Don't let companies like Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Six Flags (NYSE:PKS) kid you into thinking that amusement parks are in a rut. Park operator Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN) posted record results last night.

The company behind popular regional thrill parks Cedar Point and Knott's Berry Farm earned $1.67 per unit on $510 million in revenues. Yes, those are units, not shares; the company is structured as a tax-advantaged limited partnership.

While attendance dipped by 1% across the company's 11 properties, that was more than made up by a 3% uptick in guest spending. The company looks to post another record year in 2004, with a dividend hike likely later in the year.

You can't take payouts lightly. The company's generous 5.6% yield tops even the 5% currently paid on the federal government 30-year bond. But readers of our Motley Fool Income Investor know that you can't judge an investment by its yield. The business behind those quarterly paychecks has to be dependable.

Cedar Fair fits the bill. While amusement parks may seem like whimsical establishments that ebb and flow with discretionary income, this operator has produced slow and steady growth in good times and bad. That has enabled it to hike its distributions, seemingly every passing year.

So while Disney and Six Flags remain years removed from their all-time highs, Cedar Fair was there last week. As one of the earliest recommendations in the newsletter that is now Motley Fool Hidden Gems, it is easy to see that Cedar Fair is a cut above the carnie crowd.

Clearly, a low interest rate environment helped draw yield-chasing investors to Cedar Fair. The units are up some 35% over the past year -- and that's before one considers the hefty distributions. Given the company's slow yet predictable growth, it's best to brand such heady gains as an anomaly. Unlike its wild rides, Cedar Fair is a smooth one.

Rick owns shares of Disney as well as Cedar Fair units. Have you made it out to our Travel Center to start planning your 2004 summer vacation? Will it include a stop at a local theme park? Did you know that the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster is at Cedar Point in Ohio? All this and more -- in the Roller Coaster Loving Fools discussion board. Only on