Love Letters to My Amusement Park - Park Rituals
The new season is getting closer. We miss it. As the weather begins to get more pleasant, those familiar springtime smells start to fill the air. We can feel that it won’t be long before we’re getting strapped into our favorite rides again.
This is the first post in a series called “Love Letters to My Amusement Park” where we express aspects of the parks that we love and appreciate the most. It seemed like a good way to direct our building anticipation of a new season coming. It is just around the corner!
What did you do as Last Season Ended?
Let’s think back to the end of last season. Were there favorite rides, or a food that you made sure you got to experience because you knew you’d miss it badly during the off season? Is there a certain view of the park that you wanted to take in one last time?
Thankfully for those of us who live near a Cedar Fair park that has a WinterFest, the wait hasn’t been nearly as long as it used to be. The extended season helped bridge the off-season gap.
So as you visited for the last time, did you get a map? Things always change a little during the maintenance cycle. Do you take and final pictures of anything special? Do you have friends who are park employees that you say “bye” to?
I didn’t take a moment like that during WinterFest. There were two reasons. The place was transformed and so spectacular that it didn’t even seem like the same place. It was that sparkling wonderland! Plus, during the last couple weeks of WinterFest, it was freezing cold and I couldn’t meander to drink in the last few moments in the park. I had plenty of fun and still escaped with my fingers and toes undamaged. Mission accomplished!
When the Park Reopens
What do you do when you’re stepping into the park for your first visit for a brand new season? Do you get a map, so you can see what’s new? What are your opening day park rituals?
To me, the park’s opening day is like a holiday that I celebrate every year. It is the first day of operation. Many fans of the park look forward to this day. You can finally get strapped back into your favorite rides knowing that the excitement of Springtime and Summer are right around the corner.
Here are some of my favorite rituals to begin a new season at Kings Island, my home park.
I go a bit extreme, but it has always gone according to plan. I start by waking up early. How early? 4am on opening day! I know that sounds nuts. Let’s face it, it is not like I will be able to really get beautyrest knowing what day it is. I will then double check that I have all my essentials like spare clothes packed, my pass is paid for, and my phone is charged. Then breakfast. The only place I can have a ton of coffee and get full stomach is Waffle House, which is right by Kings Island. A lot of people don’t like that place, but I love it! I only allow 45 minutes to eat. Next, I go to Speedway to get more coffee and snacks. By the time I leave Speedway and get my car parked at the outer gate it is 6:45am.
This is the fun part… waiting. There is not normally a huge group of people there this early. Those who are, blare their car radio and have a big dance party while they wait for security to open the gates. It is so much fun to watch the sun come up as excitement builds.
At 8am they open the outer gate and allow everyone to move up to the parking toll gates. We wait some more, all lined up like a 10-way drag race.
At 8:45, the parking tolls open and everyone rushes in like it is Black Friday. We are all going to the same place. I’d rather not get into an accident because someone forgets to use their turn signal or follow the speed limit.
Once I finally make it through the metal detectors and admission gate, I start acting like a child in candy store. Of course, later I will be a kid in a candy store when I get my turtle candy apple!
Closing day, at the end of the season a different story. It is like a funeral. I get so sad. I know I only have three months until it opens again. I don’t go to the last day of the season, just because I don’t want to end with any disappointment. But when I do go on my final visit, I try to go on all the rides and just hold onto the memory of each one. You never know when that maybe your last ride on that ride, or last time eating at that restaurant.
Mike’s thoughts: I don’t have an opening day practice that comes close to what Krystal just described. Many readers know that I have an aversion to extreme crowds and long wait times. If it looks like the crowds will be reasonable, I aim for just after the initial rush of people. Then I stroll in and just grin as I emerge from the admission gates onto International Street. Sometimes I have interrupt this moment to take an evasive maneuver to avoid this season’s freshly trained photo-takers. Once clear, I breathe deeply and look around to see what is different.
“Was that trash can here last season?”
“Oh, they got a new sign there, nice!”
“Wait! Are they playing real instrumental music? Not that junky pop radio stuff they used to play!! That sounds wonderful! Such a better atmosphere and first impression!”
“Hey, let’s go see Origins… oh, that’s right, the shows don’t start up until around Memorial Day.”
Those are some of my actual observations from past opening days. I had a couple fun visits to the park property during the off season, when I brought my daughter to the job fair. It was fun to walk into the park in near silence. Quite surreal. The first visit, they were still removing the ice rink from the fountain. On the second visit, there were large metal fixtures in the admissions gate area marked for the new Coney Smokehouse restaurant that they’ve been surprisingly quiet about.
Sorry, I digress. When I walk in on my first visit of the season, I just feel more appreciative that I get to enjoy this fanciful environment. I give the Don Quixote high-relief statue a nod as I walk by.
At the end of the season, I do try to get a map, that I promise I’ll preserve like the Smithsonian, only to discover it, around February, smashed in a pile of clutter near the door. Sigh.
I am a serious fan of the dark ride. I do try to make sure I give Boo Blasters one last go before the season wraps up. I know Boo Blasters isn’t an ideal specimen, having been rethemed over Scooby Doo, but I’ll enjoy any dark ride I can.
Daily Visit Rituals
Are there any actions you do or try to do everytime you visit your park? I mentioned I love dark rides. If possible, I try to make sure I get on Boo Blasters every visit. But I’m reasonable about it. If we’re on the opposite end of the park and the family is tired out, I don’t make them cross over to Planet Snoopy. If I go by myself, yes, I go over and ride it once per visit when I can. I often get a really high score too!
How About You?
>> In the comments, please share some of your own opening or closing traditions.
- How do you say “good bye” to the park properly at the close of the season?
- What must you do first when your park opens back up?
- Are there any things that you do EVERY time you go to the park?
Park Hacks is coming out of its off-season hibernation with a lot of new stuff planned. Remember, the 2018 Amusement Park Hacks is now available in Kindle and Paperback formats. You can find the paperbacks in any online store. You still have time to check it out before the new season begins!
Kings Island's Eiffel Tower with Rainbow & Coney Smokehouse fixtures - Mike Kunze
Cars waiting on opening day - Krystal Curtis