I’m going to get the negatives out of the way first and end on a positive.
My overall impression of the theme parks in Orlando is that they are not worth the money they charge. The parks sell outrageously priced ticket packages based on the idea that they are good for 14 days. Wow, what a deal, right? Except that most people come here for only a few days at a time. In our case, we used our Universal tickets for one day, and the Disney tickets for 2. Wet n’ Wild, the Universal water park we went to today, was of course NOT included in our Universal package price. Good-bye to another $150 dollars. As I was paying, the woman at the ticket counter said “These tickets are good for 14 days,” to which I replied, “That’s great, but we’re leaving tomorrow.”
So, not such a good deal after all.
I’m not normally one of those people who is always trying to beat the system (well, except when it comes to schooling my kids, I guess) but the thought occurred to me that if I was only using my tickets for 2 of 14 days – or 1 of 14 days – maybe it would be worth it to see if I could sell them to someone at a discounted rate for the remaining amount of time. Apparently this thought has occurred to both Disney and Universal as well, and they are having none of it. The first time you enter their parks with your ticket, you must put your thumb or index finger on their electronic fingerprint scanner – I kid you not – so that if anyone else tries to use your ticket, the print won’t match and they won’t be let in.
Is that some kind of genius scam or what?
Here’s the rundown. We spent 6 hours at Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park on Wednesday, logging in at a whopping $100/hour, based on the price of our package as a whole. (It sounded so much better when I was booking it!) Harry Potter World, which is part of the ‘Islands’ park and not a separate park unto itself, took us all of 2.5 hours to complete, mostly because there were no lines. We did the Forbidden Journey, the Hippogriff coaster twice and the crazy Dragon Challenge in under 30 minutes total. We had breakfast at the 3 Broomsticks Cafe, went to Ollivanders Wand Shop, Honeydukes and Zonko’s AND did all of our souvenir shopping. By 10:30am we were on our way to Jurassic Park.
In our two days at Disney we spent about six hours there each day, which would be 12, except that on the second day we spent 90 minutes just waiting on Disney buses and traveling from place to place. So our total ‘park time’ that day was only about 4.5 hours. We’ll round to 10 hours for both days, since there was some traveling about on the monorail the first day as well. $700 for 10 hours is pretty steep. In that 10 hours we rode exactly 6 rides – one of them twice. So about $100 per ride.
In addition, we had to buy food, pay for transportation to and from Disney at about $80 a day (although the Disney buses between parks were ‘free’) and, it seemed, a hundred other things. By the end my kids were joking that we’d better not use any extra napkins or they’d charge us for them.
Today we spent 5.5 hours at Wet ‘n Wild which worked out to be the best deal at just under $30 per hour (!), and we actually rode many, many rides – some multiple times, played in the wave pool and rode the ‘free’ Universal bus to and from the hotel. Of course, towel and locker rental was extra.
So the bottom line? Unless you are in love with all things Disney and spend at least 3 days (forget 14) at their parks, arriving when they open and staying till the parade shuts things down at night, it’s not worth the money. Universal is not much better, except that they only have two parks and therefore there are more rides per park.
Ok, enough of the negative. On to the positive. We now know for sure that we are not Disney/Universal people and that we’d rather go to a waterpark any day of the week. Maybe if we come to Orlando again we’ll do the two Disney waterparks and Aquatica, which I believe is owned by Universal.
Or maybe we’ll just head to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas instead.
We had fun today, at Wet ‘n Wild, and feel good that our last day here was the best. Our hotel was fabulous and we had many hours of fun in the hotel’s Beach Pool.
We got these great photos:
And finally, only Ben would decide to make a fountain out of a noodle floatie.
It’s back to New York tomorrow. That sound you hear is our collective sigh of relief.