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AMUSE!ngs: July 2023

Amuseings Quarterly Amusement Industry Blog

Welcome to Amuseings: a quarterly blog where we explore the amusing details behind themed entertainment’s newest amusements.

I’m James Eister, P.E. As part of AOA’s Strategic Engineering + Development team, my day-to-day includes navigating the ins and outs of ride systems and keeping up-to-date with ride news. I started this blog to share this news with AOA’s readers and offer an at-a-glance look at what’s going on in the ride and show world.

This edition kicks off the summer theme park season with trip reports from Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg!


LTL;DR (Line Too Long; Didn’t Ride)

  • Looping Through the Latest News

    • El Toro reopening

    • SeaWorld Abu Dhabi

    • TEA/AECOM Attendance report

    • Falcon’s Flight construction

    • Waldameer park owner passes away

    • Annual Pass Perks

  • Trip Reports and Reviews

    • Carowinds Aeronautica Landing

    • Kings Dominion

    • Busch Gardens Williamsburg

    • Pipeline SeaWorld Orlando



We made it! Were finally in the midst of the 2023 amusement park season. The parks are open, full of life, and so many new attractions. Let’s dive in to the latest happenings.

A wooden roller coaster travels down a drop with a mission style station at right

El Toro Reopens

El Toro, an Intamin prefabricated wooden coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, has been closed since August of last year when an incident occurred and injured riders. That incident came after another incident in 2021 where the train derailed and damaged the track (no riders were hurt). Six Flags has been working on repairing the track and strengthening the structure. After many test runs, Six Flags got the okay from the State of New Jersey and reopened the ride on June 17.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi

All I can say is WOW. This park is amazingly gorgeous. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi features the world’s largest LED screen, the world’s first Hypersphere ride from Intamin, and the world’s largest aquarium tank; not to mention the park also has an Intamin multi-launch coaster that is similar to Velocicoaster. Eight immersive realms are showcased in the park, from Rocky Point to the Arctic. SeaWorld did an amazing job of immersing you into these realms even though the park is completely indoors. This is now a bucket list park for me and I hope I can go visit one day.

A large LED screen shows images of kelp underwater with an earth globe at the center of the room

A table showing the top 20 attended theme parks in the United States

TEA/AECOM 2022 Attendance Report

The TEA/AECOM 2022 Attendance Report has been released and has some interesting findings. One initial observation is that Universal Islands of Adventure was the only top 25 park to have more visitation in 2023 than 2019 (Universal Studios Florida was not far behind). Similarly, Volcano Bay and Aquatica were the only waterparks that had more visitation in 2023 than 2019. Magic Kingdom remained the most visited park in the world. However, Universal Islands of Adventure jumped up to the #3 spot in the US (#5 in the world). This is the first time a Universal park has been in the top 3 visited parks in the US.

Falcon’s Flight

In 2019 when the teaser animatic was released, you would be hard pressed to find someone who thought Falcon’s Flight at Six Flags Qiddiya in Saudi Arabia was actually going to be built. Interestingly enough, pictures have been posted that show the first hill under construction as well as cranes up on the cliff wall preparing for more coaster track. If completed and opened, Falcon’s Flight will become the tallest, fastest, and longest coaster in the world.

A tall red roller coaster dives off a cliff wall with a theme park and landscaping below

Waldemeer Park owner passes away

There aren’t many major family-owned amusement parks in America anymore. Of the few that come to mind, Waldemeer is one of the most beloved. Paul Nelson started working for the park at the age of 11. When the previous owner passed away in 1965, he took over the park. Nelson passed away this May at the age of 89. It takes amazing passion and dedication to work for a park for 78 years. One of Nelson’s most notable additions to the park was Ravine Flyer II, one of the best wooden coasters in the United States.

A park entrance sign with a chairlift in the background

Steve Gorman, the current park president, made a statement that said: "Waldameer will continue to be owned by Paul's family. There are still three generations of the family operating the park. The park will continue as were Paul Nelson's wishes and vision. We want to continue the tradition of Waldameer serving the community."

Annual Pass Perks

A few amusement parks around the country have started offering a rewards program that is driven by the number of visits to the park. Hersheypark implemented a program where if a passholder makes 13 visits within 5 weeks, they could earn rewards such as unlimited Fast Track, free food, and a bring a friend ticket. The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks have a similar program. At SeaWorld Orlando specifically, a passholder could earn dinner for two in a signature restaurant, all day dining, and an animal encounter if they visit 30 out of 44 days. I think this is an interesting way to drive attendance, but visiting 30 days within 44 days may be a bit of a stretch if you don’t live right next to the park.

A stand-up roller coaster swoops down into fountains of water

Credit: James Eister



My wife and I went up to the Queen City for a weekend and spent a couple days at Carowinds. We both used to live in South Carolina about two hours from the park, so we had been before. However, we hadn’t ridden Fury 325 (which ended up being a highlight of the trip). I was very excited to check out the new Aeronautica Landing area as the artist renderings looked fantastic. The land consists of five new flat rides with a retheme of their bumper car attraction. Overall, the land looks amazing. I especially enjoyed the sand dune element as a call back to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers. I had never ridden a Zamperla Air Race attraction before; it was a super fun ride. It also acts as a nice visual “weenie” to draw you into the land. Copperhead Strike was a surprise as I had heard it wasn’t very good. It ended up being my favorite coaster of the trip!

Credit: James Eister

Just a few weeks ago, we took a trip to Virginia to experience Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, two parks that I hadn’t been to before. We started at Kings Dominion. I expected this park to be a giant concrete slab with some roller coasters. I was happily surprised at the number of trees and shaded areas this park had to offer. It was nice to see a Cedar Fair park with some quaint and well themed areas. The biggest surprise for me was Intimidator 305. It instantly became my new favorite coaster with its fast transitions and blistering speed.

Credit: James Eister

Next, we visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This park has been voted "Most Beautiful Park" for 32 consecutive years by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. It lived up to the hype. The park is situated on either side of a valley with lots of trees and the Rhine River (spoiler alert: it’s actually a lake) running through it. We got to DarKoaster right at opening and were on the first train of the day. I think it’s a great attraction for Busch Gardens, but with a capacity of 350 people per hour, the line will always be miserably long. My favorite attraction at the park was Pantheon, an Intamin multi-launch coaster with a huge backwards spike. It’s a bit short, but this coaster really packs in the thrills with the swing launch and the zero-G stall. I would also like to highlight that while the park is very large, it has two transportation attractions, a train and a Von Roll Skyride, to get people around the park efficiently.

Credit: James Eister


That’s all for this edition.

Stay tuned for more industry news and a trip report from my first visit to Cedar Point and Kings Island!

Be sure to check out James' IAPPA '22 Vlog on our Youtube: IAAPA 2022 Amuse!ngs Vlog | 4K


If you like this content and would like to hear more, let us know! Want to know more about something James' has shared? Send an email to and we'll be sure to mention it in a coming issue. As always, we appreciate your continued support.

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