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March 2008

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round three, day two

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2008 at 8:52 PM

Disney's Expedition Everest pulled out the upset yesterday, as did Universal's Dueling Dragons - Ice, joining the The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror as the first four members of the final eight in the 'Best Ride in America' tournament. So far, it is all Orlando rides in the final eight, but at least one west coast ride will be joining them today.

The big match-up today is one I've looked forward to for this whole tournament. It's a "make your head explode" dilemma for any Disney fan:
(4) Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) vs.
(13) Haunted Mansion (Disneyland)

We've got one more Disney vs. Disney match-up today, as well:
(2) Indiana Jones Adventure vs.
(15) Kilimanjaro Safaris

Disney goes against Busch as two of Orlando's more popular thrill rides face off:
(38) Test Track vs.
(11) Kraken

And, we finish with a Busch vs. Busch match-up of underdogs which fought their way into the final 16:
(25) Journey to Atlantis (SeaWorld Orlando) vs.
(41) Montu

We've updated the tournament bracket (hit reload if you don't see the fresh version), too. Let's proceed with the Pirates vs. Mansion holy war in the comments, please... ;-)

Comments (43) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round three, day one

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2008 at 10:06 PM

Here we are: Round three of the 'Best Ride in America' tournament. We've got 16 rides left from our original 64, and we are just one week away from the championship match-up. Today, though we have four match-ups for you to consider, including two of our top four seeds.

The top seed takes on the last ride from the Cedar Fair parks as (1) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man goes up against (16) Millennium Force

We have another classic Disney vs. Universal match-up with (3) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney World) vs. (14) Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Orlando)

It's Disney and Universal again, this time in a roller coaster battle: (5) Incredible Hulk Coaster vs. (12) Expedition Everest

Finally, two more coasters match-up with (26) Dueling Dragons - Ice vs. (10) SheiKra

As the first two weeks have shown, the best part of the daily match-ups is the comments. Why not add your $.02?

Comments (29) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Weekend update

By Robert Niles
Published: March 28, 2008 at 10:58 PM

The second round is done in the 'Best Ride in America' tournament, here on Theme Park Insider. The third round, the round of 16, will begin on Monday.

Here are the final sixteen:

1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
2. Indiana Jones Adventure
3. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney World)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland)
5. Incredible Hulk Coaster
10. SheiKra
11. Kraken
12. Expedition Everest
13. Haunted Mansion (Disneyland)
14. Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Orlando)
15. Kilimanjaro Safaris
16. Millennium Force
25. Journey to Atlantis (SeaWorld Orlando)
26. Dueling Dragons - Ice
38. Test Track
41. Montu

Test Track earned its way into the final 16 yesterday with a shocking upset of Disneyland's Splash Mountain, the highest-seeded ride to lose to date.

Disney has seven rides in the round of 16, Busch and Universal four each, and Cedar Fair one. Disneyland and Universal's Islands of Adventure each have three rides alive in the tourney, tying for the most among all theme parks.

Twelve of the top 16 seeds made it into the third round, a solid 75 percent, and none of the lower seeded rides that advanced did so with more than 55 percent of the vote. So I think that the seeds have held up well to date.

Whether they will continue to hold is a different matter, however. Be sure to come vote on Monday, and we'll find out together.

One more thing: Six people still have all four of their semifinalist picks alive in the tournament. Griffon's loss took out the most entries (including mine!).

And another: Here it is... the printable tournament bracket

Comments (16) | Archive Link

Power outage shuts down part of Epcot

By Robert Niles
Published: March 28, 2008 at 1:41 PM

Power went out at Walt Disney World's Epcot this morning, shutting down rides throughout Future World. The outage lasted about half an hour, though there were some power problems reported at the front entrance to the park for a while after that. Power's back up now, and no one was hurt.

It's the weekend: we're winding down the second round of the tournament, so let's make this a thread for folks to share their stories of power failures and other times they've been stuck on rides at theme parks.

Comments (17) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round two, day four

By Robert Niles
Published: March 27, 2008 at 8:58 PM

Yesterday's contest between Griffon and Dueling Dragons - Ice saw the most, uh, aggressive voting in the tournament to date. Wild vote swings tripped my radar early in the voting, but with both sides engaged in heavy GOTV/ballot-stuffing, I decided to accept the results as they stood when I went to close the poll. Congratulations, Dueling Dragons - Ice fans, your coaster is moving on. The other Dragon (Fire) went down quietly to Tower of Terror, though, making me wonder if some Ice voters were not more motivated to drive the last remaining Busch Gardens Europe coaster from the tournament.

SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken and Disney World's Kilimanjaro Safaris also advanced.

Three first-round upset winners are on deck today as the second round wraps up. After today's match-ups, we will take the weekend off from the voting, and start the round of 16 on Monday. The quarterfinals will start Wednesday, the semi-finals on Friday and the championship match-up will happen on Monday, April 7.

Two immersive, addictive dark rides face off in today's marquee contest: (2) Indiana Jones Adventure vs. (34) Men in Black Alien Attack

Do you like a roller coaster with a theme and a story, or a launch of blistering speed? We will find out as (14) Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Orlando) takes on (19) Top Thrill Dragster

Disney fans will have to dismiss one of their own in (6) Splash Mountain (Disneyland) vs. (38) Test Track

Finally, we finish the second round with another all-Florida battle: (10) SheiKra vs. (42) Dinosaur

Thanks for voting, commenting and spreading the word about the tournament! (So... who's final four remains alive?)

Comments (32) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round two, day three

By Robert Niles
Published: March 26, 2008 at 9:17 PM

Alpengeist held close all day, but in the end, could not find the handful of extra votes it needed to avoid being upset yesterday by Journey to Atlantis. Upper seeds Pirates of the Caribbean, Expedition Everest and Millennium Force also advanced to the round of 16.

The marquee match-up today pits two top roller coasters for the right to advance to the round of 16: (7) Griffon vs. (26) Dueling Dragons - Ice

Ice's sibling is up today, as well, but likely faces an even tougher battle: (3) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney World) vs. (30) Dueling Dragons - Fire

A first-round upset produced this rather tricky match-up: (11) Kraken vs. (43) Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Disneyland)

Finally, it's another contest matching a family attraction against a top thrill ride: (15) Kilimanjaro Safaris vs. (47) The Riddler's Revenge

Now that you've voted, why not take a moment to click the attraction names above and submit a rating and short review for each of these rides? Thanks.

Comments (26) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round two, day two

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2008 at 9:20 PM

The higher seeds all advanced yesterday in the tournament, as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk Coaster, Haunted Mansion and Montu all prevailed.

Two more enduring classics match-up today, but one will not endure past this vote: (4) Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) vs. (36) The Beast

Two Busch favorites battle: (8) Alpengeist vs. (25) Journey to Atlantis (SeaWorld Orlando)

Two of Disney World's recent coasters face off in (12) Expedition Everest vs. (21) Rock n' Roller Coaster

And, finally, Cedar Point fans, here is your nightmare: (16) Millennium Force vs. (17) Maverick. Time to choose.

Plead your favorites' cases in the comments....

Comments (14) | Archive Link

Indy out as sponsor for Disney World 'Speedway' ride?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 25, 2008 at 12:19 PM

Indy Car racing fans at SpeedTV have noted that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway appears to have dropped its sponsorship of the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. One poster notes that Disney is dropping the "Indy" name from the attraction, on which visitors - usually kids - drive two-seater mini cars around a road-course track. (Disneyland fans know the ride as "Autopia," though the cars and layout are different on the west coast.)

The Disney website still lists the "Indy" name on the attraction. The Indy Racing League recently merged with the rival Champ Car series, reunifying open wheel racing in the United States. Those whose memories go back more than 12 years might recall that Indy car racing used to be bigger, much bigger, than NASCAR in the U.S.

That said, I always thought that the Indy branding was a bit weird for this ride. Indy cars are single seat, open wheel cars (no fenders) and the Indy Motor Speedway is an oval, not a road course. So Indy looks nothing at all like the Tomorrowland ride.

Anyone on the scene in Orlando have a report?

Comments (6) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round two, day one

By Robert Niles
Published: March 24, 2008 at 10:24 PM

Welcome to the second round of Theme Park Insider's 'Best Ride in America' tournament! We have 32 rides left, working our way down to the finals on Monday, April 7. In yesterday's final first-round contests, the Indiana Jones Adventure, SheiKra and Dueling Dragons - Ice advanced, with The Riddler's Revenge pulling an upset to move on, too.

Today through Friday, we'll have four match-ups each day, as we narrow the 32 remaining rides down to 16. The match-ups get tighter from here on in, so don't miss a day, and spread the word to other theme park fans you know, to come to the site and have their votes counted.

The first second-round match goes to our top seed: (1) The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. (32) Soarin' Over California

The second contest matches two neighbors, from Universal's Islands of Adventure: (5) Incredible Hulk Coaster vs. (28) Jurassic Park River Adventure

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion got the highest vote total of any attraction in round one. Can it defeat a fellow Disney attraction in round two? (13) Haunted Mansion (Disneyland) vs. (20) California Screamin'

Finally, the big upset winner in round one was Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which eliminated the roller coaster Tatsu. In round two, can Toad keep pull another upset against... another B&M coaster with a five-letter name, ending in "u"? That's right, it's (56) Mr. Toad's Wild Ride vs. (41) Montu

I can't wait to read the comments about these....

Comments (25) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day eight

By Robert Niles
Published: March 23, 2008 at 9:34 PM

Two brutally close match-ups yesterday. In fact, I had to dig into the admin code to find out that the contests actually were tied when I went to close them, so I waited for three votes to be cast on each to decide the winners. Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack eliminated Disneyland's classic Matterhorn Bobsleds and Disney's Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur scraped ahead of Busch Gardens Europe's Apollo's Chariot.

The other two races were not as close, with BGE's Griffon taking out USF's Jaws and Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris blowing out Legoland California's Knights Tournament.

Tonight, we wrap up round one with our last four match-ups:

It's Disneyland against neighbor California Adventure with (2) Indiana Jones Adventure vs. (63) Monsters, Inc: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue.

Busch Gardens Africa's SheiKra seems to have lost a lot of support on the site since I seeded the tournament. Will it retain enough support to avoid being the latest coaster upset by a family dark ride? (10) SheiKra vs. (55) High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

Two roller coasters with devoted followings battle in (18) Thunderhead vs. (47) The Riddler's Revenge

Finally, it is another classic Disney vs. Universal match-up, with (26) Dueling Dragons - Ice vs. (39) Mission: Space

Let's keep the great comments coming. Tomorrow: Round two begins!

Comments (20) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day seven

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2008 at 9:21 PM

Much GOTV yesterday led to some wild swings in the battle between Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster and Epcot's Spaceship Earth. But, in the end, Dragster prevailed, by the narrowest margin so far in the tournament.

Epcot's Test Track also won by the slightest of margins, edging out Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. In the other match-ups, SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken and Disney's Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror also advanced.

Today's the day I've been waiting for in the tournament, because I think we could have four tight matches on tap with these:

I can hear the Busch Gardens Europe fans already complaining about this draw. But it is (7) Griffon vs. (58) Universal Studios Florida's Jaws.

I'm a big fan of both of these attractions, but we're gonna have to pick one: (15) Kilimanjaro Safaris vs. Legoland's Robocoaster (50) Knights Tournament

Sorry, but the BGE coasters just didn't get any "C" ticket dark rides as opponents: Here's (23) Apollo's Chariot vs. (42) Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur

Finally, two trend-setting rides from different eras match up in (31) Matterhorn Bobsleds vs. (34) Men in Black Alien Attack.

Let's continue the debate in the comments....

Comments (28) | Archive Link

Newly expanded 'guidelines for ratings' on TPI released

By Robert Niles
Published: March 22, 2008 at 8:44 PM

Inspired by some of the conversation in the comments for this year's Best Ride in America Tournament, I've just posted to the Theme Park Insider discussion board an expanded Guidelines for ratings and reviews on Theme Park Insider.

I invite all TPI members, long-time readers and newbies, to click over and take a look. I hope that you'll keep these tips in mind as you vote on the site, to help us create a greater "separation" in the values assigned to each ride, show, restaurant and hotel on our various park listing pages.

That said, I want to add one more point about the tournament. One of the things I mention on the new guidelines page addresses rating "kiddie" rides, those designed for children ages 6 (or so) and under. I hope that readers without kids will refrain from voting on those rides, so that parents can submit the ratings, relative to other kiddie rides, and reflecting their children's point of view. I think that's the fairest way to judge these attractions, and not to have a bunch of teens and 20somethings slamming Barney and Dumbo because they are "too cool" for those things now.

To continue that point, having decided this, I wish I had left Dumbo and Storybook Land out of this year's 'Best Ride' tournament. Unlike some of the other family dark rides in the bottom half of the seedings, in my opinion, those are strictly 6-and-under (and their grown-up companions) rides, and as such "oranges" to the all-ages "apples" in the rest of the field. It's impossible to do a 'best ride,' as opposed to a 'best coaster' or 'best dark ride,' contest without some mismatches, but I excluded shows from the tournament and should have excluded those two kids' rides as well.

Anyway, I hope that you will read and consider the new rating guidelines. And, please, do continue submitting those ratings and reviews! If you are new to the site, and enjoying the tournament, our registered readers' ratings set the seedings for the tournament. We'd love to have you join the site as a registered reader, as well. It's free and takes only a moment, as well as your work, school or ISP e-mail address to receive a password.

Thanks, again, for reading Theme Park Insider.

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Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day six

By Robert Niles
Published: March 21, 2008 at 9:52 PM

Disneyland's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters pulled the upset yesterday, eliminating Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges from Universal's Islands of Adventure. In other match-ups, Disneyland's Splash Mountain, Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy and IoA's Dueling Dragons - Fire also advanced.

Today's first match features two wall-busting Disney thrill rides: (27) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Disneyland) vs. (38) Test Track.

We have another coaster versus dark ride match-up, this time pitting the soaring icons of Cedar Point and Epcot against one another: (19) Top Thrill Dragster vs. (46) Spaceship Earth.

Two Walt Disney World favorites face off in what promises to be another first-round, high seed/low seed mismatch: (3) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney World) vs. (62) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Disney World).

And our final contest matches up two rides themed to massive sea creatures that are trying to eat you. The whale succeeds; the serpent fails. It's (11) Kraken vs. (54) Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Let's start the weekend in the comments....

Comments (14) | Archive Link

Hard Rock Park sets soft opening dates, times, prices

By Robert Niles
Published: March 21, 2008 at 1:02 PM

The soft opening of Hard Rock Park is now confirmed for April 15. The park's calling its three-week soft-opening period "Sound Check."

Admission will be $40, and will include a $10 voucher for food in the park. Visitors can apply the other $30 toward the purchase of an annual pass, if they would like.

Sound Check will be open from 4 pm to 10 pm, somewhat unusual hours for a theme park, so take note if you are planning a visit. The park will be open from 10 am - 10 pm on the weekends of April 26-27 and May 3-4, but it will charge a regular $50 for general admission then, with no food voucher. But you can still apply that $50 toward the annual pass. All annual passes sold during the soft opening period will be good until May 9, 2009.

Remember, we're running a contest for TPI readers who visit Hard Rock Park and file a trip report in advance of the park's official opening in early May.

Editor's note: My apologies, but I have just discovered that one of my spam filters seems to have decided at some point to reroute a slew e-mails coming from the @aol.com domain. So if you've e-mailed me recently from an AOL address and did not hear back from me, that's what happened. I apologize. The problem is fixed, now. Please e-mail back, if it is not too late, and I'll try to respond ASAP.

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Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day five

By Robert Niles
Published: March 20, 2008 at 10:34 PM

The favorites all advanced yesterday in the TPI tournament, with Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, IoA's Jurassic Park River Adventure, Expedition Everest and California Screamin' each advancing to the next round.

Here's what's up today:

They're both Disneyland dark rides that send you on boats through rooms of singing dolls. Now, beyond that, they only thing that (6) Splash Mountain and (59) it's a small world have in common is that they're stuck together in this first-round match-up.

How do you like your reality-twisting dark rides? Fast, (14) Revenge of the Mummy (USF), or slow, (51) Alice in Wonderland? (A tea party? Hummph. What does it take to get a cup of coffee around here?)

This match-up absolutely kills me. It might be the toughest one for me to pick in the entire first round: (22) Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges vs. (43) Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Disneyland). Two ridiculously run fun rides. Which is your favorite?

And, finally, today's roller coaster smackdown matches (30) Dueling Dragons - Fire vs. (35) El Toro. Wait a minute! A ride that's not from Disneyland or Universal Orlando? How'd that get on here...?

Meet in the comments for the verbal brawl....

Update: Quote of the tournament so far, from the comments: "El Toro is losing because Fire burns wood."

Comments (20) | Archive Link

Why 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' is a really, *really* good move for Universal Orlando

By Robert Niles
Published: March 20, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Theme Park Insider readers reacted with excitement to the news that Universal would build a major new roller coaster at the entrance to Universal Studios Florida next year. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit makes a great deal of sense for the Universal Orlando Resort, and for reasons that go beyond the addition of what promises to be a popular new attraction.

1) Grassroots promotion

Universal's announcement that riders would be able to select their own on-ride soundtracks on Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit drew many comments from fans, and understandably so. Theme park attractions need more interactivity. Theme park fans of my generation (X) grew up with movies. But today's emerging theme park consumers grew up with video games. To reach those visitors, a park needs to offer rides that evoke a video game experience, ones that react and change as riders make choices and respond to cues.

That's why Disney's poured millions of dollars into its upcoming interactive Toy Story Mania rides, advancing what it started with its Buzz Lightyear shoot-'em-up rides a few years ago. Legoland just debuted its own video-game inspired dark ride. Roller coasters offer fewer opportunities for rider control than dark rides, but Universal's customized music soundtracks represent a solid first step.

But the real payoff from rider customization doesn't come at the beginning of the ride. No, it lies at ride's end. Universal also announced that Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit will feature on-ride video of riders, which those riders will be able to mix and e-mail to friends.

And, one presumes, eventually upload to YouTube.

People love roller coaster videos online. Unfortunately, almost all of them are bootleg, recorded in violation of parks' published safety policies. But parks occasionally do enable safe on-ride video recording, typically during press events for new coasters. With lipstick cameras on the rides, cut in with professionally recorded long shots of the coaster on the track, these ride videos impress even casual fans, and get folks excited about visiting the parks.

Our on-ride video of Busch Gardens Europse's Griffon, shot at the park's media day last spring, has been watched nearly half a million times on YouTube. Imagine thousands of 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' riders posting their own legally and professionally-recorded videos to the Web, and the buzz that could create for Universal.

2) Crowd control

Of course, Universal's not going to have a problem attracting visitors to its Orlando resort next year. Remember, there's this little thing going in at the neighboring Islands of Adventure park called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So why spend the money on a new ride at Universal Studios Florida when Harry Potter's going to bring so many people to Universal Orlando anyway?

Simple: crowd control.

Remember, visitors to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure park in the same parking structure at the Universal Orlando Resort. They then walk on a common pathway through the CityWalk entertainment complex before reaching the lagoon and splitting off into one of the two parks.

'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit', by soaring 17 stories at Universal Studios Florida's entrance and flying through the CityWalk complex, will provide an impressive visual "weenie" to draw some folks over to the right, as so many visitors follow Harry Potter to Islands of Adventure, on the left.

If 'The Wizarding World' delivers the crush of customers that the Harry Potter franchise has delivered in books and movies, Universal's going to need something, anything, to siphon visitors away from what could otherwise be many-hours-long waits next summer in Islands of Adventure. A few readers have criticized Universal for placing 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' so close to USF's entrance, and winding it through CityWalk. I think that this placement is essential in positioning the coaster as a viable alternative for people intimidated by the crowds swarming Harry Potter.

We'll see how 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' turns out. Many times, theme park attractions look great in concept art, then fail to deliver once up and operating. But the design, features and placement of this roller coaster reflect smart, forward thinking from Universal Orlando.

Comments (10) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day four

By Robert Niles
Published: March 19, 2008 at 8:35 PM

Yesterday, Universal's Incredible Hulk Coaster, Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and Disney's Rock n' Roller Coaster advanced in blow-outs. In the only close race, Kings Island's The Beast knocked out Dollywood's Mystery Mine. Today... it's all Disney and Universal.

Our first match-up of the evening: Two water rides from Universal's Islands of Adventure square off as (28) Jurassic Park River Adventure goes up against (37) Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls.

Next up: (20) California Screamin' vs. (45) The Cat in the Hat. At first this seems like a silly match-up, but if you think about it for a moment, it's actually fascinating: The unthemed roller coaster from Disney versus the story-driven dark ride from Universal. The stereotypes reversed. Which will you pick?

You're on an expedition deep into the exotic wilderness, when (gasp!) something goes terribly wrong! Do you prefer this scenario on (12) Expedition Everest or (53) Jungle Cruise (Disneyland)?

Finally... oh heck, I got nothin' for this one: (4) Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) vs. (61) Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Disneyland). Maybe some parents of little kids will vote for Dumbo on their children's behalf. But, judging from the number of Cap'n Jack Sparrow backpacks I see at my kids' elementary school, probably not. Let the blow-out begin.

Talk about 'em in the comments....

Comments (22) | Archive Link

New coaster at Universal Orlando in 2009

By Michael Smith
Published: March 19, 2008 at 9:07 AM

Editor's note: Thanks to the many, many readers who submitted this. Michael was the first, and I've combined all the posts in one.

Universal is building a new high tech coaster set to debut in 2009!

Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit will ride over, around and outside the entrance to Universal Studios Florida (fixed). Not only will there be an on-ride soundtrack, but riders will get to choose it, selecting from five genres (classic rock, rap, country, pop and disco), or just letting the system pick songs for you. ("Shuffle" mode?)

Rendering courtesy Universal Orlando

Riders will be recorded on video, and riders will be given the chance to edit the video of their ride, then to e-mail that video to their friends.

Top speed of the coaster will be 65 mph. No other specs yet, but Universal's press release offered a height of "17 stories" and "six near-miss moments and first-ever thrills including a record-breaking loop."

Comments (20) | Archive Link

Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day three

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2008 at 9:58 PM

Yesterday produced one mild upset in the tournament, as Busch Gardens Africa's Montu roller coaster eliminated Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath. Otherwise, the upper seeds held, as Busch Gardens Europe's Alpengeist fought off a tough challenge from Walt Disney World's Star Tours. Cedar Point's Millennium Force and Disney's California Adventure's Soarin' Over California also advanced.

Today, 5. Incredible Hulk Coaster, from Univeral's Islands of Adventure, takes on 60. Grizzly River Run, from Disney's California Adventure.

Next is a battle of Disneyland dark rides: 13. Haunted Mansion vs. 52. Snow White's Scary Adventures.

Two roller coasters face off in the next match-up: 21. Rock n' Roller Coaster, from Disney's Hollywood Studios, vs. 44. Tennessee Tornado, from Dollywood.

Finally, put on a favorite flannel shirt and your miner's hat for the battle between 29. Mystery Mine, last year's Theme Park Insider Award winner for Best New Attraction, vs. 36. The Beast, the classic woodie from Kings Island.

Let us hear in the comments why you picked what you picked.

Comments (15) | Archive Link

Hard Rock snags the Eagles for a coaster; Disney tips Toy Story; Six Flags cheerleaders?

By Robert Niles
Published: March 18, 2008 at 9:46 PM

The news doesn't stop while we play our tournament. Here are a couple notes about new rides, opening later this spring:

  • Hard Rock Park, opening next month in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has announced that it will retheme its previously announced Midnight Rider Vekoma roller coaster as Eagles Life in the Fast Lane. The 2,234-foot coaster will feature an on-ride version of the band's hit "Life in the Fast Lane," rerecorded by the band especially for the ride.

  • Disney allowed newspaper reporters a look at some of the elements for the upcoming Toy Story Mania ride at Disney's California Adventure:
    "Up to eight people, who feel like they are shrunk to the size of toys, can ride on each spinning vehicle behind spring-action shooters. They shoot in five carnival games based on the characters, like an egg toss called Hamm 'N' Eggs and Bo Peep's balloon pop.

    "Plates pop out of the ground or hang from helicopters in a game with the Green Army Men. Rings are tossed over the Little Green Men. The ride ends with Woody's gallery, where players aim at targets that are bumbling down mine shafts."

  • Finally, I am stumped for an appropriately witty retort to this:
    "Six Flags announced today the launch of the first-ever professional, theme park cheerleading team -- Six Flags Thrilleaders. Making their public debut for the 2008 season, the Six Flags Thrillleaders will promote the company's unique brand of thrilling entertainment and become an integral part of Six Flags' ever-expanding entertainment offerings."


  • Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day two

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 17, 2008 at 8:44 PM

    Before I get to the match-ups, yesterday I meant to thank TPI reader Tim Strickland for coming up with the idea for this tournament. But I forgot, so I'm doing that today. Thanks, Tim.

    Yesterday's opening day match-ups produced the tournament's first stunning upset, as Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride eliminated Six Flags Magic Mountain's Tatsu. Behold the power of Disney fans online. Other rides to advance were The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Maverick and Journey to Atlantis.

    In today's contests, we have two more higher-seeded roller coasters facing off with Disney attractions, Alpengeist vs. Star Tours and Millennium Force vs. Roger Rabbit's Car-Toon Spin. Will one of the Disney rides pull another upset?

    Our next two contests feature more balanced match-ups. First, it's Six Flags coaster versus Busch coaster as Goliath takes on Montu.

    Finally, we match Disney vs. Disney, as the original Soarin' Over California takes on Finding Nemo: Submarine Voyage

    Debate your picks in the comments!

    Comments (23) | Archive Link

    Best Ride in America Tournament: Round one, day one

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 16, 2008 at 8:16 PM

    It's the first day of Theme Park Insider's first theme park tournament, pitting the top 64 rides in America, as rated by Theme Park Insider readers, in a single-elimination tournament. Click through to the attraction names from complete listings and descriptions, then vote in the polls below for your picks as the better attractions. Winners move on to the next round.

    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man vs. Doctor Doom's Fearfall pits two neighbors from Universal's Islands of Adventure's Marvel Super Hero Island against one another.

    Tatsu vs. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride sets up two Southern California favorites - one new-school B&M thrills versus one old-school Disney dark ride with a passionate online following.

    Maverick vs. Kingda Ka puts together two recent coasters from two of America's top thrill parks, Cedar Point and Six Flags Great Adventure.

    Finally, Journey to Atlantis vs. Loch Ness Monster faces off two of Busch's more famous nautical-themed thrill rides.

    You'll have one day to vote on each match-up. Check back tomorrow for four more contests. And, please, feel welcome to debate your picks in the comments.

    Comments (17) | Archive Link

    Ultimate Tournament reader pool open

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 14, 2008 at 4:32 PM

    Two items today:

    1. The reader pool for the Ultimate Theme Park Tournament is now open. Just send us the names of the four attractions that you think will be the semi-finalists in the tournament, the name of the attraction that you think will win the whole thing, and, as a tie-breaker, the percentage that you think the winning attraction will get in the final. The winner of the "pool" will get $100. (Okay, I guess you can't technically call this a pool, since I'm putting up all the money. But, hey, whatever.)

    Theme Park Insider's Ultimate Theme Park Tournament will begin on Monday, as the top 64 rides in the country (as rated by Theme Park Insider readers) square off in a single-elimination tournament. The attraction that gets the highest percentage in each head-to-head reader vote moves on to the next round. The finals will be here in the front page Blog Flume on Monday, April 7. Deadline to enter the pool is 11:59 pm (Los Angeles time) Monday, March 17.

    Now... I know what you are thinking. How can I pick the semi-finalists if I don't know the bracket? Well, that makes the contest more interesting, doesn't it? ;-) Just go with what you think TPI readers would pick as the top four attractions, based on whatever you think the site readers' collective bias is. http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/pool.cfm

    2. We have a new system in place for our Theme Park Insider E-mail Newsletter. If you currently subscribe to the newsletter, you don't need to do anything to keep getting it. (But you will probably notice the new format).

    If you would like to subscribe, and get the latest in theme park news from the site, including updates on each day's matchups in the tournament, please follow the sign-up link.

    Update: One more thing - due to the tournament, the Vote of the Week is taking a break for a few weeks. Look for it to return on Friday, April 11.

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    2007 theme park attendance report released

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 14, 2008 at 8:54 AM

    Brady MacDonald at the LA Times alerted me that this year's theme park attendance report is out. Brady offered a summary on the LAT website, but I did some snooping and quickly found the full report online.

    Disney remained the top chain, with 116.5 million visitors worldwide last year, followed by Merlin Entertainment with 32.1 million. Universal drew 26.4 million, followed by Six Flags with 24.9 million and Busch with 22.3 million. Cedar Fair came in sixth place, with 22.1 million visitors in 2007.

    Here are the world's 20 most popular theme parks, by attendance, in 2007, according to the Themed Entertainment Association Economics Research Associates:

    1. Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
    2. Disneyland
    3. Tokyo Disneyland
    4. Tokyo DisneySea
    5. Disneyland Paris
    6. Epcot
    7. Disney's Hollywood Studios
    8. Disney's Animal Kingdom
    9. Universal Studios Japan
    10. Everland (South Korea)
    11. Universal Studios Florida
    12. SeaWorld Orlando
    13. Disney's California Adventure
    14. Blackpool Pleasure Beach
    15. Universal's Islands of Adventure
    16. Ocean Park (Hong Kong)
    17. Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (Japan)
    18. Universal Studios Hollywood
    19. Busch Gardens Africa
    20. SeaWorld San Diego

    SeaWorld Orlando moved up one spot, passing California Adventure. Otherwise, there were no changes among the U.S. parks in the Top 20.

    Rest of North America Top 20:

    13. Knott's Berry Farm
    14. Canada's Wonderland
    15. Busch Gardens Europe
    16. Cedar Point
    17. Kings Island
    18. Hersheypark
    19. Six Flags Great Adventure
    20. Six Flags Great America

    Busch Gardens Europe showed the strongest attendance gain in the country last year, 12.5 percent, placing it in the Top 20, and knocking out Six Flags Magic Mountain. In addition to Magic Mountain, California Adventure and Knott's Berry Farm showed attendance declines. Those parks, along with Six Flags Great Adventure, were the only top U.S. parks to show attendance declines in 2007.

    Comments (20) | Archive Link

    Hard Rock Park announces concert schedule

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 13, 2008 at 1:45 PM

    We'd mentioned previously the opening concerts at Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by the Eagles and Moody Blues. Now the park's announced a full, weekly concert sked for annual pass and daily ticket holders.

    May 8 – One Republic – for Annual Pass holders only
    May 13 – Kid Rock with special appearance by Rev Run
    May 16 – Volunteer Jam (The Charlie Daniels Band, .38 Special and Shooter Jennings)
    May 23 – George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic
    June 2 – Eagles – Grand Opening Special Event*
    June 3 – The Moody Blues – Grand Opening Special Event*
    July 4 – Sister Hazel
    *Special Admission ticket required. Ticket details on hardrockpark.com.

    Archive Link

    Announcing: The Ultimate Theme Park Tournament

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 13, 2008 at 9:19 AM

    Starting Monday, March 17, Theme Park Insider will host the first Ultimate Theme Park Tournament, pitting the top 64 rides in America, as rated by Theme Park Insider readers, in a single-elimination format to pick the industry's best.

    Thanks to TPI reader Tim Strickland for the idea. We'll start with four match-ups each weekday. Readers will get to vote on their favorites and the winners will advance to subsequent rounds.

    The final match-up will happen on Monday, April 7.

    Readers need not be registered TPI members in order to vote, though you will need to register in order to comment on the match-ups, which will run in the site's front page "Blog Flume."

    I have seeded the rides, from one to 64, based on TPI reader ratings, slightly tweaked in the case of ties and near-ties to present what I think will be more engaging match-ups. To make for the best match-ups, I decided to leave shows out of this tournament, and due to the relatively low number of votes at this time of year for non-U.S. attractions, we're making the initial tournament for U.S. rides only.

    So spread the word, mare your calendars, bookmark the TPI home page and get ready to start voting on Monday!

    Update: Brilliant idea just e-mailed to me: What's a tournament without a pool? I'll be working that into the game tonight. Details on Friday.

    Update 2: Here's the link to enter the pool. Pick the four semi-finalists, the winner and the winner's vote percentage in the finals. Winner gets $100. No purchase necessary. Yada Yada Yada.

    Comments (12) | Archive Link

    Mardi Gras Performer Change at Universal Orlando

    By Diane Graebner
    Published: March 12, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    We've just been informed of a change in the Mardi Gras performer schedule for this weekend (Saturday, March 15). K.C. and the Sunshine Band will be performing instead of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who apparently canceled due to an illness.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Worker dies on ride at Six Flags Great America

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 11, 2008 at 7:19 PM

    A 46-year-old worker died Tuesday morning after falling from the Splash Waterfalls ride at Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Illinois.

    According to a news report, Thomas Lee of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin was working for a contractor hired to dismantle the ride when he fell. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. OSHA is investigating.

    Archive Link

    New attraction spotlight: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 11, 2008 at 12:38 PM

    Remember Camp Snoopy, the indoor amusement park at Mall of America, outside Minneapolis? The park lost its Peanuts theme when Cedar Fair's management contract was terminated two years ago, becoming the rather generically-named "Park at Mall of America." But, starting this weekend, the park breaks out a new Nickelodeon theme. (Note of irony: around the same time as it left MoA, Cedar Fair bought the Paramount Parks from Viacom, which owns... you guessed it, Nickelodeon.)

    Dora the Explorer's El Circulo del Cielo
    Image courtesy Park at Mall of America

    Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America opens this Saturday, March 15. Visitors will find a mix of rethemed rides from the old park, as well as some new rides, headlined by the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster.

    SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster
    Image courtesy Park at Mall of America

    The park is not a one-price-rides-all general admission park like most major theme parks. Instead, it's a throw-back to the old Disneyland ticket-book/county fair model, in this case with riders buying "points" to get on the various rides.

    We haven't covered pay-as-you parks on the site, but I know there are many Nick fans here, as well as folks who like to hit every new coaster around. So for you, here is the attraction lineup or Nickelodeon Universe, courtesy the park's PR reps:


    Avatar Airbender
    Height Requirement: 48”
    Points: 6
    Ride a ‘wave of air’ rocking back and forth to reach heights of 70 feet as air and fire forces rage in battle around you! Bend the air waves with Aang on his spinning sled.

    Danny Phantom Ghost Zone
    Height Requirement: 47” (or 42” with a chaperone)
    Points: 5
    Board a gondola and embark on a ghost hunting adventure that will “pale” in comparison to all others. Dare to enter the mysterious portal of the Ghost Zone, where you’ll join Danny Phantom, who is hot on the trail of his evil nemesis, Skulker.

    Fairly Odd Coaster
    Height Requirement: 47” (or 43” with a chaperone)
    Points: 6
    This hilarious misadventure provides hairpin turns, plummeting spirals and speeding tracks. You’ll whirl out of control as you spin through the park in with Cosmo and Wanda.

    Jimmy Neutron’s Atomic Collider
    Height Requirement: 47”
    Points: 5
    Climb aboard with Jimmy Neutron and take one of his out-of-this-world inventions for a test drive. Hear your space age engine accelerate wildly, whipping you up, down and around! Hand on tight in case of near misses with other vehicles!

    Orange Streak
    Height Requirement: 47” (or 42” with chaperone)
    Points: 5
    A spine-tingling ride in a sleek, orange vehicle, this coaster streaks down a twisting, turning track through the entire park, leaving nothing but screams and startled pedestrians in its wake.

    Height Requirement: 42”
    Points: 5
    This radical thrill ride launches you straight up to almost 60’, then sends you catapulting down to the ground at speeds that will blow your mind!

    SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge
    Height Requirement: 48”
    Points: 6
    This coaster lifts you up toward the surface, then turns you head over heels with intense loops, spirals and 90-degree turns. Twist and turn through creepy caverns and bright Bikini Bottom scenes, then screech to a halt at the Bikini Bottom bus stop.

    Tak Attack
    Height Requirement: 48”
    Points: 6
    Spin head over heels and flip upside down on this gravity-defying thrill ride. You’ll harness the power of Juju as you hurtle skyward, twisting and turning on Tak’s gigantic magical staff.


    El Circulo del Cielo
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 4
    Circle high above the crowd with Dora and Boots on our ferris wheel. Take in a view of the park from over seven stories high!

    Log Chute
    Height Requirement: 47” (or 36” with a chaperone)
    Points: 6
    Enjoy an exciting water adventure as you travel through a cavernous mountain ending with a 40 foot drop.

    Naked Brothers Crazy Cars
    Height Requirement: 48” (or 42” with chaperone)
    Points: 4
    Rock out with The Naked Brothers Band in crazy bumper car action that’s totally smashing! Pick your car and let it roll on this rockin’ ride!

    Nick O Round
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 3
    Take a turn on an old-fashioned carousel…with a Nick twist! Enjoy a contemporary version of this classic merry-go-round.

    The Flying Dutchman’s Revenge
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 5
    Hit the high seas and plunge into a hilarious dark ride journey, and help SpongeBob search for pirate plunder. Equipped with a waterproof flashlight, it’s up to you to uncover the missing fortune scattered all over Bikini Bottom. Rack up points along the way – then deposit the treasures so the Dutchman can grab his booty and be gone!


    Back at the Barnyard Hayride
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 3
    Take an “udderly” mad dash through the Barnyard with Otis and the rest of the party animals on this family friendly coaster. It’s sure to be a wild ride!

    Backyardigans Swing-Along
    Height Requirement: 47” (43” with harness or 39” with a chaperone)
    Points: 5
    Swing and fly along with the Backyardigans as you reach heights of up to 27 feet.
    Let your imagination soar and explore the whimsical world of the Backyardigans – without ever leaving your seat!

    Blues’ Skidoo
    Height Requirement: 42” (or 36” with chaperone)
    Points: 3
    Fly through the air with Blue and Magenta! You can use your on-board control lever to make them hop up and down!

    Boots’ Balloon Fiesta
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 3
    Hop into a balloon and soar high above the treetops with Boots for a scenic aerial view of the Mall. Up, up and away!

    Diego’s Rescue Rider
    Height Requirement: 42” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 4
    Ride along with Rescue Pack on another wild animal rescue adventure! This Rescue Rider bus will swing you round and round to help Diego on his journey.

    La Aventura de Azul
    Height Requirement: 36” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 3
    All aboard for a whimsical journey on Azul, the blue train. Head out on a storybook journey through the world of Dora the Explorer.

    Nick Jr. Big Rigs
    Height Requirement: 36” (unless accompanied by a chaperone)
    Points: 3
    Hit the road behind the wheel of a kid-sized Nick Jr. Big Rig. Motor down the highway, honk your horn and wave to the passersby. Catch you on the flip side, little buddy!

    Pineapple Poppers
    Height Requirement: 36 – 58”
    Points: 3
    Jumpin’ Jellyfish! If you like to bounce up and down and sideways, hop inside Spongebob’s famous pineapple house! Jump to your heart’s content in this bright yellow inflatable.

    Rugrats Reptarmobiles
    Height Requirement: 38”
    Points: 4
    The Rugrats are it again – and now you can join them in the driver’s seat! Reptar is on the rampage again… and you can stay out of harm’s way as you race around in your very own kid-sized bumper made especially for Rugrats-sized visitors.

    Swiper’s Sweeper
    Height Requirement: 42”
    Points: 3
    Climb aboard for a wild whip of a ride…but look out! Swiper is after your stuff! As your vehicle zips around, Swiper “reaches” out to grab you, but you’re too fast for him.

    Wonder Pets Flyboat
    Height Requirement: 36”
    Points: 3
    Hop aboard the Wonder Pets’ fantastical Flyboat and let it lift you 20 feet above the park, then bounce you up and down until you make a soft landing.

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Last call for Aquatica trip reports

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2008 at 9:41 AM

    Final reminder today for readers to submit their Aquatica trip reports, if they want them to be considered for the $250 best-trip-report award.

    We're looking not just for a trip report, but also comments on individual attractions, photos and videos. Go to the Aquatica page (linked above) to submit comments and photos. I will be making my pick for the best submission late Monday.

    I'd also like to remind readers that we'll be offering the same award for early trip reports from Hard Rock Park, once that park opens to the public.

    Thanks for reading Theme Park Insider!

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Should theme park fans visit Dubai?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 7, 2008 at 5:30 PM

    This week's announcement that Six Flags will join the Dubailand project brings the Arabian peninsula emirate one step closer to becoming the "Orlando of the Middle East." Six Flags, Busch and Universal all are licensing theme parks in Dubai, with Busch building its largest project to date - a four-park resort in The Palm Jebel Ali.

    Sounds like a theme park fan's dream, right? Maybe not. Dubai, as a tourist destination is... not without controversy.

    It's a Middle Eastern, clan-controlled, oil-rich kingdom, after all. Critics have accused the emirate of harboring indentured servants and its banks of laundering money for al Qaeda. Its oil helps fuel the global warming that threatens the planet's environment. And its massive tourist developments have made the United Arab Emirates the biggest per-capita energy consumers in the world, even worse than the United States.

    But... unlike other Arab states, Dubai has developed a well-earned reputation for openness and accessibility. The emirate permits dress, dance, drink and music that would be forbidden elsewhere on the peninsula. Anyone can visit Dubai, even Jews and those with Israeli stamps on their passports -- visitors who would be denied entry to many other Middle Eastern states. Its airline has won international praise for great service and its tourist developments dazzle, making the emirate one of the top international destinations for Europeans.

    So... is it "right" to visit Dubai? Does visiting the emirate help support the nastiness critics decry? Or does it help engage the emirate with the Western world, rewarding it for transcending the Muslim fundamentalism elsewhere in the Middle East?

    For the record, none of theme park companies mentioned above are building parks in Dubai. They are simply licensing their brand names and designs to local developers who will build and manage the parks. Does that absolve these companies of responsibility for what's happening with labor in Dubai, or not?

    I don't know. What's your call on these question? Vote below, and leave your thoughts in the comments, please.

    Comments (21) | Archive Link

    New attraction spotlight: Lost Kingdom Adventure

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 6, 2008 at 6:24 PM

    This weekend Legoland California will debut the park's first interactive dark ride, Lost Kingdom Adventure. Master Model Designer Bill Vollbrecht walked me through the attraction this morning, as Legoland employees tested it and applied its finishing touches.

    Legoland Master Model Designer Bill Vollbrecht

    Lost Kingdom Adventure is the centerpiece of "Land of Adventure," a new four-attraction themed land, located next to the Technic Coaster at the Carlsbad, Calif. park. Lost Kingdom Adventure is a shoot-'em-up dark ride, built by Sally Corporation, from Vollbrecht's concept designs.

    The idea for Land of Adventure was born one year ago, Vollbrecht said, when Legoland officials asked him to submit a concept for a new themed land, based on Lego's popular Adventures line of characters. Vollbrecht opted for an Egyptian theme, and after many more concept drawings, construction began last year.

    Visitors to the new land will first notice the towering 16-foot pharaoh who stands guard outside the Lost Kingdom Adventure building. Made from more than 300,000 Lego bricks, the pharaoh is supported by a core of six-inch box steel.

    Box steel supports the larger Lego models at Legoland California

    Vollbrecht explained that Lego's master builders start with a prototype design for each model that they build in the park. Drawing from a massive collection of Lego bricks, sorted by color and style, master builders assemble these prototypes based on concept drawings. When they are satisfied with the design, they then create a duplicate -- the final model that will stand in the park. Larger models are built on steel support frames, animation and audio elements are added as needed, and, yes, all the bricks are glued together. A spray of "sunscreen," a UV light protector, completes the construction before the model is sent into the park for installation.

    Lost Kingdom Adventure itself, though, features very few Lego models inside the ride itself. Black light floods all but one of the ride scenes, and after testing every color of Lego brick available, designers found that almost all appeared washed out under the black light, according to a park spokesperson. That left designers to create a Lego-inspired adventure, without the bricks themselves. (Actual brick models do appear in the ride's final scene which, located just before the outdoor unload platform, is lit with natural light.)

    I was not able to ride the ride, as engineers from Sally were making their final tests. But I did get to walk through the attraction, and found more than a few prime targets. Vollbrecht promised that every target in the ride will trigger some animation element, in addition to scoring riders points, but some targets will deliver more than others....

    If you don't mind the spoilers, click on the photo gallery below for a scene-by-scene walk though Lost Kingdom Adventure:

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Primeval Whirl adds safety features

    By Mitchell Botwin
    Published: March 5, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    In response to the Nov. 24 death of Karn Price, while working the Primeval Whirl coaster in Animal Kingdom, Disney is installing sensor mats on the off-limits area of the ride platform beyond the passneger loading and unloading zones. The mats will shut down the ride if someone steps on the mats. They are adding striping to designate loading and unloading zones. Primeval Whirl is a wild mouse type coaster; this style of coaster has been in operation for many years. The Primeval Whirl is acutally 2 mouse coasters interwoven.

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    Busch files for expansion in Williamsburg

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 4, 2008 at 1:44 PM

    Busch has filed for permission to build up to five new structures at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Va., according to documents filed with the James City County planning department.

    The plans call for "park expansion consisting of 5 guest buildings and various guest attractions and theming." Two supporting PDF files reveal that Busch has said that no building will be taller than 60 feet (so... no major coaster).

    Anyone on the ground in Virginia want to share what they've heard?

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Six Flags going to Dubai, too

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 4, 2008 at 1:35 PM

    Last week, Busch. This week, Six Flags.

    Following last week's announcement of a mega SeaWorld/Busch Gardens resort in Dubai, Six Flags has announced that it will expand to the Arabian peninsula.

    Six Flags is partnering with Tatweer, the developer of Universal Studios Dubailand. Tatweer will build Six Flags Dubailand under license from the U.S. amusement park firm. Here's the press release.

    Comments (11) | Archive Link

    SeaWorld's Aquatica: A trip report

    By Pat Ott
    Published: March 3, 2008 at 7:11 PM

    [Editor's note: Okay. Here's our first entry in the Aquatica trip report contest. Do you live in the Orlando area? Can you do better? Get your cameras, take some notes, then submit your best effort to the Flume.]

    It is a great day for the newly opened Aquatica water park although there was a bit of a nip in the air when leaving and entering the water. The high hit 80 degrees and I'm sitting here with a sunburn, feeling my skin crawl. Not good for a redheaded, fair skinned kind of guy like me.

    We live close enough to the water park where we could walk there if we wanted to, but decided to get the full experience driving it.

    The parking has two options you can pay the normal fee of $10.00 or $15.00 for premier parking which isn't really much. The parking is just on one side of the parking lot. It's not closer for the extra price. I would say that the extra price is a waste of money.

    As we entered everything was brightly painted and the trees still had the wood propping them up. The foliage is remarkable which bring out a few butterfly. It kind of reminded me of a section of Animal Kingdom that has the Junkanoo flair.

    We walked the park first as we always do so we can see what all the park has to offer and I can get my pictures in before we hit the water. Here's the link to the photos.

    One of our first stops were a gift shop to check out the prices for items. Some of the prices there were actually good. A nice pair of swim trunks were around $20.00, but of course the other things like mugs and towels were a bit over priced as expected for a theme park.

    Then we adventured to an area where there were cabanas. There was an employee there who kindly turned us away from the "private" area. I asked him what the area was for and he gave me the run down on this option.

    The cabana area is a private area and one cabana cost $150.00 during the low season and $175.00 during the peek which includes four people for each additional person up to seven is an extra $30.00. If you are an annual pass holder you receive $25.00 off the price. Now what comes with this offer is really good. You get, 16 drinks that includes water, soda and juice, large lockers, unlimited towels that are changed out by your concierge service.

    Along with this service is a dining option where you are given a menu to one of their eating establishments where you choose what you want and give your credit card to the concierge and the time you want the food. Your food will arrive for you at the time you specified in your cabana. When you purchase this option you're considered a Big Kahuna (VIP) and have a special entrance into the park. I really like this touch of VIP treatment. Someday I may have to indulge in that aspect of the park.

    We continued around the park until we hit Banana Beach Cookout which is the best of the grill all-you-care-to-eat cookout type of food buffet style dinning. The food served were hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, BBQ chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, mixed bean salad, watermelon, cantaloupe, melon and banana pudding with vanilla wafers along with Pepsi products.

    At this venue you have two payment options. You can do a one sitting for a fee and an all day pass for about $20.00 per person which allows you to come back to the cookout over and over again. We agreed this was a fantastic value if you plan on staying there for a full day. You really can't beat $20.00 for a lunch and dinner. This price also includes your beverage so you'll never run out of something to drink. Of course we did the $20.00 all day eating option.

    We finally decided to start on the rides. We were really fortunate that we went during the soft opening. The park isn't that big and when the people start pouring in it will not be a pleasurable experience at least for me. They do a great job of crowd diversion with the way the park is set up where you go onto a water ride to have it split into multiple rides instead of waiting in a line for just one ride, but still the park is small and the venues are small too.

    I can't remember what order we did things, so I'll do my best on saying what I liked and didn't like.

    We went on the lazy river (Loggerhead Lane) which was really nice due to the waterway going into the observation tank to see the dolphins and the people shooting through the tubes which is a bunch of bunk since you're flying through those things so fast you don't see piddly with the water in your eyes and the blur from zipping through the tube. Then the water flowed you into a smaller fish aquarium tank which was a nice touch.

    Then we did the faster moving rapids (Roa's Rapids). This was the one we liked the best. The water moved fast enough to the point where you literally are swept away with the flow. If you want really good exercise this is a great way to get it. If you want to just float they offer life preservers for all sizes.

    The ride on Tassie's Twisters let me know how it feels to be flushed down the toilet. You're shot down a tube into an open bowl where you spin around then fall down a hole at the bottom to be flushed out into the river.

    Whanau Way has four slides this is what I meant about one line leading to more rides. You would go up as one line to split up onto four rides. The ride was in the dark and actually got some air time. Very odd for a water ride, but fun.

    We did Walhall Wave and HoRoo Run which are family rides. They have the huge rafts that a group of people can ride in and both rides were good for what they were. Nothing really special about these two.

    The big wave pool I think is called Cutback Cove really gave us a work out with the bobbing over the waves.

    We didn't do Taumata Racer which is the water racing slide. I was so tired and pooped walking up the towers. You really have to be in good shape to climb those towers all day. What was really impressive is that the railings for the towers were made from recycled plastic.

    After everything we did we came home burned up from the sun, muscles ache from all the swimming, bobbing all that involves water and swimming, but thinking to ourselves that we were glad that we didn't have to pay for the water park. Why? Over all the park was a great "first time" visit, but didn't offer anything that I would want to come back and do. We also can see a really big issue with small food venues and large crowds with the heat which is not a very good combination.

    The park was very clean and there were people everywhere to help you if you needed assistance, but not sure if that will last after the newness wears off and the heat sets in. I don't see where they will have much growth to help maintain an interest for folks coming back.

    Over all it's a great first time water park for the whole family, but to make it the park only visit for vacation, no. A side adventure for your visit, yes.

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Snakes, Crocs, Koalas and a Mouse?

    By Daniel Smith
    Published: March 3, 2008 at 11:25 AM

    Summer is finally getting hot in Sydney with the State Government confirming discussions with Disney this week. According to all the major press in Australia, Disney has been in talks with the Department of State and Regional Development about developing "White Bay", currently a large working port up for development opposite the Sydney Harbour Bridge and close to central Sydney including the Sydney Opera House. Whilst the Government confirmed the talks, that's all they're letting out at this moment (until development plans are released to the media soon). The only quote so far from the department.. "[it would be a] wonderful opportunity for Sydney."

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    SeaWorld Orlando Opens Aquatica Water Park

    By MyFoxOrlando WOFL FOX 35
    Published: March 1, 2008 at 11:01 PM

    On Saturday, March 1, SeaWorld Orlando unveiled its Aquatica water park after nearly seven years of planning. The new attraction blends together animal experiences with water-themed rides and sandy beaches. The nearly 60 acre park, located east of International Drive, also features winding rivers, hidden grottos and waterfalls.

    All told, there are thirty-six water slides, six "lazy" rivers, and more than 80,000 square feet of beach area. The park’s signature attraction plunges riders in clear tubes through a crystal-blue lagoon which holds black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins.

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    Vote of the week: Line jumpers

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 1, 2008 at 12:59 AM

    This is a bigger deal in some parks, and nonexistent in others, but... how do you deal with people who cut in lines at theme parks?

    Be honest, now. What do you actually do... don't give us what you *wish* you could do. (That vote, I am afraid, would require more answer options than would fit on the page.)

    In the comments, share your tips for dealing with line jumpers.

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    Keep reading: February 2008 Archive

    Stories from a Theme Park Insider

    Stories from a Theme Park Insider

    What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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