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November 2007

Vote of the week: What will be 2008's best new theme park attraction?

By Robert Niles
Published: November 30, 2007 at 3:25 PM
We'll hand out an award for this next Fourth of July, but what's keeping us from speculating about the winner now?


So, which "new for 2008" attraction, of those listed below, do you anticipate being the best of the year? Note that I am not including anything from the Hard Rock Park in this one, since we'll be doing some separate votes for that new theme park.

Want more information about these new attractions? See our What's New or Under Construction at Top Theme Parks for links.

Discuss in the comments.

Comments (7) | Archive Link

Six Flags to tear down Kentucky Superman ride... and other weekend notes

By Robert Niles
Published: November 30, 2007 at 2:47 PM
  • Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has a judge's okay to tear down the Superman Tower of Power ride upon which a girl lost her feet last summer.

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain is offering free admission with a toy donation for Toys for Tots. Offer's good on Dec. 2 , 8 and 9 and you must bring a new, unwrapped toy worth at least $15. (We told you about a similar deal at Knott's earlier this week.)

  • The Universal theme park in South Korea, reported here last spring, is a go. (Thanks to reader David Graham for the tip.)

  • Finally, I couldn't let this go unnoticed: There's an entry in the French version of Wikipedia devoted to... the Theme Park Insider Awards. But no such article on the English Wikipedia. Can we get that fixed, TPI readers/Wikipedians?

  • Update: Somewhat off-topic, but still... Evel Knievel died. If you were a boy in the 1970s (like me), Evel was a big, big, big deal. I remember my Evel Knievel action figure and begging, *begging* my parents to take me to Kings Island on my eighth birthday to watch Evel jump. (They didn't.) FWIW, there will be an Evel Knievel-themed roller coaster at Six Flags St. Louis this spring.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

  • Cast member killed at Disney World*

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 29, 2007 at 9:47 AM
    I've received multiple reports that a Disney World cast member was injured last weekend on the Primeval Whirl coaster at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The employee was standing in an area off-limits to guests when she was struck by a moving car, knocking her off a platform. The woman, whose age I've not yet been able to track down, struck her head.

    Disney did not report the accident to Florida's OSHA department until last night, when reports say the employee took a turn for the worse.

    * Update: The cast member, who was in her 60s, died Thursday night, the Orlando Sentinel confirms.

    Comments (14) | Archive Link

    Free admit at Knott's with toy

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 27, 2007 at 1:11 PM
    If you'll be in SoCal this December, here's a way to enjoy a day at one of the local theme parks, while feeling extra-good about doing something nice for someone else.

    Knott's Berry Farm is offering free admission for anyone who brings to the park a new, unwrapped toy worth at least $10. The offer is available on Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16, and the toy will go to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program.

    While you are turning in your toy, you also can write a note to a Marine or other U.S. service personnel stationed abroad through the Pen Pals for Soldiers program.

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Your favorite holiday parade?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 22, 2007 at 9:37 PM
    Time for a little holiday showdown: which is the better holiday parade, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, or New Year's Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.?

    Yep, there is a theme park connection here: A version of the Macy's Parade also runs through the holiday season at the Universal Orlando Resort, and Disneyland often has a float in the Rose Parade, where Mickey Mouse served a grand marshal a few years back. (Disneyland's not on the participant list this year, though.)

    It's Thanksgiving week in the U.S., which might tip votes toward Macy's, but the Rose Parade holds the home-court advantage on TPI, as the site's HQ lies three blocks from the Rose Parade route.

    (Note: I'm not including Disney World's Christmas Parade among the choices, since it is no longer broadcast live. What you now see on ABC Christmas morning is a canned special, taped weeks in advance.)

    Explain your vote in the comments, please.

    Comments (6) | Archive Link

    Finding theme park inspiration at 'American Boy Place'

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 21, 2007 at 9:10 PM
    A few months ago, when my wife took my daughter to Los Angeles' American Girl Place, my son, Brian, protested, "But I want to go to American Boy Place!"

    Well, after some time, I feel like I found it: The 2007 Los Angeles International Auto Show.

    After watching Pixar's "Cars" for umpteen times since it came out, Brian has fallen in love with Ferrari. His bed is adorned with spread featuring Michael Schumacher's last F1 champion, and Brian's taken to demanding my cell phone or a camera whenever he spies a Ferrari on Pasadena's streets. (Which happens waaaaaay more often than it did in any other community where I've lived.) All was well, until a month ago, when after shooting a black Ferrari on Colorado Blvd., Brian heard a throaty roar, turned and found himself starting at a Lamborghini rolling through the intersection.

    Now, my little gear-head can't decide where his loyalty lies: Ferrari, or Lamborghini? So, today, he and I drove down to the LA Convention Center to enjoy both. As we drove up to the parking garage, I counted at least four other cars in the line with dads driving pre-teen boys. And I couldn't walk 10 feet through the exotic car hall without crossing in front of a kid aiming a digital camera. Theme park managers looking for inspiration on how to attract a growing audience of boys and their dads might do well to invest some hours at a car show. American Boy Place, indeed.

    To provide a little eye-candy for the auto lovers on TPI, Brian presents his favorite photos from the show. (I took the two photos that include him. All other photos are by Brian Niles.)

    Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

    2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

    Lamborghini Reventón

    2008 Lamborghini Reventón

    Reventón engine

    Brian, with the 12-cylinder Reventón engine

    Porsche hybrid

    1900 gas/electric hybrid, by Porsche

    Porsche ALMS car

    Porsche's entry in the American LeMans Series

    Camry NASCAR COT

    Brian with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Toyota Camry "Car of Tomorrow"

    Brian doesn't want to wait until 2011 for "Cars Land" at California Adventure. And the thrill of driving on his own at Legoland's Driving School is wearing thin. I suspect that the first theme park than can land a licensing deal with Ferrari or Lamborghini for a roller coaster or high-speed track ride (complete with show car in the queue) is going to have a lot of seven-year-old boys (and their big brothers, dads and granddads) waiting in line.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Be thankful... you are not a sports fan in Cleveland

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 20, 2007 at 12:41 PM
    Today's post is completely off-topic, but indulge me this one. Most theme parks around the country are closed now, for those that remain open, the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving might be the slowest days of the year. Since I am also a math geek and sports fan, I decided to dust off an idea I've had in the back of my mind for some time.

    Which city's sports fans have suffered most? I'm sick of hearing Cubs fans, for example, complain even though their city's NBA team racked up championships like Britney racking up referrals from child welfare agents. Or Red Sox fans (before 2004) moaning even though the Pats sported multiple Super Bowl rings and the Boston Garden's roof might as well have collapsed from the weight of NBA banners.

    No, truly suffering sports fans live in a city where no team's won squat in recent memory. To figure out which city's fans have suffered the most, I applied a simple formula: Your metro area gets one point for each season it's had a team in the four major team professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) since one of those teams last won a title. City with the highest Misery Score has suffered the most.

    Here are a couple examples: Denver, which last won when the Avalanche got the Stanley Cup in 2001, gets 24 points -- for the six years since then for the NFL Broncos, NHL Avalanche, NBA Nuggets and MLB Rockies. Salt Lake City, which has never won a title in any league, gets 28 points for the 28 years the NBA Jazz have played there.

    I spent some time with Wikipedia and calculated the Misery Score for each metro area with a team in one of the "big four" leagues. I did not give any metro area "double credit" for having two teams in one league, e.g. the Giants and Jets for New York in the NFL. AFAIAK, that's two chances for your city to win a title. If you choose not to root for one or both of those teams, that's your problem. I'm not going to get into this "Well, I live on the north side of Chicago and root for the Cubs, Blackhawks, Packers and Bucks, so I've suffered more than you give Chicago credit for." Hey, if that's who you chose to root for -- sucks to be you.

    The 'Which Team Should I Root For' Rule

    I'm proposing that whenever you're killing time watching a game involving two teams you don't normally follow, you root for the team from the city with the highest Misery Score. Why? A) It's good karma to help out a city that needs the help. B) It'll make the wins that much sweeter, since you're not rooting for teams from cities that win all the damn time (*cough* Boston).

    The Sports Fan Misery Index

    Here's the list. And, Cleveland... I'm sorry. At least you've got Cedar Point.

    City Last title Misery Score
    1. Cleveland 1964 (NFL) 124
    2. Philadelphia 1983 (NBA) 96
    3. Buffalo never 93
    San Diego never 93
    5. Seattle 1979 (NBA) 84
    6. Minneapolis 1991 (MLB) 56
    7. New Orleans never 50
    8. Washington, D.C. 1992 (NFL) 48
    SF Bay Area 1995 (NFL) 48
    10. Atlanta 1995 (MLB) 44
    Kansas City 1985 (MLB) 44
    12. Cincinnati 1990 (MLB) 34
    Houston 1995 (NBA) 34
    14. Dallas 1999 (NHL) 32
    15. Charlotte never 30
    Milwaukee 1997 (NFL- Green Bay) 30
    Portland 1977 (NBA) 30
    18. Salt Lake City never 28
    19. Denver 2001 (NHL) 24
    Phoenix 2001 (MLB) 24
    21. Nashville never 19
    22. Orlando never 18
    23. New York/NJ 2003 (NHL) 16
    24. Baltimore 2001 (NFL) 12
    Detroit 2004 (NBA) 12
    Jacksonville never 12
    27. Tampa Bay Area 2004 (NHL) 9
    28. Chicago 2005 (MLB) 8
    Columbus never 8
    Memphis never 8
    31. Miami 2006 (NBA) 4
    32. Pittsburgh 2006 (NFL) 3
    St. Louis 2006 (MLB) 3
    34. Raleigh 2006 (NHL) 1
    35. Boston 2007 (MLB) 0
    Indianapolis 2007 (NFL) 0
    Los Angeles 2007 (NHL) 0
    San Antonio 2007 (NBA) 0

    - I counted the 2004-5 NHL season, even though it wasn't played, since it was miserable for sports fans.
    - I counted franchises no longer located in a metro area only for the years that franchise played in that area since the area's last title by any team in the four major sports.
    - New Orleans gets "credit" for the two years the Hornets played in OKC and the one year the Saints played in San Antonio.
    - To calculate the misery index for San Diego and Buffalo, I counted those years the Chargers and Bills played years in the AFL, as well as NFL. I didn't have to count years in the ABA for existing NBA franchises, since all four of those cities have won titles since the ABA/NBA merger, thanks to Indianapolis' victory in this year's Super Bowl.

    FWIW, under this system, the Colts' win in Super Bowl 41 was the biggest relief for a city's sports fans since Houston's win in the 1994 NBA Finals. Indy's score under this system before the Colts' win would have been 55, which would have put Indy then in sixth place on the list.

    Comments (20) | Archive Link

    New 'Polar Express' overlay for Wild Arctic at SeaWorld

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 20, 2007 at 12:33 PM
    SeaWorld Orlando has announced that starting this Friday (and running through Jan. 1), its Wild Arctic attraction will replace its ride simulator introduction with a new film themed to "The Polar Express." That makes what is normally themed to be a trip to an arctic research station instead a trip to Santa's north pole.

    I'm looking forward to reports from our Orlando-area readers on this latest holiday-themed ride overlay. I'd also like to hear from readers about other ride theme overlays for the Christmas that they know about. The two I remember off the top of my head are Haunted Mansion Holiday and It's a Small World Holiday at Disneyland. Surely there are others. (I'd like to get a complete list for a Vote of the Week this weekend.) Thanks.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Thanksgiving cranberry sauce

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 16, 2007 at 10:55 AM
    It's Thanksgiving next week in the United States, so for this week's vote, I am reviving the very first Internet poll I ever put up, from back when I was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News' website, in Denver, Colo.

    The question provoked a verbal war on the Rocky's website, as readers defended their families' traditions... and mocked those who chose the other side. A few years later, when I was writing for Los Angeles Times, I ran the same poll on the Times' CalendarLive website, but got far fewer responses. Perhaps this issue just wasn't as divisive anymore. Or, maybe, too few people ever read CalendarLive.

    Anyway, it is time for Theme Park Insiders to have their say. So... I present this week's vote, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday:

    Defend your choice, and mock the other, in the comments.

    Comments (15) | Archive Link

    Should you buy an annual pass to Disneyland?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 15, 2007 at 10:06 PM
    Unlike at Walt Disney World, where the vast majority of visitors hail from outside Central Florida, at Disneyland, most of the visitors on any given day are Southern California locals. For these Disneyland fans, their ticket into the Magic Kingdom is likely some form of an annual pass.

    But which Disneyland annual pass should you buy? Today, I break down the math to answer that question.

    Unlike at Walt Disney World, there's no way to buy a Disneyland ticket that does not expire after a certain period of time. The unused days on a Disneyland multi-day ticket expire 13 days after its first use, or within a certain number of weeks after its purchase. So there's no point to buying a multi-day passport with the idea of using one day at a time over the next several months or years, like you might do at Walt Disney World. (See my previous blog entry explaining Walt Disney World tickets.) If you want to buy a ticket that allows you to visit Disneyland multiple times over a period longer than two weeks, you need a annual pass.

    Disneyland offers four annual passes (all available on the Disneyland website):

  • Premium - 365 days' admission, plus free parking, for $379. Plus 10% merchandise and 15% dining discount.
  • Deluxe - 315 days' admission, no parking, for $259. (No admission on Saturdays from March to August, Sundays on holiday weekends, Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas week.)
  • Southern California - 215 days' admission, no parking, for $169. (No admission on Saturdays, three-day holiday weekends, spring break, Christmas/New Year's weeks and weekdays in early June, all of July and early August.)
  • Southern California Select - 170 days' admission, no parking, for $129. (No admission on weekends, holidays, spring break, Christmas/New Year's weeks and most weekdays during summer.)

    Note that Disneyland does not sell children's passes, so kids have to buy at the adult price. And only the Deluxe and Premium APs are available to people who live outside the LA/Ventura/OC/Inland Empire/San Diego area.

    So which pass, if any, should you buy? To find out, first you need to figure out how many trips to Disneyland you think you'll make during the next 12 months -- and when.

    We'll compare the cost of these annual passes to buying one-day tickets for each Disneyland trip. A one-day, one-park ticket to Disneyland or Disney's California Adventure costs $66 for adults, $55 for kids ages 3-9. Disney sells a one-day park hopper for $91 ($86 for SoCal residents), but frequently offers "2fer" deals that includes a day at each park for the price of a one-day, one-park ticket.

    Using the $66 for comparison, here is how many visits you'd need to make in one year using the various annual passes to get a better deal than buying a one-day ticket each time you visited:

  • SoCal Select: Two visits for adults, three for kids
  • SoCal: Three visits for adults, four for kids
  • Deluxe: Four visits for adults, five for kids
  • Premium: Five visits for adults, seven for kids. The premium annual pass includes free parking, so I added $10 to the cost of each one-day adult ticket to cover that expense, when comparing. If you will likely share a ride with another adult Premium AP holder, you'd each need six visits to make this pass pay for itself.

    Don't forget the black-out dates, though. A SoCal Select passport is just flushing $129 down the drain if you can visit Disneyland only on weekends.

    For me, living in Pasadena, I am most likely to visit Disneyland on a weekend. Weekday traffic between Los Angeles and Orange Counties is simply too brutal for me to want to visit Monday through Friday, unless it is a holiday. That takes the Southern California and Southern California Select Annual Passes out of the equation for me. Those passes makes most sense for an Orange County resident who can make many quick trips over to Disneyland after work on a weekday and who doesn't mind staying away on the busier weekends, holidays and during the summer.

    Who should buy each type of Disneyland Annual Pass?

    SoCal Select - Buy it if you are an OC local family who will visit Disneyland at least three times on weekdays during the school year. (Or just twice if you are an adult visiting without the kids.)

    SoCal - Buy it if you are an OC family who will visit Disneyland at least four times on weekdays and/or Sundays during the school year, or other SoCal local who will visit at least four times on Sundays during the school year. (Three times for those without kids.)

    Deluxe - Buy it if you plan to visit Disneyland at least five times during the year, but not during holidays periods or on Saturdays during spring and summer. (Four times if you aren't bringing kids.)

    Premium - Buy it if you are a family who will visit Disneyland at least seven times a year, usually on Saturdays or holidays periods. (Six times for grown-ups without kids.)

    Forget the pass - Anyone else, including people whose visit to the Disneyland Resort within the year will fall within a single two-week period.

    Readers, please add your thoughts on Disneyland APs in the comments.

    Comments (6) | Archive Link

  • IAAPA honors best new amusement products

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 15, 2007 at 5:13 PM
    IntaRide, Vekoma and Zamperla today won awards for best new amusement products from The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions at its annual convention in Orlando. Here are the details about the awards of most interest to Theme Park Insider readers, from the IAAPA's press release (links added).

    The Impact Award
    The Impact Award recognizes the first place product determined to be the ultimate new product for 2007. The Comfyland Experience, from Comfy, won the 2007 Impact Award.

    Best New Major Theme/Amusement Park Ride/Attraction
    First Place: IntaRide – The ZacSpin Coaster. The coaster features freefall drops while ride vehicles constantly spin and change directions.

    Honorable Mention: Vekoma Rides Manufacturing B.V. – Suspended Family Coaster. Children and their parents ride in their coaster vehicle as it hangs below the track.

    Kiddie Ride/Attraction
    First Place: Zamperla, Inc. – Kang-A-Bounce. Riders sit side by side in a kangaroo’s pouch as it hops in a circle.

    Technology Applied to Amusements
    First Place: Sans Gear NZ Aktion AttracktioNZ - Krush Kushionz. An innovative air bag device allowing unrestrained aerial fun. www.sansgearNZ.com.

    Honorable Mention: YourDay – YourDay. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology which records a guest’s day in the park and creates a personalized video of their experience.

    The awards are selected from among new rides and products displayed on the show floor at the IAAPA's event.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    Russell Meyer's Central Florida adventure

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 14, 2007 at 10:34 PM
    Check out the Theme Park Insider discussion board for longtime TPI member (and former Blog Flume writer) Russell Meyer's trip reports on his Central Florida theme park vacation. Russell's posted six parts so far, as he and his wife hit all the Orlando-area theme parks.

  • Day 1--Busch Gardens Africa
  • Days 2 and 3: Universal Orlando
  • Day 3.5--DisneyQuest
  • Day 4--Magic Kingdom and Disney/MGM Studios
  • Day 5--EPCOT and the 2007 International Food and Wine Festival
  • Day 6--Disney's Animal Kingdom

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

  • Airport horror stories

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 14, 2007 at 9:19 AM
    Hi, I'm back from a long weekend visiting in-laws in Cincinnati and will be catching up with some posts later today. (I've got a list of 15 Blog Flume entry ideas that I am working through, too!)

    But I wanted to take a moment to ask TPI readers in the Cincinnati area why on Earth they put up with what's happening at the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport.

    We visited my wife's sister, who lives in Hebron, Ky., one exit past the airport on I-275. But we didn't fly through CVG. Nope, we flew from LAX to... Indianapolis.

    Why would we do that? Because by flying to Indy, we saved more than $1,000 on tickets for the four of us. I priced round-trip airfare from LA to Cincy, as well as Indy, Dayton, Louisville, Lexington and Columbus -- and by flying to any one of those other destinations, we would have saved at least $250 a ticket versus flying into Cincinnati.

    Why? Delta Airlines has a virtual monopoly at the Cincinnati airport, with no competition from Southwest or any other low-price carrier that keeps airfares honest at dozens of other major airports around the country. Here's how bad it is: Some of the flights to those other cities I priced were on Delta and connected through Cincinnati. That's right: I would have saved $1,000-plus by not getting off in Cincy and instead flying on to another city. (We flew on Delta and connected through Atlanta.)

    I can't understand why stockholders at Proctor and Gamble or Macy's put up with this: The inflated airfares at the Cincinnati airport must be costing those Cincinnati-based companies millions of dollars a year in unnecessary operting costs. (Is someone getting a kickback from Delta?)

    Anyway, I'd love to hear from area readers about their thoughts on this, as well as similar airport pricing anomalies that you have discovered.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    SeaWorld raises prices; introduces new tickets

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 10, 2007 at 8:49 AM
    A one-day ticket to SeaWorld Orlando is going up - from $65 to $68. In addition, Busch is raising the price for Busch Gardens Africa by three bucks as well, to $65. And the one-day ticket to Busch's new Aquatica water park, at SeaWorld Orlando, will go for $39.

    Aquatica will open in March, but before then, visitors can get $10 off one-day SeaWorld and Busch Gardens tickets by buying at least one week in advance through the SeaWorld website.

    SeaWorld/Aquatica tickets will go for $90, and there are a slew of other park ticket combinations for SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Universal Orlando available on the SeaWorld site.

    In addition, Busch is changing the corporate brand for its theme parks from "Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks" to "Worlds of Discovery."

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: How close do you live to a theme park?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 8, 2007 at 5:44 PM
    I'm declaring Mickey Mouse the winner of last week's vote. So we're moving on to a new topic, one day early, since I will be on the road Friday. (No theme park trip this time; sorry. So no trip report coming from me.)

    But on the subject of travel... How close do you live to the nearest theme park? For the purpose of this question, let's assume that we're talking about major theme parks here... not local carnivals or "amusement parks" that include little more than a go-kart track or carousel.

    Tell us your favorite personal theme park travel story in the comments.

    Comments (36) | Archive Link

    'Which Disney World ticket should I buy?': A guide to finding the best deals

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 7, 2007 at 1:19 PM
    Update: An updated version of this article is available! Here is the new version: Which Walt Disney World ticket should I buy?.

    * * *
    Earlier this year, before I made my annual trip to Orlando, I bought a 10-day pass to Walt Disney World. The decision which pass to buy for a Disney World vacation can confuse and intimidate people, so I thought I'd walk you through how I decided to buy the pass I did. I hope this post might help you make the best decision on which Disney World pass is right for you.

    A one-day ticket to a Walt Disney World theme park for an adult is pretty expensive -- $71. And Disney does not offer the 2-for-1 and cola can discounts frequently found at other theme parks. Nor can you find discounted Disney tickets through consolidators, AAA offices and other off-site sources the way you could in the past. But that does not mean discounts are not available. You just have to buy a lot of days at Disney World to get them. I recommend buying tickets directly from Disney's website. That way, you can get your tickets in advance, saving valuable time by avoiding ticket queues when you arrive at the park. Florida residents also can find ticket discounts available to them on Disney's site.

    Disney World has branded its various ticket packages "Magic Your Way." You can buy a "base ticket" for one to 10 days, which gets you into any one of the four Disney World theme parks on each of those days. The ticket expires 14 days after its first use, and you cannot use the ticket to go to more than one park on any given day. Here are the base ticket prices:

    Number of DaysBase Ticket PriceCost Per Day

    Once you've bought your base ticket, you can add options, such as...

  • admission to Disney's water parks and Pleasure Island nightclubs,
  • the ability to "park hop" to multiple parks on any given day, and
  • the ability to keep unused days on the ticket alive indefinitely after the 14-day expiration.

    The "Park Hopper" option costs an additional $45 per ticket, no matter how many days you buy. And the "Water Park Fun and More" option costs a flat $50 a ticket, getting you unlimited admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest and the Pleasure Island nightclubs for 14 days after the ticket's first use.

    The "No Expiration" option is a bit more complicated, as the price for that varies, based on the number of days that you buy. And the no expiration option does not apply to the water parks, if you buy that option too. Your ability to use your Magic Your Way ticket to get into the water parks and Pleasure Island goes away after the first 14 days, no matter what.

    So let's get to the big question: what ticket should you buy?

    Let's look at the cost per day for these Disney World tickets. If you look carefully, you'll see that after four days, each extra day at the parks costs just a couple bucks. Basically, after four days, they start just giving the days away. So if you buy the 10-day pass, you are getting each day's admission for the ridiculously *low* price of $22.50. That's beyond Six Flags-level discounting.

    So... buy the 10-day ticket, right? Well, not if you don't have 10 days to spend at Disney theme parks in a two-week period. Remember that unused days will expire. And that if you buy days that you do not use, the price per day for the days that you did use just goes through the roof.

    Here are the prices for Disney World tickets with the no-expiration option:

    Number of DaysTicket priceCost per day

    So the best cost-per-day you can get with the no-expire option is $40.50. You can get a better cost-per-day if you buy at least seven days on the base ticket, and use them within two weeks of starting your visit. (The same is true if you add the park hopper option.)

    The water park fun and more option adds $50 to a ticket, regardless of the number of days you buy. But a one-day water park ticket sets you back just $39, so you unless you plan on spending more than one day at a water park on your trip (or spending a day at a water park and an evening in the Pleasure Island clubs, you are better off just buying those one-day tickets in addition to your Magic Your Way pass. If you are not into water parks, but like the PI clubs, you would need to spend at least three nights at PI to make the WPFM option worth buying, since the one-night club pass is just $22.

    For me, I visit a couple times a year, spending a day or two at WDW, hitting a just a few new or favorite attractions at a couple parks each day. I need the park hopper, and with such short visits, I am not going to be able to get any decent per-day price unless I buy the no-expire option. If I want to go to PI or a water park, I buy a one-day ticket for those.

    If it is your first time visiting Walt Disney World, and you don't know what you're getting into there, I recommend buying the four-day base ticket, without the park hopper and without the no-expiration option. Spend one day at each park, then either buy additional tickets for one of the Disney water parks of other area theme parks (Universal, SeaWorld) on the other days of your vacation. It's not the rock-bottom deal, but consider the extra per-day cost as your tuition in Disney vacation training. Find what you like, and if you decide that you want to return to Orlando, select a different package for your future visit.

    So let's wrap this up....

    Should I buy the park hopper option?

    Yes - If you are an experienced visitor who likes to hit just old favorites or newly built attractions, instead of "doing everything" in a park.

    No - If you are a first-timer or infrequent visitor who likes to spend the whole day at one park.

    Should I buy the no expire option?

    Yes - If you visit the Orlando area on a regular basis and tend to spend six or fewer days at Disney theme parks on each visit.

    No - If you are not absolutely certain that you will be back, or even if you are, you spend more than six days at Disney theme parks during a one-to-two-week visit.

    Should I buy the water parks and more option?

    Yes - If you will spend at least two days at water parks on your current visit (or at least three nights at Pleasure Island if you don't spend any time at the water parks).

    No - If you will spend, at most, a single day at a water park on your current visit.

    How many days should I buy?

    I would not advise buying fewer than four days on a Walt Disney World ticket, due to the high cost per day. If you aren't a frequent Orlando visitor and have just two or three days to spend at the local parks, you will get better value for your money visiting Universal Orlando ($86 for two days) or SeaWorld ($54 for two days, buy online one week in advance) during that time instead. Try a Disney park on a one-day ticket, or set aside at least four days to visit Walt Disney World.

    If you will be spending at least seven days at Disney World on your next trip, buy a ticket without the no-expire option for the number of days you'll spend at the parks during your trip. Otherwise, if you plan to return to Disney at some point in the future, try to buy the 10-day ticket with the no-expire option, to lock in the lowest possible price and guard against future price increases.

    Hope this helps. TPI veterans, please feel welcome to add your thoughts in the comments.

    Comments (15) | Archive Link

  • 'Pony Express' coaster to debut at Knott's Memorial Day 2008

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 6, 2007 at 10:34 AM
    Well, now we know what all that construction in Ghost Town was for. Knott's Berry Farm confirmed today that it will debut a horse-ride-themed roller coaster, Pony Express, on Memorial Day weekend next spring.

    The Zamperla design places riders on one of 16 "horses," which launch from zero to 38 mph in three seconds. The old west-themed coaster will take riders through a series of banked turns and hills over a 1,300-foot track.

    Since you're riding a horse, don't expect inversions and other high-tech elements. But the theming on this one seems strong and it certainly sounds like a unique experience, one that should fit in well in this part of Knott's.

  • More: What's new or under construction for 2008 at top theme parks

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  • Universal closes Earthquake; 'Disaster' replacement to open in December

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 5, 2007 at 5:00 PM
    It looks like the Earthquake attraction at Universal Studios Florida, which already has lost much of its theming to the 1970s disaster flick, will lose that theming entirely.

    Universal announced that today was the last day for the attraction, which opened with the park in 1990. The attraction had already had a middle show section cut and will now get a more complete make-over, as well as a new name.

    The rehabbed ride will reopen in December with the new name "Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring You." In its press releasem Universal said the ride "will offer guests an all-new experience that combines the best, most dramatic elements of Earthquake with new blockbuster celebrity talent, new ride elements, new digital technologies, interactive components and a new storyline."

    No specific opening date or ride specs yet.

    Comments (15) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Favorite Disney character for a photo?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 2, 2007 at 1:58 PM
    Yes, I snuck in another vote earlier this week. But here's this weekend's "official" vote.

    For which Disney character will you spend the most time in line to get a photo? Which is the one that will end up on your computer desktop, framed on your desk, blown-up on the wall?

    Proclaim your love in the comments.... If you voted "other," tell us whom you would have picked. Next week, we'll do a "run-off" vote with the top vote-getters from the poll and the comments.

    Comments (29) | Archive Link

    Management musical chairs at Busch Gardens/SeaWorld

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 1, 2007 at 7:13 PM
    Okay, last week Busch Entertainment Corporation announced it was moving its HQ from the brewery's mothership near St. Louis to the Land of Theme Parks, Orlando. Fla. As part of the move BEC Prez Keith M. Kasen stayed in St. Louis, moving upstairs to "Chairman," leaving the BEC presidency for SeaWorld Orlando chief Jim Atchison.

    Now, to replace Atchison, Busch is moving Busch Gardens Africa GM Daniel Brown to Orlando. And to replace Brown, Busch is moving Busch Gardens Europe GM Donnie Mills to Tampa. That leaves the Williamsburg job open.. for now.

    Update: (11/08):Busch announced today that John T. Reilly, Corporate Vice-President of Merchandising, will become the Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Busch Gardens Europe.

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Six Flags announces changes to Magic Mountain's X roller coaster

    By Robert Niles
    Published: November 1, 2007 at 10:48 AM
    It looks like Magic Mountain will be getting a little capital love from Six Flags, after all.

    Last month the amusement park chain announced capital expansion (business-speak for "new rides") at several of its top parks, but nothing for one-time flagship Magic Mountain.

    But the Valencia, Calif. park got its announcement today. Six Flags will revamp X, Magic Mountain's Arrow 4D coaster, adding a tunnel and light elements. The coaster will reopen in Spring 2008 with the new name, X2.

    In its press release, Six Flags promised "completely redesigned, sleeker trains and introduces all-new, innovative state-of-the-art visual, audio and sensory effects" in the $10 million rehab of the once-troubled ride.

    The park will also add "Thomas Town," a new play area themed to "Thomas the Tank Engine."

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Keep reading: October 2007 Archive