Amusement park operator Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) has relied on coaster trains to draw guests through the turnstiles over the past few years. Now, a more family-friendly approach finds it banking on a different kind of train to get free-spending young families into its regional attractions.

In one of many off-season moves as it gears up for the 2007 season, Six Flags is teaming up with HIT Entertainment to establish Thomas the Tank Engine playlands in several of its parks. This goes along with a recently announced deal with Australia's The Wiggles.

Six Flags is looking to open dedicated areas with themed attractions for both properties at a few of its parks next year. It's a brilliant move on both fronts. As the father of a Thomas fanatic, I've headed out to a few of the "A Day Out With Thomas" events in Mount Dora and Miami, where crowds gather to ride Thomas-pulled steam trains and load up on branded merchandise.

How big is Thomas? Three years ago, I became excited about RC2 (NASDAQ:RCRC) after the racing collectibles specialist acquired the Learning Curve line that makes all of the wooden Thomas playsets. I should have heeded my enthusiasm -- RC2's stock has more than tripled since the acquisition was announced.

The Wiggles? What else can you say? It's the Barney for today's toddler generation. If Six Flags wants more families at its parks next season, you can't aim much better than attracting knee-high kids angling to ride a Henry the Octopus spinning kid ride or hopping on a train at a faux Knapford Station with Sir Topham Hatt.

Let's be frank. When CEO Mark Shapiro brought in a mostly new management team to overhaul the Six Flags brand a year ago, it didn't pan out perfectly. Per capita spending was way up, but those gains were offset by plummeting attendance. No one expects a turnaround overnight, especially with all of the problems that the new team inherited, but it was a real eye-opener for those who figured that taking a more family-oriented approach would be an overnight sensation.

Turnarounds take time, but the ingredients seem to be falling into place for a solid 2007. And speaking of ingredients, Six Flags also just brokered a deal with Cold Stone Creamery to have its frozen concoctions served at the parks. They will mostly be prepackaged treats, though Six Flags New England will go all the way with the ice cream chain's traditional chilled marble slab (though hopefully without its excruciatingly long serving times).

Cold Stone will also be rolling out a new flavor called Six Flags Coaster Crunch. What's in it? For all I know, it will be ground-up parts of old Magic Mountain coasters, funnel-cake drizzle, and the remains of Mr. Six.

Aiming a bit older, Six Flags will also team up with Tony Hawk for a series of family coasters. In Texas, a new Cirque show will take the park's summer hours later into the day.

Yes, the collection of high-end properties is intentional. Hogtying itself to aspirational brands like Cold Stone, Cirque, and even The Wiggles -- who have wooed audiences on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Disney Channel -- will help class up a joint that was seen as an unruly teen babysitting service just a couple of seasons ago.

Six Flags is setting itself up to defy the skeptics in 2007, one fruit salad at a time.

If you have your own clever suggestions as to what we'll find in Six Flags Coaster Crunch, drop me a line with your creations, and I'll come back in a few days to share them.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. He owns shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.