A theme park gift under $10? Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
From the ruins of an abandoned outlet mall,
rises the world's first Rock and Roll theme park.
Hard Rock Park features rides, attractions, and shows geared towards guests of all ages and music tastes. From the smooth sounds of Bob Marley to the ear piercing heavy metal of Led Zeppelin to the toe tapping sounds of country's best, there is something for everyone here. Even guests who listen to nothing but easy listening could find something to play air guitar to here.
Park designers have deliberately positioned attractions in each “rock environ” to satisfy guests of all ages and tastes. The idea for this theme park is for guests to walk around together as a family – no Mom and kids running to Fantasyland, while Dad runs to Pirates, and the teens run to Space Mountain – everyone experiences it together. Here you have attractions like Led Zeppelin: The Ride, for adults and teens that want a thrill, right next to the Reggae River Falls, designed for small children who want to have fun and get wet, next to Paradise Cafe, designed for adults who just want to relax. This philosophy of the family enjoying the park together repeats itself throughout the park's environs.
The park also features world-class shows that are sure to satisfy all guests, with high-energy, exciting performances from a dive show/surf party, to a stunt-filled concert setup, to a boot-stomping ice-skating show. In addition to the three main shows, the park features a number of street performance shows, including a juggler, a “guitar in the stone” experience, local bands and solo performers, and street characters, as well as a crew of mascots. The park has room to grow, with even more street performance areas, and yet to be constructed stage areas.
There is still a lot of empty space in the park, but what is in place is well themed. There are numerous interactive features throughout the park, including British telephone booths that ring when you enter them, an “insult cow” named Rock-a-Billy that can talk to guests and squirt them with water, and a motorcycle that revs up and vibrates when the handle controls are turned.
The park also features a number of nods to the “rock gods” from a replica of the mosaic from the Imagine Park in New York's Central Park, to stained glass representations of James Brown and Elvis. Not only that, but music memorabilia is scattered throughout the park primarily found in gift shops, restaurants, and some ride queues. There is no shortage of guitars, costumes, or album covers. Any fan of music will have a fine appreciation of the collection on display in this park.
The park food is prepared by world-class chefs, and should cater to even the pickiest eaters, with selections ranging from English fish and chips to plain old hamburgers and hot dogs. Each area of the park features at least one counter service cafeteria-style restaurant, one window service walk up restaurant, and one snack area, with all restaurants featuring beer and sodas. That doesn't even include the yet to be opened Alice's Restaurant, which will even serve Thanksgiving dinner (or anything you want, excepting Alice) with full table service.
There is also a ride here for just about everybody, from the incredibly intense Led Zeppelin - The Ride, for thrill seekers, to Shake Rattle and Rollercoaster for the little ones, to the gentle Nights in White Satin- The Trip, for older rockers who want to relive the glory days. This is certainly not a coaster paradise, as many regional parks have as many rollercoasters as this park has rides. However, the park's five rollercoasters offer variable experiences for all ages and intensity thresholds.
What this park is really about is the music, and the 350 high-quality Peavey speakers scattered throughout the park provide an auditory experience that is second to none in the theme park industry. Wherever you go, from the bathrooms to the restaurants to the hidden nooks and crannies, you are constantly serenaded by the greatest music of the past and present. Park designers have taken great care to transition soundtracks from one area to another, to eliminate any dissonance as you move from one environ to the next. Sometimes this effect is quite comical, as guests may find themselves singing along to Smells Like Teen Spirit as played by a steel drum band. In addition, Hard Rock Park is a world-class concert venue, with confirmed acts for 2008, including The Moody Blues, The Eagles, Kid Rock, and more. Local bands can also be heard at the various stages throughout the park, including a stage at the well-stocked Whammy Bar.
Park designers have tried hard to create an experience that's worth revisiting by paying close attention to detail throughout the park. Jokes and surprises abound, especially for the well-versed music fan. Who wouldn't laugh at the idea of Wyman, Jagger, Richards, and Watts, Barristers and Solicitors? (aka the Rolling Stones)
Even using one of the park's many restrooms can be a surprising and amusing experience.
Park officials have noted that guests, during the “Sound Check” soft opening of the park have been going around the park at a more leisurely pace than a typical theme park. That's exactly what was intended during park development. Rock and roll by its very nature is a more laid-back, relaxing experience. Guests at Hard Rock Park take their time to enjoy the park rather than running from attraction to attraction like you might at Disney or Universal. Maybe this has to do more with the smaller number of attractions, but guests appeared to be having a good time overall. Guests are not pressured to ride every E-Ticket ride in the park – in fact, they don't have to ride anything at all. Park executives said they would be perfectly pleased if people just came to relax, have a beer, and listen to the music (live or recorded).
Another source of guest enjoyment are the enthusiastic cast members who truly appear to enjoy what they're doing. From the coaster ride-op who entertained the crowd during an unscheduled ride stoppage with trivia and rollercoaster discussions, to the stilt walkers who say hello every time you pass by. Cast members at Hard Rock Park are having just as much fun as the guests. Even the park executives act like kids in the park, as they grin from ear to ear at their new toy.
Currently admission for all guests is $50 (there is no difference between adult and children's ticket pricing). Parking is $10, and preferred parking may be available later in the season, though no pricing is currently available. Season passes are being offered for $150, which provides admission, free parking, and discounts on food and merchandise. Admission also includes concerts occurring in the park, excluding special ticketed events. This is basically comparable to getting a season pass to your local concert venue, which makes the season pass seem like an especially good deal. Prices inside the park for food and merchandise are on par with other non-regional theme parks (Busch, Universal, Disney).
The park still has plenty of room to grow, and lots of ideas to make the experience even better. However, one thing is for sure – that whatever is coming next from Hard Rock Park will be something for the whole family. With 14-17 million visitors annually to Myrtle Beach, even if the park taps into only a small percentage of those visitors, it's difficult to think that this park will not be a success. With attention to detail, rides and attractions for all ages, and a friendly and welcoming staff, guests to Hard Rock Park will want to come back on their next trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.
All Access Entry Plaza
Guests to Hard Rock Park are greeted with a spacious entry area with distinctive California mission-style architecture.
The wrought-iron gate with the Hard Rock Park logo anchors the entry area, and is deliberately closed for guest photos after entering through the turnstiles. Similar to Universal parks, a rolling box dressed up like traveling equipment boxes holds the park maps and brochures. The maps are the daily printed style that offer great flexibility and allow the park to change the map and show times as needed. To the left of the gate as guests enter, there are a set of long-term lockers, which can be rented for $8 or $10 depending on the locker size. To the immediate right of the gate, guests will find the first aid station and guest services. Near the exit gates, the appropriately named, “In Through The Out Store” shop features the best-of souvenirs that guests forgot to grab during their day at the park.
As guests walk into the park, a “emporium-style” store can be found on the left, called “All-Access Merchandise.”
This is quite possibly the most awesome theme park souvenir shop in the world. Not only does the store contain over 11,000 square feet of stuff for guests to buy, but the store also is home to a large chunk of the park's music memorabilia.
Because the park bears the Hard Rock name, the merchandise and souvenirs are very nice, reasonably priced, and stray away from the cheesy swag you may find at other theme parks (no “I survived the whatever” t-shirts here). In keeping with the Hard Rock tradition, the theme park is trying hard to develop a pin-trading culture with limited edition pin sets and an elaborate pin display in this store. In addition to park-branded and general Hard Rock-branded merchandise, guests can also buy stuff from their favorite artists. If you forgot to grab that Jimi Hendrix Experience T-shirt the last time he went on tour, and don't want to give your money to Hot Topic, the All-Access Merchandise shop is the place to find it. For kids, the shop also features a “Build-a-Bear” station and other age-appropriate souvenirs, but the real targets of this store are true rock fans.
Directly across the plaza from the All-Access Merchandise store, there is “I Want Candy,” which will surely lure the kids in for a lollipop or other sweets before leaving the park. The exterior of the store features a pretty provocative picture, which is one of the many edgier touches guests will find at Hard Rock Park, underlining the fact that you're not at your typical theme park.
Further up the plaza, there is an interactive car that park developers hope will lure kids in to play with its stereo and horn. The car is similar to the ZZ-Top roadster, and the music inside the car is appropriately themed to driving.
A little further up the plaza, guests will come upon Amp'd Coffee, whose logo is pretty darn close to some little Seattle-based coffee shop's logo. In addition to highly caffeinated beverages to get you going, the shop also sells pastries in the morning and ice cream in the evening.
Once you get past the coffee shop, guests will be naturally drawn under a well-themed arch depicting the birth of rock,
and onto a walk designed to look like the neck of a Gibson guitar. The walk down the neck reveals the park's signature icon, a 75-foot tall Gibson guitar that is an integral part of the park's evening spectacular.
Before reaching the end of the plaza, there is the “Origins Theater” and its interactive exhibits. The theater is currently being used as a pseudo-welcome center for the time being, but will eventually feature movies about the history of the Hard Rock brand and famous artists. Just outside the theater, the park provides guests an opportunity to become stars with a rack of air guitars, free of charge.
Across from the theater, there is the cleverly named “Whammy Bar.” This is quite possibly the most well-stocked bar I've ever seen in a theme park. Sure, you can go to a theme park and buy a beer or even a cocktail at a sit-down restaurant, but I cannot recall any park that I've been to that has an honest-to-goodness BAR complete with a number of top-shelf selections and an outdoor stage for bands to perform. Above the Whammy Bay, there is a VIP area that provides an overview of the park and has more of an ultra-lounge feel complete with a private bar, cabanas, and luxurious restrooms. The purpose behind this VIP area is to give real rock stars performing in the park a place to hang out between sets or when visiting the park.
The All-Access Entry Plaza is the Main Street USA of Hard Rock Park, and really sets the tone for the experience that guests are going to have during their visit. It is also one of the best places to experience the park's nighttime spectacular “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The courtyard at the end of the in-ground guitar gives clear views of the fireworks and the lights on the giant guitar during the show.
Rock n' Roll Heaven
Guests coming to HRP for the first time will naturally be drawn to the left, where the park's largest ride, Led Zeppelin - The Ride, is located. As you turn left at the end of All Access entry plaza, the golden gates to Rock and Roll Heaven are open, featuring angels playing guitars, and a cloud-like mist surrounding you.
The first area is an homage to all of the rock and roll greats who have passed on to rock and roll heaven. This circular memorial features the greatest of the greats in the center, like Elvis, Jim Morrison, etc, surrounded by symbols of all major religions. Surrounding the center plaque are bricks representing other music greats, with their birth and death dates, and the band or genre for which they were best known. There is plenty of space for expansion, and the park intends to keep this area as current as possible.
Continuing down the main thoroughfare, guests will come upon a flexible performance area, with beach style chairs, which during this visit features the Unforgettable Lukas, a juggler/sword swallower/fire eater with lots of audience participation. In the same general area, the park intends to create a “straw market” shopping area, and the entrance to the not yet completed “Garden Party” performance area. For now, there is just a decorative Balinese swing.
As guests continue to walk through Rock and Roll Heaven, they approach the Malibu Beach Party theater.
This show is an eclectic mix of comedy, acrobatics, diving, motorcycle stunts, and snippets of all your favorite beach/rock tunes. The show features a large cast and some semi-adult humor (that will go over the heads of the kids). This show is high-energy, and utilizes the entire stage, which is perhaps 30 yards wide. The stage size does cause a bit of a problem, with the pavilion support columns getting in the way of some action depending on where your seats are located. Unfortunately, there is no one perfect seat, but most seats will let you see the majority of the show with only a few missed stunts. Malibu beach party borders on being corny, but manages to stay cool with its constantly changing soundtrack and enthusiastic cast. This show runs for 20 minutes.
The backside of the Malibu Beach Party Theater leads into a Caribbean themed area, featuring a water play area called Reggae River Fall. This is a smaller version of the type of kids water play area typically found at a water park- a giant jungle gym with slides, water cannons, and fountains, as well as a giant water bucket that dumps water periodically.
While kids play in the water, parents have ample seating at the Paradise Cafe, a cafeteria-style restaurant directly opposite the Reggae River Falls. On the patio of the cafe, guests can enjoy live performances at the stage, or listen to steel drum versions of their favorite songs over the park soundtrack. On the inside, Paradise Cafe is an island-themed rock and roll heaven, with tiki representations of rock greats from John Lennon to Kurt Cobain. The restaurant features island themed fare, such as coconut shrimp, chicken spring rolls and Hawaiian pizza, as well as hamburgers, hot dogs, and beverages including beer (beer is available at all food establishments in the park).
After walking all the way through Rock and Roll heaven, guests finally reach the centerpiece of this environ, Led Zeppelin - The Ride.
This seated floored B&M coaster features 6 inversions, including 2 vertical loops, a cobra roll (2 inversions), a zero-G roll, and a corkscrew.
The coaster also features an on-ride audio system custom designed for the park. The 24-volt, 64-speaker system, combined with the sand-filled supports and track (to dampen coaster noise) provides a full sensory experience. As guests approach Led Zeppelin - The Ride, they walk through a fully themed queue that will have a Zeppelin fan drooling and declaring themselves not worthy of the ride. The exterior queue features a statue of “The Hermit” from Led Zeppelin IV, and the symbols of the four members of the band prominently displayed on the outside of the queue house.
On the lower level of the queue house, the walls are adorned with album art, and the center features panels with Led Zeppelin trivia and facts. Televisions playing the concert film “Song Remains the Same” serve as additional entertainment while waiting in line.
As guests make their way to the upper level of the queue house, they will find a display case with authentic band memorabilia. Guests now choose their desired seat in the coaster as cast members direct guests to a loading area. Each of the five loading bays is adorned by the symbol and likeness of a band member or “Swan Song.” Here's where coaster fans will get frustrated. Led Zeppelin allowed the park use of the band’s likenesses and music on this attraction, but they insisted that the musical experience include a complete song. Most coaster experiences last no more than two minutes, including the lift. Unfortunately, there are not many popular Led Zeppelin songs that are two minutes or less. Therefore, guests are required to stand in theaters to watch and listen to five minutes of multimedia presentation, which includes the first half of the song “Whole Lotta Love.” Halfway through the song, the doors open, and riders are escorted to their dirigible-themed train. Once everyone is secured, the train is dispatched and ascends the hill, where the on-board audio continues the song throughout the ride. The park is working on ways to vary the multimedia portion of the ride, and we saw two different presentations during our time at the park – one featuring concert footage and band member interviews, the other featuring POVs of the coaster experience and a time-lapse video of the coaster construction, with the music playing in the background. The coaster itself is amazing even without the soundtrack. The layout features some great airtime for the back during the first drop and zero-G roll, while passengers in the front will experience strong positive G’s at the bottom of the first drop and at the bottoms of the loops. I felt that the back was the best experience on this coaster, but I tend to favor the back of all coasters. While there is no theming or special effects during the coaster itself, the music makes it more than just a standard B&M seated looping coaster. The backside of the station is shaped like a dirigible,
while the exit gift shop is shaped like an airplane hanger, completing an immersive theme.
An additional touch to the Led Zeppelin experience includes a fountain on the outside of the queue area shaped like a double-neck guitar, that plays notes from stairway to heaven when the flow of water is disrupted.
While the frustration of re-riding this coaster may turn off a lot of coaster enthusiasts, it's worth it, especially for anyone who enjoys listening to Led Zeppelin music.
Before exiting Rock ' Roll Heaven, a window service restaurant called “The Kitchen Below” offers hot and spicy foods, like chili, hot wings, jalapeno poppers, and pizza, as well as beer of course.
A quote from Jimi Hendrix takes you out of Rock n' Roll Heaven and onto the bridge towards the British Invasion.
As guests exit rock and roll heaven, they go across a bridge that offers great views of Led Zeppelin - The Ride and the lagoon in the center of the park. The bridge ends at a painted British flag on the decking, two Beefeater guard posts, and the Queen's Head Pub, featuring beer and snacks.
Across the way from the Queen's Head is the Cod Piece Fish and Chips shop, a window eatery serving the quintessential British favorite, fried fish with fries. Fried chicken and shrimp are also available here.
To the left of the Queens Head is an homage to the psychedelic era of the sixties, with a magical mushroom play area for the little kids, and the Magic Mushroom Garden ride. This Huss flat ride is geared for the whole family, and is relatively tame. It also features black-light effects, which can unfortunately only be seen at night. This ride is not going to thrill the teenagers in the family, but will certainly be enough for the youngsters and their parents. Behind the Magic Mushroom Garden, the map indicates an area called Phonehenge, which has not yet been constructed.
As you walk past the Cod Piece restaurant, you come to a wall displaying the famous Abbey Road photo from the Beatles album of the same name. You might think that a poster on the wall is not that big of a deal, but there were constant streams of people taking their photo and re-enacting this iconic image. This is one of many themed photo experiences available throughout the park.
Guests will then be drawn to the unique-looking lift mechanism for Maximum RPM.
This Premier coaster is still in its testing stages, but should be ready for the park's grand opening on June 2nd. The queue house is themed to look like the Battersea power station in London, made famous by Pink Floyd's Animals album. The inside of the queue will feature what's being dubbed Queue Line Karaoke.
Since Maximum RPM's on-ride soundtrack is not tied to one particular artist, it will feature a mix of '80s rock and new wave, and the karaoke selections follow this theme as well. The coaster's trains will accommodate six passengers in groups of two, themed to appear like British cars. Appropriately, the ride ends with a car wash effect. The gift shop adjacent to Maximum RPM appears to be a London underground station, and will feature coaster merchandise as well as merchandise from British bands, and British soccer team memorabilia.
Across from the Underground souvenir shop is the London Cab Ride, a customized version of the Huss rodeo ride, with the bulls replaced by London black cabs. This is a pretty intense flat ride, with three independent axes of rotation. In addition to the well themed cabs with clever license plates, the ride features the statue found in London's Piccadilly Circus.
In the center of the British Invasion, you can find the Carnaby Street cafe, an indoor, air-conditioned, cafeteria-style restaurant, featuring prime rib sandwiches, bangers and mash, steak and mushroom pie, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers. This restaurant will also feature live entertainment on a balcony stage.
In the back left corner of the British Invasion, you can find the theater resembling the Globe Theater in London. Inside, it contains the Roadies Stunt Show. This 15-minute show follows the adventures and misadventures of roadies setting up for a show, and a park employee who wishes he were a roadie. The show has gymnastic elements, including trampolines, tumbling, trapeze, and wirework, as well as pyrotechnics. This show appears to still be working out the kinks, but it was high energy, and should soon be a very exciting and enjoyable show, worth taking the time to see.
In from of the Roadies Stunt Show Theater is the All the Kings Men carousel. No park is complete without a carousel, and HRP is no exception. In what might be an ironic nod to Disney, across from the carousel is a recreation of the “Guitar in the Stone” ceremony.
At the back of the British Invasion is Nights in White Satin, The Trip. The Trip in this case is more than just a voyage, as this psychadelic, blacklit extravaganza takes you back to the mood of the 70s. Guests are given chromadeck glasses, which enhance the effects throughout this Sally dark ride. Guests are serenadaed through the ride with the famous Moody Blues song, as a host of special effects, which are still being tweaked, accompany the music. Those who were curious enough to watch the Youtube video of this ride should experience the ride before passing judgment, because the effects enhanced by the glasses do not come across well on the video. A lot of guests will find this ride strange, bizarre, or just plain weird, but it's likely th
Either way, I enjoyed your report!
There are some aspects of "family togetherness" in other parks, but that may be more out of coincidence or just general park balance (if all the coasters were in one spot, no one would visit other sections of the park). At Hard Rock Park, designers purposely placed different level attractions next to each other to keep families together as they tour the park. They want to keep families from splitting up and having to coordinate over walkie-talkies or cell phones, and while this may still happen, the idea is sound, and well executed throughout the park.
I was not only impressed with the attention to detail throughout HRP, but the friendliness of every employee we encountered. Maxium RPM was not open, which we knew ahead of time, and Nights In White Satin was experiencing some delays, but in the end, we were able to ride everything. I don't have any words to descibe Nights In White Satin..other than it was interestingly strange. If you ride more than once, and pay attention to the details, it's more intriquing.
As for the coasters, Life in the Fast Lane was more fun than I expected. We even had fun on the Shake, Rattle and Roll coaster. The ride attendents were awesome! Of course, Led Zeppelin was more exciting than anticipated. The six inversions are made more intense as they are one right after the other. The front seat was my favorite and the back seat was my daughter's first choice.
Even the two shows we took in were very entertaining. Malibu Beach Party and Country On The Rocks were both excellent.
The atomsphere at HRP is exceptional. I'm not quite ready for a Season Pass yet, but as more rides are added, it will be something to consider.
The idea of having kid rides and adult rides side by side as you describe at Hard Rock, is a good idea, one that I prefer over the normal scenario of having a totally separate kid's area in a park (a la my local park's Camp Snoopy area). However, an even better step is to be more like Disney and make A-list rides like Soarin, Test Track, Splash Mt, Dinosaur, Thunder Mt, Tower of Terror, all with relatively low height requirements (40"). That way you don't have to split up at all, you can ride TOGETHER. I think in the area of whole family entertainment Disney simply sets the standard. They may not have the top notch thrill seeker attractions like a Led Zeppelin, but if keeping your family together is the goal, no one does it better than Disney.
Back to the trip report....do you get the impression that Hard Rock is committed to maintaining the relaxed atmosphere and laid back approach to theme park design, or will they cave to the demands from the vocal few and keep escalating the thrill ride quotient at the expense of themed entertainment? I would hate to see Hard Rock become just another Six Flags, especially when their start appears to be so promising...
I can't wait to visit....not sure how close Hard Rock is to the Isle of the Palms where we normally vacation in SC, but I will definitely try to fit in a day at the park if at all possible.
Thanks again for the trip report and pictures. Awesome job!
The closest theme parks (aside from the sketchy oceanside parks) to Myrtle Beach are Carrowinds near Charlotte, NC (about 3.5 hours) and Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta (about 6 hours). Myrtle Beach currently has a lot of attractions that are geared towards shorter visits (4 hours or less) like the Carolina Opry, Dixie Stampede, mini golf, regular golf, and outlet shopping, so the fact that visitors to the area have something to do for an entire day, that is a great advantage. Also, most visitors drive to Myrtle Beach, and the park's proximity to the main beach areas has them perfectly positioned to cash in on a big chunk of those guests.
Just kidding - excellent report. You managed to include all the information that we picked up on this weekend (like Maximum RPM's latest opening prediction). When you went, were there any remnants of the portable coaster that was positioned between Eagles and Shake, Rattle and Rollercoaster (directly behind the Heavy Metal Graveyard)? What the heck was that about in the first place?
I wonder what band they'll model their next major coaster after...Rolling Stones, Kansas, or maybe even ACDC, anyone?
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