Life

The battle of the amusement
parks

With their roller coasters, costumed characters and cotton candy, amusement parks never fail to put a grin on visitors' faces. We compare a few of the favorites in the region.

Universal Studios, Osaka

Long before Universal Studios had any plans to open a park in Singapore in the first quarter of this year, this park in Japan was a top entertainment destination for families. It's easy to see why because the movie-themed park has rides and attractions for people of all ages.

Our favorite ride, hands down, was "The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman", which incorporates 4D technology into a rollercoaster ride. Expect eye-popping images flying at you with tactile effects such as feeling the heat of an explosion or the spray of water on your face, which creates an almost-real experience.

"Back to the Future: The Ride" offers a similar concept with the added element of time travel.

"Hollywood Dream - The Ride" is another rollercoaster ride with a twist. Built-in speakers in the headrest allow for a choice of music selection (Michael Jackson, J-Pop, and The Beatles to name a few) as you go off the rails, so to speak. The ride is not as scary as it appears from down below, with just a mild dose of adrenalin.

Don't miss "JAWS", which puts visitors on a boat ride in a man-made river where dangerous creatures leap out of the water to give them a good shock. Go at early dusk, when the darkening sky adds much creepiness to the atmosphere. Follow it with "Backdraft", set on a blazing factory site. This is as close as you can get to being a firefighter, witnessing explosions and an inferno taking center stage.

The downside of Universal Studios Osaka is that shows on screen, such as "Shrek's 4D Adventure" and "Terminator 2: 3D" are dubbed in Japanese. Skip "Terminator 2: 3D" as the ride will get you lost in (no) translation with its overly long Japanese introduction. However, if you have spare time, "the Shrek show" is still worth watching despite the language barrier. The kids will have a blast with the 4D effects.

Before leaving the park, make a stop at the WaterWorld stunt show. More thrilling than the actual film and at only a mere fraction of its running time, the audience will be served with water action scenes, flying jet skis, fireballs and more importantly, a drenching down for those in the front rows. Plus you won't have to put up with Kevin Costner's stiff acting this time. Log on to www.usj.co.jp for ticket fares, opening hours, etc.

Disneyland, Hong Kong

It's every child's fantasy to visit Disneyland at least once in his or her life, and since the opening of Disneyland Hong Kong in 2005, that dream has been closer than ever. Little ones will love the idea of having their favorite Disney characters from the small screens come to life. Take a leisurely stroll through the park and let the kids mingle with Mickey and co.

In particular, we will never stop recommending "Space Mountain" to any Disneyland newbie. The rollercoaster ride is better than many others as it catapults riders at a high speed into "space", full of stars, comets and planets. An adrenalin booster at the start that becomes a fascinating space ride, it's one Disneyland landmark not to be missed.

Those who have been to Disneyland Paris, Tokyo or Orlando will see the Hong Kong branch is missing some of the all-time favorites such as "Peter Pan's Flight" and "Pirates of the Caribbean". And too bad, Disneyland Hong Kong also pales in comparison with other theme parks in terms of heart-stopping rides.

Clearly, the park is aimed at families with children. What Disneyland Hong Kong lacks in thrill-seeking rides, it makes up for in a variety of entertainment for the little ones. Head to Fantasy Land and let the kids run wild on "Mad Hatter's Tea Cups", "Dumbo the Flying Elephant", "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", and "Cinderella Carousel" for the best day of their lives. We also loved "Festival of The Lion King", a feast-for-the-eyes stage show that's fun for all family members.

Those who like to have a complete Disney-vaganza for the whole family can stay at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel with goodies like free park admission or the Disney Princesses dress up event. The website park.hongkongdisneyland.com has all the details.

Warner Bros Movie World, Gold Coast

Tourists go to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, for either the beach or the theme parks. Or you can have both by making time for Movie World in between the strolls along white sandy beaches.

Movie World, endorsed by Warner Bros, has many amusing rides that draw their inspiration from summer blockbusters. There are at least three big roller coasters in the park, "Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster", "Lethal Weapon - The Ride" and "Superman Escape". The latter is the park's most talked about roller coaster that accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in under two seconds. Visitors are given a chance to act as MRT passengers in a fatal incident who desperately need to be saved by Superman himself. From indoor to outdoor, the "MRT" takes you on a journey of non-stop drops, turns, hills and twists.

Another superhero from the big screen, Batman, is also saving people under his wing when he launches to the sky in "Batwing Spaceshot". In this high-octane event, riders are propelled up to the sky (61 meters high to be exact) at 64 km/h speed. Raise your hands in the air and let the blood rush to your head.

For toddlers familiar with Looney Tunes characters, "Kids WB Fun Zone" is the place to be. They'll easily shriek with joy with "Tweety and Silvester Cages", "Road Runner Roller Coaster" and "Looney Tunes River Ride".

Right next door to Movie World, kids and adults alike can have a jolly splashing time at the Wet*n'Wild Water world, a water park with plenty of attractions to go wild about. What's even better is that it's summertime in Australia now until March. Check movieworld.myfun.com.au for special offers on combo tickets and more.

- Photos by Kenny Santana

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