Five ways visiting theme parks has changed: then and now

Theme parks have evolved greatly over the years. Even in my lifetime, the theme park experience has changed substantially due to advances in technology. Today’s guests have the tools to enjoy their visits more than ever. In no particular order, here are five ways the theme park experience has changed in just the past two decades.

1. Apps are putting park information at your fingertips
The task of finding your way around an unfamiliar theme park is becoming a lot easier thanks to apps like Thrillseeker. The app functions like a park map, but with the added advantage of GPS to show you your location. It even gives you step-by-step directions to attractions and detailed ride descriptions so you’ll know what to expect. While the app currently covers just the major theme parks in Florida and the United Kingdom, it does point to a pretty cool future.

2. Home videos are going public and getting dangerous
Cell phones and the ever-shrinking digital cameras have given guests the ability to easily capture memories of their theme park visit. Unfortunately, this has led to the dangerous practice of some guests whipping out blunt objects on roller coasters so that they can film themselves and their friends. If dropped, those cute little cameras turn into missiles that could injure other riders or onlookers. I’d recommend guests buy on-ride DVDs or photos rather than put other riders’ in danger. YouTube has plenty terrible, shaky home videos already.

3. Guests can avoid waiting in long lines
Waiting in line has always been a part of the theme park experience. Today, at many parks guest have an alternative to forgoing hours of shuffling through quarter mile-long queues. Rather than waste precious time, ride reservation systems like Six Flags’ Flash Pass and Disney’s FASTPASS allow guests to enjoy other rides at the park until their ride time. When your time comes, guests simply enter attractions via a special entrance and only have to wait a few minutes before boarding the ride.

Orlando’s Universal Studios posts wait times for the park’s most popular attractions via electronic billboards all over the park. So, there’s no need to wonder if that attraction on the other side of the park still has a long wait.

4. Visiting in groups and splitting up is much easier
Anyone who’s ever visited a theme park in a large group knows that splitting up is inevitable as some want to challenge the biggest and baddest rides while others would like a more relaxing visit. Years ago, you might have planned to meet someone at a certain place and at a certain time. If a ride broke down or you missed your group, you could waste a good portion of your visit looking for your party. Today, you can simply call your friends with your cell phone when you’re ready to meet.

5. Guests are better informed than ever
With the Internet, guests can do extensive research on an amusement park before their visit. Aside from official theme park websites, there are fan sites, theme park news sites and blogs, and resources like the Roller Coaster Database and Wikipedia that make it easier than ever to know anything you’d want to know about a theme park. You no longer have to rely solely on word-of-mouth from friends and family or the park’s often exaggerated advertising about their exciting new rides.