The Trouble With "Theme Parks"

Thursday, July 29, 2004 8:03 AM
Until recently, I thought that I just wasn’t a fan of “theme parks”. I had always said that I didn’t care for them because I never felt like I was in an “amusement park” when I was at a place like Busch Gardens Williamsburg or Islands of Adventure. I recently learned that this is not really why I didn't like those places.

Cedar Fair, Six Flags and Paramount Parks are generally not what I would consider “theme parks”. They are more or less themed amusement parks. They are what some people refer to as “concrete carnivals”. The thing with these parks is that you pretty much know what you are getting before you get there. If you like going to a carnival, you’ll like going to a CF park for the most part.

The trouble with fully themed parks is that an extra dimension is added; that is, the theme itself. I had a blast at Silver Dollar City last summer, absolutely falling in love with the place. Looking back, I realized that at no point in my two days there did I feel like I was at an amusement park. I was at a theme park and I loved it. And that is when it dawned on me that all this time I was dissing BGW or IOA it wasn’t because I was looking for an amusement park…it was because I was just looking for something different.

A theme park is heavily dependent on a person’s interest in its theme, at least it is to me. With all due respect to my European friends, I have no interest whatsoever in ever traveling to Europe. Thus, the theming of BGW is of no use to me no matter how nice it may look. When I go to BGW I am somewhere I simply don’t want to be.

Looking back at my one trip to IOA I can now remember that anytime we were looking for something to do, we would end up back in the Dr. Seuss themed area. Even if I may have liked Spiderman or Dueling Dragons as mechanical rides better than Cat In The Hat, we always ended up back in the Seuss area anyway. That was because I didn’t really care to be in a land of Superheroes or Jurassic Park. I don’t like that stuff. I found Dr. Seuss to be funny, so when it came right down to it I preferred to be sitting on a bench under a crooked tree than riding an awesome ride surrounded by superheroes or dinosaurs.

Has anybody else felt this way? Have you ever come across a ride where you enjoy the mechanics, but the theming kills it? Or an entire themed area where the theme is of no interest and thus you don’t have as much fun no matter what attractions are in that area?

- Jeff

Thursday, July 29, 2004 8:26 AM

Uncle Coaster said:

Has anybody else felt this way?

God, no. Even without a bunch of distinct, themed areas, all parks have atmosphere. I don't think many people here would call Cedar Point a "concrete carnival" but then again your opinion is your own.

For the vast majority of people, a park's success is not dependent on the guests interest in the theme. I'd hate to see what would happen to you at Disney World. Do you really have to be interested in car safety testing to enjoy Test Track? Or interested in old time Hollywood or the Twilight Zone to enjoy Tower of Terror? I hate Aerosmith with a passion but still enjoyed Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. Just an example.

I mean...if only wanted to visit themed areas and rides I was really interested in I wouldn't have many parks under my belt, you know? But then again you don't care for Superheroes (which are included in pretty much all Six Flags') or Dinosaurs (which are featured in a lot of parks too in one way or another) or Europe (and there are an awful lot of parks with themed areas that have at least some connection to Europe besides BGW.) It just seems like your interests are very limited, but then again, even if I were the same way I wouldn't let it get in the way of my having fun....


Thursday, July 29, 2004 8:48 AM
I've never really felt this way. I go to a Theme park to get away from every day stress. If I wasn't interested in seeing the theming I wouldn't go. I wish more parks were like BGW and IOA. Cedar Point lacks theming but I love walking the old cabin trail and being back by Mean Streak. You wanna talk Concrete Carnival 2 words for ya. Dorney Park!! :>)
Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:04 AM
I've never felt that way. I go for the atmosphere and rides. If the theming is good or effective(in the case of a ride), it's just a plus to me. If I went to a park and not one ride was themed, it wouldn't matter much to me. I am looking forward to a trip I'm planning next summer that will involve BGW. In the case of this park, I know ahead of time that they have some good rides, but not a huge count. Every coaster show I've ever seen that mentioned BGW, they always brag about the theming, so I figure it's something that can't be missed. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I am interested in other cultures either. But, to each his own.
Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:19 AM
The only problem I have with theme parks is something that can't be corrected, mainly the fact that there are mechanics required behind the scenes to make the place function that take away from the theme. Illuminated exit signs in a dark ride for example. I understand the safety requirement, and am grateful for it, but that is one of the little things that distracts and brings a rider back to reality.

I think employees who are wearing a themed uniform in the area really helps complete the idea of a themed area.

Thursday, July 29, 2004 9:20 AM
I think you're overthinking things and looking for a problem where one doesn't exist. Why would you not want to go to Europe? You could go to one of their parks and feel right at home in one of their American themed sections. At no point at BGW have I ever felt I was in Europe. To me, it's just a different style of architecture, with people wearing "funny" costumes. Remember, BGW used to have the extra title of "The Old Country" tagged on to the end of its name. *** Edited 7/29/2004 1:21:33 PM UTC by Intamin Fan***
Thursday, July 29, 2004 10:00 AM
I think the heavily themed parks are a great way to get away from the mundane world most of us live in for a while. I personally don't need to have an interest in the theme itself to be able to enjoy the fact that it's somewhere different than where I spend my day to day life. I like the unthemed (or less themed) parks too, but the themeing just adds a little something more to the experience.
Thursday, July 29, 2004 10:03 AM
I don't think he's overthinking things. I think he's just realizing that he enjoys some themes better than others (as opposed to not liking themes at all).

Anyway, I'm with you there to a degree. I really like Wild West and Futuristic theming. That's why I love Knott's, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland, but tend to stay away from Fantasyland.

I loved all the theming at Great America...that was fun stuff while it lasted. :) *** Edited 7/29/2004 5:42:05 PM UTC by janfrederick***

Thursday, July 29, 2004 10:07 AM
Agreed, I don't see a problem. All parks have a sense of escape to them. The big themers take it to a somewhat higher level, regardless of my interest in the particular theme. If the theme detracts from enjoying the park, then I think you might be someone that would rather be at work.
Thursday, July 29, 2004 10:51 AM
All parks have a sense of escape, but theme parks add that extra demension. I never have been to a theme park where I havent liked the theme, I love going to those. All of the theme parks are definatly up there in my ratings, and one group (Disney) I believe defys even the name theme park.

I guess to sum it up in a nutshell, if you give me a choice to go either to the the best amusment park (CP) or my favorite theme park (BGW) most of the time BGW would win out.

Thursday, July 29, 2004 1:39 PM
Rather be at work? Not quite. I'd just rather be at Silver Dollar City.

There are countless hobbies that people use as a sense of escape from the real world. An overall lack of enjoyment in one aspect of one of those hobbies would hardly make someone a person who would rather be at work.

EDIT: Substituted SDC for traditional park I originally used. SDC is a better example for this discussion.

*** Edited 7/29/2004 5:49:38 PM UTC by Uncle Coaster***

Thursday, July 29, 2004 1:51 PM
Great topic Uncle Coaster. In my opinion, theming does play into my enjoyment of a ride, however, it does not really detract from my enjoyment of a ride either. Since that last statement really didn't make much sense, I'll try to explain my thought process.

There are rides that the theming enhances greatly- such as Big Bad Wolf at BGW. The little touches like the recorded wolf howls, the close calls with the buildings in the village, and even the bell that goes off REALLY add to the ride experience in my opinion. Then there are rides that have a theme, like Superman: Ride Of Steel at SFDL, but there is little to no actual "theming". Does that take away from the ride experience? I'd say not in the least.

Uncle Coaster and I may disagree on parks like BGW, but we definitely do agree on a "theme" that never gets old- a classic park atmosphere. Knoebels, Idlewild, Seabreeze, etc. are all parks I wish I could spend more time at than I get to. And that is a theme that the parks don't have to spend a single dime on! :)

Ray P. (who realizes that he really didn't add much to this discussion... something I seem to be good at on CBuzz)

Thursday, July 29, 2004 2:14 PM
I'm with you there...just give me lots of bright colors, lights, motion, screams, laughter, and corn dog smells. ;)
Thursday, July 29, 2004 4:21 PM
"just give me lots of bright colors,...."

Aye, which is why I am one of the fans of the "kill em with colors" kick that Cedar Fair is having lately. I'm not a big sucker for theming, especially when it's half assed. I just like when they make things look purrrrty. I still like parks like BGW, Knotts and PKI though (which had the best theming of the parks I have been to)

Thursday, July 29, 2004 4:57 PM

matt. said:
I don't think many people here would call Cedar Point a "concrete carnival" but then again your opinion is your own.

Maybe not a concrete carnival but it is certainly a concrete jungle. A very nice concrete jungle, but concrete nonetheless.


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