But did I dismiss this opportunity too quickly? After all, my first full-time job in journalism was as an editorial writer, which required me to write newspaper endorsements every election season. I was a political science major in college, and have followed politics with a deeply unhealthy level of interest since I was a child. Maybe I should get back in the game.
Ultimately, though, Theme Park Insider is about you — the readers. So let's make some endorsements that matter and take a stand on the issues that I know you really want to talk about. ;^)
Here are Theme Park Insider's endorsements for 2016:
Guests face countless choices when temperatures rise and it's time to cool off in the park. We've long advocated drinking plenty of water — before and during your visit — in order to stay properly hydrated. But, let's face it, water is kinda boring and hardly a distinctive part of an immersive, themed vacation experience. For a real treat, we want a beverage that not only tastes wonderful, but that fits the theme of its environment, transporting our mind and our taste buds to a place we long to spend our time. That's why we are endorsing Butterbeer for Best Beverage in 2016.
If there's a single type of ride that's synonymous with theme and amusement parks, it's the roller coaster. But with so many coasters to choose from on a theme park visit, which is the one model of coaster most deserves the public's support? We've ridden just about every model out there — from classic woodies to today's modern hybrids. We've heard all the debates over restraint systems, elements, and track wear. Yes, fans love to debate over coasters, but if there is one model that brings fans together in almost universal praise, it's the Bolliger & Mabillard Hyper, our choice for Best Roller Coaster Design.
When lines get too long on busy summer days, theme parks look to entertainment to divert fans from the ever-growing queues. But great theme park shows ought to be attractions on their own, not cheap substitutions for waiting in line. Over the years, parks have introduced many innovations designed to make their shows more attractive to visitors. This year, the clear choice for Best Innovation in Entertainment is Projection Mapping, the visual magic that turned Main Street USA into a living canvas for Disneyland Forever and Hogwarts Castle into an enchanted spectacle during the opening ceremony for the Wizarding World West. We can't wait to see what creative designers can do with the technology in the upcoming term.
The biggest theme parks realized long ago that they can make more money when people stay with them for all 24 hours in the day instead of just their waking hours. On-site hotels offer the convenience of location, but parks often go well beyond that in offering perks to lure visitors to stay on property. Package delivery is nice, and extended hours in the park are better, but the unquestioned best benefit for staying in an on-site hotel is Universal Orlando's Universal Express Unlimited, the free front-of-line pass that wins our endorsement for Best On-site Hotel Perk.
But why should people with the extra cash to stay on-site be the only ones to enjoy some extra hospitality? We love theme parks that defy industry convention to offer benefits that other parks lack. The parking lot is the place where theme parks make their first impression in car-dependent America. One theme park stands apart with the positive impression it makes with its parking lot — by not charging us to use it. That's why we enthusiastically endorse Holiday World for Best Parking. And those trash barrels throughout the lot are a welcomed sight at the end of the day, when we just want to throw our accumulated garbage away instead of packing it home in the car with us.
Of course, providing these wonderful vacation experiences costs a lot of money. Theme parks are a capital-intensive business, which is why it's so difficult for smaller parks to offer the richly themed and innovative experiences that Disney and Universal can, with their access to billions of dollars in corporate funding and deep catalogues of intellectual property. But plenty of other parks manage to provide wonderful experiences that have won the enduring loyalty of their guests. They've made the smart decisions on how to spend their relatively limited resources, and they've paid off in cultivating a faithful base of returning fans. For parks that want to stand ahead without breaking the bank, we endorse Preventive Maintenance and Higher Wages for Front-Line Employees for Best Investments. Keep your rides and facilities in good shape and you'll avoid costly breakdowns, and parks that pay their employees enough to stick around allow them to develop the experience necessary to run a park at its peak efficiency. It's simple: spend now... or pay later.
Finally, we owe one more shout-out to the people who make this community possible. For Best Theme Park Fans, there's really only one choice in 2016, or any other election year. It's the Readers of the Theme Park Insider — the best fans that any park, or any website, could ever hope to have. Thank you!
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