The park had a lot of flats and they looked so new! I’m used to seeing flats with rust on them. I’ve been hanging around too many carnivals for sure. I suppose in a few seasons they will be broken in with rust and perhaps run a lot better! The flats were a Yo-Yo, a flying kites ride, a flyers, a Tilt-a-Whirl, a Disko, bumper cars, a two-story carousel, and the like. The flyers looked really weird and they didn’t have the whirring gas engine sound of Knoebel’s. The Tilt-a-Whirl had weird-looking seats. They held two people and looked like the cars came off Old Town’s Windstorm! The bumper cars were really fast, but they weren’t as good as Knoebel’s. I haven’t found bumper cars better than the ones at Knoebel’s. The carousel was interesting, but it took a Gwazi-like 5 minutes to load and it only went around for about a minute! I didn’t even get the brass ring…wait, there was no brass ring! Never mind…
Now onto the important stuff…the roller coasters! Let’s face it…the coasters are pretty much kiddie coasters. But they sure were fun! Here’s my assessment of them…
Fiesta Express – What can I say about this mini-mouse? It went in long s-curves. It’s a good ride for little kids and credit-hungry coaster fans. We had to hog up our own seats because they were so tiny. The ride op did give us funny looks as we rode it. We tried hand-slapping, but we were sitting on the wrong side of the coaster and couldn’t reach each other!
Okeechobee Rampage – Here’s a Vekoma roller skater. It had a different kind of seating. Each car had two seats with dividers in the middle. It actually looked like two adults can fit into one seat comfortably! I’ve never experienced that on IOA’s Flying Unicorn! Even though the layout was familiar on Okeechobee Rampage, it was smooth and I had fun riding it.
Triple Hurricane – Here’s Cypress Gardens’ serious coaster, a kiddie woddie! It reminded me of Waldameer Park’s Comet. The seats were pretty small. Two adults couldn’t sit next to each other comfortably. I had to hog up my own seat and cross my legs to fit! It was a smooth, fun ride. There wasn’t much airtime, though. I heard that the back gives a lot of airtime, but the line got pretty long as the day progressed and we didn’t get a chance to test it out.
Swamp Thing wasn’t running that day. A lot of workers were banging and binging on it.
We also watched the ski show. The ski show was a graduation of all the ski students. At the end, each one got an orange (but not raspberry) beret. So it appears graduation day will be every day! The show had a cheesy script, but the Cypress Gardens ski show is one of the best I’ve seen and I’ve seen some bad ones (the one at SeaWorld San Antonio comes to mind).
We took a walk around the gardens, which were practically deserted when we walked around it in the afternoon. They looked really nice, but we wondered how the park survived if all they had was the gardens. The Nature’s Way section used to house the animals, but it was closed off. We took a ride on the Florida Sky Adventure, which used to be Island of the Sky when the park was opened previously. It gave a good view of the park. It also gave a good view of the monumental work that had to be done to get Nature’s Way up to speed. The ride previously had narration telling you what you were seeing, but that was missing unless you spoke to a ride op.
The crowds were small when the park opened. As it got closer to concert time, the park became really crowded! We went to the rides area first and did most of the rides in about 2 ½ hours. All of the rides then were a walk-on. Later, the Triple Hurricane had about a 20-30 minute wait and the other rides had about a 5-15 minute wait. The Triple Hurricane had a long line because the lap bars didn’t come up automatically. The ride op had to use a tool to manually release the lap bars one at a time.
The longest lines we waited all day were for food (a 15 minute wait) and to get our annual passes processed (a 15 minute wait). My annual pass took longer to process (about 15 minutes more) because their computers had problems scanning my one-day ticket and doing the upgrade.
The park looked great, but there were signs that more work had to be done and signs of growing pains. I had mentioned before the employee pointing us the wrong way to the rides and the manual releasing of the lap bars. We noticed half-completed roofs and other things that needed finishing up. The most notable was in the men’s room. The stalls to the doors were just a piece of unevenly cut plywood! I know it was a soft opening and I’m pretty sure these things will be fixed up in a few months.
The ride area looked pretty nice. The walkways were very wide and the grassy areas were beautiful. It looks like the ride area was the old parking lot, but unlike Scream at Six Flags Magic Mountain, you would have never known a parking lot used to be there. Cypress Gardens’ original parking lot never looked like an asphalt parking lot anyway – it was basically a grassy area with a bunch of trees. The ride area could use more shade, benches, and trash cans. There were a few shaded areas and the food area had shade, but the sun was beating down on most areas. The high that day was in the 70s, so shade wasn’t as crucial, but in the middle of summer, you want lots of shade! Benches are good to put around the park so people can rest or have a place to wait for their party to come off the ride. Although trash didn’t pile up all over the place, there weren’t too many trashcans. We can do the extreme with trashcans and be like Cedar Point. If you look in any direction at Cedar Point, you will see at least a dozen trashcans!
The guests had a mix of younger people and older people. If I recall correctly, the main demographics of Cypress Gardens were older people. I saw a lot of younger people in the ride area. Most of the older guests hung around the ski show and the original Cypress Gardens area. The employees seemed to be a mix of younger and older people too. I did see a lot of older gentleman working. It kind of reminded me of the type of employees working at Adventureland in Iowa. I don’t think I met a rude employee throughout Cypress Gardens. They were all giving 110%.
Cypress Gardens also offers a 2nd day free. I don’t think it’s a 2-day park now. When more attractions open and the water park opens in the Spring, then I think it will be a two day adventure.
I read in the local paper that Friday’s crowd was estimated to be 10,000. They had sold about 25,000 annual passes too. When I left around 5 pm, there was a steady stream of people still coming in. The road to Cypress Gardens was backed up. The main parking lot was full and they were shuffling people to the dirt lot across the street. Even the crowd during the day was sizable, even during the early afternoon. If the park can keep the level of crowds I saw on their first soft opening day, I think the Cypress Gardens has a chance of surviving.
I am a little concerned for the park’s future, since the big theme park boys of Universal and Disney are down the block. Cypress Gardens was a 45-minute drive from Orlando. 15 more minutes and you’d be at Busch Gardens. Sometimes I wonder if guests at Orlando are willing to drive down to Cypress Gardens to ride a bunch of off-the-shelf flats? Wild Adventures seems to have to same level of crowds and they have succeeded. Then again, the nearest major parks to Wild Adventures are Six Flags Over Georgia and the Orlando parks. These parks are at least a 4-hour drive. Cypress Gardens has a more cutthroat market. I think the park needs to become part of the Orlando Flexticket. You can have an option to add Cypress Gardens. They also need to find a way to get people from Orlando to Winter Haven. Perhaps they need to do a shuttle service like Busch Gardens Tampa does. Perhaps Cypress Gardens needs to find their own demographics.
Overall, I was quite impressed with Cypress Gardens. Even though a lot of work needs to be done, they did a great job in fixing up the park. I know I’ll be back a few times next year, mainly because there’s a new coaster opening in Spring 2005. Even though the old Cypress Gardens was nice, I never had an inclination to buy an annual pass or return (and I’ve lived in Florida for over 30 years!). Now that the park has “fun,” I will come back.
I hope it works for them, I can't wait to try it out in October!
But unlike you I am not concerned about the viability of the park. Driving down US27 from Kissimmee it was sad to drive a few miles down to the flat rubble that will become the Posner Center. Years earlier it was Boardwalk & Baseball (and Circus World before that). It was much closer to Disney, with a solid location near I-4, and it failed. It had the coasters. It had the shows. That's why I don't think Cypress Gardens will make or break based on the Disney crowd.
Cypress Gardens has always drawn an older crowd who enjoy botanical gardens, throwback belles in hoopskirts and ice skating and water skiing shows. Whether they are area retirees or Northern snowbirds that has always been the Winter Haven crowd. Bok Tower. Cypress Gardens. Then on to Weeki Wachee, Homasossa Springs, Silver Springs and whatever other roadside attractions exist.
That's why I think the key is keeping enough of the old stuff in the park to keep the older set happy -- and the park has certainly done that -- yet also create an environment where kids and grandchildren who come visit their relatives in Florida won't mind tagging along because they're going to get some rides and animal shows in.
I think it's interesting that the operating calendar has the park open until 11pm on weekends in October because it's obvious that they will be doing something for Halloween. Since I don't see the park as a major teen magnet I think that will be the ultimate test into the park's potential to reach out to the younger audience.
Nice Prince reference Barry. Nice report! :)
As a bonus you can see Bok Tower from inside Cypress Gardens -- it's clearly visible from the Sky Adventure (the old Island in the Sky) attraction.
You must be logged in to post