Why do people go to theme parks?
Why do you visit theme parks? Obviously, if you've found your way through the Internet to a website called "Theme Park Insider," you're probably a fan or maybe an industry employee (or perhaps both!) But that doesn't explain why
you chose to get into all of this.
The simplistic answer to why people visit theme parks is "to go on rides," but that's hardly the only thing bringing hundreds of millions of fans to resorts such as Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Tokyo Disney, and Universal Orlando every year. In my Orange County Register column this week, I write about some of the many other reasons that people visit theme parks, which might be the most multi-functional public spaces in the world today.
Yeah, many of us love the rides. But what about the shows? Or the increasing emphasis on role-playing in interactive attractions such as the wand play in Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town Alive?
When was the last time you visited a park simply to eat and drink? Or to buy souvenirs (whether for yourself or to flip on eBay?) For many fans, visiting theme parks is primarily a social experience — to spend the day with friends or family... or maybe to take pictures and video to post to social media such as Instagram or Snapchat.
By the way, this is where I send a thankful shout-out to the folks at the official Disney Parks Blog. On the day that I drop a newspaper column pegged to so many people using Disneyland as an Instagram background, they put up a blog post with even more suggestions for social media photo ops at the Disney theme parks. Thanks for the synergy there, guys! Much appreciated.
Anyway... let's get to the discussion. What got you into visiting theme parks? What keeps you coming back? And what could parks do (other than lowering prices) that would get you into the parks even more often?
Read Robert's column:
Disney World when I was nine, fell in love instantly with it. Really helped by my family living in Florida from 1991-95 and got to visit it more. Done Universal as well as Six Flags park and yes, the rides and shows are a big deal. But do love atmosphere and such and the way you can enjoy a much different world.
Nostalgia, escapism, a little staycation.
I think it's all about convenience, accessibility, and wide appeal. Theme parks are almost always located near major cities with easy to access airports, which allow guests to easily plan trips with few complications, even if you're going to multiple parks across multiple chains in a single trip. Once your in the parks, things can get complicated, but for the most part, planning the general logistics for a theme park vacation are pretty simple. Parks are making it even easier with airport connection shuttles, on-property hotels, and other amenities that can make a theme park vacation very much like an all-inclusive resort at a tropical paradise. Not only are theme parks easy destinations for vacation, they also are great options for day and weekend trips that are becoming more common in our fast paced world. If you live in or near a major city, visiting a theme park for a day is an easy and cheap alternative to more distant natural wonders or crowded and expensive urban attractions.
For me it is two words - immersion and escapism. The deeper the immersion, the greater the escapism. From the actual themed park itself to its individual themed lands and areas to its attractions, rides and shows to its themed dining.....and above all, its emphasis on fun and enjoyment. Everybody is different but nowhere detaches me from today's intense world more than WDW and Universal Orlando to the point of addiction.
I completely agree with ProfPlum, it’s all about escapism for me. The world we live in today can be so tiresome, frustrating and unfathomable that being immersed in a fantasy world that allows me to forget about it for even a day or so is immensely appealing.
Going to Disneyland helps me feel like a kid again. I'm scared to try and go back with kids of my own, forcing me to be an adult in the park and ruining the joy.
Theme parks are a cultural phenomenon. It's pretty much an American past time. But enjoying it has been less enjoyable lately. I can't tell if the major theme park operators are intentionally killing the golden goose by awful customer service decisions. Certainly, the customer isn't always right, but the operators aren't always honest. Just saw on Youtube a complaint that Disneyland doesn't fully staff Mickey and Friends parking structure an hour before the park opens. It forces all incoming traffic into one lane and one booth for collection parking fees. This ruins many people's moods that it takes one hour to get from parking entrance to park entrance. I had that experience going at the regular hours when they are fully staffed. It takes one hour to pay, park, security, and tram ride.
Depends on your age. You try to avoid it but the main reason really is the rides, especially for k-12 kids. When kids are young they love the rides but they also like the characters and the theme. When kids are older it moves to mainly rides and immersion. As adults we enjoy a fully immersive land and having fun with our kids and seeing joy on there face.
Why? I like the guest relations that Disney has. Orlando Studios is good, but certainly not the best. I don’t go to places like Six Flags America (near Washington DC), even though I live very close to it. The rides are great, but the guest relations just isn’t there. The food is more expensive than at Disney, and the quality at Six Flags is below... The guests at Six Flags were more like customers or visitors. The workers are there for a quick summer job, and many of them leave before the season is over to return to college.
Disney’s problem right now is that it has too many guests. They’ve raised prices, and the gusts just pay more. The crowd problem is still there. They have closed the Magic Kingdom early for special events (e.g., Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party), and charged another exorbitant fee. Yes, this has reduced the evening crowd a little, but for those of us who spend the entire day there, we pay twice. The other way to reduce the crowd is to add new attractions, or open a new park. Disney has done a good job with 4 theme parks, plus a couple water parks, plus Disney Springs (Downtown Disney), plus all the things to do in and around the hotels. The problem is that the crowds continue to grow.
I think Prof Plum got it right with immersion and escapism. It is also purely 'fun' and something the young and old, solo travellers, teenagers and families can enjoy. Walt was on to something when he set Disneyland up in the first place! I agree about the lines and queues- how they raise prices yet people still go. I was shocked about the price for a 2 day hopper pass for Universal Studios Orlando. OMG. But I will pay as I do want to experience it. By the way, the Disneylands in Hong Kong and Tokyo are cheaper!!
Robert. Do you think disney will end up with the huge fox studio lot (in the buyout to be announced tomarrow) and make it into a additional gate theme park. Tons of disneyland patrons drive from LA county and ventura county and even kern, tulare and fresno counties. All of the calif parks, do not have to be adjacent to each other.
I hate the escapism angle, it has brought too many mentally unstable folks to the parks (They aren't hard to spot). I do enjoy the fun aspect with family and still do. Good quality is good quality, and pretty much all the Orlando parks (and SoCal) have it in spades.
It escapism and the quality of the experience. The highly themed areas, the atmosphere the beautifully kept grounds and gardens.
Why do I visit theme parks? It's all about using machines and technology to create entertainment. For me, I find endless fascination in observing how all these different disciplines come together into a final product. From set design, to lighting and sound, to show control...an amazing final product emerges. Granted the main idea behind a great attraction is to provide immersion and you shouldn't even be focused on "how did they do that!" But for me, it's about the nuts and bolts.
"Here is some large industrial machine that normally would be found in some factory bending metal or assembling some product but slap some seats on it and it becomes "a ride"."
I know industrial accidents and I don't want to be turned into ground beef.
I initially started going to theme parks b/c my ex-fiance told me that I was too old to ride roller coasters and I didn't think that this was an accurate assessment. (At the time he was wrong but 7 years later he may be right, as I've sustained 2 rib contusions in the past 4 months from riding coasters.) I continued to go b/c 1) I became addicted to roller coasters; 2) I love a park atmosphere; and 3) I was hoping to establish myself as a coaster critic and that meant going to as many parks and riding as many coasters as possible. Now I go b/c it's just plain fun and a relatively cheap getaway. (It would be dirt cheap if I didn't have to figure in the cost of transportation.) Think about it: the price of admission at the gate at Six Flags Great Adventure has gone up to $76.99 and my season pass good for admission to any Six Flags park (including parking) cost about $85. This season I've been to Great Adventure probably between 8 and 10 times and to Six Flags parks in other areas of the country 4 times. That's over $900 worth of entertainment for $85. Can't beat it.
"Its not cheap and it is crowded and getting worse."
>> Do you think disney will end up with the huge fox studio lot (in the buyout to be announced tomarrow) and make it into a additional gate theme park.<<
Ok, I am one of the first latch-key kids. Both my Father and Mother had full time Professional careers. My mom went to work on Friday, and was born on Saturday in 1960. My mother was back to work full time shortly after. So I had a nanny at first, then when I started to go to school (Kindergarden), progressed to a Housekeeper, but in reality, a babysitter also. She would pick me up from school until the third grade, when I transferred too the nearby school and walked home. I read at a very young age (3 - surprised my parents by reading street/traffic signs). So my parents gave me some freedom, learned the bus system, and was lucky enough that my Father had connections through Hubbs to get me a Season Pass to SeaWorld when I was around. But the park I loved to go to as a pre-teen was Belmont Park, especially riding the Giant Dipper (San Diego Version) but things like the Fun House and the arcade also were great. there was a mini-Golf course in Pacific Beach on Grand I also loved.
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