Have a Rollicking Good Time with a Theme Park Reunion

Magazine Features, Planning Tips

Summertime visit to theme park is an American institution. Call them what you will – amusement parks, roller coaster resorts, adventure parks –theme parks and their closely-related cousins, water parks, are ideal for hosting any multi-generational gathering.

Why Have My Reunion? at a Theme Park?

Amusement parks don’t need much in the way of an introduction. From Coney Island on the East Coast to Disneyland on the West Coast – and with Cedar Point, Kings Island, and a bunch of Six Flags in between, not to mention dozens of other venues – chances are there’s a park not too far from your crew. Plus, you’ll almost always find that the park’s location (handy to an interstate highway) and the businesses that sprout up around it (lodging, stores, and restaurants) make it as near to a one-stop-reunion-shop as anything outside of an all-inclusive resort is likely to be.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Flight of the Hippogriff

But let’s talk about the attractions of the park itself. Of course, for most people, the premier attraction is going to be the rides. Nearly every theme park will have a water ride (or several) and some of the larger water parks will also have an indoor or outdoor roller coaster, ropes course, or zip lines. Outdoor theme parks may also feature semi-educational things like animal shows, science- or history themed areas, and special exhibits.

Universals Volcano Bay Runamukka Reef

Universals Volcano Bay Runamukka Reef

However, not everyone is a fan of roller coasters. What if your group contains a good percentage of these folks? Are theme parks still a good option? Yes! Here’s why:

They’re designed for multiple interests. There are rides for entire families, for small children, for the average thrill-seeker, and for the hardcore enthusiast. Gentler rides like carousels and midway-style games cater to those looking for something a little less impactful, while shops, shows, and quieter spaces are ideal for attendees with less energy or stamina.

Group rates. Nearly all theme parks offer group rates, and most of the larger ones also offer specific packages for families or groups.

All-inclusive can be an option. Some, like Disney World, offer deals that include onsite lodging and food. If you’re looking to simplify your reunion planning, having the edibles and the rooming search taken off your hands is a major time-saver.

Freedom and Individuality are built in. While every reunion needs some all group activities, most guests will want some time to themselves as well. Hosting your reunion in or near a theme park means you don’t have to plan too many activities or worry about guests getting bored; they’ll have enough at the park to keep themselves occupied.

Four Things to Do at a Theme Park

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Go on rides. 2. Go on rides. 3. Go on rides.

Actually, there’s a lot more than just going on roller coasters and water slides available to theme park reunions. Depending on your park of choice, possible non-ride activities could include:

Taking a virtual adventure. Sometimes, you can have fun without leaving your seat. Several large parks offer visitors a chance to sample virtual reality by strapping on a headset and sitting in a moveable, interactive chair. Disneyland brings the Star Wars franchise to life; Busch Gardens Williamsburg takes you on an Irish fantasy adventure, and other parks offer their own twists on this genre.

Traveling the world (sorta). Among the bigger parks, like Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Disney’s Epcot, you can often find areas that represent a small part of another country. For example, in Busch Gardens, you can stroll through micro-villages representing France, Italy, Germany, England, Scotland, and Ireland; at Epcot, Japan, Morocco, Canada, Mexico, and Norway are on the list as well. Each area is designed to evoke something of that country, with traditional architectures, streetscapes, and activities.

Seeing a show. Most theme parks offer live music shows; the biggest ones also provide full-on stage shows and extravaganzas. Plus, if you stick around until after sunset, you’ve a pretty good chance of seeing a fireworks display.

Blues Brothers

Blues Brothers

Going on a foodie tour. If you’re going to one of the mega-parks mentioned above, visiting each “nation” and exploring its food is a recognized activity. Even in smaller parks, there’s usually a wide variety of eats available, including different restaurants and lots of food carts and trucks. Traditional Americanmidway favorites like corn dogs andfunnel cakes are now sharing space withtacos, seafood, sushi, barbeque, and other delicious options.

Theme Park Reunions:
Tips & Tricks

While planning a theme park reunion does lighten the load on the planning committee somewhat, there are still a few things to keep in mind:

  • Reserve a space big enough to hold the whole group. This may mean reserving a meeting room or event room at your lodging, or you may designate one suite as group HQ. Either way, make sure there’s a central place to meet and hang out. Despite their size, it can be hard for theme parks to provide designated group space on the spur of the moment!
  • Schedule group time. That long list of activities means that most guests are going to be busy. That’s awesome, but don’t forget that the whole point of a reunion is to reunite as a group. So be sure to schedule in dinner, breakfast, or game night – whatever works to connect your whole group.
  • Make group dining reservations in advance. Yes, amusement parks cater to large crowds. But there’s no guarantee that any one restaurant will have enough open tables to seat your whole group, or that your group will be seated together. Solve this problem by making reservations well in advance.
  • Have a key person. Instead of each family or person fending for themselves, have one person in the group designated as the liaison for all lodging and parkrelated issues; if you have a large group, have additional people overseeing transportation and dining arrangements, too.
  • Get rooms on the same floor. This makes impromptu gatherings much easier.
  • Plan well in advance. Otherwise, you might find it hard to stay, eat, or gather in the same places.
  • Splurge on reunion gear. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd at a theme park, so consider whether buying reunion t-shirts and/or hats is an option for your group. It’ll make spotting long-lost friends a lot faster.

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