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Florida and California- What to do and where to go

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Hi everyone firstly I couldn’t think of a good title, secondly over summer I am going to go to Florida and California for the first time, I already have passes to Walt Disney World and Universal and I have a few questions.

1) Are there any other recommended theme parks.

2) Should I bother to also go to Disneyland.

3) Any recomended must see shows, rides or attractions.

4) And any tips or things to look for.




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Firstly I will be 15 days in Orlando and a week in California, I am going to be staying at Beverly Hills and our summer.

Firstly I will be 15 days in Orlando and a week in California, I am going to be staying at Beverly Hills and our summer. 

Yes I can spend as much as I want

Firstly I will be 15 days in Orlando and a week in California, I am going to be staying at Beverly Hills and our summer. 

Yes I can spend as much as I want

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Yeah - getting an idea of the kind of things you enjoy will help guide the advice you get. If you've been to other parks overseas, what did\do you like\enjoy and what aren't you a fan of? If you haven't been OS before, what do you like \ not like about our local parks?


Beverly Hills isn't really super ideal for the LA run, but I guess if you've got decent access to transport - your own car etc, then not a big deal.


Without exploring any of the other factors, for me, I would suggest Disneyland is still worth the visit even if you are going to WDW too. Disneyland is the original, and there are many little touches there that aren't present in the later versions. There's a sense of history there - walking the streets that Walt walked. There are also attractions that are unique to both sides of the US - and of course DCA has its uniqueness as well. Sadly Star Wars Land is slated for a 2019 opening :(

Depending on what appeals to you, don't pass up an opportunity to visit a Six Flags park. Magic Mountain is usually the first suggestion for an LA based trip. Typically for the coaster junkie, given the park has the record for the most coasters in a park, and there's truly an offering there for everyone (except maybe Pushbutton).

San Diego can also be worth the trip for Sea World if that appeals to you (noting that SeaWorld definitely has more rides and attractions than Sea World.

Since you'll be so close though, don't pass up Knott's. It's how I wish Dreamworld could be (within budget constraints), and it truly has some very unique aspects that make it well worth the trip.

Don't Miss \ Must See \ Do (my opinion only):

I can't help you with Florida - its still on my wish list, but for LA:

  • Knotts - catch Mystery Lodge. Ride the steam train and horse stagecoach. Ghostrider, Silver Bullet, Xcelerator, Montezooma - well, all the coasters really - while some aren't the newest technology, each has it's own little place. Sadly you've missed out on Boomerang which closed this year (bucket of shit though they may be, the V. Boomerang is special for me).
  • Universal - Jurassic and Mummy, don't miss Animal Actors or the Special Effects show, and of course the backlot tour.
  • Disney - Space, Splash, Mansion, Pirates, Big Thunder and Indy - for me, in that order (if they're open). Aim to catch Fantasmic, and the fireworks if you can.
  • DCA - Not sure whats happening with the park at the moment - haven't kept up to date but I know theres a huge reno going on. Again, if open - Cal Screamin', Midway Mania, Soarin' and of course World of Color.
  • SFMM - Revolution for me is a classic, but i think more because its one of the most featured coasters in film rather than for any ride quality. Still a classic though. X2 is completely unmissable, and with the array of coaster styles in the park, you've got to try each one - Tatsu is my number one there, and Riddler's for the unique stand up position, and of course the classic twist on Colossus.
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I am staying in holiday inn previously known as Nickelodeon suites. I am going with my family so we have a 3 year old 6 year old 12 year old I am a 13 years old and my parents.

Thanks @AlexB for the suggestions hopefully we will be going to knott’s Berry and Six flags. I will make sure we see fantasimic since I have heard great things about it. Definitely going on all the rides you have suggested.

Thank you @Theme Park We did not think about going to both but I now think we should consider it .


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I would recommend whilst in Florida to make the trip to Tampa (Less than 2 hours from Orlando from memory) to Busch Gardens, well worth the visit. Whilst they are older Kumba and Montu were amazing coasters and so is Cheetah Chase.

Definitely check out Universal and IOA. We rushed but were able to do both in a day even in the middle of the American summer peak season.

WDW is well worth the visit. I highly recommend the Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest, whilst not the most thrilling, was an awesome experience (It also still holds the record for the most expensive attraction ever built I believe at US$100m!). I unfortunately missed Epcot as we only had ONE day to do WDW however due to park opening and closing times we were able to get Animal Kingdom, Disney Studios and the Magic Kingdom all in in one day, was very rushed but we did it.

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OK, this is just my opinion so I’m not criticising anyone else’s view.  I’ve not been to LA but have been to Orlando 5 times. Last time, my kids were 12 & 13.  Firstly, the Holiday Inn Suites are an excellent choice.  The location is perfect for all theme parks; especially if you want to have a mid afternoon nap with the little ones.  Do get a WDW multi pass. I’m not sure what the current deal is but try to get a 6 day pass with 2 extra days in the water parks.  Use them as follows.

MK - 2 days in week 1 & 2.  The MK is great for all ages.  One tip is to do the left side of the park first.  Jungle boat, Pirates, Splash Mt, Thunder Mt & Haunted Manor.  Book your fast passes for Space Mt, 7 dwarfs and Goofy coaster (or meet the Princesses if the little ones like that).  The MK gets stupidly full after lunch so consider leaving for a rest at the hotel around 2pm and return around 5pm.  Or do the sit down attractions like the hall of Presidents, Philharmagic or ride the MK railroad.  Take a pram for the 3 year old and if possible, a buggy board for the 6 year old.  Finally, the Be our guest restaurant is awesome but needs booking online 6 months in advance.

EPCOT - 2 days in week 1 & 2.  EPCOT is very big. Pram is essential.  Book your fast passes for Test Track, Frozen ever after and if possible Soarin.  Lots of attractions for the whole family but more geared to older visitors.  Again, consider a mid afternoon nap but come back for the fireworks around 8/9pm.  Finally, try Germany for food.  All you can eat BBQ.

DHS - 1 day in mid fortnight.  DHS is a bit of a building site at the moment. Star Tours, ToT & Rocknrollercoaster are main draws.  Little ones make like Frozen singalong and there and B & Beast shows and a Little mermaid theatre.  You may finish DHS by around 3pm so have a rest and return for Fantasmic around 7pm. It’s possibly the best WDW show ever.

AK - 1 day mid fortnight.  Fast passes for Exp Everest, Avatar and Na’vi River.   Since Avatar opened, AK is now a full day. Lots of attractions but tends to close around 6pm.  So think hard about a mid afternoon nap.  

BB & TL.  1 day each bit remember 1 park will be closed during Orlando winter.  TL has the edge for teenagers but I’d pick BB for 3 & 6 year olds.  Both are really good and Mum can relax on a sun lounger all day.

Sea World. 1day.  SeaWorld is great for the whole family.  Sitting in the splash zone of the Orca show is a great experience but remember it’ll be cooler.  The 3 Rollercoasters are arguably the best white knuckle rides in Orlando.  Again. Lots of sitting attractions so don’t bother with a mid afternoon nap. Finally, arrive at the Shamu show 45 mins before the start. Dad & a teen can get snacks while the family save seats.

Universal - Now we didn’t do Universal last time.  Mainly because my kids aren’t into Harry Potter and my wife wouldn’t ride anything in IOA.  That’s not saying don’t do U.S but we skipped it to make room for other stuff like shopping and KSC.

KSC - Seeing the space shuttle was great but as for KSC, the boys loved it, the girls hated it.

Volcoano Bay - is very new and I’ve not been.  Looking at their website, it looks awesome and possibly better than BB & TL.  Remember it’ll be winter and hold off on tickets until you know how warm it’ll be.

Legoland - is targeted at young families ages 3-9.  We didn’t bother as we’ve done the park in England.

Finally,  the Vineland mall near your hotel is the best one.  Also, consider booking a table at T-Rex in Disney Springs.  Awesome special effects but average food.  And if you like LEGO, the LEGO store in Disney Springs is approx half the price of Australia.

Just take a half empty suitcase.  Happy Travels!

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I’ve only been to some of the parks in California so can’t offer any more info than the previous posters have but definitely agree with their recommendations  

I will add tho should you ever get the opportunity to go to Northen California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is a great park. I really loved that it had a mix of decent rides as well as the animal attractions. I paid the extra and did the Wildlife Discovery tour and it was awesome. I ended up being the only one booked for it and had my own personal tour and photographer. I even got to feed a bottle of milk to a tiger - through a cage though. It was one of - if not the - best experience of my life (so far!)

And while you’re up that way, the Jelly Belly factory is in Fairfield and definitely worth checking out. 

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I'm off to LA for the first time in March will be there for 12 days

So much to do, not sure i am going to have time to get to everything

Definitely want to do Disneyland just cos Disneyland (2 days?) Is it worth staying overnight in the resort?

I love Universal Studios Singapore so would assume LA would be better and i would enjoy it (1 day?)

Six flags Magic Mountain being jam packed with coasters (1 day?)

Knotts Berry Farm seems to get good reviews (1 day?)

Anything else?

Want to get to Vegas for a few days, thinking of driving and seeing the canyon and some other weird and wonderful detours

Must see some NBA games, maybe a dodgers game

Venice Beach

Plus the usual sights i guess ?

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See the stuff I posted above.

Try to squeeze more disney time. I assume you'll hit DCA as well and one day at each park isn't enough. If you can squeeze a third day, where you can park hop between the two, it should give you most of both parks without missing much.

Staying on Disney property is always special. Even if its only for a couple of days (plus the perks for hotel guests when visiting the park - like parcel drop off are a bonus), but it IS pricey no matter where you stay. I doubt you'd get much benefit out of it if it were only overnight.

USH is very different to USS. USH is a working studio with backlot and a lot of other stuff going on, whereas USS was just and always only about the rides. It's a very different park in my opinion, However if you like USS you will like it, you will enjoy it. 1 day will be sufficient provided you're picky about busy periods, or willing to pay a little extra for the premium experiences like fastpass etc.

SFMM is also jam packed with people most days. I've only ever done the park for a single day per visit, and never managed to get EVERYTHING done - even with a platinum flash pass (although it is doable depending on who is with you and what pace you keep up), but a single day is still an alright visit, even if you miss things (tip: prioritise your must do's, decide what you're ok with missing, and leave that until last - don't waste time criss crossing the park - take a logical path from one side to the other so you don't have to backtrack).

Knott's is great, and a day should be sufficient.

Vegas is worth the trip. Although it goes against the grain, don't book a hotel in advance. Walk-ups (in my experience) always seem to get a better price. the New York coaster isn't worth it unless you want the credit, but Circus Circus is worth a couple hours. You'll lose a lot of time driving to see the canyon - we found a tour that picked up at the hotel, took you to the airport, flew you to the western edge, and then choppered you down into the gorge before boarding a boat. Great value, lunch included, and just over half a day, while still having plenty of time to see, marvel, take photos etc.

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Thanks @AlexB 

Not sure i will be able to stretch to 3 days at Disney but will see.

I'll pay for whatever fast pass/vip/whatever option there is everywhere.

Good tip re: Vegas hotel, cheers

Thinking of going through www.bulletsandburgers.com for a helicopter out to the canyon then some shooting... and a burger ! to save on driving time.

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I worked there for a year last year in EPCOT at Mission: Space, so I can definitely help you out with WDW.

At EPCOT you'll find that Soarin', Test Track and Frozen all generally have rather long wait times, and I'm pretty sure from memory that they're all in the same Category for Fast Pass (there's two categories, and you get to pick one from the first and two for the second). If you enjoy the more thrilling rides, then Test Track would be the best choice. Mission: Space is mostly a walk on, depending on season and popularity during the day. I highly recommend seeing Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at night, it's their fireworks show. You can see it from anywhere around world showcase as it is all done over the lagoon. Don't worry about a fastpass for that, it just gets you into a reserved area. There's a really good spot near the Germany Pavilion boat ramp just behind a glass shop stand, it has a really good view of all the fireworks and usually not many people there.


MK I suggest pretty much everything, I personally like doing the Three Mountains (Splash, Space and Big Thunder). I haven't seen the new fireworks show in person since they changed it at the start of this year, but I did watch it online and it is amazing. Same with the projection show that is 15 minutes before the fireworks. Pirates of the Caribbean is also a good ride, and also the Jungle Cruise if you get a good Skipper.


HS is undergoing a huge facelift at the moment and has quite a small amount of rides operating at the moment. I only ever really went on Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Toy Story and Rock n Rollercoaster. Great Movie Ride got shut down :( and is being replaced with a Micky and Minnie ride, but unsure of an estimated opening date on that. Fantasmic is their nightime show there, and it is really cool. A good way to finish off the day.


AK You'll definitely want to book a fastpass for Kilimanjaro Safari's, that line can get long very quickly and delays can occur from animals deciding to plonk themselves in front of the vehicles and not move. Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids (if it's warm enough) are good. There's a nighttime show there that I haven't seen but heard mixed reviews about.


If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll try my best to answer them. 

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20 hours ago, grrofunger said:

Good tip re: Vegas hotel, cheers

Just on this and to expand a little -

do some research online, so you have an idea of what prices they're offering before you go. By all means if you see a price you think is reasonable, make a booking if their cancellation policy allows no penalty cancels (many hotels over there allow you to make a reservation without any money down, and no penalty to cancel), and that way you'll have a 'fallback' - but have 2-3 hotels in mind, in order of priority - visit each one, and just enquire about a room price at the checkin counter. If you don't like what you get - then you've still got a fallback to go to!

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