by Danny Miller
Now that mid-term exams are over and I have mildly less work to do here at school (for now anyway), I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the United States as a whole. In general, most major cities in this country have at least one major theme/amusement park that appeals to that market. We think about Los Angeles and the vast number of options its residents have in the Disney complex, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. New York residents typically visit either Six Flags Great Adventure, Dorney Park, and even Hersheypark. Some cities however, don’t have a major park nearby that is focused specifically on that market. Today I point out five major U.S. cities that don’t have a major park nearby.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – I apologize in advance if I offend or upset any fans of the now defunct AstroWorld by bringing this up, but the 2005 closing of Six Flags AstroWorld left the fourth-largest city in the United States without a park to call its own. Despite AstroWorld being loved by Houstonians, over the years, new rides failed to appear and park performance declined. Several rides took part in Six Flags’ ride rotation program (Texas Tornado), while others were planned to, but never moved (XLR-. The demolition occurred less than 2 months after the announcement that the park would close, and Six Flags received less than half the dollar amount they anticipated for the land. The bright side for Houston natives is that Grand Texas, a new theme park is planned to be open in 2015, so Houston may finally be able to have a park experience all their own once again.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – While many parks are within driving distance of Beantown, Boston does not have a park that focuses specifically on what is the tenth-largest metropolitan area in the country. Six Flags New England offers a major park about two hours away, but the main focus of that park is Springfield and Hartford. Canobie Lake Park lies just a half-hour north in Salem, New Hampshire, but it is a small park that falls well short of the “major” park definition. Boston could focus on a colonial theme for their park if they wish, capitalizing on their rich revolutionary history. If not, maybe an Irish-themed park could capitalize on the heavy Irish population and once and for all come up with a competitor to Universal’s butterbeer at Islands of Adventure.
MIAMI, FLORIDA – A surprise to me, South Beach has no major theme park nearby. In fact, the only major coaster nearby, the Dania Beach Hurricane, is now closed and all signs point to the scrap pile for what is Florida’s largest wooden coaster. Aside from this experience that is no longer available, South Florida’s best option for thrills and theme is north quite a ways in the Tampa and Orlando areas. Miami is a fairly large vacation destination, and the entire metropolitan area ranks eighth in the United States. Miami itself is not very large, but the favorable weather for year-round operation and heavily populated surrounding area makes this area prime for at the very least, a major combination theme/water park.
PHOENIX/TUCSON, ARIZONA – Castles N’ Coasters sits almost right in Phoenix actually, but I don’t know anyone who would be willing to call a park with one looping coaster and a starter coaster “major.” Come to think of it, Arizona as a state lacks any major theme park nearby. The surrounding experiences are limited to Castles N’ Coasters, Cliff’s Amusement Park near Albuquerque in New Mexico, and the parks in Southern California. While Tucson is much smaller than Phoenix, it is located just an hour from the U.S./Mexico border, and Phoenix, located just 100 miles northwest of Tucson, is the sixth most-populous city and most-populous state capital in the United States. The hot, dry climate makes this another place primed for a major theme/water park combination resort.
DETROIT/LANSING, MICHIGAN – We all know that Detroit hasn’t exactly been on the good side of the recession the last several years, but it still remains in the top 20 on the U.S. largest cities list. Detroit also serves as a link to Canada via the Great Lakes. What some may not take into account however, are the nearby cities of Ann Arbor (5th largest in the state) and Lansing (6th largest in the state), both home to major universities (Michigan and Michigan State respectively) and less than 100 miles away. A park constructed in the middle of the three cities could easily draw from all three areas and Canada, as well as from the nearby areas of Ohio and Indiana. Despite being the largest city in the state, Detroit theme park goers are forced to travel at least two hours to Cedar Point, or over three to the opposite side of the state the Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon (which comes close to not really being a major park anyway). Being farther north, the season would be shorter, but it would not be very different from Michigan’s Adventure or Cedar Point anyway. Six Flags hasn’t got much going in this area of the country, surrounded by Cedar Fair parks in Cedar Point, Michigan’s Adventure, and Kings Island, so would it be worth their while to give it a shot?
There are other cities in the U.S. that don’t have a major park, but these are five of the most notable in my opinion. What do you think? Would theme parks work in any of these locations? Head here and vote on which city you think a theme park would work best in.
by Andrew Rybarczyk
Yesterday, CoasterJunior expressed his opinion on the complaints surrounding Six Flags' Fright Fest event. I completely agree with all of what he says and I urge you to read his article first before reading this companion piece. Click here to read CoasterJunior's blog. My goal in this is not to reiterate what CoasterJunior has already stated, but rather provide my insights on the event after having spent the weekend there at the COASTER-net and Hauntoverse meet-up, Journey Into Fear 2013.
Problem #1: The decorations are too intense for younger viewers.
From the second one enters through the park gates, one immediately knows that Fright Fest is a Halloween event. The first sight entering the park is the iconic reflecting pool that has been transformed into a pool of blood. Other decorations litter the park ranging from themed simple skeletons to the more grotesque hanging severed heads. My issue, like CoasterJunior, is that this event is correctly billed as a Halloween event. As such, one MUST expect to be inundated with such decor that can be found at any Halloween store or department store carrying such goods. Can it be frightening for young children? Absolutely, if not given the proper context by a responsible parent. Two quick solutions to this come to mind. First, if a child is too young and you may believe that he will be frightened by such items, as CoasterJunior so eloquently stated "Don't Go." Another option might be to simply explain to your child what actually is happening and provide a proper context for he or she to properly understand it. Hmmm....that might require actual parenting though.
Problem #2: The scare actors are traumatizing and humiliating the innocent.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the complaint letter states, "Even movies depicting violence contain warnings to parents. At least, people have the option of totally avoiding inappropriate 'entertainment.'" Well this is interesting. According to the Six Flags website, it clearly states, "Many areas of the Park are not recommended for children or those with timid spirits after 4 p.m." I don't know, that sure sounds like a proper warning to me. I can also tell you that similar messages are provided on the park maps, so even if one doesn't have access to the internet, one should still come by the info fairly easily.
Furthermore, from my personal experiences on the weekend, most of the people being "traumatized" or "humiliated" in the midways were kids of middle to high school age. Mostly girls, who I would characterize as being delighted to be scared and able to be the center of attention. Caine Donis (from SHQ Podcast fame and Midwest Representative of the COASTER-net club) and I sat for 45 minutes and watched as the same group of ten girls ran around screaming as lumberjacks with un-bladed chainsaws chased them off and on. They seemed scared, but you know what? All they had to do was walk the opposite way or maybe just not react to the lumberjacks like the 90% of other people do. After 2 minutes, anyone with common sense would realize this, but they enjoyed putting on the spectacle. There is NO other explanation that makes any bit of sense.
In addition, every interaction I saw with a scare actor and a child younger than middle school age was one that is played out in so many children's movies where a "monster" tries to befriend someone. At first almost all of the children are reluctant but many eventually end up opening up to the monster. Oh, and I should mention that every time this happened, it was at the parent's urging. Never once did I see a scare actor approach a young child with the intent to terrorize. Any good parent would simply find a wide route around all of the action going on if they truly wanted to avoid such things. I should also say that it's pretty easy to identify where the scare actors are because large groups tend to form. Here's my advice, avoid the large groups.
Problem #3: Fright Fest is breeding violence and criminality
This one is the classic issue of overstating in order to make it seem like one's opinion is actually valid. Once again I quote from the letter received by the Chicago Tribune, "In an era when visitors to the park have to go through metal detectors because of concerns about crime and violence in our culture, it is ironic that part of the park's entertainment consists of staged acts of violence. Scary creatures should be confined to, perhaps, a haunted house, and the re-enactment of criminal acts should be eliminated altogether." On the surface it sounds like it could be a legitimate concern. Violence is one of the top problems facing America today. Chicago is obviously struggling with violent acts and murders on a daily basis. However, when one begins to truly use their brain, if we are indeed to eliminate such things from Fright Fest (I think we will also have to change the events name too), maybe it would be better to just eliminate all of Halloween considering that blood, gore, demons, and evil are the cornerstones of the holiday. I can understand that line of reasoning too. The part where it all falls apart though is you willing chose to engage in an event that celebrates such items. There is no secret in what Halloween is all about. What underlies this attitude is probably a bigger problem than violence in America: People blaming others because they don't teach their children right from wrong. Violence is a parenting issue not an issue caused by Fright Fest. Parents need to step up and take responsibility in teaching their children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral. If your child doesn't recognize the fantasy characters and so called "criminal acts" being portrayed as something no person should ever actually do in life...guess what?...you've already failed as a parent. So instead of writing a letter to get your name in the newspaper, spend some time with your child and teach them...better yet...find a good parent and hopefully they can teach them better than you.
by Coaster Junior
As I continue to read articles about Halloween haunts and trails and events, one thing continues to pop up that has really concerned me this year. Every day that I look for a story on Halloween, the one thing that always pops up is another story of someone complaining about the blood, goriness, and inappropriateness of many of the events that take place in the theme parks throughout the country. Enough is enough people! Halloween is known for bringing the undead to life and brining our scariest fantasies to reality. I was just recently reading an article about a grandmother who took her grandson to Six Flags Great America and she as appalled at what she was a part of. She immediately complained that the entire park was themed after Halloween and there were scare actors roaming around the entire park. She also complained that those characters would chase after kids, adults, and even the older folks with a fake chainsaw. She said that there was terror in the eyes of the children and that they could be traumatized after spending too much time around it.
Here is my response to this. This is absolutely absurd. First of all the park advertises this time in the park as being Fright Fest. This is not an ordinary operating day at the Six Flags park and granted, the rides and attractions are open to the public, but it is designated as a Halloween event. Six Flags warns on their website that Fright Fest may not be suitable for children under the age of 12 and that there would be scenes and actors that could scare throughout the day. The park even goes as far to say that in the morning, it operates just as they would on any other day and in the afternoon, the park begins to transform into the fright event. I do not understand where she has the right to complain about scary actors dressed up in outfits during a Halloween event.
Many of the parks throughout the country do a Halloween event. Halloween is one of the most interactive holidays and allows people to show a different side of them and enjoy the dark side of the world. Trick or Treat and Halloween costume parties have been around for centuries and the parks make a ton of money each year just on these weekend events alone. We know this has to be true or they would not put so much work and money into it each and every year. Cedar Fair parks have great events called Haunt and Halloweekends where scareactors are out and about, guests can walk through scare zones and even multiple haunted houses. Each of the parks has Halloween shows that are sometimes very gruesome or maybe distasteful, but the park always has a warning system ahead of time. Even the smaller, locally-owned parks are doing Halloween events because they are so popular. Everyone who is complaining about the material-unfriendly mood of the parks needs to understand that there are also family-friendly Halloween events at most of these parks and attendance at those may be better suited for them.
To make a long story short, the simplest answer is that if you do not want to be scared and you do not want your children exposed to ghouls, goblins, zombies, and witches, just do not go to the parks around the Halloween season. With this, you will have nothing to complain about. Ohhhhh…..and May the Queue Lines Be Ever In Your Favor.