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North American Trip - Advice


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Hey all,

Was hoping someone would be able to help me.. I'm currently planning a trip to North America, specifically California, Florida and Possibly New York.

What are the 'must do' parks in these states, and are there any other places I should consider? I want to get the best experience possible :) 

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In the with usual:

  • how old are you?
  • how many days do you have total?
  • how many days do you want to allow in each of those three specific places?
  • whats your budget?
  • are there any other non-park things you plan to do, want to do, or have to do because of your travelling companions?
  • speaking of, are you travelling solo, or with people, and what kind of people are they? enthusiasts? non-enthusiasts? enthusiast partner, non enthusiast partner? same age? parents?
  • do you have a preference on accommodation? flea motels or resorts?

Age is a question for the younger crowd just because drinking age is different in the states. There is less benefit in an 18 year old going to vegas for example.

As a starting point, you're going to want to do Disneyland, Knotts, SFMM and USH while in LA. There are other parks nearby you may wish to do but they're my starting four for LA.

Minimum 3 days for Disney, 4 is better and 5 is best. Knotts is a day, provided you're not in peak season. the same for USH. SFMM can be done in a day but needs flash almost always - see other recent SFMM thread.

What you're suggesting can blow out into a pretty MASSIVE trip. If money was no object you could spend a year and still not do everything people could suggest here. I've a feeling that what you're going to need to do is to compromise and prioritise. If you're travelling solo, or with a group of similarly aged enthusiasts, @gazza does some pretty amazing trips that cover a LOT of ground - but at a pace I couldn't keep up with.

One thing to do to help you decide, especially if you're a coaster fan, is to check out RCDB, filter to north america, and pick out the parks nearby to the ones you DEFINITELY want to do. I think theres another site Gazza uses too that would help. It can also help you to disregard a park if perhaps they have mostly the same rides as other parks you're already visiting.

I'm still to do the East coast, so i'll leave that up to someone else...

Good luck with the planning.

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1 hour ago, AlexB said:

Minimum 3 days for Disney, 4 is better and 5 is best.

Wife and I did DL/DCA over three days last April for our Honeymoon, we were in both parks from open to close basically and managed to get everything (ride wise) done in the first two days. No kids to slow us down though. Both parks were very busy (to us, no idea if it was busy for the park though).

We didn't buy the park hopper tickets so we spend our 'extra' day in DCA, but only ended up staying till lunch time before we headed up to Hollywood for the 2nd part of our trip.

Word of advice Flynn, I wouldn't stay in Hollywood again. The place is just a seedy, smelly tourist trap, which we fell right into. Uber to Universal Studios was pretty cheap (~10 bucks each way for an UberX IIRC). We did Universal in a day too, but had a two day pass, so spent the 2nd day rope-dropping the Mummy and getting in 3 rides before it got too busy, then bought our merch.

1 hour ago, AlexB said:

Knotts is a day, provided you're not in peak season.

 

1 hour ago, AlexB said:

SFMM can be done in a day but needs flash almost always - see other recent SFMM thread.

No my thread but thanks for the info. We're planning to go back in October, but after doing the West coast parks we're heading to Vegas/NY then heading over to Florida to do the parks over there. I'm struggling with working out realistically how long is needed in each area, so every bit of feedback helps.

9 hours ago, Flynn_Smith said:

What are the 'must do' parks in these states, and are there any other places I should consider?

For reference, these are my current ideas for this years' trip:

Anaheim/Buena Vista Area:

  • Disneyland Resort (includes two seperate parks: Disneyland Park, and Disneyland California Adventure)
  • Knotts Berry Farm

Universal City/Hollywood (we're going to skip these this year, but included FYI):

  • Universal Studios (The Mummy and I assume Jurassic Park (JP was getting refurb'ed when we were there).
  • Warner Bros Studio Tour was good (it's not theme park, but you got to see a lot of backlots, props, a couple of live sets etc)

Santa Clarita / Valencia:

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain

In New York(ish): (may or may not get to these ourselves)

  • American Dream Meadowlands - TMNT Shellraiser ride.
  • Six Flags Great Adventure - Kingda Ka / El Toro, seems to have a bus that runs from NYC on the weekends, but this year's time table isn't published yet.

Florida:

  • Disneyworld (includes four? parks, six if you include water parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom)
  • Universal (Universal and Universal Islands of Adventure)
  • Seaworld Orlando - Icebreaker should be running by the time we get there
  • Busch Gardens (most rides here look pretty good / unique. Iron Gwazi will be running by the time we get there)

I'm also chasing pointers particularly for the NY/Florida side of our trip plans. I really wanted to somehow work in a trip to Cedar Point in lieu of SFGA but I just can't find a justification for flights/accomodation costs to make it worth it. Currently our trip plan is 24 days long (not including flying there and back) and 15 of those are theme park days :D

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Just reminded me - There are certain things at Disney that don't necessarily run every day. Sometimes the parks alter their hours. Sometimes Fantasmic will run once, or twice, or none. Castle Fireworks aren't every night. World of Color may not run every night... but this isn't planned months in advance and may only be published 5 days out.

For example - Fantasmic is only running on Friday and Saturday this week. Disneyland is open for extra magic, but only Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Fireworks is on every night. DCA does extra magic on wednesday and friday. World of color runs every night. The hyperion is only showing Frozen Wed-Fri. (DCA has the food and wine festival on right now).

You'll need to allow some degree of flexibility in your schedule as to which days you do which park to allow for things like this. Also - while it is technically possible to get through Disneyland Resort in 2 days with no kids rope dropping until close, that isn't always the case, and one bit of weather, show cancellation or breakdown and you could wind up missing out on some really good parts of the parks - especially if you don't have a third park-hopping backup day as a minimum...

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4 hours ago, franky said:

I'm also chasing pointers particularly for the NY/Florida side of our trip plans. I really wanted to somehow work in a trip to Cedar Point in lieu of SFGA but I just can't find a justification for flights/accomodation costs to make it worth it. Currently our trip plan is 24 days long (not including flying there and back) and 15 of those are theme park days :D

http://www.coast2coaster.eu/

Set the slider to 4, and that gives you basically all the decent sized parks in the US. You can see what is near to each.

If you were going to Cedar point , both Kennywood and Kings Island are 3 hours away, and if you go to Kings Island, both Kentucky Kingdom and Holiday World arent too much further either.

When i did it, i did like 1.7 days at cedar point, then drove to kings island early evening.

Full day at KI, then drove to Louisville.

Next day was KK, then the day after was Holiday World as a day trip from Louisville.

Re disney

If you are an super Disney fan, then yeah you could do 4 or 5 days to really get deep into it , but to be honest, 3 full days seems to be the sweet spot for most people in terms of seeing everything.

1 day ish at DCA, 2 at Disneyland.

As you said you haven’t been to the US, so I wouldn’t go spending 5 days at Disney at the expense of seeing other things.

Edited by Gazza
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23 hours ago, AlexB said:

Just reminded me - There are certain things at Disney that don't necessarily run every day. Sometimes the parks alter their hours. Sometimes Fantasmic will run once, or twice, or none. Castle Fireworks aren't every night. World of Color may not run every night... but this isn't planned months in advance and may only be published 5 days out.

 For example - Fantasmic is only running on Friday and Saturday this week. Disneyland is open for extra magic, but only Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Fireworks is on every night. DCA does extra magic on wednesday and friday. World of color runs every night. The hyperion is only showing Frozen Wed-Fri. (DCA has the food and wine festival on right now).

You'll need to allow some degree of flexibility in your schedule as to which days you do which park to allow for things like this. Also - while it is technically possible to get through Disneyland Resort in 2 days with no kids rope dropping until close, that isn't always the case, and one bit of weather, show cancellation or breakdown and you could wind up missing out on some really good parts of the parks - especially if you don't have a third park-hopping backup day as a minimum...

I got caught out by this on my DLR days, 3 days there and I didn't have a hopper and DCA had party nights the first two nights meaning closed early, so I had to do DCA on my 3rd day which was the only day DL had fireworks. I did get to see world of colour though which is pretty fantastic, and I had seen all the fireworks at Florida the previous week.
 

But yeah its a bit tricky with limited days - maybe spring for the park hopper, that way you can really maximise maxpass if your purchase it on the day.

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Sixflags get a season pass they work all parks across the USA saves money plus get a few deals. 

Cedar point is worth the trip amazing park in an amazing location and there are plenty of other parks with in a few hours drive they make the trip worth it. 

Disneyland/california I did in 3 days by myself with a hopper ticket and I did everything including the kids rides except character breaky the hopper ticket is worth it, as above some shows are only on some nights so you might find your self changing parks purely for one show at night or extend hours. I went right at the end of November typically quiet time if your going in peak times you may want an extra day.

Universal La you could probably miss if your doing universal/islands its a far better park and nearly everything thats in La is in Florida plus mush mush more. 

Disneyworld took me 5 days and I got to see/do everything just, again in off peak and no kids but I did all the kiddie stuff. 

If your not staying at a Disney hotel it can be hard as all other hotels are a good 10 - 15 min drive and hotel shuttles suck their unreliable times all over the shop and sometimes their full so you have to wait for the next one. We just hired a car after the first day parking is better then in La so wasn't an issue. 

Busch Gardens Tampa is also worth the trip from DW,

Sea world Orlando is the one you want to see even tho San Diego was the more famous one.

Don't forget Cyclone in New York for a trip through history, Nickelodeon universe just opened, Six flags Great Adventure is a 3 hours drive also Dorney Park and Hershey park all of these are worth it.

RCDB is great for seeing whats close by some other parks may have something thats of interest too, 

What ever you end up doing I'm jealous been a couple years since I got out of Aus  

 

 

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I'm planning on heading that way myself later in the year. The current itinerary that i'm working on is as follows:

  • Charlotte, NC - Carowinds (My first visit) - Highlights - Fury 325, Copperhead Strike, Intimidator
  • Pigeon Forge, TN - Dollywood (My first visit) - Highlights - Lightning Rod, Wild Eagle, Thunderhead
  • Orlando, FL - Disney MK, AK, Epcot, HS - Highlights - Expedition Everest (Amazing!) a bit disappointed i'll miss GotG
  • Orlando, FL - Universal IoA, Studios - Highlights - Hulk (Awesome!), Hagrid's, The Mummy (We got stuck on this last time for a few hours)
  • Orlando, FL - Seaworld (My first visit) - Highlights - Kracken, Manta, Mako
  • Tampa, FL - Busch Gardens - Highlights - IRON GWAZI (This will be my entire trip highlight!), Cheetah Hunt, Montu
  • Winter Haven, FL - Legoland (My first visit) Highlight - Lego :D
  • Atlanta, GE - Six Flags Over Georgia (My first visit) - Highlights - Blue Hawk (Apparently is really good now after the refurb), Superman, Twisted Cyclone

I don't drive when in the USA, for personal reasons, so I generally make my way around with Amtrak (Trains) and Greyhound (Buses). It's cheap (Amtrak tickets are as low as $6 one way), but not always at convenient times. For example when I caught the train to Cedar Point it leaves Cleveland at 2am and gets into Sandusky at 4.30am, but only cost me $6. 

The 2 tricky parks to get to on my trip using Amtrak/Greyhound are Dollywood and Legoland as neither are really serviced well by public transport (It also looks like the shuttle bus between Legoland and Orlando has been ceased as I can no longer find it on their website). Knoxville is closest to Dollywood and it only looks like a $40 Uber (According to the app) so that may be the way to go there.

All up (assuming there are not closures) I'll visit 12 parks with a total of 73 coasters. Having already been to some of the parks though my coaster count will only go up by about 50. I'll be over there for about 4 weeks and it is actually not costing as much as I thought, at the moment i'm looking at about $7,500 for the lot.

My biggest tip would be to check the parks opening days and times first. I'm planning on a later trip (Sept-Oct) so many of the parks are beginning to wind down for the winter, Six Flags will only be open on weekends, Legoland is closed on Wednesdays, Dollywood closes on Tuesday and Thursdays etc. etc. I would also recommend checking to see which parks are owned by the same company as @colonelbmx said as it is sometimes cheaper to buy a season pass to parks rather than individual tickets, when I did my first USA trip we bought Six Flags ($69.99 for SP vs. $38.00 - $73.00 for a day ticket depending on how you book) and Cedar Fair ($129.00 vs. $49.99 for a day ticket). As we visited a number of parks across both chains and visited for a number of days each we got so much more value buying the season passes.

My biggest Disney tip as a former cast member is:

When you first enter head to the RIGHT and go past Tomorrowland then start making your way around the park in an anticlockwise direction finishing up in Tomorrowland. You tend to find when people first enter Disneyland (Any of them) they tend to head to the left and move around the park clockwise OR head straight to Space Mountain. The best time to hit the biggest attractions (Space Mountain, BTRR, PotC, Splash Mountain) is during parades/fireworks/lightshows. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are just so many parks (and other attractions) that it’s tough to get everything done. Try and not double up on the theme parks.

- If you’re doing Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, you could skip Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida as their attractions are very similar. Of course there are some popular shows and attractions that aren’t in California but the Florida parks are very expensive. Disney’s Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida are very different from the Californian parks and are more worth it.
- Universal Studios Orlando and Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida are better than Universal Studios Hollywood unless you really want to do the studio tour. I recommend skipping Universal Hollywood.

- Choose SeaWorld Orlando over SeaWorld San Diego

 

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19 hours ago, Charity00 said:

ou could skip Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida as their attractions are very similar.

Not Really, DHS has Rock n Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, the more elaborate version of TOT rather than guardians of the galaxy, and of course a very different themed environment.

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5 hours ago, Gazza said:

Not Really, DHS has Rock n Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, the more elaborate version of TOT rather than guardians of the galaxy, and of course a very different themed environment.

Of course there are some unique attractions at each. In my opinion with limited days (plus the expensive costs of a Disney park), I would skip Hollywood Studios if you do Californian Adventure. You could even get the park hopper and just have a quick visit to Hollywood Studios to try out the Aerosmith ride or the new Mickey and Minnie ride. 

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In terms of the places you’re visiting:

1. California

There are the 4 big parks in Los Angeles:

- Disneyland/Disney California Adventure

- Universal Studios Hollywood

- Six Flags Magic Mountain

- Knotts Berry Farm

Then the 2 parks down near San Diego:

- SeaWorld San Diego

- Legoland California

Then if you’re going up to San Francisco which is a great city besides theme parks you have:

- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

And I always believe you need to do Las Vegas if you’re going all the way to LA. While not great theme parks, there are some interesting experiences:

- Stratosphere rides, Slotzilla zip line and New York roller coaster (unique experiences)

- Adventuredome (not great but free to enter)

 

2. Orlando

Could easily spend 2 weeks on these parks:

- Disneyworld (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and the 2 water parks)

- Universal Orlando/Universal Islands of Adventure/Volcano Bay water park

- Seaworld Orlando/Aquatica Orlando water park

- Busch Gardens Tampa (a free shuttle from Orlando)

 

3. New York

- Six Flags Great Adventure (a bus from Port Authority Bus Station)

- Coney Island (great for history)

If you rent a car or travel by greyhound, there are some amazing parks near some other amazing cities:

- Six Flags New England (near Boston)

- Six Flags America (near Washington DC)

- Dorney Park and Hershey Park (outside Philadelphia/Washington area)If

 

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something to consider is how much you're into movies. If that is important for you then Universal LA is a must and the WB studio tour.

If you do Universal LA, I recommend the VIP tour. It is pricey, but you get unlimited fast pass from the moment you get the pass (regardless of when your tour starts) and there is a better version of the studio tour as well. plus breakfast, lunch and someone to watch your bags while you ride and watch your kids if they can't/wont go on the ride.

If you do Orlando, I recommend car rental and stay offsite. I know there are benefits to staying on site for both parks, but off site can be a lot cheaper, cover the cost of car rental and parking and a bit more as well.

My best suggestion is decide what you want, what type of rides/attractions you want? do you give ____ about Disney/Universal  and their IP?  What else do you want to do?

When you've got that, you can add in the parks (or more parks) around that.

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  • 1 year later...
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On 22/09/2021 at 9:33 PM, zhenderson said:

Come to Britain, we have a huge number of interesting places that will stay in your heart forever.

This country is prosperous with its sights and insanely beautiful architecture. Every street here is filled with its own extraordinary charm. Charming is the old streets, which makes you dive back to that very time.  I'm very fond of classic British cars from that era. The first words that come to mind when you think of British cars are luxury and prestige. And I was lucky enough to meet some real classic car enthusiasts who turned their hobby into a business <Spam link removed>

 

My girlfriend and I were fortunate to ride through the vintage streets in a cool retro car.

Edited by joz
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Im planning a similar trip but no matter how I looked at it somethings gotta give because theres too much and not enough money/time. 

 

At the moment this is my trip. 

FLY LA- Disneyland, Universal, SFMM 

FLY LA- NY- SFGA, then roadtrip to Hersheypark, cedar point, kings island then home again. 

There is obviously a huge amount of parks that are missing but these were the parks I most want to visit. 

The good thing about america is outside of flights there and park entry America is a pretty cheap holiday if you dont mind flea motels. 

For me, I really wanted to visit Florida but I am on the cusp of what I can afford time and money wise. Florida has enough for a solo trip all on its own tbh. 

3 hours ago, franky said:

As someone planning to do exactly this when our borders reopen, what's nuts about it?

Well to me it makes sense because if you were visiting florida from Australia you will go via LAX anyway so you may as well spend a few days in California. 

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1 hour ago, Coasterjoe said:

Im planning a similar trip but no matter how I looked at it somethings gotta give because theres too much and not enough money/time. 

 

At the moment this is my trip. 

FLY LA- Disneyland, Universal, SFMM 

FLY LA- NY- SFGA, then roadtrip to Hersheypark, cedar point, kings island then home again. 

There is obviously a huge amount of parks that are missing but these were the parks I most want to visit. 

The good thing about america is outside of flights there and park entry America is a pretty cheap holiday if you dont mind flea motels. 

For me, I really wanted to visit Florida but I am on the cusp of what I can afford time and money wise. Florida has enough for a solo trip all on its own tbh. 

Well to me it makes sense because if you were visiting florida from Australia you will go via LAX anyway so you may as well spend a few days in California. 

No joke, that’s what my family was planning on doing next year in July: California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, NY and Florida. We ending up cutting Pennsylvania and NY out due to the time restrictions we have (my Uni and my little bro’s high school resume after two weeks of holiday). Also due to the fact that each park in Pennsylvania and NY is better visited in a road trip, as the 3hr distance between some parks makes it a time consumer as well, and my mum can’t do long drives so we scrapped it for now.

And you are absolutely right about Florida, it is a trip in itself and that’s what we did the first time we went into the states. We hit Disneyworld, Universal, Busch and Seaworld. We spent 2 weeks there easily last time, and this time we are going to do 10 days in Florida, 5 days in Ohio and Three days in California to hit SFMM and Knotts Berry Farm. Just like your thought process, when entering via LA, why not spend some time there? We aren’t too fussed to visit Disneyland or Universal Hollywood, just cause as a family we don’t mind leaving then out if we are going to see the larger parks in Florida. Still something I will do in my future travels though!

I think it’s mainly due to the fact that the Disney and Universal parks in both states share a large majority of the same attractions, and even though I would love to visit California Adventure and the backlot tour of Universal, I don’t think It’s up there with my bucketlist PERSONALLY. I still think these are beautiful looking parks.

Anyways that’s my brain on the subject, idk if there is anything valuable in what i’ve said, but definitely cool to see others planning similar trips :)

Edited by Gtmichaels
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One park I dont hear much about is Kennywood. A lot of enthusiasts rave about Phantoms revenge and believe its one of the best steel coasters in the world. When I was putting together my itinerary I liked the lineup at Hersheypark more and cut Kennywood due to time constraints. Did I make the right choice? Has anyone here visited Kennywood? 

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