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December 2005

Welcome to the new Theme Park Insider!


By Robert Niles: The new design is here!

Allow me to take a moment to point out some of the new features on the site: The first thing you've likely noticed is the return of the Blog Flume, which will be found right here on the front page of the site. Each weekday, we'll have links and summaries to new theme park-related news from around the Web, plus briefs from theme parks, including new discounts and announcements. We'll also link to new and updated content around ThemeParkInsider.com.

If you click one of the park links to the right on the home page, or on our new browse parks page, you'll find several new options. Registered readers can now update park, attraction, restaurant and hotel descriptions, using "wiki"-style editing technology. In addition, you'll find many more photos on park and location description pages, with options for you to upload your personal photos from these locations.

Finally, we'll be adding description pages for several major annual theme park events, such as Halloween Horror Nights and Super Soap Weekend. (Look for those later this week.)

I've also cleaned up the look and feel of the site, as well as making some changes on the back end that should help pages load much faster. I hope you'll enjoy this redesign of the site and let me know anything I can do to make your experience on the site more helpful in planning your theme and amusement park vacations.

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Disney slams Universal in 2005 theme park attendance


By Robert Niles: More big news today:

The Walt Disney Company's decision to mark flagship theme park Disneyland's 50th anniversary with newly installed shows and attractions at all its theme parks around the world paid off with significant attendance gains. Amusement Buisness magazine's annual estimate of global theme park attendance gives Disney's parks in the U.S., Japan and France the top 8 spots.

In North America, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued to lead the nation, with an increase of 6.5 percent, pushing the park's 2005 attendance to more than 16 million visitors. Nationwide, attendance at the nation's top 50 parks increased 4.2 percent.

The big loser in this year's report was Disney's archrival, Universal, which saw attendance at all three of its U.S. parks decrease, led by twin 8.5 percent slides at Universal Orlando's Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Apparently, new "Fear Factor" shows on both coasts weren't anywhere near enough to draw fans from the competing Disney parks down the road.

Universal's Islands of Adventure lost the top spot in the annual Theme Park Insider Awards to Tokyo DisneySea this summer, in part due to a lack of new attractions at the Orlando park. Now IoA has suffered the further indignity of dropping behind Disney's California Adventure in annual attendance. (Though it must be noted that DCA's attendance was helped greatly by sopping up the overflow crowds from Disneyland's blockbuster 50th aniversary celebration.)

Here are the numbers for the top 25 parks in North America, courtesy Amusement Business:

  1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 16.1 million, +6.5 percent
  2. Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. 14.5 million, +8.5 percent
  3. Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 9.9 million, +5.5 percent
  4. Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 8.6 million, +5 percent
  5. Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, 8.2 million, +5 percent
  6. Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando, 6.1 million, -8.5 percent
  7. Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., 5.8 million, +3.6 percent
  8. Universal's Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, 5.76 million, -8.5 percent
  9. SeaWorld Orlando, 5.6 million, +0.2 percent
  10. Universal Studios Hollywood, 4.7 million, -6 percent
  11. Adventuredome at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, 4.5 million, +2.3 percent
  12. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, 4.3 million, +5.1 percent
  13. SeaWorld San Diego, 4.1 million, +2.5 percent
  14. Paramount Canada's Wonderland in Maple, Ontario, 3.6 million, +7 percent
  15. Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., 3.47 million, -3 percent
  16. Paramount's Kings Island in Kings Island, Ohio, 3.3 million, -5.1 percent
  17. Morey's Piers in Wildwood, N.J., 3.1 million, +1 percent
  18. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, 3.1 million, -2 percent
  19. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif., 3 million, flat
  20. Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., 2.9 million, +6 percent
  21. Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., 2.8 million, +24 percent
  22. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., 2.8 million, +5 percent
  23. Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., 2.7 million, flat
  24. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, 2.6 million, +8.3 percent
  25. Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., 2.3 million, +7.3 percent

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An Insider's look at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge


By Robert Niles: Russell Meyer's back from Orlando, and continues his reporting with a delightful write-up of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Back here on the west coast, Monsters, Inc: Mike and Sully to the Rescue is now open at Disney's California Adventure. If you've managed to get on this new dark ride during its public previews, please feel free to add your comments and description. This ride replaces "Superstar Limo," a much-maligned dark ride that might have been the most hated ride in Disney history. (Though Epcot's Journey Into Your Imagination -- sans Figment, came close.) Here's hoping Monsters, Inc. is much, much better.

Update: Russell's video of the Animal Kingdom Lodge is now up!

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Christmas Tree goes up in flames at Disney's Grand Californian


By David Eggert: According to CTV news, a Christmas Tree in the lobby of Disney's Grand Californian hotel at the Disneyland Resort caught fire early Wednesday morning. Reportedly, staff were changing some bulbs on the tree around 3 a.m. this morning and the fire was started when the power to the tree was turned back on. The fire was controlled by the hotel sprinkler system until fire crews arrived on the scene. Hotel guests were evacuated to three locations and no injuries were reported. The lobby likely suffered smoke damage, as well as damage to carpets and furniture from the reported one to two feet of water that was pooled on the floor. An estimate of the damage is not yet available. The resort will release a statement later today.

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A sneak peek at the floats for the 2006 Rose Parade


By Robert Niles: This is the time of year when Theme Park Insider's hometown of Pasadena, Calif. becomes THAT Pasadena, Calif., home of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl.

The first signs appear early in December with the construction of massive bleacher seats along Colorado Boulevard, with a few even on TPI's own Sierra Madre Blvd. On New Year's Eve, we never have to watch TV for the midnight count. Opening the window will do, as tens of thousands of people have already gathered along the parade route, three blocks away, to claim spots on the sidewalk and to count down the New Year's arrival while they wait.

The New Year's Eve celebration won't happen this year -- the parade's "Never on a Sunday" rule shifts it to Jan. 2 in 2006. And the traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup in the Rose Bowl Game is also gone, due to a Jan. 4 national championship contest between my USC and the University of Texas.

But other traditions do continue. Today, my family and a few friends headed over to the park just south of the Rose Bowl to watch the float decorating. Take a look at some of the photos I shot over on our Tournament of Roses Parade page.

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Expedition Everest set to open within the month


By Robert Niles: Walt Disney World annual passholders are beginning to get word that Disney's scheduled Jan. 26-29 for passholder previews for Expedition Everest.

Disney's SOP in the past for new rides has been to throw the gates open for unannounced public soft openings in the week or two preceeding the passholder preview. These can be for just an hour or two, or for the whole day. So keep an eye open around Animal Kingdom over the next few weeks. You might get lucky and have the chance to be one of the new coaster's first public riders. (And of course, should you get that chance, please submit the details!)

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Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014

Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014

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