This year the LA Zoo "Zoo Lights" is back for another year of holiday fun. If you've been to the event the last couple of years you know what this event is, just a great 90 minutes to 2 hours of Holiday Fun.
This year they've added some more live music and of course the amazing Reindeer.
Written by Gregg Condon
The LightScapes Water Show is back this year and is a lot of fun
Overall Zoo Lights is another amazing event that keeps getting better each year. We would like to see more changed next year though as most of the props have been around for 3 years now. But overall just an incredibly fun night as always.
For more info on the LA Zoo lights be sure to check out all of the info here.
Here we are, exactly 3 years from the "official" launch of Park Journey.
It's been an amazing 3 years, SO many updates (almost 500) and so SO much fun. Today we'll be taking a look back at the last year of Park Journey and a look forward to what the future holds.
We'll also share a few of our favorite updates from the past year.
Written by Gregg Condon - Editor In Chief/Webmaster
First and foremost, as always, I want to take some time to thank those of you who enjoy our website for your support. This year brought with it more challenges than we could have ever anticipated (mostly away from Park Journey that we hope didn't impact your enjoyment of the site).
Without all of you we wouldn't be able to or even want to do this and for that we thank you.
Secondly, to Team Park Journey. Moreso than anything you could ever do for this crazy thing we've created what I value most is your friendship. The odd thing is, not all of us have even met all of us (if that makes any sense) but the ability for us all to work together as a group to create something fun and (hopefully) unique is amazing. The fact that all of you have through this become some of my closest friends will stay with me long after this thing is done.
As always, to my 3 brothers Matt, RD and Chris ... we've never wavered in our support of this thing through so much stuff going on in our personal lives for good and bad. Sure we've all had times when we couldn't give all we wanted to but the desire has never wavered and I simply couldn't think of any other people I'd want to do this with. I just wish there was some way we could bottle up our disagreements to create an amazing podcast. Because that would be fun. =)
To the rest of our team, once again Renée has been amazing with so many updates from Florida and keeping us all updated through Hurricane Matthew, Steve and Jenn with some great updates from Busch Gardens (love Steve's Roller Coaster Day update from Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World). To Andrew and Stephen ... you've all probably noticed we've increased our coverage of Northern California parks this year and hanging out with you guys at media day for Joker was amazing as always. Hope we get to see you guys at Winterfest at CA Great America soon.
To JoAnna, Scott, Randy, Chris, Gary and SO many others who have done an update here and there you'll never know how thankful we are that you chose us to share your adventures with.
And of course, to my own family for continuing to support this crazy thing I decided to start on some random night 3 years ago. To say that Park Journey wouldn't exist without your support and understanding (and grabbing me a beer during Facebook Live chats) would be an understatement.
Just as I was last year, I'm incredibly #Blessed to be able to do this with people I care about, love and respect.
So as you may have noticed, we just launched the "new" Park Journey over the past week. We really hope you enjoy the new layout, we sure do.
The reason for the change is two-fold.
First: The web service we use (Weebly) until very recently was basically for online stores, which meant doing updates was actually not easy to do (or it could have been my old POS computer). So with some new site designs this actually made it easy for us to abandon our plans to move to a WordPress site (and not have to spend the $$ to do so) and actually be able to do a bit for those who write for the site. Yay.
Second: All of the content you see on this site has been uploaded by 1 person for 3 years. Yep, even though we have many different writers, all the updates were done by me. The reason for this was the aforementioned site layout issues with Weebly and me not wanting to hassle others to take on that annoying role. Because it really was annoying. But this way our contributors can start doing their own updates. We're also going to start adding bios to our updates so you can know who's writing them. Because we have the best damn writers and you should know who they are. =)
We also updated the way our "past updates" were organized to hopefully be able to find things easier and implemented a Search Function on the site. Hopefully this makes looking for past updates and information easier for everybody.
As far as updates, we really did try to minimize them to 2 or 3 per week, and some weeks we were successful, but in months like October, there was just too much going on to do that. Even having 5 updates a week for a few weeks still meant we were pushing stuff. But we didn't hear any complaints on that. Obviously we go where the updates take us and sometimes we have more updates than we anticipated.
Facebook: 1758 "likes" - Like last year this is an increase of approximately 700 in the last year. I think the new Facebook issues of "see first" kind of impacted these, but as always we are very happy with this.
Twitter: 1999 "followers" (SO CLOSE) - This is actually a pretty significant increase over last year as we've had more people running the Twitter (something your editor in chief sometimes forgets). Thank you for all the RT's. =)
Instagram: 3571 "followers: - This is over a 2000 follower increase over last year. I still don't get it, I sometimes forget to post stuff on IG for a week or more at a time yet those hashtags just get it done. So obviously we're doing something right. Yay!!
YouTube: 645 "subscribers" - While this is about an increase of about 300 people this year it's still not where we want it, or where we think it should be. We've posted some damn good content this year from Ride POV's to Halloween stuff and even some Throwback videos. So come on folks, give us a "subscribe". Are we begging? That's pretty pathetic if we are. ;)
We also did some fun Facebook Live Chats over the past few months and we had a blast with them. This is something we're going to be continuing over the next year, maybe once a month or so (we'll pick a set night and stick with it). We think we've figured out a way to get more people involved in this and if it takes off, maybe some special guests.
Oddly enough, we had more Six Flags updates in 2016 than we had in 2015. Not sure how that is since we had about 20 updates just on Twisted Colossus last year. But this just goes to show the power of Team Park Journey as we were able to greatly expand our coverage this year to parks outside of the Southern California Market.
Behind The Scenes at Six Flags Magic Mountain's Fright Fest
Our exclusive look at the behind the scenes make-up process at SFMM's Fright Fest
VR Coasters: We had updates from 3 of the Six Flags VR Coasters and they turned out AMAZING, so we thought we'd share them again.
Be sure to watch these in full screen and let us know what you think of the new HD Video Feature!!
This is actually a couple less updates for this year even though we again had more updates from parks outside of Southern California. Of course, having no updates from that big park in Ohio probably cut down on possible updates. ;)
Review - Mass Effect New Earth at California's Great America
Andrew takes us on one of the first looks at this groundbreaking and amazing addition to California's Great America
Reverse POV of the all new Ghostrider at Knott's Berry Farm (HD)
This was also a few less from last year because, well, Wizarding World opened and after February there wasn't really any construction going on out west. But that doesn't mean we didn't cover the hell out of the opening because we of course did.
We're also going to have a couple of "photo tours" of Universal Orlando Resort next week courtesy of Matt.
Favorite Update: Media Night for Wizarding World Hollywood
After so much hype, what other update could be our favorite of 2016. We covered this project from pretty much day one and had such an amazing time doing it.
John Williams Performing at the opening of Wizarding World Hollywood (HD)
How many "theme park" sites can say they have a ratio of WDW to Disneyland updates of 27 - 2 ... well guess what, we can!! Thanks to the amazing Renée and Morgan we owned WDW updates this year. And even our two Disneyland updates came from Renée. We really to find a new member of Team Park Journey with a Disneyland AP. Contact us if you want the role!!
Favorite Update: EPCOT Food and Wine Festival 2016
One of the best theme parks and one of the best events each and every year
Without question this is the area of the site that has grown the most over the past year mostly thanks to, you guessed it, those Florida people. We even did have an update from SeaWorld Texas this year.
With new rides coming to the San Diego park next year we'll surely have more updates from that park in 2017.
Favorite Update: Coaster Crusade at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando
This was an easy one for all of us. Such a fun looking day and we got so many POV's out of this visit (some we haven't even uploaded yet)
Coaster Crusade at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Sea World Orlando (HD)
From small parks in California, to Dollywood and all the way south to Colombia we had some amazing updates from some amazing parks this year.
Colombian Adventures with Chris - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Another easy choice. How often do we get to see Colombian parks with a host as amazing and fun as Chris?
RD and Randy take on Lightning Rod at Dollywood
The story of how Randy got RD on Lightning Rod at Dollywood ... the before and after effects of that ride will haunt RD forever, or a day or two.
Ninjago POV - Legoland, CA (HD)
We had such a fun year away from Theme Parks this year, and I'm so happy to see this area of the site continue to grow. Because we love all kinds of things. This year we definitely expanded our "Con" coverage with some great fun at WonderCon and Midsummer Scream (hopefully ComicCon next year). We also had an awesome update from the Walt Disney Family Museum as well as all of the awesome Halloween event coverage in September and October.
Walt Disney Family Museum
Andrew and Renee visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco in September and obviously enjoyed their visit immensely. Definitely make sure you plan a visit here on your next Bay Area trip.
From The Mind of the Editor - Enjoy All The Things
Gregg takes some time away from talking about random theme park stuff and shares a story about his family that also involves theme parks (shocker).
To say we're humbled and thankful for the growth of this site that wasn't really supposed to ever be a thing would be an extreme understatement. Hopefully with all the growth we've never lost sight of where we started and that we're just here to have fun. Considering the amount of people we've had to block or ban in 3 years can be counted on 1 hand this hopefully says something about the team we've assembled and the people who enjoy our content.
So thank you again for another amazing year of Park Journey and we're looking forward to an amazing 2017 and beyond.
Well, it's finally here. The end of the Haunt Season.
As a site, this was our third year covering Halloween and we've had an absolute blast. We attended more Haunts this year than any other year, and it still was just a drop in the proverbial bucket.
Below are our rankings, this is by no means a complete list of everything that is out there. Some of these events still have some nights coming up this weekend so be sure to check them out if you haven't already.
If you missed ANY of our Halloween Updates be sure to check them out.
Best Theme Park Haunt - Knott's Scary Farm
With the addition of new mazes and the freshening up of some previous years mazes it was another banner year for the amazing Knott's Scary Farm.
Small improvements like the Skeleton Key rooms and new effects in mazes made the event seem fresh. The moving of Infected from Camp Snoopy to it's own maze not only made the overall experience for Infected that much better but freed up Camp Snoopy for an all new Scare Zone.
Best Independent Haunt - Motel 6 Feet Under
This was a tough category as there were 3 amazing Independent Haunts that could have claimed this spot (we'll touch on those below). But this event works in every way, not because it's extreme, not because it's gory, but because it's just a FUN Haunted House.
Motel 6 Feet Under is open this weekend (November 2 through 5) so if you missed this you still have a chance.
Best Home Haunt - Backwoods
So let's say you go to some imaginary "Haunt Graveyard" and get animatronics and sets that basically tells the history of Southern California Scary Events and put them all in your house. And then it all works in an amazing way. That's what Backwoods is and it's amazing.
Best Maze - The Exorcist (Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood AND Orlando)
Yep, this maze was our favorite at two separate events 2500 miles apart. And for VERY different reasons. The Hollywood Maze edges out the Orlando maze EVER so slightly but this maze had the perfect blend of storytelling and amazing effects.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood and Unviersal Orlando are both open November 4 and 5
Best Scare Zones - Fright Fest - Six Flags Magic Mountain
This is now the third year SFMM has taken this award from us and for good reason. SFMM is HUGE but they manage to pull off filling almost every inch of their park with monsters and the best make-up team in the business.
We will say that there were a few dead spots this year (namely on the back side of the park). We are pretty sure this was because the area around Riddlers was supposed to close prior to Fright Fest and then they decided to keep it open. The Suicide Squad scare zone was great and we hope we'll see the expansion of the DC Universe Scare Zone into Metropolis for next years event. We'd also like to see the expansion of The Ruins near Apocalypse.
Best Talent - Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
This category wasn't even close. The talent at Dark Harbor has so much freedom it's really hard for the other events to compare.
Not tied to any corporate structure they are free to interact with the guests as they see fit, free to do things that other parks would freak out about while still maintaining safety for themselves and guests.
Best New Maze - (tie) Shadowlands - Knott's Scary Farm and Aftermath 2 - Fright Fest
We typically exclude Halloween Horror Nights from this category as they don't tend to repeat mazes, but that's not to take away anything from these two amazing mazes. One (Shadowlands) a completely original idea that we've never seen before and the other (Aftermath 2) a resurrection of a previous maze but on steroids.
Best Returning Maze - Reign of Terror
If you've never done Reign of Terror in Thousand Oaks you are really missing out. This event is on par and in some ways exceeds even the biggest and baddest theme park haunt maze. The talent here is amazing and the size of the haunt is staggering. It takes a good 20-25 minutes to get through the entire event. And something we've never seen before, in-maze line control that totally works.
While this is the best "Returning" maze, they change it up enough each year to keep it fresh and exciting and you shouldn't miss Reign of Terror in 2017.
Best "First Year" Event - Gorlesque
With so many existing Haunts in Southern California you'd think there wasn't room for anything new. You'd be wrong. But you've gotta be different to make a splash, and Gorlesque found that happy place between interactive, scary, sexy and amazing. One of the most talked about events for 2016. We can't wait to see what they come up with for 2017.
Best Haunted Ride: Crash Test Zombies - Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
How do you make awesome bumper cars even better? How about adding Zombies and naming it after an obscure Canadian band from the early 90's with a hit song that still doesn't make any sense (not sure if that last part is actually true ... well, MmmmMmmmMmmmMmmm still doesn't make any sense).
Best Family Event: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Haunted Events are getting better every year, but so are the family events. But there's something about this party at the Magic Kingdom that's just so special and fun each and every year.
Best "New To Us" Haunt - Sinister Pointe: Fear The Mark
There are SO many events to cover that we only get to see so many each year, which is why we hadn't been to Sinister Pointe before. And now I'm sad because we had such a scary good time at this event and their 4 realms. To be fair, some of us on the staff had experienced Sinister Pointe before, but we'd never reviewed it as a website.
Sinister Pointe is open the next two weekends (November 4 and 5 / November 11 and 12) so be sure to get your "Mark" before it's too late