The recent dip in Disney's U.S. theme park attention has attracted a lot of attention not just from fans, but also from many outside the industry. I've lost count of the interview requests I've gotten from reporters who want to talk about Disney's theme park attendance. It's definitely news — Disney hasn't had an attendance drop that wasn't connected to a big economic downturn in a generation.
But what if, rather than pointing fingers at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge or Disney's incessant price increases, we considered that maybe this summer's attendance dip wasn't something out of the ordinary? What if this latest attendance decline is connected to an economic downturn, after all? It's just that perhaps this time Disney's attendance has become a leading indicator of a coming recession rather than a lagging indicator that only shows after the downturn.
More than a few analysts have suggested that a recession might be coming in the year ahead. Whether that's likely or not is a subject for an economics website, not a theme park one, but since I believe in always helping you to plan ahead, let's look at some options if you need to save some money on your summer vacation next year.
Obviously, the most effective way to save money on a vacation is to not take one. But as a dedicated theme park fan, that's the option of last resort for me. I'd much rather substitute destinations or accommodations so that my family can continue enjoy some fun time off and away, even when money gets tight.
So what would some of those "recession friendly" destinations be?
Here are five theme parks that will be offering new attractions in 2020 that also offer admission and accommodations for less than you'll likely find at Disney or Universal. And once you're done at the parks, you can find other attractions nearby, helping to make these destinations great places for a vacation.
Busch Gardens Tampa — If you can't bear not to visit Florida next year, why not head west toward the Gulf Coast for a visit to Busch Gardens Tampa? Florida's original major theme park next year will open the nation's tallest and fastest hybrid coaster, Iron Gwazi — the first Rocky Mountain Construction coaster in the state.
Visiting Tampa instead of Orlando also puts you a lot closer to the beach if you'd like to extend your vacation with a great Florida attraction that doesn't charge admission.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia is offering another Orlando alternative in 2020 with the debut of Pantheon, which will be the nation's fastest multi-launch coaster when it debuts. If you've enjoyed Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure this summer, Pantheon will offer much the same ride system, including the spike track and backward segment.
Busch Gardens might be the most "Disney"-like of all regional theme parks, with outstanding theming and decoration throughout. And it lies just down the road from the wonderful Colonial Williamsburg as well as Historic Jamestown, offering several days of additional vacation activities to area visitors.
Hersheypark is opening the park's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster next year — Candymonium. The Bolliger & Mabillard Hyper will anchor a new entry area for the park.
In addition to the 15 coasters that will be available in the park next year, don't miss the Hershey's Chocolate World attraction next door. The Hershey's Chocolate Tour dark ride is free and other experiences are available with ticket bundles.
Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana is declaring itself the world's water coaster capital in 2020 with its opening for Cheetah Chase, the park's third water coaster. This ProSlide RocketBlast racing coaster will feature a flat launch and several interaction moments for the two slides.
Holiday World also stands just a few miles from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, where the future president grew up. Located just off Interstate 64 west of Louisville, Holiday World can be a nice summer roadtrip stop as you drive through the Midwest.
Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri will open Mystic River Falls in 2020 — featuring the tallest drop on a rapids ride in North America. Themed to the discovery of the park's Marvel Cave, the ride will feature an 82-foot, four-platform rotating elevator lift tower and an elevated river channel on a nearly half-mile, five-and-a-half-minute adventure.
Branson is also one of the Midwest's top tourist destinations, with multiple attractions. For more money-saving tips and links for theme park vacations, please see our guide below.Tweet
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.