Theme Park Travel Odyssey 2009 Edition

2009 Theme Park Travel Odyssey
Time to recap my 2009 theme park trips. This was a busy year with a number of interviews, media days, and fun theme park trips. I’m even going to include a lost trip that I don’t think I’ve referenced on the blog. From the warm tropic atmosphere of Orlando to the mean streets of Manhattan, my travels took me to 10 theme parks. But, it all started back in March at my local park Carowinds.

Carolina Cobra Opening Media Day at Carowinds
Carolina Cobra SignIt was a rainy day, but the Carolina Cobra media day had a positive feel and pointed to a bright future for Carowinds. The event was attended by the local media, park officials, live snakes, and some Nick characters. A local cover band played a few crowd-pleasers while Dora, Diego, and the Rugrats entertained guests. Next, the park addressed the media. Then, an official ribbon cutting was followed by the ‘Cobra’s first run with guests. The average park-goer should really enjoy the park’s new 12th coaster. Aside from the opening of Carolina Cobra, there were early hints of Intimidator from a quote I got from the park’s PR rep to the missing water ride. See pictures from the event and read my Carolina Cobra Media Day Coverage.

SeaWorld Trip – Manta Media Day
Manta – SeaWorld Orlando’s New Signature Attraction
Manta Roller Coaster - SeaWorld OrlandoAfter the eight hour drive down to Orlando for the Manta Grand Opening and Media Day, I was hoping to not be disappointed and thankfully I wasn’t. It was my first time to SeaWorld, but right away I recognized that I was at a Busch-owned theme park. The park was clean and beautifully-themed. Manta is the much-hyped flying roller coaster that I first blogged about some 13 months ago. Read my full Manta review.

Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure Trip
While I was in Orlando, I Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Designer Louis Aflieri & The Coaster Criticwas lucky enough to be able to interview Universal Studio’s Creative Director Louis Alfieri. He’s one of the minds behind their new ground-breaking roller coaster Hollywood: Rip Ride Rockit. I was eager to learn more about the new roller coaster that combines state-of-the-art audio and visual technology with a unique ride. I also rode Revenge of the Mummy and visited Islands of Adventure. Read:
Interview with Louis Alfieri | Ice Dragon Review | Fire Dragon Review

Wild Adventures Trip | A Furry, Family Friendly Theme Park
Wild Adventures - Valdosta, GeorgiaIn Valdosta, Georgia near the Florida-Georgia border, you’ll find Wild Adventures. It’s a theme park that combines a traditional amusement park, with animal interactions and a water park to create a family friendly summer destination. I spoke with the park’s Public Relations Coordinator, Micha Hogan about what makes Wild Adventures different. Read my full Wild Adventures Trip Report including a few mini reviews.

A Coasterless Theme Park Trip?
In early July I took a family trip to Carowinds. It was a trip unlike any I had taken in 15 years. I didn’t ride a single roller coaster, but I still had a great time. It was the first time that my daughter was old enough to get on most of the rides in the park’s children’s section. She was so excited to get measured and get her bracelet. It really was a blast watching her ride the little tame ride’s in the park’s Nickelodeon (now Camp Snoopy for 2010) section since she love Dora & Diego. We enjoyed the water park (I don’t even I even hung out with the kids while my wife and her friend got on a few coasters. The most coaster-related thing that I did was when I tried to get a few spy shots of the 2010 coaster project.

Waldameer Trip & Interview with President Steve Baker
Me with Steve Gorman, President of WaldameerMy Interview with Waldameer’s President
While I was visiting Waldameer with my family I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the park’s President Steve Gorman. I’d visited the Erie, PA park last year to ride Ravine Flyer 2, but this year I was able to stay for a longer visit with a larger group and enjoy more of the park. Read my full interview with Steve Baker.

Freestyle Music Park Trip | – Myrtle Beach’s Music-Themed Amusement Park’s Revival
Freestyle Music Park in Myrtle Beach, SCAfter last year’s surprising failure of the $400 million Hard Rock Park that only survived for five months, many wondered if a theme park could survive in Myrtle Beach. Last winter it looked like the remnants of Hard Rock Park were going to be sold off piece-meal until Steve Baker and FPI swooped in and got the park at a bargain basement price of $25 million. Read: Freestyle Theme Park Review | Interview with Steve Baker Part 1 & Part 2

New York City Trip – Part 1: Coney Island
The Cyclone Still Has Enough Tricks Up Its Sleeve to Offer a Thrilling RideThe Cyclone at Coney Island
As I exited the subway station at the far end of the line, I could tell that the ocean was nearby. I didn’t know exactly where the Cyclone was located, but one glance down Surf Avenue and there it was. A tall rectangular electric sign right on the corner of the street brought a smile to my face. I had driven to the airport, flown, ridden a bus, a subway, and walked, and now I was minutes away from the hallowed ground that is Coney Island and a ride on the legendary Cyclone. Check out the rest of my Coney Island Cyclone review.

New York City Trip – Part 2: Rye Playland Park
As I was leaving Coney Island, having ridden the legendary Cyclone,Playland Park - Rye, New York I saw a billboard for Playland Park, my next destination. I boarded the northbound subway to Grand Central, then transferred to a train that took me to the out of the city to Westchester County, New York (also home to Professor Xavier’s Mansion for the comic book geeks out there). The train arrived in the pleasant suburb community of Rye. The town consisted of lots of wooded streets with old nice houses. I hopped in a cab and in about 10 minutes I was entering Playland Park. Read my full Rye Playland Park review along with mini ride reviews.

Intimidator Announcement Media Day at Carowinds
Intimidator at Carowinds LogoIt’s official, Intimidator will dominate Carowinds skyline in 2010. At 232′ (23 stories), this massive new coaster will be the longest, tallest, and fastest in the South East. It’s also Bolliger & Mabillard’s tallest roller coaster in the U.S. Intimidator will speed its black Chevy Monte Carlo themed trains in excess of 75 mph. See pictures from the event and read more about Intimidator.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Trip | Roller Coaster Tours
If you’re a roller coaster geek like myself, or just curious about how roller coasters work, Busch Gardens Roller Coaster Tour is for you. It gives unparalleled access to the these modern thrill machines as well as a ton of Roller Coaster Tour Groupinteresting tidbits of knowledge about Busch’s own collection of roller coasters. While I’m a long time roller coaster fan, I can say I learned a lot that I didn’t know about roller coaster operations. Read more about the Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s tours here and Busch Gardens Tampa’s tours here.

I arrived at the park around 8AM and joined the rest of the tour group. Groups can be no larger than 15 people and for that morning there were five in our group. We entered the empty, quiet park and headed immediately to the park’s oldest roller coaster, the Loch Ness Monster.
Read: Part 1: Loch Ness Monster & Coasters 101 | Part 2: Griffon | Part 3: Alpengeist, Big Bad Wolf & Apollo’s Chariot

Most Memorable Ride of the Year
My most memorable ride of the year would have to be my first ride on Manta. I was definitely caught off guard by that near miss as you swing by the rock wall at the end.

2009 Total Roller Coasters Ridden: 27
New Roller Coasters Ridden: 18
Total Coasters Ridden: 194
Read my 2008 Travel Odyssey.

What’s Your Take?
How many theme park trips did you take in 2009? What was your favorite ride of the year? Leave a comment below.