Coaster Kingdom


For 2005, that most mocked of parks, The American Adventure, intends to enter a new era. From now on the park is to concentrate more on providing a day out for the whole family. Good for them. The question is, how to achieve that. The family audience is notoriously demanding, as it is so difficult to find attractions that have genuinely universal appeal.

Pirate Falls, Legoland

Flumes don't belong at a family park says American Adventure

As it turns out, The American Adventure has come up with a truly novel solution. Rather than invest in a range of spectacular dark rides, or mid-range coasters, the park has decided that the best way to take the emphasis away from the thrill rides is … to get rid of them. Or more precisely, to leave them standing, but not open them. Imagine the joy of the average family, who drive up to the park for the first time, see the imposing silhouettes of the Missile (Vekoma boomerang) and Nightmare Niagara (Log Flume), buy their tickets, then find that those rides are closed. “Hurrah” they will cry, “that will allow us to stay together as a group and enjoy the… er… other attractions, if we can find any that are actually open”.

If Oxford University’s team of elite lexicographers ever get around to producing a dictionary for the amusement industry, the word “Family” would surely need a volume all to itself. An abbreviated version might read something like this:

“Family ride”

  1. Any ride intended to appeal to children, teenagers, and adults in equal measure.

  2. Any ride that in practice bores children, teenagers, and adults in equal measure.

  3. Kiddie ride on which the seats are large enough to allow parents to ride with the chid.

  4. Any ride designed to be a fully-fledged thrill machine, but which turned out to be far less thrilling than expected.

“Family park”

  1. Amusement or theme park containing a range of rides that will provide excitement and/or thrills to persons of all ages.

  2. Amusement or theme park containing rides suitable for children up to a maximum of 10 years old, and some benches for their parents.

  3. Amusement or theme park that has run out money, and cannot afford to buy new thrill rides, or maintain the few that they still have.

  4. Amusement or theme park that used to build thrill rides, but which has seen a nearby rival overtake it in popularity.

So, what makes the perfect family ride? How do you create something that will appeal to the four main age groups, namely children; teenagers; young adults; and the group often coyly referred to as “seniors” or “grandees”?

Air, Alton Towers

Air apparently has appeal for  "younger children and pensioners"

Clearly, any strong physical exertions would alienate the youngest and oldest categories, while the opposite would bore the mid groups, making the “family coaster” an extremely difficult balancing act. One thing that we need to accept is that the parks themselves simply cannot be trusted to tell us what is a “family coaster” and what isn’t. All too often, the term is used to describe something no more exciting than a Pinfari Super Dragon, whereas Alton Towers’ bizarre assertion that Air was designed for a family audience is one of the few things about the ride to be truly breathtaking.

Most comical of all, Flamingo Land’s chief “family coaster” is a Maurer Wild Mouse, a ride that normally pushes the upper limit of how intense a family ride can be, but which is “tamed” through the use of trim brakes so powerful as cause the average rider a pretty severe bout of whiplash. Yes folks, when a theme park starts using the word “family”, it should be taken in much the same way as an estate agent using the word “cosy”. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine
Issue 06: May 2005

Issue 06
Family Fortunes
What makes a good family park?