Erik’s favorite 11 theme park moments of 2011


The year is coming to a close, so that means that it’s time to look back at the favorite experiences of the year. Yes, it’s an annual cliche that none are exempt from. But in the world of theme parks, things are always fun to look at, and always fun to relive. So what were your favorite theme park moments of the year? Here’s mine.

Now, before we go one step further, let’s not confuse this with the “Thrill Weekly Awards” or with any other major lists of 2011, this is completely my opinion. This is also my list…and while it should be simple to understand, this is my list…so my ball, my rules. If you don’t like it, I take my ball and go home. These are things that I liked the best from the theme park world, things that both Racheal and I experienced. Some are rides, some are announcements, but they all in one way or another have SOMETHING to do with the theme park world.

  • 11:My favorite pain in the ass-I did say my rules, didn’t I? We love Twitter quite a bit. It gives us an up to the minute interaction with fans, and other theme park sites, as well as theme parks. But the one that I absolutely love is such a pain in my ass. I’m looking at you @CoasterRumors. If you don’t follow this guy, you probably shouldn’t unless you love completely smart assed, sarcastic, crap. Instead of geeking out obsessively to the point of mental masturbation like others do , Coaster Rumors incessantly bashes parks, coaster manufacturers, and tries to derail polls. I would direct you to the website that he calls home…but it hasn’t been updated since Intamin did something to piss him off.  Still, fun to watch. On second thought..maybe you should follow him.
  • 10:One Ocean-One Ocean was a great replacement for Believe. It takes the focus off of the relationship with the trainer and puts it on the whales themselves.
  • 9:Dare Devil Dive and Monster Manor, Six Flags Over Georgia-While I was greatly disappointed with this park, and not a fan of a lot of the rides, I was blown away by Dare Devil Dive. It was a great Gerschtlauer Euro-Fighter, and had such a great theme. I also loved Mindbender, which was amazingly smooth. Monster Manor was a complete and total surprise! I loved this ride. It looks like a very low budget Haunted Mansion, and essentially it was…but it had so much heart, and some genuinely fun elements.
  • 8:Oktoberfest,Busch Gardens Williamsburg-After seeing some pictures, I wasn’t expecting too much. And really, it’s not too much. It’s a new counter service restaurant, and a really pretty new ride. Sure, Mach Tower isn’t the most thrilling thing in the park, but it definitely has it’s place there. The whole atmosphere in the park has changed, and it feels a lot more festive.
  • 7:The Magic, The Memories, and You!-Projections on the castle. Big freaking whoop. WRONG SIR…wrong. It’s a night time show that sure beats the hell out of  a parade, or fireworks set to pixie dust. It brings the  iconic weenie to life in a way that was never possible before.
  • 6:Drinking Around the World-Not a new innovation at all, but it was the first time Racheal and I did it. I never realized how many different variations of alcohol there were, or that I have a point that I should go past. When you tell a little kid to go “eff” themselves…you’re not meant to  ingest that much booze.
  • 5:Cheetah Hunt-Cheetaka took me by surprise…what? It’s not? Okay…Cheetah Hunt took me by surprise. The launch coaster that really doesn’t look like much packs a decent little pop to it. It’s fun, has some really great airtime, and a loop that makes you feel like you’re just going to fall right out..though you’re not. Love the cheetahs…wish there was more of a “Manta” feel to the whole experience, but I guess BGT is happy with having that “Six Flags” feel. Good coaster.
  • 4:Star Tours 2-The Adventure Continues-So, my biggest problem with this whole ride is the name. It takes place BEFORE the original Star Tours, but it’s called a sequel, and it “begins”. Yeah…I’m a geek. So, the digital 3D is simply the best I’ve ever seen. I loved the ride before, but got really sick on it. This go round, no sickness, and the different scenes were a great touch. For those who are locals, they’re already sick of it, but for someone like me, who never goes to Disney…I can be good with this ride for a few years.
  • 3:Sea World Christmas-Wow. Simply, wow. The Sea of Trees was expanded this year. The new show was what Christmas is all about, and even the Polar Express…which is feeling it’s age…was very pleasurable. It’s all free with paid admission, and there’s so much to do. It doesn’t interfere with the day time shows, and gives you a reason to stay all night. I love that it genuinely gives Disney a run for it’s money. It honestly does. You don’t pay for an extra ticket, you get extra time in the park, and there are so many different shows that travel about. Singers, jugglers, acrobats, stunt people. There is a real Christmas Village with tons of unique items and foods, ornaments and more. I don’t know what the poll is going to say, but I’m declaring Sea World Christmas  the King of Christmas.
  • 2:Halloween Horror Nights 21-The park did new things this year. It tried to change up the way they scared a bit. It offered very small, claustrophobic scare zones. The houses were rich on the details, and in most cases intriguing with the scares. The show it did was something new, and Bill and Ted was Bill and Ted. Was it the perfect HHN? Not at all, it had tons of flaws. But I damn sure enjoyed it more than Howl O Scream at BGT this year. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I did something I’ve only ever done once in my 8 years going to the event….I bought a Frequent Fear Pass. The use of elements such as 3D mapping on the scare zones, a 3D house that actually was good, and the sheer fun of H.R. Bloodengutz made this year one of the better ones, and has me really looking forward to next year.
  • 1:The Grand Reef at Discovery Cove-Talk about a complete and total transformation. The last time I went to Discovery Cove was 2007. It was good, a huge reef with a big drop off and lots of swimming room. The only problem is that the fish had great places to hide, and you had huge amounts of swimming to do in order to rest. Enter the Grand Reef. They took the old stingray section and brought it right into the regular reef. They’re everywhere now. There are tons of new places to see different types of animals, from sharks and eels to lionfish. Discovery Cove actually lives up to the name and gives you much to “Discover”. Add SeaVenture to the fact…wow. I love it. And in 2012, they aren’t resting on their laurels. They are opening “Freshwater Oasis”, which will feature Otters, and monkeys!


That’s the stuff I love in the theme park world in 2011. Other honorable mentions include Mardi Gras at Universal, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Food and Wine Festival, and Bands Brew BBQ at Sea World. 2011 turned out to be a great year for theme parks, but just what lies ahead for 2012? Stay tuned to Behind the Thrills for all the latest.

Happy New Year!