Answers for Your Theme Park Questions

TPI's editor opens his in-box and shares some of his answers to readers' questions about theme parks and vacation planning.

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Published: August 24, 2004 at 7:05 PM

From Bob:

Dear Robert, I enjoy reading your reviews. Can you tell me what would be a great park to take my nine, 10 and 12-year-old thrill seekers? We have been to Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion in Virginia and Cedar Point in Ohio and after going to Cedar Point we can't find a worthy park through reviews.

Answer: On the east coast, I'd recommend Hersheypark and Kings Island, then after those, Six Flags Great America north of Chicago. You're right, none of those are as good as Cedar Point, but each has outstanding rides that will satisfy a thrill-seeker. At Hersheypark, you'd want to check out Storm Runner, the park's answer to Cedar Point's
Top Thrill Dragster. While this Intamin rocket coaster doesn't offer Dragster's immense height or speed, it does offer up something Dragster doesn't -- inversions.

Coaster fans have long marked Kings Island a favorite destination thanks to The Beast, which many consider the world's finest wooden coaster. TPI readers also give high marks to Flight of Fear, an enclosed Premier launch coaster.

Bob writes back:

Dear Robert, thanks for your reply. I have first class airline tickets to anywhere in the country. Would that give me any better options? We have been to Hershey and Dorney Park. They were OK. I agree it is tough to beat Cedar Point. Thanks again.

Answer: Well, first-class tickets anywhere? *That* opens up some possibilities.

I'd go Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando if I could pick any park to visit in the U.S. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk Coaster, the two Dueling Dragons coasters and Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges are all world-class thrill rides there. If you get the two-park park-hopper ticket, Revenge of the Mummy and Men in Black: Alien Attack are a couple of fun rides at Universal Studios Florida next door.

If you prefer just coasters, go to L.A. and visit Six Flags Magic Mountain. The setting and customer service aren't as nice as Cedar Point, but X is a unique experience and the park's got almost as many coasters as Cedar Point. SFMM runs a lot of rides with one train, so it can be a frustrating visit, but for a serious coaster fan, it's a park you simply have to visit at some point.

From Karina:

I was hoping the site would give me more info as to where I can take my son for his first birthday. Do you have any suggestions as to where would accommodate an infant who is walking? Or should I wait to take him to any kind of an amusement park? Please contact me whenever possible. Thanks.

Answer: We've got a page for parents of kids under age five at That's a good resource to start with when thinking about a theme park vacation. And last month, I wrote an article on celebrating birthdays in theme parks, so please take a look at that, too.

For a regular theme park visit, I'd recommend parents check out either Universal Studios Florida, for its Barney show and play area, or one of the SeaWorld parks. One-year-olds are tough to entertain at most theme parks, since they can't go on roller coasters or many other rides, and won't like standing in most lines.

Zoos are often better alternative for very young kids, especially if the zoo has exhibits geared toward youngsters. SeaWorld is the theme park most like a zoo, with the addition of many shows and a playground that toddlers enjoy.

I'd wait until a child was in kindergarten to take them to a Disney park, when they'll have the stamina to enjoy it. And I'd wait until my kid was eight or older to go to one of the coaster-heavy parks like Six Flags.

From Merrill:

Hi there, I'm not sure if you're the man that can help me on this but it seems like I cant find the right resource for this. My name is Merrill and I'm trying to request information on how to get a job working in Disneyland or other Disney theme parks and a online application or through general delivery to fill out. If you can help me I would appreciate it very much.

Answer: Actually, we have had the answer to this question posted on our Vacation Tips pages for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. For jobs at Disneyland, visit Disney's careers Web site at or call the casting office at (800) 766-0888. (For Disney World, just follow the WDW link above....)

From Michelle:

We just returned from another wonderful vacation at Cedar Point. My kids are "ride freaks." We purchased season passes for my kids and my husband, also my sister's family. My sister and I are non-riders, We love to watch our families have fun, we would love it so much more if they offered a non-rider ticket. Because of the expense My sister and I only spent two days with our family, we purchased after five tickets on one day and the other day we drove to Detroit to the MGM Grand Casino, we had a great time together, however we would have much rather spent the day with our families. We would love for some of the large theme parks to figure out a way to offer non-rider passes. Our families are already planning next years trip toCedar Point (at a different hotel, but that is another e-mail). Thanks for reading my comment.

Answer: Long ago, Disney used to charge a relatively low admission price, but require folks to buy various tickets to get on any rides. They did away with that in favor of one-price-covers-all passports a couple decades ago, and all theme parks followed. That system's more convenient for people who like to go on a lot of rides, but it overcharges people like you.

Actually, a few folks at some theme parks have talked about bringing back that old Disneyland system, since it would both help keep wait times down on popular rides, and encourage more family visits... like in your situation. No one's committed to it yet, but it could happen in the future.

From Marie:

I am off to Florida for a two-week theme park holiday in September! Can I wear flip-flops of some sort or am I going to lose them on some of the rides? Is there somewhere to put your bag when you are on rides? Are there any football, baseball or basketball games going on in Florida in September and, if so, how can we get tickets? Please help us have a great holiday!

Answer: You can wear flip-flops, but you'll have to take them off on inverted or floorless coasters like Dueling Dragons and Kraken. On any ride that restricts what you can carry on, the parks will have lockers (usually free) near the attraction entrance where you can store your items.

There'll be plenty of college and pro football games throughout the state on September. Check for tickets. No basketball, though. The Devil Rays and Marlins will still be playing baseball in St. Pete and Miami. Check Ticketmaster for them, too.

Readers' Opinions

From Matthew M on August 25, 2004 at 11:47 AM
Im thinking about making a theme park trip next summer. I live in between Disneyland and Knotts and I want to make it to Orlando. We will probably drive all the way so we want to hit a lot of six flags on the way because we are going to get the season pass. Which ones on the way should I visit, and are there a lot of cedar fair parks on the way that I could use a knott's pass with? And in orlando, which disney parks are the best? Im thinking that I want to go to MGM and Magic Kingdom, but I don't know.
thanks a lot
From Robert Niles on August 25, 2004 at 12:29 PM
I've done that trip the opposite way, driving from Disney World to Disneyland in two and a half days. But, needless to say, I didn't make any theme park stops along the way.

Taking I-10 east from the L.A. area, you'll hit Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, followed by Six Flags Astroworld in Houston and Six Flags New Orleans in Louisiana. If you want to drive out of your way for an extra day, you could visit the original Six Flags park, Six Flags Over Texas up in Arlington, just outside Dallas.

You won't find any Cedar Fair parks south of Kansas City, so your Knott's pass won't help you on this trip. But SeaWorld has a park in San Antonio, as well as in Orlando, so if you have the right kind of pass from SeaWorld San Diego, you could include those parks as well.

In Orlando, I'd suggest Disneyland veterans try Epcot and Animal Kingdom, as those parks are the two most unlike the Anaheim pair. Heck, Disney's plan for California Adventure seems to be to develop that park into a clone of Disney-MGM Studios. Why travel all the way across the country to ride the same rides you can experience at home? (And many of the Disneyland versions, like Pirates, are much better than their Orlando counterparts. Tower of Terror would be the notable exception.)

From Noel G on August 25, 2004 at 4:44 PM
Hi just reading Roberts Inbox that he has opened for all to see.

If anyone is travelling to Australia and wants to visit Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild Water World and Dreamworld let me know as can give you links and so on to get tickets online.

Cheers Noel

From Chase Harrison on August 26, 2004 at 4:06 PM
Hey Robert I'm thinking about going to Six Flags America next year do you think I shuuld go there or somewhere else?
From Robert Niles on August 26, 2004 at 10:55 PM
Haven't been there, but Jeffery Beal wrote a good trip report on it earlier this summer. Please check that out.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your options. Where else would you like to go if you don't choose SFA?

From Tony Brennan on August 26, 2004 at 11:08 PM
Robert the summer of 2006 a friend I are planning on taking a Theme Park trip. We are planning now because we want to save enough money that we have some finacial freedom on the trip and we dont have to live our trip on a real strict budget. We live in Omaha, Nebraska and we know we want to go to Cedar Point and King's Island are there any other notable parks between here and there? Are there any other notable parks in Ohio? Is there a Six Flags in Cleveland Ohio and if there is is it worth visiting?

thanks for your time Tony.

From Robert Niles on August 27, 2004 at 10:35 AM
The park outside Cleveland that was once Six Flags Worlds of Adventure has been bought by Cedar Fair, which has returned the park's old name, Geauga Lake.

But I'd suggest trying Six Flahs Great America, north of Chicago, on your way to Cedar Point. Then head down the road toward Cincinnati to visit Kings Island. If you want to get really ambitious, on your way back you could hit Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., Six Flags St. Louis and World of Fun in Kansas City. A Cedar Point or Worlds of Fun season pass is good at both parks, and one Six Flags pass will get you into all Six Flags, too.

From Ben Mills on August 27, 2004 at 12:25 PM
Is this page coming through totally unformatted (ie all in TNR) for anyone else?
From Robert Niles on August 27, 2004 at 1:21 PM
Nice catch, Ben. Some versions of IE choked on the single quote marks in the article's deck. I fixed the problem, but of course, everything would have looked just fine to folks using the much better, pop-up and banner ad blocking, non-virus-spreading Mozilla Firefox browser. (shameless plug)
From Tony Brennan on August 27, 2004 at 9:12 PM
Thanks Robert I have been to worlds of fun like 12 times and Six Flags St Louis 3 times so I had also thought of that
From Chase Harrison on August 31, 2004 at 2:57 PM
Hey robert I'm pretty sure you seen the thing I started about Carowinds in October but if you've been there or any other paramount park in october do you know what the lines are like are the water rides running what are the busy parts of the day etc.
From Robert Niles on August 31, 2004 at 3:21 PM
Halloween events dominate theme parks in October, leaving parks that stay open for regular hours during the month relatively quiet. But, depending upon where you are in the country and the day's weather, water rides might leave you a bit chilly then.
From Brooke Bowrey on October 15, 2004 at 1:02 AM
hey robert can you tell me what to expect and any tips for visiting magic mountain in early to mid december?

what are the crowds like can you tell me if lots of rides will be open or closed?

thanks heaps! your reviews rock!

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