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Robert Niles

Is This America's Last Middle Class Theme Park?

Published: July 28, 2015 at 11:25 AM

With ticket prices rising up to and even over the $100 a day mark for the nation's most popular theme parks, middle class families might be wondering if they can how much longer they will be able to afford to visit theme parks.

At first glance, the choice seems stark: Find some sort of package that makes a visit to one of the Disney or Universal resorts an affordable deal, or settle for a shorter trip to a regional amusement park. While going for a less popular park isn't a bad deal for roller coaster fans — heck, most coaster fans would prefer a visit to a great iron park over going to Disney or Universal — families who prefer themed rides to thrill rides probably won't think much of that option.

Where is the middle option for the middle class — a park offering Disney-style dark rides and first-class shows at regional amusement park prices?

Inside Knott's Calico Mine Ride

Fortunately, theme park fans in Southern California are getting that option, as Knott's Berry Farm changes course from the traditional regional park strategy of putting up more coasters and carnival rides in favor of embracing the dark rides and shows that once made it Disney's greatest theme park rival. (Even the Busch Gardens parks seems to be moving more and more to a Six Flags-style model.)

I write about Knott's Berry Farm's appeal to middle class visitors in my Orange County Register column this week. I hope that you'll give it read.

How are you finding value for your money in theme park visits?

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Robert Niles

Disney Extends Hours at Epcot's Garden Grill

Published: July 28, 2015 at 8:27 AM

Disney World visitors soon will be able to enjoy breakfast and lunch at the popular Garden Grill restaurant in Epcot's Land pavilion.

Garden Grill

Starting today, Disney is taking reservations for all three meals at the Garden Grill, with the breakfast and lunch seatings beginning November 8. Reservations will be available via +1-407-WDW-DINE or Disney's website. From today's press release:

The new Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Breakfast Harvest Feast will have all the fixin’s served in an all-you-care-to-enjoy family style. What’s on the menu? Look for breakfast favorites like biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, Mickey waffles, and their signature item, Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake.

At lunch, look for your all-you-care-to-enjoy favorites from the dinner menu, like “Living with the Land” Harvest-inspired Farmer’s Salad (which utilizes greens from the attraction), char-grilled sliced filet of beef, roasted all-natural sliced turkey breast with freshly-harvested vegetables and scrumptious side dishes.

The change at the Garden Grill represents Disney World's latest move to extend dining hours at more of its popular restaurants. When you think about it, the move is consistent with the recent MyMagic+-inspired changes at the resort. If Disney's original Fastpass was about moving guests out of the queues, Fastpass+ was about moving them back in. Disney recognized that it had significant unused capacity at its Florida parks, and devised MyMagic+ in part as a way to better distribute guests throughout the park, leading them to book reservations at a wider range of attractions and restaurants, while limiting the number of daily reservations in attempt to move "power users" of the old Fastpass system into more standby queues.

Disney defeats this purpose, however, if it leaves dining rooms empty while it tries to fill attraction queues. That's why Be Our Guest has gone to three-meal operation and now Garden Grill has followed. Eventually, one should expect more popular Walt Disney World restaurants to do the same.

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Paul Danner

How to Pick the Right Orlando Theme Park for Your Family Vacation

Published: July 27, 2015 at 10:32 AM

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Don Jones

DVC FAQ, Part 5: Should You Buy DVC Points New or 'Used'?

Published: July 26, 2015 at 6:51 PM

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Robert Niles

Disney Reveals More D23 Expo Details for Theme Park Fans

Published: July 24, 2015 at 3:10 PM

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Robert Niles

Orlando Theme Park Construction Update: Wet 'n Wild Hotels, Star Wars Land

Published: July 23, 2015 at 3:38 PM

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Mike Longo

Do Regional Theme Parks Really Have to be Seasonal Parks?

Published: July 23, 2015 at 10:56 AM

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Robert Niles

Get Crowd Forecasts and More on the New OC Register Disneyland Page

Published: July 22, 2015 at 9:46 PM

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Robert Niles

Six Flags Bans Selfie Sticks in its Theme Parks

Published: July 22, 2015 at 12:37 PM

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