Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cedar Point Shores Water Park Opens This Weekend


© Cedar Point
One of several large projects Cedar Point has underway will open to guests for the first time this weekend.  Cedar Point Shores is the result of reimagining, expanding and modernizing the existing separate-entry water park that has sat next to Cedar Point for many years.

The work has made the existing park bigger and better than ever, with a fresh theme that embodies the history of Cedar Point as a staple destination on Lake Erie.  Spread among 18 acres near several of the resort's hotels and Cedar Point itself, it also borders a big stretch of the beach and Lake Erie just beyond.

"This is a unique time in Cedar Point's history. As the park evolves with the latest and greatest attractions, we will never lose sight of how we started," said Jason McClure, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point. "Cedar Point Shores is a direct nod to our past as it existed on the Lake Erie shoreline. Only today, new and exciting thrills are available right alongside the beach that has, and still continues to bring families together."

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point Shores has 17 water attractions, something for each member of the family - and several of them are brand new in 2017.  Seen in the photo up top, Point Plummet are 4 new thrill slides that start with trap-door free falls, plunging sliders straight down into the slide.  Built on the same tower is Portside Plunge, a pair of tube slides that end with giant drops into the pool below.

Kids also have plenty new fun waiting for them at the park in both Lemmy's Lagoon and Lakeside Landing.  Between the two there are numerous play areas, small slides and plenty more to keep kids of different ages happy in the summer sun.

Cedar Point Shores is also packed with new amenities, food and beverage and retail options.  Crystal Rock Cafe is a large new dining establishment, Beaches & Cream will offer various ice cream creations, Schooner's Bayside Bar has relaxing adult beverages, and the new Sandals Souvenirs and Sundries is a new retail location.  All new lounge chairs, bright colors on all the slides, upgraded cabanas for rent, lush new landscaping and more changes have also been completed.

For more information on Cedar Point Shores, check out the park's website.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parques Reunidos the Latest Theme Park Operator to Make China Expansion Plans



It seems that lately there's a continual flow of stories about a plethora of theme park companies making plans to expand into China.  From Six Flags' parks that are ready for construction to SeaWorld's recently announced plans, everyone is eyeing the country as the next great place to develop new parks and resorts.

We now have news that Parques Reunidos has entered into a "strategic agreement" with a Chinese company to develop new parks and indoor entertainment centers there.  Working with Harves Century Group, which the press release names as "one of the principal privately owned real estate development companies in China," Parques Reunidos will assist in creating parks across China.  The pair will be working with the investment arm of the China Development Bank, so it would appear as though there will be no lack of funding for the projects.

The partnership will see Parques Reunidos assist with "preliminary consultation phase of projects, through the consultation on design, construction, and attraction procurement, all the way to the management and operation of the future parks."

© Parques Reunidos
Parques Reunidos is already one of the largest theme, water and family entertainment park operators on the planet, with locations spread across the globe.  The company owns many parks, while having similar management agreements on many others.  They've been named as operators on several new parks, such as Bollywood and Motiongate in Dubai, and Dragon Park in Vietnam.

In the U.S. the company owns properties such as Kennywood, Dutch Wonderland,  Lake Compounce, Idlewild, several water parks and more.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Take a Spin on Six Flags Fiesta Texas' New Thunder Rapids Water Coaster


© Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is gearing up for the grand opening of their new water coaster, Thunder Rapids.  The ride, which can be seen above in a photo from the park, is located in the White Water Bay water park section of the theme park, and is included in general admission.

Built along the backside of the park's giant Texas-shaped wave pool, Thunder Rapids features a ridable lift up to three stories in the air, then both downhill and uphill sections along 942 feet of slide.  Rafts are propelled along the course using "water jet propulsion technology" as they zip through tunnels, tight turns and dips.

Thunder Rapids will open this coming weekend for a special season pass-only preview.  Saturday and Sunday will see the new attraction open for Gold pass holders only, then Monday is for all pass holders.  The ride's grand opening for the public will be on June 3rd.

Ready to take a ride?  Six Flags Fiesta Texas has released this new point of view video.  Enjoy!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Checking In On Mine Blower Construction at Fun Spot America


© Fun Spot America
One of the summer's most anticipated new coasters, and one of only three new wooden roller coasters to open in North America in 2017, Mine Blower at Fun Spot America is continuing to make progress.  The super-compact coaster has already hit its maximum height of 83 feet, with the initial lift hill, tight 180 degree turn and first plunge now completed.

The crew has been hard at work on other sections of the coaster, such as the massively banked turn seen above in a photo from the park.

© The Gravity Group
Mine Blower's designer, The Gravity Group, has also been sharing photos of the coaster's progress on social media.  This past week work began, and continued quickly, on the coaster's full inversion, a barrel roll that takes place over the top of the ride's station.  Above is a photo of the steel support structure for the inversion being put into place.  If you follow the bents that will hold the track you can follow the path that the trains will take.

© The Gravity Group
One more photo that The Gravity Group has shared, this time from the top of the lift hill looking down at the ride sprawled below.  The inversion supports can be seen on the right, and one of the heavily banked turns I spoke of earlier can be seen in the back.  When completed Mine Blower will twist over itself several times during the 2,290 feet of track.  You can check out some other recent photos from Wild Gravity Travels here.

Obviously with the ride still coming together it's a bit soon to look for an opening date, but Fun Spot America is still planning to make a summer debut.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Six Flags' New Parks in China to Feature Garfield and Friends


Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has announced that their partnership with Riverside Tourism Investment Group Co. Ltd to build theme parks in China will include Garfield as the main character theme of the park's children's areas.

The famous characters, which got their start in the comics section of the paper, will first appear at Six Flags Zhejiang when the park opens in 2019. The second Six Flags Park in China, Six Flags Chongqing, is scheduled to open in 2020.  Both will feature the Garfield characters when they open.

© Paws, Inc
“We are excited to partner with the great team at Paws Incorporated to create unique, themed sections based on the beloved Garfield character for children and their families,” said John Odum, President, Six Flags International Development Company. “From themed rides and attractions to live shows, character meet and greets and merchandise, guests will be fully immersed inside the clever world of Garfield and friends.”

The developers of the parks in China, which are licensing the Six Flags name and featuring their planning and expertise, note that Garfield is "already a beloved character in China and we look forward to bringing him to life inside Six Flags Zhejiang and Six Flags Chongqing.”

Garfield, Odie, Pooky, Arlene and Nermal are just some of the cast of characters that will be featured in the children's area.  Their license is represented by International Theme Park Services, Inc., a leader in the theme park and amusement industry.

Specific details of the two Six Flags parks for China have not been announced yet, hopefully soon we will get a chance to look at just what rides are planned!


Friday, May 19, 2017

New Nighttime Show Revealed for Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter


© Universal Studios Hollywood
Giving visitors yet another reason to visit Universal Studios Hollywood this summer, the theme park has announced the addition of "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle," a brand new show to debut in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on June 23rd.

The show will feature a "dazzling light projection experience" set on the backdrop of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Visitors will view the show from inside Hogsmeade village once the sun sets, enjoying a journey that will showcase "the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin that culminates with awesome beams of lights that fan into the night sky."

Along with the light projections, the new show will feature a special musical arrangement created by John Williams, who composed the original scores for the series of Harry Potter feature films.  Experienced in surround sound, the arrangement will no doubt transport guests back into the world of Harry Potter.  The music is being conducted by William Ross and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.

Visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood will be able to experience "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" during multiple performances each night during the summer months.  There will be limited previews leading up to the June 23rd grand opening performance.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

SeaWorld Entertainment Plans New Sesame Place Park in the U.S. + Expansion in Orlando



SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that they have extended their existing, 37 year old agreement with Sesame Workshop through the end of 2031 and that it now includes the development of a new Sesame Place theme park in the U.S. and themed expansions at the company's existing parks.

The agreement will continue to have SeaWorld Entertainment as Sesame Workshop's only theme park partner in the U.S., and calls for at least one new Sesame Place park to open by mid-2021.  The location of this park has not yet been disclosed, but more parks are on the table for the future as well.

It was also mentioned in the press release that SeaWorld Orlando will build a new Sesame Street themed land at the park by fall 2022.  To me, it sounds like the dates given for the new park and new land are deadlines, so it's not to say that they will not open earlier.

Sesame Place in Pennsylvania © Google Maps
"We share Sesame's goal of educating and entertaining generations of children, and the extension of our partnership furthers SeaWorld's mission to provide guests with experiences that matter," said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. "We are thrilled to be able to grow the presence of Sesame Place theme parks in the U.S. and help our company diversify its brand portfolio and expand into new areas." 

As for just where the new park is going, and how extensive the addition at SeaWorld Orlando will be, the Orlando Sentinel has some great hints on both. 

At SeaWorld Orlando it sounds like the Sesame Street land will replace Shamu's Happy Harbor, and will be designed to be more immersive than the lands that went into the two Busch Gardens parks.  The article quotes Mr. Manby as saying there will be Sesame Street itself to walk down, rides, a parade and more.  Honestly, aside from the water slides that just described the existing Sesame Place pretty well!

© Sesame Place
The new park is not going to Orlando, that seems for sure from the story.  Mr. Manby says that there are existing markets in the U.S. that are under served for preschool entertainment, and they will be easier and cost less to build than in the Orlando market.  

My first thought was to give it another go in Texas, as a Sesame Place existed there for only two years starting in 1982.  I'm not sure if the company has enough free land adjacent to SeaWorld San Antonio, but own the land for a new park certainly helps take a bit out of the budget!  Time will tell on this one.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Universal Orlando Shares First Look Inside Volcano Bay


© Universal Orlando
It is hard to believe that after all the speculation and guessing about whether or not Universal Orlando was going to pull the trigger on a brand new water park, we're finally just a couple weeks away from the grand opening.  Set to have the public enter for the first time on May 25th, Volcano Bay has been revealed from the inside for the first time.

Granted we've seen many aerial photos of the park's development on social media, so we've probably all had a good look so far, even those shots didn't do the park the justice it deserves.  It's beautiful!

© Universal Orlando
The park aims to make visitors feel as if they're on a "tropical getaway," and from these photos that looks like a big success.  The park's central feature is Krakatau, a giant volcano that stands 200 feet above the park's 30 acres.  Visitors can choose to totally relax during the day, or take part in many fun slides and attractions.

© Universal Orlando
Universal has packed plenty in Volcano Bay, offering 18 different water slides, a gigantic wave pool, a lazy river, action river, and several play areas - and more.  Zeroing in on the relaxation aspect, there are tons of places to lounge, including sandy beaches, along with a plethora of private cabanas to rent.

A first impression of the park and its offerings can be found, along with some photos, on CNN's Travel site.  The story is filled with details on the efforts that went into creating the park, and is worth checking out if you're interested in the park.

I'm looking forward to copious amounts of coverage to hit the web in just a couple weeks, I have a feeling there's still plenty more to see!


Monday, May 15, 2017

Casino Pier's New Hydrus Roller Coaster Now Thrilling Riders


© Casino Pier
The newest coaster on the Jersey Shore is now plunging, looping and twisting riders at Casino Pier.  Hydra opened the weekend before last, and is already a hit among visitors to the park.

We've covered the ride pretty often here, but one aspect of the coaster that I hadn't noticed is the awesome logo signs that went up on the station.  Above is a shot of one of the 3-D signs, these look awesome!

© Casino Pier
Hydrus was created by Gerstlauer and is one of their compact Euro-Fighter designs.  Known as the model 320, the coaster features a vertical lift hill to 72 feet in the air, a beyond vertical (97 degree) plunge and speeds of 45 miles per hour.  Riders are treated to several elements and inversions in quick succession, including a signature vertical loop, a cutback turn and an extended heartline roll.  The ride is fast and action packed from start to finish.

CoasterForce was on site for the ride's opening and posted some great off-ride footage, embedded below.  Looks like a fun ride, congratulations to Casino Pier on the addition!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

SeaWorld Entertainment's CEO Still Bullish on Company's Future


© Orlando Sentinel
It looks like 2017 is going to be a very pivotal year for SeaWorld Entertainment, however it is one that CEO Joel Manby is thinking may show growth.  That would be a big deal for SeaWorld, as the company has seen steady declines in earnings since 2013.

To that end Mr. Manby spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about what's going on both at a corporate and park level.  It sounds like things are finally falling into shape, with a clear vision of the parks being about conservation, not animal shows, leading the way.  Manby notes that no other company in the world is spending between $10 and $15 million a year on conservation efforts, but they are.

Morale around SeaWorld is also picking up among employees, despite layoffs that hit last December that affected the zoological area.  The company was careful to on eliminate positions that in no way reduced animal care.

Mr. Manby is also excited to continue to roll out 2017's new rides and attractions, which are aimed at expanding the breadth of what the theme parks offer... meaning continuing to add rides and attractions that are about animals, but don't necessarily feature them.  Some mix both, like Ocean Explorer at SeaWorld San Diego, and some are real thrill rides featuring a conservation message - like Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster at SeaWorld San Antonio.  It also sounds like this mix of attraction will be the pattern going forward.

Click the link above for the full story and video.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi Opening New Shoot-The-Chutes Ride



Although the ride was purchased and moved to the park years ago, Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi is now ready to open their classic Shoot-The-Chutes ride to the public.  Named the Padre Plunge, the ride originally operated at Alabama Adventure theme park for only a couple seasons.

It will now be a part of the expansive Corpus Christi property, filled with unique water slides and attractions.

© Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi
Padre Plunge takes boats of up to 15 riders to a height of 45 feet above the park.  The boats slowly make their way around a 180 degree turn before plunging down into the water below.  The splash that is created by the boat is 20 feet tall, and soaks both guests watching nearby but also a slide that is positioned inside the ride's layout.

In anticipation of the ride's opening, Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi released this promotional video of the Padre Plunge in action:


Friday, May 12, 2017

Doolittle Raiders 75th Anniversary Celebration




Eleven World War II era B-25 medium bombers were gathered at the National Museum of the United States Air Force for a special commemorative ceremony. The occasion was the 75th Reunion of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. On April 18, 1945, 80 airmen carried the burden of an entire nation as they flew towards the Japanese Home Islands and struck the first blow after Pearl Harbor. They raised the morale of all the allies but more importantly, they forced the redeployment of Japanese forces from offensive to defensive positions to protect the homeland.


This set of goblets was presented to the Raiders by the City of Tuscon, who hosted the reunion in  1959. Also shown is a bottle of cognac, provided by the Hennessee company, from which the final two Raiders were to drink the final toast to their comrades. You can see more about the final toast here. In a private ceremony, a roll call is administered and Colonel Cole turned Sgt. Richard Thatcher's goblet upside down due to his passing last summer.

 

General David  L  Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff talks about how the legacy of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders is maintained at the Air Force Academy and how important their history is to the entire service. There are over 600,000 airmen in both the active and reserve services.


Dr Doug  Lantry, Historian for the museum, explains how the story of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders fits into the history of the United States Air Force.


 Cindy Cole Chal, daughter of Colonel Richard "Dick" Cole shares how she had to learn what her father did by listening to others before he began to talk about it with her. Colonel Cole also did some of the most dangerous flying of World War II flying the "Hump," in the Chinese-Burma-India Theatre before continuing to fly with the Air Commandos. Cindy did say that her father was pleased to hear that the B-21 bomber would be called a Raider, in honor of all of them.


Colonel Cole being escorted to his seat. The crowd rose as one when he was announced and remained standing until he was seated. Cole, along with all the Raiders, felt like they were only doing their job, and while they appreciate the recognition, they never felt they deserve to be called heroes.


The Patriot Guard Riders surrounded the section of Memorial Garden with American flags.


General Golfein and Colonel Cole share a moment at the ceremony. Cole, at 101 years of age, is the last surviving participant of the raid. All the Raiders received the Congressional Medal of Honor which is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. You can find our coverage here


Some of the B-25s during the first flyover. They came in waves and the throbbing of their engines filled the air. They are all privately owned by various individuals and museums across the country.


Here is the missing man formation just before the smoking B-25 pulls up into the sky.


The presentation of the colors by the honor guard.


Cadets from the Air Force Academy place the wreath. The academy used to be the repository for the goblets before they came home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Cadets from the History Department also served during the Final Toast ceremony.


Here are some highlights of the ceremony. You can hear the B-1 bombers but not see them.


But Carol got one of them through the trees. Unfortunately, the B-1s had to alter their flight path as they approached the Memorial Garden and nobody got them except through the trees. And the unrestricted power climb was aborted. The B-1s represent the 34th and 37th Bob Squadrons, which were two of the four Army Air Corps Squadrons from which B-25 aircrews were selected for the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.


The Museum Foundation also has a Living History Film Series, where they present films of interest, and include the subjects, authors, relatives, or fellow servicemen of the aviation subjects. This night's presentation of Doolittle's Raiders: A Final Toast, was introduced by Colonel (Ret) Richard "Dick" Cole himself. The purpose of the program is to provide continuation of the amazing legacies of flight, from one generation to another. You can find information about the entire series by going here

On May 18 they will present The Last Man on the Moon, with Commander (Ret) Fred Baldwin, friend and fellow aviator of Eugene "Gen" Cernan. June 22 will feature The Gift: Mr R. A. Hoover with Sean  D  Tucker, airshow pilot. More information can be obtained by calling 937-253-4629.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Heard On... SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment's 1Q 2017 Earnings Call




Today was SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment's first quarter 2017 earning release, which like the other theme park operators looked rough from afar, mostly because of the switch of Easter to the 2nd quarter this year.

However, the operating results through the end of April show steady results with last year.  The call to discuss the earnings had some interesting points, detailed below.

•  The transaction with the Zhonghong Zhuoye Group has closed, and two of their members will join SeaWorld's board.  The development will see the creations of concept designs for theme and water parks, along with possibly family entertainment centers.  The development will bring $14 million in revenue to the company over the next 3 years.  However, the opening of any actual theme or water park in China is at least 5 to 7 years out.


•  Attendance through the end of April is essentially flat with 2016.  The first quarter did see some declines even without the Easter switch, but April has made up for them.  There has been softness in visitors from the U.K. so far this year, which the company is working to fix.

•  In just the past few weeks SeaWorld has seen some improvement in attendance from Latin America, which fell off a cliff last year.  They still do not expect levels from this area to return to normal for at least two more years.

•  Cost savings are a big push for the company, and they're making progress on that front.  They are on track to book around $20 million in expense savings by the end of 2017, pushing the total to $40 million by the end of 2018.


•  There is much excitement for the 2017 additions.  So far only InvadR at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is open, but it led to the theme park having an all time attendance record for the month of April.  The ride is also a perfect example of how they can bring and "exciting new ride" in a cost efficient manner.

•  New rides and attractions in the future will be set on an 18 month time table, which SeaWorld says is half the time of their competition.  In the future all rides will open earlier in the year, and the only reason the 2017 rides aren't already open is because they pushed some projects forward to help the turnaround.


• Virtual Reality is a way they see to gain new marketable attractions with lower costs; Kraken Unleashed is the first, an additional-charge attraction called Orca 360 will open soon at Sea World San Diego, and in 2018 Busch Gardens Williamsburg will open the first VR motion simulation ride (already announced).

•  SeaWorld still is interested in adding hotels to their parks, but is waiting for more park turnaround to occur.  They have two staff members working on the hotels and enough property to build five hotels among the parks, and already announced a development with a partner for SeaWorld San Diego.


•  Another big push for this year is the use of dynamic pricing for not only admission but also in park services across the board.  As talked about in previous calls, they also still see a big benefit to special event and festivals sine they are going after guests within a 300 mile area of the parks.  So I'd expect to see continued growth and focus on those activities.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Dining At Dorney: Exploring New Tastes, Options + Plans


The debut of Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom's 2017 season not only includes two new rides, a new show, a huge new catering area and more, it also includes more food and beverage offerings and related changes than we've seen in some time.

To that end, I was lucky enough to work with the park on a look at their improved culinary offerings - and that means tasting an awful lot of food over the three-day opening weekend.  Considering I mostly write about roller coaster and rides, taking on this food story was intimidating at first but I do love to eat, so in the end it turned out to be a natural fit.

It is no secret that food and beverage plans are a big push in the industry in general, and I'm happy to report that I was an early adapter and am now in my second season of having all-season dining.


That's important because one of the main points of my quest was to understand just what was offered by the park for guests like myself... but also for daily visitors who want to enjoy a food or beverage plan.

And there's several to choose from.  Season pass holders can go for All Season Dining as an add on to their season pass, and there's also an All Season Drink Refill option as well.  Daily visitors can get a Single Meal Deal or All Day Dining, and mix in a low-price beverage refill plan as well.

It may seem confusing at first, but really the point to be made is that all of these plans let you head to more than 15 locations in the park, look for the dining logo seen on the flag in the photos above, choose your meal and dig in.

Those are the basics, and feel more involved in text than in reality, to be short it's a breeze to use the plans in person.  I know because I have, and I have a lot!  I'm still full from my weekend of eating, which I hashtagged on Twitter as #DiningThroughDorney... sadly it never started trending.  I kid, I kid.

We will get into the food a bit more in just a bit, but the park was also kind enough to let me spend some time with two key players in Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom's food and beverage team, the park's Director of Food and Beverage, Katie Knopf and Executive Chef, Malo Jones.

Katie on the left, Chef on the right!
It takes what feels like an army to pull off the park's food and beverage operations, but these guys are certainly two of the key players in all that.  Working hand in hand, they play a huge role in the wide variety of food offerings that are created each day for park visitors.  Chef has been with the park for two seasons now, and Katie's tenure extends far beyond that.

They not only care about getting fresh, delicious food to guests, but also about the employees making it.  They both echoed the sentiment that they view themselves as role models for younger employees, happy that they can help mold them as they work through the year and gain valuable experiences.

"A part of Katie's original plan in adding an Executive Chef was to have the kids work with someone who is approachable and is willing to invest in them and be patient and understand and that's really the vision of the four corner stones of what we do," says Chef Jones. 

It is easy to think of amusement park food as just your basics like hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, and while those classic are readily available at the park, there's also so much more.  If you're hungry go get a snack, because it's time to look at some food and you're stomach is going to be growling!


In speaking with Chef Jones, it is clear that one of the most popular locations for dining plans in Dorney Park is the Smokehouse Barbecue.  The barbecue is prepared daily just outside the location, slow cooked over many hours to get the dishes perfect.  Above are a couple photos of that process in action - the pork is basted every couple hours to keep it as juicy and delicious as possible.  The park makes nearly all of the location's sauces and spices in-house to keep dishes consistent and of their quality levels.

Smoked pulled pork sandwich with baked beans, and fresh rotisserie chicken with mac'n'cheese and cornbread from Smokehouse Barbecue.
The freshly prepared food is probably a big draw to Smokehouse Barbecue, and it's offerings are delicious.  You can tell how much care is put into the food when you taste it, the options we tried are seen above.

Chef Jones pointed out that they enjoy locations like Smokehouse Barbecue that create items that work in "addition to amusement park classics," but that "we're leaning more toward culinary items as our clientele is changing, and expectations for food service, quality, consistency and variety change.  We're moving in a direction with culinary piece by piece to enhance the overall experience when visitors come into the park."

Those efforts have not gone unnoticed, Chef!  He was proud to point out that visitors who partake in one of the dining plans, whether all season or for a day, have approximately 95 meal combinations to choose from at more than 19 locations within Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom.  In the end, that's simply a ton of variety if you think about it!

Fresh, hot, juicy cheeseburger from Burger Barn, before and after I added the toppings of my choice!
All these offerings can satisfy regardless of what kind of mood visitors are in.  A classic cheeseburger from Burger Barn may fit the bill, a location which has seen many improvements this year to add more customization through an add-your-two-topping bar, new clam shell grills for a perfect cook every time and more.  That worked for me, as seen in the photo above, but there was still more to explore.

"With multiple restaurants I'm looking to make sure that the food is not only traditional offerings but also that we add in things that are new to the park.  For example, entree salads, a big game burger, brisket sandwich - things you don't always see at our park," says Chef Jones.   

Those looking for healthier options have seen an already large variety expanded further.  Chef Jones explained that "we really want to take the worry away, when you're here you can enjoy yourself, and there's something for everyone so you can find a lot of diversity in the stands."  This includes "healthier lighter choices like entree salads, low calorie sandwiches - we have a veggie tender this year, which is a new item that is a 100 percent vegetable tender as a replacement for a chicken tender made up of all veggie products.  We also have gluten free options for chicken tenders."  The park has also started to list calorie content on the menus at all locations for guest convenience.

Katie also pointed out that their guests regularly give them great feedback on their experiences, noting that many comments were "that everything comes with fries so we've decided to look at some different things to offer like veggie tenders and side salads for healthy and vegetarian options."  Often park visitors don't even realize that these healthier options are available, so Dorney Park continues to try to educate them on all that is available.

Freshly made hand-breaded chicken tenders with fresh cut fries.
I kept on eating as I took in all this information, which included these amazing hand-breaded chicken tenders from Center Stage Fries that are new this year.  It's been a couple seasons since the park did these, complete with home made batter that has no artificial flavors.  I'll be the first to say that they hit it out of the park with these, easily beating any restaurant chicken tender I can think of.

Four of the park's locations have also added touch screen ordering this year, an attempt to "enhance speed of service and give a better experience for the guest," according to Chef Jones.  These will allow visitors to speed up the ordering process, and explore all options offered depending on what meal play they have.

Chickie's and Pete's made me this chicken cheesesteak with crab fries... yum.
Chef Jones also came up with another way to expand the menu at Dorney Park by renaming Monster Grille to the Chef's Grille for 2017.  The location will feature rotating dishes to keep food choices fresh for repeat visitors, perfect for All Season Dining pass holders.

Featuring a mix of classics and "cafe bistro style cooking," the Chef's Grill will also be a hot spot for special event related food such as elephant ears and custom donut holes for Haunt.  Chef's Grill has started the season by offering an Italian sausage sandwich, but there are already plans for more limited-time options such as feature entree salads like a freshly prepared sesame ginger salad.

Italian sausage on toasted roll with peppers and onions.
The limited run entrees at Chef's Grille are all designed to be a part of the dining plans, so really the total of 95 options that we reference earlier is even bigger when you factor in these.  Hopefully the point that there's a lot to choose from with the park's dining plans is hitting home!

Holders of All Season Dining plans can also pay a small upcharge to visit some of the park's special events, this year to be held in the fancy new Parkside Pavilion.  These include an upcoming Mother's Day brunch and later in the season the Clambake, Beer and Brats and the All American Barbecue events.

In short, I was very impressed at the effort that has been going on to change the scope and quality of Dorney Park's food and beverage program, and eating all the food necessary to write this story was just an added bonus.  Many thanks to both Katie and Chef Jones for their help and time.  Make sure to stop by the park and try some of these dishes soon!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dorney Park 2017 Season Opening Update



This past weekend was Dorney Park's opening day, and with great weather it saw both excited crowds and eager guests ready to have some fun after a long winter.  Let's take a look at all that has changed for 2017, the park has added several attractions and more.

Up top are the new metal detectors that are located out front of the ticket booths in the main entrance plaza.  This is a great improvement to wanding and very fast.  Guests are asked to hold devices, keys, etc in their hands and raise them as they pass through, which is super fast.  This eliminates the empty-every-pocket-into-a-bucket process I've encountered elsewhere that takes time to then collect, etc.


Located along the main midway soon after entering the park is the first of two new rides at Dorney Park this year.  Kaleidoscope is a Huss Trokia that is looking great in its new home.


Just to give an idea of where the ride is located, it sits on the land that was once home to Screamin' Swing.  To the left of it is the Coasters restaurant, and to the right and behind it is the Wild Mouse.


While the ride wasn't ready for opening day, it will be withing a couple weeks - or sooner.  It arrived from its original home already totally refurbished and painted.  The above photo was taken from the dining area at Coasters - the queue for Kaleidoscope can be seen in the foreground.


As far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many classic Huss flat rides at a park!  I'm looking forward to giving Kaleidoscope a spin when it opens.


A little further down the midway is the large games area, a part of which has been repurposed in 2017 into a Coke Refresh stand.  As all-day drink programs continue to gain popularity this helps with a big need of the park.


Another sign of the growing popularity of extra-benefit plans related to dining, beverage and Fast Lane is the addition of a Premium Services area at the park's entrance.  This is a great idea in my opinion, as many guests have questions and this will help eliminate them right at the start of the day.


The second new ride this year is Dodgem, the return of bumper cars at the park!  Located near the entrance to Talon and where Hang Time was, the ride adds a lot of activity and fun to what was a pretty quiet area the past couple seasons.


Dodgem looks great at night, as it has a classic light package that can be seen from far away - perfect to draw visitors in.


All of the cars (there are 20) have LED lights on the bottom of them which go on during the ride cycle.  Dodgem was pulling healthy lines on opening weekend but the wait was never too long - so plenty of happy visitors.


On to some other changes, the Snoopy Bounce is no longer at the park in Planet Snoopy.  Looks like some new grass has been planted on the spot where it was.


Not far away from where Snoopy Bounce was, a path that used to lead to the Joker flat ride has returned to grass and landscaping.  The path has led to nothing other than a nice view of Hydra's cobra roll for many years, so this makes sense to me.


Dorney Park is also featuring a renovated stand that now offers Auntie Anne's pretzels, at the perfect spot just outside one of the entrances to Planet Snoopy.


Another rather large addition for 2017 is the Parkside Pavilion, an expansive catering area that has gone up behind White Water Landing on land that was formerly used for maintenance and storage.  The entrance to the area is beyond Meteor along the side of Hydra.


Guests can see into the area and a secondary exit for it on the way to Thunder Canyon.  On opening weekend crews were still finishing up work on the addition.


There was a berm here with trees on it that used to hide the maintenance area beyond it, but it's now opened up with Parkside Pavilion.  You can see Blood on the Bayou in the back of this image, helping to give an idea of its location.


One last photo of Parkside Pavilion, I took this one from right at the entrance to Thunder Canyon to show how different the area looks.


Hard to believe, well at least it is for me, but Steel Force is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017.  Where oh where has the time gone!


The park has renamed the Monster Grille into the Chef's Grille, and it will now feature rotating meals throughout the year.  Much more on this and the food and beverage changes at the park in a story coming up real soon.


Not the most exciting change, I know, but Dominator got some fancy new graphics on the ride cars.  Hard to tell for sure, but the paint on the tubes inside the towers also looked pretty vibrant, so perhaps they were redone as well.


Looking forward to the fall and the popular Haunt, the park is already teasing about a new attraction for 2017.  This is the side of the former Mansion House Hotel haunt, which we can safely assume is now a part of history.  The park has painted the side of the building black with a giant teaser on it.


Here is a closer look at the sign that is posted as well.  There's some clues to the theme but I still haven't quite put my thumb on it.  This is also the 10th year of Haunt, which means the park will use that cool Haunt X logo!


Finally, the amusement park side still has one more addition for 2017, the opening of Cirque Imagine in the Good Time Theatre.  The highly anticipated show will open to guests starting on June 17th.

That's all for now, stay tuned for more updates soon!