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Six Park SoCal Update - Disneyland, DCA, Knott's, SeaWorld, Six Flags, Universal

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by , 02-23-2012 at 10:22 PM


The good news just keeps on coming out of Knott's Berry Farm, where the new General Manager is pushing major park beautification projects. Disneyland is absolutely bursting with Spring renewal and Disney California Adventure's Buena Vista Street races to the June 15th finish date. We also dive down to San Diego's SeaWorld, coast up to Magic Mountain and have a quick take at Universal Studios to see what all the big parks are preparing for Summer. Lots to cover in this SIX PARK UPDATE today . . . Yes, it was a busy week for us, but we think you'll enjoy what you see . . .



Before we get to Anaheim's Disneyland, let's take a quick detour to its gorgeous sister in Paris. We are so proud to be working with the author of one of the most collectible Disney theme park books of all time, Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality, to bring you some very special news. The book has been out of print for years and selling for over $1,000, but we've arranged to bring it back for a limited time at the original price.

Here's a quick video about the book. . .






You can learn more about this amazing book here: Rare Disneyland Paris book set to return!





MATTERHORN:
The first glimpses of the resurfacing and paint job are showing through the scaffold covered Matterhorn. The iconic roller coaster is getting a top-to-bottom refurbishment that caps off a multi-year plan to bring the mountain up to modern standards. The finish date is targeted at June 15th, just as California Adventure across the way launches Cars Land and Buena Vista Street.


The screens have been removed from the tip top of the mountain, revealing a starker contrast in the paint job.








Here is a look at the new surface of the Matterhorn sans paint.


SPRINGING:
One of the most impressive things about Disneyland is the landscaping and horticulture and Spring is the best time to see it on display. Get to the park within the next few weeks for an amazing display of colorful spring flora.























MARK TWAIN:
While the Sailing Ship Columbia has returned to the Rivers of America, the Mark Twain has gone into refurbishment. It is scheduled to return next week.






THIS AND THAT:
In a strange occurrence over at Splash Mountain, there was a HUGE back up at the Fast Pass entrance the other day. We aren't sure what was gong on here, but it got us wondering about the current state of the FASTPASS system. Specifically, guests saving FASTPASS tickets throughout the day and then using them all well past their valid window.

The existing policy for Fast Pass return times is that while the reservation window assigned is strongly suggested, guests are free to return any time during or after the return time. Recently, Walt Disney World announced plans to begin enforcing strict return time rules and do away with the current, more flexible way of doing things.

While enforcement of the rule seems to make sense in moderating the flow of the FASTPASS crowds, the parks have long allowed more flexibility due to guest confusion, restaurant reservations, frequent ride breakdowns and protecting cast members from becoming gatekeepers (and thus generating guest hostility).

We're not sure what the best FASTPASS solution would be. On the one hand, keeping FASTPASS queues from filling up with folks in the afternoons by enforcing times would be great. But on the other, we don't want to see guests or cast members placed into a position of hostility or confrontation, which a change in the policy would create (as it did in the very beginning of FASTPASS in the Pressler era). What do you folks think should be done? Do the parks even need FASTPASS?



Your Fast Pass return time is now, your ride time is in 30 minutes. Lots of unhappy guests.




The exterior, upper level queue of the Jungle Cruise
is being re-thatched.




It is still Winter at the Big Thunder Barbecue - but they will soon be moving into spring with the rest of the resort.


Sara's back with a new MiceChatter video on the MiceTube. She's excited about next week's One More Disney Day and California Adventure's rapid progress.






The location is Disney California Adventure. The date is June 15th. The event is the multi-billion dollar re-invention of a misguided theme park. Will you be there? Come to think of it, will the projects be ready? Let's take a look . . .


BUENA VISTA STREET:
It seems that mother nature is smiling on Buena Vista Street and hasn't delayed construction of this new entrance with too much rain this winter. The best case scenario has shined on DCA. Things are on track to open in just 3 and a half months, while many of the stores and restaurants may not be 100% ready on opening day, things should like great on the outside.


The entrance of Buena Vista Street


The red car trolley track and street are clearly discernible now as is the park-like area to the left.


Cement pillars and foundations for the park are in place to the left.



The Carthay Circle theater in the sun. We think that camera is just to record a construction time-lapse.



GRIZZLY RIVER RAPIDS:
Grizzly River Run remains down for a substantial refurbishment. It is not scheduled to return until Saturday, March 10th. This area is slated to get more naturalistic theming as DCA approaches its relaunch.






The exterior of the Rushin' River gift shop is receiving
a treatment as well.




The overflow reservoir for Grizzly, near Pacific Wharf, is completely drained and the bridge is getting attention too.


PARADE ROUTE REPAVING:
The re-paving project in front of Little Mermaid has finally wrapped up after weeks of work. Here's what it looked like all week, but the walls are gone as of today.






GHIRARDELLI:
The walls are up at Ghirardelli and now they feature concept art of what the anticipated restaurant will look like.







BLUE SKY CELLAR:
Blue Sky Cellar is closed until February 29th to install what will be the last exhibit before the park's multi-year redo is complete. When it reopens, we'll be able to see concept art and models from Cars Land.





PARADISE PIER SHOP RENOVATION:
A quick glance at the Paradise Pier shop facade redo shows some pretty impressive progress and detail.





ICE CREAM STAND:
While we are surprised that the Ice Cream stand in Paradise Pier is still as popular as it is without the variety of flavors it sported when it first opened, we are even more confused as to why people would wait in a line this long for it.



A good 30 minutes for an ice cream. Granted, the main ice cream shop in the old entry plaza has long been closed for Buena Vista Street construction. What can we say? Folks like ice cream!



CARS LAND:
Here are the latest shots from Radiator Springs along with the latest concept art released by Disney.



Sarge's Surplus



Radiator Springs Curios.



Ramone's House of Body Art






The courthouse.


No more scaffolds inside.




The entrance into Cars Land from Pacific Wharf.


How Cars Land looks from Paradise Pier.


Cozy Cones and the entrance from Bug's Land in the background.




You can barely see Mater's now for all of the trees. Also, take a good look at the Tough to be a Bug mural. It is slated for a retheme.




We had a berry good time at Knott's this week, and have lots of good news to report. There are still a few days left to take advantage of the "Two-gether is Better" deal offered by the park. It's a great time to visit the park because everything is operational and back from refurbishment.




WISTERIA:
If you do make it to the park, stop by and pay respects to the remaining parts of the original entrance into Ghost Town at the wisteria arbor. It will be in bloom for the next week or so and is absolutely beautiful.










BIG FOOT RAPIDS:
Bigfoot Rapids has re-opened after a short refurb that allowed for the clearing of a lot of the underbrush along the flume route. All seems bare right now but will look great in the Summer.












Still no waterfalls though. Bummer.




CHARLESTON CIRCLE:
A lovely, quiet part of the park has fully returned from refurbishment and looks wonderful. Charleston Circle is now fully restored and sparkles. The fountain is flowing, the trees and flowers are planted and new furniture is in place. We still think this spot is just screaming for a little coffee cart nearby, to grab a latte and enjoy some people watching.










PERILOUS PLUNGE:

Perilous Plunge is open right now, but will strangely be going down for refurbishment during the hotter days of the Summer. Weird. When questioned about this recently, General Manager Raffi Karprelyan quipped, "We have a sense of humor."






TIMBER MOUNTAIN LOG RIDE:
The Timber Mountain Log ride returned this past weekend. While there is little that is visibly different on the ride, the mechanics behind it have been lovingly cared for. Both lift hills have been reworked and portions of the scenery along the flume have been rebuilt.







A nice new belt for the lift hills.






The scenery has been cleaned but not updated.




This awning has been rebuilt.




The water gag is still not working though.


We hope that these trees can soon be replaced too.


Still one of the best log rides anywhere!



IMPROVEMENTS:
We are continually impressed with the major and minor refurbishments taking place rapidly around the Knott's Berry Farm property.



The Knott's Marketplace drive is receiving fully curbed planters and more defined parking along the route.








Here is a finished planter.


Again, this isn't the biggest news, but it is such a wonderful sign.


Inside the park, huge planters have been built along the stage coach route, behind the Log Ride.


Deadwood Dick's grave now features real flowers. This is a Disney-style touch that has us tickled pink.





At the entrance of Mystery lodge, they have rebuilt the railing, and have now begun a full refurbishment of the pond as well.


All emptied out. The Koi are in a safe holding pond.


Soon the old moonlight effects and waterfalls will return to this area.




STREETMOSPERE:
We were even happy to see more action on the streets out in Ghost Town. This time, there was a gunfight in front of the Blacksmith shop. The Blacksmith claimed to be able to catch bullets with a pair of tongs and the back and forth between the actors was hysterical.







The actor kept going in and out of the Blacksmith shop integrating the surroundings into the act. Great stuff.




They even asked a volunteer to help catch a bullet.


Then they chased the bad guy out of town with guns blazing.




The bad guy later joked around with some kids.


THE GHOST TOWN PLAY LIST:
But, with all of the good, there is of course the issue of the incongruous music being blasted throughout Ghost Town. The idea behind it is to fill the park with peppy, upbeat music. The problem is that, in our opinion, the music is such a wrong fit for this historically themed area, that it nearly ruins the greater experience.





As long as they continue to play music which doesn't match the theme of Ghost Town, we'll be right here to report what we heard on our last visit. Let us know, does this play list work for you?

  1. A Love Bizarre - Sheila E and Prince
  2. Cool - Gwen Stefani

  3. Dancing Machine - Jackson 5

  4. Hot in the City - Billy Idol

  5. Shine - Collective Soul





KNOTT'S HALLOWEEN HAUNT:
The first news about this year's Knott's Halloween Haunt was broken last week at a presentation that was given to a group of fans at the West Coast Bash event organized by our friends at Theme Park Review and Knott's Berry Farm.




Maze Designer Brooke Walters took the stage and introduced the crowd to one of the new mazes for 2012.





They plan to bring back the beautiful maze, Dominion of the Dead.


















Concept art indicates that the location will be at the site of last year's Lockdown maze










Some of the vampires for the maze.












Does this mean that the 40th Anniversary of Haunt will be a mix of new mazes and returning favorites? This sounds like an interesting idea and one that we could definitely get behind if it is executed with a high level of production.

Aside from Dominion we also know that Dia De Los Muertos is coming back too with a few tweaks according to Brooke.

But now for some possibly very bad news. Knott's has always been a unique haunt venue. For one, it was the first theme park to host a haunt. Second, it was unique in that they haunted the dark rides that were in the park along with building haunted walk through mazes.

Over the years it has become more and more difficult to come up with concepts that fit into the Log Ride and Mine Train, much less make them effectively scary. Consequently, they have decided that both of those classic rides will NOT be billed as haunted attractions this year. There will apparently be haunted elements in them, but nothing else. What do all of you haunt fans have to say about it? This is not too great of an idea in our eyes. But again, until we see it, there is no way to form an opinion. It's just unfortunate that Knott's is beaking tradition like this, especially during their 40th anniversary year. Haunt started in the Mine Train and Log Ride. Don't you think they could have waited one more year before removing them from the lineup? Your thoughts?





UPPER LOT:
A new window display has appeared in the Travel Agency on Baker Street. The display is themed to Switzerland. Now that the Matterhorn is closed for refurb at DL, you can head over to USH to see a smaller version complete with a working skyway.





STUDIO TOUR:
Most of the work walls are now down in the Studio Tour unload and queue areas. A brand new stroller parking area has opened.





The extended queue has also reopened. Half of it is being covered with the same awning the main queue is covered with.









The ODV location has been removed. It's a safe bet this will be the next area to go under the knife.


Over in Courthouse Square, the building that is normally a gas station is being turned into a drive through wedding chapel for an unknown production.





The boathouse at Jaws Lake/Cabot Cove is being rebuilt



The Chicken Ranch was being used for a commercial.




LOWER LOT:
More walls have appeared in the Lower Lot in preparation for the May Transformers opening.






The Arcade is again getting some work done.


THE MUMMY:

The Return of the Mummy locker area is getting a touch up.




If you look closely, you can see a remnant of the old ET gift shop.


The entrance of RotM was repainted.


JURASSIC PARK:
Work continues on the Jurassic Park queue.




TRANSFORMERS THE RIDE:
The mounting brackets on the show building look like something is going to be put up soon.





Details are starting to go up in the queue area and the outside of the show building.



An employee was standing in front of the outermost wall answering questions.



Can't wait for Transformers summer!





Welcome back to sunny SeaWorld San Diego. This week, we’ll be looking at some refurbishments and the fast paced construction towards the completion of MANTA.





SeaWorld is offering their annual “Pay for a day. Play all year.” Promotion. This offer gets you a year pass when you purchase a day pass. It usually lasts till April. Our suggesting is to pick the pass up now, becuse Manta will be a major draw this summer and they likely won't need to discount once the new attraction opens.


SKYTOWER:
The SkyTower is still under refurbishment. On their Facebook, SeaWorld wrote that the SkyTower will be getting a new coat of paint. It reopened today to the public.




You can see some high flying painters in this shot.


CONSTRUCTION IN THE BAY:
In an earlier update, we noticed that the stage in the front was cleared. We assumed that something new was on it’s way, and as you can see…there is. Although, this could just be for the Viva La Musica event in May, so let’s not get our hopes up yet. But if it’s for Cirque, what do you think it could be?



OFF- SEASON FADES:
The park is getting busier as the off-season slowly comes to a close. However, it’s not a huge difference yet, so it’s still a good time to visit. Each of the main shows in the park now offer a minimum two show times daily. But, as you can see from this image, there is still a lot of room left in each audience.




MANTA:
The track for MANTA is now coming towards the front of the mega-attraction.


The ride will begin with a movie. The show building (with the pink in front) has walls going up. Also, the roof for the exit/launch queue is complete.


After guests finish the movie, they will drop twenty feet, go under the entrance bridge, and up fifty feet, over a rock structure.


The bamboo fencing is almost complete at the back end of the attraction.



This is what it will look like when it’s done.







COCA-COLA INVADES SEA WORLD:
As announced late last year, Coca-Cola has finally replaced Pepsi in all SeaWorld parks. As a HUGE Coke fan, I am quite thrilled about this. What about you? Coke vs. Pepsi in the parks?



THE LAST WORD:
Rocky Point Preserve (Dolphin Interaction Area) will reopen at the end of April with new enhancements. We should have a new update on that next week.



Spring Into Night is from March 31st – April 15th. Rehearsals for Shamu Rocks has been going on between shows.




LOG JAMMER:
Log Jammer de-construction continued at a fever pace this past week. There isn't much of it left.




The pump-house is still standing.


An overview of the site


RESTAURANT:
They are also doing some work in the nearby Food Etc. The Ice Cream and Sushi sections are currently still open during renovation. What do you folks think about sushi in amusement parks. Can they be trusted to serve raw fish, or should they just stick to burgers and fries?





METRO:
They have also removed the Metro track in the area, including the Metro Tunnel Station.





The Metro track removal extends all the way to the other end of Samurai Summit on the path between Gold Rusher and Superman.


RIDDLER'S REVENGE:
One of Riddlers Revenge trains is in refurb, meaning the coaster is currently running only 1 train. Hopefully the park can get their 3rd train back from Six Flags Great Adventure before summer.








JET STREAM:
Jet Stream is now closed for Rehab, since Log Jammer is now gone, there are currently no water rides open at SFMM (Tidal Wave and Roaring Rapids are also still closed until Spring)






The entire flume has been drained but no evident work could be seen. The ride was open 2 weeks ago so this is a pretty recent change.

THRILL SHOT:
Thrill Shot is officially closed.






Considering it only took 4 days to remove, we must wonder why it took 3 years to get rid of it.


LEX LUTHOR DROP OF DOOM:
Nothing has really changed near Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom other than some indication they are going to be doing some decoration on the walls. We did, however, get confirmation at West Coast Bash that the old Arcade will be the Queue building.





MAINTENANCE:
Lastly, even though this restaurant is only used for private events, the poor upkeep is unacceptable.




FRIGHT FEST:
We are also hearing some rumblings about some MAJOR Fright Fest changes coming for the event's 20th year. We are hoping to have some updates on this soon.



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We'd like to extend a huge thanks to today's contributors: JP, F!AN, Sir Clinksalot, CaptPhoebus, Fishbulb and Dustysage. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you too! Contact Dusty today

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Updated 02-24-2012 at 02:32 PM by Dustysage

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Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
  1. BrerDan's Avatar
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    I am super-excited for the Grizzly River renovation--I love the idea of the National Park look and cannot wait for the last vestiges of the "extreme" trappings to be gone. Hurray!

    Moving on to Knott's Halloween Haunt. I actually LIKE that the rides won't get the overlays. My family doesn't care for "scary" areas. It's great to have separate mazes for those that want them--but to alter the major attractions--well, it doesn't appeal to my family.

    As for FastPass. I think the fan community is split 50/50 on this one, but I have to say that I am one who essentially wants FastPass to remain as it is. Quite honestly, we would probably stop going to Disney Parks if FastPass were eliminated. Without FastPass, we wouldn't be able to experience as many attractions in a day to make the whole experience worth the very high cost that Disney charges.

    Yes, I gather that overall standby wait times would go down a bit if there were absolutely no Fastpass--but they wouldn't go down enough. A 90 minute wait for Toy Story Midway Mania might go down to 60 minutes--this is a very significant drop. But the line is still way too long for an experience that lasts less than 5 minutes.

    Sure I might be willing to do that for an attraction or two in a given day--but to go through a long line for EVERY D and E level attraction. I'd literally stop coming--it would be way too frustrating. And, yes, the overall standby lines would be shorter than the standby lines are today--BUT they would STILL be very long. There are just too many people descending on a Disney park on any given day.

    Folks have to remember that a lot of us DON'T live within a half hour from Disneyland and don't get to go very often. When you go frequently, you don't even try to experience all the big attractions each visit. It's fine to only get one or two great e-tickets in on your visit if you know you will be back in three weeks--it's not fine if you won't get to return for one or more years. It's a very different experience to wait in a few long lines (not very stressful) versus waiting in several long lines (stressful).

    All of this is said with respect for those that view it differently--I mean no attack or disrespect--but I simply see no way that lines wouldn't still be too long unless Disney were to dramatically reduce the number of people they let in each day.
  2. Timchat2's Avatar
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    I truly hope Raffi will seriously reconsider is extremely unfortunate stance on the Ghost Town music. While it would be great to have area specific music throughout the park, if they can at least get Ghost Town right it would make a world of difference. All the recent refreshing and upkeep is great, the terminally stupid misuse of music will continue to undermine all that good.
  3. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    Wonderful update, as usual! All the news from all the parks is fantastic!
  4. lynxwiler's Avatar
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    Wow! No more haunting on Knott's Calico Mine Ride nor the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I'm not opposed to it actually and think the money they've spent on the Halloween overlay for those two great attractions could be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps Knott's could use the money to license some appropriate music for the park's themed lands.

    Music aside, Knott's deserves kudos for restoring the Charleston Circle fountain — it's incredible to see it bright and lovely again. The fountain and its bucolic garden are now such a lovely spot to simply sit and relax at Knott's; it's a feature that Knott's was sorely lacking. Who doesn't like to have comfortable place to rest?

    Kudos also for the repaving of Main Street in Ghost Town and for re-burying Deadwood Dick in his rightful spot beside the Assay Office. The fresh flowers marking that varmint's grave put this particular rehab over the top. I also hear Old Betsy will return to her nook beside the historic Blacksmith shop and bring both of her old ore carts with her. And the refreshed, blooming landscaping all over Knott's looks fantastic!

    For those who haven't tried the new taco stand in Fiesta Village or Ghost Town's hand-shaken, made-to-order, fresh lemonade you must do so. That lemonade in particular is just outstanding as Knott's employees squeeze the lemons right in front of you and prepare your drink in a cocktail shaker — which is exactly how I expect most of my beverages to be served. Yum!

    Yet that music at Knott's — oy!

    In other news, has anyone started the Fishbulb fan club yet?
  5. jcruise86's Avatar
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    Lynxwiler wrote: ". . . Yet that music at Knott's — oy!

    In other news, has anyone started the Fishbulb fan club yet?
    "


    The "Fishnet of Followers" has gone beyond a fan club, and has now officially been categorized as a cult. Tomorrow we'll be at LAX collecting donations for our supreme Norman conquerer.
  6. mondo's Avatar
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    I like FastPass. I remember before it came available Space and Splash MT had like 1 hr + wait every time. We would always skip them and only go on first thing in the morning. With FP it became about 15 mins wait.
  7. jtamura69's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InspiredByWalt
    An outstanding update! Thanks for all your hard work and the wonderful pictures. Very much appreciated.

    You asked, so here goes. PLEASE, OH PLEASE get rid of FastPass at Disneyland and DCA!!!!! I have never been in favor of it and harken back to the way Walt designed The Park. Everyone waits in the same line and we all take our turns. It's fair and equitable!
    We live in Seattle and make it down to The Park once or twice a year and I can tell you from experience that the average out of town paying tourist has no idea how to use (or abuse) the FastPass system. Those that know about FastPass may tell those that don't know, but it ends up creating jealousy (for their knowledge of the system) and hard feelings about FastPass in general. I've been thanked several times for passing along the information, but the reaction from the rest of the party after they get the news is more like "why didn't someone else tell us?" Yes, there is information in the Disneyland guide you pick up at the gate, but those people who don't know about FP are not reading that info in the guide or they are confused about how to get and use the FP. I agree with Kevin Yee that FP has created a 'class' system at the parks that use it and think it's time to get rid of it once and for all.
    I disagree. Just as in life you get rewarded for what you know. Pay is based on experience. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!!!
  8. Dutchman's Avatar
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    Knotts taking the Mine Ride and the Log Ride off the active scare zone list is a good thing. It wouldn't surprise me if they had gotten a letter from DOSH about this. Having employees jumping out at moving ride vehicles in the dark is an invitation to disaster. Frankly I'm surprised that there hasn't been an incident previously (at least we haven't heard of any). As far as the music, that sounds like a corporate thing. All the CF parks have that pop music loop to keep the crowds moving. I agree that it doesn't belong in Ghost Town. Maybe if enough people make enough noise that perhaps Mr. Ouimet might intervene. Granted , his management style is one eighty from his predecessor (Mr. Kinzel was notorious for micro managing, especially at Cedar Point where the corporate offices are. It has been alluded that he would frequently over rule the GM there. It has been half jokingly said that Cedar Point work orders had an extra line on them where DK had to sign off.) That said I am delighted to see the work being done in the park of late. Now if they could just get the carousel band organs (yes plural, there is one in storage besides the one in the loft) restored and playing.
  9. jcruise86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NetteNutt
    Ok it is February and your are talking about Halloween but that is not the weird thing. The weird thing is... that I'm already excited for it! We are going to take our oldest who will be 14 by then to one of the haunts, either Knotts or Universal. I haven't decided yet. She is at that nothing can scare me stage.
    Do the Knott's Haunt this year. Go in September--the earlier in the month the better--the crowds are smaller and the monsters are fresher. Do the pre-scare dinner then do the newer mazes first and try to hit all the mazes before the second showing of the Hanging show (& take one beverage/snack break), try to be on Windseeker during Disneyland's fireworks show, and maybe see Ed Alonzo or another show.

    Then next year hit Universal's Horror Night or the Queen Mary's event and splurge of front-of-the-line passes for either of those. I think the maze fastpasses are unnecessary at Knott's if you hit the mazes right when the Haunt opens on a September night.

    That's all I got.
    Updated 02-25-2012 at 06:56 AM by jcruise86
  10. mttk2724's Avatar
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    Coca-Cola all the way!!!!!
  11. Tinkbelle's Avatar
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    As an Arizona resident who doesn't get to go to DLR more than once every one to two years -

    I vote for Fastpass to stay and remain as it is.

    I remember what lines were like before fastpass. No thank you. It's not worth the ticket prices they are charging now to stand in huge lines and ride far fewer rides while surrounded by the crowd of local AP holders with their monthly payment plans.
  12. sir clinksalot's Avatar
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    Re: The Log Ride/Mine Train at Haunt

    What they actually said at the Q&A is that there wouldn't be any "talent" in the attractions, but there may be some kind of Haunt decoration. So we'll see what they come up with.

    I'm sure this has to do with the whole DOSH thing from last year with the new animatronic for the mine train.
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