Sunday, June 2, 2013

Disneyland Review: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Spooky and thrilling take on a popular theme park ride
Cons: Long lines (like any popular ride)
The Bottom Line
Spooky details
Set this above similar
Rides at other parks

Drop into the Hollywood Tower Hotel and Prepare to Enter The Twilight Zone

I love Disney parks for their variety of rides.  You can ride a thrill ride and then take a break with a much more sedate offering.  And when you ride the thrill rides, you aren't dealing with the same old thrill rides you can ride at other parks.  The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a perfect example.  Yes, it's a ride that drops you, but it is so much more than that.

The ride is located at the end of Hollywood Pictures Backlot.  Normally, you'd just follow the main street in this section and turn right.  In 2010, they've got construction going, so you have to actually enter the attraction through the back of A Bug's Land.  There are signs to help you find your way.  (Personally, since both areas are normally pointless dead ends, I hope they leave it open even when the construction is finished.)  Frankly, you can't miss the attraction because the towers of the building stick up beyond much of anything else around them.

The line is often quite long and wanders around outside for quite a while.  This attraction does offer a Fastpass.  With this option, you can get a ticket good for a one hour window where you can skip the majority of the line.  This is what I almost always do, although last night I did wait 45 minutes for the ride.  It was still worth it.

When you enter the hotel's lobby, take a minute to look around.  This is where the details of Disney start coming into play.  You'll see thing as they were left in 1939.  Everything is covered in dust, and all the props are from the era.  It's too bad you don't spend more time here in line since there are so many great details to observe.

The Fastpass and regular lines merge as you enter the library for a short introduction video.  Seems you are in the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the place to stay during the Hollywood of the 1930's.  That is until October 31, 1939 when lightning struck the hotel.  Five people were riding in an elevator at the time, and they just vanished.  This entire video is hosted by a Rod Serling, host of the TV show The Twilight Zone thanks to the magic of modern technology.  The lights in the library dim while we watch, and thunder even sounds at the appropriate place.  It's spooky in a fun way that only Disney can do.

From there, you enter one final line to board your service elevator to take you to your room.  This line usually takes no more than 10 minutes or so.  You are seated in your elevator and told to buckle up.  Trust me, you'll want to do that.  Once your bellhop has double checked everyone's seatbelts, you are off.  You ascend a level or two, and then you hear Rod's voice reminding you of the video you just saw.  Then you warns you it is all about to happen again.  Sure enough, the elevator you are in drops, only to rise up and drop and rise and drop....

According to Disney's website, they say you are in the elevator for two minutes.  And maybe with the video and stuff they use to set the tone, you are.  But it never feels like it to me.  It seems like it is all over in about 30 seconds.

Keep in mind that I am afraid of heights, but I love this ride.  One reason I like it is that only when you are at the very top of the elevator shaft, do doors open and you see just how high you really are.  Otherwise, you are usually rising and falling in the dark.  And you rise and fall pretty quickly.  I always need the seatbelt to stay in my seat.  For me, that's part of the fun.  I have a friend who is even more afraid of heights than I am, and for a few years, she refused to go on the ride with me.  Once she finally decided to try it, she said she wouldn't ride it again, only to cave later.  It's not her favorite, but she does still enjoy it.

Because of the nature of the ride, people who use a wheelchair or other such device need to be able to transfer to the seat in the elevator.  The minimum height in 40 inches.

I should also mention that this ride was copied from the ride at Disney World's Hollywood Studios.  It's identical down to the lobby you wander through in line to the pre-ride video and the final plunges.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a fun drop type ride that goes the extra mile to be spooky through the tie-in with The Twilight Zone.  And it's those extra details that make me love it that much more.  This is a must do ride every time I make it to California Adventure.

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