Come along for the ride
Give the yellow strap on your restraint a tug so we can get this going
Do you love theme parks? Me too. And amusement parks (which are distinct from theme parks), roller coasters and thrill rides, themed attractions, water parks, decked-out cruise ships, and anything else that falls under the broad category of themed entertainment. Let’s geek out together, whaddya say?
After 30 years of riding the rails, battling Caribbean pirates, gallivanting on midways, and then sharing my adventures, expertise, and reflections online and in print, I still love what I do and have plenty to say. But journalism has changed dramatically in three decades, especially recently, and it’s become harder and harder for me to find places to publish my content. So it’s time to try something new.
It’s astonishing to see what’s happening to the news industry. Newspapers have been ceasing operations at an alarming rate, and many communities have been left without a local news outlet. I was a charter subscriber to Entertainment Weekly and was dismayed when the slimmed-down publication shifted to a monthly schedule. This month, it printed its last hard-copy magazine.
Like many other writers, I’m taking matters into my own hands and starting a Substack newsletter and site. (Interestingly, former Entertainment Weekly film critic Ty Burr is among those who made the leap to Substack. Check his Watch List out. It’s great.) That’s where you come in, dear readers. As park fans, I’m hoping you’ll come along for the ride with me.
Sign up and about twice a week you’ll find a missive from me in your inbox. There will be ride reviews, plenty of news, an occasional deep dive into an attractions-related topic, tales of my park journeys, recommendations, anecdotes, and other musings. I’ll inject some humor and keep things light (this is an industry about the pursuit of fun after all) while informing and entertaining you.
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Sure, I’ll be sharing plenty of news and content about the Disney parks. And Universal as well. However, I’m crazy about virtually all parks and attractions. So expect articles about SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Dollywood, Six Flags, Legoland, the Cedar Fair Parks such such as Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm, and many others. They will include some you may not have heard much about–but really should discover. Places such as Silver Dollar City in Missouri, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park at Coney Island in New York, or tiny Quassy (below), a charming trolley park in Connecticut. (What‘s a trolley park, you ask? That would make a great About Theme Parks article.)
I’ll also be writing about food at the parks, because if there’s one thing I like almost as much as the first drop on a great coaster, it’s the first bite of an epic dish. The beauty of this new venture is that I can write about what I want, when I want, and expound on it for as long as it warrants.
You’ll be able to read each entire edition as an email. Or, you could click on the headline and read the article on my website. As the collection of articles grows, you’ll be able to check out past ones on the site.
The newsletter is free. But optional paid subscriptions (hey, writers need to make money too) include member-exclusive posts and content, including “Rode It! Loved It!” attraction reviews, “ART Talks” audio readings of select posts, and “What’s the Attraction?” discussion threads.
I’ve been at this since the early 1990s and have been having a ball covering parks in Orlando, Southern California, countless other places in the U.S., and elsewhere around the globe. I was invited to the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland, for example. (And, OMG, Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure is extraordinary.)
My articles have appeared regularly in USA Today for many years, and I’ve written for a number of other publications and outlets including Vox Media, the New York Post, Thrillist, The Boston Globe, The Denver Post, and Paste Magazine. I’ve also been the theme parks “expert” at the top-10 online travel site, TripSavvy, as well as the theme parks “guide” at its predecessor, About.com, for a total of 20 years. I continue to report about the business side of the industry for Funworld, the magazine that the trade association, IAAPA, publishes.
Reporters and producers frequently seek my expertise and opinions about the amusement industry, and I have been cited in many national publications and newscasts. I have been featured on CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, CNBC, and The History Channel, as well as on numerous radio shows. I am also a frequent guest on many podcasts.
Savannah College of Art and Design invited me to speak to the students and faculty of its School of Entertainment Arts, and Walt Disney Imagineering invited me to address its creative professionals.
Yeesh, that’s more than enough about me. Let’s start examining, celebrating, and enjoying parks, attractions, and themed entertainment. Thanks for being my park buddy. And please (please!) spread the word. Because parks are always better when there are trainloads of coaster passengers screaming like ninnies and sharing the joy.