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March 2009

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2009 Best Ride in America Tournament: Millennium Force, Soarin', Hulk and Dudley Do-Right

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2009 at 1:29 PM
Welcome to the third round of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

Again, everyone, please read through the comments before casting your votes! Well-informed voters make for a better tournament. (Plus, reading the comments is more than half the fun of this thing, anyway.)

We kick off today's afternoon match-ups with Cedar Point Nation's Millennium Force taking on Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure.

For anyone complaining about the voting results, at least be thankful that I didn't place the SeaWorld baby otters in the bracket. Based on site traffic over the past 24 hours, I suspect that they'd be beating everyone in this tournament! :-)

The evening's second match is an all-Islands of Adventure battle. Coaster or flume? Incredible Hulk Coaster or Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls?

Anyone care to comment? ;-)

Comments (50) | Archive Link

Happy 50th birthday to Busch Gardens Africa

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2009 at 9:14 AM
Fifty years ago today, on March 31, 1959, Busch Gardens opened in Tampa, Florida.

It was Busch's first theme park, followed by Busch Gardens Los Angeles in 1966, Busch Gardens Houston in 1971 and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1975. (The Houston park closed in 1972 and the LA park in 1976, though both operated in a diminished capacity for a few years after those park close dates.)

But the Tampa facility wasn't the first "Busch Gardens." The original Busch Gardens was just that, a garden, though an elaborate 36-acre one, that stood on the Busch family property in Pasadena, Calif. Located in the Arroyo Seco just south of the Rose Bowl, the Busch garden eventually was subdivided now includes private homes as well as parkland. (You can find photos of the original Busch Gardens here and here.)

Anyway, you get the Pasadena info, 'cause that's where I am. If anyone in Florida is at Busch Gardens in Tampa today and would like to post an account of how the park marked the anniversary, please do in the comments. Thanks, and happy birthday, Busch Gardens!

Busch Gardens Africa

Comments (5) | Archive Link

2009 Best Ride in America Tournament: Spidey, Kraken, Everest and MIB

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2009 at 6:57 AM
Welcome to the third round of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

Again, everyone, please read through the comments before casting your votes! Well-informed voters make for a better tournament. (Plus, reading the comments is more than half the fun of this thing, anyway.)

We kick off this morning's match-ups (remember, folks, I'm in Los Angeles), with two-seed
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man from Universal's Islands of Adventure taking on SeaWorld Orlando's floorless coaster Kraken.

In a highly anticipated match-up,
Expedition Everest from Disney's Animal Kingdom takes on Universal Studios Florida's Men In Black Alien Attack, fresh off its upset win over Indiana Jones Adventure. Can MIB make it two upsets in a row?

That's right: TPI old-timers get a morning without Cedar Point and Busch Gardens Europe attractions (and, perhaps, without their battling fan bases). See you in the comments!

Comments (35) | Archive Link

Baby otters at SeaWorld Orlando

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2009 at 3:04 PM
TPI daughter Natalie insisted that I post this:

Baby otters

From SeaWorld Orlando's press release today:

SeaWorld animal trainers in Orlando have their hands full with four baby Asian small-clawed otters. Born just three weeks ago to parents Simon and Sophie, the pups are nursing and will open their eyes in about a week. Asian small-clawed otters live in the rivers, creeks, estuaries and coastal waters of Southeast Asia, from northern India to southeastern China, the Malay Peninsula and parts of Indonesia.

FWIW, Natalie has volunteered to become official TPI correspondent for all cute animal photos.

Me? I'm wondering how I can turn this pic into an LOLCats. (I'm such a bad dad!)

Comments (10) | Archive Link

Disney Cruise Line moving Wonder to Los Angeles

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2009 at 2:50 PM
Disney officially announced today that it will move the Disney Wonder cruise ship from Port Canaveral in Florida to the Port of Los Angeles on the west coast in 2011, pending approval by the LA harbor board on Thursday.

The Disney Cruise Line has sailed from the west coast before, for a few weeks in 2005 and 2008. But this will be a two-year, and possibly five-year, repositioning of the Wonder. No details on itineraries yet, so, no, you can't make reservations.

Given that LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was at the press event at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, I'd say that the agreement with the harbor commissioners is pretty much a done deal.

Comments (5) | Archive Link

2009 Best Ride in America Tournament: Beast, Maverick, Mansion and Apollo's Chariot

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM
Welcome to the third round of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider. Today, we've split the match-ups into two threads. In the morning contests, Busch Gardens fans dominated the voting, pushing Griffon to a win over Disneyland's Space Mountain and helping Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy hold off Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean.

We start the afternoon match-ups with Cedar Point Nation's Maverick taking on Cedar Fair sibling The Beast from Kings Island. Will Cedar Point rally its fans to defeat a coaster from its own corporate family?

Again, everyone, please read through the comments before casting your votes! Well-informed voters make for a better tournament. (Plus, reading the comments is more than half the fun of this thing, anyway.)

Busch Gardens The Old Country Williamsburg Europe Virginia's Apollo's Chariot takes on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. Will Busch's fans turn out to eliminate another Disneyland favorite?

Anybody got anything to say? ;-) The comments await....

Also: For those folks joining us from Facebook, please take a moment to become a fan of Theme Park Insider, too!

Comments (43) | Archive Link

Orlando theme parks explore small numbers

By Robert Niles
Published: March 30, 2009 at 10:32 AM
Two notes this morning of potential interest to theme park fans:

  • First, the Orlando Sentinel has compiled an impressive database of all 477 state and federal personal injury lawsuits filed against Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and the SeaWorld Orlando parks between 2004 and 2008. The Sentinel's research first illustrates just how rare lawsuits are against these theme parks. Remember that during that four-year period, the parks hosted more than 100 million visitors.

    The majority of the suits filed never make it to a courtroom, either. The Sentinel found that just seven cases filed since 2004 have gone to trial and reached a verdict. And that the parks won all seven. (And the parks recouped their legal fees in at leats one of them.) Basically, if you are among the tiny fraction of people who have a realistic case against a park, you and the park likely settle.

    When I worked in the parks, I witnessed plenty of incidents that could have risen to the level of a suit. But, the data show, they almost never do. Despite the bloviating of people clamoring for lawsuit reform, most people and companies are reasonable and can settle up or deal with incidents before juries get involved.

  • Analysts at Goldman Sachs (are they still in business? /snark) estimate that attendance is falling at Disney's U.S. theme parks, and will tank by the end of the year. They're predicting attendance to be down by 10 percent in the fourth quarter (late summer and fall) over the same time last year.

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

  • 2009 Best Ride in America Tournament: Mummy, Pirates, Griffon and Space

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 30, 2009 at 7:32 AM
    Welcome to the third round of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider. Today, we're splitting the match-ups into two threads.

    Again, everyone, please read through the comments before casting your votes! Well-informed voters make for a better tournament. (Plus, reading the comments is more than half the fun of this thing, anyway.)

    In the first set of matches, Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy takes on Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean.

    And Busch Gardens The Old Country Williamsburg Europe Virginia's Griffon defends its four-seed against Disneyland's Space Mountain.

    Check back later today for our afternoon (Pacific time) matches. Until then... to the comments!

    Comments (48) | Archive Link

    Busch Gardens 'Virginia' now?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 29, 2009 at 8:47 PM
    Just looking at Busch Gardens Europe's new website... err, there's no longer any reference to Busch Gardens "Europe"; now it is Busch Gardens "Virginia" in the page headers.

    The logo has the large "Busch Gardens" letters, with "Williamsburg, VA" in tiny type underneath it.

    The Busch Gardens Africa site appears unchanged.

    I was prepared for the name of these parks to change upon new ownership, so I'm not much in the mood to start changing references to the Williamsburg park right now. (And have to change them again later.) I would, however, entertain a spirited, creative discussion among TPI readers over what *you* think the name of the Williamsburg park should be.

    Creativity encouraged. ;-)

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    Introducing the 2010 Best Attraction Tournament

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 29, 2009 at 3:22 PM
    "What?" I can hear you asking. "We're not yet finished with this year's tournament, and already you're writing about next year's?"

    You're right. I am jumping the gun. But once you've read what I have planned for next year, I think you will agree that an early start is necessary.

    Let me back up and explain why we're doing this tournament in the first place. I envisioned the tournament as a fun way to get regular Theme Park Insider readers more involved with the site, to attract new readers, and to get everyone fired up at the beginning of the traditional theme park season. And if we throw some attention toward a really great ride, all the better.

    The trick with the tournament always has been to create match-ups that were engaging and entertaining. No one cares about a 90%-10% blowout. Nor can readers get into debating the merits of a $80 million 4D dark ride versus a $50K off-the-shelf carny spinner. Rides matched up against each other need to have some common points of reference, so that readers can compare and contrast them.

    The past two tournaments have exposed some frustrations that I wanted to address. (And I want to thank everyone who's offered suggestions on improving the tournament during that time.)

    First, to help preserve meaningful match-ups, I limited the tournament to rides, and this year, to rides aimed at older kids and grown-ups. That excluded many great shows from the tournament, preventing many fans and readers from getting to debate their favorite attractions.

    Also, the Great Cedar Point Invasion illuminated one of the continuing rifts that divides some theme and amusement park fans. Theme Park Insider's long been "neutral ground" in this space. We're not a Disney site nor a coaster site. We include readers who love parks from a variety of companies, and who are willing to consider rides and shows from just about anyone.

    But we should be even more open and accommodating, to give coaster fans and themed entertainment fans plenty of opportunity to boast about their favorites. Therefore, next year, instead of running one tournament, we're going to run four!

    The 2010 "Best Attraction" tournament will feature four 16-attraction tournaments, each of which will function as a separate bracket in an overall tournament to select the best overall attraction in either North America or the world.

    The four brackets will be:

    Best Themed Ride
    This will feature rides that include significant storytelling, as well as a unique themed setting. Potential nominees in this category include The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Men in Black Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy.

    Best Roller Coaster
    This category is for the best in non-narrative coasters. If a coaster includes an elaborate themed setting, such as Mummy, it will go in the above category instead. Potential candidates here include Millennium Force, Griffon, Thunderhead and El Toro.

    Best Live Show
    This category honors shows where the majority of the action is presented by live performers. Notice that I didn't say live "people." Animal shows go into this category, allowing the many SeaWorld shows finally to join the tournament. Potential nominees include Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo - The Musical, Believe and Blue Horizons.

    Best Multimedia Show
    The final category is for shows where the majority of action is prerecorded or mechanically or digitally animated. Potential nominees include IllumiNations, Terminator 2: 3D, Impressions de France and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

    Once voters have selected the best in class for each bracket, the two rides will square off to determine the best ride, and the two shows will go against each other to determine the best show.

    Then, the best ride and the best show will match up as readers select the best overall attraction.

    Voting in the tournament will kick off next year at its traditional time in mid-March, and will continue to be open to all Theme Park Insider readers and visitors. But the build-up to next year's tournament will begin long before that.

    The selection of the 16 nominated attractions in each class will continue to be determined primarily by Theme Park Insider's reader ratings. So, please, be sure to visit TPI after each park visit, to rate and review every attraction you experienced. Those ratings are essential in helping us pick the very best 16 attractions in each class.

    (And please, don't bother rating attractions either "10" or "0", with nothing in between. To be honest, I've set up the site's publishing system to erase those votes, anyway. Let's not forget that I was a math major and can sniff out and purge bogus voting patterns. Most attractions should be in the 4-7 range, with a few outstanding attractions getting exceptional ratings.)

    I will reveal the 16 nominees in each class in early January 2010. Then, for 64 days leading up to the tournament, we will run one feature a day profiling a nominated attraction. These profiles will include descriptions and photos and as well as videos and interviews with attraction designers or performers. With all this information available, no one will be able to use the excuse that he or she doesn't have enough information about an attraction to vote!

    Obviously, this is going to be a huge reporting project. So, I'll ask for help right now. If you are or have been involved in the design or production of any attraction - ride or show - that you think ought to be in the top 16 in its category, and want to talk about it, e-mail me at themeparkinsider - at - gmail.com. I'll be starting the work of reporting on potential nominees right away. I won't save all that reporting for next year, either, but will be weaving much of it into the blog here on TPI throughout the summer and fall, as well.

    If we can get enough TPI readers to rate and review attractions from listed parks around the world, and if I can enlist support from the designers and producers of those attractions, we will make this a "World's Best Attraction" tournament, instead of simply a "Best in America" one.

    With all these previews, not to mention the voting itself, we'll have theme park fans covered with fun tournament coverage from New Year's week up until the regional parks open in the spring. No need to fear the dark days of winter next year.

    I'm excited about these changes, and all the great content we'll have on the site, and hope that you will be, too!

    Comments (13) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament: Top 16 round-up and recap

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 29, 2009 at 12:32 PM
    We're down to the final sixteen rides in the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider. The big news in the tournament so far has been the influx of Cedar Point fans, powering Maverick to an upset win over defending champion and top seed Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in the second round.

    Yesterday, Universal's Islands of Adventure - the Big East of Theme Park Insider - went three for four, with The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man leading the way into the third round, bring along Incredible Hulk Coaster and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. Only Dueling Dragons - Fire failed to advance, falling to SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken.

    So here are our top 16 rides, according to tournament voters (with their pre-tournament seeding):

    2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
    3. Millennium Force
    4. Griffon
    5. Apollo's Chariot
    6. Expedition Everest
    8. Revenge of the Mummy
    9. Pirates of the Caribbean
    10. Incredible Hulk Coaster
    12. Haunted Mansion
    13. Space Mountain
    16. The Beast
    18. Kraken
    22. Men in Black Alien Attack
    33. Maverick
    46. Soarin' Over California
    58. Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

    So how did TPI readers do in predicting the final four rides in the tournament? Well, here were the four most-selected rides among those who entered the prediction contest:

    1. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
    2. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
    3. Toy Story Midway Mania
    4. Griffon

    As my son would say, in his best NASCAR mechanic impersonation: "dem brackets done blowed up reeeeal good."

    Will Cedar Point fans return to blow out all other parks' attractions from the tournament? Will Busch Gardens Europe manage to rally enough of its fans, through its Facebook page, to boost Griffon to victory? Will fans of Men in Black Alien Attack join Disney fans angered by Expedition Everest's non-moving Yeti to blast Everest from the tournament?

    We'll start finding out tomorrow, as the third round begins. Thanks to everyone who has voted; welcome to all our new Theme Park Insider readers and let's have a great rest of the tournament.

    Comments (17) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round two: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 28, 2009 at 7:11 AM
    Welcome to the final day of the second round in the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, Cedar Point's official blog rallied the park's fans to vote for Maverick, and they responded, bouncing defending champ Twilight Zone Tower of Terror from the tournament. The influx of coaster fans affected the other races on yesterday's ballot, and Kings Island's the Beast and Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean cruises to easy victories. Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy, however, held on in a squeaker against Dueling Dragons - Ice.

    Today, Islands of Adventure's The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man defends the honor of themed attractions against Busch Gardens Africa's coaster, Montu.

    As always, I ask everyone, no matter which park you like, to take a look at the comments below before casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

    In a battle of top Orlando coasters, Islands of Adventure's Dueling Dragons - Fire takes on cross-town rival Kraken, from SeaWorld Orlando.

    Two first-round upset winners face each other next, to see which ride can make an improbably run to the final 16. It's Superman: Ultimate Flight from Six Flags Great America versus Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls from Islands of Adventure.

    We wrap up as we began the day, with a roller coaster versus a "4D" dark ride. Will Islands of Adventure's Incredible Hulk Coaster be able to hold off Busch Gardens Europe's Curse of DarKastle?

    Let's duke this out in the comments.

    Comments (43) | Archive Link

    Another Walt Disney World layoff; this time at Food & Wine Festival

    By Scott Joseph
    Published: March 27, 2009 at 2:17 PM
    More news on layoffs at Walt Disney World, this one affecting the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Project manager Nora Carey, who oversaw the annual event as well as the Tables in Wonderland promotion, joins other F&B workers let go. Details at Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide.

    [Editor's note: I know we've linked to him before, but let's welcome Scott Joseph to Theme Park Insider, shall we? Orlando-area readers will know Scott as the former restaurant critic for the Sentinel. Scott also just posted a review of Epcot's Nine Dragons restaurant.]

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    All's fair in 'Best Ride' tournament campaigning

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 27, 2009 at 9:29 AM
    I wanted to bring everyone up to date with what's happening in today's Best Ride in America tournament voting.

    The Cedar Point website is linking to today's vote, resulting in a surge of votes for its roller coaster Maverick over last year's champion, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror from Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    When I saw a surge of votes come in for Maverick, I closed the poll temporarily to find out what was going on. Once I did, I reopened voting.

    If theme parks want to link to the tournament and encourage their fans to vote... fair game. This is the first example I've found of a park doing that, although I know that many park employees and ride designers have been linking to the tournament through corporate Intranets and personal blogs. Cedar Point's move takes that up a level.

    Of course, Disney, Universal, Six Flags and Busch are welcomed to play that game, too. As are fans site for those companies. So, Disney fans, if you want Tower of Terror to live past today, you'd better start campaigning, too.

    Comments (18) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round two: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 27, 2009 at 7:15 AM
    Welcome to the third day of the second round in the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, in the most heated voting of the tournament, Universal Studios Florida's Men in Black Alien Attack eliminated Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure. In another tight battle, Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure held off SheiKra from Busch Gardens Africa. Cedar Point's Millennium Force and Expedition Everest from Disney's Animal Kingdom also advanced.

    Today, top seed Twilight Zone Tower of Terror from Disney's Hollywood Studios tries to take another step toward defending its title, against Cedar Point's Maverick. [Update: That poll's down for a bit while we deal with some obvious vote-stuffing issues.] [Update 2: It's back up now. See comments below, or this post.]

    While we welcome voters from other websites, we ask you to take a look at the comments below before casting your votes. Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

    The last remaining Cedar Fair coasters, not from Cedar Point, square off as Kings Island's The Beast takes on Knott's Berry Farm's Xcelerator.

    Next up, it's an all-Universal Orlando battle, with Revenge of the Mummy going against Dueling Dragons – Ice.

    And we wrap up the day with what promises to be another heated battle, this time between beloved Disney movie franchises. It's Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean versus Hollywood Studios' Toy Story Midway Mania.

    To the comments!

    Comments (110) | Archive Link

    Former CEO still wants paid

    By Derek Potter
    Published: March 27, 2009 at 7:14 AM
    Here is a strange twist to the Hard Rock Saga. The former owners, who recently sold the park in bankruptcy court, are suing the new owners to get a cut of the profits from the park. They have filed suit and are seeking an annual "licensing fee" of $500,000 and 1.5 percent of gross revenues over 50 million. They are claiming intellectual property rights, which were allegedly transferred to another company owned by Goodwin and were not included in the sale.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Steven Goodwin, the former CEO, was awfully quiet during Hard Rock's lackluster first year, and from all accounts, virtually silent during the bankruptcy hearings. Intellectual property rights are usually included in a bankruptcy sale, and the court records indicate that Hard Rock was sold "free and clear of all encumbrances." Needless to say that Mr. Goodwin is not a popular figure at the beach right now.

    Here is the link.

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Universal Studios Hollywood offers its own 'free night' vacation deal

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 26, 2009 at 10:19 AM
    That was quick.

    One day after Disneyland announced its 'buy three nights, get two free' offer, Universal Studios Hollywood came out with its 'buy two nights, get one free' offer.

    From the Universal press release:

    Starting today, families booking a two-night package can get one additional night for free. Packages begin at $559 – or less than $50 per-person/per-night for a family of four – and include accommodations at a hotel near Universal, two days of theme park admission for the price of one, complimentary scheduled transportation between the hotel and Universal Studios Hollywood and one souvenir photograph. Guests have until Aug. 31, 2009 to book for travel that can begin immediately and run through Sept. 30, 2009.

    These SoCal deals follow the Orlando parks, where both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have offered, since late last year, their own buy-nights, get-more-nights-free deals.

    More information about the Universal Hollywood deal is available on Universal's website.

    Comments (1) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round two: Millennium Force bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 26, 2009 at 7:21 AM
    Welcome to the second day of round two in the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, all the upper seeds advanced, led by Busch Gardens Europe's Griffon and joined by BGE's Apollo's Chariot and Disneyland's Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion.

    Today, tournament three-seed Millennium Force leads the way, taking on fellow Cedar Point coaster Magnum XL-200.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below before casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Millennium Force

    Two first-round upset winners face off next, Busch Gardens Africa's floorless dive coaster SheiKra versus Disney's California Adventure's Soarin' Over California.

    Walt Disney World's top two roller coasters meet up in round two: Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest and Hollywood Studios' Rock n' Roller Coaster. Only one will move on to round three.

    Finally, given what many folks have written in the comments during the tournament, as well as the strength that Disney and Universal rides have shown in it, this might be the match-up which determines what ride moves on to the final four: Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure takes on Universal Studios Florida's Men In Black Alien Attack.

    To the comments!

    Comments (71) | Archive Link

    Disney World hits food and beverage with management layoffs*

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 25, 2009 at 4:41 PM
    Scott Joseph is reporting on his website that Disney has laid off lost its Food and Beverage VP, Rosemary Rose. [*Update: She resigned. She wasn't laid off.] Resorts VP Mahmud Dhanani will now take that job, which will also be responsible for food at Disneyland as well.

    Out in the day's layoffs is Disney World's Master Sommelier, one of only 100 in the US, John Blazon.

    If you have news of other major departures, post 'em in the comments.

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    Disneyland theme parks latest to hop on 'free nights' bandwagon

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 25, 2009 at 12:04 PM
    The Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim, California, announced today that it is offering a 'buy three nights, get two nights free' package to visitors who book hotel stays and theme park tickets for the Disneyland theme parks.

    Walt Disney World, in Florida, has been offering a 'buy four nights, get three nights free' deal for its theme parks and hotels.

    Visitors who book a three-night trip on Disneyland's website before August 11 (with arrival by Sept. 26) will get the extra two nights added to their stay. Visitors can book either one of the three official Disneyland hotels, or one of the 'Good Neighbor' affiliated non-Disney hotels (though they must arrived after May 1 for those hotels).

    What about the free birthday deal, you might ask? If you visit using this package during your birthday, you can get one of three options in lieu of the free birthday ticket:

  • A stack of FastPasses for up to six people on selected attractions.
  • A gift card equal to the price of a one-day/one-park ticket, to be used inside the park for selected merchandise, photos and tours.
  • A free one-day/one-park ticket, for your use within the next 12 months.

    In other news from Disneyland, the park is preparing to debut its new "Celebrate! A Street Party" parade. Brady MacDonald has a preview.

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

  • 2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round two: Griffon bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 25, 2009 at 7:23 AM
    Welcome to the first day of round two in the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, upsets abounded as only Universal's Islands of Adventure's Incredible Hulk Coaster advanced among the four favorites. Underdogs Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls from Islands of Adventure, Superman: Ultimate Flight from Six Flags Great America and Curse of DarKastle from Busch Gardens Europe all won their match-ups.

    Today, tournament four-seed Griffon, from Busch Gardens Europe, leads the remaining 32 ride into round two with its match-up against Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.


    Disney fans have a tough choice today, as they must decide between Disneyland's Space Mountain and Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Splash Mountain.

    Your roller coaster battle today matches Apollo's Chariot from Busch Gardens Europe against Cedar Point's Raptor.

    And, finally, one more all-Disney match-up, as Disneyland's Haunted Mansion takes on its neighbor Matterhorn Bobsleds.

    Let's start talking in the comments!

    Comments (17) | Archive Link

    Disney to release Toy Story Mania home video game for Wii

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 24, 2009 at 9:35 AM
    I suppose that this was inevitable: a video-game-inspired theme park dark ride becoming... an actual video game.

    Disney announced today that it will release a "Toy Story Mania!" video game that includes the games from the Toy Story Midway Mania attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's California Adventure. The game will be released for the Wii console this fall.

    The Wii version will include the games from the rides, as well as additional galleries, according to Disney's press release.

    I find it interesting that the press release continues the on-going internal battle about the name of these attractions, which Walt Disney Imagineering and the signs in the parks call Toy Story Midway Mania, but that Disney's PR departments insist on calling just Toy Story Mania. What the heck, people?

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one: El Toro bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 24, 2009 at 7:27 AM
    Welcome to the final day of the first round of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, Busch Gardens Africa's Montu pulled the upset, easily dispatching Behemoth from Canada's Wonderland. The other three high seeds held, as Islands of Adventure favorites The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Dueling Dragons - Fire joined SeaWorld Orlando's Kraken in advancing to the second round, which begins tomorrow.

    Today, Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro's favorite roller coaster, El Toro, leads the field, with the Six Flags Great Adventure woodie taking on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls from Universal's Islands of Adventure.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    El Toro

    No matter what happens with El Toro today, Six Flags will get at least one more ride into the second round, joining X2. That's because Six Flags Great America's Raging Bull takes on Superman: Ultimate Flight from the same park.

    A couple of popular Central Florida coasters go at it in our next-to-last match-up: Islands of Adventure's Incredible Hulk Coaster versus Busch Gardens Africa's Kumba.

    The final match-up of the first round is, to me, the most intriguing of the bunch. It matches two former winners of the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction: last year's winner, Universal Studios Florida's The Simpsons Ride, against the 2005 winner, Busch Gardens Europe's Curse of DarKastle.

    Thanks to everyone who voted in Round One. Let's keep the chatter going in the comments, but save time today to recruit some friends to visit Theme Park Insider tomorrow for round two!

    Comments (32) | Archive Link

    Six Flags CEO optimistic about 2009 solution to company's debt problems

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM
    Six Flags' corporate financial trouble is not affecting, and will not affect, park operations, according to Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro. I spoke with Shapiro on the phone for 20 minutes this morning, in a one-on-one conversation that got pushed back from last week.

    Mark ShapiroIn a notice filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission two weeks ago, Six Flags painted a grim picture of its finances. Burdened with debt taken on by past owners' expansion spree, Six Flags is facing bankruptcy if it cannot make a deal with its creditors, to either forgive or postpone payment on its debt.

    I asked Shapiro, given the problems companies around the world are having refinancing debt due to the Great Recession, what cuts Six Flags might have to look at making in 2009 to conserve cash to cover its debt obligations.

    "None," he swiftly replied.

    "The thing you have to remember and that you already know, Robert, is that Six Flags has $200 million in cash on hand," Shapiro said. "So no matter what happens this year, we will be able to pay our bills, our vendors and our employees."

    "This is a back office problem," he continued. "The parks themselves are stronger than ever; we're making money, attraction visitors and posting higher guest satisfaction ratings than ever before."

    "What people need to know is that when they come to visit a Six Flags park [this year], the only changes that they will see are continued improvement."

    I asked Shapiro how Six Flags was planning to respond to Disney's recent aggressive marketing efforts. Traditionally, Six Flags has positioned itself in tough times as the "affordable" alternative to a Disney World vacation. Does Six Flags have room to respond when Disney's repositioning itself a less expensive alternative?

    "We're not in competition with Disney," Shapiro replied. "Disney requires a plane trip, an extended hotel stay, and," he added with a laugh, "an extensive outlay in merchandise purchases."

    Shapiro contrasted a $49 annual pass to Six Flags Over Georgia, with its unlimited admission to all Six Flags parks, additional five free tickets for friends, in-park discounts and end-of-season Season Passholder Night to Disney's one-day, one-park admission price of $75.

    "Six Flags is a drive, not an airplane flight. It's a full day of entertainment, but not something that's ever going to cost as much as a trip to Disney," he added.

    Of course, cheap tickets won't bring in visitors to parks that don't have an attraction line-up of fresh rides and shows. I asked Shapiro, given the global credit crisis and the company's debt burden, what position it was in to be able to add new family attractions in 2010 and beyond.

    Shapiro replied that Six Flags has been spending $100 million a year on new capital, including rides, shows and facilities. And that the company planned to increase its capital spending an additional 10 percent in 2010. Shapiro said he would like the company to increase spending beyond that for the company's 50th anniversary in 2011.

    "Look at what we are doing at Six Flags Over Texas with the Texas Giant," he said. "That's a great ride, but it needs some love. So we're spending $10 million to redo it, and we're closing it down for a year in 2010 to make sure we can do it right."

    "If the park was losing money, you wouldn't do that. You'd just shut the ride down."

    On that note, I asked Shapiro about the pace of Six Flags' effort to clean up and improve the theming and customer service within its parks. I noted that several Theme Park Insider readers had complimented improvements at parks such as Magic Mountain, but others reported they were still waiting to see improvement at their local park. I specifically mentioned St. Louis, following one TPI reader's request to single out that park.

    "Yes, we still have a long way to go," Shapiro conceded. "And we will so long as I am in charge of this company. We'll never get to that point of perfection."

    "But given the destruction in this company over the 10 years before we came on board, there was a lot of work to be done. You can't expect to finish everything in the two seasons that we've be here."

    "Look, we love coasters. Thrills is our middle name. But we recognize now that coasters come in many shapes and sizes, and that we can build rides that appeal to the whole family. I am happy with what we've done. You're seeing new family rides, new paint, cleaner facilities and better customer service throughout our parks."

    Shapiro acknowledged that the pace of improvements is never constant among all parks, but noted across-the-board improvements in customer satisfaction, even in St. Louis, according to Six Flags' in-park surveys. With the economic downturn filling applicant pools, Shapiro said that Six Flags is looking forward to being able to choose from even better applicants when hiring this year.

    I asked Shapiro what his message would be to theme park fans who don't visit, or don't like, Six Flags.

    "This is a different company now," he responded. "Look, I understand why people turned away from Six Flags in the past. Heck, I was one of those consumers myself. But I think who do give us a chance are seeing the value, the customer service and the overall great experience that we now provide."

    So what's his message to investors?

    "I guess that it is 'thank you'," Shapiro replied. "I appreciate the patience that our investors have had in us as we've tried to turn this around."

    I've compared what Six Flags' corporate office is trying to do now with its creditors to a "negotiated bankruptcy." Bankruptcy does not mean that a company goes out of business and ceases operations. It means that a court supervises the reorganizing of its assets and debts. It tells creditors how much of their money they can get back and tells the company what it can continue to spend. Six Flags is attempting to negotiate that kind of deal with its creditors itself, without having to go to the court.

    I asked Shapiro to give me odds on whether Six Flags ultimately would have to go to court in a formal bankruptcy. He wouldn't do it, but did tell me that this renegotiation with creditors "would be a 2009 event."

    "You won't hear this complaining or reporting about debt in 2010," he said. "These parks are not going away. We will restructure this debt so that Six Flags can continue for another 50 years."

    Thoughts?

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 23, 2009 at 7:32 AM
    Welcome to day seven of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday saw another close finish, as eliminated Toy Story Midway Mania from Disney's Hollywood Studios eliminated Kilimanjaro Safaris from Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Ice coaster from Islands of Adventure's Dueling Dragons pulled the day's only upset, eliminating Magic Mountain's Goliath. Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy and Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean took care of business, as well, advancing easily.

    Today, tournament two-seed The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man from Universal's Islands of Adventure opens its second attempt to capture the 'Best Ride in America' crown against Epcot's refurbished Spaceship Earth.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

    Today we also welcome our first Canadian entry into the tournament, as Behemoth from Canada's Wonderland faces off against Busch Gardens Africa's Montu.

    It's an all Universal battle up next, as Islands of Adventure's Dueling Dragons - Fire takes on Universal Studios Hollywood's Jurassic Park - The Ride. [Note: This is the Hollywood version of the ride, not the Islands of Adventure one!]

    Finally, how do you like to be tossed and turned? On the back of a sea serpent with SeaWorld's Kraken or inside a Mars capsule on Epcot's Mission: Space?

    To the comments!

    Comments (27) | Archive Link

    Construction photo tour of Magic Mountain's new 'Terminator Salvation' coaster

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 22, 2009 at 1:25 PM
    This is for west coast Theme Park Insider readers who voted against Dollywood's Thunderhead in the Best Ride in America tournament yesterday: This summer, Six Flags Magic Mountain will give you the chance to see what you've been missing.

    Like Thunderhead, Magic Mountain's new GCI wooden roller coaster Terminator Salvation will feature a station fly-through, as well as other airtime elements that have made Dollywood's coaster a favorite... among those who've made their way to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to ride it.

    Magic Mountain General Manager Tim Burkhart took me through a private walk-through Terminator Salvation's construction site this morning. I found it amazing that Magic Mountain plans to open the ride to the press on May 21, with its public debut the next day. SeaWorld Orlando's Manta is complete and running tests in advance of its opening the same weekend. But, today, two months before opening, much of Terminator Salvation remains timbers lying on a bare concrete slab.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    And what a slab it is - more than 1600 cubic yards of concrete, pouring which certainly made this a more labor-intensive construction project that filling a few dozen concrete holes, then driving steel support pillars into them, as one typically does for steel coasters.

    Terminator Salvation stands of the site of the former Psyclone. To make way for the new entrance to the Terminator's themed queue, Magic Mountain demolished a former arcade which had stood on the site of the old glass blower's shop in Cyclone Bay.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    This shot looks out from the coaster toward what will be the queue entrance. The two slabs on the far side of the bridge will support to the ride's entrance arch.

    Once in the queue, visitors who walk under the track and into the ride, where they will switchback before entering the first of two themed pre-show buildings.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    Burkhart stands in the middle of what will become the queue and pre-show area. Burkhart said that Terminator will be Magic Mountain's most elaborately themed ride, with Terminator props created by the film's prop designer.

    The theme will be that riders are joining with the Resistance, pursued by Terminator designers who want to use human beings (such as, well, you) as the "raw material" for a new generation of Terminators.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    Once through the second pre-show room, visitors will enter the loading station, which will be located to the left in this view. To the right, you can see Terminator's 100-foot main hill, which is "nearly" topped out, according to to Burkhart. Here's a view to the left, where the load station will stand in the foreground.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    Continuing to the left, here is a view of the remainder of the ride track, within which will stand those pre-show rooms.

    Terminator Salvation Construction

    Why a woodie for a SciFi theme? Burkhart said that after the park took down Psyclone, it wanted to replace it with a world-class woodie, and the GCI model fit that bill.

    "We took a look, and just didn't feel that there was anything really new and compelling out there with steel that we hadn't done before," Burkhart said.

    Burkhart wouldn't give up what on-ride special effects riders can expect on Terminator Salvation ("I don't want to go through the X2 tunnel thing again.") But I can reveal that rumors of an on-ride audio system are true.

    One potential pitfall? Capacity. Terminator will run with two trains and an 800-person hourly capacity. That will mean multi-hour waits during the ride's premier summer.

    Burkhart said the ride will feature Millennium Flyer trains, modified with bolted-on fixtures to give them a "Mad Max"-style feel. The idea is that you are riding in a makeshift Resistance vehicle, trying to escape from the pursuing Terminators. Given that concept, the rougher ride of a woodie might actually fit the theme better than smooth, slick steel. We'll see.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one: Revenge of the Mummy bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 22, 2009 at 8:59 AM
    Welcome to day six of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday brought the closest match in the tournament so far, as Knott's Berry Farm's Xcelerator edged Dollywood's Thunderhead. In other contests, defending champion Twilight Zone Tower of Terror advanced easily, as did Kings Island's The Beast, while Maverick upset its Cedar Point neighbor Top Thrill Dragster.

    Today, Universal Studios Florida's Revenge of the Mummy leads the bracket, taking on Led Zeppelin - The Ride, a B&M coaster that almost didn't make it into the tournament because of the possibility that its home, Hard Rock Park, would close.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Revenge of the Mummy

    Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath goes up against Dueling Dragons - Ice from Universal's Islands of Adventure. Which coaster do you prefer?

    Now, we turn to Disney for today's remaining match-ups. Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean squares off against Anaheim neighbor Grizzly River Run, from Disney's California Adventure.

    And in today's all-Orlando match-up, Toy Story Midway Mania from Disney's Hollywood Studios takes on Kilimanjaro Safaris from Disney's Animal Kingdom.

    What do you have to say?

    Comments (22) | Archive Link

    SeaWorld San Diego celebrates its 45th birthday

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 21, 2009 at 8:34 PM
    It's a week for theme park birthdays in Southern California. Yesterday, Legoland celebrated its 10th birthday. And today, SeaWorld San Diego celebrated its birthday - its 45th.

    On March 21, 1964, the first SeaWorld opened on Mission Bay in San Diego, the brainstorm of four UCLA fraternity brothers. The opening day ceremonies were hosted by Art Linkletter, one of the celebrities who hosted the Disneyland opening less than a decade before.

    One of the four park founders, George Millay, who passed away in 2006, became the park's first president, as well as its creative force. Under his direction, SeaWorld eventually expanded to Ohio and Orlando. (Millay, incidentally, went on to found the Wet n' Wild water park in Orlando after being ousted at SeaWorld.)

    SeaWorld, of course, became more than ocean-themed amusement park, becoming an accredited zoo with a strong animal rescue program, and of course, a slew of animal shows.

    Believe show at SeaWorld San Diego

    In honor of SeaWorld's birthday, here are links to two stories I did on the park last summer, including my time in the tank with the park's beluga whales.

  • Theme Park Insider behind the scenes: with the trainers at SeaWorld San Diego
  • In the tank with SeaWorld San Diego's beluga whales

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

  • 2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 21, 2009 at 9:25 AM
    Welcome to day five of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, all the favorites advanced, with Expedition Everest, Rock n' Roller Coaster, Indiana Jones Adventure and Men In Black Alien Attack easily moving on to the next round.

    Today, the reigning champion enters the arena to defend its crown. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios faces what I'll call the "play in" contestant from among Disneyland's Fantasyland rides, Peter Pan's Flight.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

    Two Cedar Point coasters face off in our next match-up: It's Top Thrill Dragster versus Maverick.

    The Beast versus The Dinosaur sounds like a decent late-night horror movie. How do you rate the attractions?

    Dollywood and Knott's Berry Farm both have been known for their fried chicken dinners. But you wouldn't want to partake too soon before riding either Thunderhead or Xcelerator. Which coaster is your favorite?

    To the comments!

    Comments (37) | Archive Link

    Performer injured in Islands of Adventure's Sindbad show

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 21, 2009 at 9:17 AM
    A stunt performer fell from a rope and was injured during an afternoon performance of The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad show at Universal's Islands of Adventure on Friday.

    The incident was first reported on our Accident Watch page by a Theme Park Insider reader:

    The very begining of the adventures of sinbad show the actor which we assumed was sinbad started from a highwire slide from the stage to a platform and fell into the audience and partially on stage props located in the middle of the audience as well... the cord he swong down from snapped and fell at least 1 1/2 stories from mid air into the stands..once that had happened the audience was removed immediately and nothing was said afterwards.

    No word yet on the performer's condition.

    Now is a good time to remind Theme Park Insider readers about Accident Watch. For eight years, we've been tracking injury accidents at theme parks, using your reports. So if you witness or hear a reputable report about a theme park injury accident, please submit it by following the links under the "Safety Data" tab at the top of the page.

    Comments (1) | Archive Link

    Legoland California celebrates its 10th birthday

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 20, 2009 at 8:31 PM
    Legoland California celebrated its 10th birthday today. Legoland's birthday cake. Image courtesy Legoland California.The Carlsbad, California theme park debuted its new 4D movie to mark the occasion, Bob the Builder and the Roller Coaster.

    I wasn't able to make it down for the day, but am told that the park announced another new attraction at the event. Dune Raiders will debut in the Land of Adventure for the Fourth of July holiday. The play area will feature several lanes of side-by-side racing slides, as well as enclosed tube slides.

    Legoland's set the standard for the industry over the past several years by consistently adding new attractions each year. (The Land of Adventure area, with the Lost Kingdom Adventure shoot-'em-up as its centerpiece, was last year's addition.)

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    New roller coaster Manta in test runs at SeaWorld Orlando

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 20, 2009 at 12:57 PM
    SeaWorld Orlando's released a short video of its new Bolliger & Mabillard flying roller coaster, Manta, making some test runs. (Okay, it's a really short video - only about 12 seconds of ride footage.)

    Orlando TPI'ers: What have you seen? How frequently is Manta running? How about Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit at Universal Studios Florida? Park employees, what are you hearing about soft-opening dates, if any?

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, day four, round one: Expedition Everest bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 20, 2009 at 7:10 AM
    Welcome to day four of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, we had three upsets - with Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200, Busch Gardens Africa's SheiKra and Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure all joining favorite Millennium Force in the second round.

    Today features a match-up of two highly-themed outdoor coasters from Walt Disney World: sixth seed Expedition Everest from Disney's Animal Kingdom versus Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from the Magic Kingdom.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Expedition Everest

    It's another coaster battle in our next match-up, with Disney's Rock n' Roller Coaster taking on Alpengeist from Busch Gardens Europe.

    We're off to the west coast for our next contest, as Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure takes on Orange County rival GhostRider from Knott's Berry Farm.

    For our final match today, we return to Orlando, as Universal Studios Florida's shoot-'em-up Men In Black Alien Attack faces off against SeaWorld Orlando's drench-'em-wet Journey to Atlantis

    Let's read your comments!

    Comments (26) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, day three, round one: Millennium Force bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 19, 2009 at 7:46 AM
    It's day three of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    Yesterday, favorites Apollo's Chariot, from Busch Gardens Europe, and Disneyland's Haunted Mansion cruised to easy wins. Cedar Point's Raptor upset fellow B&M coaster Nitro, from Six Flags Great Adventure. And Disneyland's Matterhorn rode the votes of anonymous Disney fans to eliminated higher-seeded Mystery Mine, from Dollywood, to the consternation of yesterday's commentators.

    As always, I ask you to take a look at the comments below *before* casting your votes. (Early voters, get the campaigning going by submitting a comment.) Thoughtful votes help make this a better tournament.

    Millennium Force

    Today, we start with really, really tall iron, as Cedar Point's Millennium Force takes on Six Flags Great Adventure's Kingda Ka.

    It's Six Flags versus Cedar Point again in the second match, this time with Six Flags Over Georgia's Goliath facing off against Cedar Point's Magnum XL-200.

    Two newer Bolliger & Mabillard coasters vie for your votes in or third match-up today, Six Flags Magic Mountain's flying coaster Tatsu and Busch Gardens Africa's floorless dive coaster SheiKra.

    We haven't forgotten Disney fans today. It's an all-California match-up, as California Adventure's California Screamin' takes on the original Soarin' Over California from the same park.

    To the comments!

    Comments (40) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, day two, round one: Apollo's Chariot bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 18, 2009 at 7:28 AM
    It's day two of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    [Update: If you haven't voted yet, *please* read the comments *before* voting. There's some strong campaigning down there, well worth considering.]

    Yesterday, three of the higher seeds advanced, led by Busch Gardens Europe's Griffon, along with Disney's Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. The sole upset was Six Flags Magic Mountain's X2, which eliminated Hersheypark's Storm Runner.

    Today, two more Busch Gardens coasters face off, with the day's high seed, Apollo's Chariot, taking on Busch classic and 60-seed Loch Ness Monster.

    Apollo's Chariot

    We've got a classic Six Flags versus Cedar Point battle up next, with 28-seed Nitro facing 37-seed Raptor in a clash between Bolliger & Mabillard coasters.

    It's all Disney in the next contest, as Disneyland's favored Haunted Mansion takes on Epcot upstart Test Track. (Will Test Track sponsor General Motors become Ghost #1,000 in the Mansion? Odds look good.)

    Finally, two themed roller coasters square off: It's Dollywood's Mystery Mine, a former winner of the Theme Park Insider 'Best New Attraction' award, versus the granddaddy of all steel and themed coasters, Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds.

    Once again, tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did.

    Comments (23) | Archive Link

    Universal Orlando takes on Disney by getting into cruise vacation business

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM
    Universal Orlando today announced that it is getting into the cruise business, partnering with Royal Caribbean.

    Disney's long cornered the market for people wanting to combine a cruise with a theme park vacation. Even before launching its own Disney Cruise Line, Walt Disney World offered package deals where visitors would split time between Disney World and the Caribbean.

    Now, Universal's in the game, with what it is calling the Way More Than a Cruise vacation package.

    The land and sea vacation packages combine a three- or four-night stay at Universal Orlando Resort with a three- or four-night Bahamas cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas, or a seven-night Caribbean cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas. Way More Than a Cruise includes hotel and shipboard accommodations, multi-day passes to both Universal theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, complimentary admission to select live entertainment venues at Universal’s CityWalk and ground transfers between airport, hotel, theme parks and the ship at Port Canaveral.

    Thoughts? I'm turning to you on this one, 'cause I don't do boats unless I'm the one sailing them.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    2009 Best Ride in America Tournament, round one, day one: Griffon bracket

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 17, 2009 at 8:14 AM
    It's day one of the 2009 Best Ride in America tournament on Theme Park Insider.

    We've got four match-ups a day for the next eight days, as we work our way through Round One of this 64 ride single-elimination tournament. Your votes will decide which rides move on in the tournament, and which rides don't. Here's the complete tournament bracket and schedule. [PDF]

    Griffon

    Today's action kicks off with the fourth seed in the tournament, Busch Gardens Europe's floorless dive coaster Griffon, going up against Hersheypark's Fahrenheit.

    Hersheypark's on the board again today, this time with the favorite as the 29 seed, Storm Runner: Vertical Horsepower!, taking on Six Flags Magic Mountain's revamped 4D coaster, X2.

    We go all Disney in our next match-up, with two favorites from Disneyland's Tomorrowland facing off: the 13 seed, Space Mountain, against Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

    We wrap up day one of the tournament with our first (of many) Disney vs. Universal match-ups. How do you want to get wet on a hot Central Florida summer day? On the 20 seed Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, or on Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges at Universal's Islands of Adventure?

    Votes are open for just one day, so don't wait to vote, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for the next four match-ups. And, please, tell us in the comments why you voted how you did.

    Comments (25) | Archive Link

    Six Flags hits snag on debt deal; Last day for Tournament picks

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 16, 2009 at 8:39 AM
    In a conference call this morning, Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro said that one of the company's largest debt holders isn't returning calls, so it isn't negotiating a deal to help the company restructure its debt and avoid a court-ordered restructuring (i.e. bankruptcy).

    I'll be talking with Shapiro later this Tuesday morning, so if you have questions for the Six Flags CEO, post 'em in the comments ASAP. [Okay, his people canceled/no-showed two days in a row, so no interview. Sorry.]

    Also, today is the final day to enter the 'Best Ride in North America' tournament prediction contest. E-mail your prediction of which four rides will make the semi-finals, as well as your prediction for the winner, to contest[at]themeparkinsider.com. Entries are due by 8am PDT tomorrow, and the winner gets $100.

    If we have a tie, we'll pick randomly from those who got the picks correct. If no one picks all five, I'll give the $100 to whoever has the most points on a one-point-for-semifinalist, three-points-for-the-winner scale. (Tie goes to random picks.)

    Comments (22) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: The best water park in Orlando?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 13, 2009 at 10:01 AM
    Thanks to Theme Park Insider reader Alex Clark for the topic of this week's vote.

    Let's get our minds off the depressing financial news from Six Flags and Cedar Fair, shall we? Let's instead think of Central Florida vacations, hot summer days... and water parks.

    Aquatica

    I know that we don't do much coverage of water parks here on Theme Park Insider. (And yes, I've promised for two years now to improve that. Somebody, please clone me. Or at least submit some picture-laden trip reports about one or more of these parks to kick me into gear.)

    Which of the Big Four Orlando-area water parks is your favorite?

    Tell us why, please, in the comments.

    Comments (18) | Archive Link

    Theme park fans should not quit on Six Flags now

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 12, 2009 at 9:04 PM
    I supposed it's human nature, when a relationship is going bad, to want to be the one who breaks it off. No one wants to be dumped. ("No, you can't break up with me. I'm breaking up WITH YOU!")

    So might it be now between amusement park fans and Six Flags. The chain appears to be going bankrupt, and fans do not want to be left in the lurch.

    But theme park fans aren't helped themselves by pre-emptively "dumping" Six Flags and choosing to stay at home while the corporation fights for its financial life. If Six Flags' parks are to have any future after bankruptcy, potential buyers and investors need to see signs of life. Right now.

    The more people who go to Six Flags parks this spring and summer, and the more those visitors spend there, the more likely that a financially healthy investor will want to take a chance and buy into these parks, keeping them alive for years to come. If fans stay home now, that apathy will ensure the company's failure, and the permanent closure of many of its parks.

    I have no interest in saving Daniel Snyder's investment. He's a rich guy, who will remain a rich guy whether Six Flags dies or not. He doesn't need our help. But many of us don't want to lose our local amusement park. And many of us don't want to see thousands of good, hard-working managers and employees, who've done much in the past two years to turn this chain around, lose their jobs in this industry.

    A business doesn't always close when it goes bankrupt. There are two main types of corporate bankruptcy in the United States. "Chapter 11" bankruptcy, while Six Flags is talking about filing, allows a company to stay open while a court oversees the company's assets and efforts to negotiate a deal with the folks to which it owes money. If the company can't make a deal, then it goes to the other type of bankruptcy - liquidation. At that point, the company does close forever, and its remaining assets are sold. That's what happened earlier this year to Hard Rock Park.

    I've argued that Six Flags ought to be liquidated. Rather than slowly bleed the company to save money to pay off creditors, customers would be better served by selling the parks right away, while they still have loyal fans and value. We've been covering Six FLags' financial troubles for a long time, long before Dan Snyder and his crew came upon the scene. (In fact, we broke the story of the company's financial troubles, way back in 2002.) Debt from the former Premier Parks' spending spree has been crippling Six Flags for years. The company simply cannot survive under that burden any longer.

    But many of its theme parks remain profitable, and are cleaner, more friendly and more enjoyable than they have been in years. What a shame it would be to lose that momentum, after what Six Flags' fans have had to endure over the past decade.

    So... let's not lose it. Don't quit yet. If you like the direction your local Six Flags park is heading, keep going. Heck, make an extra visit and buy an extra churro or two.

    If you are among those who don't like your local park's direction, by all means, stay away. Break it off. Don't throw your good money after Dan Snyder's bad. But if you haven't been in the past two years, give it another try.

    Six Flags' corporate fate need not be the fate of all its parks. But fans will help determine those parks' fate by how they respond during the next few months.

    Comments (14) | Archive Link

    Six Flags says there is 'substantial doubt' the chain will survive

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 11, 2009 at 8:24 PM
    Six Flags today told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in essence, if we can't restructure our debt before we have to make more than $300 million in payments this summer, we're going bankrupt.

    Here are the notable quotes from Six Flags' most recent 10-Q statement, filed on the SEC website:

    We have had a history of net losses. Our net losses are principally attributable to insufficient revenue to cover our relatively high percentage of fixed costs, including the interest costs on our debt and our depreciation expense. We also have an accumulated stockholders' deficit of $443.8 million at December 31, 2008. Additionally, our Preferred Income Equity Redeemable Shares ("PIERS") are required to be redeemed in August 2009, at which time we are required to redeem all of the PIERS for cash at 100% of the liquidation preference ($287.5 million), plus accrued and unpaid dividends ($31.3 million assuming dividends are accrued and not paid through the mandatory redemption date). Given the current negative conditions in the economy generally and the credit markets in particular, there is substantial uncertainty that we will be able to effect a refinancing of our debt on or prior to maturity or the PIERS prior to their mandatory redemption date on August 15, 2009.

    ...Accordingly, we have stated in our financial statements included herein that there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern unless a successful restructuring occurs.

    ...We may be compelled to seek an in-court solution in the form of a pre-packaged or pre-arranged filing under Title 11 of the United States Code, 11 U.S.C. §§ 101, et seq., as amended ("Chapter 11") if we are unable to successfully negotiate a timely out-of-court restructuring agreement with the PIERS holders, common stockholders and our creditors.

    In English, that means bankruptcy. 'Cause at this point, with all the nation's major banks essentially insolvent, Six Flags has about as much chance of refinancing as you do winning one of those big stuffed animals with a single coin toss on a Six Flags midway.

    Scratch that, your chances of landing the four-foot Tweety Bird are better.

    Comments (22) | Archive Link

    Theme Park Insider's Best Ride in North America tournament returns next week

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 10, 2009 at 11:07 AM
    Next Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Theme Park Insider will kick off its second annual "Best Ride in North America" tournament, pitting the 64 highest-rated North American theme and amusement park rides on the site against one another in a single-elimination tournament.

    Tower of TerrorLast year's winner, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror from Disney's Hollywood Studios, will claim the top seed, by virtue of last year's win. It will face 63 other rides over three weeks of reader voting on ThemeParkInsider.com to see if it will defend its crown.

    The basic format will remain the same as in last year's tournament. Each day we will publish several match-ups, pitting one ride against another in the field. You, and other Theme Park Insider readers, will vote for your favorite among the two. The winner moves on to the next round. With 64 rides in the tournament, we'll have six rounds of voting, with the sixth being the final match-up, on Monday, April 6.

    Match-ups will be posted as entries on Theme Park Insider's front-page Blog Flume. So you and other TPI readers will be able to talk in the comments about the match-ups, and campaign for your favorites. (Or talk trash about the ones you don't like so much....) Voting will remain open for just one day for each match-up, so don't forget to check the site every day during the tournament, if you want your voice heard.

    Here's how we decided which rides to include in the tournament, and how to seed them:

  • Like last year, only rides are eligible. No shows. The idea is to preserve as many apples-to-apples comparisons as possible.
  • No kids' rides. After a few mismatches last year, for this year's tournament, we decided to exclude rides that are aimed primarily at children riders, such as Disney's Dumbo and the like. Not that those aren't great rides for their audience, but we want to find the best ride that's aimed at the broadest audience.
  • No clones. Only the highest-rated version of a particular attraction is included in the tournament, even if its sibling would have been among the top 64. For example, only Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean and Disney World's Tower of Terror are in the tournament, and not their siblings from the other coast.
  • Because the vast majority of TPI's readers live in the United States, the tournament is open this year just to rides in North America. Again, there are many outstanding rides in parks in Europe and Asia, but with relatively few TPI readers having experienced them firsthand, we felt it wasn't fair to include them in the tournament. We do, however, have rides from Canada in the mix this year, which is why the tournament is now the best ride in "North" America this time. As TPI's European readership increases, we hope to add European rides into the mix soon.
  • The defending champion gets the top seed. From there, seedings are determined by the rides' average reader rating on Theme Park Insider. We have moved some rides up or down a few places in the seedings in order to create better tournament match-ups. When possible, we've tried to link match-ups by some theme, whether it be ride type, ride theme or theme park company. We've also tried to avoid first-round match-ups that would place a lower-seeded Disney attraction versus a higher-seeded attraction from another company, given Disney's overall popularity as a theme park brand. (Of course, given Disney's popularity, it didn't have as many attractions in the lower half of the draw anyway.)

    Contest!

    Just like last year, we're running a reader contest with the tournament. We're giving $100 to the reader who does the best job in predicting the outcome of the tournament. All you have to do is tell us which rides you think will be the final four rides left in the tournament, and which of those four you think will be the winner.

    E-mail your picks, along with your name and mailing address to contest@themeparkinsider.com. The contest is open to residents of the United States, age 18 and up. No purchase necessary, yada, yada, yada. Employees of Niles Online (that's me and my wife) are not eligible, although I'll make picks just so we can all see how badly I do. Only your first received entry will be considered, so don't bother e-mailing more than once.

    The contest closes at 8 am, PDT, on Tuesday, March 17.

    If you'd like some extra help picking your four, I'll be e-mailing the tournament bracket and voting schedule to subscribers to Theme Park Insider's e-mail newsletter on Monday, one day before I post them on the website (and one day before the contest closes). So if you have not yet subscribed to the TPI e-mail newsletter, just fill out and click the form under "GET NEWS BY E-MAIL" on the upper left of any Theme Park Insider page.

    So, please spread the word and be ready to vote next Tuesday!

    Comments (14) | Archive Link

  • Worlds of Fun is the latest amusement park to go on the block

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2009 at 3:18 PM
    Cedar Fair announced today in a press release that it is putting two more of its amusement parks up for sale: Kansas City's Worlds of Fun and Minnesota's ValleyFair.

    The amusement park chain previously had put Santa Clara's California's Great America up for sale (it has been trying to sell the park to the San Francisco 49ers for land for a new stadium, though that deal is going nowhere). The chain's also been trying to sell the old Geauga Lake amusement park.

    Cedar Fair blew its cash and took on a huge debt burden when it bought the former Paramount Parks from CBS for $1.24 billion in 2006. Like Six Flags before it, Cedar Fair's learning that taking on debt to expand in boom times comes back to haunt you when the economy goes bad.

    Comments (16) | Archive Link

    Disney announces ambitious 'green' environment goals for its theme parks

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 9, 2009 at 11:04 AM
    Disney today announced a plan to do its part to fight made-made global warming, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the company's properties by 50 percent over the next five years, with the long-range goal of eliminating them entirely.

    Disney also seeks to reduce its use of electricity by 10 percent over the next five years. The goals are included in Disney's annual corporate responsibility report, released today in advance of the company's annual shareholder's meeting. Here is the Orlando Sentinel's write-up, too.

    The bulk of Disney's greenhouse emissions and electrical use comes from its theme parks, both the Walt Disney World parks in Orlando and Disneyland parks in Southern California. A greener Magic Kingdom would help make the rest of the world a happier place, of course, but not if Disney achieves its environmental goals through having that many fewer people visit its parks.

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Favorite animal at SeaWorld?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 6, 2009 at 11:29 AM
    I asked a serious question yesterday, as part of our focus on vacation budget planning. So for the "official" vote of the week today, let's just be a bit silly, shall we?

    So what's your? favorite animal at SeaWorld? (At right, one of the SeaWorld San Diego sea lions I met last summer campaigns for your vote.) What's the highlight of your day when you visit these animal parks?

    Do you go for Shamu and the rest of the killer whales? The belugas in Wild Arctic? Shark Encounter? Manatee Rescue? The dolphins, the penguins, otters or the sea lions?

    Of course, there are dozens of other species in the park, but after yesterday's marathon vote, I made an editorial decision and limited the choices to these eight. If you want to campaign for something else, you've got the comments.

    Finally, I leave you with this: My all-time favorite SeaWorld-related cartoon. Have a great weekend!

    Comments (15) | Archive Link

    Planning your theme park vacation: How much are you planning to spend?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 5, 2009 at 3:26 PM
    Back in November, we started a series to help readers budget their money for a theme park vacation in 2009. We've written about how to set aside money before a vacation, pick the right park, look for deals online and to weigh the relative value of deals at various parks.

    During this time, the U.S. and world ecocomy's gotten even worse, with many businesses sliding into bankruptcy, and millions of people either losing their jobs or fearing that they will.

    Of course, a theme park vacation can get your mind off this mess. And I think that the advice we've provided not only still applies, it's more appropriate than ever.

    Today, I'd like to get a sense of what you are planning for this year, and ask you to put some specific numbers on that. How much did you spend on theme and amusement parks last year? And how much are you planning, at this point, to spend in 2009?

    Include what you paid for tickets (annual or day passes), parking, food and souvenirs. If you stayed overnight, throw in hotel and airfare, if applicable, as well. If you're a parent, include the cost for your whole family, not just yourself. If you are a student, click the amount your family spent. There are two votes today, one for 2008 and below it, for 2009. (Apologies for the long vote forms, but I think getting granular data is important here.)

    Detail for us in the comments how your spending on theme parks might change this year, from last.

    Comments (12) | Archive Link

    Epcot's Test Track in trouble?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 3, 2009 at 8:00 PM
    This was inevitable, given the current state of the economy, but Jason Garcia makes it official with his report that GM is looking to end its sponsorship of the Test Track attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot.

    GM's in deep doo, asking the federal government for billions in bail-out money, while staying just steps away from bankruptcy. With millions of Americans now without bubble-money home equity loans to pay for cars, GM's market has dried up. Throw in a recession depression, and GM's barely gonna have enough cash for one of those little tree-shaped air fresheners, much less a multi-million-dollar theme park sponsorship.

    Even if GM gets enough cash from the feds, it'll have a hard time justifying a theme park deal. After all, the money would be to bail out GM, not Disney. Other companies that took federal cash have been excoriated for spending that money, even in part, on sponsorships. Northern Trust just got excoriated in the press and on Capitol Hill for sponsoring a PGA tournament in LA last month. Chrysler opted to bury all references to itself during the tournament in Palm Springs it sponsored a few weeks before that.

    But without GM, what does Test Track look like? The entire theme is bound to GM, not to mention the pre- and post-shows. Perhaps if another car maker stepped forward... but there aren't exactly many (okay, any) with extra cash to spend these days.

    Comments (26) | Archive Link

    Where to find the best fast food near Southern California's theme parks

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 3, 2009 at 1:32 PM
    Tuesday Park Visit: Sometimes, whether to save a buck or to break up the day, visitors want to leave the park for a fast-food lunch. Disneyland visitors, for example, might decide to walk across Harbor Boulevard and eat at the nearby McDonald's.

    I'm hear today to beg: Please. For the love of God and your taste buds. Don't.

    Visitors to Southern California might not know this, but there is a much, much better place around here to get a fast-food hamburger. Its food is fresher, tastes better, is better for you... and just feels better in your stomach, not giving you that "food hangover" that fast food often delivers after the meal.

    C'mon, Californians, you know where I'm talking about.

    Picture of Magic Mountain In-N-Out. Image courtesy In-N-Out.

    In-N-Out.

    Here's the deal: This is a hamburger joint. They only do hamburgers. No chicken nuggets, fish sandwiches, tacos or breakfasts. All they have are one size of patty, one size of bun, fries, lettuce, American cheese, tomatoes, onions (grilled or raw), Thousand Island-style spread, ketchup, mustard, pickles. (I've heard that they have peppers, too, but I've not ordered them.) The meat in the patties is fresh, the buns toasted and the fries are cut from whole potatoes and fried in vegetable oil on the spot.

    The menu includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, the "Double Double" (two patties and two slices of cheese on one bun), fries and drinks. The burgers come with lettuce, tomato and the Thousand Island spread. But they will make you *anything* for which they have the ingredients.

    Cheese fries? Sure. Grilled cheese? (Just cheese on the bun.) No problem. A "protein-style" three-patty burger, wrapped in lettuce and without a bun? Okay. You can substitute ketchup and mustard for the spread, if you want. Or add pickles. The king of the secret orders is to get a Double-Double "animal style," cooked in mustard with added pickles. Some folks swear by "animal style" cheese fries, too. For about a year, all my daughter would eat at In-N-Out was a tomato sandwich - tomatoes on a bun. They made 'em for us.

    Here is the restaurant's official 'secret' menu, as well as a more extensive unofficial secret menu with photos.

    So, in an effort to improve your fast-food lunch experience, here are detailed driving directions to the nearest In-N-Out from each of Southern California's theme parks. You need never eat a lousy McDonald's hamburger again.

    (In each case, if you will be coming back to the park, make sure you hold onto your parking pass, so that you can re-enter the park's parking lot without having to pay again.)

  • Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure: From the Mickey and Friends parking structure, head north on Disneyland Drive then turn left on Ball Road (which is the first stoplight after exiting the garage).

    Drive two miles west on Ball Road, then turn right (north) on Brookhurst St. The In-N-Out is at 600 S Brookhurst St., in Anaheim.

    Return by the same route.

  • Knott's Berry Farm: If you exit the parking lot on Grand Ave., head right (south) on Grand to Crescent Ave., where you will turn right (west). If you exit on Crescent, keep driving west. On Crescent, you drive to the end of the Knott's parking lot and make a right (heading north) on Western Ave. Drive on Western past the back of the park until you come to La Palma Ave. (If you're parked in the overflow lots on La Palma, start from here.)

    Turn left (right if you are in the La Palma lot) and drive west on La Palma 1.5 miles to Valley View St., where you will turn right (north). The In-N-Out is a few feet ahead on your right, at 7926 Valley View St., in Buena Park.

    Return on La Palma, staying on La Palma past Western and turning right on Beach Blvd., then bearing to the right on Grand Ave. to re-enter Knott's.

  • Six Flags Magic Mountain: From the parking lot, continue east on Magic Mountain Parkway, under the Interstate. You'll turn left (north) at McBean Parkway, drive a little less than a mile, then make a right (east) at Newhall Ranch Road. Drive a little more than one mile, then turn right (south) at Bouquet Canyon Rd. The In-N-Out will be on your right, just a few yards after the intersection.

    To return to Magic Mountain, turn right (south) out of the lot back onto Bouquet Canyon. Then turn right (west) on Magic Mountain Parkway and follow it all the way back to the park.

  • Universal Studios Hollywood: When you exit the CityWalk parking structure, continue straight (south) on Universal Studios Blvd., driving over the 101 freeway. Once over the freeway, Universal Studios Boulevard will dead-end at Cahuenga Blvd, where you will turn right (west). The In-N-Out will be about half a mile ahead, on your right, at 3640 Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City.

    To return to USH, make a right (west) back on to Cahuenga and drive to Lankershim Blvd. Turn right (the only way you can go) on Lankershim and pass under the 101. The main entrance into Universal City will be a right turn at the first light.

  • Legoland California: Exit the parking lot on Legoland Drive, heading north. When you get to the very first intersection, a roundabout circle, bear to the left, which will put you heading back south on Armada Dr. Head south on Armada to Palomar Airport Road. (FWIW, there's a huge shortcut here if you take the employee exit out of the parking lot onto Hidden Valley Road, where you can turn right onto Palomar.)

    From Armada, turn right (west) onto Palomar Airport Road and drive back toward Interstate 5. Go over I-5, making the first right after the highway, onto Avenida Encinas. The In-N-Out is about a quarter mile ahead, on the right, at 5950 Avenida Encinas, in Carlsbad.

    To return to Legoland, go left on Avenida Encinas, heading back toward Palomar Airport Road. Turn left on Palomar, then stay in the left lane to enter the I-5. Head north on I-5, taking the very next exit, Cannon Rd. Drive north on Cannon back to Legoland Drive.

  • SeaWorld San Diego: Exit the parking lot, turning left (east) on SeaWorld Blvd., returning to Interstate 5. Take I-5 south, taking the very next exit, toward Rosecrans St/CA-209 South. Stay right, merging onto Camino del Rio, heading south. When you come to the Del Taco, turn right into the shopping center parking lot. The In-N-Out is behind the Del Taco, at the corner of Camino del Rio and Sports Arena Blvd., at 3102 Sports Arena Blvd., in San Diego.

    To return to SeaWorld, turn right out of the parking lot onto Sports Arena Blvd., heading west. Stay in the right lane, and when the road forks, bear right to continue north on Sports Arena Blvd. Continue north, under Interstate-8, as Sports Arena Blvd. becomes W Mission Bay Drive. Stay on Mission Bay north, over the canal and past SeaWorld Drive. Move to the left and follow the signs onto Ingraham Drive. At the first intersection, you'll turn right onto Perez Cove Way. Follow Perez Cove, past the employee entrances, around back to the SeaWorld entrance.

    Your favorite?
    In the comments, talk about In-N-Out, or share tips about other favorite places to eat around SoCal theme parks.

    Comments (15) | Archive Link

  • Lots of folks looking for theme park jobs

    By Robert Niles
    Published: March 2, 2009 at 10:13 AM
    I subscribe to a many Google News alerts for various theme parks, and over the past couple weeks I've been inundated with stories about various parks having thousands of applicants come forward looking for summer jobs this year.

    Normally, I don't bother with such stories - regional theme and amusement parks look for new employees every winter, and that's not really "news" to anyone who follows the industry, or to fans.

    But the number of folks showing up for work this year might be. Certainly, the lousy economy provides the motivation.

    While an oversupply of applicants isn't the best thing for returning employees (less chance for pay increases and overtime), it can be good news for park guests - since parks will have their pick of employees for the summer, including many older, more mature candidates who otherwise might not consider theme park work. If the economy brings back older, more experienced applicants who had worked in the park in the past, so much the better. Experienced employees mean safer parks, shorter lines and better customer experience.

    Now, how long any of these applicants will hold on to these summer gigs is another matter. If souring economy means too few people end up visiting the parks, many might end up laying off some of the folks they are hiring now.

    How is the park employment scene looking to you, Theme Park Insider readers? If you are applying for a job, or working at a park that is taking applicants, reply in the comments or e-mail me your story. Thanks.

    Comments (11) | Archive Link

    Keep reading: March 2009 Archive



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