I am going to link back to an earlier blog post on Theme Park Tips.
So let's start with the fact that my love and Jason's love for theme parks started young! My parents would take us to Six Flags, Adventureland (Iowa), Silver Dollar City and we would ride rides like pros. My dad didn't do rides so he held all our stuff and since we had 3 kiddos and my mom it was the "perfect 4" to ride rides.
That love continued throughout my growing up and altogether I have been to over 20 different theme parks :). I am not sure how may my hubby has visited, but he too loved theme parks- of course there aren't quite as many in England.
So with that being said here in Florida we have been to Sea World, Busch Gardens, Aquatica, and Adventure Island (which are all a part of the same company- with Aquatica and Adventure Island being water parks).
Then there is LEGOLAND which I don't feel like I am an expert in because we have only been there once.
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are then paired together as well. They also have an area much like Downtown Disney where there is lots of fun shopping, eating, and entertainment too! It is at the entry area to their parks.
Then you have Disney which has 4 main parks with lots of water parks (we haven't been to any of their water parks), and of course Down town Disney.
Busch Gardens at least here in Florida is definitely a contender easily for the best all round roller coasters! They have variety of intensity, with plenty of them being intense enough for roller coaster fanatics. The Florida location has an extensive animal component- think everything possible and more from a zoo. They even have a place where you can see animal surgeries being done.
Sea World has all the fun water animals doing cute family friendly shows. Although they have rides you can have plenty of fun even if you don't enjoy rides. There is so much to learn and be a part of with the animals and plenty of experts who share knowledge. So if you have a child who loves to ask questions they have lots of answers. You can pet things like sting rays and dolphins! AND you can do close encounters with some of those animals through special programs.
Aquatica and Adventure Island- both have plenty to do for those who love water slides from the very intense to the beginner and plenty of wave fun for everyone. Of course Aquatica being a newer park has all the extra bells and whistles! And a clear tube slide where you pass by fish.
Disadvantage- for our family anyway is that these parks do NOT allow sandwiches. Snacks yes, water sure, but NO sandwich looking things at all!!! So if you want to eat your own food- you have to leave the park. :( BOOOOO HISSSS!!!! And yes they will make you take it back to your car if found out. Although you can be extremely sneaky maybe more so if you only have a few people.
They also have fast passes you have to pay extra for.
Advantage- Decent priced refillable cups! Typically a dollar refill for a 24 oz cup!!!
You can always fill up with free tap water at any time!
Food is pretty reasonable for a theme park.
They have Sesame Street area as well as fun shows for children and kid rides sprinkled throughout the parks. Some on purpose next to "older child/adult rides" which is nice.
I think the funny part is our kiddos have not watched most of the movies in the theme parks and it didn't seem to matter. The theming is that well done. For younger kiddos there is the Dr. Seuss area in Universal Studios as well as a Curious George at Islands of Adventure. Curious George area includes a HUGE water play area!! Which our whole family loved!!!
Disadvantage- I would say if you aren't into movies- this park is not for you. However- we liked it but probably because we are just into theme parks :). You have to pay a lot for fast passes.
Advantage- you can bring any food you want into the parks! They just can't be in a massive cooler or a "hard sided" cooler. You can bring your own drinks- pop etc. as well.
They too have decently priced drinks cups and refill prices. The only bad thing is the lids constantly came off easily and as you can imagine in our family made a lot of spills.
They do have their "downtown" area right at the entry between parks. So if you want food or shopping different than the park has to offer you only come out the gates and there are choices galore!!!!
Also both parks are literally next door to each other. So although there is a walk (although now you can ride the Harry Potter train) it isn't far when you are trekking in theme parks anyway.
They have hotels that are owned by Universal and you do get extra hours at the parks as well as easy transport to and from parks.
Advantages- they too allow food :). They are very kid friendly. It is amazing to see all the lego scenes, and they have homeschool prices that are very very very cheap!!! Which is how we afforded to go without season tickets.
Disadvantages- they are a newer park and are starting out so it isn't quite like going to the other theme parks. You can do all of it in one day. Which is only a disadvantage because to me I can't imagine having a season pass because we typically go weekly.
Advantages- Everyone has access to fast passes (I believe unless you just have a one day pass?) with NO extra cost!!
They allow any amount of food and drinks in the parks :) SWEET!
IMMACULENT - cleanliness, manicured, and kept up with the best!!! One of the reasons they attract people from around the world.
If you get a great deal or splurge- they have a million hotels to choose from. If you stay in them you get extra hour of Disney fun with no "outsiders" there at the park.
Almost every single ride in all 4 parks can be ridden by anyone 40" with very few exceptions!!
Staff- what can I say they do things right and their staff are EXCELLENT!!!
If you have family members with special needs they are amazing!!
Variety, Variety, Variety! You can park hop, visit all the different lands in every park and still not have done "everything" even with a season pass.
With some exceptions- they have entertainment on almost every single ride for your children to do while you wait!! Of course you can always have a competition to see if any of your family can spot all of the hidden Mickeys too. What is a hidden Mickey? At every ride- in line or in the ride, and throughout the park there are "Mickey heads" to be spotted. Some are more obvious, but many are very tricky. Find them all!! Again- there are websites and books about this too ;)
Disadvantages- It can easily become very overwhelming because the parks are HUGE!
EXPENSIVE to say the least. Food, drinks, and tickets. **You can still ask for free ice water at any food place that has a "tap" :).
They are busy most of the year comparatively to the other parks which have a lot more distinct busy and non busy seasons.
There are many many tips and tricks- get books read up, read blogs (probably not mine I am more of a basics person), etc. and there are even dvd's about how to go to Disney. However, those can also be overwhelming.
Going to Magic Kingdom takes a while- because you can't park next to the park. So be prepared.....
If you have a special needs person with you in a wheelchair- you can only have 6 people go with them on a ride or sit together. However, we have argued that point because we are one family. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.
2- Usually hair is already done, but if not - quick styles only.
3- We literally bring in our double stroller and our wheelchair (which has a back pack thing on it). Everything is packed that morning and set in the back of our 15 passenger ready to get out and roll on into the parks.
5- We have a checklist :) - water shoes (depending on theme park), lunch meat and cheese sandwiches, peanuts/crackers, snacks for the whole day- depending on the park and how long we will be there we take plenty of variety (cheese sticks, gogurts, raisins, mini candy bars, gummies, fruits, etc.), bagels and cream cheese or pb and j for evening meal. A gallon of water, koolaid, sometimes a special treat of Sprite or Fanta. Rain ponchos/garbage bags to cover the stroller, plastic plates, drink cups, phones, keys, tickets (magic bands for Disney), camera, medicine- headaches, etc. (although now we have started using oils), diaper bag, spare clothes for babes, food for Michael, more snacks, sunglasses/hats, wallet, and an attitude of we are going to have a fun family day out!!!
***Maybe one day I will take a picture of this crazy scene because it is pretty interesting ;). Yes I do pre pack some things the night before!!!!
For us doing theme parks is our fun passion. It is something we have always loved. We save and we go often making the money spent pretty much very little per visit. Even our Disney week day Florida resident passes aren't that expensive when you use it as much as we do ;). There are always things some families prefer to do over others. We rarely eat out- as in ever. We just don't unless it is just Jason and I.