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Posts tagged “busch gardens

Should roller coaster influencers be criticized for not wearing masks?

The “mask wars” of the COVID-19 pandemic have finally made it to the amusement park fan community.

Recently, several prominent ride / park fans have been hit with online criticism recently for posting updates of them without masks from parks and facilities across the country.

Putting aside the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (or CDC) as of 8/26/20 says, “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” is the criticism over posting mask-less photos at parks warranted?

First, we should consider context. Someone could wear a mask all day inside a safely operating theme park, take it off for one moment and someone snaps a photo. From there, the internet (which is known for thoughtful, critical thinking) immediately piles on the update, saying, “How dare you not wear a mask!”

Context is key in terms of photos you see online, but is it sending the right message to fans?

That being said, let us also remember that large reach and “influence” on people’s behavior, comes with a heightened sense of awareness. We are no longer anonymous, general park guests.  

We certainly wouldn’t post a photo of us on a coaster with the restraints in an unsafe position – that would be irresponsible. Right now, the most responsible thing to do (if you’re outside your home) is to wear a mask and socially distance. As such, we should model that behavior to fans and to the general public.

Yes, this means we need to plan what we share even more carefully than before. And yes, it’s going to be more difficult to do. But these are inherently different times and much like the modified operations at the parks we enjoy, we too must adapt how we do things.

This may become the “new normal” when it comes to photos inside parks. No one likes it, but the alternative is far worse…

If someone’s not in a mask in a photo in a park – let’s opt to not use it or post it. Think of it like I do with empty seats in a photo…it just doesn’t look right.

The more we hammer home that none of this is normal, perhaps more people will take the pandemic and it’s effects more seriously. Only then will we be able to defeat this virus and return to a sense of normal. We owe it to the 190,000 of our fellow Americans who are no longer with us.

Look, 2020 has been one disaster after another, I get it. We are all still flying by the seat of our pants, trying to figure out what the path forward will be. Since there’s no way to stop snap judgments on the internet, let’s not give them the opportunity to make one.

TLDR: We’re probably gonna have to mask up…in every update. In every photo and video…until we beat this thing.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!


How to Make Ride Announcements Better for Amusement Park Chains

Mako at SeaWorld San Diego

It’s that time of year again – time for park fans to begin serious speculation about what may (or may not) be coming to their favorite parks in 2020.

With SeaWorld Parks already making announcements (or teasing them) for all of their parks, Cedar Fair and Six Flags are up next to reveal what’s in the works for next season.

Mako at SeaWorld San Diego

All of the SeaWorld parks are expecting major, new additions to their facilities in 2020, including Mako at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, CA.

There seems to be two trains of thought on how to best make these announcements: by individual park or as a complete chain.

At Cedar Fair it appears the chain spreads out their announcements, usually over a two week period, so that each park receives their “day in the sun” with media coverage in their local markets.

Meanwhile at Six Flags, the chain has made it a tradition to announce every park’s newest addition in a single video, with each park sending out a release to their local media. The idea is that the single announcement carries more weight on a national level, which should translate into more traction with the national media.

But this “one day fits all” strategy does have a potential flaw: what if a park hasn’t opened their new ride from 2019? Wouldn’t that potentially kill the buzz for both?

Sadly, for the good folks at Six Flags Magic Mountain, they don’t have to imagine this scenario – they’re living it.

Since their “new for 2019” attraction, West Coast Racers, isn’t even finished being built, it’s highly likely the park will be forced to announce another new ride, without even finishing the last one they announced.

West Coast Racers at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Despite being announced in late August of 2018, West Coast Racers is still far from being complete.

Personally, I’m a fan of the spread out approach. The collective anticipation continues to build throughout the week or two you keep dropping announcements. Plus, there’s a smaller probability that your least-visited parks or smaller investments won’t be lost in the giant, one day announcement.

And if a situation like Magic Mountain’s sets up, there’s flexibility built into it to delay an announcement.

No matter the way you announce it, 2020 is setting up to be a record year for new capital investment. Let the speculation and intrigue begin!

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What do you think? Are you a fan of a “one day” or “spread out” announcement style for new rides and attractions? Let me know in the comment section below – and be sure to check us out on social media as well!


Could Yankee Harbor Return to California’s Great America?

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With the announcement of Carolina Harbor (and the all-but-certain expansion of the water park at California’s Great America in the near future), it got me thinking…

Could California’s Great America score some MAJOR brownie points and pull off one of the biggest throwbacks EVER with the re-branding of their Boomerang Bay water park to one of the classic Marriott-era themed areas – Yankee Harbor?

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

Admit it – this is a perfect name for a water park inside “GREAT AMERICA.” Photo by: Kris Rowberry. 

During the Paramount-era, it wasn’t uncommon to use a singular brand across multiple parks. After all, it was cheaper and the design team only had to do one thing. But the Carowinds announcement may signal that Cedar Fair is looking to create not a singular brand identity across all their parks, but an INDIVIDUAL PARK IDENTITY.

Boomerang Bay was originally themed after Crocodile Dundee movies – but once Paramount bailed on the park, licensing forced a slight change in name. But the name really doesn’t work with the rest of the park. (Aussie area in GREAT AMERICA?) The park has already made significant efforts to revive Orleans Place, with signage and background music, so could this be the next, logical step?

What better way to mesh the old theme of the park than with a newly expanded, American-themed water park that – let’s face it – would be the GREATEST THROWBACK EVER (I.E. even I’d buy merch if it had the classic logo integrated somehow). Nostalgia sells these days – just ask the people at Busch Gardens Williamsburg who can’t keep up with demand for their Big Bad Wolf shirts…

Plus, maybe the park could get the old lighthouse to spin up and shine again.

What do you think – would you welcome a return to “Yankee Harbor” or does “Boomerang Bay” still work for you? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think:


Busch Gardens’ Roller Coaster Insider Tour a Must for Thrill Seekers

If you’re looking for the ultimate thrill seeker’s dream – look no further than Busch Gardens WIlliamsburg, and their Roller Coaster Insider Tour.

For starters – you’ll get to ride to the top of Griffon, the park’s B&M Dive Coaster, via the emergency funicular. From 205 feet up, you’ll learn how the ride works and see some of the massive trains in the maintenance bay.

Then, you’ll head over to Alpengeist – where you’ll see how they transfer trains out of the maintenance bay – as well as how the magnetic brakes work.

From there, you’ll visit Verbolten – and get to peek inside the darkened show building. Trust me, it’s a treat despite being a bit dark.

Finally, you’ll end up at Loch Ness Monster, learning incredible facts about the world’s only interlocking loop ride and how one section of track is particularly special.

Still not sold? Check out this video from the park:

Did I mention you get to ride all the coasters after learning all about them? So what are you waiting for?!? To book the tour, visit www.BuschGardens.com for details!


Five Ways to Have a Bad Day at an Amusement Park

1.) Forget to check about special events on park website:

Nothing will ruin your day faster at a park to find it overrun with cheerleaders for a regional competition or packed for a concert in their ampitheatre.

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2.) Wear sandals:

They might seem like a good choice for hot weather, but their lack of support and ability to fly away on certain rides will leave you more miserable than you think.

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3.) Dress incorrectly for the weather:

You can always bring a jacket to warm up, but you can’t take your pants off to cool down (it’s generally frowned upon). If the weather calls for rain, it’s probably best to re-schedule your trip to the park.

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4.) Bring your iPad or tablet computer:

No one wants to be a Padhole. But, you’re risking damaging that $500 device every time you bring that dumb thing to a crowded place. Plus, it blocks our views during the show. Just bring a small point and shoot camera – it has better resolution, anyway.

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5.) Visit on Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July or Labor Day Weekend:

Traditionally the three worst times to visit any park. Although, actual Memorial Day and Labor Day tend to be less crowded than the weekends preceding them.

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Got any suggestions to add to this list? Tell us on social media, or comment below!


Inaugural #CoasterChat TONIGHT on Twitter!

Join the creator and host of Great American Thrills®, along with the creator of CoasterAddict.com, for the first ever #CoasterChat tweetup!

Many of us love roller coasters and the amusement parks that build them. Similarly, many of us also tweet…all of the time. Now, we hope to merge the two together on a weekly basis, discussing the latest news and topics surrounding the amusement park industry. We look forward to hearing all of your great ideas and enthusiastic candor!

So, how can YOU participate? It’s easy! Just log into Twitter around 6:00pm TONIGHT, and search for / follow the #CoasterChat hashtag – it’s that easy to join in on the fun – see you there, coaster fans!

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com


Featured on BBC News!

Yes, you read that correctly – I had the honor of being featured in a BBC News video released today about roller coaster technology and the  “plateau” some say we’ve reached. (I don’t think we have, by the way).

BBC Capture

You can view the whole video by clicking here.

Or, you can copy and paste this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24553630

The backstory behind this interview is just as intriguing –

I had already planned to attend Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s “Ghoulish Gathering” VIP event last Friday. When the tram dropped us off at the front entrance, I noticed a OMB (One Man Band) setup, with a man struggling to cope with the sound of the many rides in the area. In hindsight, I should have gone over to offer my assistance – but I digress…

When I asked the Public Relations person at the event about the cameraman, she immediately said, “Oh, he’s with the BBC…I should introduce you to him!”

Pinch me.

After we grabbed a bite to eat at the event, I got to talking with Richard, who quickly found out (and said), “I should interview you…”

You had to ask?

Careful to make sure I didn’t step on any known “land mines” when you do interviews like this, Richard slapped a lav mic on me, and into the sun he pointed me!

Now, it should be noted, that short of begging, I did my best to convince the segment producer to stay longer, so my Lost Parks Producer, American Coaster Enthusiasts Asst. Regional Rep AND all-around quality news source on all things coasters, Nicholas Laschkewitsch could arrive to be interviewed as well – but sadly, Richard had to leave before Nicholas could arrive. Thanks, BART Strike…

But, for now, it’s yet another milestone in my journey to be in the world of television. “Great American Thrills” has officially jumped the pond and gone international…WOW.


Featured in TIME Magazine!

It’s both an honor and humbling to see your work in print – but to see it in the prestigious TIME Magazine – well, that’s just awesome!

Not only was I quoted several times in the piece, but two of my photos (El Toro and Bizzaro) were featured as the top two images! (I’m a little excited if you can tell)

You can read the full article here: http://techland.time.com/2013/09/19/the-top-10-roller-coasters-in-the-u-s/

Looks like there’s a new roller coaster expert in town – and this one can photograph AND write well, too! Another great milestone on my journey…

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Social Media and the Amusement Park: Don’t Take Yelp Lightly

Despite your personal opinion of the site, Yelp.com has become the de facto review source for many users on the internet. The site says that it’s “Real People, Real Reviews,” and with your amusement park being a major business in the area, chances are someone has already reviewed you and / or created a page for your park. So, how do you monitor and work Yelp to your needs? Read on:

1.) Create an officially moderated Yelp business page, then have it verified:

Multiple pages created by guests will only add to the confusion. Clean these up by creating an officially moderated page and contacting Yelp about removing the other ones.

Multiple pages created by guests only add to confusion in search results and SEO. Plus, misinformation will spread faster.

When searching “Six Flags” in the Bay Area, these are the top four results. Note how there’s seemingly multiple accounts for the park, with reviews about the park in each one. This only makes people confused when they’re trying to find you online. True, the more of you out there, the better for SEO – but not in this case.

By creating an official, park moderated page, Yelp will be more inclined to remove errant listings, making it easier for people to find and review you. Plus, it makes it far easier to respond to guests when there’s only one place to go.

2.) Monitor, monitor, MONITOR!

Is this really an accurate review?

Is this really an accurate review? Hardly – so why allow it to sit for others to view?

It should go without saying, but Yelp is yet another place that you need to be monitoring your image online. Just like your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, Yelp should be monitored closely to make sure that any reviews placed on it are fair, accurate and not derogatory towards your business.

For example, the posting above – is it really an accurate portrayal of the park? Absolutely NOT! So why then would you allow it to stay up, for others to view 24/7? Yelp also gives you the ability to flag reviews for abuse – which is what this one should have done to it.

At the very least – a post like this should be responded to from the park’s official account with accurate information. 95% of angry guests will be quelled once they see the park responding directly to them. Don’t think of it as damage control – think of it more as an opportunity to make a new sale by bringing a guest back. Who knows – they just might upgrade to a season pass…

3.) When you’re wrong – admit it.

Would you eat at a "C" graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Would you eat at a “C” graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Look, we’re all human, so we’re not perfect. Mistakes sometimes happen, so it’s up to you to recognize these and make them right wherever possible. But completely ignoring your internet footprint (especially on Yelp) isn’t going to make bad reviews go away.

If a bad review comes in, try to contact the guest first, off of Yelp. Get more information, and then proceed to see what can be done to correct it in the future. Remember that the sooner you contact an angry guest, the better the park looks in their eyes for wanting to assist.

4.) When all else fails, pay Yelp.

Ever wonder why some companies NEVER have a bad review on Yelp? Is it because of the service or business? Maybe. Mot likely, it’s because they pay for those reviews.

You heard right. What most people don’t know, is that companies can actually PAY to look better on Yelp. Yes, call it a shakedown, call it what you will. But the good news – you don’t have to give money to Yelp.

Just by monitoring and responding to reviews through your own company, much as you would with a customer service agent over the phone, or guest service manager would in the park – you’ll see your numbers trend upwards. At the very least, you’ll start getting a better pulse about what your guests are having issues with, and can adapt your business model around it.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®