Last week, Forbes put out its annual summer travel guide. Since I'm heading off on my own family theme park trek this week, I was naturally drawn to the publication's "World's Most Fun Amusement Parks" feature.
Much to my surprise, the list of top parks didn't include the usual suspects that typically dominate these lists. General Electric's
Instead, the Forbes list was truly international in scope, with many of the world's most popular amusement parks included. However, the three domestic attractions that it chose to single out seemed odd at first. Well, OK, Disneyland is clearly a worthy choice. With its 50th anniversary celebration now under way, it would be a crime to leave that one out. The other two U.S. parks that made the list were Six Flags
Why those two? Well, they just happened to have recently opened two of the most anticipated new coasters of 2005. Great Adventure's Kingda Ka is a record breaker, reigning supreme as the world's tallest and fastest coaster. Busch Gardens' SheiKra sends riders perched on stadium-style seating plummeting 200 feet straight down at 70 mph.
I trust that they are great rides, but is that all it takes to displace the perennial favorites these days? Apparently so. Islands of Adventure only has itself to blame, since it hasn't added a new ride in five years. Ironically, the park that billed itself as "the theme park for the 21st century" when it opened in the spring of 1999 has been quiet on the expansion front on this side of the millennium. Cedar Point's last major addition was 2003's Top-Thrill Dragster, whose specs have now been trumped by Kingda Ka.
This is all welcome news to Six Flags. The debt-laden amusement park operator has seen its revenues climb by 11% and 21%, respectively, over the past two quarters. That has been during the off-season, with the critical summer months approaching. If a colossal coaster is what it takes to make Six Flags a media darling and get the turnstiles clicking in the right direction again, cool. If that is also what it takes to rattle the giants out of their slumber -- it's been years since Disney added a new E-ticket attraction to its most popular Florida park -- even better.
Get more thrills here:
- Cedar Fair and Six Flags posted solid revenue growth this past quarter, though expenses could have been kinder.
- Some seasonal operators are looking to extend their summer seasons.
- Talk about your favorite thrill rides in our Roller Coaster Loving Fools discussion board.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been known to chase a few coasters with his family over the summer. Sometimes he even catches them and makes them his own -- he owns shares in Six Flags and Disney as well as units in Cedar Fair. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.