The world's most authentic roller coaster and amusement park expert!

Posts tagged “travel

Kris Rowberry Returns to Great American Thrills

Kris Rowberry

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since we last talked. Two and a half years, to be precise.

No, it wasn’t you – it was me. A necessary hiatus what with me taking a position in the Communications Department of a major theme park here in the south.

But as of this week, that restriction have been lifted, so you’ll be able to expect hearing from me on a semi-regular basis once again.

I’m so sorry.

You’ll also be seeing some changes to the site over the next few months, with some new features as well as a new look. I’ll be sure to keep you all up to speed as we transition back into regular programming.

It’s been a long two and a half years – we’ve got a lot to catch up on.

But, just to be safe, let’s not wait that long to talk to one another ever again – okay?

– KR

Kris Rowberry

Kris Rowberry is back at Great American Thrills!


Five Ways To Be Arrested in an Amusement Park

Nobody’s perfect – we are all human, after all. But there are several ways you can mess up BIG TIME at your local amusement or theme park and end up in the county jail. If you think those rules at parks are for chumps, you better read on and start taking copious notes.

Here’s five ways you can get carted away to jail for misbehaving at an amusement or theme park:

 

Spitting:

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The quintessential bad adolescent behavior! In addition to being a serious health hazard, spitting off of a ride (such as a sky ride) and hitting another person can be prosecuted as assault. Plus, the park can revoke your ticket or season pass as well.

Smoking:

no-smoking-sign

In many places around the country, smoking is being banned in all public places, including parks. Many have set up so called “Cancer Corners” to keep people from smoking directly on the midway. But in some places, you can be cited for illegally smoking – and it can carry jail time in some of the more strict interpretations of the law, especially here in California.

Disobeying Ride Operators:

We have rules for a reason - usually because someone before was dumb enough to warrant making one!

We have rules for a reason – usually because someone before was dumb enough to warrant making one!

Much like a Flight Attendant, a Ride Operator knows much more about the attraction you’re about to ride, despite their age or attentiveness. Purposely disobeying an order from them can not only land you in the hospital from injuries, but can also get you in the slammer for failing to heed posted rules and regulations.

Line Jumping:

line-jumping

Ah, the scourge of park attendees worldwide. But did you know that California has a specific Penal Code dedicated to line jumping? California Penal Code 490.6 gives parks’ the ability to detain you for jumping the line, until the police show up. That’s one way to make your wait times much LONGER, rather than shorter.

Tagging:

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This should be a no brainer, but amazingly, you’re not allowed to write on things that aren’t yours – especially private property. Of interest lately is people tagging their Instagram or Twitter accounts…because nothing makes the police happier than you telling them exactly how to find you to prosecute you.

By now, you must be asking yourselves: “Wait, you cannot possibly be serious in saying or implying that people get prosecuted for these, can you?”

Well, hate to break it to you, but I am serious – and I’ve seen it happen. Working for several parks in my career, I’ve seen everything from spitters being arrested, to taggers being tased. In fact, more people than you think are removed from parks every day, and some of them end up making the trip wayyy downtown. Remember that parks are supposed to keep out the “outside world” and keeping up that illusion is part of the services the park offers. Trust me, just follow the rules and you’ll make everyone’s day better!

What do you think? Which person behaving badly would YOU like to see removed from a park for one of these offenses? Tell us on social media or comment below!


The Emotional Connection to an Amusement Park

I debated long and hard about putting out this post – I tend to be an intensely private person at times, but I feel that if I can share, maybe you’ll make the same emotional connection to a park on your next trip to your local amusement or theme park.

Ten years seems like forever when you say it. Broken down, it’s 3,652 days…520 weeks.

And yet, the biggest, sentinel moment in my life still feels like it was yesterday.

On August 1st, 2004, around 8:00am – I lost my mother to an aggressive, rare form of cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia (Learn more about it, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acute_myeloid_leukemia)

I would be lying if I told you it didn’t mess me up for the rest of my life. Under the stoic, proud face I put on was a terrified young adult – lost in the world without the woman who had given birth to me and frightened. To this day, I am still scarred and probably always will be.

So why do I share this story with you on my amusement and theme park blog?

Every summer, my sister and I would look forward to visiting our local parks with our family – when we were younger, we couldn’t afford season passes; we made it out to our local parks at least once a year, so each trip was extra special for us.

The last trip we made together as a family was in March of 2004, two months before her initial diagnosis and four before she passed. I was working at the time at (then) Paramount’s Great America, and the park was holding it’s annual “Employee Day”  a week before it opened to the general public. It was basically a dress rehearsal to iron out any issues before the public saw the park for the first time that year.

That’s when we took this photo…(Dad was behind the camera):

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to me and my family.

No caption could contain the emotion that this photo brings back to my family and I. It still brings me to tears.

For me, this is the moment that I can argue how a park can become much more than just a place to have fun. It’s a repository of our collective memories; they’re time capsules into what makes us human. And despite being 3,652 days removed, the memories for me are still as strong as ever.

And so, ten years after the sentinel moment in my life, I was once again out at California’s Great America – having fun and enjoying myself with friends. Why? Because I know she wouldn’t want me to mope around – so I didn’t.

While this past week was a very difficult one emotionally, as it is every year on or around August 1st – I can take solace in photos and memories like these…remembering the good times, the smiles and most importantly the love. And that’s the true, authentic park experience for me – how about you?

I love you Mom – then, now and forever.


Could Cedar Fair offer a “California Season Pass” instead of a Platinum Pass?

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.

The GOLD Pass, which in NorCal gets you admission to: California’s Great America, Halloween Haunt, Gilroy Gardens and free parking at each 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's a long road trip to use your Platinum Pass to it's maximum potential.

That’s a long road trip to use your Platinum Pass to it’s maximum potential.

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.

Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm. Photo by Kris Rowberry. All rights reserved.

Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm. Photo by Kris Rowberry. All rights reserved.

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!


Week of Big Announcements!

This week, Great American Thrills® is proud to announce not one, but TWO major initiatives regarding the brand and television concept that are sure to rock your socks off!

Major Announcement #1 –Codename: Showbiz”

Some of you have heard rumblings that “Lost Parks” wasn’t the only project we were working on – and I’m happy today to confirm that this is absolutely true.

We will be premiering an entirely new travelogue / roller coaster / amusement park show concept in the next few weeks. And while we’ll need YOUR help to get it to as many eyeballs as you can – we’ll get into that once it arrives. Oh, did we mention this project is ALREADY trademarked, copyrighted AND registered with the Writer’s Guild of America – so don’t even think about stealing it.

 

Major Announcement #2 – “Project Neptune”

Over the past two years, I’ve seen this website go from a simple WordPress blog, to a significantly more complex “destination” on the web – and the web traffic proves. it. As a result – the site isn’t working as well as it should – and changes will have to be done far more than just cosmetic.

While the timeframe for “Neptune” is not set in stone, expect major changes to the website (in terms of design and interface) to begin showing up over the next few months.

So, why the name “Neptune?” Honestly – it sounded cool – so don’t read into it too much!

This February will be the 4th official year of work (on and off) on this project. It’s amazing to watch it all coming together – slowly, but surely – we’re inching closer to our goal of bringing Great American Thrills® to the masses. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!


Lost Parks Featured in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa’s Village continues to bring in the press coverage! Today, we’re featured in the Sunday Santa Cruz Sentinel!

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Not exactly sure WHEN I changed my last name to Rowland, however…

For those of you who don’t get the paper, you can read the article online, here:

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_24808829/web-episode-series-highlights-scotts-valley-santas-village


KION Central Coast News Features “Lost Parks of Northern California”

Not even a day after our story aired on KSBW – leading off the newscast, no less – KION Central Coast News got in on the “Lost Parks” action, with their own report!

KION Screenshot

Special thanks to reporter Cassandra Arsenault for coming out and recording us! (And for nerding out briefly on Boston area amusement parks, too!)

On a side note – what is it about Boston area-born reporters and the Bay Area? That’s two now!

Second side note – we’re filmmakers – someone reported it – so it’s official!!!

Jump to the story by clicking the link, below:

http://www.kionrightnow.com/news/local-news/filmmakers-look-to-preserve-santas-village-through-documentary/-/23047192/23650682/-/14uwndb/-/index.html


Lost Parks Featured on KSBW Action News!

Chalk another news outlet onto the list that’s discovered the charm and passion of the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series…KSBW Central Coast News led their newscast with a story on our project!

KSBW Screenshot

Check out the the video, by clicking the link, here:

http://www.ksbw.com/news/central-california/santa-cruz/Documentary-focuses-on-Santa-s-Village-on-Central-Coast/-/5738976/23650724/-/v6cvlh/-/index.html


Lost Parks featured in the Huffington Post!

Kris Rowberry, Roller Coaster Expert

Add another media outlet to the list of organizations that have discovered the charm of the “Lost Parks” project – today, we’re featured in The Huffington Post!

Huffington

Read the article, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/16/lost-parks-of-northern-california_n_4456181.html

2013 has been an amazing year for coverage – I cannot wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!


Great American Thrills Trademark Approved

If you’re looking for the next great travel show about amusement or theme parks, coasters or thrill rides – your search just got easier and your costs just went down, because Great American Thrills® is now an officially recognized and registered trademark!

There are some moments in life that are just photo-op worthy. Yesterday, I was fortunate to experience just such an occasion:

Trademark Approved

As of November 26th, 2013 – Great American Thrills gets a little modification – a circular “®” attached, to be specific. It now can be considered a brand with the U.S. Government! (Sans paying taxes as a corporation).

Hot damn!

Sadly, I had to wait until yesterday to pick up the paperwork – and let me tell you – it feels a whole lot more real when you’ve got that sheet of paper (in a protective cover) in your hands!

According to my preparing attorney, Michael Bosworth of IPx Law – I was the first person ever to want to come and pick up the paperwork in person. Certainly I was the first to take a photo of it, too ; ) Never being one to turn down the opportunity to be in front of a camera – I couldn’t resist…

Three years of planning and saving brought me to this moment – and now we’re almost ready to take the next step in the five year plan.

Mark my words – 2014 will be the year of Great American Thrills®, and we couldn’t be happier to have you along for the ride!


Featured in the San Jose Mercury News!

Big thanks to Mike Cassidy, who wrote a wonderful column (in the business section, no less!) about how we use technology to save parks that have been lost to the sands of time!

Mercury News Cassidy

Read the full article, here:

http://www.mercurynews.com/mike-cassidy/ci_24718952/cassidy-kris-rowberry-saves-santas-village-other-lost


Convention and Visitors Bureau Uses the Wrong Six Flags in Photo to Promote the Holidays

I caught an interesting error on my Facebook feed yesterday – see if you can spot the problem with the photo that the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau is using to promote the holidays in their fair city. Those who know Six Flags Discovery Kingdom well should see it right away:

Notice anything "different" about Discovery Kingdom in this photo?

Notice anything “different” about Discovery Kingdom in this photo?

Unfortunately, Discovery Kingdom doesn’t have a Superman themed drop tower – or ANY drop tower for that matter. It would appear the photo was actually taken at Six Flags Over Texas.

You’d think the folks who were tasked with promoting and advertising their city would at least know what major attractions were at their home park…unless they know something we don’t!


Documenting the Lost Parks of Northern California on NBC Bay Area

For those of you who missed the story that Garvin Thomas of NBC Bay Area, did of us, they’ve just posted the link (and article) online. We’ll try to embed the video here shortly, but until then…

You can find the article here, or copy/paste the link below:

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Documenting-The-Lost-Parks-Of-Northern-California-232016161.html

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Thanks for the Follow, Destination America!

It’s always great to receive new followers on social media – but some, such as the one I received last evening, are very special!

Destination America follows Great American Thrills

Thanks for the follow, Destination America – glad to have you along for the ride! This tweet brought to you by Verizon Wireless 4G LTE…

Destination America is a partner channel with Discovery Communications, and would be a WONDERFUL place to have Great American Thrills show just how amazing our amusement parks are – (wink wink, nod nod) after all…we invented them!

I look forward to sharing my passion of amusement and theme parks with you, Destination America – in addition to my extensive knowledge of Talkeetna, AK ; ) Have you ever tried their pancakes?

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Lost Parks, Episode 3: “Manteca Waterslides”

I am proud today to release our third episode in the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, focusing on the “famous” Manteca Waterslides!

Learn how the modern water slide was born just off of Highway 120 in Manteca, where you can still go to experience pieces of the park today and why people still call the chamber of commerce, asking about the slides…nine years after the park closed for good.

This was on all accounts – the most difficult video we have produced thus far. The technical aspects alone were enough to make both myself and my producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch throw a fit. But, we persevered – and are proud to show you our work of the past few months.

“The Lost Parks of Northern California” is produced in association with the American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern California region. Learn more about them at: www.acenorcal.org


Happy Friday the 13th!

Got a case of trixadexaphobia? (Fear of the number 13?)

Better take a pass on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, found at several Disney parks. Just a perfect theme for a free fall ride.

Photo by Great American Thrills (Kris Rowberry)

Tower of Terror at the Disneyland Resort

Fun fact: For many years during it’s development, the ride was going to utilize the original Intamin “first generation” free fall technology:

Photo from TowerofTerror.org

Photo from TowerofTerror.org

Photo by Great American Thrills (Kris Rowberry)

You can see how the “L” shape of the freefall would fit perfectly in the design of the original concept art.

I hear the wait time is low today, too…

…only 13 minutes according to MouseWait!


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What’s Your Worst Travel Mistake?

Mine was overpaying for hotel rooms on my coaster adventures. Learn from my mistake – always plan ahead!

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Read the entire article here:

http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/lifestyle/travel/my-worst-travel-mistake-6-money-lessons


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Photo of the Day: Asiana Airlines Flight 214 Wreckage at SFO

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Now, I’m a big fan of all things aviation – but to take these photos yesterday was both a sobering and ethereal moment for me.

To think of what this aircraft and more importantly, it’s occupants had been through made this one of the more difficult subjects for me to shoot.

Nonetheless, it’s important to document – to think so many people WALKED AWAY from this wreckage is simply astounding.

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills/sets

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


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.


Danke Shen, Deutchland! (Thank you, Germany!)

A big thanks to the folks over in Germany for watching the Lost Parks series in such high numbers! Check out the latest demographics on the YouTube channel!

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 9.23.41 PM

I knew working for a Zeppelin company would pay off at some point!

Sie sind ser schon!


Kim Jong Un – Amusement Park Expert?

This kid is a baller

This kid is a baller

Photo Credit: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) NOTE: State-run media.

Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…

Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.

Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).

But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.

First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.

Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.

So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…


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!


Video

KGO Interview

KGO 810 AM here in the Bay Area interviewed me this past Friday on the “Lost Parks” series. Hopefully, it’s the start of people discovering my little series!

For those who missed it – check it out!


Video

Lost Parks, Episode 1 – San Mateo’s “Pacific City”

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, episode one of, “The Lost Parks of Northern California,” featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City.”

Be sure to like our video, comment on it, subscribe to our channel and share with your friends! We’re on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter!

You can also follow the American Coaster Enthusiasts (my partner on this journey) at www.ACEonline.org or www.ACEnorcal.org

Enjoy!