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Arthur Levine

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Coney Island Cyclone on Track for Repairs

Friday April 18, 2014

One of the most venerable and beloved roller coasters, the Cyclone at Brooklyn's Coney Island, may feel a bit smoother this year. That's because it received some TLC in the off-season.

According to the Daily News, the ride had 950 feet of new track installed, or about one-third of its total track replaced. The article also states that some enthusiasts were wary of the repairs, and fretted that it might compromise the Cyclone's notoriously rough ride. That makes me laugh.

I'm all for tradition and preserving classic attractions, but the 87-year-old coaster is going to have to be repaired occasionally. Rotting wood is not something that should be preserved.

I am, however, sympathetic to traditionalists who have been concerned that the expansion and development of Coney Island could threaten to destroy its character. It can be tough to find the proper balance between maintaining a sense of place and integrity and bringing renewed vigor to the area. For the most part, I think that Luna Park and other recent changes to Coney Island have found the right balance. I can't wait to try the re-tracked Cyclone.

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Photo: © Arthur Levine.

The Transformation of Universal Studios Hollywood

Tuesday April 15, 2014

To follow up Universal's announcement last week about its ambitious development plans for Universal Studios Hollywood, let's take a closer look at what has already happened and what we can expect over the next few years. The 5-year overhaul of the park, pegged at $1.6 billion, will utterly transform it and introduce many exciting new developments. Read about the Universal Studios Hollywood Expansion, which has, or will include:

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Six Flags Over United Arab Emirates

Monday April 14, 2014

The all-American park chain, Six Flags, announced that it has inked a deal to bring its coasters and other signature features to a park in Dubai. The Middle East Six Flags is slated to open in 2017 and would be part of a planned multi-park resort.

While Six Flags' announcement didn't reveal any specifics, it's likely that its U.A.E.-based partner in the project would be footing the bill for the park, and that Six Flags would be hired to lend its brand and industry expertise. The cash infusion should boost the Texas company's coffers and give it more working capital to invest in its North American parks. Six Flags says that it plans to explore other international opportunities.

The Six Flags empire used to include parks in Europe before the company became saddled with debt and shed many of its properties, including all of the ones outside North America. This isn't the first time the chain has floated a Dubai park project. About six years ago, there were grandiose plans to build an astonishing number of theme parks in the U.A.E., including Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, DreamWorks Animation, and Warner Brothers, as well as Six Flags. The worldwide economic collapse halted all development with the notable exception of Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

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Photo: Will Dubai flip for Six Flags coasters? © Arthur Levine.

Universal Hollywood Gets the Star Treatment

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Universal Studios Hollywood, an actual working movie studio at which a backstage tour was introduced about 50 years ago that evolved into a theme park, has long ceded the spotlight to its Florida upstart, Universal Orlando. That is changing as parent company, Comcast, announced ambitious plans yesterday to overhaul the California property and transform it into a resort in its own right. Read More...

Verruckt, Cowabunga, and Bonzai!

Tuesday April 8, 2014

There will be plenty of new slides, rides, and other attractions opening this season at water parks throughout North America. Many of them have peculiar names, such as Bonzai Pipelines, coming to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in California. Then there will be the new Las Vegas water park known as Cowabunga Bay. Perhaps the oddest name of all -- and the most anticipated water park ride of 2014 -- will be Verruckt, the world's tallest water slide coming to Schlitterbahn Kansas City. Read about these and other developments in my annual rundown of all the new goodies coming to water parks in the Slide Guide 2014.

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Photo: Six Flags

Universal Orlando Plays Copycat-and-Mouse with Parking

Monday April 7, 2014

Recently, I reported that Disney World raised its parking fees. Sure enough, Universal Orlando followed suit. It now costs $17, the same as the Mouse charges, to park in Universal's gargantuan parking garage.

Considering the crazed demand generated by the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley about to open at Universal, I wouldn't imagine that any muggle will be batting an eye at the parking rate, much less notice the $1 increase. These are, after all, the same folks who happily fork over more than $10 for a cup of butterbeer and in excess of $30 for a piece of wood identified as a JK Rowling-approved wand.

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Photo: © Arthur Levine.

The Coaster Critic Heads to the Unload Station

Friday April 4, 2014

As About.com's theme parks "Expert," I've had the joy of meeting many wonderful people in the industry. One of them is Joel Bullock who has been eloquently writing reviews, articles, blog posts, and more on his site, The Coaster Critic, since 2006. His knowledge is impressive, his writing style is superb, and his passion is contagious. He is also an indefatigable warrior, maintaining four other park-related sites despite having a family and a day job.

All good things must come to an end, however, and I'm sorry to note that Bullock will be hanging up his press credentials this month as he winds down The Coaster Critic. His voice and insight will be missed.

Bullock and I get to collaborate as two-thirds of the "Seasoned Pros," along with Doug Barnes (another wonderful person related to the industry with whom I have the pleasure of knowing). We periodically present our "List Shows," where we count down our favorites, on Barnes' Season Pass Podcast. You can check out our spirited rundown of the best wooden coasters. Bullock will continue to join us on the shows.

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Photo: Joel Bullock. The Coaster Critic.

Parking at the Parks Now Costs More

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Disney World recently raised the admission prices to its parks. Over the weekend, it also raised the price to park in its lots. Guests visiting Disney's four Florida theme parks now have to fork over $17 to park their cars, an increase of $2.

I've always bristled at parking fees.

How to Avoid Muggles at Universal's Wizarding World

Monday March 31, 2014

You don't need a degree from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to know that when Universal Orlando opens its second Wizarding World of Harry Potter land this summer, there will be a crush of visitors eager to check it out. Since you are reading this, chances are that you are a theme park and/or Potter fan and are therefore eager to check out the expanded Diagon Alley land yourself. But you might want to hold off awhile.


A Disney World Ticket Deal? Sorta.

Tuesday March 25, 2014

When it comes to Disney World tickets, I always tell folks that unlike nearly every other park, the Florida Mouse House almost never offers any discounts. (The vendor, Best of Orlando, does sell Disney World passes at slightly reduced prices, but the resort itself rarely budges on its fees.) Sure, the Mouse will offer limited-time deals on its hotel room rates (see below) or package deals that include tickets, but just about never on tickets alone. But Disney World is dealing now. Read More...

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