Which theme parks in Southern California should we cover more often?

September 4, 2012, 8:40 PM · Which Southern California theme parks would you like to read about more often? I'm planning our coverage here on Theme Park Insider for the next several months, and want to hear from you about which parks we should give the most attention.

Obviously, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure are the big parks in Southern California. They're the region's most visited parks, and I think they're Disney's top two parks in America for quality. But how about the other parks?

Now, I'm still planning on covering all the other parks in SoCal. I think they're each doing things I consider important and noteworthy. But beyond that minimum, I want to know how much more you'd like to hear about them. So I've got five polls below - one for each park. Please take a moment to vote in each, to let us know how likely you'd be to read additional features about these five theme parks.

Universal Studios Hollywood


Why it's important: The nation's 10th most visited theme park is about to undergo a major transformation, including the construction of a new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Its Transformers: The Ride 3D just won our Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction of the year, and new attractions, a new hotel and a new station for its famed Studio Tour all are included in its ambitious new development plan, to be built over the next decade.

SeaWorld San Diego

One Ocean

Why it's important: The nation's 12th most visited theme park is SeaWorld's original park, located a short walk from the Pacific Ocean, on San Diego's Mission Bay. Its more family-friendly version of the Manta roller coaster gave this park its first world-class thrill ride, while upping its standards for decoration and design. With deep-pocketed new owners in place, SeaWorld has the potential for some major new shows and park enhancements.

Knott's Berry Farm


Why it's important: Parent company Cedar Fair's new CEO, Matt Ouimet, recently ran Disneyland, and he "gets it" - he knows the value of theming parks while providing world-class customer service, and he also values Knott's great history. The park's Mystery Lodge remains one of the best shows in the theme park business and new menus are now in place at many of the park's restaurants. And there's that Giga coaster rumor out there which just won't go away….

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Green Lantern: First Flight

Why it's important: Magic Mountain's the world's coaster capital, with more roller coasters than any other park in the world. And the park's not afraid to experiment in the thrill ride realm, with attractions such as X2 and its recent drop ride/coaster mash-up of Superman and Lex Luthor. Next summer's Full Throttle will offer a unique new track element, as well.

Legoland California

Star Wars Miniland

Why it's important: Legoland's first US theme park remains one of the world's best theme park experiences for elementary-aged children. Legoland does a better job than anyone in creating participatory attractions, such as the Driving School and the Police and Fire Academy, which involve kids in active play in ways that more passive theme park rides and shows simply can't.

I'll have additional posts like this one in the weeks to come about Central Florida theme parks, as well as for other parks around the country. (I started with Southern California, since that's where I live.) Got some thoughts about these five theme parks, or want to volunteer to help us cover them? The comments await you!

Replies (20)

September 4, 2012 at 9:03 PM · For USH I voted I'd read them even when I'm on TPI. The rest hold little to no interest to me.
September 5, 2012 at 7:29 AM · Why do you need to ask? You report when news happens. Does this mean you will ignore when we might not want to hear about a certain park like Six Flags Tragic Mountain?
September 5, 2012 at 8:40 AM · Read the post.

As I said, I'll report what I consider is important, but there's enormous leeway in selecting which parks to really delve into: talking about strategy, aesthetics, technology, food, etc. If readers don't really care about reading that much detail about certain parks, I don't want to waste my time, or yours. I'll just stick with the big news for them.

From what I'm seeing, you seem to really want more info on USH and SFMM. Then Knotts. But I'm not seeing a huge demand for additional detail on the San Diego County parks, SeaWorld and Legoland.

Legoland doesn't surprise me, given its relatively smaller attendance and limited target market. But SeaWorld outdraws Knott's and SFMM, the later by 50%. I was expecting to see more demand for additional coverage there, to be honest.

September 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM · A vote like this is a little tough. I think many of us visit TPI on a daily basis (at a minimum) and read the coverage from all of the parks, not just the ones in our area. We may read with more delight about the ones we live near and will comment more on those ones, but we love it all, Robert.
September 5, 2012 at 11:03 AM · I would add Water Parks in your updates except there aren't any good ones in Southern California (Aside from Raging Waters which has a bunch of rides but is devoid of any theme or theatrics)

All the best Water Parks are outside California. (Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Aquatica, Schlitterbahn, Etc)

September 5, 2012 at 12:01 PM · I always like to see stuff about parks I visit regularly, and I think anything would be good as this site feels a bit Florida heavy in general. However, I wouldn't visit the site more often as I already visit daily, and I read pretty much everything posted regardless of where it is from.
September 5, 2012 at 12:02 PM · I find the ongoing SFMM narrative fascinating. I've been once and am unlikely to visit again in the next decade - but as an interesting character in the global theme park tableaux, it's one I'll spend the time to read up on.
September 5, 2012 at 1:40 PM · Dan, that's an interesting point. I was talking with an official at SeaWorld San Diego about whether they'd ever bring Aquatica there, and he pretty much ruled it out. He just kinda waved his arms around, and given that it was 70 degrees and mostly cloudy on a day in late May, I got the point - if you're next to the coast, as SeaWorld is, it's just not hot enough for a water park. And who wants to compete with the beach? The few waterparks we have, therefore, are inland.

And here's another social quirk of Southern California: No one drives inland. Wherever people live in the area, they'll drive long distances toward the ocean, but people hate driving inland. The westside crowd hates going downtown. And everyone hates driving to the Inland Empire. That puts the inland waterparks at a huge disadvantage for drawing crowds. If we have to go inland, we might as well be driving to Vegas. That's the only reason anyone out here will drive east.


September 5, 2012 at 1:44 PM · I find Ben's point exceptionally valuable. Not only do I want to hear which parks most interest you, I'd also like to hear what kinds of stories you'd like to explore in each park.

FWIW, I agree with Ben's example, too - I find SFMM much more interesting as a laboratory for thrill ride development than as a place to hang out, as I would do at Disneyland and California Adventure. That still makes SFMM interesting to me, as both a reader and reporter, even though I don't plan as many trips there as I do to other parks. Knowing that, I'm inclined to shift my coverage of the park away from lots of trip-planning pieces and more towards tech pieces and profiles of individual attractions and their place within the industry.

Thoughts on that?

September 5, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Well, I read all the updates on the site, so I'll continue to do that. But I actually think the site does a good job of covering all the parks when there's news.

But just happy to see the SoCal parks represented!

And maybe an occasional spotlight on Vegas? While it's not exactly a top 10, there are attractions (There's the Adventuredome....the coaster at NY NY, the coaster at State line, the rides atop the Stratosphere, etc.)

And then there's GA (NoCal)

September 5, 2012 at 5:49 PM · Cover 'em all! Cover everything!

We can decide what or what not to read.

September 5, 2012 at 8:54 PM · Robert,

Our family lives in greater Los Angeles, and I'd like to read more about the theme parks that we attend (our children are 9 and 6). We visit the local Disney parks, Knott's Berry Farm, and Legoland at least once a year. We have not been to Universal Studios (not appropriate for our children) or Sea World (combination of too far away and not interesting for our kids). We used to go to Magic Mountain, but only to visit the Bugs Bunny World, and have not been for a while.

Having been reading your site for about a year, I find the articles about planning vacations (especially financial planning), news about big events (the opening of Cars Land and One More Disney Day), and visits to foreign parks most interesting. If you had meaningful content on the Disney Cruise Line or the Aulani resort in Hawaii, I'd come to the website more often to read those articles. I appreciate all the interesting and well-written content on your site.

September 5, 2012 at 9:00 PM · Mike is right. The more topics you cover, the more interesting the site is. There's times that there really isn't much fresh news concerning the Big Three. Cover everything of interest.
September 5, 2012 at 9:23 PM · I am interested in the listed parks in this order: Knotts, USH, SFMM, SeaWorld, and Legoland. I guess I am just not sure what else you can write about them other than attraction news? None of them are destination parks, and none of them offer much in the way of unique experiences other than coaster count (Magic Mt) and Transformers (which will be rendered irrelevant when the Orlando version is complete). So what more can you report on than you do today?

I have heard the food and food options (as you noted) at Knotts have improved drastically, so maybe that is an angle you can cover? Also, are there other things at these parks that make them stand out? Hidden gems? Unique experiences outside of the known commodities? In essence, cover things that only a local who can visit every day would have time to experience. That info would be worth a gander.

September 5, 2012 at 10:56 PM · I'd love to do everything for every park, including some of the great ideas James suggested, but I'm only one person here - with 24 hours in the day (16 if I sleep, which I'd like to do). So I've got to make some choices. Rather than cover stuff few people will read, I'm just trying to get an idea from you where I'm getting the most return in your attention for my reporting efforts.

That said, if anyone would like to volunteer to post to the blog about some of these parks now and then, that'd help us have more coverage of them, too. Especially for the San Diego parks, which are farthest from me.

September 6, 2012 at 10:03 PM · Although, this story is about coverage at the SoCal parks. I would like to add an angle based on another comment about some of those parks not being "destination" parks. Why not do a few articles on what could or should be done to turn those parks (among others nationwide) into destination parks?

James Rao and I can agree that Silver Dollar City can be a destination park due to its strong theme. But, the park is small by comparison to many other parks. Which begs the question how can Dollywood be looked at as a destination park but Silver Dollar City which is owned by the same company not be?

SFMM is a Six Flags Park; but, it has been turned into a park with major thrill rides that drives its core business. How do you make an iconic park (Yes, I just called SFMM iconic) like SFMM into something that you have to go see?

I can remember in 2008 when I was in Anaheim stuck on the Disneyland Resort debating renting a car just to go to SFMM. Not, USH or Knotts or even the beach but to go see SFMM. What does that say? It has the potential to be a destination.

In Saint Louis right now there is this huge push for Transit-Oriented Development. The local Public Transit Authority is doing a huge survey asking anyone and everyone what they think and would like to see with development around transit and development of transit around certain things. Taking lots of information from Robert's story on transit in Europe I shared my thoughts on adding transit service to the local Six Flags Park in addition to adding light-rail stops near busy areas along existing lines.

I have sort of deviated but I think its important to cover in some stories especially for folks outside of SoCal and other parts of the country depending on the park(s) how to access those parks.

September 7, 2012 at 7:27 AM · Ben: Ironic you should mention parks linked to mass transit. Many of the first amusement parks in the early years of the 20th century were what was termed "Trolley Parks". The private transit companies built the parks to increase ridership on the usually slow weekends. Here in the Pittsburgh area, the historic landmark park Kennywood, was originally built by a trolley company, owned by the Mellon family, on the trolley route. At that time there were numerous parks throughout the area built on the same premise. Kennywood, which is hugely successful for a park its size, is one of the few survivors of that genre. The amusement/theme park business basically owes its existence to the transit driven weekend parks.
September 8, 2012 at 5:08 AM · In addition to the theme parks I also like reading about some of the other popular attractions one can see while visiting the area. In SoCal that includes the Aquarium of the Pacific, SD Zoo, museums, Santa Monica Pier/Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory, Rose Parade, etc. Unlike Central FL there's just so much more to see in SoCal than just theme parks.
September 8, 2012 at 10:50 AM · When I get to come to Southern CA to vacation (ie when I have saved enough money) I'm going to Disneyland. So as an out-of-towner, the "minor" parks hold very little interest for me.
September 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM · I would love to see more. I love the Disneyworld/Florida articles as that is my main vacation spot. Ca. Doesnt have as much, as an out-of-stater, for me to care beyond the big Boys of Disney and UH. Sea world,aside from Florida, feels very small time. I would love schlitterbahn reports, as these are such unique water parks, and I'd love to see things from Hershey, Busch, cedar park,etc. maybe even the huge malls with parks in them and things like great wolf lodges, ther six flags parks, and what the "other" parks in the U.S. have. Finally, I would love to see things about theme park cities like Vegas, San Antonio, and Atlantic city. Of course, that all depends on if you make a living from this site or not, but we can wish, right?

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