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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Theme Park: Rules Of Engagement

Maybe I've got Peter Pan Syndrome, or maybe I'll forever be a kid at heart (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive), but one thing I will never outgrow is my love for amusement parks.

You see, there are many things I miss about living in the States - specifically, my part of the States. I lived right up the street from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, my favourite theme park of them all. Without veering too far off topic and going on and on about why I love this place so much (and believe me, I could - it would make you beg for vacation slides instead!), I'll just say that it is the prettiest damn theme park you could ever go to. It has a great mix of rides - it's perhaps a bit light on pure thrill rides - excellent food, good shows, awesome souvenirs, cool games, and outstanding scenery.

Busch Gardens is owned by Anheuser-Busch (the beer company, in case you're from Neptune or something) and they do a great job with animal conservation aside from running a kick-ass amusement park. They've set up a reserve for the American Bald Eagle, and they also have wolves and an aviary, both of which are very well kept!

While the staff are cordial and patient and a cut above the rest in the service industry, they are not yet on a par with those employed by Disney or the casinos in Vegas. I know, I know - odd combination of things to compare there, but trust me in this! Nowhere in the States was I ever treated as consistently like royalty like I was by the good people employed by Disney World or by the employees of various casinos on The Strip in Vegas, although obviously for far different reasons. One set of employees were trying to get me drunk and lose all my money in their expensive machines, while the others were just wanting to loosen me up so I'd gamble some more. Haha!

I keed, I keed.

All right, I was about to go off on yet another tangent there (from my previous tangent, no less) so let me wrench this train back onto the right track here. I swear, I think I need an editor for this blog...

Back to my love of all things theme park. I honestly love going to them probably more than anyone you know or have ever known. Even more than your little five-year old cousin or your average Family Of Four out on a summer vacation. I am a theme park FANATIC. All right, so I'm not so annoying about it that I will ruin your whole day there or anything. Not like I did when I was a moody twelve year old. But I have to tell you, I did once harbour the silly notion that one day I would get married at Busch Gardens. Yeah, like that would have really happened!

Can you picture this? Me and the future missus in the very front car of the Loch Ness Monster, the best man and maid of honor in the seats behind us, and the priest in the car behind them - all barreling down that first hill at sixty miles an hour, both of us shouting "I do!" as we rocket back up the hill on the other side!

Yeah, that never would have happened. I mean, I have had girls in love with me before, but not that much. What girl's most perfect day would sound like that?

No, really, what girl? Do you know her? Can I get her phone number?

Again... tangents. Sorry about that.

But I wanted to provide you, my Brooksian friends, with a short list of what my expectations are when it comes to going to a theme park. Because, as friends of mine, the odds over time of attending a theme park with me (read: being dragged to a theme park by me) approach 100%. It is a near-certainty of life, such as death and taxes, that in so knowing me you will end up at Busch Gardens Williamsburg with me, standing in the queue for the Big Bad Wolf. Planning where you will eat dinner. Having just ridden the bumper cars at Der Autobahn next door. Smelling the popcorn and cotton candy at the stall just outside the queue.

You get the idea. So here is the list, and let me just say that they are more of a guideline than a rule. Just like the Pirate's Code according to Captain Barbossa!

1. Have a good time. This seems like a no-brainer, but it really is the first rule of theme parks. Sometimes, and believe me I've been a part of this, you can fall victim to over-planning. If you try and force too much structure on the day ("No, no, NO! We are supposed to be done eating at 11:30 so we can get over to Tomorrowland in time to see the alien show!") you will kill the spirit. You can also succumb to the scenario where everyone is pulling in five different directions at once, so nobody is happy because they all want to do different things at different times. Or they don't want to do certain things and so draw a line in the sand and absolutely refuse to do something in particular. This rule segues naturally into rule number...

2. Go with the flow. Again, kinda obvious but oh-so-important. Sure, you might really have a jones on for riding that monster coaster at the back of the park, but it's going to be there ALL DAY so just relax if everyone else you're with is more keen to spend the first few hours just strolling along and taking things as they come. If somebody really liked that last ride, the one that whipped you back and forth like you were stuck in a gigantic egg beater that was being wielded by an even more gigantic ogre who was drunk as hell, then by all means go on it with them again. If you haven't died from vertigo or vomiting, that is ...

3. Maximize the day. This one is starting to get a bit more greedy, and I understand that, but bear with me on this one. Theme parks are anything but cheap these days, and they for the most part are so chocka-block full of stuff to see and do (some of which you'll want to see and do TWICE!) that you really do have to get to the park very close to when it opens. And - brace yourself for this one - not leave until very close to when it closes! Hell, if I had it my way, I'd be the first schlub they let in through the gates as they unlocked them in the morning and the guy they had to chase around the hedges a few times just to get him to finally leave the damned park so they can all go home and get some sleep.

You start to see how much energy I have for places like this ...

4. Eat the food. It's been very rare indeed that I've ever gone to a theme park with someone who didn't want to (or had no choice but to) eat inside the park, but I mainly put this here to avoid one particular Lame Excuse. That being, oh it's too expensive to eat here so let's go out somewhere for breakfast, show up to the park late, ride a few things, then head home when it's time to eat dinner. Or - even worse - let's take the tram back out to the parking lot, which is miles away from everything, open up the trunk of the steaming hot car, grab a cooler full of cheap warm sandwiches and even warmer Kool-Aid, then park our sorry asses at one of those picnic benches in the Lunchyard Of The Damned* and eat our boring and bland food while we can still hear all those people inside the park having an awesome time riding everything.

Ugh, no way. At least as far as Busch Gardens goes, the food there is excellent, and I know how expensive it is, but trust me when you see those corned beef sandwiches stacked a mile high, or the mile-high chocolate German forest cake next to it, and the gigantic slab of pickle further down the line, and... and... Well, you start to see the picture. Another bonus if we're at Busch - I always have a season pass there, so that's good for 10% off all meals!

5. Try and see and do it all. At least humour me in this. I understand if your dogs start barking (translation: feet start hurting) or if the teacup ride is too much for you. But it's a buzz-kill for me when somebody categorically rules out doing something and will throw a huge grump if anyone even suggests that they would actually like to do it. "No, I don't want to see Frontierland because pirates are gay and I don't really give a rat's ass about Tom Sawyer, or whoever. You guys can go but I'm going to sit right here and sulk until you come back."

Again, you've paid a lot just to get into this place, and unless something is obviously not for you (like Ariel's Little Mermaid's Grotto) then it's worth at least checking out. If it ends up sucking, we can all just leave!

There, that's it! Five simple rules. Trust me, I would never drag anyone into doing something they weren't interested in doing. I don't force people onto roller coasters if they're truly afraid of them, or nauseated by them. And many times I've gone to theme parks with friends and we've only spent the afternoon, or just gone for lunch and a couple of rides and that's it. But that's when we've all got season passes and we've already been to the park a half dozen times this season.

These rules refer more to that exceptional vacation experience, wherein you build the whole day around just going to the amusement park. You know, where someone asks you what you're doing on Saturday and your friend goes, 'Oh we can't, that's the day we're all going to Busch Gardens', and that's what that day is reserved for. In whole. Has a whole magical kind of feeling to it, and I hate to cheapen that magic in any way!

Thanks for indulging me and reading my rules, I hope you've enjoyed them. I suppose I could have just posted a shorter version of them, something that could have read like this:

YOU MUST HAVE |<----------THIS MUCH---------->| ENERGY


Right, well, now that we understand each other a little better, I hope I'll be seeing you at Busch Gardens Williamsburg sometime in the near future!

(And no, that wasn't a marriage proposal.)


*The Lunchyard Of The Damned is so named because it consists of two metal picnic benches that have been painted a pukey shade of orange, which is flaking away hopelessly and will get all over your shorts, thus branding you as one of The Damned who has had the misfortune of having had to sit way out here in No-Man's Land. These benches sit on a slab of cracked concrete and have a flimsy tree planted nearby that fails horrendously at providing you with any shade, so harsh is the sun in this spot. There will be a metal garbage can right next to the picnic tables that is overflowing with smelly trash which has served to attract a colony of voraciously hungry (and pissed off) yellow-jackets that are all too eager to dive-bomb your can of warm Coke and sting the bejesus out of you while you futilely try to swat them away from your soggy bologna, cheese and mustard sandwich, the white bread of which has turned an unhealthy shade of pink-yellow as the bologna has sort of MELTED (omygod I didn't know bologna could do that) and begun to become One with the slice of Velveeta and the French's mustard. Don't ever, ever be talked into visiting the Lunchyard Of The Damned. Should you still somehow end up there, pray for death.


Blogger Beechball said...

OMG i want to go sooo badly! I've only really been to the local midway carnivals besides Canada's Wonderland in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I love it there, but when that's the best you've had, you can't complain about what your missing - as much. I KNOW there are park a billion times better and I can only hope that one day, maybe even this summer, that Dan andI get wisk eachother away and take a weekend vacation to the states to visit on of the MANY wicked theme parks they have to offer. I can't wait to go back to wonderland even, it's the best I've ever had, haha. And Brooksie, I would totally get married on a rollercoaster, that sounds so totally friggin fun, exciting, memorable and just plain wicked. I know that doesn't help you much, but trust me, us girl SO exist and I hope you find her soon, never give up! :) COME ON SUMMER!!!

1:43 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

I hope you and Dan get to have that summer getaway as well! That would be so cool. There are many great parks in the States for sure and too many that I have yet to try. Ohio has two of the best parks in the country, Kings Island is one and I forget the name of the other but they have awesome coasters.

And it is very reassuring indeed to know that women do exist who wouldn't be averse to getting hitched on a roller coaster. In fact, I'm quite sure without 'Googling' it that somebody somewhere has done it before. So I'll keep up the search for my dream Roller Coaster Girl, haha.

9:14 PM  

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