It’s a big summer for noted coaster enthusiasts, particularly those who spend a lot of time in Orlando, Florida. Following the initial opening of Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster in 2021, crowds are really starting to get back into theme parks… just in time for Disney World’s Epcot park to open its own coaster Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. While the Disney ride certainly wins out when it comes to its name being a bit of a mouthful, which coaster is actually the better rider?
Recently, I had the chance to hop on both coasters at the theme parks, and while newcomer reviews have been super excited about some of the 360 aspects and theming in Cosmic Rewind, there’s a lot still to be said for that barrel roll and more thrills on the newest Universal coaster attraction. So, let’s take a look at how the two rides really stack up!
Universal's Islands Of Adventure VelociCoaster
Requirement to ride: 51 inches or 4’3”
Pre-Show and Ride Theming: The Pre-show at utilizes Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady and other Jurassic World stars (including Henry Wu and Claire Dearing). In the ride line, you’ll go through corrals were raptors are kept for examination and more. There are nods to the Jurassic Park IP with a cup featuring ripples, harkening back to a classic cinematic moment in the first movie. Once loaded onto the ride, the storyline is that Universalgoers are supposed to be experiencing a new ride in Jurassic Park. The atmosphere amps up with projections of dinos making it feel like raptors are right alongside the coaster. It’ll rev you up, but it's not as wild as the epic launch!
What's The Actual VelociCoaster Ride Like?: If you want to talk about the actual VelociCoaster, what does this ride not have? There are four inversions, a barrel roll right near the water, and it is Universal’s tallest launch speed rollercoaster. The ride gets up to 70 mph while you are on it. You get 12 seconds of air time. There’s a Top Hat that’s 155 feet high and when you are looking out from such great heights, you can see practically forever in the distance.
Pros and Cons: Obviously if you have littles who love thrills, the height restriction could potentially be a major con. There’s no harness around your shoulders, which is also notably scary for some riders. The waist harness makes for a great ride, but it’s easy to see why those height safety restrictions are in place. The ride is also outside, which means in bad weather it must shut down.
The pre-show on the VelociCoaster is nice and there's plenty to look at, but there's less of a storyline than for the coaster I'll talk about next. Then again, once you are close to the front of the line, the load time feels quick and constantly moving (more on this later).
Alternatively, however, one massive pro of the VelociCoaster is that it is a completely different experience when you ride it at night versus during the day. At night, you can’t see what twists and turns and loops are coming. It feels literally like you are fleeing from a dino in the dark. It’s an enlivening way to ride, but that’s also true in the day, when you can see how close you are to the water on the barrel roll or high up you are during the ride’s crowning peaks. It’s a superior coaster, and since it opened during the pandemic already, line times are not as long as they once were.
Disney World’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Coaster At Epcot
Requirement to ride: 42 inches or 3’6”
Pre-Show and Ride Theming: “Epcotians” -- as newcomer Terry Crews puts it -- are welcomed to the Wonders of the planet Xandar, where things quickly go awry. A baddie appears on-screen and plans to go back to the dawn of time to stop humanity! But wait, the Guardians of the Galaxy are here to save riders and save the day, all to the tune of an awesome Cosmic Rewind mixtape. It’s real, cinematic storytelling.
The Actual Ride: You’ve probably heard that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first reverse launch coaster and it’s as cool as it sounds. You end up kicking off the ride in a different direction than you end in and the coaster also shifts and swerves to give riders the best vantage point of the action, which mostly shows off the Guardians saving humanity. Pithy dialogue, much of it coming from Dave Bautista's Drax and Chris Pratt's Star-Lord, is involved. The song component is a fun addition, and this isn’t a coaster that is for thrill-seekers only, with many people, myself included, describing it as a “medium” coaster.
Pros and Cons: Cosmic Rewind is fully set inside (good news: air conditioning), and essentially the way it chooses to differentiate the experience each time is through its mixtape of six songs, some of which are more fun than others. You don’t fundamentally have a different experience between day and night, but the ride won't have as many inclement weather issues as an outdoor coaster, which is a definite pro.
It earns points for accessibility, given that somewhat younger riders seeking fun can give it a try. On the other hand, this coaster is more “fun” than it is thrilling. Cosmic Rewind is also similar to Space Mountain, and while I do feel it differentiates itself via its more intricate storyline and fun features, it doesn’t feel like it’s totally breaking barriers and reinventing the wheel for Disney coasters, minus its very cool reverse launch (that part's a definite pro).
I do think the pre-show, while great, has a similar problem to Flight of the Passage in that after the first time you ride it feels like it does go on.. and on … and on. Maybe some people feel like that's more bang for your buck, but I don't. The ride will also likely open on May 27th to multiple-hour lines, even with a virtual queue for the Guardians-centric ride, which at this point will be much longer than the VelociCoaster wait times, which have died down a bit.
So VelociCoaster Versus Cosmic Rewind: Which Is Better?
Given both coasters feature one Chris Pratt, comparisons were bound to be apt. The good news? Both of these coasters are wicked cool and a whole lot of fun, so it’s really mostly a matter of preference. The two rides have overlap audiences, but aren't fully competing for the same parkgoers, as the VelociCoaster really wants to set your heart racing and give you amped up experiences you’ve never seen on a coaster before. Even Bryce Dallas Howard has confirmed the thrills! Guardians wants Marvel fans to have a memorable storyline and give riders a fun, family-friendly experience with one very cool kickoff moment that will be remembered later.
So, really I have to ask: Are you a thrill person or are you just in for a Marvel-ous ride? If you can answer that question, you have solved the puzzle for your own self and family.
Islands of Adventure’s VelociCoaster is currently open and operating, while Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind officially opens on May 27th.
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Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.