Jonah Sirota

Published: April 25, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Thank you, Russell, for this comprehensive look at the theme park experience with kids vs without! One thing I really hope that theme park chains take away from all of this is that there is very little downside to family-centered experiences where the ride appeals on multiple levels, having enough goodies to keep little kids and grown-ups alike happy. I think Universal has shown the most improvement in this area, but recently visiting Orlando I still wished that there were more "family-friendly" rides at UOR. The kids rides just weren't that engaging for adults (Woody Woodpecker, Dr Seuss trolley, pteranodon flyers) or else they had an intensity and frenetic pace that seemed only appropriate for older kids, especially if your child, like mine, doesn't enjoy 3D (Despicable Me, Spider-Man, Simpsons ride). In my book, the Flight of the Hippogriff and E.T. are the rides that get the formula right, offering a good balance of reridability for adults and approachability for kids. Of course Disney is king at this (and deserves more credit than they often get for making a ride like the seven dwarves mine train work for almost any guest), but there are other great parks around the country that get it. One of my favorites is Knoebel's, which has both a top-ten wooden coaster and a seemingly limitless collection of flat rides, often including three versions of the same ride type for grown-ups, kids, and toddlers. In this way they help "train" your kid to enjoy the bigger rides as they grow older. They also go out of their way to find flat rides that are more fun and often more forceful than the norm, like a rocket spinner that is fine for little kids, but still packs a real punch for grown-ups. (It's like dumbo on steroids). Plus since the park is on a no-admission, ride-ticket or wrist-band system, you'll often see three or four generations of family visiting together, as there is no charge to just walk around and take in the park. I wish six flags and cedar fair could do more this way, although maybe cedar fair will use their recent successes building up the family rides at knott's as a blueprint for further development elsewhere. We can all hope!
TH Creative

Published: April 25, 2014 at 6:43 PM

Just a very sweet offering by a TPI all-star. Thank you, sir! And best wishes to you, your wife and your little Imagineer.
Mitchell Sentinella

Published: April 25, 2014 at 7:05 PM

You should look into visiting a LEGOLAND (California or Florida.) They are geared more to the younger kids like 3-12yrs (They say 2-12 but there does not seem to be a lot for two years old.) There may be some rides with height restrictions but most rides are geared for the minimum height they can get. LEGOLAND may not be a top class theme park such as Disney or Universal but they do have some focus to entertain and separate you from the outside world. It beats taking the kids to a side of the road carnival attraction.
James Koehl

Published: April 25, 2014 at 8:43 PM

Russell, first I have to say that your articles set the standard that the rest of us on Team TPI hope to meet. Your articles- this one in particular- are factual, interesting, and most importantly, entertaining. Enjoy this time with your son- for some reason my son won't ride the rides in Camp Snoopy with me anymore...of course, he is 15 years old!

I do wish to respectfully disagree with one comment you made about Cedar Point. You stated, "Cedar Point (has) concentrations of kids' rides that are typically not close to the bigger rides." I know that is taken a bit out of context and might apply to the other Cedar Fair parks you were including (Kings Island and Knott's Berry Farm), but in my opinion Cedar Point has done a pretty good job of interspersing its kids' areas with the "bigger rides", and also has family-friendly rides spread throughout the park outside of the Kids' areas.

The oldest area, Kiddie Kingdom, is located right next to maXair and GateKeeper and across the Midway from Raptor. Planet Snoopy is between Wicked Twister, WindSeeker, the arcade in the Ballroom building and the Midway. Camp Snoopy sits between Top Trill Dragster and Gemini, shares an entrance with "Dinosaurs Alive" and is directly adjacent to the newly renovated Gemini Midway and the new Pipe Scream family coaster. While there are not "kiddie"-type rides elsewhere in the park, Cedar Point also has its Midway Carousel situated as the first ride guests see as they enter the park; the historic Cedar Downs racing carousel and Cadillac Cars and the Skyride stand next to Raptor; the Turnpike Cars are across a plaza from the Blue Streak coaster; in Frontier Town the Antique Cars cruise next to Maverick and the Mine Ride. The Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad has a station next to Millennium Force, Mantis and Iron Dragon, and in Frontier Town between Mean Streak and Maverick.

So many people think of Cedar Point as a "steel park", a park that only thinks about thrills and speed and ignores families and younger children. It is easy to look at the towering coasters and forget to look down at the smaller attractions that children and families can experience together, attractions that can be found near all the major "thrill" rides.

I hope this isn't taken as an attempt to "hijack" your excellent article. I just wanted to bring out some features of my local park that tend to be overlooked and perhaps lost in the shadow of the steel and wooden towers that Cedar Point is known for.

Soon Zachary will be able to join you on GateKeeper, Top Thrill Dragster, Millennium Force, Magnum, Gemini, and my all-time favorite, the fifty-year-old this year Blue Streak. I hope to meet you someday up here on the north coast! Once again, thank you for a terrific article!

Published: April 26, 2014 at 6:37 AM

Ah Pteranodon Flyers, the one ride I've never been able to ride at IOA. I really wish IOA would have a set hour or day to allow us older folks the ability to ride it due to the strict riding restrictions. I realize it would most likely be a huge disappointment, but being a themepark completist it really bugs me that I've never been able to ride it.

I've been told I could wait for a odd-number party to come through and ride with one of their children, but to me, that just feels way more awkward than it's worth. Plus the horrible wait time for the ride does not make it worth the trouble.

So if Universal is listening- please have an old folks day for Pteranodon Flyers. I'll make a special trip just to be able to ride the ride. Maybe even make a tshirt about it afterwards.

TH Creative

Published: April 27, 2014 at 9:29 AM

You have a beautiful family, sir. best wishes for happiness always.
cynthia henisey

Published: April 27, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Life is full of seasons. Enjoy this time with your little one. Soon enough he'll be a teenager and that's a whole different dynamic. Then he'll be grown up and it will be back to you and your wife again. All good times, just different.
Kelly Muggleton

Published: April 28, 2014 at 3:52 AM

Great article, thank you - I have a niece we will be bringing to the Orlando parks next year, I'll be sure to pop back to this article for a refresh then!
You have a lovely family.
Russell Meyer

Published: April 28, 2014 at 6:46 AM

@James - I understand what you're talking about. Cedar Point does have three distinct kids areas in the park that are in close proximity to some of the most popular thrill rides. However, when we were there for 2 days last summer when Zach was hovering around the 38" mark, it was a bit of a chore to keep everyone happy. Kiddie Kingdom is a very nice little area with tons of attractions that kids can ride by themselves. The nearby Planet Snoopy also has some nice kiddie rides, but these two sections that are really close to each other are still a bit of a walk from Gatekeeper, Wicked Twister, MaXair, Raptor, TTD, Mantis, and Corkscrew. Riding roller coasters requires us to split up anyway, but we found ourselves walking a lot back and forth between coasters and kiddie areas, exacerbated by the time limits placed on the returns of the parent swap card. Text messaging sure has made it easier, but it's still a lot more walking than we used to do before we had a kid. The Camp Snoopy area is really nice with a few more attractions that kids can ride with their parents, but it's not really close to anything aside from Gemini and maybe Magnum. TTD is a bit of a hike, as is Maverick. Cedar Point certainly has a large array of kids rides (probably the most in any single park we've been to), but I just wish they were spread out a little better and a few more placed closer to some of the big rides, particularly on the west side of the park near Maverick and Millennium Force. Unfortunately, even if we return to Cedar Point this summer, Zach won't be tall enough for Pipe Scream, which has a 42" height requirement.

Maybe it's being spoiled a bit by Busch Gardens and its sprinkling of kids rides around the park (specifically themed around the lands where they reside), but Cedar Point, and most of the Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks have the same issue of a lack of kids rides in close proximity to the most popular thrill rides. Universal has the same problem too, so it's a part of park design that is very tricky to get right.

Zachary would probably have ridden Gatekeeper last year if he were tall enough. His face a couple of weeks ago when he discovered he was tall enough to ride Woodstock Express and Avalanche at Kings Dominion was priceless.

@Jonah - It's been quite a while since my wife and I have been to Knoebels. I would love to get on Flying Turns, and I need to remind myself why Phoenix is one of the greatest woodies on the planet. Unfortunately, the park just isn't near our normal travel paths anywhere. We are in the process of planning a summer trip to Canada in July, so perhaps we might swing through there on our way up or back, along with Dorney Park.

@Mitchell - Legoland has been on our list, it just never makes it on the itinerary. On our last trips to Florida and California, we never had an extra day, and it's looking like our next trip in October will not have enough days to squeeze in Legoland. With our Platinum Passes for Busch Gardens Williamsburg, it's difficult to pass up the free parking and admission to Busch Gardens Tampa, Sea World, and Aquatica. Even with a 10-day vacation, if we spend 4 days at Disney, 3 days and Universal, 1 day at BGT, 1 day at Sea World, and 1 day at Aquatica, there's no time left for Legoland. I've heard great things about both the Florida and California parks, they simply haven't been able to crack our itinerary. Perhaps we will be able to squeeze it in on our next trip, likely in 2016.

Published: April 28, 2014 at 5:11 PM

Ahhh everybody is being so nice and encouraging. It's all crap. Having a child younger than 4 years old sucks, plain and simple. They slow you down, to snails pace. The younger they are the bigger the logistical foot print. If you don't have a child older than 5 years old and that is all you have ... "Don't bring them". Save your time and money... So much money. They won't remember it anyway and it is all about the memories, right! I am a big theme park fan and I want to enjoy myself too. I can enjoy myself through my kids, if the no what's going on, that is. Now once the youngest child is 5 years old it changes everything. My wife and I with two boys, 5 and 9, went to WDW 9/2013. This was hands down the best time ever for our family. Sure we still could not get on every ride but everybody understood and simply got it. In closing till the youngest is at least five it will not be a "great time", good time maybe, great; your lying to youself.
James Koehl

Published: April 28, 2014 at 5:58 PM

To You are entitled to your opinions. Everybody in here is entitled to their opinions. Just because you disagree with them in your situation does not give you the right to tell them that they are wrong or lying to themselves. Who cares if children can't consciously remember what happened to them at the age of 2 or 3- those experiences probably have a lot of effect on their developing brains and minds. The stimulation of the experiences, especially good, fun experiences could have a long-lasting effect on them. If they learn that theme parks equal fun, they will probably continue to find them fun when they can remember the experience.