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April 2006

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Travel alert: Massive demonstrations in SoCal on Monday

By Robert Niles
Published: April 28, 2006 at 4:37 PM
If you are planning a visit to an L.A.-area theme park on Monday, be warned. Massive immigration protests are planned for downtown L.A. on Monday, and a widespread general strike may shut down attractions and facilities throughout the metro area.

There's nothing I've heard slated for Orange County (home of Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm) but with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of immigrants and their supporters planning to walk off the job Monday, going out to play, eat or shop may prove difficult.

The protests are not limited to Southern California and events are planned in Chicago, San Francisco and cities throughout the country.

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Legoland Denmark offers Quick Pass system

By Arthur Levine
Published: April 27, 2006 at 5:13 PM
I just posted a blog about Legoland Denmark's new Quick Pass system: Less Hitting the Bricks with Legoland's Quick Pass.

Essentially, it's like Disney's time-ticketing Fastpass program, except that guests can get their passes online at home before visiting the park. It's intriguing, and the company that developed the concept is hoping to bring it to other parks in the U.S. and elsewhere.

I'm curious what park fans think about line management systems in general. I'm torn over them. Lines are terrible, of course, but any solution seems to have drawbacks.

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Nev. middle school pulls a Chevy Chase, visits closed theme park

By Robert Niles
Published: April 26, 2006 at 9:20 AM
Here's the funny story of the day, courtesy the AP:

The buses were loaded and the students were excited, but when they pulled up to Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, Calif., they found the gates closed.

School officials at O'Brien Middle School in Reno, Nev. hired a tour company to plan the theme park trip to reward top students, but, um, it appears that no one from the school or the tour company bothered to check the park's calendar to see if it would be open.

Fortunately, no one appears to have done the Complete Chevy Chase and pulled a fake gun on a security officer to demand a turn on the closed rides. Perhaps next year, school officials might consider rewarding their top students, and themselves, with a little Internet access?

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More money, and more kids, for theme park workers

By Robert Niles
Published: April 25, 2006 at 11:55 AM
Today's theme park news, from across the transom...

  • Universal Orlando has increased its starting wage for theme park employees by 50 cents an hour, to $7.25. That puts Universal ahead of its local competition, as SeaWorld Orlando pays $7 an hour to start and Walt Disney World offers just $6.80.

    Universal's also dumping the three-month waiting period to be eligible for benefits, allowing new hires to be covered immediately.

  • Who had "January 2008" in the "When will Disney finally get around to shutting the last DisneyQuest" pool? Well, if you did, Jim Hill says you're a winner.

  • Disney's gone public with its 'Magical Beginnings' ticket package, designed to attract families with preschoolers to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. On first glance, one might think that Disney's full enough with the little ones, thank you. But Magical Beginnings packages free-meal discounts for families staying on property with special in-park events from Aug. 13 to Sept. 30. (A similar promotion, including stays at 'Good Neighbor' hotels runs from Aug. 13 to Nov. 21 at Disneyland.)

    Why then? That would pull families with preschoolers out of the busiest summer vacation periods and into a "shoulder season" when most older kids have returned to school. In theory, this should even out the crowds by shifting some visitors from July and early August into late August through early fall.

    Be careful if planning a 'Magical Beginnings' trip to Disneyland in late August, however. Unlike in Florida, most schools in Southern California do not start until after Labor Day, so one would expect most families with toddlers and older kids who want to take advantage of the package to do so between mid-August and early September.

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Looking for recommendations on a national park vacation

By Robert Niles
Published: April 23, 2006 at 10:01 PM
I apologize for the light posting recently. We're wrapping up the semester at the University of Southern California, where I write and teach, and school commitments have kept me from TPI.

That said, I have a question for you, the reader, today. We're planning a national park trip again this summer, and I'd love to hear from you about places to stay and things to do in the Grand Canyon/Four Corners/Mesa Verde areas.

In return, and to give you a little perspective on what the Niles family likes, let me recommend the Tenaya Lodge for anyone visiting Yosemite. We stayed there last year and found it a wonderful destination.

Think Disney's Wilderness Lodge, a touch scaled down but in a much more authentic setting. The resort is located in Fish Camp, just outside Yosemite's southern entrance, and marks the National Park Service's new vision to place lodging outside the over-crowded Yosemite Valley. You can still get shuttles to the Valley, as well as tours of the park, from the Tenaya. I'd highly recommend the summer hayride and jamboree cook-out, too, which Natalie (a little curmudgeon at times) utterly loved. It's not cheap -- $40 for adults and $20 for kids, if memory serves -- but it is certainly a bargain.

I know that we don't formally cover national parks here on TPI. But I do know that there's quite an overlap among theme park and national park fans for family vacations, so I thought this a nice time to bring up the subject and solicit recommendations, as so many of us start planning our summer vacations.

(And don't worry. I'll be hitting several theme parks, too. In fact, I'm planning an Orlando trip right now....)

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Survivor: The Ride debuts at Paramount's Great America

By Robert Niles
Published: April 20, 2006 at 9:40 AM
I've haven't made my way up to the Bay Area yet this year, but I wanted to note that Survivor: The Ride, the Zampera Disk'o Coaster, has opened at Paramount's Great America, in Santa Clara.

This is the first attraction themed to the highly popular reality TV show, though it is a straight-up thrill ride, and does not (necessarily) involve any of the political back-stabbing and skimpy clothing that's made the TV show so popular.

Also: Check out our thread on gas prices and your summer vacation on the discussion board.

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Disneyland/DCA rumors: Good-bye Rockit Mountain; Hello Pixar shoot-'em-up

By Robert Niles
Published: April 18, 2006 at 11:01 AM
Rockit Mountain, the planned night-time makeover of Disneyland's Space Mountain, which was slated to debut this summer, won't launch as planned, writes Al Lutz at MiceAge.

Lutz reports that the accelerated rebuild schedule for the ride, which reopened last July, left little time for adding the Rockit Mountain effects. Plus, Disney's Imagineers are said to be less than impressed with the overall show and ride ops aren't happy about taking the popular roller coaster down for half an hour every night for the switchover to the Rockit Mountain theming.

Yet as the Rumor Mill taketh away, the Rumor Mill doth giveth, too. Lutz teases that a new Pixar-themed shoot-'em-up dark ride will go in the space currently occupied by the shuttered Maliburitos eatery.

On the other coast, TPI reader Neil Preece reports that Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls at Universal's Islands of Adventure has reopened after a long makeover. Ripsaw Falls' unique "double dip" final drop had been the scene of multiple accidents, especially affecting smaller, middle-aged women, and much work appeared be done during the rehab on the drop. Any reports of changes from those who have ridden this week?

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Another death on Mission:Space at WDW

By Robert OGrosky
Published: April 12, 2006 at 10:31 PM
Another person has died after riding Mission:Space at Walt Disney World's Epcot. It's the second death in less than a year associated with the ride.

The 49-year-old German woman feel ill while on the ride Tuesday, and exited complaining of nausea and dizziness. She was checked, then taken to Celebration Hospital, where she died earlier today.

Last June, a 4-year-old boy, who suffered from a previously unknown heart condition, died after going on the ride.

[Update: (4/14) A medical examiner has issued a preliminary report stating that Hiltrud Bluemel, 49, died of a stroke linked to long-standing high blood pressure. The report did not mention a connection between the ride and her death.]

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Universal confirms Seuss Trolley ride for June 2006

By Gareth H
Published: April 12, 2006 at 8:51 PM
Universal Orlando's finally announced what Islands of Adventure visitors have known for months now -- the long-neglected aerial track above Seuss Landing will be getting its ride installed.

The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride will debut, seven years after the Sylvester McMonkey McBean's Very Unusual Driving Machine were supposed to debut on the overhead track. "Families will journey through seven specially created scenes -- and get a bird's eye view of all of Seuss Landing," says Universal's press release.

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Busch Gardens makes park name changes official

By Robert Niles
Published: April 11, 2006 at 6:22 PM
By the way, Busch made it official today, announcing to the press that it has in fact changed the names of Busch Gardens Williamsburg to Busch Gardens Europe and Busch Gardens Tampa to Busch Gardens Africa. (Following, of course, the previous redesignation of Busch Gardens Los Angeles as Busch Gardens Brewery Parking Lot.)

As reported here earlier, the domains buschgardenseurope.com and buschgardensafrica.com, which were unregistered, were snapped up by a private registrant shortly after TPI's report. I can't imagine that Busch would have to do a blind registration through GoDaddy.com for its domains. Which leaves me to believe that Busch foolishly did not bother to secure them before launching its new marketing campaign. (Nor, apparently, does anyone from Busch read this website.) In fact, the Busch Gardens website still refers to the parks by their old names.

Hey, Busch, the Web's a pretty powerful promotional medium now. Perhaps you might consider *using* it? (Oh wait, no one from there reads the site. Oh, well....)

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Disney World to debut new Finding Nemo show from Avenue Q composer

By Robert Niles
Published: April 11, 2006 at 12:41 PM
I forgot to mention yesterday the official announcement confirming that Finding Nemo - The Musical will debut later this year at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Finding Nemo - The Musical will be a live stage adaptation of the Academy Award-winning Pixar Animation Studios movie. The show will feature original songs by the Tony Award-winning composer of "Avenue Q," Robert Lopez. (I think it's safe to assume that we'll be hearing much cleaner lyrics in this show.)

This isn't, of course, the first time that Disney's turned to the composer of a rather ribald musical show to create a family-friendly production. Memory serves that Disney did pretty well there with "Little Shop of Horrors" composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken....

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Universal Studios Hollywood revamps Studio Tour attraction

By Robert Niles
Published: April 9, 2006 at 9:51 PM
It's time for Babs to audition again.

Universal Studios Hollywood has announced a casting call for Studio Tour guides for its revamped Studio Tour attraction, which will debut in June. Auditions will take place at Universal on Tuesday, May 9 from noon to 2pm, with callbacks Thursday, May 11 from 1pm to 5pm. About 30 guides, both English and Spanish speakers, will be selected.

The new studio tour will feature narration by Whoopi Goldberg, a revamped King Kong segment and a new attraction showcasing "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift."

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TPI rated best theme park site on the Web

By Robert Niles
Published: April 7, 2006 at 9:53 AM
I just wanted to take a moment to note that this month's edition of Travel + Leisure magazine features the publication's selections for the Top 28 travel sites on the Internet. And for best theme park travel website, the editors of Travel + Leisure picked... Theme Park Insider.

"For everything from news to reviews to safety data, themeparkinsider.com has the details on nearly 70 theme and amusement parks worldwide. The reader opinions are especially useful, with ratings from 1 to 10 on attractions, restaurants, and hotels for each park."

Thanks, Travel + Leisure! (And welcome to its readers here checking us out.)

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2006's new rides open for first reviews

By Robert Niles
Published: April 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM
Lots of new listings on the site, as more parks open for the 2006 season. Reader Keelin Haw has posted a trip report on Busch Gardens Williamsburg's new show, Emerald Beat. Also, we've opened up the listings for Goliath, the new B&M megacoaster at Six Flags Over Georgia and Timber Tower, the new Huss tower at Tennessee's Dollywood. Finally, not to forget you fans from Europe, Stealth the new Intamin launch coaster at the U.K.'s Thorpe Park is now available for rating and review, too.

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Keep reading: March 2006 Archive

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