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Vote of the week: Do theme parks need roller coasters?

By Robert Niles
Published: December 10, 2010 at 8:11 AM
Does the sight of twisty, curved steel track set your heart pumping with excitement, or does make you scroll, click or walk away in boredom?

Busch Gardens Williamsburg roller coasters
Roller coaster heaven in Williamsburg, Virginia

Are you the type of person who considers roller coasters the heart of a theme park, or do you think them a mark of a lesser "amusement" park, one that lacks the highly-themed, compelling narrative attractions you love?

Interior of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. Highly themed, hugely popular, and most definitely not a roller coaster.

How essential is having a roller coaster to ride to your enjoyment of a theme park? That's my question for you this week. Is it essential, or a turn-off? Is it a nice addition - just another type of ride? Or do you not care one way or the other?


In your dream park, would you have roller coasters? If so, what do they look like? If not, what takes their place? Tell your thoughts in the comments, please!

As always, thank you for reading Theme Park Insider, and thank you for spreading the word about the site to your family and friends. The more folks we have reading and commenting, the more fun the site is for everyone.

Readers' Opinions

From 75.60.186.44 on December 10, 2010 at 8:22 AM
Other then Epcot, I have not been to a park that is sans coasters. Yet Epcot still ranks high for me on the fun meter. Of course this is a Disney property and is not a fair comparison to most other amusement parks.

I voted "would not go" because it truly is the coasters that get me through the gate and keep me coming back.

From 173.165.42.217 on December 10, 2010 at 8:26 AM
Every Major park should have at least 2 or 3 in my opinion. Disney does a great job of pulling off the right amount. I love the disney coasters!
From James Rao on December 10, 2010 at 8:27 AM
A good theme park should have an eclectic mix of rides, shows, restaurants, and other themed experiences. Roller coasters are not essential (Epcot, anyone?), but I like them. A lot.
From 64.8.46.4 on December 10, 2010 at 8:43 AM
To me, roller coasters are essential. My heart starts racing at the sight of one and I can't wait to get on it! True, Epcot is a great theme park and I too love a good mix of themed rides but parks without roller coasters feel like they're missing something.
From Martin Lewison on December 10, 2010 at 8:51 AM
Unfortunately, "must have a coaster" was not one of the choices.

While I agree in theory that a theme park does not need a coaster, it's a fact that only one of the top 25 theme parks in the world, EPCOT, does not have a roller coaster.

Of the 68 parks that I visited in 2010, only EPCOT and Schlitterbahn, a waterpark, did not have a roller coaster.

Most parks can't afford Disney-quality theming for their rides and around their parks, so their dark rides and flats tend to be generic. But a good roller coaster can help a so-so park raise its profile.

From Martin Lewison on December 10, 2010 at 8:53 AM
Oops, yes must have was a choice and I stand corrected.
From 216.221.240.130 on December 10, 2010 at 9:14 AM
Technically, Epcot does have 1 "roller coaster" ride with Test Track, and many complaints about Epcot from the 18-40 year-old crowd was that the park does not have enough thrill rides.

I cannot imagine any theme park without the thrill and excitement of a roller coaster. Disney manages to put class and elegance into the thrill with its themed roller coasters and hides them very well.

From 68.93.111.193 on December 10, 2010 at 9:23 AM
Although I do love a good roller coaster, I think the theme is much more important. I go to Six Flags often to ride a ride, but I don't find myself walking around and enjoying the atmosphere as I do at Disney Parks. A good roller coaster will get me there, but the theme will keep me coming back again and again.

It was stated that most parks don't have the Disney money to invest. I wonder if they would have it they put out a better product to begin with.

From Rob P on December 10, 2010 at 9:42 AM
I do think that a good variety of attractions is what makes a theme park.

However the absolute truth is I probably wouldn't visit a Park that was composed of nothing but coasters but probably would visit one that had none at all.

So my vote went to coasters being non-essential.

From 208.54.85.63 on December 10, 2010 at 9:48 AM
I'm torn on this one. I love riding roller coasters, but I think they're an eyesore in many cases. When you see nothing but huge steel coaster track towering above a park's skyline, it definitely detracts from the park's beauty and atmosphere. So, my preference would be either indoor or low-to-the ground coasters, like at Magic Kingdom and
Hollywood Studios, rather than the coasters that beak records just because they can, like at Six Flags.
From Rod Whitenack on December 10, 2010 at 10:39 AM
I still firmly believe that the future of theme park attractions is in hybrid rides like "Revenge of the Mummy." You'll get the theming and storytelling of "Pirates of the Carribean" with the added boost of a roller coaster at the appropriate moments. Many theme rides already have a thrill aspect to them. "Jurassic Park" and "Splah Mountian" have big hills at the end generally associated with coasters, and even "Spider-man" and "Cat in the Hat" have zippy, speeded up moments. A regional park, Dollywood, was way ahead of the curve when it installed Blazing Fury a long time ago. Despite that ride's age and general unsophisication, it still has people of all ages lining up for it. Big structures of twisted steel are fine in Six Flaggs and other coaster oriented parks, and there always should be a place for pure adrenaline machines, but it's storytelling that sets a true theme park appart. Hybrid rides can create a sense of adventure that amps up the thrill when the ride kicks into high gear.
From Mike Gallagher on December 10, 2010 at 12:55 PM
I'm a coaster junkie. It's the opportunity to ride one or more that gets me to a park in the first place. But if a park I find out about and decide I want to visit does not have at least one coaster, that's not gonna stop me from going. To me, coasters are CLOSE to a necessity, but it's not a deal-breaker. Someone above cited the fact that EPCOT is the only park that doesn't have one, at least among the top ranked parks. But I'd be curious to see figures for ALL parks...especially the non-destination ones. I'd venture to guess that 85-90 percent of them would have at least one coaster, even if it's of the junior or kiddie variety.
From Andrew Holden on December 10, 2010 at 2:03 PM
None of the above. A theme park needs a nice balance of roller coasters/thrill rides to everything else.
From Formula 40 on December 10, 2010 at 2:11 PM
I am in love with roller coasters, but EPCOT proves that the best parks don't have to have any. Roller coasters are just a part of what brings people to the parks. I feel as though it's almost a necessity to have some type of coaster, but a park without one better bring it in every other aspect.
From Leland Myers on December 10, 2010 at 2:28 PM
If the park doesn't have any coasters, I am not going!
I am spoiled living in Virginia with Busch Gardens having 4 Thrill Rides and Kings Dominion having 11.
For those parks without any Coasters, or just one, I go once in 25 yrs or I dont go at all.
From Joshua Counsil on December 10, 2010 at 4:12 PM
Essential, no, but you'd have to compensate for their loss by investing in other high-quality rides, shows, exhibits, scenery, and food.

I love a good roller coaster, but I grow tired of them at an iron park after so many visits. After two days at Cedar Point, my adrenaline fix is satisfied, but I don't get the emotional or (somewhat) intellectual stimuli that I do at a theme park.

However, while I enjoy being surrounded by the steel structures at an amusement park, I don't enjoy having a coaster on display in a theme park. I'd rather have the tracks mostly out of view. Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa is an example of an open structure I enjoy because it can't be seen or heard throughout the park, but portions of it can be seen from Egypt. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is an example of a coaster I don't like in a theme park. It obscures the surrounding theming.

From Steph Ramos on December 10, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Hmm...interesting question...

Well, it really depends on your target demographic when building a theme park...

Who's got more to spend....and what does that particular group like? If you're just targeting the general public, then maybe including at least one or two coasters in a park should be ok...
You need something that will keep the coaster fans comming in too...so if you're investing in only two coasters they should be something that's gonna get the coaster junkies in through the door (In other words...something generic in style might get them there, but its not going to keep them comming back!)
My personal choice in this poll was the "I wouldn't visit one without them" but of course it isn't essential...
The truth of the matter though is that at my age (I'm 21) I kinda need some excitement if you're gonna get me riled up and through the door of a theme park....

From 208.106.7.213 on December 10, 2010 at 9:55 PM
Roller Coasters are a life-long passion of mine, so of course I'm biased toward wanting them at every amusement park I visit. However, if a park has another focus and passion that doesn't somehow include roller coasters, and it's executed well, I wouldn't hesitate to visit.
From David Brown on December 11, 2010 at 10:48 AM
I thought this was a no-brainer and was about to vote for 'essential' until I realised that one of my favourite parks is Epcot that has no coasters at all... So I had to vote for 'nice but not essential'.
That said I do like a good coaster and I'd worry about any new-build park that didn't have a couple of decent coasters from day one...
From Nicholas Kalscheuer on December 11, 2010 at 12:13 PM
They're a must have just looking at them is a natural feat of engineering I mean everytime I go to Six Flags Magic Mountain my excitement just dramatically increases after I see X2 and roller coaster are the most re rideable ride at theme parks if that makes sense.
From 24.90.255.115 on December 12, 2010 at 7:06 PM
I think they should make a KNEX world themepark. That would be awsome have everyride that knex makes for model parks REAL so basicly yea al the coasters will a large rideable version of the knex rollercoasters that would be AWSOME
From David Sutter on December 13, 2010 at 5:38 AM
They are nice to have. I like when a coaster fits the theming of the area. Like a mine train in a parks western section. A smaill faimly coaster in a turn of the century area. etc. While Maga costers are a thrill, and often fun. They are hard to theme. Just big metal monsters on the landscape. I can give examples of both. SFGA had two coasters in the beginning. That were picked just for what they represented one was a samll wildcat because it reminded one of an old tin toy coaster, and the rides in the area were centered around old tin toys. And a arrow mine train runnung thur the fort in the western area. Now stop and think didnt everyone who had a toy fort playset run their train thru it? A maga costers great but make it work with your theme dont drop it in just to have. ANd theres the problem your either a theme park or a amusment park. And when you start to go big your no longer a theme park. Disney when they bult California Adventure went for a theme of a turn of the century board walk and for all purposes it worked and worked well. And every theme park critic ripped it apart. Rather then just enjoy it for what it was.
From 99.122.210.248 on December 13, 2010 at 7:52 AM
I for one love roller coasters but I do not think all parks need them. Take Seaworld. I realize the need to compete is strong, especially in the Orlando market and coasters do bring in a different demographic, but I feel that with the addition of Kraken and now Manta, the focus of the park has been lost. The asthetic of the park has been ruined and the relaxing nature of the park is gone.
From Lucas Lee on December 13, 2010 at 9:12 PM
I admit roller coasters ARE fun, but you don't REALLY need it at a theme park. I mean, like, it really depends. I think that themes are what make ameusement parks great. The themes are what brings me back to these parks. The roller coasters are just a side bonus. There are, though, those few roller coasters with themes like Space Mountain, The Revenge of the Mummy, and Terminator Salvation for a few examples. Those are great to have. But overall, the themed rides are the most important, hence the term THEME park. Thats why my visits to Disneyland in the past 5 years add up to 37 times, my visits to Universal are A LOT and my visits to 6 flags is 3.

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