Is there a place for "Kiddie" lands in amusement parks?

September 1, 2014, 5:34 AM

While visiting Cedar Point with James Rao, he made several disparaging remarks about the appropriateness of areas in amusement parks being themed specifically for very young children, areas comprised of rides that are usually 1) flat spinners, and 2) have a rider height limit of 54". James seemed to be of the opinion (James, please correct me if I'm wrong) that there should not be such areas where children's rides are segregated, and that every ride for height-challenged children should be able to be experienced with their parents, maximizing the family experience.

I do not question that there should be attractions for young children that the entire family should be able to experience together (of which I counted twenty-two such attractions at Cedar Point- most in the "official" children's areas while others are scattered throughout the park), but I want to make this statement- I feel that there is nothing wrong with a well-themed area dedicated to small, relatively slow, flat spinner rides (such as the traditional cars where a 3 year old can sit in the car by themselves, honking the annoying horn and waving to Mom and Pop as the ride goes round and round). Watching the looks on the kids faces as they ride all by themselves, the fun and perhaps a bit of pride as they pretend to be "all grown up", and the similar look on their parents' faces, tells me that there is a place for these attractions in a park. Spreading such attractions throughout a park is fine, but perhaps having a special area just for the majority of them (such as Camp Snoopy, Kidzopolis or Kiddie Land) allows for special theming, special dining options, and perhaps a special feeling for the very young that they have a place where they feel that they are the focus, not the big, noisy coasters and over-the-top thrill rides aimed more for the older members of the family. Is there a place for big, elaborate all-inclusive family attractions? Yes, of course their is. Is there a place for slower, gentler rides that the preschool-age guests can claim as all-their-own? I say "yes" to that also.

Replies (56)

Edited: September 1, 2014, 6:10 AM

I only blasted Crappy...errr...Kiddy Kingdom at Cedar Point. I wasn't nearly as hard on Planet/Camp Snoopy. Kiddy Kingdom is really nothing more than a collection of grocery store caliber spinners. It is embarrassingly bad. I expect, nay, demand more from Cedar Fair's flagship park.

And as I have stated before in a similar thread (years ago): I do not like the "divide-the-family" mentality of amusement park companies that build cheap, unimpressive kiddie lands. While it is probably impossible to make an entire park that is all things to everyone at the same time, the goal should be to keep families together, not tear them apart. And a land like Kiddy Kingdom, which is exclusively for the three and under crowd, is a family splitter without question.

Fantasyland at Disneyland/Magic Kingdom is filled with "kiddie rides", but they are mostly good enough for the whole family to enjoy together AND extract some measure of joy from the experience. A twenty-five cent parking lot spinner is not my idea of a family ride.

At Cedar Point, Cedar Downs is a GREAT example of a family attraction done correctly. I want to see more Cedar Downs and less Kiddy Kingdoms.

September 1, 2014, 6:09 AM

But James, you make it sound as if parents are banned from watching their kids on these rides. They aren't- they are there watching them, filming them, smiling and laughing as their kids go by honking the horns, ringing the bells, and having a wonderful time. Part of parenting is teaching and allowing children to become a bit independent, slowly but steadily, and confident in that independence. Letting them experience a ride, be it a cheap, flat spinner, is just one very small step. Look on it as an educational experience where the kids are having fun and don't realize that they are learning.

Edited: September 1, 2014, 6:24 AM

Watching little tykes ride Sir Rub A Dub's Tubs is not my idea a good family teaching experience. It is more like Chinese water torture for both the parents and the kids. And if I want to film my kids on a dime store spinner, I will go to a dime store, not spend $50 to go to a major amusement park.

Furthermore, it is not just about the parents and their littlest brat, is it? What about the family with a nine year old and a three year old? Dad goes with the nine year old and mom stays with the three year old and everyone meets up at lunch time - then dad gets the three year old and mom tours with the older kid. Horrible way to spend the day.

Didn't we already have this conversation just a few weeks ago? ;)

September 1, 2014, 6:25 AM

Yes we did, but I thought I finally got you to understand... it seems that as you are getting older your learning curve is slowing down a bit ;+) Perhaps there are others who want to join in, there!

Edited: September 1, 2014, 6:33 AM

Gotcha. I will drop out for a bit and let others blast me for insulting Kiddy Kingdom. However I leave you with two Walt Disney quotes:

"We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun together."

"You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

Happy Labor Day!

Edited: September 1, 2014, 6:33 AM

Ah, yes, the "Gospel according to Walt". Weren't those from Chapter VIII, vs. 18 and 27? ;+)

Edited: September 1, 2014, 6:38 AM

Yep, right after 2 James 13:1-999 which says, "I am so so so so so so so so (etc. etc. etc.) sorry."

September 1, 2014, 10:21 AM

If you're going to add a Kiddie land with far less intense rides, you should at least make it a step up over other ones, which I think James R. was getting at with his Fantasyland example. Personally, the places I think that actually do this best are the Legoland parks. If you spend a good chunk of your time at Fantasyland or Kiddy Kingdom or Planet Snoopy, etc, you'll find yourself yearning to try and break to hit the big kid rides. Legoland has a ton of average caliber rides that families can join in on or sit out to watch without feeling like a day is wasted. Couple that with relatively cheaper prices and Legoland is a great Kiddie area that should be used as a template for other zones.

September 1, 2014, 4:41 PM

All things considered, I agree with James.

September 1, 2014, 4:43 PM

Thank you, TH! I appreciate your support. ;+)

James (Koehl)

September 2, 2014, 7:28 PM

I think I understand what James is saying. And I was that mom stuck watching the 5 year old spin round while dad took the 9 year old off to better rides (at SF Magic Mountain.) I love the Disney aspect where we all can enjoy the Peter Pan ride together. For the price of admission it would be better to have some more family rides. But each park chooses their target audience/theme.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 8:51 AM

I agree with James K. Let's define the meaning of amusement park. It is without theme. A theme park has theming and a whole lot more.

Most amusement parks have thrill rides and very little of anything else EXCEPT for the kiddie lands. Thus, how can there be complaints about the kiddie lands when kids 5 and under have nothing to do. Can they ride the latest ultra 90 mph roller coaster? Absolutely not. Neither can many adults. Their height requirement makes it impossible. I do think there should be a compromise. Legoland does a better job as a semi-themed theme park. Legoland has more gentle full-sized carnival rides where the parents can sit with the kids so everything can enjoy the rides together. Legoland is the exception, not the rule. (Now, don't tell me you hate Legoland.) Legoland is actually the direct opposite of Magic Mountain in demographics.

More amusement parks should try to follow Legoland's example by having more family style kiddie rides, BUT these amusement parks have a teenager problem, who could hog the rides and be rude to everyone. I hate the crowds that go to Six Flag Magic Mountain and I would rather discourage the teens from entering the kiddie land.

Another thing is balance. Amusement parks lack family roller coasters. They are only building the most extreme roller coasters and their attendance have a natural cap. If you don't like the family to split, don't bring them there or just let your toddlers enjoy their rides for a change.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 10:36 AM

Anon, I like how you agree with James K., but then argue my point. I believe you do have future in politics after all! ;)

A compromise is exactly what I am looking for: a good "whole-family" area of the park is fine by me, but an area of the park proliferated with grocery store parking lot caliber spinners is never okay.

Yes, there are always going to be those high thrill attractions that do not appeal to some or cannot be experienced by the short or the young. But as so many have already said, the goal should be giving families things to do together, not apart.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 11:05 AM

How did I argue your point? I didn't argue it at all.

I said the kiddie lands must remain "as is" since that is the only way for the young kids to have a chance to ride them since there is a teenager problem at amusement parks.

If there is balance, then they are not amusement parks. There will be no balance in light of all the ultra roller coasters.

You're obviously in love with politics since you think anyone is arguing your point when it doesn't exist.

"A compromise is exactly what I am looking for"

Then go to Disneyland.

I WROTE THIS "If you don't like the family to split, don't bring them there or just let your toddlers enjoy their rides for a change." Am I agreeing with you?

Amusement parks don't change. Actually, they changed to be even more thrilling as that is what happens with roller coasters. They just keep breaking more records until they break another. The future with Six Flags and Cedar is they will keep adding more extreme roller coasters and having a separate area for toddlers. The exception is Universal, Disney, and Sea World so maybe you should go there. The attendance figures proves the this.

September 3, 2014, 11:08 AM

I think there's a balance, but the thing that annoys me more than anything else about many amusement parks is that kiddie rides are isolated into groups. It gets really annoying and frustrating for a family with members that want to ride the big rides but also has kids that are limited in what they are allowed to ride by their height. Parks should do a better job a scattering rides around instead of bunching all of the kiddie rides into one or two areas. Cedar Point is a bit different because they have 3 different kiddie areas, and also have a smattering of family-accessible flat rides scattered around the park, but very few coaster parks have family rides outside of their kiddie lands, and if they do it's only one or two here and there.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a rare exception to the rule where there are a number of rides located in each land that are accessible to most in addition to having two distinct kiddie lands.

Also, it seems that the idea of "family" seems to be getting distorted as parks identify family rides as those with 48" height restrictions. Busch Gardens, whom I just praised, considers Verbolten a family coaster, but the height restriction of 48" is higher than the family coaster it replaced (Big Bad Wolf at 42"). Also Water Country USA (Busch Gardens Williamsburg's separately ticketed water park) billed Colossal Curl as the world's first "Family Thrill Slide", but posted a height restriction of 48". Sorry PM folks, but many kids over 48" would not want to be caught riding a water slide with their parents, and certainly if one sibling is over 48", there's a good chance one of the other siblings probably isn't or is tall enough to not want to explore a water park with their family.

Amusement parks need to dial down the amount of money they're spending in single attractions, and spread that money out to create lands containing attractions appealing to all age/size/tolerance groups. There's nothing worse than having to walk miles back and forth between lands in a park just to keep everyone happy. By spreading smaller attractions out and placing them closer to larger attraction, you can create a better flow, and happier guests who will explore the park in a more organized, predictable manner. I completely understand that height restrictions are often not determined until an attraction is certified by state regulators, but a little advanced planning and consideration would make going to coaster parks with your family much more enjoyable.

September 3, 2014, 11:17 AM

@Anon You also wrote, "I do think there should be a compromise" and "parents can sit with the kids so everything can enjoy the rides together" and "More amusement parks should try to follow Legoland's example by having more family style kiddie rides". Those are my points. It is good that we are in violent agreement.

And Russell, I concur.

September 3, 2014, 11:25 AM

I think the most important aspect of theme park design is a focus on story. Once there is a compelling story, all of the other pieces fall into place, including whether or not families or just kids can appreciate (or ride) any given attraction.

I believe that the most successful attractions can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I don't necessarily think that any ride should target too specific of a demographic, and to target only kids when a whole family can experience a story together seems like a waste in a theme park, which generally seeks to sell tickets to whole families (unless it's a coaster park, in which case there should still be some sort of story involved in today's industry). Why sit to the side and watch your child on a ride when you can be right next to them and have the same experience?

Edited: September 3, 2014, 11:34 AM

I guess I'm in violent disagreement with you.

"I do not like the "divide-the-family" mentality of amusement park companies that build cheap, unimpressive kiddie lands."

And "the goal should be to keep families together, not tear them apart."

So saying that there should be a compromise on some attractions means I'm making your point? You can't even stand to watch kids riding by themselves on Sir Rub A Dub's Tubs. So you rather sit in a slightly larger vehicle and ride it with them. Really? That's what you'll get at Legoland.

Come to think of it, adults can do Sir Rub A Dub's Tubs with the kiddies. Look here.

September 3, 2014, 11:31 AM

"Amusement parks don't change."

That's a very cynical approach, and your overall tone seems to indicate you have never had a favorable experience at a "coaster park". Some would argue amusement parks' desire to continue to go "bigger, better, faster" is a recent phenomenon, and that many in the quest of setting records have forgotten to address the family aspect of their parks. Parks like Six Flags and Cedar Fair have entered the coaster wars, and have pandered to families with minimal additions that pale in comparison (not only in size but also in monetary investment) to their record-breaking coasters. In fact, Cedar Fair billed the latest Planet Snoopy addition to Kings Dominion as a "training ground" for future coaster fans. I agree with their basic approach to get kids hooked on rides early, but segregating rides into isolated lands is not the most effective way to get guests to visit the park and tour in my opinion. Parks are making investments into family and kiddie attractions, but in their "New in 20-whatever" way of marketing, they feel the need to address one demographic or the other. Why not spend your $10 million annual investment on a $5 million family/adult ride, two $2 million family/kiddie rides and $1 million on theme to unify the attractions together? Sure, this philosophy probably won't lead to record-breaking attractions (but really, what real records are left to be broken aside from the made up ones that PM people pull out of a hat), but attract guests from all demos.

Six Flags is building two dark rides this off-season that will presumably be accessible to just about everyone in the family, and Cedar Point is rumored to be adding its own dark ride. So all is not lost, but many amusement parks could address these problems in a much better and more efficient, cost effective manner.

September 3, 2014, 11:47 AM

"That's a very cynical approach, and your overall tone seems to indicate you have never had a favorable experience at a "coaster park". "

Whoa. Stop right there.

Why can't I state a fact and leave it at that. I quite enjoyed amusement parks, but let's be honest, I aged out of it. And I really don't want to pay to visit Six Flags for only a few rides that I can handle. Certainly, the price of admission is no big deal. The cost is a fraction of Disneyland. It would be a waste of time to visit a park that has few rides that I can enjoy. Perhaps the best case scenario is I go on one or two hyper coasters and call it a day. My motion sickness will last for the rest of the day.

At one time many decades ago, I questioned why Disneyland didn't add more thrill rides. It is obvious to me now. It would defeat their goals. Roller coasters take up too much space. They have little opportunity for theming. They end too quickly. And they are quite cheap to make (Disney is never cheap).

Six Flags needs much work to turn around their reputation. Frankly, I am not willing to wait and it hardly matter much to me either way.

September 3, 2014, 11:55 AM

Anon, one end of the spectrum is thrill rides for big kids. The other end of the spectrum is kiddie rides. The compromise is to build attractions for the whole family to enjoy together.

And yes, a father can ride the tubs with his three year old, but is the father (or even the three year old) enjoying that attraction? No, he is doing it because he has no other option at that park.

Russell and Nick are spot on... Theme and amusement parks are changing with the times. The lucrative market is the family market, which is why we are seeing a proliferation of family friendly attractions. Heck, even Universall's big new ride is a gussied up family coaster/dark ride. If parks want to grow market share they have to stop segregating the family and provide attractions that bring them together.

Love, brother, it's all about love.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 12:17 PM

"So saying that there should be a compromise on some attractions means I'm making your point? You can't even stand to watch kids riding by themselves on Sir Rub A Dub's Tubs. So you rather sit is a slightly larger vehicle and ride it with them. Really? That's what you'll get at Legoland."

No, I think what many families are looking for are to have those rides located closer to the headliners and not isolated in kiddie lands. Why does Cedar Point have to have 7 different versions of a spinning car ride all within 100 feet of each other? Why not have one themed to race cars sitting next to Dragster, another themed to western stage coaches next to Maverick, and another themed to space ships next to Magnum XL 205? And while their at it, throw in a mild flat ride or dark ride next to the headliner that everyone can enjoy together.

It's not that adults cannot ride some of these smaller rides, it's that they're all bunched into one spot and distant walks from the big-boy rides. If you're a family with small children it would be a lot nicer if mom or dad could ride the record-braking coaster while the kids are being watched by the other parent and entertained on a nearby kiddie ride instead of having to either have the kids sit waiting for the parents to ride the big ride or the parent having to split up and walk halfway across the park to keep everyone happy.

Just because you have kids doesn't mean you don't want to ride big roller coasters. It seems that while parks have plenty of rides for little kids they seem to forget that the parents also want to ride the big rides, but the hassle to ride while keeping the kids entertained is not always worth it. The solution to the problem is not expensive, nor is it complicated. It's about tiering rides, and having one of each ride tier in each area of the park. Cedar Point, for example, has their coasters pretty well spaced out around the park. However, the kiddie rides and family flat rides are consolidated into tight groups. They don't have to spend any money on a new ride, just take what they already have, and put a few next to each big ride. Same goes for so many other amusement parks around the country. I understand the desire to maximize the use of the IP (Peanuts, Sesame Street, Looney Toons), but who says you can't theme a ride around these IPs that the who family can enjoy?

Edited: September 3, 2014, 12:23 PM

The economics of the amusement park versus theme parks mean it will be difficult for the meeting of the middle. It is a nice problem to have. A first world problem. I just wonder why fix a problem that doesn't need to be fixed. You either go to Disney or to Six Flags. What's the big deal?

There was another thread where people tried to define a family attraction. Some say Small World or the Pooh ride are not family attractions because some will hate it. Family rides are not defined by someone who might not like it.

If you know anything about theme parks or amusement parks, the most traditional interpretation is they are children's activities. They are a place to take the kids to entertain them. They aren't something for adults by definition (Adults do adult things).

A family attraction is something you would want your child to like. So by definition, it is Sir Rub-a-Dub's Tubs on up. Then there are the freak shows.... for adults at any circus side show.

September 3, 2014, 12:27 PM

A good parent is unselfish and enjoys their kids riding these rides instead of the adult ones. And though you may think it's boring. Your kid thinks it's great. If your not getting to ride enough of your rides bring grandma and grandpa or aunt and uncle. To help watch the kids. And as the kids get older they will have more and more rides to experience.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 1:50 PM

So what's wrong with amusement parks attempting to expand their target demographic? Paramount did a pretty darn good job when it was managing Kings Island, Kings Dominion, Canada's Wonderland, and Carowinds back in the 90's. They added highly themed attractions that were worthy of Disney or Universal. Cedar Fair and Six Flags are both making attempts to increase themeing on many of their attractions in addition to broadening their appeal. Knott's Berry Farm has made a concerted effort to improve their appeal to families with renovations to the Calico Mine Ride and improved kiddie area.

Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, and Busch Gardens have been straddling the fence for over a decade now between a traditional amusement park and a full-blown theme park. What's to prevent other parks from making a similar attempt to blend the best of both worlds? Universal has been pretty successful at using amusement park-style rides in a theme park. Islands of Adventure features 4 roller coasters that could be found in just about any coaster park in America, but because they carefully integrated the theme into the rides, and created immersive lands around the marquee attractions, people come back over and over to experience the park. IOA hasn't added anything truly new since 2010 (Hogwarts Express doesn't really count as an addition to IOA in my book), yet the park continues to break its own attendance records.

Too frequently amusement parks only go halfway by building an attraction. With just a bit more investment, which probably could be derived from building a slightly smaller or less-intense headliner, they could set the attraction into a themed environment that would not only produce a better overall experience, but would likely last longer, providing better return on investment. That's the major issue with parks like Six Flags and Cedar Fair. They spend X dollars on an attraction, and expect to receive return on that addition in the following year. If they get a little more back, that's more they can invest the next year on the next attraction. The model works fine on a year over year basis, but parks need to think more long term, and look at how investments enhance the overall draw of the park. The idea that guests won't come to the park because there's nothing new is a fallacy, which Six Flags is attempting to fight with their ridiculous "membership" program, instead of simply investing in more intelligently in their parks.

I think kiddie lands in amusement parks need to be blown up and spread out to increase the appeal of the entire park to the largest number of people.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 1:15 PM

A good parent certainly responds to the desires of their children when at a theme park, but an even better parent tries to accomplish those things in a spirit of unity that keeps the family together and happy. Again, I refer back to the family with a nine year old and a three year old. You need attractions that appeal to both - and they are out there. Disney has them. Universal has them. Silver Dollar City has them. Heck even some Six Flags parks have them.

But again, back to Kiddy Kingdom at Cedar Point - it is a really sub par kiddie area. Planet Snoopy at Kings Island is a much better option with attractions that in large part appeal to the whole family. It is certainly a better option than Kiddy Kingdom.

I understand that not every theme park chain has Disney's checking account, so there will always be compromises, but Kiddy Kingdom stretches that compromise to an unacceptable extent. I am fairly certain we can all expect more from the "big" parks than Kiddy Kingdom.

September 3, 2014, 12:53 PM

"A good parent is unselfish and enjoys their kids riding these rides instead of the adult ones."

A good park understands that everyone (except the youngest of kids who can barely experience anything) pays to enter a theme park and wants to experience as much as possible for the hundreds of dollars it costs to visit. A good park would then see that families would walk around the entire park together, purchasing food and souvenirs from different stands and stores around the park instead of those segregated to the front gate and kiddie areas. A good park would recognize that parents are willing to sacrifice to make their kids happy, but those same parents also want to have some fun too, and are willing to pay more or will make return visits if everyone can be happy at the end of the day. It's about providing value to the guest while getting a return in per-cap spending. Segregating families with small children to kiddie lands isn't making the park money, but spread those rides out and add a few more that the families with small children can ride together, and you increase your demographic and create more return visits.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 1:11 PM

Russell, you have made my point better than I ever could. Obviously you, like me, have had to spend countless hours in awful kiddie lands while you waited anxiously for your kids to reach 48" tall. I feel your pain, bro.

And there is nothing wrong with us wanting our favorite parks to improve in all facets of the theme/amusement park experience.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 1:25 PM

"I understand that not every theme park chain has Disney's checking account, so there will always be compromises, but Kiddy Kingdom stretches that compromise to an unacceptable extent."

James does a great job summing it up there. Kiddie Kingdom is a joke, and assembling a bunch of spinners that you can ride at your local mall or grocery store for $1 or less per cycle is not drawing anyone into the park. I have absolutely no problem standing to watch my 4 year old spin around in a 10' diameter circle for 2 minutes, but that's not why families spend $50+ per person per day to go to a theme/amusement park. Call me a "bad parent" if you want, but I don't want to spend an entire day at a theme park that I spent good money to visit and travel to just to stand around watching my kid spin around in circles for 8 hours. It's about as exciting as it would be for my son to sit around watching mom and dad ride roller coasters he won't be able to ride for another 5 years. So in order to compromise at many coaster parks, families are either forced to split up with one parent relegated to chaperoning the small child while the other goes off to ride thrill rides, or spending an hour in the kiddie land and an hour riding thrill rides---rinse, repeat. I'm not advocating that those kiddie rides be eliminated, just unconsolidated, and spread around the park along with some attractions that families can ride together next to smaller rides as well as headliners. Cedar Point has a bit of an example on the new Gemini midway with a kiddie coaster (Jr. Gemini), kiddie flat rides, pre-teen coaster (Woodstock Express), family flat rides (Monster and Tilt a Whirl), a family coaster (Pipe Scream), and a headline coaster (maybe not a true headliner--Gemini), all within a couple hundred feet of each other. If you add Magnum, which is a bit of a schlep, then it would truly have a headliner. This area is what amusement parks should look to when revitalizing existing areas and building new headline attractions. Amusement parks need to get out of the cycle of adding attractions that only appeal to narrow demographics, and instead plan additions that appeal to more people. It doesn't mean they can't add record breakers, but in addition to adding the thrill ride, announce that a family ride or kiddie ride will be added nearby as part of the expansion. Heck, the subsequent addition doesn't even need to be added in the same year, just market additions in groups instead of this piece-meal approach they have been taking over the past decade or so.

September 3, 2014, 1:21 PM

"I feel your pain, bro."

Imagine what it was like at Canada's Wonderland, where when we asked how they did "parent/child swap" they looked at us like we were speaking French. Add to that the fact our cell phones were rendered useless being in another country, and it was pretty annoying taking the divide and conquer approach with timed meet-ups. Parks just don't seem to understand that parents want to have fun too, and would like it even more if they could have fun with their kids too. That's why Disney and Universal are so popular, because so many of their attractions (even the more thrilling ones) have very low height restrictions.

September 3, 2014, 1:26 PM

Hear, hear!

Edited: September 3, 2014, 3:15 PM

I agree with Anon Mouse. That's why with my son age at 2 I prefer Disney because they do that better. When he get older we will switch it up

Edited: September 3, 2014, 3:39 PM

"Russell, you have made my point better than I ever could."

It seems like everyone is making James Rao's point. So why we bother? I don't know.

"James does a great job summing it up there."

A lot of back slapping too. Interesting.

September 3, 2014, 4:15 PM

Kindred spirits stick together.

Don't worry, Anon, someday you and I will agree on something and I'll have your back as well. <3

September 3, 2014, 4:21 PM

Then I disagree. I'd hate to see our liveliest thread in years (24 posts in 1 day!) die.

September 3, 2014, 4:23 PM

I disagree too! James is a moron.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 4:49 PM

Wow, this thread exploded overnight. Anyway, my answer to the original question is this: Yes, there is a place for kiddie lands in amusement parks, but they should be well done and not the only source of kiddie rides. I do think it is a good idea to have a designated area of kids rides in a park so that parents can let kids have fun on rides built specifically for them. It doesn't matter how simple the individual rides are, but they should at least be separated from basic carnival rides in some way. The kids area should also be somewhat separate from other areas of the park so that anyone not intending to be there won't be there. Finally, there should be one or two larger family rides in or near the kiddie area so that families with different age groups may split up easily if necessary. In my opinion, Kiddie Kingdom is an example of how not to do a kiddie land, while places like the various Camp/Planet Snoopy areas around the Cedar Fair chain are generally a good example of how a kiddie land should be done (Kings Island's and Carowinds's are especially great).

In addition to a kiddie land, each area of a park should have at least one attraction with a 42" or lower restriction. For the most part, this will allow the family to travel together without anyone being left out of the fun. It's unrealistic for a family to never split up, but segregating certain members to one area of the park for the day is not how you do it. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of the best at having kid-friendly attractions throughout the park, whether it be a ride, show, or display. For the most part, the Six Flags parks fail the worst at this.

Of course, there is an alternative option: build an entire park full of nothing but family rides. This is the model followed by Disneyland and LEGOLAND, and while it works well for those parks it would be a bad move for a more ride-based park.

September 3, 2014, 6:07 PM

To me, the answer is, it depends if we're talking about a Theme Park, or an Amusement park.

If something is a true theme park, then I think all rides should be as open as possible to all ages in each attraction, and little if any age separation - its counter intuitive to proper theming. Disneyland and Epcot being the key examples of this type.

Amusement parks are about Rides, with theming as an afterthought at worst, thin facade at best. In these places, Kiddylands are a necessary evil... Its going to take some serious engineering to create the appropriate safety harnesses to fit an adult and a kid.

What isn't acceptable is cheap kiddylands who do the exact same ride mechanic with different themed vehicles. e.g.- flat spinners that have cars, and then another one with boats, etc.

Edited: September 3, 2014, 7:22 PM

I don't believe crappy kiddie lands are a necessary evil. Parks can spend their money however they want, and quality family attractions don't have to cost a $100M to build. And we should patronize those parks that don't segregate the family.

As the father of three, many times I had to choose between going or not going to a park based upon the number of good rides we could experience together as a family. If the total was lacking, we simply choose another destination. Why do you think the Rao Family waited so long to go to Cedar Point and Kings Island? The latter of those two is considered to have one of the best kiddie areas in the nation. But is it really a vacation destination for a family with under 48" kids? I don't think so. In fact Kings Island is a pretty lame park if you remove every ride that has a 48" or taller height requirement. And it definitely is not a destination for traveling families with money to burn. No, when my kids were young/short, and I had to choose between a whole family park with no über coasters and a thrill park with Kiddie Kingdom, I would go to Disneyland/World, where a family can be a family.

So, yeah, AJ, you're right, we do need a lot more Disneyland's and a lot fewer Crappy Kingdoms.

September 4, 2014, 5:47 AM

While I don't think there should be a place for kiddie rides in a theme park, I think there is absolutely a place for kid "zones" in a theme park, such as the Jurassic play land in IOA or the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" area in DHS. These areas don't have rides to wait for, they only have one entrance and exit, and they allow kids to run off steam for a bit without the parent having to keep up for a while. There's really no need for an area full of rides just for kids to wait in lines when they can get an equal level of stimulation in a highly-themed play area.

September 4, 2014, 6:19 AM

Both of those areas are fun for the whole family, Nick, so I totally agree. Even a kiddie ride like pteranadon flyers is a lot of fun if the wait is not excessive. Tom Sawyer's Island is another great place for families to have fun together. We need more areas like these, to be sure.

September 4, 2014, 7:08 AM

Pteranodon Flyers would be great if adults could ride it on their own! I've always wanted to ride even though reviews are pretty lukewarm. Maybe it's because I want what I can't have. Also, has that ride ever had anything other than an hour wait??

Edited: September 4, 2014, 7:42 AM

Visit in early May or September, IOA is EMPTY! In fact, when we visited and there was no line they did let me ride sans the kiddies! I had them with me, so they knew I was a papa, but I let the boys ride together then I followed as a solo rider!!

September 4, 2014, 8:51 AM

Shhh James. Don't let the secret about September out.

September 4, 2014, 9:25 AM

Ah Pteranodon Flyers... The one ride that eludes me on every trip. I visit every October, but even after pleading my case with the Cast Member that stands at the station before the line I have yet to be able to ride. I know the ride will be disappointing. I know it won't be worth the wait, but there are only a handful of rides that I have never been on in either IOA or the studios park (mainly the kiddie ones). I'm thinking this October I'll hold up a $5 bill and offer a parent to let me "rent" their child to be able to ride. Yes, it seems odd to do, but that might actually work.

September 4, 2014, 9:36 AM

Yeah... Renting a kid. That doesn't scream pedophile much...

Disney does it right with headline attractions mixed in amongst smaller family attractions. If your kid can't ride Thunder Mountain, they can still enjoy Frontierland by taking a cruise on the Mark Twain or the shooting gallery. Kiddie Lands are just lazy areas parks set up quickly to appear as family friendly as they build another record breaking coaster in their local market.

September 4, 2014, 9:56 AM

Where in IOA do they manage the kid-renting so that I may enjoy Pteranodon Flyers? Is it next to Customer Service??

September 4, 2014, 10:10 AM

You will get "banned at Six Flags" for trying the rent a kid thing. Don't try it.

September 4, 2014, 2:04 PM

Personal experience?

Edited: September 4, 2014, 3:20 PM

Why not do a Google search before attacking?

"1. Don’t ask if you can take other people’s children on rides."

September 4, 2014, 4:06 PM

Mental floss? Sounds like something people use to clean their brains! I coulda used some of that after walking through The Point's Crappy Kingdom!

Funny, I used to pay people to watch my kids and now I find out there may be a racket in selling them out as ride companions!? Dang, I missed out on making a fortune!

Edited: September 4, 2014, 4:50 PM

Flume dog is available, James, but not at Six Flags. Give him a call.

September 4, 2014, 5:49 PM

Sadly, my kids are too old and tall now... They can't add to my finances, only drain them.

September 5, 2014, 8:55 AM

As the father of a 2-1/2 year old, I appreciate the set aside kiddie land. In fact I am almost annoyed that we have to leave the kiddie land to get to all of the kiddie rides. The kiddie land allows my son to run off the tether a little bit more than what he is allowed to do in the rest of the park.

Something else very interesting to note. While my son is too short to ride the kiddie teacups by himself, he can ride the adult teacups all day with me. And the tilt-a-whirl...which is probably his favorite ride.

The only attraction that my son is tall enough to ride is the Ghostblaster ride at Elitches...the height requirement is 30 inches...but my son doesn't much care for it since he doesn't understand the shooting mechanism of the ride and it is a little too scary for him.

Edited: September 13, 2014, 12:30 PM

One thing I've noticed through the years is height limits have been greatly changed on some family rides due to safety factors that have prevented many rides to no longer allow small children. Another thing I don't like was the removal of bucket seats on some rides which became flat seats to accomondate big people instead of children thus upping the height requirement in some cases. I never understood why they couldn't have altered some of the seats to provide seating for the large guest and keep most bucket seats for small and normal sized guest which are more comfortable. I agree that too many kiddie rides take away from the family unity time at parks. I think they need only so many young kid only rides and more family rides. Sad we see the popularity of family rides get push aside for the much cheaper kid rides. Kids enjoy being able to ride along big people rides like water flumes with their parents and older siblings. I agree mostly with James Roa. I don't like the trend of less quality family rides for more little kid only rides. They don't have a big attention spand and don't need 20 kiddie rides. More time should be spent as a family unit than this division of the family breaking up for long periods of time. True, you don't spend the big bucks at theme parks for your kids to ride many cheesy coin operated style rides, and I loved rides that I could bring my small child on to ride together and with the whole family.

Edited: September 22, 2014, 5:32 AM

The flimsy starting point with this subject, is that the different ages were not defined... and they are ESSENTIAL, in this discussion !
Parks do NOT invest in toddlers, because it's pointless, from "major attraction viewpoint". They invest (sometimes) in making PARENTS feel, as if it's better fun then at home. (Theming) At least, they must tell parents to spend money...

--------- Referencing those :
From James Rao on September 1, 2014 at 6:29 AM
... two Walt Disney quotes:
"We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun together."
"You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

Walt Disney never talked about babies and toddles. When he mentioned "kids", that mentally started only around the age of 5-6. The age when kids start understanding "abstract concepts".
The "..Adults are only kids grown up, anyway. .." is psycholgical garbadge. But is was excelling MARKETING, of course. When playing adults refer to "still being a kid", they invariably recall memories from the ages AFTER 12 yo!
So, to give it somehow a pitch of viability , you could change Walt's gibberish (but commercialy effective) oneliner into : "Adults are only teenagers grown up, anyway, more or less..." :-)

This is all about child development psychology !!
No way around it.

Babies, are 9999% unconcious about where they are, except for "with the mother/father" or "not with the mother/fathher". This means you can still take them anywhere with you, if the circumstances for the baby are comfortable, but there is ZERO relation to the experiences, sights and sounds in a park. (ZERO)

The Age 2-3 years old, is in the learning curve to imitate and test limits of charm-and-terror, with their parents.
The theme park is useless to them. The toddler is outragiously happy with a red and a yellow ball on a blue floor, to draw the mood. If parents take their toddlers to an amusement park, it's NOT to please the toddler in real reality, it's to fake their own complicated feelings towards a park, on the toddler.
Best advice : do not take 2-3 yo toddlers to an amusement park. They ONLY care for plain coulours and for the exploration of textures, and moderate movements. In most cases, "At home" is the ideal place ! ... (Sorry to disapoint) So, at a restaurant, the soft plain-coulours play-on-the-floor toddler zone in a "family" restaurant, is probably the total hit over ANY kind of amusement park or theme park. Also, the one big tame rabbit on the lawn, is hitting astronomically far over whatever $ 5 billion Disney.
Parents deniening this reality, probably refused the local free parentship workshop.. ;-) Parents project their world on the toddler, and are wrong doing so.
I repeat, Best advice : do not take 2-3 yo toddlers to an amusement park. Now also for other reasons: the unavoidable negatives of it ! One of the strongest personality development characteristics with the 2-3 yo, is that he/she cannot WAIT. Any WAIT is ruining life for the toddler. The 10 minute wait is too long. The 30 minute wait is mortal. "Peter Pan becomes a nightmare, before getting in."
NOTHING a theme park can change about it, it's toddler psychology. Know it, respect it, ACT to it, not take them to an amusement park. .. ;-)
Other fact : the 2-3 yo, still cannot 'share' in play with other kids. Grab-push, laught-cry ... are standards. (Those toddlers, by the way are cruel to each other.) Theme parks do NOT cater for toddler play. Scream/shout and other forms of aggression when leaving a place is "normal", for the kid. The kid is not yet ready for any SHEDULED rides, or in general, sheduled experiences. Don't "folter" them with those... just don't go.

Old toddlers (3-)4-5. (It happens, but rarely, that a kid enters the 3rd phase before it's age of 4.)
As "being reasonable" and social is happening in this development age, and stories get a meaning because they can now project them on their emerging social skills, it is the first age where theme parks can get fun, and last in memory. (Only aspects of it)

Everything else in consistently appreciating parks (or whatever) and bringing home memories of it, is only starting at the age of 5-6. By the way, have you ever thought about WHY primary school start at the age of 6 ?... Right...! ^_^

An example can make it more clear :
Let's compare the young ages in "Peter Pan flight".

BABY age
Take him in, the experience is virtually "unexisting for the baby", happy as long as he is safe (sleeping) with the parent...

2-3 yo
To wait : horrible. The gentle swing of the seating vessel: fun. The sights: uninteresting (as no bright coulours and cannot grab anything). The darkness: amazingly often NO problem, as being with the parents (mental connotation darkness-danger, does not yet exist)
Overall experience : same (not more) as a gentle swing at home, less because of the negatives (wait, cannot decide, grab, etc).

4-5 yo
Ok with a SHORT waiting time. The gentle ride movements: fun. The sights: interesting, but often for DIFFERENT reasons or details then what adults would point them at. They will NOT catch a storyline, they will catch details in scenes, without tieing them together. The darkness: for many in this age could be a problem and frightening, as mental connotation darkness-danger is being set at the age.
Overall experience : mixed. One kid can come out smiling, the other crying. Will remember some of the loose emotions, not the "mental video".

One of the best options with toddlers (if you really want to take them, diehard focussed...) in theme parks, would be that ALL "family" restaurants and terraces, offer a coulourfull soft-play zone, with the parents-with-toddlers having tables next to it, and the other guests at a distance to avoid them getting upset by the eventual screaming.
The parents rest, and the toddler plays. "Like at home".
It is quite amazing that this kind of offer is, generally speaking, not available. But it DOES make sense.

When going into pre-feasibility & concept for a project, psycho-social age-segmentation is essential. The age groups DO have particularities, NOT met by the other age groups, and denying this reality is professional stupidity.
(And there are not less then... 12 meaningfull age partitions in life, to consider... ^_^ )


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