Photo of the Day (09.24.10)

It’s an absolute travesty that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was removed from Disney World. It is by far the greatest amusement park ride ever created and was one of the original attractions at the park when it opened in Orlando in 1971. Just 27 years later, it was replaced with a Winnie the Pooh attraction. Gone are the dual tracks, last second turns and fantastic disorientation that made Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride by far the most fantastic ride in the park.

Sure, it still exists at Disneyland, where this photo by Flickr user I Am Rob was taken. However, that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride no longer thrills and entertains visitors in Central Florida is beyond comprehension. Bring back Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. No Toad, No Peace! Who’s with me?

Have a picture of your favorite amusement park ride? Or, even better, some great travel photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use one for a future Photo of the Day.

Travel Trends: Theme park attendance down, Disney remains strong

The outlook for theme parks in 2010 is quite upbeat compared to 2009. Last year, attendance slipped as the rough economy forced millions of people to stay home and snap shut their wallets.

This year, the improving economy, coupled with dozens of new attractions opening at parks around the country, is expected to pump up attendance figures at North American theme parks.

“The industry is well positioned to have a good year this year,” says Gene Jeffers, executive director at the Themed Entertainment Association. “They actually did well last year, considering the economy.”

In 2009, attendance at North America’s 20 most-visited theme parks slipped 1.1% from 2008, to 121.4 million visits, according to newly released data from the TEA.

Disney’s parks in Florida and California, however, bucked the downward trend by posting year-to-year increases.

In fact, the number 1 amusement park was Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World with just over 17.2 million visitors, up 1% from 2008.These parks are less affected by downturns in the domestic economy than many other parks since so many visitors come from overseas. Disney, and other parks, also worked hard to attract visitors with favorable pricing.

“Disney has so many resources that they can make hotel-park combo deals,” explains Jeffers. “They tried to make sure that, even in difficult times, people could come for the day and enjoy the park.”

Still, many other destination parks posted declines. The same was true for many regional parks that heavily rely on locals to lift attendance figures.

For instance, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay posted a 12.3% decline, to 4.1 million visitors. Kings Island in Ohio was down 4%, to 3 million visitors.

In 2010, the outlook for the theme park industry is good due in part the improving economy.

But another factor playing into this is that dozens of new attractions are opening this year. Among these is the 5,100-foot-long rollercoaster Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion in Virginia; the first phase of the new Luna Park Coney Island in New York City; and of course the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

“That’s a fairly large factor in our outlook,” says Nima Samadi, industry analyst at research firm IBISWorld. He expects U.S. attendance at all theme parks to increase 2.8% over 2009, when attendance by his estimate slumped 4.6% from 2008.

“Nearly everyone has been to a theme park before,” says Samadi. “So, the parks really need to entice people with new attractions to get them to come back.”


Data source: Themed Entertainment Association

See more Travel Trends.

8 new thrill rides opening in 2010

Whether you’re an avid thrill seeker or just looking to have a little fun, thrill rides and roller coasters offer riders endless good times and plenty of excitement. With the economy on the forefront of most American’s minds, many amusement parks have scaled back or delayed production of new rides. Luckily, not every park is afraid of the economic downturn, and these eight new rides opening this year offer entertainment that refuses to disappoint. Time to strap in and enjoy the ride!


The longest water coaster in the world, the Wildebeest, is opening May 14, 2010 at Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN. Riders splash through the 1,710 feet of yellow tubing at 36 feet per second in just 2 minutes, and 30 seconds on a four-person raft. The Wildebeest has a total of 7 drops, the tallest of which is 38 feet, and features 2 underground tunnels. With no access stairs, this family friendly ride is easily accessible to riders.

Shoot the Rapids
Cedar Point Theme Park in Sandusky, OH will show off this new log flume ride in 2010. Shoot the Rapids features an 85-foot first drop, and a 49-foot second drop. Unexpected special effects advance the playful backwoods, moonshine theme. With enough thrills to get the heart racing, but without the speeds that eliminate certain riders, Shoot the Rapids is a family thrill ride.

The Intimidator
Opening in the Spring of 2010 at Carowinds Theme Park in Charlotte, NC, the Intimidator boasts speeds in excess of 75 mph. The red track and checkerboard patterned landing are in honor of legendary Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt, who was the inspiration for the coaster. The tallest coaster in the Southeast, the Intimidator is 232 feet tall with a staggering first drop of 211 feet at a 74 degree angle. Open-air seating, modeled after Earnhardt’s famous Monte Carlo, allows the rider a clear view of the ride’s eight dips along its 5,316 feet of track for the duration of the 3 minute 33 second thrill ride.

Sky Rocket

Accelerating to 50 mph in only 3 seconds, the Sky Rocket is expected to open in May of 2010. The Sky Rocket is the seventh coaster to be erected at Kennywood Theme Park in West Mifflin, PA. The 2100-foot blue track features a 90 degree drop, two separate G-force pullouts, a traditional corkscrew, an inverted top hat, and a barrel roll. The orange flame accented cars reach the end of the track in 65 seconds.

Scorpion’s Tail
Noah Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, WI will set a new standard in water slides in 2010. The Scorpion’s Tail is 10 stories high, and 400 feet long. Shooting a single rider through a blue tube at more than 50 feet per second, this thrill ride “might sting a little.”

— The above was written by Chastity Goddard, Seed contributor.

Intimidator 305:
Kings Dominion
in Doswell Virginia will introduce the new giant coaster uses Nascar legend Dale Earnhardt’s nickname Intimidator. The name suits the coaster that towers at the intimidating height of 305 feet at its tallest. The first drop is 300 feet down at a terrifying 85 degree angle (nearly straight down!). The roaring ride hits amazing speeds of 90+ mph and will leaving the rider gripping their seat for the entire three minute journey in the fast lane.

The Dragon Challenge:
New roller coaster ride in Universal Studio’s Island’s of Adventure in Orlando Florida. The ride is a part of the parks newest themed section, Wizarding World of Harry Potter and actually two separate coasters. Riders must choose a ‘Dragon’, the red ‘Chinese Fireball’ or the blue ‘Hungarian Horntail’, each ‘Dragon’ offers a unique riding experience. The coasters seem to battle each other with tracks laid closely to one another simulating near hits to thrill passengers along for the battle ride. The mean ‘Hungarian Horntail’ hits top speed at 55 mph while the wicked ‘Chinese Fireball’ reaches 60 mph.

Revolution 360:
Seabreeze theme park
located in Rochester New York will open the revolutionary ride in the summer of 2010. Riders board a giant disk and sit on pedestal seats facing outward. The track is 123 feet long and u-shaped, the disk is shot up to a height of 5 stories and rotates the entire time it coasts up and down the half pipe track.

— The above was written by Rikki Dahl, Seed contributor.

Theme park news roundup: Harry Potter, robot rides and cheesy grub(s!)

Here’s what’s happening in theme park news this week.

Robot Land announced (Incheon, South Korea)
South Korea will be home to the world’s first robot theme park when Robot Land opens in Incheon in 2012. Robot Land will have a robotic arm ride, tributes to robot-themed movies such as “Matrix” and “Minority Report,” and robot employees and performers. A national robotics lab and office complexes will also be built on the 110-acre site.

The park will cost $562 million, with 87 percent coming from private investors and the remainder from the government, according to English-language newspaper The Korea Herald. Incheon, South Korea’s third largest city, is home to many high-tech businesses. Not surprisingly, Robot Land sounds like it’s trying to attract a different crowd than nearby Love Land.

Chessington World of Adventures tries new, gross snacks (London, England)
When the urge for a theme-park snack strikes this summer, you may be able to pass up the ice cream bars and funnel cake in favor of bacon-flavored crickets, cheesy grubs and chocolate ants. Chessington World of Adventures tested the unusual menu on February 18. The theme park just outside London is considering making the snacks part of the regular menu in its new Wild Asia section when it opens for the season on March 27.

Wild Asia will include a new spinning disc ride, the KOBRA, and a walk-through Lorikeet aviary. The Yorkshire Post reports that the insect snacks got rave reviews from testers. And lest you worry about exactly where those ants you eat are coming from, the newspaper reports that all the insects are “ethically sourced” (unlike these “8 great bug-eating videos from around the world”).
Wizarding World of Harry Potter details emerge (Orlando, FL, USA)
It looks like that promised spring opening for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will happen in May. Universal Orlando Resort has started selling vacation packages themed to the opening of the new “park within a park” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The packages, which include hotel, park tickets and souvenirs and a breakfast, can be booked for travel beginning May 28. Pricing starts at $1,548 for a family of four (read more about the package here).

Universal Orlando is quick to say that May 28 is not the official opening date for the park, but the release of these packages is the first definitive sign as to when Harry Potter fans will be able to visit the village of Hogsmeade in Orlando. When the Wizarding World is complete, it will have three rides, a new restaurant (“Three Broomsticks”) and shops.

Adventureland burns (Altoona, IA, USA)
A toy store, arcade, restaurant and bingo parlor burned at Adventureland amusement park on February 20. The Altoona, Iowa, park known for its Tornado roller coaster was closed for the season and empty when the fire broke out, but an adjacent hotel was evacuated as a precaution.

The Des Moines Register reports that the burned buildings on Adventureland’s Main Street were built in 1974 and were not equipped with sprinkler systems. Park officials say that Adventureland will reopen for the season in April as previously planned.

“Captain EO” returns (Anaheim, CA, USA)
The Michael Jackson 3-D film “Captain EO” returns to the Magic Eye Theater at Disneyland on Feb. 23. The 17-minute sci-fi movie first debuted at the Anaheim, Calif., theme park in October 1986, the same week the National Enquirer printed a famous photo of Jackson sleeping in a futuristic hyperbaric sleeping chamber.

The movie follows Captain EO (Jackson) and his crew as they travel to a distant planet to deliver a gift to a wicked alien queen, played by Anjelica Huston. George Lucas produced the film, which reportedly cost more than $1 milliion per minute to make. On the Disney Parks blog, Disneyland PR manager Heather Hurst Rivera said the movie will be shown from a new 70mm print and that acoustic improvements to the theater since the original run will make “Captain EO” “sound better than ever.” The movie’s original Disneyland run ended quietly in 1997. Disney officials have been mum on how long the movie’s revival will last or whether “EO” will also return to Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, where it played from 1986-1994.

Waldameer going cashless (Erie, PA, USA)
Waldameer patrons won’t need a dime to visit the Erie, Penn., amusement park this year, but they will need Wally Points. Waldameer has announced that the park is going completely cashless.

Instead of the green stuff, park guests will load a plastic card or wristband with Wally Points, which are named after the park mascot Wally Bear. The points will cost $1 each. Waldameer owner Paul Nelson told the Erie Times-News that the move will save money by giving the business tighter control over its cash.

Wild Adventures rocks (Valdosta, GA, USA)
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wynonna and Steven Curtis Chapman will headline concerts at the Wild Adventures theme park this season. The Valdosta, Ga., water and theme park announced that it will open for the year on March 6.

Three new rides will debut next month, and the park’s beloved wooden coaster, The Cheetah, will trot out its new, smoother ride thanks to a $1 million refurbishment. Wild Adventures concerts are free with park admission, but (better) reserved seats are available for $10.

Darien Lake Theme Park expands (Darien Center, NY, USA)
The Darien Lake Theme Park Resort has filed plans to build a new $7 million water park area called Pirates Cove. New attractions at the Darien Center, N.Y., resort would include a Lazy River, a 50-foot-high water slide and a FlowRider, which produces waves that riders can surf in a contained environment. The Genesee County Planning Board has given the Pirates Cove site plan a preliminary approval, according to the Batavia (N.Y.) Daily News.

[Lead photo courtesy / CC BY 2.0]

It’s Halloweekends time at Cedar Point!

As a child growing up in the Midwest, Autumn always meant the same traditions. Sundays spent raking the leaves from the yard, visits to cider mills, and an annual October trip to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.

Cedar Point. . .in October? Yes! If you live in the Midwest, you probably know that Cedar Point stays open on weekends through November 1. If you didn’t know, you’ll want to plan a trip now because, while night can be cold, hours are limited, and not all the rides are open (including, of course, the water rides and the Soak City park), the lack of crowds makes this the perfect time to get your roller coaster fix.

For the whole month, the park is open from 6pm to midnight on Fridays, noon to midnight on Saturdays, and 11am to 8pm on Sundays (except for October 11 when it’s open 10am-10pm). And with those reduced hours come reduced prices on Friday nights and Saturdays after 4pm. Daily admission is normally $44.99, but during those times it drops to $29.99 per adult.

During Halloweekends most of the park’s major coasters like Millennium Force, Raptor, Magnum, and Blue Streak are all open, though some of the smaller attractions are closed. The park is decked out for Halloween with zombies, crypts, monsters, and pumpkins scattered around, and there are haunted houses of varying scare factors, a Halloween parade, and costume contests for kids.

But the best part is that, rather than waiting up to 2 hours for your favorite coaster like you will in the peak of summer, you’ll rarely wait more than 30 minutes to move through the line during Halloweekends. At many times, especially when it gets a bit chillier late in the season, you’ll zip through in just a few minutes. You get more coaster time for less money.

Cedar Point is one hour from the Cleveland airport and Sandusky, where the park is located, is serviced by Amtrak and Greyhound. There are several hotels located just outside the park gates and in the town of Sandusky ranging from around $70 to $200 per night.