The End of an Era?
As I'm sure many of you have heard by now, it was announced last week that the Cedar Fair company purchased Schlitterbahn Waterparks. This announcement comes with many questions and uncertainty for the future of this unique brand of waterparks. We wanted to take some time to share a bit of info on the sale and weigh in with our thoughts on the possible pros and cons of this new acquisition.
How it All Began
Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels, TX began with the purchase of a campground by the Henry family in 1966. By 1979 the park opened with 4 waterslides and the iconic 60-ft tower that still stands there today.
Over the next 35 years, the park slowly added slide by slide, opened additional parks around Texas and Kansas, and rightfully won the title of Best Waterpark in the World. Schlitterbahn won numerous awards, had Travel Channel highlights and TV specials, and continued to delight families for years, until tragedy struck.
The Fall of the Brand
In 2016, tragedy struck at the Schlitterbahn Kansas park when a young boy was killed on one of the park's slides. The idea for Verrückt, the world's tallest waterslide, came from Jeff Henry, co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Waterparks. Much backlash, as well as a multi-million dollar lawsuit fell upon Jeff and the Schlitterbahn brand when it was revealed that he had no formal engineering training while designing this record-breaking ride. After some digging, it would also be revealed in the months to come that Jeff Henry had a dark past and multiple charges were filed against him for various crimes. This was ultimately the beginning of the end for Schlitterbahn.
In Swoops Cedar Fair
3 years after the Kansas park incident, as well as the announcement that that park would not be re-opening, it was announced that Cedar Fair, one of America's largest amusement park chains, purchased the New Braunfels and Galveston waterparks for $261 million. The company also secured the rights to the now closed Kansas park for an additional $6 million. Cedar Fair currently operates twelve amusement parks, eleven water parks, and five hotels in the US and Canada.
The Bad That May Happen...
Cedar Fair is a large corporation which could mean more rules and less personality. Park guests loved the "family business" vibe of Schlitterbahn waterparks which included perks like free parking, the ability to bring in ice chests with food and drinks, free open-air shuttles, and free tubes! There is, of course, concern with a large company like Cedar Fair coming in and making changes to some of these things that guests have been used to doing their entire lives. If some of these changes were implemented, we wouldn't be surprised if many park-goers rethink a visit to the park.
Cedar Fair doesn't have the greatest track record for keeping things original when it comes to their waterparks. Innovative and record-breaking roller coasters? Sure. Amazing and unique water rides? Not so much. They tend to build the same slide complexes made by the same manufacturers again and again. And while they're not bad slides, they are common. And a park with the title of "World's Best" should be anything but common.
One of the biggest fears here would be that Cedar Fair, despite having the money to do so, would not plan to invest much into these parks. While Schlitterbahn has great rides already, building has been at a stand-still for the last few years. It's time for something new! If Cedar Fair plans to take the money made from this park and funnel it to some of their more successful parks (cough Cedar Point cough) that could be an issue. We could be faced with Dorney Park syndrome here and not see any real new additions for quite some time.
While Schlitterbahn-goers are long overdue for some new thrills, we also aren't ready to give up some of our iconic retro slides. The New Braunfels park is absolutely oozing with charm and personality, and these rides are completely original. One of our greatest fears with this new sale is that Cedar Fair will opt to remove most of these slides to be replaced with something by ProSlide or WhiteWaterWest. While both of these companies make AWESOME rides, they also make up 90% of the waterpark world which means you can get that just about anywhere.
The Good That May Happen...
In a perfect world, Cedar Fair would be able to blend the charm that the parks already have, with some newer, more modern slides. The park as it stands can be a bit confusing and hard to navigate, since so many of the slides are very long (up to 45 minutes) and can intertwine. Cedar Fair may be able to come in and alleviate this issue without jeoporadizing any of the originality.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Cedar Fair has money. Much more money than Schlitterbahn Parks did. This, obviously, can be a great thing for the parks. The company will be able to make changes quickly as well as get started on some new developments. Unlike with the previous owners, we hope to see some progress made to the parks pretty soon.
As mentioned above, Cedar Fair currently owns eleven water parks. There is always a possibility that rather than those parks rubbing off on Schlitterbahn, we will see Schlitterbahn rub off on them. Having a park full of original and unique rides could mean great things for the other waterparks in Cedar Fair's lineup. Will the exposure of these original river attractions spark something amazing in other parts of the country?
In a press release following the announcement of the sale, Cedar Fair made a statement about the "attractiveness of the demographics in the growing Central Texas region." Traditionally, Cedar Fair is known less for their waterparks and more for their amusement parks. With the attractive growing market here in Texas, does Cedar Fair have plans for a new park sometime in the future? That would be the dream.
Time Will Tell
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see what the future holds for our beloved Schlitterbahn.
For us, this a yearly tradition with friends and family and we would hate to see this sale affect what we love most about these parks. We are staying positive and hoping for the best!
Only time will tell.
A Wild Time
This week we are so excited to be sharing with you one of the coolest and most unique parks we've been to. We've been holding on to this gem for a little bit now, and we're so happy to be finally blogging about it! The park is called Wild Adventures Theme Park and is located in Valdosta, GA.
Wild Adventures is such a neat park because it's basically three parks in one. It's a theme park complete with thrill rides and roller coasters, an animal park featuring hundreds of exotic animals, and a water park with several slides and a wave pool! All of these things are included with your standard admission to Wild Adventures, so needless to say, you could easily spend an entire day in the park and still not get to see everything.
During our visit to Wild Adventures we got the opportunity to meet with the Director of Public Relations and the Food and Beverage Director to talk about some of the park's highlights and future plans! They were some of the nicest people we've encountered in the industry and they welcomed us into the park and made us feel right at home. We'll share some of what they shared with us in this post as well as our reviews of the park. So follow along with us through a trip report of our wild time at Wild Adventures!
There is no shortage of food offerings in Wild Adventures! Whether you're in the mood for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, pizza, or BBQ, you're sure to find a restaurant or food stand serving up something delicious at every corner. We started our day in the park by meeting with the Directors near the park's signature Barbecue restaurant: Lonestar BBQ.
This recently refurbished restaurant offers smoked BBQ ribs, chicken, and pulled pork in a modern, Texas-style atmosphere. This place is definitely the pride and joy of the Food and Beverage department (and with good reason). The F&B director let us know that their team slow smokes the meat for hours to get that melt-in-your-mouth perfection. They also offer four unique hand-crafted barbecue sauces with your meal that are available for purchase if you feel so inclined. (You will.) We got all four- Original, Spicy, Mustard, and Vinegar- but I think our favorite was definitely the mustard.
Lonestar BBQ was an unexpected food victory and we highly recommend it. In a park with so many appealing offerings, we'd say this one is a can't miss.
We also ate at Congo Wings! It's rare that we pass up an opportunity to eat hand-tossed wings anywhere we go, so when we saw this place, we had to stop!
The wings were very good. The only downside to this place is the lack of variety. Currently, they only offer one wing flavor- buffalo- which is Brittany's favorite, but not Parker's. Adding a bbq, lemon pepper, or garlic flavor would really enhance the menu.
But overall, you can't be mad at wings and cheese fries. It's literally my ideal cheat meal (which is every meal on vacation if we're being honest). This restaurant seems to have the most potential to us. Even the employees choose to eat most of their meals here! We saw several of them and, of course, stopped to ask them where their favorite place to grab lunch was.
We ended with the most intriguing offering in the park, a Colossal Shake from Mayfield Creamery. This location offers sundaes, shakes, and several flavors of ice cream. Currently, they're showcasing two fun shakes to go along with seasonal theming in the park. One is a cute "Fun @ Heart" shake with sprinkles and lollipops. The other- not as cute. To highlight "Mega Bugs", a new interactive, life-size bug exhibit, the park is offering a real cricket shake!
It's actually not as intense as it sounds. It's a cookies and cream ice cream shake topped with gummy worms, and a real chocolate-covered cricket. Honestly, the cricket tasted like a chocolate-covered peanut, but there's still something about knowingly eating bugs that you can't get out of your head. This shake was awesome and such a fun idea! It's something that you should definitely try, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised! (Plus you'll get bonus points for being brave enough to eat a bug!)
For those unfamiliar with Wild Adventures' history, we encourage you to look into it. It opened originally as an animal park, and the rides followed. It was a family-owned park and, at one time, the fastest growing park in the country. For example, from 1998-2001, the park added seven rollercoasters. Most of these roller coasters are standard kid and family coasters, except for Cheetah.
Cheetah, a 90-ft wooden coaster, is the park's longest roller coaster and has an out and back design. While Cheetah is certainly a fun ride, it is definitely not the smoothest. It was pretty uncomfortable and VERY bumpy. If ever there was a roller coaster that deserved a revamp, whether it's re-tracking or an RMC makeover, Cheetah would be it.
In addition to the park's seven roller coasters, there are several other family-style rides and attractions scattered throughout the park. The highlight for us was the Jungle Safari. This train ride takes you through several animal exhibits, passes under the Cheetah roller coaster, and ends with a feature of the park's "celebrity" elephant, Shirley, who starred in the remake of the movie "The Jungle Book" in 1994.
Splash Island Waterpark
Wild Adventures' water park, Splash Island, is a colorful and fun family-style water park. The park offers a great selection of tube slides and body slides, a wave pool, a ProSlide Tornado, and a lazy river.
Splash Island's newest addition is Ohana Bay, a Hawaiian-themed family area featuring seven slides! Most of the slides in this area are designed for younger children with the exception of Uli Uli Twisters.
What makes Wild Adventures so unique, is that in addition to having great rides, food, and entertainment like any other theme park, they also offer zoo enclosures and animal shows.
The animal exhibits are featured throughout the park which gives guests the ability to see hundreds of different species throughout their visit.
The park features an award-winning tiger show: Tigers of India. The show highlights the agility of these large cats and will leave you entirely amazed.
They also feature an up-close and immersive alligator show which completely blew our minds. Not only were we terrified (in a good way), we were thoroughly entertained. "Gators!" left us peeking through our fingers in order to catch what was probably one of the best shows we've seen in a theme park.
Wild Adventures exceeded our expectations in every single way. We want to thank the Directors of PR and F&B for taking the time to talk with us about the park and what makes it so special. It was obvious after sitting down with them that they are truly passionate about Wild Adventures and all that the park has to offer and plans to offer in the future. We were told that
2019 looks like it'll be a year for the kids, but to expect a larger additions for 2020!
We've seen Herschend Family Entertainment invest a lot of money into Dollywood and Silver Dollar City recently and we can't wait to see what they have in store for this park!
Let your imagination run wild!
See you soon, Wild Adventures!
This week we’re venturing into something that’s a bit different for us. While we are primarily a blog focused on theme parks and the great food finds within them, we want to take this week to write about something a bit different but still in the same realm: Our local San Antonio Zoo! This past weekend the zoo hosted a now annual event called Croctoberfest- A German themed beer and food festival. Over the last year and a half or so, our zoo has really stepped up their game on trying to come up with new and exciting events and promotions to help raise money and keep San Antonio locals entertained! They hosted Jungle Boogie nights every Friday night in the summer, which provided live music, happy hour specials, and food trucks. They also hosted zoo la-la, a Taste of San Antonio event with samplings from over 50 premier restaurants in town. We, unfortunately, missed those events so we wanted to make sure to attend Croctoberfest. And we are so glad we did!
Standard admission was $15 per person, but they also offered a VIP admission price of $50. We weren’t sure which route we really wanted to go, because we weren’t sure if VIP was truly worth it. We ended up getting the standard admission ticket figuring that we wouldn’t end up spending quite that much inside…we were wrong. The VIP ticket came with 15 samplings of beer, which sounded worth it until we saw the sampling size. (It was literally one sip inside a small plastic cup). So, we would’ve ended up needing to purchase more beer after the samplings. They also provided a sample size of different German foods. This is where it would’ve probably come in handy for us since we ended up spending about $35 on food alone.
Overall, though, I’m okay with us not purchasing VIP. Sure, we spent a bit of money on this evening, but overall we’re glad to help out our zoo. The more money being spent by people, the more new additions we will see! We’re already loving the animal enclosure updates, ride and event additions, and new animal experiences that the zoo has added, so we can only imagine what things will look like in the next 15 years!
Upon entering the zoo, we were greeted by employees in German clothing, a German band playing music, and a few beer stands. We were excited but also worried that this would basically be the entire event. That didn’t end up being the case at all! The event stretched across almost the entire park and offered at least 20 (but probably more) beer and food stands. Every stand offered slightly different beer options than the last, making sure you could try different things as you walked on. All of the animal exhibits were open as well, which was a pleasant surprise.
Now, since this is a Theme Park Food Blog, we don’t want to focus too much on the animal exhibits. However, we would like to highlight the newest coming attraction: The Jaguar Walk. The exhibit already offers exciting up-close views of the jaguars and their two newborn cubs, but this new revamp looks amazing! It will feature a skywalk for the animals to walk overhead of guests passing by. We saw something similar in the San Diego Zoo and it was really neat, so we’re excited to see the concept making its way here!
This exhibit lead us to our first food stand (we’d already grabbed beers at this point), which was a Brat on a Bun. This bratwurst topped with sauerkraut was the perfect German dish to get the evening started. It got us pumped up and in the festival spirit. Not to mention we also tried the Rahr and Sons Oktoberfest beer first, so we were definitely setting ourselves up for a well-themed German evening. The brat was tasty, and a great size for sharing! We carried it with us and continued on our way.
Next, we walked down a bit and turned to the right, which seemed to be a pretty busy area. We have dubbed this the “main street” of the festival because it had about 8 stands set up, the zoo carousel, the main stage, and the Beastro restaurant, which was the designated VIP area. We tried a couple more beers and even met a snake! A zoo employee was standing in the middle of the pathway letting guests pet a snake and ask questions. It was definitely something we weren’t expecting to do!
The standout beer this round was the HazelNut Brown Nectar Rogue Ale. If you’re a fan of brown or amber ales, this was a good one! Brittany loves darker beers, especially with notes of hazelnut, coffee, or chocolate, so this was perfect!
Like mentioned before as well, this “main street” area is home to the Zootenial Carousel. The hand-crafted carousel was created by Chance Rides as a new addition for the zoo’s 100th anniversary celebration. What makes this ride so unique is that it features wild animals rather than the horses that most are used to seeing. Some of the animals are modeled after local Texas wildlife, some are mythical creatures, and some are reflections of the zoo’s very own inhabitants! It’s a cute ride, and it was a new and exciting addition to the zoo.
After walking past the main area, we wandered into the bird section of the zoo. Usually, this is admittedly not our favorite part, but there was a very large beer stand set up and several picnic tables to sit at. So, we grabbed a couple drinks and sat and relaxed for while. Parker tried the Lemon and Ginger Radler by Karbach Brewing and Brittany had the Southern Pecan by Lazy Magnolia Brewing. The Lemon and Ginger was right up Parker’s alley. It had a cider taste to it, which, if you recall from previous posts are his favorite! Brittany liked the Southern Pecan but it wasn’t her favorite.
At this point we figured it was time for some more food. So, we walked up the hill to the top of the zoo and hit up a few more stands. Luckily, there were several stands set up at the top; so, we got to try a few things. First, we had the potato pancakes. These were Parker’s favorite! They were essentially small hash browns served with a side of applesauce. It may sound like a strange combo to anyone unfamiliar with German food, but it actually works quite well. Brittany is not a big fan of hash browns in general, so she wasn’t crazy about them, but her opinion is a little biased. Parker actually loved them so much he almost got a second serving, but since we had so many things left to try Brittany talked him out of it. (Sorry)
The top of the zoo is also home to its newest permanent bar: Longnecks! An appropriate play on words considering it’s located next to the new giraffe exhibit, this bar and grill features some classic bar food options and several beers on taps as well as frozen drinks. We decided to stop by and grab another drink, a Stella Cider for Parker, and continue on our way.
By now, we had made our way across pretty much the entire zoo, so we decided to head back to the main area and see what was left to try.
We ordered the Brats Bites and the Pretzel with Cheese. They were both good, but the bites stood out to us. Though they kind of reminded us of cocktail weenies, we still really liked them. The sauce was good, and the portion size was large. The pretzel was also a pretty decent size. There were two different size options to choose from. The larger pretzel was $10 and the one we ordered was $5 and the difference didn’t appear to be that big. Also, who really needs a pretzel that huge??
Overall, the night was a lot of fun! We love the idea of the zoo adding all of these new adult-themed events in the evenings, and really trying to breathe some life back into it! Croctoberfest was
well themed, thought out, and executed. It has left us hopeful for the events of the future!
Great job, San Antonio Zoo!
Oh, also we got free Whataburger cookies on the way out! So, bonus points for sure!!
Until next time, auf wiedersehen!
Roller Coaster Day Round-Up
Happy National Roller Coaster Day! At least to everyone reading this on Wednesday night. If you're not reading this until Thursday, which will probably be most people, then you may have heard that several of the biggest parks in the country made their announcements for their 2018 additions! This week we wanted our blog post to recap all of the announcements as well as share our thoughts and opinions on them. So, let's get started!
The first major announcement of the day came from King's Dominion in Richmond, Virginia. Unsurprisingly, information about this park's new coaster leaked a bit early, and the majority of theme park enthusiasts were left feeling underwhelmed with a reveal that they already knew by name. However, don't let that take away from the fact that KD's new addition will definitely be a wild ride. Twisted Timbers, a Rocky Mountain Construction revamp of Hurler, a previously existing wooden coaster, will feature the coaster's original wooden structure with an all new steel track. It will feature 3 inversions and travel along over 3,000 ft of track.
We're also very excited to see the addition of WinterFest, the park's new holiday event! This festival is something that we've seen being added to many of the Cedar Fair parks over the years, and King's Dominion was next in line. The event will allow guests to experience some of the most popular attractions, holiday shows, and everyone's favorite man: Santa Claus!
Overall, these were some great choices for King's Dominion. Cedar Fair has done a great job of improving not only King's Dominion's Roller Coaster line-up, but also the entire atmosphere of the park.
Next up today was Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. While every single park had their own unique live-stream announcement videos, this park's was HANDS DOWN the best. They did a great job with theming, and had a fun and engaging video to publicize their new roller coaster: Time Traveler. This coaster is an epic addition to this park, breaking a ridiculous amount of records. Time Traveler will be the fastest, steepest, and tallest spinning roller coaster ever created! A Product of MACK, this coaster will cost a whopping $26 million to build. But, from the looks of it, it will be worth it. This ride is definitely not for the faint of heart, but also may just be impossible to pass up. Make sure not to eat too much park food before getting on this one! :p
Time Traveler will be Silver Dollar City's 4th major roller coaster, and just like King's Dominion, this park has made strides towards being one of the top coaster parks in the country.
At the same time as SDC's announcement, the roller coaster capitol of the world, Cedar Point, was making their record-breaking coaster announcement!
Over a year ago, we saw Mean Streak (once the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world) close and rumors began swirling of Cedar Fair finally working with Rocky Mountain Construction Co. Today, all of the speculation was finally answered with the announcement of Steel Vengeance. This coaster is RMC's largest project ever attempted and it is only fitting that it will be part of Cedar Point's already epic line-up of record-breaking roller coasters. Steel Vengeance will be the world's first hyper hybrid coaster meaning this bad boy will reach 205 ft and feature both wooden supports and steel tracks. This ride will also take the record for most air-time on any coaster, which will add to the thrill of weaving through the wooden structure.
As always, Cedar Point continues its streak of world-class, record-breaking rides and we can't wait to ride Steel Vengeance!
The last two park announcements for the day were on the West Coast. First was California's Great America, an up-and-coming park located right outside of San Francisco. This park has seen many additions over the last few years and is quickly becoming one of Cedar Fair's most well-funded locations. CGA faces the struggle of not having as much space as some of their sister parks, so Cedar Fair has had to get creative in keeping the park innovative in their coaster line-up. The company has transferred rides to other parks, revamped a roller coaster, added a GCI wooden coaster, and announced Rail Blazer as their newest addition. Rail Blazer is a product of RMC. It is a single-rail style track as opposed to the hybrid coasters that we previously mentioned. It may look familiar, especially to all the San Antonio natives out there, because it is a clone coaster of the recently announced Wonder Woman roller coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This is not necessarily a bad thing for California's Great America, considering how far away from each other these coasters are, and that Rail Blazer appears to have better theming. Its compact design will feature 3 inversions and be perfect for a park looking to save some space.
The last announcement of the night came from Knott's Berry Farm in California just 2 hours ago. Not unlike its fellow Cedar Fair parks, Knott's made the announcement of a new roller coaster that ultimately replaced an existing coaster in the park. Hang Time, the park's new dive coaster, will stand at a staggering 150-feet and feature 5 gravity-defying inversions. The coaster train will stop just after the lift hill at the highest point on the track and hold riders for a few seconds before releasing them down the beyond-vertical drop.
Hang Time will be located in the newest section of Knott's Berry Farm: The Boardwalk. It will be a welcomed addition next to some of the park's other newer attractions, and will feature colorful nighttime track chase lighting to really help bring that cool boardwalk feel to the area.
Overall, this may have been the biggest roller coaster announcement day that we have ever seen. Today, we saw the additions of 5 new coasters for 2018, and these are only SOME of the parks that have made announcements this year. It's definitely looking like 2018 will be a great year for theme parks, and we couldn't be more thrilled.
Parker and Brittany Ruhmel- Lovers of all things food and theme park related!