Record coaster drives record attendance at Silver Dollar City

January 2, 2019, 7:27 PM · Branson, Missouri's Silver Dollar City reported today that the park broke its all-time attendance record in 2018, welcoming 2,184,000 visitors last year.

Silver Dollar City in March opened Time Traveler, $26 million Mack Rides spinning coaster that set records as the world's fastest, tallest, and steepest spinning coaster. With a 100-foot, 90 degree drop, two launches, and three inversions, including a vertical loop, dive loop, and zero-G roll, the coaster won raves from fans, including our James Rao.

Meanwhile, Swedish theme park Liseberg also reported its 2018 attendance. The park attracted 3,055,000 visitors in 2018 — down a scant 5,000 guests from 2017's 3,060,000 attendance. Higher attendance for Halloween and Christmas festivals helped offset a four percent decline in attendance during the summer season last year at the park.

Perhaps that summer attendance might have pushed higher if Liseberg's record-setting roller coaster, Valkyria, hasn't been delayed until a mid-August opening. With a 164-foot drop, the Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster is Europe's tallest and longest installation of that model.

We have seen this same pattern at countless parks before, where record-setting roller coasters help drive record-setting attendance. But to take full advantage of that potential, you've got to have your coaster open at the start of the season... and not toward its end.

We should get a more complete view of attendance trends across the industry when the TEA/AECOM Theme Index attendance report for 2018 comes out this spring.

Replies (7)

January 2, 2019 at 7:49 PM

Liseberg did intend to have Valkyria ready by the start of summer when construction began and encountered difficulties building the tunnel section for this ride. Gothenburg's clay is the issue per what the theme park told Swedish media. Safety testing wasn't completed till July, leading to that August debut. Best laid plans of Mice and Viking descendants....;)

January 3, 2019 at 5:30 AM

I've written it before, and I'll write it again, Silver Dollar City is the best THEME PARK west of the Magic Kingdom and east of Disneyland, and should be on every TPI fan's MUST DO list. Time Traveler is an excellent, one of a kind experience, a great addition to an already strong coaster line up at the park, and an attraction that should be on every coaster fan's MUST DO list. Add an amazing new coaster to an already great park and what do you get? A record setting year at Silver Dollar City. Here's to hoping for bigger and better things in the future!

January 3, 2019 at 12:06 PM

If your family is struggling to afford a Disney World vacation, don't waste your effort complaining about that online. Look into a roadtrip visiting places such as Silver Dollar City, Holiday World, Dollywood, or Busch Gardens Williamsburg instead. They all offer great theming, friendly service, world-class attractions, and unbeatable value.

If you can afford Disney and want to stick with it, great! But some wonderful alternatives are out there for you, too... if you're in the market for one.

January 3, 2019 at 12:50 PM

@Robert - I would say YMMV in terms of smaller regional parks offering a better value than WDW. WDW is certainly not the value it once was, but at least it's near a major airport with ample hotels and access to multiple modes of ground transportation.

I've frequently looked at traveling to SDC, but getting there even from a major east coast city (like Washington DC with 3 major airports) can be 3-4 times more expensive than getting to Orlando. Sure, you can fly to St. Louis or Kansas City, but both options are still at least double the cost of flying to Orlando, and that's before you consider the costs of a 4-hour drive to Branson.

Holiday World, Dollywood, and BGW are similar in their distance from major airports. Nashville is becoming a bigger hub, as is Indy, but neither is particularly cheap when compared to Orlando, while Williamsburg is 3+ hours from the DC airports and 2+ hours from RDU, which is also a pricey airport to get to.

Now, if you're going to make it a full road trip experience, and avoid airports altogether, you can certainly find value compared to Orlando for admissions and lodging, but in turn, you might have a harder time filling an entire week full of activities without driving 2+ hours away from the theme parks.

I don't want to downplay the criticism the decreasing value of a WDW vacation, but these smaller parks don't necessary represent better values if you have to fly to reach these more off-the-beaten path destinations.

January 3, 2019 at 3:04 PM

Absolutely. So let's definitely put an emphasis on the word "roadtrip" in my response.

And I'd also add that roadtripping is a different beast that "driving a car to a destination," but that's a whole another post right there.

January 3, 2019 at 5:17 PM

Disney is not alone in driving up the cost of a theme park destination resort vacation in the USA. Universal mostly matches the same price increases. Since both of the major players are seeing increases in revenue and profit and strong numbers both in Florida and California, and, frankly, both are part of larger corporations that view their respective theme park businesses as cash cows, this is likely to continue. The 2 major players share the blame.

January 3, 2019 at 10:40 PM

I'm glad to see Silver Dollar City doing so well, and I'm really looking forward to checking it out myself next summer. Like others have said, I strongly recommend that any theme park fan take the time to check out regional theme parks like here and Dollywood instead of doing Disney for the nth time. Truthfully, out of the 80+ parks I've visited, no non-castle Disney park makes my top ten, and some parks few would suspect rank way up there. Yes, unless you do a road trip it needs to be a vacation that includes a theme park rather than a theme park vacation, but if you visit Disney or Universal because you like theme parks and not just because you like the IP many major parks around the country are well worth checking out.

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