Monday, June 25, 2012

Compare and Contrast

It's been interesting, having gone to three distinct amusement/theme parks in the span of about 2 weeks, to note the differing approaches these parks take to satisfying their guests.  At the end of May, we went to Michigan's Adventure, an amusement park with classic thrill rides.  In early June, we went to both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, two sets of parks that depend on theming to entertain the customers. 

Michigan's Adventure has moderate thrill rides and almost no theming.  Their marquee ride, Shivering Timbers, is a huge wooden rollercoaster that sort of fits in with the way the park sort of just appears in the middle of the forest.  They have another ride, a whitewater raft experience called Grand Rapids, which of course is the name of a city in Michigan (President Gerald Ford was from there).  Their one and only indoor, sit-down restaurant is called Coaster's.  It's sort of themed like a 50's diner.

Then you go to Disney, and you get story and theming around every corner.  I don't have to talk too much about it on this blog; anyone reading probably knows as much or more about what Disney has to offer than I do.  There are thrills to be found here:  Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Mission: Space, Rock'n'Roller Coaster, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - all are moderate (at least) thrill rides.  But all depend on theming to make them more than just a rollercoaster with inversions, than a drop-ride, than a log flume, than a dark coaster - to make them memorable and repeatable. 

Going over to Universal Studios, we find a few more thrill rides like Hollywood Rip-Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, and even The Simpsons Ride.  Again, their rides depend on theming to make them memorable.  Each delivers a fairly unique experience.  Their theming uses a certain edginess, a certain hip-ness, that you don't find at Disney, and that a place like Michigan's Adventure doesn't even try to use. The jokes are different - often aimed at adults and older teens.  There's a blog post in there, somewhere, comparing the "feel" of the Universal Studios Resort parks and the Disney parks.  But I don't know if I'm ready to write it. 

I for one don't connect to either Michigan's Adventure, or Universal Studios in the same way I do to Disney.  I did feel that connection over at Islands of Adventure, but that was a year and a half ago, and I think much of it was due to the current-ness of the Harry Potter movies and the timeless feel of Dr. Seuss and some of the other properties they used there. 

Our next trip will likely feature more visits to Universal and maybe even none to a Disney park.  If it happens that way, it will be because of Disney's all-or-nothing pricing policy, where it doesn't make sense to buy a two or three day ticket instead of a 6 or 7 day pass.  Orlando and central Florida have more to offer than Disney, but we have discovered very little of it.  So I'll see if those parks seem to foster more of a connection in the future. 


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