Monday, May 20, 2019

Luna Park Shares a Preview of Two Unique New Flat Rides Opening This Summer

© Luna Park Coney Island
At least two thrilling new attractions are set to debut this summer at Luna Park in Coney Island, New York.  The park has been teasing fans a bit as to what the rides will be, originally only saying they were brand new creations from Zamperla.

Now they've taken a step further and actually given us a look at the two new rides via their Facebook page:

This first one looks like a pretty wild family ride, which has a ton of kinetic appeal.  Riders look to be seated in cars that allow their feet to dangle below them, in pairs back to back.  There are two sets of seats each on four separate arms that all spin in a giant vertical circle, with the cars just barely missing one another as they spin.

Hard to describe, but the video does that pretty clearly.  The seats also look like they are able to rock back and forth, I'm not sure if the ride motion will allow for inversions at all.  Either way it looks like a pretty great flat ride that might give some awesome air-time once it is up and running.

The second new ride looks like an improved version of Zamperla's Air Race, only on this version the entire body of the ride moves up to a decent height above the ground.  As with the previous model the ride will spin while the cars also flip vertically in a circle, creating a disorienting experience, only now well above the ground.

This one is definitely for thrill seekers, as the Air Race rides have already proven to be some of the most unique ride experiences out there.

I'm looking forward to seeing these rides installed and opened at Luna Park - they have also shared photos of the rides being packed up to be shipped to the park so it should be soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Six Flags SkyScreamer Now Thrilling Riders at Six Flags Darien Lake

© Six Flags Darien Lake
Six Flags Darien Lake is celebrating their first season once-again branded as a Six Flags park and has just opened their brand new thrill ride, the Six Flags SkyScreamer.  Eager visitors to the park have had their first rides, which include a swirling view of the park below from 242 feet in the air.

Six Flags Darien Lake released this video that covers all the important details of the ride, including a look at what the view is like from the top of the ride.  The SkyScreamer rides are known for their relaxing trip and amazing views, at least if you're not terrified of heights - then it might not be so relaxing!

Guests on the Six Flags SkyScreamer swing around in a giant circle at 35 miles per hour in chairs extended from the carriage, giving an unparalleled sense of freedom.  The park is happy to point out that the ride's height of 242 feet makes it taller than both the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.  And at night, as seen in the photo up top, the ride gives a wonderful light show that forever changes the park's skyline.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A New Adventure Unfolds as Calico River Rapids Opens at Knott's Berry Farm

© Knott's Berry Farm
The highly anticipated renovation of Knott's Berry Farm's Bigfoot Rapids into the all-new Calico River Rapids has opened to the public!  The attraction has been changed head to toe to create an all new storyline that links the ride to the other themed sections of the park.

Bigfoot Rapids opened in 1987, so the existing attraction had been a staple of the park's roster and already had some fans, but I have a feeling the dramatic retheming of the ride will see it garner long lines once again this summer.

© Knott's Berry Farm
Calico River Rapids features all new scenes along the ride path, including 20 or so animatronic people an wildlife creatures.  Above is a bear that just caught its dinner with a raft passing right by it.  The Calico River is said to have been a location that many settlers explored and eventually made their home, of course making peace with all the animals in the area as well.

As a special treat, the park's designers included an actual Bigfoot animatronic hiding in the ride's finale cave scene, a fitting nod to the ride's former name.

© Knott's Berry Farm
Calico River Rapids has so many detailed scenes (the above photo is just one small part of a much larger scene) that it appears that you'll need several rides to take it all in.  The park did a wonderful job with the ride and from videos it doesn't appear to totally soak riders, which is a great thing to me because it will make it even more repeatable that way.

Here is one video of the ride experience from SoCal Attractions 360, showing all the different scenes:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sesame Street Birthday Party Parade to Entertain at SeaWorld San Antonio

© SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio is excited to bring the Sesame Street Birthday Parade to visitors starting May 18th, featuring the cast of Sesame Street in an interactive street production.

The "colorful, musical, show-stopping parade, which is part of Sesame Street’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration, will feature 10 larger-than-life themed floats including the iconic Mr. Hooper’s Store and Count’s Castle."

Characters including Elmo, Big Bird and plenty more will join 20 dancers who engage with guests along the route.  The 17 minute parade features "toe-tapping" good times and officially runs May 18th, May 25-26, June 1, June 8 and June 14 through August 11 - excluding Wednesdays.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
This new parade will feature colorful birthday themed decorations, sparkly cupcakes and a catchy new birthday song.  A part of the parade includes a "birthday stop" where everyone will be dancing and clapping along to the music.  Guests are invited to help their Sesame Street friends as they put on their birthday hats and blow out the candles on a giant cake.

The parade is a wonderful addition to SeaWorld San Antonio's Sesame Street Bay of Play themed area, which is celebrating it's 8th season at the theme park.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
“Sesame Street has had a long and popular presence in our park,” said Roland Garcia, SeaWorld San Antonio’s vice president of entertainment. “We’re delighted to expand our entertainment offerings for families and kids with this brand-new, engaging and endearing parade through the park. No doubt it will offer our guests some great opportunities for phenomenal photos.”

For those families with little ones, up to age 5, they can get them unlimited free admission to SeaWorld San Antonio all year long with a Preschool Card, only for Texas residents.  Parents can register their kids online before the end of this month on the park's website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 1st Quarter 2019 Earnings Call

© Cedar Fair
Last week was the earnings call for Cedar Fair Entertainment Company's first quarter 2019 results.  There wasn't a ton of super exciting news, but a lot of updates about the health of the company... which seems strong.  Here are some notes:

• During the 1st quarter revenues increased $12 million, based off of increases in per-capitas, attendance and out of park revenues.  However, there was an extra calendar week of park operations in 2019 versus 2018, so a lot of the increase probably comes from that.  The operating loss for the quarter increased to $85 million, up from a loss of $76 million last year, due to the extra operating days.  They also saw a bump in depreciation and amortization costs, to $14 million up from $8 million, due to a change in the "estimated useful life" of a long lived park asset.  Maybe that was Volcano at Kings Dominion?

• They also released results through the end of April, which puts this and last year more comparable due to Easter timing shift.  At that point revenues were up 2% or $2 million, primarily due to strong in park spending and out of park revenues.  Attendance was down around 20,000 visits over last year.

• Also through the end of April deferred revenues were up 12% or $20 million, which represent sales of season passes, dining plans, fast lane, etc.  Sales of passes and of all season food plans are both up over last year.

© Knott's Berry Farm
• Generally speaking it sounds like Knott's Berry Farm is continuing to do extremely well, having their strongest-ever start to the 2019 season with their Peanuts Celebration and Boysenberry events.  They are continually booking year over year revenue increases, and the same with their season pass program.  They said again that the park surpassed 6 million visitors last year (not clear if that's the park AND water park or just the theme park).

• The rewards program for season pass holders is still going to be in a test phase for 2019, through I'm not sure at which parks.  After testing and tweaking the program with what they learn this year, it will roll out to a larger audience in 2020.  The loyalty program aims to make lifelong relationships with customers, giving them benefits for visiting often and also to keep passes being renewed.

© Cedar Point
• No change to the company's long term goal of hitting $575 million in EBITDA by 2023.  They still plan to get there by "enhancing guest experience, expanding the season pass program, increasing market penetration through targeted marketing and pursuing developing land adjacent to the parks."

• The company has several additional revenue generators scheduled to debut later this year, including a new hotel at Carowinds, the opening of the giant indoor sports center adjacent to Cedar Point, and the first Winterfest at Canada's Wonderland.

© Cedar Fair
• The 2019 capital has a heavy mix of entertainment and experience in it, but also big roller coasters at Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland.  The Grand Carnivale and Monster Jam Thunder Alley events feel like they were created from a push right from the CEO's office. (they again say that the partnership with Monster Jam is the "first installment of a strategic collaboration between the companies)  They're also excited to generate the excitement felt at Knott's Ghost Town Alive at Cedar Point's Forbidden Frontier this year.

• The purchase of the land under California's Great America was a "once in a generation" opportunity so the company jumped on it.  They said the rezoning two years ago was the first step in a "more aggressive development program" and they are "actively deploying that strategy" and will announce more later in the year.  The big plans for the park had seemed to have stalled completely, but are they back on now?  It sounds like it is, now that they fully own it.  I still have to wonder if they played hard ball on the big expansions in order to get the ability to purchase the land.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Firebird Almost Ready to Soar at Six Flags America

© Six Flags America
Six Flags America's newly transformed roller coaster, Firebird, will be ready for all guests to soar on next weekend, starting May 17th.  The ride is actually open this weekend as a special preview for certain levels of Six Flags pass holders, but the general public can get their first flight in on the 17th.

© Six Flags America
Firebird is now a floorless roller coaster, after undergoing an extensive renovation during the winter months that removed the ride's stand-up trains and station set up.  The coaster was B&M's first back in 1990, a stand up roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America named Iron Wolf.  The coaster operated at that park until it was moved to Six Flags America for the 2012 season and named Apocalypse.

Now with brand new floorless trains, the coaster has been renamed Firebird and given a fancy new paint job.  The ride stands 100 feet tall, has a first drop of 90 feet, two inversions and a top speed of 55 miles per hour.

In anticipation of the grand Firebird opening, Six Flags America has released a point of view video of the ride experience - check it out below!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

New Splash Water Parade to Entertain at Six Flags Over Texas in July

© Six Flags Over Texas
Six Flags Over Texas has announced an innovative special engagement experience to debut at the park this July - the Six Flags Splash Water Parade.

Billed as the first of its kind, the parade will be the "coolest even in all of North Texas," featuring larger than life parade floats, creatively themed decor, music and festive street entertainment.

The Six Flags Splash Water Parade will run at the park twice each day from July 13th through August 11th.  Performances will be at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

“As the world leader in thrills, Six Flags continues to raise the bar to deliver the most unique and innovative experiences in the industry,” said Six Flags Over Texas Park President Steve Martindale. “The introduction of a water parade is another example of our ongoing commitment to deliver world-class entertainment year after year. Our Members and Season Pass Holders will want to visit again and again to enjoy this cool, new event with family and friends.”

During the parade guests will see elaborately themed 13 foot tall floats, each carrying a themed related to the "dog days of summer."  Some of the memorable aspects of the event include:

• A traveling water tower that will make for a fun portable spray ground for younger guests to delight in
• Thousands of dazzling, colorful beads tossed from each float to the waving crowds
• Water trikes and street performers
• A rocking summer soundtrack that will inspire guests to move to the beat as the floats make their way through the park.

The new Six Flags Splash Water Parade, included with general park admission, sounds like a great way to cool down in the Texas summer sun, and is a fun take on a theme park daily parade.  I'm interested to see more of the event once it opens!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Volcano: The Blast Coaster Nearly Gone from Kings Dominion

© NewsPlusNotes
Sorry it has been a bit quiet around here lately, we've been away.  I noticed more and more sad photos of the destruction of Volcano: The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion over the past couple weeks.  They're popping up all over the interwebs, photos and video of not only the coaster itself coming down, but also the entire mountain that the ride surrounded.

These photos were shared on Instagram today by KDFans and show the most recent views of what little is left of Volcano.  It is not much!  Basically all that remains is the steel support for the center of the volcano structure, which has the coaster's supports intertwined with it.  It's kind of neat to see how the mountain supports stayed separate from the coaster's, but I think we'd all rather go for a spin on Volcano than see the inside of the mountain like this.

YouTube user World of John has also been documenting the removal of the coaster via aerial footage.  The most recent video is embedded here, taken about a week ago.  There's a little bit more of the ride still standing at that point, but not much.

At this rate, the main structure of the ride will probably be completely gone in a week.

As for the future of Volcano's site, the park has placed the above sign on the construction fence.  This photo, from CP Food Blog, promises us that there will be a new expedition on the horizon.  Exactly what that means remains a mystery, and the sign isn't really very telling.  I think there's probably no chance that any type of animal attraction will replace the coaster, though the general theme used here might be employed.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Dorney Park's 136th Opening Day: A Look at the Park as 2019 Season Starts

© NewsPlusNotes
Here we are at the opening weekend for Dorney Park's 136th operating season, what a feat to have something stay around for 136 years!  The 2019 season at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom will be marked by two large special events that will bring a new type of limited engagement entertainment to the park, and both events are surely not to be missed.

While visiting the park this weekend the push for the first of the new events, Grand Carnivale, is evident.  This sign is located at the flower bed that leads to Wildwater Kingdom, just inside the park's gates.

© NewsPlusNotes
This is sure to grab the attention of guests arriving at the park, and the sign even includes this awesome jester statue.  Grand Carnivale will start at 5:00 pm each evening, which is also about the time that guests start to pack up from Wildwater Kingdom and head into Dorney Park - this jester guy will help them remember what they're headed to!

© NewsPlusNotes
But seriously, the park is advertising the event very heavily inside the park, and technically outside as well.  These large billboards that are on the back of the Good Time Theater remind guests the benefits of a season pass, but also in a bold pink color remind them that Grand Carnivale will run from July 20th through August 11th.

© NewsPlusNotes
And while you're in the park it's hard not to see all the other advertisements for the event as well.  The above advertisements are just some of what I noticed while in the park.  And to be clear, I'm not complaining as Grand Carnivale is truly an unprecedented event for Dorney Park, and the more people know about it the better.

© NewsPlusNotes
While it doesn't start for another eleven or so weeks, the park is already making preparations for the festivities.  The Main Midway will be the focal point of the celebration, with the parade ending in this area and then the street party starting using some of the parade floats, plus a whole lot more.  In order to support various stages, food stands, colorful lighting, new music, and all that jazz, the park has beefed up their electrical capabilities here.  You'll notice (in red above) many new boxes in the area, where all that fun can be plugged in.  I'm sure the set up also allows for other technological hook ups, but I'm not well versed in that so I just think of them as big outlets.

© NewsPlusNotes
Lastly, visitors will notice that the former water-fountain-turned-into-a-flower-bed has been covered up right now.  While this is still very much a work in progress and not a finished product, this will be a stage for Grand Carnivale, to feature some of the event's carnival and other general entertainment.

Is it July 20th yet?  I'm rather excited to see the event in person - we will be sure to give more updates as the event draws closer.

© NewsPlusNotes
Moving on to other changes and random things we noticed - Rita's Italian Ice has moved into the Main Midway, replacing sweetFrog which had frozen yogurt.  Rita's remains very popular at the park, and this location joins at several other existing ones in both Dorney Park and in Wildwater Kingdom.

© NewsPlusNotes
Is it ever too early to think about Halloween Haunt?  Perhaps, since it is only opening weekend.  Still, the 2019 Haunt will start on September 14th and run all the way through November 3rd, so mark your calendars!  I haven't heard any rumblings about changes for this year, but the simple fact that Monster Jam Thunder Alley will be on the lower midway means that those giant pirate ships must sail to somewhere new.

© NewsPlusNotes
Dorney Park has continued to make new signs for photo spots, this adorable sign is located in the planter just outside the lower entrance to Planet Snoopy.   This will look really great once all the flowers have some time to grow in.

© NewsPlusNotes
This spring the park is featuring a variety of local artists at Center Stage.  This sign out front shows the lineup through the start of next month.  The park is also opening two new shows in Planet Snoopy and has brought back the live entertainment in Wildwater Kingdom as well.

© NewsPlusNotes
Dorney Park noted earlier in the year on their social media that Steel Force's lift hill was getting some love in the form of an all new paint job.  Granted it's not super easy to tell since the supports are gray, but you can catch a good look at it when the sun shines.  Nice to see the ride get a refresher for its 23rd operating season, hopefully we will see other improvements in the future!

© NewsPlusNotes
No surprise here, Dinosaurs Alive has gone extinct.  Since the attraction was tucked in the very back of the park, it's not easy to get photo of the site now, but it's really just a lot of trees with no dinosaurs now anyway.  The path that led to the attraction is still open as it feeds to a set of restrooms back there.

© NewsPlusNotes
The former DinoStore, which was at the entrance/exit to Dinosaurs Alive is now the Solomon Center.  Named after the founder of the park, it is not an area open to the public, instead it is used for training and other employee related activities.

© NewsPlusNotes
The Monster was not ready to be fully awake from its winter slumber this weekend, but it looks like its well on its way to twirling riders once again soon.

© NewsPlusNotes
The Stinger Field is still... a field.  That's some good looking grass, though!  Kidding aside, this area is quiet for now but this fall will be home to the track that the trucks will follow when giving rides during Monster Jam Thunder Alley.

© NewsPlusNotes
The park has been featuring their history in the large Good Time Gifts store over the past few seasons, and that trend continues in 2019.  This is one of the displays that is up in the area, featuring a small recreation of the famous Alfundo sign that used to greet visitors, plus some cool old images of the park.

© NewsPlusNotes
While on the subject of the park's history, they are also celebrating The Whip's 100th operating season at the park.  To do so, they created this fantastic sign at the entrance to the attraction, detailing much of its history.

© NewsPlusNotes
Some potions of the sign, like these above, give history of The Whip at Dorney Park, which opened in 1920.  The ride was built by the W. F. Mangles Company and is one of many Whip rides that opened during the time period.  Not too many of the originals still exist, so it's amazing to see Dorney Park's reach 100 seasons.

© NewsPlusNotes
The sign also includes photos of The Whip though the many decades that it has been in operation.  The building surrounding the ride has changed over time, as is evident in these photos, but the thrills it gives families are timeless.

Stay tuned for more Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom updates as the season progresses, especially as we get closer to the start of this year's big special events!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

World's Tallest SlingShot + World's Tallest Drop Tower Coming to Orlando's ICON Park

© ICON Park
Orlando's ICON Park, already home to an assortment of rides, attractions, dining and shopping, has announced two record breaking attractions.

The Orlando Slingshot will be the tallest slingshot ride in the world, with the main towers extending to 300 feet in the air.  The property did not disclose how tall the gondola would reach once it is released, but it probably wouldn't be too far a stretch to think it could come close to the 400 foot mark.

The tall red tower in the concept art is the second new attraction to be built, known as the Orlando Gyro Drop Tower.  The park states that it will be the world's tallest drop tower at 400 feet tall.  I'm thinking that they are making that claim off of the fact that it is a separate tower on its own, since Zumanjaro at Six Flags Great Adventure is 456 feet tall... but attached to the back of a roller coaster.

The current tallest standalone freefall tower just opened at Hansa Park in Germany.  Named Highlander, that tower is 394 feet tall.

ICON Park is currently home to the Wheel, a large observation wheel that is 400 feet tall, the Orlando StarFlyer which clocks in at 450 feet tall, a Madam Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium, among others.  The two new rides are slated to open in the spring of 2020.

Friday, May 3, 2019

SeaWorld San Antonio Debuts Turtle Reef Themed Area + Two New Family Rides

© SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio has marked their 5th consecutive year of park expansions with today's grand opening of Turtle Reef.  The new themed area not only features a unique way to view endangered and rescued sea turtles, but also adds two new thrilling rides for families to enjoy.

A major initiative behind the expansion is to help educate guests on the human impact on oceans.  “Ocean pollution, oil spills and habitat degradation are some of the biggest challenges facing sea turtles, and Turtle Reef provides an immersive opportunity for guests to learn how they can help the species,” said SeaWorld and Aquatica San Antonio park president Carl Lum. “We are excited to showcase a species that has never been featured before at SeaWorld San Antonio, while educating guests about our mission to protect animals and habitats worldwide.”

© SeaWorld San Antonio
The Turtle Reef exhibit features a 126,000 gallon coral reef-themed biodynamic environment that is home to multiple species, like the friendly sea turtle seen above.  It is one of many "rescued and non-releasable sea turtles in SeaWorld’s world-class care, including endangered green sea turtles, and Big Mama, a 250-pound loggerhead sea turtle rescued offshore in the Gulf of Mexico after sustaining significant injuries to her front and back flippers."  Guests are able to visit with the turtles via a giant viewing window at the base of the exhibit.

The entire area is "designed as a natural biofiltration system to build a near natural, environmentally based recirculating filtration system that attracts wildlife and reduces water and energy consumption in the park, enabling the park to further its eco-friendly mission."  Specifically in Turtle Reef, seawater is filtered through a fabricated salt marsh grass wetland, similar to how water is filtered in the environment, and returned to the habitat.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
Two new family rides have also made their debut as a part of the Turtle Reef themed section.  Above is the Sea Swinger, a high swinging pendulum ride.   Sixteen riders are seated at the base of the pendulum as it begins to spin and swing high into the sky.  The passengers' feet dangle below them as they are offered aerial views of the park below them.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
The area's second new ride is named Riptide Rescue, seen above.  Themed around a fast race to rescue sea turtles in need, riders are seated in individual Sea Rescue boats.  The boats lift and spin on large arms, giving a maximum of 24 riders per cycle a feeling of twirling and diving through the ocean.

The new area will also benefit the University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s Amos Rehabilitation Keep program as five percent of all sales of turtle related merchandise will be funded directly to the organization.  The non-profit's main mission is to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles, birds and tortoises found along the South Texas coast.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New Hershey's Unwrapped Tasting Journey Opening Soon at Chocolate World

© Hershey's Chocolate World
A visit to Hersheypark isn't complete without stopping in Hershey's Chocolate World, originally a corporate 'visitor center' that has over time expanded to be a major attraction of its own.  Well known for its Chocolate Tour dark ride, which takes visitors through the chocolate factory and of course has singing cows, Chocolate World offers several other attractions along with dining and retail options.

New this month, specifically May 20th, Hershey's Unwrapped will debut as the latest featured attraction dedicated to chocolate.  Described as a "tasting journey" but also a "theatrical experience," Hershey's Unwrapped will require a separate ticket to enjoy.

© Hershey's Chocolate World
The experience will be hosted by two of Hershey's "most dynamic Tasting authorities," and last approximately 30 minutes.  Chocolate World further describes the attraction as including "the bean to bar and everything in between, this all new attraction is sure to dazzle your taste buds, fill you with laughter and sweeten you with Hershey heartwarming moments."

The combination of immersive theater along with tasting chocolate sounds quite intriguing to me, and the attractions that Chocolate World has created in the past have been unique and great fun for the whole family.  I have no doubt this new one, though I think there's still more details to be shared on exactly what we can expect, will fit in well with all the others.

Other attractions within Hershey's Chocolate World include the aforementioned Chocolate Tour dark ride, a 4D Chocolate Move, a Create Your Own Candy Bar experience, and more.