Raphael, our special correspondent from Brazil, visited California for the first time this July. As a Florida park-fan, he decided to visit the opposite coast, and visited almost every single park in the state. His enthusiasm and great re-telling of his Californian adventures continue in the third of many iCCK articles. Let him take you to the Disney’s California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Knott’s Berry Farm, in this brand new article!
My next day started at Disney California Adventure’s Buena Vista Street, a tribute to the Los Angeles that Walt Disney found in the early twentieth century. Buildings in art deco and a red funicular, walking through the area, help compose an immersive atmosphere. In this funicular called Red Car Trolley, small presentations are made along with visitors throughout the day.
After taking my World of Color’s fastpass, I went straight to Cars Land. The likelihood with the town of Radiator Springs from the film Cars is highly impressive! Despite the big temptation to explore the city, I went directly to Radiator Springs Racers. The ride is similar to EPCOT’s Test Track, but just on the mechanics. After getting into the eyed-car (just like in the movie), I was to see the greatest animatronics ever made by Disney! All characters from the movie Cars appear, talking a lot (moving their mouth!) and making adjustments in your car for the big race! Yes, your car and the competitor await the checkered flag from Luigi to run through Ornament Valley! Who is a fan of the movie will recognize certain parts of the circuit, making the experience even more exciting. Lightning McQueen congratulates the winning car. As Cars is my favorite movie ever, riding RSR was one more check on my dream list.
All scenarios shown in the film were built. The statue of the founder of the city (Stanley), the souvenir shop of Lizzie, the Luigi’s tire shop, the Ramon’s art shop, the Flo’s V8 Cafe, the Doc Hudson’s medical office, the Sergeants’ shed, the Fillmore’s organic fuels tent and the Cozy Cone Motel. Each building play its function from the movie, except Cozy Motel cone wherein each cone is a small snack bar (popcorn, sandwiches and ice cream). In addition, you can take pictures with Matt or Lightning in front of the reception.
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree seemed to me very funny. In fact, it is very hard to get out of Cars Land. The place is already amazing, but Disney does everything to make you spend more time there: from time to time, the film’s characters walk in the streets of Radiator Springs! I was lucky to take a picture of Matt, always very friendly.
While it is difficult, it is necessary to leave Cars Land, after all there is still a whole “California adventure”! Moreover, the next stop made me scream a lot! The incredible launches from California Screamin ‘ gave me a very smooth and good experience.
Unfortunately, the main problem of the park I realized very early. Many long technical difficulties occurred in the main attractions of Califonia Adventure all day, like Screamin’, Tower of Terror, Goofy’s Sky School, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Grizzly River Run, Toy Story Midway Mania and Soarin’.
After this sad detail, the adventure continued at Paradise Pier. It is very interesting and lovely the tribute in the King Triton’s Carousel for each pier that operated (or still operates) in California. Toy Story Midway Mania is a very fun adventure, but it is almost the same at the one in DHS.
Do you remember the Pacific Park games in Santa Monica Pier? Disney offers all types, with great prizes! On their end, the most unusual Ferris wheel stands: Mickey’s Fun Wheel. There, the gondolas sway from side to side as the wheel rotates, causing a sensation similar to a pirate ship. Amazing!
The view of Paradise Bay is beautiful, and the California Adventure offers three attractions to enjoy it: Golden Zephyr, Silly Symphony Swings and Jumpin ‘Jellyfish. Although they were good flat rides in the past, nowadays they seems outdated. Goofy’s Sky School was ok, not as much fun as the Psycho Mouse, for example. I think that I am a bit too old for rides like Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and did not like it.
The Pacific Wharf area brings together 10 restaurants, ranging from fast food to à la carte, including Mexican, German, Asian, Italian and bakery food. The area has a special glow in the setting sun, and is a good dining option before World of Color. Thanks to this area, California Adventure has the best food line-up in the state.
To relieve the Californian afternoon heat I rode Grizzly River Run, an amazing river rapids combined with waterfalls, sudden drops and unexpected jets. Soaked enough!
On my way to Hollywoodland, I stopped by Soarin ‘Over California, a ride that was one of the few that was successful in opening of California Adventure, making Walt Disney World to build an equal in EPCOT. How I missed the orange smell!
Afterwards, I arrived at Hollywoodland, a tribute to the land of cinema where Walt Disney made his fame. Somewhat resembles the Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and even some similar attractions such as the For the First Time in Forever: The “Frozen” Sing-A-Long Celebration, Disney Junior – Live on Stage !, and the iconic The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are there. In my sincerely opinion, I think all the Hollywoodland attractions should be replaced, saving only Tower of Terror.
Hyperion Theater holds a musical that made tears fall on my face – Disney’s Aladdin, the Musical Spectacular. Mad T Party, a small Alice in Wonderland rock show, has some very good quality! Particularly, listen to “Don’t Stop Believing” in a Disney park was something unique!
The theming of “a Bug’s Land” is simple but ingenious. The giant clovers scattered along the paths, aims to make visitors feel like insects in a large scrub. In addition to the spinning rides, the area is home to the award-winning and acclaimed show, “It’s tough to be a bug!”. During the visit, the original film was not being shown, but a boring preview of the movie Ant-Man was.
To kill time before World of Color, I walked through the park at night, only to feel more of the California Adventure atmosphere. Each area proudly displays his brilliance and theme, providing an environment to behold. The neon of Cars Land, as in the movie, is thrilling. Paradise Pier lights made me transported to the past. An attraction in itself.
Finally, ”World of Color: Celebrate!” invades the Paradise Bay. The show is a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Disneyland Resort and focuses in the man who started it all: Walt Disney. Starting with the creation of Mickey, the World of Color passes through the films that were important milestones for Disney, making a journey to the past. During the presentation, you can see at least one scene of all animations made by Disney until today! Do you remember The Jungle Book, The Rescuers, and Lady and the Tramp?
The show also pays tribute to Frozen, the highest grossing Disney film and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, that marked the beginning of Walt Disney Pictures. The World of Colors gave me a pleasant surprise – a tribute to the attractions of the Resort that marked generations: Enchanted Tiki Room, Splash Mountain, “it’s a small world,” The Haunted Mansion and Star Tours. In addition, the film Cars and the attraction Radiator Spring Racers were remembered in a special way. After all, thanks to Cars Land, the Disneyland Resort hit attendance records, which was not happening a few years ago.
The end of the show was conducted by the sound of the beautiful Cristina Perri’s version of Forever Young by Bob Dylan, when images of the past and present at Disneyland Resort were shown. I could not hold my tears. There was no way but remember that Disney was, is, and will be the dream of many children and adults, and being there, it was one more dream coming true. Of course, it had to remember the spirit of Disney (and all amusement parks): stay forever young! Always happy, always with a smile. The World of Color was for me the best Disney show in the United States. By their magic, story told, and last message.
More splashes are yet to come as well many adventures through space, many scares, many races, many loops, many pirate adventures, and many flights over the world. For all who dream about this place and for you who are reading. Do not give up your dream, fight, no matter how difficult or impossible it seems to be. Never give up on life! After all, as Walt Disney told us:
“All our dreams will come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Passing this emotional moment, I had a minor shock making a first look at the Universal Studios Hollywood map. The park has only seven rides and three shows. However, I could lead my visit in order to enjoy all the attractions, but turned out that was one of the most tiresome visits I have ever made to a park. Arriving at the opening hours revealed a great strategy to go to the Studio Tour, the highlight attraction of Universal Hollywood.
Unlike the Orlando park, Universal in California is still an ample filming studio in operation, extolling the magic of cinema and making the visitor feels it. The Studio Tour goes through the real Universal Studios, where series and movies were and are recorded. It was great to see the studios and sets from The Voice, Hannibal, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Psycho, War of the Worlds, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. A huge thanks to my guide, that told everybody fun facts and showed to us New York, Mexico and Europe sets. It was nice to remember the Disaster ride at Universal Studios Florida in the Earthquake scene.
The city where the Grinch Stole Christmas draws a lot of attention, as well as the lake used in several movies like Jurassic Park III and Cast Away. When any recording happens, the Universal fills the lake and the magic is up to the computer editing the blue wall. Speaking of water, the Studio Tour goes through a test of storm, flood and wind special effects. Exciting! In addition, I gave lucky that during my ride, be occurring recording the Home and Family program, at the Hallmark Channel. At this time, we must all make the most absolute silence.
The main highlights of the Studio Tour are the King Kong: 360 3-D and Fast & Furious: Supercharged attractions, using the same sensational simulation system, a first in the United States. In a sort of tunnel with screens in 360 degrees, the train is moved abruptly by King Kong and Fast and Furious scenarios, still containing effects of water and wind. The projections and holograms are jaw dropping.
To reach the Lower Lot, you must take a series of escalators. Along the way, there is a gazebo with an incredible view of Disney studios, Warner studios and NBC Universal. Four bays of escalators do not support the flow of people in the park, being an experience even more exhausting in a dry weather day.
The Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride is a shorter experience than the ride under the same name at Universal Studios Florida, being considerably softer though. The Transformers: The Ride 3D has sudden and unexpected moves, amusing me a lot. With a very good combination of thematic elements, optical illusion and adrenaline, Transformers wins undoubtedly the rank of best attraction of the park.
Thanks to the success of the film Jurassic World and the punishing heat of California, the longest line of the park was at Jurassic Park: The Ride where you can see many species of dinosaurs. However, the animatronics are clearly outdated. The fall, however, is iconic, and I get more soaked than on all the other California water rides.
Before leaving the Lower Lot, I took a picture with Transformers, Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. The technology used in these ‘robots’ is truly amazing, as they interact in a personalized way of visitors. Across the street, a giant velociraptor tries to be trained by a Jurassic Park zookeeper. Anything but normal.
Going up the stairs, is time to explore Springfield. The Simpsons city that opened this year offers a much more complete experience that its compatriot in Orlando. You can see more buildings of the cartoon, as the nuclear power plant, the prison and the sign of the city. Many characters from The Simpsons, as the Simpson family, Krusty and Sideshow Bob, stay all day taking pictures.
Springfield has the most food options in the park. Donuts are available in Lard Lad Donuts, huge burgers at Krusty Burger, awarded beverages at Moe’s Tavern, fried chicken in Cletus’ Chicken Shack, tacos in Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, hot dogs at Suds McDuff’s, Duff beer in the Beer Garden, pizza at Luigi’s Pizza and ice cream at the Phineas Q. Butterfat’s.
The local attraction is the award winning The Simpsons Ride, where I could visit again the chaotic Krustyland amusement park, led by Krusty the Clown. One of my favorite moments is the “baby powder smell” when we all enter in the mouth of baby Maggie.
On the way back to the park entrance, I passed in Universal Plaza, the central square of the park containing exhibits. On my visit, was on display some cars of Fast and Furious franchise. The destination was Waterworld, which has the best production produced by a Universal Park in the United States, with many pyrotechnic and water effects. The presentation is made with famous Hollywood actors, and it can only be possible to understand one hundred percent if viewers have seen the film.
The worldwide phenomenon of the Minions starts its Universal’s experience right at the entrance of the attraction Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, which reproduces the Gru’s neighborhood. Upon entering his home, the goal of the greatest villain of all time is clear: turning visitors into Minions! The story within the simulator is very funny, but it has mild thrills, not offering much excitement.
I was very curious to experience the Super Silly Fun Land, built especially for Universal Hollywood. Do you remember the scene where Agnes wins the fluffiest unicorn ever? All visitors can now also get it (for a few dollars). The area has a water playground and a spinning ride for children.
I did not ride Shrek 4-D in order to do the night version of the Studio Tour. Despite being the same as the daytime version, the ride becomes much scarier because of the darkness. I believe that this version will not continue for long, unfortunately.
Although the queues of all the attractions are huge, the park’s opening hours (9:00 to 10:00) lets you enjoy all of them, just because there are a small number. The heat of California together with the stairs crowded, long lines, diminish the fun factor of the park. Universal tries to help for a day better organization through a website that shows the queue times.
Universal Studios Hollywood has an environment to envy its brother in Florida. For still being an active film studio, I got the impression that I was breathing the magic of the cinema all the time. Other than that, the care in the theming of each attraction is very immersive. However, the small amount of attractions and its high price make it the worst cost/benefit park from California. Nevertheless, who knows, this may change with the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016.
Some theme parks have very clear specialty proposals: roller coasters, high-tech simulators, animals, dark rides filled with animatronics, and even classic rides. Many achieved a successful record of accomplishment, now being references in the tourism market. Surprisingly, there is a park that brought together all of these proposals in one place, working in perfect harmony forming a unique identity. Of a boysenberry farm, it evolved to one of the best Californian theme park: Knott’s Berry Farm.
Conceived initially as a farm for boysenberries by Walter Knott and Cordelia Knott, the park itself only arose in 1940, after its owners buy small rides for a fair in the city of Buena Park, located in the region of Los Angeles. In addition to rides, Ghost Town was built, a replica of a Wild West town, Calico. By 1950 the addition of mine rides marked the beginning of the theme parks era. In addition, just like its neighbor Disneyland, Knott’s keeps these attractions in operation until today, which is amazing.
My day began at Silver Bullet, the longest of its kind on the West Coast. It features six inversions, and combines a good adrenaline with impeccable smoothness. Great way to start the day.
In the Silver Bullet station, it was possible to store belongings equal to California’s Great America, which was something that I loved in Cedar Fair parks.
The next stop was Sierra Sidewinder, a coaster that seems to be a mild one, but their trains spinning around on its own axis easily disoriented me at high speed. It is much less abrupt (and more exciting) than Undertow at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Arriving at Fiesta Village, Montezooma’s Revenge was waiting for me. Being the evolution of the Katapul model in Hopi Hari, it was long waited for me. It is considerably faster and more intense, in addition to having a greater airtime in the last seats, and I enjoyed it a lot.
The other roller coaster in the area is the Jaguar!, with turns at low speed and small drops. I believe that the attraction could offer a higher level of adrenaline, even though it’s for families.
The Fiesta Village is an area that pays tribute the Latino community who helped build California in the past. During the day, Latin presentations take place on a stage. Environment care is something that we all known from the Disney parks. At Knott’s this kind of thing is taken very seriously too. In this area, lights, music and architecture combine to form an authentic Mexican atmosphere.
I had the feeling of being in a country town because I have to wait a train and a carriage cross the passage of Fiesta Village to the Boardwalk, where Xcelerator is. Themed according to the famous drive-ins of the past, Xcelerator was an incredible experience, becoming one of my favorite coasters ever! Unfortunately, Xcelerator works only with one train, making it an unlikely attraction to repeat. By the way, loved the Xcelerator crew uniforms.
The CoastRider is okay, but by now it is difficult for a Wild Mouse to give me thrills. One of the Farm’s highlights is the array of attractions so that has not a concentration of thrilling rides, children’s and family in a unique area of ??the park. This helps the public to spread through the park, contributing to smaller wait times.
In front of CoastRider is Boomerang, a known model for those who already has been to Playcenter. It is a little more uncomfortable than the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom one, causing the head to shake throughout the ride.
The walk continues until you enter Ghost Town, which has been kept up since the park opening. What delights in this area! Itis the impression that we are really entering a city up and running as if it were an ordinary day in the life of its inhabitants. You can see blacksmiths making horseshoes, ladies on the porch of the house waving their rags, a riding school, and barbecue, so much barbecue!
Many Brazilians loved Playcenter’s unforgettable haunt and today loves Hopi Hari’s or Mirabilandia’s haunt. To my surprise, these events are derived from Walter Knott pioneering to make the first Halloween event in a theme park back in 1973. Thanks to him, many parks (including the Brazilians ones!) were inspired to do the same because the huge amount of audience this type of event appealed. To commemorate and preserve the memory of more than 40 years of Knott’s Scary Farm, a museum that keeps prosthesis exhibits, costumes and a timeline was done. Fantastic!
The first roller coaster I rode after arriving from the Boardwalk is the Pony Express. If the setting does not get well, the experience can become quite uncomfortable in the back. Unfortunately, the Pony is too short, leaving the taste of “I want more”.
Close by the “gold rush” of coasters, the GhostRider awaits. Made of wood, the roller coaster is one everyone either loves or hates. In my case, I hated it. Despite the good airtimes and high speed that GhostRider provides, the whole tour was extremely painful for my back and knees. The train was shaking all the time.
Time to enjoy everything else that Knott’s has to offer! Starting at the Ghost Town, I noted the fun scenarios like the Catawampus! I did not resist the barbecue I mentioned above, and enjoy it for lunch. The food at Knott’s is of very good quality!
The Timber Mountain Log Ride carries nostalgia and lots of water! It was like a Splash Mountain mother, with the whole scenario in a great shape, but unfortunately did not have a theme song. The fall in the end is very cool!
To continue in the mining climate, the Calico Mine Ride (first attraction in the park!) is a railway that leads to the faithful reproduction of the gold mine raised in the town of Calico in eastern California. I loved this classic attraction, and especially watching people scared thinking that Calico Mine Ride would be a rollercoaster in the dark.
Directly opposite the Pony Express is Bigfoot Rapids a river rapids with many moments of complete soaked. Beside him, it is the award-winning show Mystery Lodge, which is unmissable!
Entering the Boardwalk, the next attraction captures all the attention: Voyage to the Iron Reef, a 4D shooting dark ride involving the story of saving the park from the tentacles of the Queen of the Kraken, a huge metallic octopus that eats metal. During the ride, it is nice to see the park’s old attractions, promoting an interesting climate. In fact, what makes this so much fun is that it is easy to score, increasing the competition among visitors.
At the heart of the Boardwalk, lights illuminate to let the area similar to boardwalk parks, honoring them like Disney California Adventure. Unfortunately, from this point, rain started making me to wait a lot to ride Pacific Scrambler and the Surfside Gliders. Unfortunately, Riptide was partially dismantled.
There are two other ways of seeing the beautiful view that Xcelerator provides. One is the radical way, rising 95 (300 ft) meters tall at Supreme Scream! It is very similar to the Turbo Drop at Playcenter. The other way is to ride the Sky Cabin observation tower. Another good option for those who like to spin, spin and spin is the Wipeout, right next to the Sky Cabin.
The spins do not stop at Fiesta Village attractions such as Hat Dance, the Waveswinger and the classic carousel Merry-Go-Round. Other Fiesta attractions to enjoy with the complete family are the pirate ship Dragon Swing and the wild La Revolucción.
The children’s area of ??the park is Camp Snoopy, the first area dedicated to the world’s most famous dog in a US park. In it, every theming involves Snoopy and the gang in a forest camp, with 13 attractions exclusively for children and their parents. Among them, there is a roller coaster, spinning rides, a ferris wheel and a mini tower. Be sure to buy a Snoopy plush!
You do not need to work hard to understand the success of Knott’s Berry Farm among the population of Los Angeles and California. The park is the best cost/benefit for the whole family to have fun in extreme ways, regardless of age. Your environment is very beautiful, making the visitor immersed very well in the proposed theme of each area, mainly in Ghost Town and Fiesta Village. In addition, the park has an enviable portfolio of attractions, not deserving nothing less than five stars.
Thank you for checking out this part of Raphael’s adventures!
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One Reply to “Raphael’s Universal, Ghost Town, and Radiator Springs Adventure.”
as a life long Californian, really enjoyed this outsider perspective on the California theme parks I’ve always taken for granted. Thanks for a great article!