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The Demon Song and Soundtrack

In honor of Halloween’s approach, what better way to theme your own, personal Haunt than by using the complete, original 1980 soundtrack from the line of the Demon at both Great America’s.

Yes, the “Demon Song” has been online for some time – but not the whole, nearly 30 minute queue recording, so enjoy!

A word of warning – this track is seriously corny!


Halloween Haunt 2013 at California’s Great America

cgahaunt2009

In only a few, short years, Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America has gone from two “hand me down” mazes from Knott’s Berry Farm to easily the de facto Halloween event in Northern California.

Now with eight (8) mazes, three dedicated “scare zones” and enough fog machines and tinted lighting to make any rock concert jealous – the Haunt is now worthy of being up for comparison to the event that initially spawned it in Southern California.

The entertainment begins just as you enter the front gate to the park. Fire cannons (yes, you read that correctly) have been installed along the reflecting pool of Carousel Columbia. Never did I think I would feel the heat of flames on a relaxing ride like Columbia – then again, this IS Haunt. Consider walking into Carousel Plaza your “baptism by fire” to Haunt. The only thing that would make it better would be to run the carousel backwards.

To the right of the carousel, lies the first of two new mazes this year, “Dia de los Muertos.” As you can imagine, it’s a Latin themed maze, complete with Spanish-talking zombies and dizzying effects. The artwork alone makes the maze worth going into (and we STRONGLY recommend getting a pair of 3D glasses for $1.00 at the entrance). Those 3D glasses can also be used in the “CarnEVIL” maze in Orleans Place.

At the back of the park lies Zombie High, the other new maze for 2013. The building, which lies behind the Grizzly roller coaster, was built specifically for this maze, but I imagine it will double as a Haunt storage warehouse in the off-season. Considering all the material necessary to pull this event off now – it would make sense to expand the “backlot storage” the park currently has.

“Zombie High” is modeled after Shows Director, Clayton Lawrence’s old high school, down to the mascot. Of course, I’m guessing he didn’t have all the zombies and blood, there. See if you can catch all the inside jokes and macabre humor – just don’t upset the Principal.

The eight mazes and elaborate theming in the park would have been enough to placate most Halloween fans – but then California’s Great America did something celebrated by park fans and observers…they didn’t stop there.

Back in March, Park Spokesperson Roger Ross stressed that, “Cedar Fair is committed to California’s Great America. We’re replacing roofs…there’s fresh paint everywhere.” And you know what? He wasn’t kidding. That same spirit and drive to revive the park to it’s former glory and true potential is clearly evident in all aspects of the Haunt this year. Did you really need fire cannons at the front entrance? Not really – but who the hell cares – they’re freaking awesome!

In addition to the two new mazes and amazing theming throughout the park, Great America now offers a pre-scare meal, dubbed “Madame Maries Voodoo Chophouse.” The $22.99 add-on to your admission includes: early entry to the park, an all-you-can-eat, cajun-themed buffet, single “Fright Lane” entry to a maze of your choice and apparently very exclusive ride time on Gold Striker!

Now, most buffets at amusement parks are well – not worth writing home about. But, this meal included: fried catfish, creole, biscuits, prime rib(!) and soft drinks among other items. There’s even a chocolate fountain, complete with fruit and other dessert options. It shattered my notion of what I could eat an an amusement park outside of the Disneyland Resort. The park also offers a “Fright Feast” for $13.99, with more standard, picnic grove food options.

But the two new mazes, elaborately-themed buffet and exclusive ride time on Gold Striker was NOT the highlight of the night. That honor was reserved for the masterfully choreographed ice show, “Blades of Horror.”

Yes, you read right – an ICE show at a Halloween event. Stay with me, people…

A combination “Cirque” style show with an intriguing storyline, “Blades of Horror” is easily the best show I have seen at California’s Great America, going back to the KECO days of the late 1980’s.

The talent is largely local and according to many staff members, the show was largely driven by the performers simply wanting to keep performing. It has the look and feel of a large budget show you’d catch in any Las Vegas resort – and yet it’s right here, in the middle of Haunt. The acrobatics, aerials stunts and exhibitions of these actors is nothing short of spectacular. The grand finale alone is something that simply cannot be missed and may never be duplicated again.

There you have it – not one, but no less than five incredible reasons to visit California’s Great America and their burgeoning Halloween Haunt event.

As the days get closer to Halloween, it’s best to schedule your visit on either a Sunday or better still – visit as soon as possible. The crowds will only get larger as the holiday approaches, and so does the cost of admission.

Oh, and don’t show up to the park on Halloween – Haunt runs through October 27th.

Halloween Heads – it’s time to get out to California’s Great America – and get your scream on.

– – –

Learn more about Haunt and it’s incredible entertainment and food options here: https://www.cagreatamerica.com/haunt


Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game

This "Rasta Banana" was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

This “Rasta Banana” was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude just ran away with all the medals…

Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”

And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.

In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.

Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.

But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”

Really?

“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.

“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”

Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?

Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana.  Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.

Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.


It’s a Small, Litigious World After All!

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; Its a world of hopes, its a world of fear; There’s so much that we share, that its time we’re aware…
“…its a small world after all!”

You might want to add, “It’s a world of lawsuits” to that refrain as well.

Late last week, Disney got an early Easter present, in the form of an $8,000 judgement against them for not being able to evacuate a man off the ride for over 30 minutes. (The ride itself is anywhere from 12-15 minutes long normally).

Considering how much other Disney lawsuits have been settled for, this one just might feel like a present to settle so low.

So, how did we get here? Well, back in 2009, Jose Martinez, found himself stuck in the final “room” of the attraction the day after Thanksgiving. As per standard operating procedure, Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the passengers from the ride…except Martinez – who is confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis.

According to Martinez’s attorney, he suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, “…both of which became issues as he sat in the boat (with the song) playing over and over and over.” He added, “(Martinez) He was half in the cave of the ride and half out,” Geffen said. “The music was blaring. They couldn’t get it to go off.”

Apparently, Disneyland employes were unable to evacuate the wheelchair-bound Martinez and opted to try and fix the ride to get him back to the ride platform.

Now this is where I get to the litigious point of my article…

Martinez’s attorney continued, “This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people.” Anyone who’s ever visited Disney Parks know that the ride operators are some of the best in the business. As SOON as a ride breaks down, announcements are made and cast members generally walk out to the attraction (when they can) to speak with guests and re-assure them that everything is okay.

The next quote finally broke me: “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people,” Geffen said.

Now, this ruling is significant – as you’ll remember previously that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about a similar lawsuit that was thrown out AND became part of case law. You can find that post here: “Ride at your own Risk!”

Ironically, the attraction – which was added in 1960, after the World’s Fair – was created in the hopes of spreading world peace via the youth of the world.

Apparently, it now should incite fear.

And really, Disney itself has played on this fear, which has made it more of a cult attraction that ever before. Remember these scenes from “The Lion King” trilogy? (Yes, they made three of them under Eisner’s rule)

And legally, we have to state that these clips of copyrighted material are being used under the “Fair use Doctrine” of copyright law, for discussion, criticism, education or parody. In this case, we’re using them as examples of Disney making fun of itself to educate the readers of this blog. We’ve even shortened the clip playtime to the smallest possible to make our point.

So beware, small world riders – you could find yourself in court the next time a ride song traumatizes you!


“Ride at your own risk!”

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the attraction in question.

The ornate, Orleans-inspired entrance to the bumper cars that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

Today was a victory for amusement parks and fans alike – the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of amusement parks and ride operators, by throwing out a lawsuit against (then) Paramount’s Great America that involved their bumper cars.

At issue was the “assumption of risk” associated with going to an amusement park and whether or not one could sue a park if you were injured on a ride through no fault of the park. (I.E. the rides were maintained properly, but you still became injured.)

According to court documents, Smriti Nalwa, a local OB-GYN was on the “Rue le Dodge” bumper cars at Paramount’s Great America back in 2005, with her son, who was maneuvering the vehicle. To say you “drive” a bumper car is a bit of a misnomer…

Continuing through the court documents, near the end of the ride cycle, which generally lasts for about a minute, “(the) plaintiff’s bumper car was bumped from the front and then from behind.  Feeling a need to brace herself, (the) plaintiff put her hand on the car’s “dashboard.”  That’s when she realized her wrist was fractured.

The lawsuit originally claimed that the park was negligent in preventing injuries to riders and that the park knowingly operated a ride that caused injuries. A lower court found the park not liable, but upon appeal, the decision was reversed.

According to the dissenting judge in the original appeals case, “Low-speed collisions between the padded, independently operated cars are inherent in—are the whole point of—a bumper car ride.”

Even Nalwa agreed with industry experts and fans, when in her deposition said, “The point of the bumper car is to bump…you pretty much can’t have a bumper car unless you have bumps.”

The court found that while these impacts were not highly dangerous, but that sudden changes in speed and direction do carry an inherent risk of minor injuries. To change this portion of the ride would be eliminating the very character of the ride itself.

The dissenting judge continued, “Imposing liability would have the likely effect of the amusement park either eliminating the ride altogether or altering its character…the fun of bumping would be eliminated, thereby discouraging patrons from riding. Indeed, who would want to ride a tapper car at an amusement park?”

In a small portion of cases such as these, our understanding of technology and safety is improved. For instance, after several situations where people were falling or being pushed onto loading tracks in stations, parks installed the ubiquitous “air gate” preventing soon-to-be riders from falling or getting shoved into the path of an oncoming train.

But because the industry is self-policed (I.E. a “killer” ride no longer has the appeal of the 1920’s), most of these lawsuits have done nothing but drive up the cost of business and removed (or renovated for the worse) attractions.

People DO get injured at parks, yes. But they also get injured at home, in their beds and in the shower, too. Yet, you don’t see lawsuits from those events. Why should a park be any different?

Even the court said, “Head-on bumping was prohibited on the Rue le Dodge ride, a safety rule the ride operators were to enforce by lecturing those they saw engaging in the practice and, if a guest persisted in head-on bumping, by stopping the ride and asking the person to leave.”

What was not discussed in the court papers was the possibility of a pre-existing condition. For all we know, Nalwa could have already had a hairline fracture that was aggravated by riding the bumper cars. This is not unheard of, as a child with a pre-existing heart condition died on Mission: Space at Epcot in Florida several years ago.

So clearly, someone broke the rules, they rammed a car head-on. So how, exactly is that the parks’ responsibility? If you or a member of your family was rear ended on the freeway, would you sue the state for providing the venue for the crash?

Let’s face it, more people are hurt or die DRIVING to amusement parks each year than inside them.

So, did someone get needlessly injured?

Rue le Dodge at Paramount's Great America (2004)

Rue le Dodge at Paramount’s Great America (2004)

Yes.

Do I feel bad that she was injured?

Of course.

Should the park be responsible for other’s behavior in the park, or even a pre-existing condition that Nalwa may have not been unaware of?

Absolutely NOT!

I applaud the decision of the California Supreme Court, because by making this decision, they have re-affirmed our right to have traditional fun, without needless lawsuits ruining it for everyone else.


Our Social Media Links

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Of course, you can always keep following us here too, but why not stop there, right? ; )

“Let’s Ride!”


Bert the Conqueror – Faked and Poorly Researched

Those of you who are theme park or amusement park fans know that for many years, Discovery, A&E, History and Travel Channel would produce an onslaught of roller coaster and theme park programming right at the start to the summer fun season.

As a fan of these shows for many years, I am sad to report that these shows have been in steep decline in recent years, especially considering all the upgrades to picture quality!

The worst of these examples is “Bert the Conqueror” a show based on a premise similar to “Man vs. Food.” Consider they are from the same production company (Sharp Productions) it makes logistical sense.

Sadly, while MvF can get away with some bending of facts, “Bert” deals much more with a factual information-based industry. Simply put, this show fails miserably at it.

For example, in the show’s very first episode, Bert “conquered” the Cedar Point “Fearsome Foursome Challenge.” There’s only one problem…that challenge doesn’t exist. It was a complete fabrication to “attempt” to keep the conquering motif of the show, yet show coasters in the meantime.

Too bad they didn’t expect me to stand up and say they were wrong…

To prove my point, sust watch the segment I analyzed on one of my local parks, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Imagine how many errors they’ll rack up in a whole season…(egad!)


GAT Introduction Video!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you our first compilation video – welcome to the introduction to the concept of Great American Thrills!

Hope you enjoy it!


Park Preview: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

1001 Fairgrounds Drive

SFDK's logo is unique among the rest of the Six Flags chain

Vallejo,CA 94589-2001

(707) 644-4000

www.sixflags.com/parks/discoverykingdom

Brief History:

Originally started as an oceanarium inRedwood Cityback in 1968, this hybrid park has not forgotten its roots as an educational outlet for the animal kingdom. Today, hundreds of species of birds, fish, tigers, sea lions, dolphins and orca live at the park, giving guests a stark contrast to its larger thrill rides.

Built next to the bay along Redwood Shores, Marine World was a small oceanarium whose mission was to educate as well as entertain. In the mid 1970’s, the park merged with the fledgling Africa USA fromLos Angeles. By doing so, it infused many more species of animals that guests could only dream about seeing on an African safari.

Rising land prices eventually forced the park to search for other locations and found one at it’s current site,Vallejo,CA. Today, the park has grown quite a bit since its inception. There are now eight roller coasters to its colorful collection. However, the park keeps a firm hold on its mission to provide a thrilling, memorable experience while taking away a greater appreciation of the animal world.

The Three Areas of Six Flags DiscoveryKingdom

The park has recently spent several million dollars upgrading the interior of the park, most notably in themeing each third of the park for easier navigation. For the casual visitor, this makes navigation much more simple.

Land This area is where most of the animal species reside in the park, and is the oldest section of the park. Don’t miss: Odin’sTemple of the Tiger, Elephant Encounter, Giraffe Dock and the Butterfly Encounter.

A quick side note on the Butterfly Encounter: if you’re not a fan of flying insects or extremely squeamish, I suggest you just visit the gift shop. Butterflies (although perfectly harmless) grow quite large in here and can get very friendly with guests. Plus, they don’t like being swatted or smushed.

Sea Home to most of the park’s aquatic species, attractions here include:

Sea Lion Stadium: Let Odin & Seasil bring smiles to everyone’s face with their wild and wacky antics.

StingRayBay: Pet a real Sting Ray.

Dolphin Encounter: See and feed Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.

Walrus Experience: Them tusks are big!!!

Penguin Encounter: These adorable flightless birds show their true talent, “flying” through the water.

For the thrill seekers, three of the park’s coaster’s reside here:

V2– Vertical Velocity: A unique inverted shuttle coaster, it takes passengers from 0-70mph in just a few seconds through a barrel roll and then backwards up a vertical spike. The ride will perform three “circuits” before coming to a stop back in the station.

Roar: A throwback to the classic wooden twister coasters of the 1920’s, Roar is a powerful and intense wooden coaster that is not for the faint of heart.

New for 2012 is the completely unique Superman, Ultimate Escape. Concept art courtesy of Six Flags.

Superman, Ultimate Escape (OPENING SUMMER 2012): Discovery Kingdom shocked the coaster world in late 2011 with the surprise announcement of this prototype attraction from Premier Rides, the innovator of the linear induction or LIM launch. While the park already has a LSM launching coaster in V2, Superman is a complete circuit coaster complete with a NON-inverting loop.

Sky – Aptly named area of the park; this is where you’ll find most of the larger thrill rides in the park, literally right up front.

Boomerang: Shuttle forward and backward through three mind bending loops. This coaster is very intense – all the inversions (loops) are one after the other, with only a small pause in-between.

Medusa: The park’s signature attraction; riders are whisked 150 feet up, only to flip through eight different inversions, all while riding above the track, with no floor below! Don’t look down, she could turn you to stone…

Kong: This inverted coaster packs a punch not many other coasters can. Five dizzying inversions will leave you speechless; it’s all done while hanging below the track!

Where to Eat – 

Besides the usual theme park fare found in the food court (which is located just past the games areas) the park offers several unique food options to parks, including: Gordon Biersch Oasis Club, Panda Express, Johnny Rockets, Subway and a Cold Stone Creamery.

Six Flags recently began an “Online Meal Voucher” program, which claims to save you both time and money by purchasing your meals ahead of time, and redeeming your vouchers for food the day of your trip. Although innovative, I’ve found it really doesn’t save you much time. The only way it really saves you money is by preventing you from eating more food at other locations.

This is a good idea for those who love to have everything planned about their trip well ahead of time. (Even what you may feel like eating that day!) Be advised, if you feel like eating something else when you’re at the park – there are no refunds or exchanges on your meal vouchers.

Plans – 

Thrill Seekers:

It’s not very difficult to find the major coasters here, as they stick out predominantly on the park’s skyline. If the park looks or even feels crowded, the best course of action is to hit every major coaster as if you’re circuit training. Start at one end of the park, and work your way to the other. If time is a significant issue, consider investing in a “FlashPass.” For $15 per person, you can reserve your space in line, while you visit other attractions. When your predetermined time comes up, simply enter through the “FlashPass” entrance and your wait will be significantly reduced if there’s a wait at all.

Families with Children:

When you arrive, make sure to pick up a park map and show schedule. Try to convince the kids to save the rides until later on in the day and see every show you can. Your kids will thank you when they get to play tug of war with an elephant. (Spoiler alert: The elephants have never lost!) Another must-see show is the Shouka Spectacular. If you want to stay dry, stay away from the lower bowl of seats. The kids on the other hand, should experience what it’s like to be hit with several hundred gallons of cold salt water at least once in their lifetime. Try to keep the rides to a minimum until later in the day, when most of the shows are no longer scheduled. If you have time flexibility, be sure to check out Thomas Town and Looney Tunes Seaport. This can also be the same plan used to tackle the park if you’re bringing grandkids.

Other Tips – 

When walking to or from the parking lot, be mindful it’s a long ½ mile walk. To get the juices flowing at the start of your day, you should make the walk to the park from the lot. But definitely wait for the tram when you head back out, no matter how long the line appears.

Once inside the park, jet on over to the all-day use locker pavilion past Guest Relations and behind the funnel cake restaurant. Make sure to bring along anything you might want for the rest of the day, to avoid the long trip back out to the car and back. This includes pants and a sweatshirt if the weather is expected to be cool later in the night. This way, you’ll have more time and energy to spend in the park, rather than walking back and forth that ½ mile to your car and back. These time-costly trips can easily take 30 minutes away from your day inside the park.

Final Tips – 

If at all possible, avoid visiting this park on weekends during the summer as well as during any Cheerleader Competition or live concert by Lake Chabot. The park can be quickly overwhelmed with people and crowding can become an issue in smaller pathway areas.

If you’re a fan of being scared or really love Halloween, be sure to experience Fright Fest. Zombies take over the midway, haunted mazes pop up inside the park. You might even catch an authentic “freak show.” This spooktacular event begins around 4p.m. each October operating day and is not recommended for those under 14 years old. You have been warned!

Also, make sure to try and visit during the winter “Holiday in the Park” event, as this is one of only two parks open for significant periods of time in the winter here in Northern California.


Another Step in the Road

Today is a good day – yet another step forward in the quest to see this concept go from simply blog to television show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the payments are made, and the bills processed – we officially own http://www.greatamericanthrills.net! Dare I say, this thing is looking more and more professional by the week.

Who knows, maybe some park PR personnel will actually call us back…

It should be noted, that we originally wanted the “.com” address. But at over $1600, it’s still way out of our budget.

Plus, we like .net – it has a nice feeling to it.

“Let’s Ride!”

– KMR


The Day Finally Arrives!

It’s here! It’s here! After all your pre-planning, hype and waiting – the big day has finally arrived! You’ve walking up to the entrance right now and you’re ready for a day of fun and excitement. But, like all good theme park fans, you’ve also got a plan to execute. It starts with when you’re going to refuel your body…

“When should we eat?”

The traditional eating times (11am – 2pm, 5pm – 7pm) are some of the best to ride the park’s bigger and more popular attractions. If you can offset your meals by a few hours you’ll find yourself going on more attractions and having much more fun.

Your host is no fan of "extreme water effects"

Water rides traditionally get large lines during the hottest part of the day. If you don’t mind it being a little cooler, you can hop on these attractions just as the park opens. Night time or the half-hour before closing is also a perfect opportunity to tackle the water rides…but just be mindful that you might be driving home a bit moist!

“What should we ride when?”

This can vary with each park, and when you visit. Check out each individual park’s section for a more detailed plan on tackling the, “big ticket attractions” of each park. General rule of thumb is that the newest, latest and greatest ride is best to ride at the start or very end of the day.

Should I purchase a season pass or just purchase my tickets at the gate?

Season passes are best to purchase at either the very start or very end of the season. (Photo illustration by Six Flags, Inc.)

A season pass is a good idea only if you’re going to visit the park multiple times a year (or are planning a trip to several parks in a national chain).

One of the best ways to save time and money at amusement parks is to check their website. Most now offer the option to purchase discounted tickets online, which will almost always save you money versus paying for tickets at the main gate. Be sure to also check if any promotions are being run, such as bring a soda can in for discounts.

Well, there you have it. The complete pre-planning guide to all theme parks, regardless of location. If you follow these steps and suggestions, you will not only save yourself money, but also get more for your money.

With all that generic planning complete, let’s now take a weekly look at the California parks, starting in the North and working our way down South…

Be sure to check Great American Thrills each week for these updates. You can even send us your ideas or thoughts too via WordPress!


A Bit More Planning…

Alas, you’re one step closer to enjoying a day out in your local amusement or thrill park – but there’s still a bit more pre-planning that you must accomplish…exactly what are you going to bring to the park with you? If you’ve read my blog thus far, the answer shouldn’t surprise you…

It goes without saying, but if the weather report says the high temperature is expected to be above 70 degrees – pass on the pants.

Shorts will dry faster than pants on water rides and keep you comfortable throughout the day.option.

Too often, people misjudge the weather and end up passing out in line because of a heat stroke or exhaustion. The $3.50 bottles of water in the queue lines certainly don’t help the situation, either! So do yourself a favor, go with shorts when the weather’s over 70F.

If you absolutely have to, pack a jacket and pair of pants and leave them in the car! You can always go back to the car if you or anyonein your party gets too cold. There is no reason to lug all that, for lack of a better term – CRAP – around all day. It will inevitably tire you out much faster than a quick walk to the parking lot.

There’s also the option of a multiple-use day locker within the park boundaries, which is a good investment if the parking lot is a significant distance away from the entrance. An example of this would be Six Flags Discoery Kingdom, where even a brisk walk from your car to the entrance is fifteen minutes.

Nearly all parks today do not allow loose articles on their larger rides and attractions. The reasoning behind it is simple – it’s a major safety issue, as flying objects can seriously injure patrons or disrupt safe operation of the ride. In fact, on Knott’s Berry Farms’ “Jaguar!” roller coaster, a loose jacket jammed the wheels of the coaster, stalling it midway through the circuit.

That being said, if you absolutely have to bring loose items into the park, make sure they’re just the absolute bare necessities: your wallet, possibly a small camera, sunglasses and maybe a cell phone. That’s it.

Purses, backpacks and bags – although convenient – will only add to your wait times getting into the park, as security will be poking, prodding and rummaging through them, looking for unsafe items. It will also inevitably raise your stress levels as you attempt to keep track of all your stuff as you leave it on the ride platform while on the larger attractions.

Plus, there’s no reason to bring your iPod, iPad (seen it twice now) or any other iDevice unless you’re using it to keep track of others in your group. Even then, a tablet computer at a theme park makes for a tempting steal even for the casual thief.

Besides, those green pigs will still be there to knock down with those exploding birds…

So let’s say you still didn’t listen to my insider tips and tricks, and you STILL brought all your crap with you inside the park. To help with the glut of loose items you might still have despite our warnings, the best parks offer semi-secure bins or shelves to place your items in while riding. But beware! The parks’ are not responsible for anything lost, stolen or damaged. It’s a gamble every time you ride – whether or not you come back to find your items all still there.

Even worse, several park chains are now requiring that you place all your loose items in PAY PER USE lockers just before you ride. Personally, I feel like if that’s the case, why not just charge guests for each time they ride, rather than a flat admission at the front of the park. But, there’s a little trick to save you a few bucks each time you ride.

In order to “beat” these systems, and save you a handful of money that you shouldn’t have to have spent in the first place, I recommend that you wear cargo shorts, preferably with zippered or double buttoned pockets.

Some parks have closer lots than others, so take it into consideration when packing for the day.

As silly as it sounds, these pants can be a real money-saver at parks. They allow you to ride any attraction knowing your items are safe and secure, while at the same time not forcing you to put items in a $1.00 single use locker! On our last trip to Six Flags Great America, we saved nearly $10.00 in locker fees per person, saving our group nearly $50.00 for the day. (That’s more than the price of a single admission!)

Wearing sandals of any kind is also a big no-no, despite how hot the day might become. Sandals are easily lost on rides, extremely painful to walk several miles around a park in and expose you to all sorts of nasty things found on park pathways. A good pair of sneakers will keep you comfortable (and clean) all day.

In our next adventure…the big day finally arrives – now what?!?


Pre-planning, Part Deux

With this being the first weekend that most seasonal parks either begin advertising or actually open, it’s time to get beyond just the planning of how you’re going to pay for admission – it’s time to actually plan your trip.

These “General Tips” will help maximize your fun and enjoyment at ANY theme / amusement park, not just the ones located in my great State of California.

 THE No. 1 RULE – “Always Plan Ahead”

The Boy Scouts are famous for their motto: “Always be prepared.” It should also be you and your group’s motto when planning an amusement / theme park trip. Weather is the most crucial factor, but there are many other smaller factors that can add up quite quickly (and that most regular park guests overlook) but not I.

These are the questions you and your group should always, ALWAYS ask before heading out the door to the park:

What’s the weather supposed to be like?

Fowl weather days mean less crowds, but also less operating time.

Parks are under no pressure or obligation to give you a rain check and / or refund for bad weather. If the weather looks (and is predicted to be poor) don’t spend a whole day’s worth of admission, to only to get rained-out two hours later.

Some parks do offer rain checks, in the form of a free complimentary ticket (or comp as they’re called) given to you as you flee the park to find shelter in your car – but don’t bank on all of the parks you visit to do this.

Many parks (especially in the Midwest) now show the chance of bad weather right at the ticket booths. If the number is 50% or higher…be sure you know what you’re getting into. Remember that you’re wagering a coin flip that you’ll lose your admission over the weather…

There are many guides out there that will suggest that these “inclement” days are the best to go to parks, as crowds usually stay away, and lines tend to be shorter. For the most part, that’s true. However, if that rain or severe weather doesn’t clear up, the park is not going to re-open, no matter how loudly you and your family complain to Guest Services.

Plain and simple…I don’t take the chance and neither should you – do as a zeppelin airship does…if the weather has a hint of being bad, cancel!

 

Are there any park sponsored special events going on when we’re visiting?

Some parks allow for re-entry after weather or mechanical delays, but don't bank on it.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ruin your day at a theme park faster that driving up to the front entrance to find out you visited on a “Cheerleader Competition” day. Screaming, running, loud and obnoxious cheerleaders…waiting in line for hours in the hot sun…with you and your family. Ugh!

Fireworks, certain holidays and other special concerts / shows can also lead to larger crowds, so be aware of them when you’re visiting. Also, be aware there are religious and alternative lifestyle events held at parks too, which may or may not agree with your personal beliefs.

The moral of the story – always call or log on ahead of time! That being said, there is always the “lone exception” to this rule, so make sure to read all the specific park descriptions later on in this blog!

The park’s webpage is always a good, first source to visit in planning for your trip. These types of special events are usually found under the “Special Events” section or header.

If you’re not a fan of computers, you can always call the park information line. The switchboard operator should be more than happy to assist you, or direct you to the correct department.

With all the pre-planning completed, you’re still not quite finished, but you’re close! When the big day finally arrives, there are still a few more questions you’ll need to ask to make sure all your planning was worth it…

In my next post: “What should I wear and bring to the park?”


Staycation Planning Beings NOW!

With gasoline expected to hit $5 a gallon this summer, it’s no surprise that that smaller, regional theme parks will see a significant jump in their attendance this year, while the larger, destination parks will see a hit (a la 2008, when gas spiked over the summer as well).

The difference between these two scenarios, however is the cost and fragility of the economy. Sure, we all want to give our families a good time, but in the back of our heads, we’re all still worried if our job is going to be there when we return from our vacation (Funny story – back in 2009, I went on vacation and returned to find out I had been laid off…so I know what I’m talking about here.)

So how then, does a family of four save money at their local amusement park while not skimping out on the experience?

Our host on the Looff Carousel in Santa Cruz

Our host on the Looff Carousel in Santa Cruz

Plan ahead.

Sounds simple, right? but when you’ve got a few caffeine-filled kids running amok down the midway, it can be difficult to pace yourself. So start your planning NOW for trips, especially if you plan on driving any significant distances to visit a theme / amusement park.

I calculated that back in 2008, when gas was (at that time) a record cost, I ended up SAVING the amount I spent in gas for my 1400 mile road trip just by thinking ahead and purchasing season passes “with benefits,” most notably, a parking pass.

Because I visited several parks owned by the same chain, I never once paid for parking or admission at full price.

So with prices as low as they’ll be at the start of the season, my first tip to save you money at your local park is to seriously consider those season passes, especially if you’re planning on staying close to a park this year. It could save you a ton of dough! Don’t forget about adding extras too, such as meal plans or parking. Yes, it’s more money up front, but consider this: it’s an investment in six months of fun up front. Spread that out over that time and you end up saving money over paying for items (such as parking) individually.

In my next post…

“Is packing sandwiches in the car REALLY saving you money on theme park food?”