Hidden in plain sight above Bourbon Street in Orleans Place, lies a little bit of Disney magic inside the confines California’s Great America:
Known as “The Consulate” – it’s primary function is a meeting room, where some of the biggest decisions about the park have gone down.
But that wasn’t always the intended purpose. In fact, it was originally built with the idea that the Marriott’s would use the space to stay during trips, a la the apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland. That is, until the Marriott’s realized they had nice hotels already near their properties with concierge service and a lack of crowds.
So while the Consulate is still used today for business – what if it’s wrought iron gates were opened to a select few park-goers as a VIP lounge? And what if you could upgrade your Platinum Pass to a “Consulate Pass?”
The idea isn’t that far fetched – several parks have hosted hospitality centers for bloggers and other influencers, where they could store items and get free refills and snacks, all away from the crowds. Why not give guests the opportunity to pay for that same, sweet access?
Plus, the pass could add a few other perks, maybe higher discounts for food and merchandise – or even a single fast lane per visit. It’s a Platinum, Platinum Pass.
Since upgrading to a Platinum Pass isn’t worth the cost for most Bay Area folks, with the exception of those who want to go to Knott’s (and I’ve covered that in a previous article) and considering an upgrade from a Gold Pass to a Platinum Pass doesn’t add any more value to a visit at CGA, maybe this benefit might be the incentive people need to pony up those extra bucks. And since we’re here in Silicon Valley, receiving that “premium” experience is not a hard sell.
Should it be by invite only? Probably to start. Parks tend to (or should) know their heaviest users and could easily identify probable candidates from common knowledge – or just looking at pass usage data.
What do you think? Would you pay up to get access to the Consulate? How much would you be willing to shell out to step up to the second floor? Let me know in the comments below.
Again, special thanks to Kurt (The Coaster Guy) for permission to use his photos of the Consulate during ACE’s Coaster Con XXXVII!
Today, California’s Great America announced “Winterfest” a spectacular larger than life holiday event. The event will be in direct competition with Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” which has been running for several years now up in Vallejo. “Winterfest” will be free to attend for anyone with a Gold of Platinum season pass.
Included in the winter wonderland will be a skating rink in front of Carousel Columbia, light displays, holiday shows, limited ride operation and holiday themed food options.
It will be capped off with one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees and even giant toy soldiers greeting guests.
Not too bad.
The five-week WinterFest celebration begins November 25 for weekend operation. Daily operations run December 19th through 23rd and 26th through 30th.
Suddenly, buying a season pass to the park this year got a whole lot more enticing. Certainly the addition of “Mass Effect” wasn’t enough to bring me back for another year – but this might do the trick.
Now, the park HAS tried something similar in the past – in the first season, back in 1976. Those small rings near Carousel Columbia’s top were to help mount Christmas lights. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well, mostly due to poor weather. However, with the success of Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” in nearby Vallejo – it seems like a no-brainer to capitalize on the demand.
The other major issue is ride rehabilitation schedules. Staying open longer means some rides won’t be ready in late March, when the park opens for its 2017 season. Disneyland has perfected this art with a complete schedule of when rides will be down.
However, no other park has been able to duplicate this, usually resorting to single train operation for a majority of the early-season. We shall see how this park is able to handle the lack of time for annual rehabs.
If I told you you could legally enter a theme park without paying, you’d probably call me nuts. But that’s just the case at Knott’s Berry Farm, thanks to their unique, “Shopper’s Pass.”
The Shopper’s Pass is a timed-entry to Knott’s, originally intended for someone to enter to either purchase or peruse the park for something to buy within a limited time. In this case, 45 minutes. Say for instance you wanted to get an item the night before, but forgot to – this pass allows you to grab it before you head back home.
And as great as it is for that, there’s a second use that gaining popularity. If you’re willing to roll the dice on short lines and think you’re a decent power walker – you can go into the park, ride one or two attractions and then bolt back to Guest Services before your time is up.
Now, there’s a BIG catch to this too-good-to-be-true admission: if you fail to return in the allotted 45 minutes – even by just one second – you’re getting charged for a full day’s admission. How does the park guarantee that? They’ll ask for a deposit that’s equal to your full-day admission up front, fully refundable upon your timely return.
If you’re easily distracted or forgetful, this is not a good ticket option for you. Plus, Knott’s is worth AT LEAST a full day’s worth of exploring and riding.
The good news: If you are one of those forgetful types, you can always take that paid admission and apply it to an annual pass in the same building. That way, you can spend as much time as you want in the park for an entire year!
But, if you’re looking to do some shopping at Knott’s and are in a time crunch, the “Shopper’s Pass” is the best kept non-secret in the amusement industry.
I travel fairly often to visit amusement and theme parks – that’s no secret. But I’m also a big fan of getting the most bang for my buck, especially in this economy. Case in point:
Cedar Fair, L.P. currently offers three different levels, or tiers of season passes:
Your standard SEASON pass, which gets you admission into a single park.
And finally, the PLATINUM Pass, which gets you admission and free parking to ALL the Cedar Fair owned parks.
Most of us in California, however – never get a chance to leave the Golden State, which makes upgrading to a PLATINUM pass very cost prohibitive, considering the next closest Cedar Fair park besides Knott’s – is World’s of Fun…in Missouri.
That being said, I believe there’s room for Cedar Fair to debut a fourth tier of passes – the CALIFORNIA Pass.
It could be positioned between the GOLD and PLATINUM passes, in terms of perks and pricing. In addition to all the benefits of a GOLD pass, it would also get you admission and parking at Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City Water Park.
Now for most people, this doesn’t seem like much to add for it’s own tier – but since the West Coast parks are so far separated from the rest of the chain in terms of distance and topography, most California park fans are content to stay IN the state and will never be able to get the full benefits out of a PLATINUM pass, unlike their counterparts in the Midwest and on the East Coast, where parks are only a drive’s day (or less) away.
As a result, they may not upgrade to the higher cost tier, and forgo even visiting the other parks in California, where they could be spending money. Of course, on the flip side, if a CALIFORNIA pass was added, I know that I’d be much more willing to upgrade to it and happily drive more often to SoCal to get my Xcelerator and Monte fixes MUCH more often.
What do you think – would YOU purchase a CALIFORNIA pass if it was offered? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or reach out to us on our SOCIAL MEDIA pages, too!
Today’s the big day – the coordinated announcements from all of the Six Flags parks on their new for 2014 attractions!
Looks like our local park, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, actually made out quite well, with THREE major announcements today.
For a new attraction, the park will receive, “Tsunami Soaker” a teacup ride – with a watery twist. The park was sorely lacking water rides (there’s only two) and those hot Vallejo summers will mean long lines for this fun (and interactive) attraction.
Personally, I love when family attractions get put in – it shows the park has a balance to it, rather than adding extreme thrill rides each and every year, which tend to attract the, “wrong crowds.”
Our question – is where exactly will it go? The park isn’t exactly flush with space, so this means either a creative “shoe-in” somewhere in the park, or the removal of an older attraction.
We shall see, because we’re going to leave the speculation to those “other” sites…
In addition, the park has also announced that the popular “Cirque Dreams Splashtastic” WILL RETURN for a limited run again next season. (Which is being overlooked by most other sites) This, combined with the addition of “Tsunami Soaker” gives families a great way to spend their day at Discovery Kingdom.
And in addition to all of that – a little bit of nostalgia for fans of the park when it was Marine World Africa USA…
The park is going back to being open YEAR ROUND!
“With the region’s mild temperatures, being open all year means guests have even more opportunity to enjoy Discovery Kingdom’s wildlife and wilder rides,” said Don McCoy, park president. “In addition to our summer daily operating schedule, we will now be open on weekends year-round ― further cementing Six Flags Discovery Kingdom as the premier destination for affordable, thrilling entertainment.“
Now of course, this means seeing rides go down during that time, just like Disney does at their parks – it will be interesting to see how this new year-round operation affects, well OPERATIONS! Seasonal parks tend to struggle to keep staffing up for some reason in California, so we’ll see how this year-round push goes this time around.
Considering the move to an annual “membership” plans for season pass sales earlier this year, it’s not surprising – but still great to hear officially.
For a complete list of the new for 2014 attractions at Six Flags parks, including some truly insane record-breakers across the country – visit this link HERE.
1001 Fairgrounds Drive
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!