enjoy with the big crowds for the 60th Anniversary. Use your rental car to visit Knott's Berry Farm (20 minutes away) or travel south to SeaWorld (2 hour drive).

Then move to a hotel near Universal Studios Hollywood and not too far from Magic Mountain for another 3 days.

Edited: June 30, 2015, 10:09 AM

Thank you! Fantasy Land looks like it'd be good to explore, and Indiana Jones Adventure also looks great :D

And thanks Anon. To be honest I think the costs and hassle of public transport would still probably outweigh the costs and hassle of hiring a car for us. Reading around and it seems like you can get to Universal very easily using public transport, and you can even get to Magic Mountain in around an hour using the metro and a bus.

Worst case scenario, something like this is still probably cheaper than hiring a car and paying parking etc https://www.starlinetours.com/los-angeles-tour-24M.asp

(edit) maybe living in the UK is warping my perception of public transport in and around cities. I'll look into the possibility of car hire, thank you.

Edited: June 30, 2015, 11:38 AM

You use car hiring rather curiously. We don't car hire here. We use public transport sparingly here. Usually, we don't because it wastes time. You're on vacation so why use what the commuters do if you're going to the amusement parks outside of rush hour traffic. They are not efficient in non-business hours and you'll find it hard to get back in the evenings. You are spoiled in the UK if you think it is easy in LA.

Best option is live close to the tourist parks. Use taxi or Uber to get you there. If it takes longer than 30 minutes commute, you're staying at the wrong place.

When I stayed at Orlando for vacation, the Disney bubble works to my advantage. Los Angeles is an urban nightmare. You've been warned.

June 30, 2015, 12:17 PM

Relying on public transit in the Los Angeles area will cause some issues. Even if the system looks good, it is very inefficient and I would absolutely avoid anything requiring a bus. USH is easy to get to by public transit, but the other parks are challenging. SFMM shouldn't even be considered by public transit, and if you want to do Disneyland you really need to take the train to Anaheim, get a taxi over to the resort, and stay there for a couple nights.

For the parks, I would rank them as follows in priority:

1. Disneyland Resort. I have not visited Walt Disney World, but I have family members that have and all of them prefer Disneyland. While there are some duplicate attractions here, the two parks have a lot of unique things to do and a first-time visitor could easily do three days here even with prior Disney experience. That said, you can do both parks in a day if necessary, but if you only devote one day to the Disneyland Resort you may want to just pick one park (I'd recommend Disneyland) rather than try to cram it all in.

2. Six Flags Magic Mountain. If you like roller coasters, this is a great park. Out of the 70+ various parks I've visited, this place has the best roller coaster collection by far. However, there is very little to do here other than roller coasters and, while it exists, theming is not a huge focus here. I haven't visited the park, but I imagine Thorpe Park would be a UK equivalent.

3. Universal Studios Hollywood. It's not a bad park, but it is really small and if you've visited Universal Orlando (particularly USF) you've been on everything here. If riding the famous Studio Tour is worth $95 to you then this park might be worth visiting, but otherwise I'd stick with the others.

June 30, 2015, 4:57 PM

Be aware that I have had passes to all of these parks

Universal Studios- If you've been to Universal Florida, this place doesn't have much to offer. All of their rides (Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurrasic Park, Simpsons, and Transformers) are at UF. Also, Revenge of the Mummy is better at UF than UHS by a long shot. The only thing UHS has over UF is the studio tour, which is pretty fun but nothing to go psycho about (pun intended).

Six Flags Magic Mountain- This is a great park. If you love thrill rides, this place is epic. However, if you don't, this place has nothing to offer you.

Disneyland- If you come to So Cal, you have to go here. This park has a great collection of rides and is better than Magic Kingdom.

California Adventure- This park is decent. As long as your going to Disneyland, you should come here to. However, the rides here are only decent. Tower of Terror can be found at Hollywood Studios (and is better at Hollywood Studios), Toy Story Mania can be found at Hollywood Studios, Grizzley River Run is a fun rapids ride but nothing to go crazy about, Soarin will be closed till August and is at Epcot, Radiator Springs Racers is basically Test Track themed to Cars, and California Screamin is a decent steel coaster with 1 inversion.

Edited: July 1, 2015, 6:15 PM

Well, actually, Soarin' is open and has been for awhile. And since Disney California Adventure and Disneyland are right across from each other, it doesn't make sense not to go to both if you only want two. But I don't think that doing both in one day - especially for first timers - is feasible, especially with the crowded conditions. They are having that 60th celebration, after all.

Don't know why you left out Knotts, but it's a park I'd consider. Really close to DLR - at least compared to USH and SFMM.

July 2, 2015, 3:21 PM

Thank you all so much for the replies! We're heading to Thorpe Park in a couple of days so that should give us an idea of of what to expect from Magic Mountain :)

It's funny that when I posted this thread I was leaning towards just going to Universal Studios and not hiring a car, but now I'm considering going to Magic Mountain and the two Disney parks in a day as suggested by Mark :D After watching Blackfish Seaworld is out unfortunately, and Knotts is also out for similar reasons.

I'm still a bit tempted by Universal because I haven't been on the Transformers ride and have heard it's possibly the best one there, and of course the Halloween Horror Nights... but you're right Juan that it'd basically be more of what we've already done, for the most part.

I'm worried that Disney would also fall into that category, but there's enough between the two parks to draw us there, even the things we've already done (Fantasmic, Midway Mania) - one question though, you say they're right across from each other... as far as I know they run the main shows each evening twice (say once at 7pm, and once at 9pm) - would it be possible to see both showings at different parks? I mean, are the parks really close together?

July 2, 2015, 8:47 PM

Transformers is very good, but from what I've heard both Forbidden Journey and Spider-Man are better. Also, while the event is lower quality, if you're coming between late September and Halloween you'll be able to do Fright Fest at SFMM. The event is included with your ticket price (mazes cost extra, but it's only $10-15 for an unlimited maze pass) and isn't quite as scary as Halloween Horror Nights.

For Disney, roughly 2/3 of the attractions resort-wide are either not present in Florida or are significantly different from their Florida counterparts so you'll have plenty of stuff to do. In the off-season, the nighttime spectaculars are usually shown once on weeknights and twice on weekends (fireworks and Fantasmic may not play every night). It is not difficult to see multiple nighttime spectaculars in the same park in one night, but seeing shows in both parks (such as seeing both World of Color and Fantasmic) can be tricky due to the schedules. To maximize your chances, stand near the back of the crowd at the first show and start walking about a minute before it actually ends. If there are two showings, it will be easier to find viewing space at the later Fantasmic...you can't pick your time for World of Color. The two parks are very close together (it's less than 100 meters from one gate to the other), but the big nighttime spectaculars are way in the back so you really have to move to avoid missing the start of the second show. It will take 15-20 minutes (plus time going through the gate) to get from one viewing area to the other.

July 2, 2015, 9:06 PM

Nick, you wrote, "After watching Blackfish Seaworld is out unfortunately, and Knotts is also out for similar reasons."

I can understand why you wouldn't want to visit Seaworld if you've watched Blackfish, but how does that relate to Knott's Berry Farm? If you're thinking about the horses that pull the stagecoach ride at Knott's, I've ridden the Stagecoach multiple times and talked with the drivers.

They've told me that the horses are mostly rescued from racehorses that are no longer wanted, and they use, I believe, 3-6 teams of horses and coaches per day, depending on how busy the park is. I think they said one team will work for 90 minutes or two hours before they get are replaced in the rotation and take time off from pulling the coaches. You will also see the horses getting watered and fed while the stagecoach is being unloaded and loaded.

If you don't want to go to Knott's Berry Farm, that's up to you. I personally think it's a great blend of excellent themed rides (the recently refurbished Log Ride and Calico Mine Train ride get top ratings from readers here, as well as the new Voyage to the Iron Reef) and some top rated roller coasters like Xcelerator, Silver Bullet, and Ghost Rider (plus some unique roller coasters like Pony Express). But I don't think Blackfish has anything remotely to do with Knott's Berry Farm. It's not an animal park by any stretch of the imagination.

July 9, 2015, 10:09 AM

Thanks again both for the replies :)

Unfortunately Thorpe Park wasn't great (lots of queueing, sweltering heat, very uncomfortable coasters) which has killed my girlfriends desire to go on any coasters, and mine too for the most part I think... so unfortunately Six Flags is probably out now, even though they do the Fright Fest.

Thanks for the info on the Disney parks - we'd be going on a Friday or a Saturday, so if there's even a small chance we could see both World of Color and Fantasmic in a single night I think that could be a good option. Plus like you said, between the parks there should be plenty of new stuff to do in a day :)

Regarding Knotts, this is the thing which put me off "Knotts has a stagecoach with real horses. It has a merry go round powered by a mule (or it did last time I was there, there was talk of ceasing that) and a petting zoo" - I know some people will love that sort of thing, but it's really not for us, which is a shame as Voyage to the Iron Reef and the water rides look amazing :D Xcelerator looks just like Stealth which was one of the few rides we actually enjoyed at Thorpe.

July 9, 2015, 10:54 AM

You're put off because of those animal type attractions that most guests don't bother with. Kids love animals so you're not in that demographic anyways. Voyage of the Iron Reef is well worth the visit. That you're allowing what you abhor to affect your visit doesn't make sense to me. Knott's will still be around.

Edited: July 9, 2015, 11:39 AM

That's unfortunate that you had a bad visit to Thorpe Park. I haven't been there, so perhaps it is worse than SFMM (I can say crowds and heat won't be a problem in the off-season, though some (but not all) coasters can be uncomfortable). However, if either of you aren't willing to spend a whole day riding coasters it really isn't worth a visit.

For Disney, if this is your first time visiting and you must visit on a weekend I strongly suggest that you either spend two days here or focus on just one park. Regardless of the time of year, Fridays and Saturdays are packed. In addition, if you go on a Friday Disneyland may have reduced hours due to Mickey's Halloween Party. Unfortunately, Disneyland has gotten bad about posting hours on the website and now doesn't post much beyond a month out, so you'll probably have to wait until September to know if your dates will be affected and what shows will be playing when you visit.

For Knott's Berry Farm, they still have the stagecoach but all the other animal attractions were removed in the 2000s (Disneyland actually has more animal attractions than Knott's). From doing behind-the-scenes stuff at the park, I can tell you that the horses used for the stagecoach are taken care of extremely well. If visiting a park that uses horses is a deal-breaker (which would be odd as Disneyland does too) then don't visit Knott's. Otherwise, if you're not interested in SFMM and want to visit a non-Disney park, Knott's would be your best option. Calico Mine Ride, Timber Mountain Log Ride, and Voyage to the Iron Reef are almost the quality of a Disney E-ticket, and if you enjoyed Stealth you'll love Xcelerator (which is similar but longer). I'll leave the decision up to you, but I'd find it surprising if you'd consider the stagecoach unacceptable but not have the same issue with the horse-drawn streetcar.

July 10, 2015, 2:43 PM

Thanks, it's good to know that there hopefully won't be many crowds or uncomfortable heat in October :) I love most coasters, and as long as they're smooth and feel safe I'll quite happily go on anything, but we finished the day at Thorpe by going on a ride called 'Swarm' which was basically like a more boring but just as awful version of Manta at Sea World, and then we went on 'Colossus' which gave us (and everyone else it seemed) awful headaches!

Good shout on the Disney Parks - we could possibly do a Sunday but I think that'd be potentially just as busy, and the Halloween Party could ruin any chance we'd have of seeing the two shows in one night, plus like you said it'd probably make it even busier.

Thanks for the heads up on the animal attractions too - I know it's a bit of a difficult subject since it's almost impossible to know exactly what is going on in the animal's minds, and I'm sure that the people behind the scenes really do love and care for those animals. Watching things like Blackfish and Earthlings have made me feel uncomfortable with animals being used for any sort of entertainment reasons... but I'll do some more research into these parks specifically and give it some thought.

Thanks once again for your replies and info, really appreciate it :D

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