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!
Dropping in to Glenwood Caverns!
HELLO EVERYBODY! It's felt like forever since we've written a blog post, and it feels SO good to be back! We took a pretty long hiatus there for a while, but now that theme park season is back in full swing we are more ready than ever to get RideorDine back up and operating.
Since we were gone for so long, we figured we should come back with a bang and post a trip report about one of the most unique and exciting parks we've been to: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park! Located in Glenwood Springs, CO, this mountain-top amusement park is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The park features cavern and cave tours, numerous thrill rides, and (of course, our favorite) excellent food! We do have to warn you, though. If you're not a fan of heights or are prone to altitude sickness, you may need to skip this one. While we absolutely LOVED Glenwood Caverns and fully believe that everyone should experience it, we can also recognize that it is not for everyone. I mean, the park makes you sign a waiver before even entering, so that should tell you something. BUT, please don't let any of that discourage you. If you're unsure or are on the fence about this one, lean toward the side of DOING IT! Because it is absolutely worth it!
Since this park is located on top of a mountain, the first step when arriving is to take the Iron Mountain Tramway all the way up. And yes, I mean ALL. THE. WAY. UP! The ride feels like it lasts a lifetime which can be a bit nerve-racking, but if you focus on the amazing views and take fun pictures along the way like we did, you'll be okay!
Once you get to the top, you really get to begin the fun! The tramway is an attraction all its own, but it's nothing compared to some of the rides that this adventure park has to offer! The park offers wristband options which get you admission to the park via the tram, unlimited rides, and/or unlimited cave tours. We opted for the ride wristband since we were pressed for time when we were there, but we'd love to return and explore some of the caves eventually.
The first thing we did upon entering the park was head straight for the Alpine Coaster. This was my first time ever trying a coaster like this. I'd seen videos online, so I had an idea about it, but I was a bit nervous.
Of course, Parker was ready to go and excited, so I had no choice but to get ready! Although I was a bit scared at first, once I was out there, I had a blast! For anyone unfamiliar with an alpine coaster, you are strapped into a small car like the one above. You have controls on the side of your car that let you control your speed as you race down the track on the side of the mountain. I loved the fact that Parker and I got to ride in our own cars and control our own speed. (I didn't want to hold him back from going too fast, and I knew I definitely wanted to take it a bit slower). The views and scenery during this ride were so incredible, you almost forget that you're on a thrill ride at all. This was definitely one of our favorites!
Next we checked out the Soaring Eagle Zip Line. This one may look familiar to a lot of people since they feature it in many parks across the country. (Usually for an up-charge) Of course, once again, the views come into play here. Everything is prettier on top of a mountain!
One of the other extreme highlights of this park is the Giant Canyon Swing. If you can manage to keep from shutting your eyes on this ride, you'll get to enjoy absolutely breathtaking views. 1,300 feet up + 50 mph swing off the side of a mountain = BRAVERY.
Of course the park also has to offer a classic roller coaster. The Alpine Coaster is fun and different, but if traditional coasters are more your style then you can check out Cliffhanger Roller Coaster. Although, at 7,100 ft in elevation, this is technically the highest coaster in North America, so I'm not sure how "traditional" that really is! But either way, it's a fun little coaster!
Now, the attraction we're most excited to tell you about! We definitely saved the best for last on this one! Not even a year old yet, is Glenwood Cavern's newest and most thrilling ride to date: The Haunted Mine Drop! A first-of-its-kind drop tower that instead of taking riders up and dropping them back down to ground level, STARTS at ground level and drops them DOWN- underground! This is hands down the most terrifying ride either of us has ever ridden. Although, I will say, a lot of that terror came from the unknown. Now that we've done it and know what to expect, it may be a little less scary!
The theming of the entire ride was very well done. Walking through the queue, you feel like you've entered an old abandoned mine with characters and screens along the way keeping you engaged. Once you get to your actual seats, you're strapped in and greeted via screen by ghostly miners that set up the true story of the ride. This is the perfect distraction from the fact that the floor just slid out from under your feet. Before you know it, you're plunging underground into a mountain! The drop was terrifying because it's dark, cold, and a total mystery. We had no idea how far we were dropping, or what would be waiting for us at the bottom. We won't give away any of the details of the actual ride (since that's half the fun), but just know that this is definitely one of the COOLEST rides you will EVER experience.
After an adrenaline-pumping day of thrill rides, you're bound to work up quite an appetite. Luckily, in addition to a snack shack and popcorn wagon, Glenwood Caverns has a full-service restaurant that offers great meal options with a view. The Lookout Grille offers burgers, wraps, appetizers, and more. They also have a feature that they offer which changes depending on the day or week. When we were there they were offering a home-made green chili (which if they ever bring back, we highly recommend).
On top of it all, the staff of The Lookout Grille (and the entire park, honestly) were SO nice and friendly. They made you feel right at home and they were genuinely helpful. We loved them so much we took a photo of them!
The food itself was also pretty good. We can tell that the park is trying to make an effort to heighten the food and beverage experience. We spoke with Bob Stepniewski, the Food and Beverage Manager, while visiting and he shared some of the history and future plans of the park. Glenwood Caverns originally started as a lookout restaurant on top of the mountain, and eventually transitioned into the adventure park that it is today. Having that restaurant background, it only makes sense that the park offers more than the traditional "theme park food" experience. Having those changing features and home recipes as an option is a great example of how the park is trying to break the mold on the industry standard.
We loved our meals, and we wished we had more time to try more. Hopefully we can get some desserts next time, because I was definitely eyeing up that menu!
And there you have it! Our full review of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park! In case it wasn't obvious in our raving above, we LOVED this park! It was something totally different than any park we'd been to. It has exhilarating rides, an adorably friendly staff, and delicious food. And once again- THE VIEWS! If you find yourself in Colorado, definitely make a point to drive to Glenwood Springs for the day to enjoy this park. Just make sure to check their website ahead of time to make sure they're open and the attractions you're interested in are open as well. This is Colorado after all...on top of a mountain...weather definitely plays a huge role!
Let us know if you've ever been to Glenwood Caverns, and if not, do you think you could brave a park like this?
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The Fascination of Knoebels
This week we’re taking you deep into the mountains of Central Pennsylvania to a retro park that offers a nostalgic past for adults and new and exciting discoveries for kids. Knoebel’s is a classic amusement park that is home to some truly incredible old-school rides and attractions and is by far one of the coolest experiences you could ever have at a theme park. It is the largest operating free-admission park in the United States and has enough coasters, thrill rides, and family rides to keep you entertained throughout the day. As if the rides weren’t enough to keep you occupied, Knoebel’s also has free entertainment, multiple activities, and award-winning food. That’s right, AWARD-WINNING. This park has received the Golden Ticket award for best food almost every year since 1999. In all honesty, Knoebel’s is one of the biggest reasons we decided to start a theme park food blog, because it is the perfect example of how great park food really can be. While many parks across the country suffer from lack of consistency and variation of food, Knoebel’s excels in creating quality and delicious options throughout their ENTIRE park. From pizza to pierogies to their famous fresh-cut french fries, no matter where you decide to dine in this park we guarantee you’ll love it and you’ll want to try it all!
Before we get into some of our favorite food options, we want to take some time to tell you about some of the most iconic attractions in the world! Now, keep in mind, the park is full of unique rides and attractions so to cover everything that this park has to offer will take time. But, believe us, we’ll get to it all eventually. For now, we’ll focus on the two attractions that we enjoyed the most and where we spent the most amount of time on our past visit.
First up: The Grand Carousel. I’m sure many people who are unfamiliar with Knoebel’s Amusement park are probably thinking that a carousel surely can’t be special enough to be included in a review of best park attractions. But trust us, it is!
The Grand Carousel is a one-of-a-kind experience that offers two attractions in one! With the ride’s authentic German organ playing while you sit atop your hand-carved horse, it’s hard not to take in the vast amount of history that this ride carries. The carousel is over 100 years old and is one of the largest in the world. But, the best part, without a doubt, is that it is one of the few carousels left where you can still catch the brass ring! For anyone unfamiliar with classic carousels, many used to have an on-ride game, which encouraged riders to reach out from their horses (those sitting on the outter row) and stretch for an illusive brass ring. Every time your horse passes the claw arm dispensing rings, you try to reach out and grab one. It’s easy to grab a ring, but only one per ride is the special brass one! If you grab a brass ring you win a free ride (and bragging rights)! Some of this may be hard to understand in words, so check out this video below of Brittany grabbing her first ring ever!
Also, not far from the Grand Carousel is the Knoebel’s Carousel Museum. This free-exhibit features original carousel horses, painted panels, and other memorabilia from carousels dating all the way back to the 1800’s! It’s a unique experience and it is certainly worth your time!
Another experience in the park you don’t want to miss is Fascination! If you’re even the least bit competitive (which we are), you’ll love this skill challenge that is a cross between skee ball and bingo! It is so easy to spend hours in this building, spending quarter after quarter to play this unique game. Each person sits at their own machine and plays one synchronized game hosted by the Fascination announcer. Much like bingo, you are looking to get 5 in a row. It’s up to you to roll one ball at a time down a ramp and land in certain holes to make your board light up. It’s exciting, it’s a race, and it’s super fun!
Alright! Well, now that we’ve told you about some of our favorite attractions in the park, we want to share with you some of our favorite foods! Like we mentioned before, Knoebel’s is known for having the best theme-park food in the country, so narrowing down our favorites is tough. But, we’ll start with a Pennsylvania classic and fan-favorite: Pierogies. The park offers two varieties of pierogies at separate stands and, of course, we tried them both. Fans of the park seem to have a clear favorite when it comes to these two snacks, so we needed to taste each of them to see if we agreed. The first location is called The Roast Beef Stand. The pierogies at this stand are sautéed in butter and onions and more closely resemble the classic pierogies that many are familiar with. Park fans tend to favor these over the others, and we would definitely agree with them. We loved them so much that we considered ordering a second helping, but decided to try the other stand just in case. And, we’re glad we did. Even though we both favored the first batch, the second order found at The Round Stand were good as well. While the second order were not sautéed in butter, they did come with a side of sour cream, and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Just further proving that you can’t really order anything bad at Knoebel’s.
Another fan favorite at this park is the freshly made Kettle Korn. While this treat is more of a classic amusement park option, no one beats Knoebel’s when it comes to this salty-sweet snack. Sold in large bags for $6, Kettle Korn is the perfect snack to grab and share with your group while walking through the park. Or, heading out of the park for the ride home! However you choose to enjoy this snack, we’re sure that once you get to the bottom of the bag, you’ll be wishing you bought just one more!
By only covering two attractions and food options, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on all that this park has to offer. Knoebel’s is a fun and totally different experience than many park-goers are probably used to, but it is so worth it to check out. The park has so much heart and nostalgia that it’s impossible not to fall in love as soon as you walk in. We look forward to returning and to covering more of our favorites soon!
Parker and Brittany Ruhmel- Lovers of all things food and theme park related!