By Gareth H
Well I went, I saw, I was disappointed. (To sum up Halloween Horror Nights 17 at Universal Orlando very quickly.)
I got there at 6.30pm, I went straight onto what IU would regard as the best House, "Dead Silence." At 6.30 there was already a 75 minute wait. Now the house was good, very well designed, but for an "Off-Peak" night I think 75 minutes was way too long.
Bill & Ted. Great show but not as good as last year or the year before. Still worth watching and one can only hope it gets better.
Rocky Horror Show tribute. Great fun, VERY sexual. Not for kids. Sit near the front and you will get wet so cover your cameras and cellphones.
The Thing house. Very poor. I judt didn't get it, the scariest part was the queue as it wound through the Barney Show. Best part, the 0 Minute wait at the end of the day.
Scare Zone - Erm, where were they? My wife is petrified of HHN and only goes for me and she wasn't the slightest bit scared.
I didn't attempt any other houses as the average queue was an hour. As I have the frequent fear pass I will be going back and I hope it will get better, it can't get any worse after all.
[If you've been to HHN 17, add your observations in the comments - Ed.]
By Robert Niles
Theme parks now offer a wide variety of Halloween events, after Knott's Berry Farm taught the industry how to extend the season an extra two months.
But what gets you motivated to go to a park's Halloween event? Are you looking for gore? For people to jump out an scare you and your friends? Do you crave the spooky mood? Are you looking for a laugh? Or... do you prefer the more kid-friendly Halloween events, with all the requisite cuteness?
Here's your chance to vote. Making this difficult, you get just one choice.
Explain your pick in the comments, please.
By Robert Niles
There's a slew of 2008 park announcements this week, as Six Flags and Hersheypark release information about new attractions for next year:
At Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Great America and Six Flags New England, The Dark Knight Coaster will debut as the company's first themed indoor coaster that I can recall. It sounds like a wild mouse design, but with a Batman vs. The Joker theme.
New or reinstalled coasters also will debut in 2008 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
All the information I have about new rides for 2008 is available on the update What's New or Under Construction at Top Theme Parks. Feel free to edit it with any additional confirmed information you have.
By Robert Niles
What? It's still September? So what? On theme park calendars, that means it is time for Halloween.
HalloweenTime is already running at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Lots of events are opening this weekend, including Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Knott's Halloween Haunt in Buena Park, Calif. and Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Fla. Disney World's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party kicks off this weekend, too.
Next week brings Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and family-friendlier Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld Orlando.
If you are attending opening nights at any of these events, please your very newsy, descriptive reviews to the Blog Flume. Otherwise, let's fill up the Discussion Board with trip reports and reviews.
By David Graham
Herschend Family Entertainment was the winner in a private auction of the Wild Adventures amusement park, in Valdosta, Ga. Herschend, the owner of the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will pay $34.5 million for the theme park, whose parent company was forced into bankruptcy, in part due to hurricane damage at its Cypress Garden park in Winter Park, Fla.
Cypress Gardens also was sold, for $16.8 million to Land South Holdings, of Mulberry, Fla. Land South announced in its bid filing that it intends to keep the park open as a tourist attraction.
By J. Dana
Located at the Park's entrance, the grand, 706-room, Victorian-style Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is scheduled to open in the summer of 2008.
So where do you put a flagship hotel, 22 years after the Park’s debut (especially considering the reclaimed land constraints of the Tokyo Disney Resort)?
“We embarked on a series of land-use studies,” says Wing, “and found that the most logical place was right at the front door of Tokyo Disneyland. The center of the hotel is on axis and lines up with the castle.”
Rooms on the upper three floors of the nine-story hotel overlook World Bazaar (the TDL Main Street) and will have a prime view of Cinderella Castle and the fireworks show. Conversely, guests will be able to see some of the top floors of the hotel from the Park’s hub.
While the architectural style is reminiscent of the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Floridian and the Disneyland Hotel in Paris, it’s not a replica. “This is more ‘Urban Victorian,’” says Gary. “We don’t have 20 acres of landscaping in which to nestle the hotel so we’ve put more detail into facades and the compact-but-rich, lush gardens.” Making the most of every precious meter, there’s even an Alice in Wonderland, Victorian-style hedge maze that masks a required fire truck turnaround.
By steve lee
Well, we've all been hearing the rumors but I don't think anyone was prepared for what Cedar Fair dropped on us today.
Geauga Lake, as we know it, is gone. Whitewater Kingdom will continue to operate, but every ride in the park will be shipping out to the rest of the parks in the chain.
Read the official word at www.geaugalake.com
Geauga Lake was never able to compete with Cedar Point. Even when Six Flags dumped buckets of money on the place, it was still the #3 park in Ohio. But the park had a lot of history, and it looks like a lot of that history is about to get thrown away.
While everyone's plotting where the B&M floorless and the SLC are headed, no one seems to think about classic attractions like the Big Dipper. After 82 years, this was still a very solid coaster. But are any of the Cedar Fair parks lining up for old wood? I doubt it. Also unlikely to be relocated is Raging Wolf Bobs, which had issues earlier this season that were left unresolved.
I don't understand why Cedar Fair couldn't have announced this, oh two weeks ago. Certainly area and regional enthusiasts would have flocked to get their last rides. Heck, Cedar Fair could have even made a nice bit of scratch on it, promoting it like the Myrtle Beach Pavilion's Last Ride event (would it be completely soulless to quickly plug the MBP Last Ride video that's posted on the TPI Youtube page? Nah...).
But it's too late now. After 119 years of operation, the heart of Geauga Lake has been shattered.
That's all I got. Please feel free to post your memories - both good and bad.
By Robert Niles
At Theme Park Insider, we urge you to follow all safety and other rules when visiting a theme park. As part of that commitment, for example, I don't approve photos to the site that obviously have been taken in violation of park policies regarding photography (such as from on board a roller coaster). Also, the ride videos that we have posted on the Blog Flume in the past have been taken with the permission of park personnel.
But, let's be honest here. I'm betting that some of you have, um, broken a rule or two at some point. [Note: I changed the poll right after putting it up, when I realized that the poll software was counting multiple selections in a very weird, nonsensible way. So I have broken the vote into multiples, with one on each issue.]
Have you ever broken a rule at a theme park?
Please, have at it in the comments. Funny stories are always appreciated, as is your defense for your particular vote.
By Robert Niles
In an effort to eliminate abuses by visitors faking injuries and disabilities to cut to the front of ride lines, Six Flags theme parks are now offering disabled visitors reservation return times instead of a free pass to the front of the queue. (Think FastPass/FlashPass/Universal Express, etc....)
The upside is that guests with disabilities still don't have to wait in a queue, which might not be wheelchair accessible. The downside, for them, is that they lose immediate access to rides. What is unclear is whether the return time will be equal to the current wait time for the ride, or for a later time during the day. Readers, what have you heard?
An article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quotes a mother of two autistic kids about the policy:
She said they went to a ride, booked a time to return and then left.
The policy went into place earlier this month at all Six Flags theme parks.
By Mike Duchock
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Epcot is now going to have a public rededication ceremony on October 1st. In addition the park will have special retro guide maps, an exhibit hall, and a special version of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Although it's not the grand celebration that most Disney fans are hoping for, it is a step in the right direction.
By Robert Niles
Kevin Yee offers an intriguing read over at MiceAge today. He's takes a look at a top-secret internal Disney study examing worst-case business scenarios for Walt Disney World.
The study, Yee writes, was promopted by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the resulting collapse of the air travel market. This time, Disney's consultants are forecasting what could happen to the Central Florida resort when "peak oil" forces prices far beyond the current $80 a barrel.
Yee writes that the Disney study predicts that Disney World could stop making money for the Mouse House at an oil price as low as $160/barrel. That, in turn, is prompting Disney to outsource as much of the resort as it can -- hotels, restaurants, Yee even imagines Disney selling the parks themselves, a la an Oriental Land/Tokyo Disney deal.
Obviously, Disney World would not be the only property to suffer if oil prices make long-distance travel prohibitively expensive. All Orlando parks would tank, and parks that rely on regional visitors would suffer as well.
Yee's piece barely mentions the point, but oil price increases could actually help Disney on the west coast, as a massive Southern California audience would look to Disneyland for its vacation get-away, with Hawaii, Cabo and even Las Vegas becoming too expensive to get to. (Disneyland attendance, unlike the rest of the theme park industry, surged after 9/11, boosted by locals staying close to home.)
By Mitchell Botwin
The Haunted Mansion reopened this weekend at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. (Sorry, no pictures.) The ride had been closed for renovation and update. Since the doors opened there have been 40 min waits (according to the signs) to go in. The update to the ride was great. Below will follow spoilers, so don't read beyond this if you want to experience it first hand.
The outside of the building has been cleaned, so the color of the brickwork is visible and gives it a good feel. The cue is in need of fans or some sort of cooling device for the hot days. The tombstones were there freshened. You are moved into the 1st room and you can tell the woodwork has been polished giving it a dark glow. The stretching picture room has been cleaned up. The pictures are the same but the images are brighter as well as the frames. The voice over is the same.
The hanging man is easier to see and the lightning is brighter. The speakers have been upgraded so the sound is clearer.
The next room is where you enter the doom buggies. The are the same, though it feels like they are moving a little bit faster. Everything has been cleaned. The flashes of lightening are brighter and the transition of pictures is greater and more stark.
There are 2 new additions and multiple modifications. The additions are the Escher stairs which have to be seen to be believed. They were great, could of watched them for longer then the doom buggy allows. The second new is the bride. I don't have the words the describe it, but it is worth a trip to Florida just to see it.
The modifications include more ghosts in the graveyard and less scary, the fortune teller is no longer on the table but floating above. Looks great. The dancers have been increased and are almost too visible, losing some of their ghostly quality, but the additions make up for it.
I would give the Haunted Mansion an 8 out of 10 and strongly recommend it to anyone in the Magic Kingdom.
By Robert Niles
Are annual passes a good deal for you, or do you visit on day passes?
Explain your choice in the comments, and if you did own a pass this year, tell us for which park(s).
By Iris Hernandez
According to Screamscape... Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls at Universal's Islands of Adventure now has lapbars.
I was personally ecstatic when I read this because I have gotten hurt on that ride before due to the lack of lapbars. I will definitely be looking forward to the next time I ride this and for the first time not be afraid of ending up with a bump on my head. Kudos to IOA and safety!
The pictures that were linked to the story did look a little crammed so this ride might become a problem for riders with wider dimensions. And to those that liked feeling like you were going to fall out of the log... that feeling is no more. But at least we know now that IOA does care about our safety. :)
[Editor's note: Check out TPI's list of reported injury accidents at Dudley's Do-Right's. This ride developed a reputation among some insiders for injuring individuals who were light enough to be lifted from their seats by the double-dip at the end of the ride, yet old and heavy enough to be injured by being driven back down into the seat.]
By Robert Niles
In response to suggestions and requests on the Theme Park Insider discussion board, I have started a Theme Park Insider group on Facebook.
Facebook, for those of you who might not know, is a social networking site, started for college students, that is now available to anyone. Think of it as a classier version of MySpace.
The TPI Facebook group will allow you to keep up with what's happening on TPI while you are on Facebook, as well as to see and connect with other Facebook members who join the TPI group.
I am also proposing that we use the Facebook group's "Wall" to post when we are visiting parks and want to meet up with other TPI members. That's a function that we've not had on the site until now. (If there is hugh demand for a specific meet, I will use the Facebook group to schedule that, as well.)
You will need to join and log in to Facebook to see and join the TPI group, so if you are a Facebook regular, I hope that you will take a moment to join Theme Park Insider's Facebook group today.
By Robert Niles
Media reports from Central Florida detail a truck fire at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando this morning.
Reports said that the fire spread to one of the Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges buildings, but that firefighters put out the fire before any significant damage could be done.
By Robert Niles
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has hit Six Flags Great America, located north of Chicago in Gurnee, Ill., over 38 alleged safety violations. The agency recommened that the park be fined $117,700 for the violations, which range from improperly marked exits to damaged ladders to defective emergency brakes on an industrial truck.
By Robert Niles
We need an Orlando-area Theme Park Insider reader to cover, um, an event at Universal Orlando on the evening of September 28.
You'll need to be there by 6 pm, and to submit a write-up of the evening to TPI by the next morning. Experience with nighttime digital photography is helpful and the ability to post informative online video of the event is a major plus. But you must be able to write up a thoughtful, informative and entertaining description of the event. The plus for you? You get into said event before anyone else.
Same rules as always for TPI reporting gigs: You must be a registered member of the site, posting under your real name. You are responsible for getting yourself to the event and you must abide by TPI's guidelines for writers at all times. E-mail me (see link at bottom of the page) if you want the gig and can convince me you are the best person to do it.
By David Sutter
Well it's official: Adventure Parks Group, LLC is selling off Wild Adventures, in Valdosta, Ga. and its sister park Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla.
As long as Ive been submitting sotries to Theme Park Insider Ive pushed Cypress Gardens as a great family alterntive the Big three here in Florida....Ken Buescher, CEO of the company...said he was hopeful the new owners would keep both parks up and running...Which would be a great thing to do...I wish both parks the best of luck.....
By Robert Niles
This week we've seen plans for an amibitious new animal exhibit at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Fla.... as well as a deadly fire which claimed the life of a giraffe at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, outside San Francisco, Calif.
So, let's talk about live animals in theme parks.
Discuss your position in the comments. Previous votes of the week
By Ashley Stuchlik
Ending almost a year of speculation, Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida, announced today its newest addition. Located in the area formerly known as Congo, Jungala will incorporate exotic landscaping with some of the world’s most endangered animals.
An artist's rendering of the new Bengal Tiger habitat.
Set in a 4-acre village, guests will see Bengal Tigers, Orangutans, Gibbons and Flying Foxes. The Bengal Tiger habitat has been upgraded from its former area. Unlike before, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with the tigers through a multi-level viewing area. The underwater window will allow for viewing of the eleven tigers through high impact glass. There will also be an air conditioned cave-like area for watching and a suspension bridge which will also provide more viewing vantage points. A special feature of this area will be the “tiger tug-of-war.” Guests will be invited to hang on to one end of a rope on one side of a glass partition while a tiger demonstrates its strength on the other end.
Construction progesses on the tiger area.
Another feature of Jungala is the return of the orangutans. Their habitat was previously located by the Stanleyville train station, but with the addition of Sheikra, they temporarily had no visible home. All of this will change with a huge permanent exhibit area catered to their particular interests and needs. Three 30-foot-tall tree top viewing platforms will allow for the six orangutans to caravan high above guests heads while traversing from one area of the habitat to the other. Glenn Young, Vice President of Zoological Operations, said there will even be orangutans engaging in painting sessions complete with canvas and colorful paint, which will surely be an interesting sight.
A few new animal species will be incorporated into Jungala. White-cheeked crested gibbons, flying foxes and tomistomas (of the crocodile family) will all be permanent residents at Busch Gardens.
With any new addition to the park, there are always new rides and play areas. Jungala has some of both. While maybe not as heart pounding as the Kumba or Montu rollercoasters, two rides are planned that will add unique views of the jungle village. Jungle Flyers is a tree top zip line ride which offers three separate flight paths. Riders will enjoy an out and back ride across the path in a hang glider-like seat. The Wild Surge is a 4-story tower ride which will launch fourteen riders out of a 35 foot tall mountainside waterfall. Tree Top Trails will be a new 3-story play area with bridges, climbing nets, crawl tubes and a maze.
Artist's rendering of Jungle Flyers and the Wild Surge.
For dining options, Jungla is offering two new restaurants. The old Vivi Restaurant will be completely refurbished and opened under the new name of Bengal Bistro. A new restaurant area is also planned called Orang Café. Also, stilt-walkers and costumed village animals will routinely be out and about on the village pathways providing entertainment.
As for an opening date, Dan Brown, Vice President and General Manager of Busch Gardens, stated that spring 2008 is the planned opening for the area. He also said that the original Congo area opened over 30 years ago, back in 1976, and a new animal friendly, family oriented area is a welcome addition. Young, mentioned earlier, said that Jungala is the result of over two years of careful planning between zoologists, engineers, and park planners.
The official announcement, which was also broadcast live online, was held in Gwazi Pavilion. The pavilion was elaborately decorated like a jungle, with tree branches along the ceiling, a river complete with fish, and a rocky “waterfall” behind the stage. Zoologists were standing in the seating area each holding a different species of animal, welcoming questions and some even allowed you to pet the animal.
Following the announcement, we were allowed access to a hard hat tour of the new area. My tour guide was Glenn Young and his excitement over Jungala was evident. One could tell that he is very eager to have the project completed so guests can begin to enjoy it and the animals can move into their new homes.
I feel that Jungala will add a new element to Busch Gardens Africa. This area will attract all different age groups who will find something new and interesting to explore or see. Being a coaster enthusiast, I was a little dismayed to hear that there are no plans at this time to incorporate a new coaster into this area, but being a theme park enthusiast, I am very interested to see how this all comes together and what the final project area will look like. The jungle village of Jungala seems to be a unique yet thrilling area that is unlike anything ever constructed at a theme park before.
By Bradley Robertson
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel today, it looks like Disney may change not only how FastPass tickets are distributed, but also potentially creating guest tiers. Disney filed a patent application last week that "would use central computers to manage distribution of FastPass tickets throughout Disney World's four Central Florida theme parks and at Disneyland in Southern California." While that isn't very specific, it is thought this may allow guests to get their FastPass tickets via text messages or even email. Additionally, the patent application references "that the technology could be used to give preferential treatment to people who spend more money at the resort."
When asked to comment on the application a Disney spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel that FastPass distribution wasn't changing and that they planned to use the technology discussed in the patent for several things.
If you don't already stay on Disney property when you visit Orlando will the possibility of this tiered system make you more likely to do so?
By Robert Niles
A fire at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom this morning killed a giraffe at the Northern California theme park.
An electrical short set hay on fire in the barn after 2 a.m. this morning. Two female giraffes escaped the burning barn, but the male giraffe could not, and was killed, according to a story from the San Francisco Chronicle.
By Robert Niles
Busch Gardens Africa sends along details about Howl-O-Scream 2007, hosted by "The Death Jockey."
(Wow, Eminem really needed some extra bucks for the divorce deal, didn't he? [ducks])
Anyway, Busch promises three new haunted houses for this year's Halloween event at its Tampa, Florida theme park:
Busch also offers two new scare zones and two new shows, "Sweet Dreams" and "Freak Show!"
There's also Fright Feast, at $21.95 per person, which gets you a full buffet, exclusive showing of Sweet Dreams, plus a half-hour of early access to the houses.
But my favorite add-on has to be the "Howl-O-Scream sleepovers" for 7th through 10th graders. For $75 per, you get "chaperoned front-of-line access to haunted houses, 'creatures of the night' animal interactions, mock Scare Squad auditions and on-site accommodations," according to the Busch press release.
Howl-O-Scream runs Oct. 5-6, 11-13, 18-21 and 25-28, with discounted previews Sept. 28-30. Tickets and more information are available on the official website at DeathJockey.com
By Iris Hernandez
This is what worried me when Disney announced the rate hike for prices in admission. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney has officially raised its parking fees to $11. Matching its competitor Universal Studios which already had the $11 parking fee. Parking in the Downtown Disney and Water Parks still remain free. For more details please go to Orlando Sentinel.com. I am not at all surprised by this move...so here comes the question...when is it too much to pay for parking? after all, you are already paying a bundle to get in the parks in the first place.
By Mitchell Botwin
There is a new feature available at Epcot. The Muppets have arrived. We were greeted by Professor Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker traveling around the park talking with guests and testing out new Muppet Labs technology. This involved smoke, water, bubbles, sirens and anything else they could fit in the mobile Muppet lab. I forgot to bring my camera, so no pictures. The mobile lab would roll out from imagination and roll to the open area near the bathrooms opposite The Land. The 2 lab assistants keep people back and bring the microphone to guests so they can interact with the Doctor and Beaker. The Doctor would also pick people out of the crowd to interact with.
The base of the lab is a Segway so it gives it an uneven movement which goes great with the lab. There is no visible controller which adds to the fun. The show ran for about 15 minutes so it didn't feel rushed.
I hope Disney will make this a permanent part of Epcot.
Keep reading: August 2007 Archive
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