Now that both of Orlando's new roller coasters are open for business, it's time to update our Top 50 Orlando theme park attractions list.
It hasn't been a year since the list's debut, but 2009 has seen more than a handful of worthy attractions join the fray. Now is a good time to refresh because every announced park project has been completed — with the dramatic exception of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure.
There's method to this madness, though I wouldn't call it scientific. I start with listing every attraction within our seven major theme parks. As I skim through, I mark the ones I'm sure are going to be top 50 material. Then I go back and pick up secondary choices to fill out the list.
Here's how the newbies finished. You can read the entire list at orlandosentinel.com/themeparks. You'll probably disagree, but with summer winding down, now's your chance to test for yourself.
Paging Guilty Pleasure, Mr. Guilty Pleasure. The Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party at Magic Kingdom knows how to push my buttons: character choreography, stilt walkers, streamers and pop music — including "Shake Your Booty." That's! Unexpectedly! Un-Disney! It promenades up Main Street, parks in the shadow of Cinderella Castle and proceeds to party. Hard to argue with its popularity: Guests literally dance in the street. Ranking: 47.
The world's a stage
Count me among the initial doubters of American Idol Experience. I mean, who's going to Disney's Hollywood Studios for a karoake contest? But they've pulled off a transformative experience, starting with the impressive as-seen-on-TV stage. Disney keeps the pace going, so you don't blow a day in there if you don't want, and there have been a few Idols drop by for surprise appearances. Ranking: 34.
Why is there not more buzz about the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure? Are folks too macho at Epcot to admit they like the animated character's attraction? It gives you the power to push a button and change the landscape of the park. And it proves that I would be a rotten contestant on The Amazing Race
. Ranking: 31.
If you've managed to get on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, you've found it to be an entertaining if not harrowing roller coaster. Sure, the straight-up climb and following descent are dramatic, but after that comes a series of downright fun hills and airtime on a thin wedge at Universal Studios. Somehow it feels longer than its 95-second round trip, and the customizable soundtrack makes folks really re-ride ready. Plus, it's fun to say HRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Ranking: 10.
Fetal and in flight
Our highest-ranking rookie is Manta roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Flying head first, parallel to the ground and sort of curled up isn't natural, but it can be exhilarating. The experience from the back row is about as intense as it gets in Orlando — not for the easily queasy. The uniqueness of position and creative queue give Manta a slight edge over its sistacoaster, Kraken. Ranking: 3.
•It's not new in town, but has new life. I added the refurbished Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom to the Top 50. It's spruced up nicely, reorganized in a good way and has found a way to be distinguished from similarly patriotic American Adventure at Epcot.
•Last time, I accidentally left off Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean. That's the fact, Jack Sparrow. Everyone took it well — I was neither drawn nor quartered. In fact, I might not have known without some jolly folks from Jungle Cruise telling me. Those two Adventureland attractions are reunited on the list.
For its 19th editions, Universal's Halloween Horror Nights will be completely devoted to scary movies. Read the rundown of haunted houses and scare zones before the Sept. 25 debut at OrlandoSentinel.com/tpr
• FLYING HIGH:
Speculate about what Disney's acquisition of Marvel Entertainment will mean to us. Comment at OrlandoSentinel.com/tpr
• WE'RE ADVENTURERS?:
The upcoming expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland includes mining town, mischievous monkey. Details at OrlandoSentinel.com/tpr
Dewayne Bevil can be reached at 407-420-5477 or email@example.com
Take a dive into the new top 5 It's not lonely at the top of our Top 50 Attractions list. You're likely to find a line at each of our top five — and for good reason. They each bring a top-level thrill or experience to guests. Here's a snapshot of each.
5. Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom. It's neither fast nor too freaky, but it's old-school Disney creativity at its finest, stocked with ghostly characters and a pinch of horror.
4. Kraken, SeaWorld Orlando. Mythical beast of a coaster is a wild ride, just long enough for you to be glad it's over.
3. Manta, SeaWorld Orlando. We thought the flying sensation would be the best part, but it's surviving the G's in the loop from the back row that makes you grit and reflect "We're in SeaWorld, right?"
2. Tower of Terror, Disney's Hollywood Studios. Theming is top-notch, and the thrills begin from blocks away.
1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Islands of Adventure, Islands of Adventure. Ten years after its debut, the thrill isn't gone.