You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.
This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.
So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?
FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area.
Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus
AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole. Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.
Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point
THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.
Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure
What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!
This past month has not been a good one if you’re a wooden roller coaster residing at a Six Flags park. The chain announced the closure of not one, but two additional woodies: the Riverside Cyclone at Six Flags New England and the legendary Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.The Colossus rumor is the worst kept secret in the industry – but the Cyclone announcement was out of left field. In the past 5 years, five different wooden coasters will be either modified or removed from Six Flags parks. So why do I claim this as the “death” of the wooden coaster era there? You have to look at the pattern of other parks in the chain to understand it:
1.) Park builds wooden coaster.
2.) Due to unknown reasons (some insiders claim it’s to save money) maintenance is deferred, making the ride rougher.
3.) As a result, the coaster must be modified from original form to save on wear and tear, either via brakes or “topper track.”
4a.) The coaster is EITHER removed altogether due to lack of ridership, complaints or sheer amount of work needed to repair and restore it…
4b.) The coaster is modified to a steel track, provided by Rocky Mountain Construction, making it a steel coaster with wooden structure. (a la the “New Texas Giant,” “Iron Rattler”)Now, to be fair – each of these rides (sans Medusa) were well beyond their prime. Of the five wooden coasters that have been converted to steel or are slated to close, three were heavily modified from their original form, making them shells of their former selves. (In the case of the Cyclone, the ride itself was just poor, rough and terribly paced to begin with.)
Hell, Colossus and it’s dual track hasn’t really raced for the past 20 years. Why? Usually only one track was open – you guessed it – to save on maintenance and wear. Anyone who’s ridden it this year will attest, the right side track hasn’t been used in months – and it shows.Not many guests know, but most of the rides and attractions at Six Flags aren’t American built – they’re almost exclusively from Europe. The traditional wooden coaster is really America’s sole contribution to the amusement community worldwide (not forgetting the Log Flume).
So then, are we witnessing a generational shift in technology, much as our Great Grandparents saw the shift from side-friction coasters to safer (and more extreme) wooden upstop rides? Or are we witnessing a stopgap cost cutting measure? Tell me what you think in the comments section, below.
Personally, I’m torn – everyone loves the latest and greatest – but you have to remember and preserve the past, too. Wooden coasters are expensive to maintain, no doubt – but NOT maintaining them through their life ends up being more expensive in the long run.
My final thought – the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz is 90 years old and yet it’s smoother than any wooden coaster at any Six Flags park. And yet, all of those woodies are at least 50 years YOUNGER.
It was our most challenging “Lost Parks” episode – ever. More locations that we’ve ever done before. More money spent than ever before – but it was all worth it.
Presenting the first episode of SEASON TWO of the “Lost Parks of Northern California” – the Pan Pacific Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1915:
Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE the video with all your friends, family and favorite cable networks – who knows, we might someday take the show national – but we’ll need your help to do it!
We’re hoping that by choosing this park, we just might bring summer back this year…it’s freezing in the Bay Area right now!
Well, you know it from it’s catchy jingle or if you ever drove through the Central Valley on the way to Yosemite or Sonora…
That’s right! We’re going back to the “famous” MANTECA WATERSLIDES!
(SKIP to 2:40 for the good stuff…)