Wow, a year of bringing you all updates and fun from Theme and Amusement parks across the US, and even a few other countries.
Before we get into our fun retrospective, we want to send a HUGE thank you to the readers of the site. We've gone from getting a few hundred hits per week to an average of about 18,000 per week over the last month or so. While this isn't a lot for most sites, we are over the moon and couldn't be happier.
So thank you!!!
The Park Journey Story
Some of you have heard this story before, our apologies. But if you haven't, read on, it's actually kind of interesting.
Last year when I (Gregg) left MiceChat as their Six Flags (and periodically other parks) reporter I had NO intention of starting another site.
Then something happened. Six Flags Magic Mountain had a Fright Fest press event. Even though I had reached out to them and told them I was no longer writing for MiceChat, they still invited me to their event, as a kind of "thanks" for years of friendship. Because they had invited me, I felt that I needed to at least share my pictures and experience, so that's when I started the "free" website.
I put up that Fright Fest article in early October, 2013 and I figured that was going to be the end of it. Maybe I'd put up some personal blog stuff once in awhile, maybe some running stuff, but as far as a full-fledged theme park site, wasn't even in the cards. Not going to say I hadn't considered it, but the timing wasn't right.
For about a month, that was the only thing on this site. People were looking at it, people were messaging me asking if I was going to do more, I talked with my wife about it, talked with some dear friends (RD and Matt) about it and decided to give it a go, just to "see what happens".
The "official" kick-off of what was known at the time as "Park Journeys" was November 4th, 2013, still using the free site. Shortly after, Chris joined me to help out with the Facebook page, doing some updates for parks on the East Coast and more importantly, giving important advice on updates and internet battles to not get into.
Both Chris and RD have talked me down from the proverbial ledge more times than I can count. Without them, I don't think this site would exist. I don't think they know how much their input and wisdom has helped over the past year.
But the most important aspect of this site is, and always will be, having fun. And all of us who have had input into the site hope that comes through in these updates. We want to be more than just a "Construction update" site. And for the most part I think we've succeeded in that. We are very proud of where we were a year ago, and where we are now.
Our Facebook and Twitter pages have both grown and both should cross 500 "likes" and "follows" in the next month. We've also ramped up our Instagram page since September. I'll admit I don't really care for Instagram (guess I'm just too old) but luckily I have an 18 year old daughter who loves it, and has volunteered to run it for the site (for the most part).
We also do have a Google+ page, but nobody goes there so it's hardly worth mentioning.=)
We will be having more YouTube content in the next year, more on that below.
Park Journey by the numbers
The amount of updates we brought you this year, it's kind of overwhelming when we look at it, and we had no idea how many there were until we went through the site and added them up. In addition to our normal updates, we also had a LOT of press releases and events that we were able to bring you.
The fact that for our first year we were able to work with so many parks is in no way lost on us. It just goes to show that if you treat people great that they are going to help you.
We need to send a special thanks out to the PR staffs of Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm and Six Flags Great Adventure who were behind us from day one. Without them we would have had no content when we first started and for that we will be eternally grateful.
A look at how many updates we've done:
Six Flags - 69 Updates
Construction Updates and trip reports from parks like Magic Mountain, Great Adventure, Great America, St. Louis and Six Flags Mexico as well as press releases from all of the parks. We'll be getting to more parks and expanding our coverage next year. And obviously we'll probably have about 50 Twisted Colossus updates by the time we're done (I honestly hope not ... LOL)
For our first year this was mostly Knott's, which is to be expected. But next year we are already planning trips to Cedar Point, Kings Island and maybe even Carowinds. We'll also of course have Knott's updates along with California's Great America and the incredible Gilroy Gardens. For not having a Cedar Fair pass in 2014 we are actually pretty impressed with the amount of updates we had. But that's going to change for 2015 as my Cedar Fair Platinum pass is already in my wallet and ready to get used!
Universal Studios Hollywood was one of the more interesting parks to do updates from this year, and will continue to be for the next few years. We started off just doing a lot of press releases in late 2013 and then in January 2014 we started our in-park updates. And finally in October we got our first press invite from the park for the amazing Eyegore awards, which was actually our goal at the beginning of the year. So yay!! We did run a few press releases for Universal Orlando over the past year, and we are hoping to expand our coverage there for 2015.
Disney is interesting for us. We had never really had plans on covering Disney extensively because, well, it's covered online ... A LOT. Throw in the fact that nobody who does regular updates for the site has passes to Disney and you can see why we don't cover that more. However, I think some of my favorite updates this year have been Renee's RunDisney ones and hopefully those will continue next year.
We do have at least one contact on each coast so it's possible we'll have more Disney updates next year
But we understand we'll never be one of the go-to sites for Disney and the amount of work (and ass kissing) that it takes to get press access for Disney isn't something we are really interested in. =)
This is where we had all of the non chain park updates, which as you'll see we actually had quite a few, and to some out of the way parks as far away as India and Iowa (yes, Iowa is out of the way for us). We hope to have more from out of the way parks next year as we find them absolutely fascinating.
This is one section of the site that never really took off. We created this section because we'd hoped to get to more non chain CA parks this year, which if you have visited or live in California you'll know there really isn't enough of them to justify it's own section. This will be converting to a Busch Parks/Sea World section for 2015 as we hope to have more coverage from those parks next year.
We never intended Park Journey to be only about Theme Parks. That's not the only thing we enjoy doing and we wanted to bring you lots of things beyond theme parks. And for the most part I think we've been successful here. We used this section for our non-park Halloween coverage and I think it's worked out pretty well. We also hope to bring more non-park reports in 2015.
For the time being you aren't going to see too many big changes going on with the site other than the new Busch Gardens/Sea World section. We are looking into moving over to a more robust Wordpress site to allow more people to do updates, but that won't be coming for at least 6 months.
One small change you will be seeing is updates to the "cover photos" for each page. They were created quickly and have kind of worn out their welcome and really, look very amateurish if we're being honest. So we'll be working to make these "pop" more in the next month or two.
We'll also be upgrading our photo/video equipment early next year so we'll be having more video than we have now (which is pretty much zero). This will be a great tool for media days.
We've also toyed around with the idea of doing Message Boards, but we aren't so sure the audience or desire for Message Boards is there in the age of social media. If you feel otherwise, let us know. If the desire is there it's something we'll reconsider.
There's also a few other things we've got in the works with some of our partner sites that we can't really get into at the moment, but we think some of you will be VERY interested in what we have planned. It's going to be something that will probably be 8-10 months away, because we want to do it right.
We'll also hopefully be having more in-park meet up's next year, our first official one for the last day of Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain was great. Once we finalize our travel plans for next year we'll be posting dates for meet up's. These most likely won't be "park sponsored" meets, but just a group of people who like to have fun having fun at parks.
For something that started off as more of a "personal blog" a year ago we are absolutely thrilled with how far we've come and what the future holds.
Stuff we'd love to see happen in 2015
So what suggestions do you have for us? Anything to make the site or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages easier or more fun to read? More updates you'd like to see from other area's?
Some of our personal goals for 2015:
An active forum with jokes. Expanded coverage of areas outside of where we live. New people to help us make this dream come true with a larger sense of community. But, we are happy to just keep moving forward.
We are pretty sure the key to success is including opinions of others, engaging smart discussion and trying our absolute hardest to make sure we provide interesting and captivating content.
Please feel free to contact us if you think you can help us further some of our goals.
Thank you in advance, and thank you again for making our first year something incredible.
If you have any special memories of our first year, please share them below.