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Insider Tips for 3 California Theme Parks

Here’s what you need to know about visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland Resort, and LEGOLAND California

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Posted 4 months agoby Katrina Hunt

Every year, California’s theme parks play a big part in kicking off the summer when debuting their newest rides and experiences. This year, that seasonal jump start is even more special since Golden State theme parks are just now reopening after more than a year of pandemic-related closure. In this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson visits with insiders at three of the state’s biggest parks to talk about what new attractions—and safety protocols—guests can expect as they walk back through the turnstiles of their favorite parks.

New Creatures Arrive at Universal Studios Hollywood

Jon Corfino, senior director and executive producer at Universal Studios Hollywood, shares how great it feels for the Los Angeles park to be open again after sitting empty for more than a year. During that closure, “to walk through a theme park like Universal Studios Hollywood, and there's just nobody, it was very surreal,” says Corfino—“almost like a bad Twilight Zone episode.”

The reopening, happily, will make you think of other pop culture icons. For starters, Jurassic World™— The Ride now has a new dinosaur, an Indominus rex. “She is massively huge,” says Corfino, and appears toward the end of the ride. “She's towering over your head, and she comes down and lunges at you, and then she turns. And to see something that big move that quickly is something that I certainly haven't seen before.”

The other debut—the new ride The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash—is a big crowd-pleaser that transports visitors into the world of the animated films and its 64 characters. Even better, you become a character yourself. “We also added this really fantastic gesture-tracking technology,” Corfino notes, “where you go by a window and you see yourself on TV—but you see yourself as a pet. So it reinforces constantly that you are this pet.”

The park’s safety measures, he adds, will remind guests of “everything that you think you're experiencing normally in the world now, and we actually try to go beyond that. There's nothing more important to us than the safety of our guests.” But those protocols clearly don’t get in the way of the fun that people are having being back. “The energy is just something that I haven't seen before,” Corfino says. “It's been really terrific.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Disneyland: Superheroes and Snow White

In Anaheim, Disneyland Resort has introduced plenty of safety protocols, too, and is also welcoming a few ride debuts of its own, such as the “reimagined” classic now called Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. “It's so beautiful,” says Rafa Barron, an ambassador at Disneyland Resort. “The technology, the storyline. It's really, really nice.”

Since the park is currently operating at a reduced capacity, you need both a ticket and a dated reservation, explains PlanDisney specialist Kiki Yee. She suggests using the Disneyland Mobile App both for setting up your trip and for exploring the parks. “I call it the handy-dandy ‘Mousekatool,’” she quips. “Right now, you can look at attraction wait times, you can view menus, and you can do mobile ordering for food and beverages, so you don't have to stand in line.”

Disneyland’s biggest debut of the summer arrives on June 4: The Avengers Campus, the new Marvel-themed area in Disney California Adventure Park. “It's this new six-acre area where guests will be able to team up with the Avengers and live out their superhero dreams,” says Barron. The area will feature the new ride Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, as well as appearances by characters such as Black Panther, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel. “You're going to be able to see Spider-Man doing some acrobatics,” says Barron, “that have never been seen before in a Disney Park.”

Sleepovers and Flying Couches at LEGOLAND California

Also on the podcast, LEGOLAND California’s Dominic Ashford offers details about the massive addition to the San Diego County theme park.

As the head of resort experience, Ashford admits he has a bit of a dream job: “I make sure that I'm out in the park, in the hotels, the water park, and the aquarium as much as I can be,” he says. “I get the great job of riding the rides, tasting the food, and speaking with our guests—and really learning what they think about us.”

That means he was one of the first to try out the new rides at the park’s LEGO Movie World, which opened on May 27. The centerpiece is Emmet's Flying Adventure, an indoor ride that has guests flying on LEGO character Emmet's couch. “My expectations were pretty high,” says Ashford, “but I must say the experience even wowed me more than I could ever imagine.”

His best advice for anyone who wants to fully experience the resort: stay over. “Our hotels are probably one of the more popular elements of our resort,” Ashford says. “We encourage guests to stay here for two or three days to really maximize their experience, especially with the aquarium and the water park.”

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