Congress Passes 2018 Spending Package; J-1 Visa Provision Included

By | March 23, 2018

On March 23, Congress passed the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill which funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. IAAPA successfully advocated for a provision in the bill which sends a strong positive message to the Administration about the value of the Summer Work Travel Program (J-1 Visas), widely used by the attractions industry. The provision requires consultation and notice to Congress regarding the estimated economic impact of any changes to the program and how changes would affect the public diplomacy goals of our country.

The purpose of the provision is to ensure reasonable consultation with Congress and stakeholders prior to the Administration making substantial changes to the program which could have a negative impact on either the businesses that host Summer Work Travel Exchange Visitors or the exchange visitors themselves.

Emmy Award-Winning RWS Entertainment Group to produce ‘Club Eternity’ during TransWorld’s 2018 Halloween & Attractions Show

By | March 21, 2018

NEW YORK, N.Y. — RWS Entertainment Group (RWS), a New York City based full-service production company that creates award-winning custom entertainment, live events, and branded experiences worldwide, announced today that it will cast and produce ‘Club Eternity’ with TransWorld. The multi-tiered cabaret event is part of TransWorld’s 2018 Halloween & Attractions Show and will take place on the night of March 23, 2018 at Paddy O’s in St. Louis – a close walk from the Convention Center. TransWorld is teaming up with RWS to throw the party in celebration of TransWorld’s 10th anniversary in St. Louis. Attendees will get to experience a wide variety of activations, performances and indulge in free food at the event.

RWS will be setting up and producing activations throughout the event and will be providing specialty performers to enhance the guest experience. RWS plans on taking the ‘outside of the haunt’ experience that major haunted houses are now engaging in with their guests and applying it to ‘Club Eternity’ to provide a unique experience for each attendee. The event will allow attendees to choose their own experience with a multi-tiered cabaret where they can either dance in “Heaven”, limbo in “Purgatory”, or commiserate with the wicked in “Hell.”

“Horror-centric events are always a favorite among RWS performers,” said Ryan Stana, CEO of RWS Entertainment Group. “This is going to be something partygoers do not want to miss. TransWorld’s legacy in the business is unmatched and we are eager to work with them to celebrate their 10 years in St. Louis. We are also looking forward to some big announcements coming this year with RWS designing and installing experiences in some of the world’s best amusement parks!”

RWS Entertainment Group is an Emmy Award-winning, New York-based live entertainment production company that creates custom entertainment, live events and branded experiences for top resorts, cruise lines and theme parks. Last month, RWS announced the launch of a Theatrical and Development Department, set to produce theatrical shows for Broadway off-Broadway and more. Additionally, RWS-owned Binder Casting recently opened two new divisions – commercial and film – operating alongside the already established theatrical team. The expansion transformed RWS into a one-of-a-kind company that brings producing, creative development, general management, production management, casting, wardrobe, rehearsal studios and other production services under one roof, saving producers time and money.

A ‘wheeley big deal’ rolls into Coney Island for park opening May 26

By | March 21, 2018

CINCINNATI, Ohio — The largest mobile Ferris wheel-style ride in North America rolls into Coney Island when the park opens for its 132nd year of operation Saturday, May 26 for a six-week stay.

Soaring a breathtaking 155-feet above the Ohio River, the Coney Island SkyWheel offers passengers a one-of-a-kind 360-view. The SkyWheel features 36 six-person gondolas. Each ride will take about 10 minutes, with the majestic observation wheel making four rotations per session.

In the daytime, the giant Wheel will offer families a memorable view of Coney Island, the Ohio River and beyond. At night, the wheel comes alive with more than a half-million LED points of light visible for miles around.

“The Coney Island SkyWheel is an extraordinary structure, taking family playtime to new heights with state-of-the-art technology,” said Coney Island Marketing Director Sally Derrick. “It is the tallest ride of its kind in Ohio and is a great way to launch an exciting 2018 season while putting the wintertime Ohio River issues behind us.”

The Coney Island SkyWheel will be located adjacent to the park’s popular Sunlite Water Adventure area, towards the Riverbend Music Center.

Families can take the massive Coney Island SkyWheel for an unforgettable spin from May 26 through July 8. Cost per rider is only $5. Tickets will be available online beginning March 20.

Dollywood’s Aunt Granny’s Restaurant recast with new look, menu items

By | March 21, 2018

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — One of Dollywood’s best-known restaurants has been recast in 2018 with a little help from another iconic Tennessee brand, Lodge Manufacturing Company. Aunt Granny’s All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet, which earned its name from the loving nickname Dolly Parton’s nieces and nephews have called her for years, receives a fresh look this season complete with new menu items which will have guests ready to pull a seat up to the table.

Now named Aunt Granny’s Restaurant presented by Lodge, the eatery features a number of changes designed to create a bright and airy space to serve as a comfortable respite for guests to slow down and enjoy a meal together. Interior renovations include action stations, like a new carving station, where guests can watch Dollywood chefs create a number of delightful delicacies.

“Dollywood is known for its quality southern food offerings, and a visit to the buffet at Aunt Granny’s certainly should be on the list for any foodie,” said Dollywood Vice-President Phil Bernard. “With our continuing focus on great food, we felt the time was right to recast the restaurant and add new menu items, while also keeping many of the old favorites.

“The opportunity to partner with Lodge, which is another iconic Tennessee brand, also made perfect sense. When you think of traditional southern foods like fried chicken, cornbread, or apple cobbler, you think of cast iron cookware. And when you think of cast iron cookware, there’s only one company that comes to mind—Lodge.”

The unique partnership with South Pittsburg, Tennessee-based Lodge brings a selection of the company’s famous cast iron cookware into the dining experience. The iconic cookware adorns displays throughout the restaurant, while food on the buffet line will be served from Lodge products.

“We are extremely excited about the collaboration between these two great Tennessee companies,” said Mike Otterman, President of Lodge Manufacturing Company. “We share company values, consumers, location and brand similarities that should allow us to grow together for many years.”

With more than 130 different items, Lodge Cast Iron produces the largest selection of cast iron cookware on the market, including skillets, griddles, grill pans, Dutch Ovens and restaurant serving pieces.

Founded by Joseph Lodge in 1896, Lodge is the oldest continuously operating cast iron cookware foundry in the U.S. The company is also the oldest family-owned cookware company in the country. Henry Lodge, CEO, and Lee Riddle, Vice President of Sales, are fourth and fifth generation descendants of Joseph Lodge.

Located in Dollywood’s Rivertown Junction, Aunt Granny’s was constructed in 1986 and opened during the park’s inaugural season. It has been a favorite spot for guests, as its all-you-can-eat format offers up a wide selection of the southern staples Dollywood’s foods team has cooked up for years.

Fresh off winning Amusement Today’s 2017 Golden Ticket Award for Best Theme Park Food, the foods team has refreshed the menu with a number of items that will surely become new guest favorites. Among those new offerings are Southwestern herb baked chicken, country chicken & dumplings, roasted red-skinned potatoes with cheddar cheese & bacon, corn puddin’, and much more. Stone Soup, inspired by Parton’s famous story about how her mother would use the classic fable to encourage her children when they might be discouraged, also finds its way on to the buffet. Those with a sweet tooth have plenty to select from including apple cobbler, various cupcakes, brownies and more.

McGowan Amusement Group adds veteran professional to Family Entertainment Center team

By | March 20, 2018

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Drew Tewksbury, Director and Senior Vice President of McGowan Amusement Group is excited to welcome Ryan Gillenwater as Vice President of McGowan Amusement Group. Ryan is a veteran of the amusement and insurance industries. Ryan has created several successful insurance programs over the years focused on the Family Entertainment Center segment of the industry.

“McGowan has quickly grown into one of the Amusement industry’s largest and most respected providers of insurance and risk management services. Ryan’s unique hands‐on approach and unwavering commitment to his clients makes him the perfect fit for our firm,” said Mr. Tewksbury.

Ryan has spent the past ten years developing a reputation as one of the most respected Family Entertainment Center insurance experts in the industry. Both owner/operators and manufacturers alike call on his expertise to conduct risk and safety reviews of their products and facilities.

Mr. Gillenwater stated, “I have known Drew and McGowan for a number of years and have respected and been impressed with their knowledge and client‐focused process. Drew and his team share the same beliefs and values that I do when it comes to taking care of and providing value to our amusement clients. I am looking forward to the great work we are going to be able to do together.”

McGowan Amusement Group is a leading provider of insurance and risk management services to the amusement industry. Focusing on education and prevention, they are transforming the way the amusement industry looks at insurance and risk management. The McGowan Amusement Group manages the IAAPA Elite Insurance Program, as well as their nationally distributed Amusement Insurance Program for Family Entertainment Centers, Amusement Parks, Water Parks, Trampoline Parks, and Carnivals.

Staten Island FunPark Opens for the 2018 Season

By | March 19, 2018

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Staten Island’s only outdoor attractions park returns for the 2018 season with your favorite, fun-filled family entertainment: Go Karts, Mini Golf, and Batting Cages!

Let FUN do the driving in a single or double kart on the SI Raceway! Meet the challenge on uphills and downhills of the FunPark Mini Golf course (18 holes), and step up to the plate in your own private batting cage in one of 9 softball or baseball Batting Cages!

“The Fun is Back!”, says Mark Blumenthal, Operations Manager. “Our timeless attractions have undergone detailed maintenance improvements and are ready to go. We have lots of great specials running throughout the season and look for special announcements to come.”

Get the most out of your visit and enjoy all three attractions with the  $18 FunPark Combo pack. Other attraction prices are  : $7 Mini Golf (per round), $7 Go Kart (per race), $3 per Batting Cage token (20 pitches).

Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village Opens for the 2018 Season

By | March 19, 2018

QUEENS, N.Y. — “The Crown Jewel of Queens” returns for the 2018 season with exciting kid-friendly rides: The Woodhaven Express Choo-Choo Train and Frog Hopper. NYC’s only historic Designated Landmark carousel, The Forest Park Carousel, will begin its 115th year of rides. In addition, the Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village offers classic games and the Carousel Cafe featuring tasty snacks and drinks.

“The 2018 season could not arrive any sooner”, says Daeshawn Grimes, Operations Manager. “We are very excited to share our off-season work with all our Guests. Last year we introduced the Frog Hopper ride and have a grand surprise in store for returning and new visitors which will debut early Summer.”

Tickets start at $3.50 per ride or game, and can be purchased individually or in bulk at discounted rates: $10 for 3 tickets, and $30 for 10 tickets.

Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland California Resort opens new exhibits

By | March 19, 2018

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Guests can now take a splash in the ocean without ever getting wet and become a shark explorer at SEA LIFE aquarium’s two newest exhibits: Sea at Night and Shark Mission! Open just in time for spring break, both exhibits allow guests to learn about marine life in a fun and interactive way.

Sea at Night invites guests to jump, leap and “splash” into simulated bioluminescent waves that react to their footsteps. The reaction created by the guests’ movements demonstrates the effect of a glowing tide similar to ones often seen along the Pacific coastline.

Shark Mission allows kids to come face to fin with six different species of sharks and rays on three giant touch screens. Young explorers can learn about anatomy, conservation and other cool facts through interactive activities and games. Guests can also hold a shark’s tooth, learn about shark skin and eggs, plus step into a shark cage.

Kidz Bop Kids bringing live concert tour back to Legoland Florida Resort Nov. 10-12

By | March 19, 2018

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – For the second year in a row, The KIDZ BOP Kids will bring their national concert tour to the place #BuiltForKids during KIDZ BOP Weekend, a music-filled event set for Nov. 10-12 at LEGOLAND Florida Resort.

Following the success of last year’s “Best Time Ever” tour, which sold out multiple shows across the country, The KIDZ BOP Kids are hitting the road again in 2018. KIDZ BOP announced the launch of the all-new North American Tour, “KIDZ BOP Live 2018,” kicking off June 1 in Toronto, with dates in more than 30 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

During the three-day KIDZ BOP Weekend, The KIDZ BOP Kids will perform two live concerts each day at LEGOLAND Florida’s KIDZ BOP Stadium, an outdoor venue on the picturesque shore of Lake Eloise, followed by an exclusive meet-and-greet with the performers. All activities during KIDZ BOP Weekend, including the concerts and meet-and-greets*, are included with all forms of theme park admission. No extra ticket required!

This spring, KIDZ BOP will debut an original musical collaboration with LEGOLAND, one that highlights all the awesomeness that awaits at the popular vacation destination. In 2016, LEGOLAND Florida Resort named KIDZ BOP its official music partner as part of a multi-year alliance that included the creation of a music video for The KIDZ BOP Kids’ performance of “The Weekend Whip,” the theme song of the long-running animated TV series, “LEGO® NINJAGO®: Masters of Spinjitzu.”

“KIDZ BOP Live 2018” is the ultimate family concert experience, “sung by kids for kids.” The KIDZ BOP Kids – Billboard Magazine’s No. 1 Kids’ Artist for eight consecutive years (2010-2017) – will headline the new show, performing some of today’s biggest hit songs. Just in time for the new tour, three new talented young performers – Olivia (12), Shane (13), and Indigo (11) – are joining the existing group of KIDZ BOP Kids: Ahnya (13), Cooper (14), Freddy (14), Isaiah (11) and Julianna (13). Four KIDZ BOP Kids will take the stage for each performance.

Spotlight shines bright on Dollywood’s “Season of Showstoppers”

By | March 19, 2018

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Dolly Parton helped launch Dollywood’s “Season of Showstoppers” with a special preview today. Designed just for season passholders, the preview day marks the opening of the park’s 33rd season, one which surely will be remembered for the amazing quality of entertainment offered each day throughout the year. Dollywood’s entertainment team has invested $1 million more in its 2018 offerings than any other single year of entertainment in its history.

Dollywood has won Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award for Best Theme Park Entertainment for nine years, and with 2018’s commitment, the park again looks to lead the way for the award. Dollywood guests know each season offers a completely new experience for families to enjoy, thanks to festivals and events which always provide exciting new opportunities to create lifelong memories. With so much world-renowned talent in one place, this is the perfect season to take advantage of a Dollywood season pass or new multi-day ticket options.

The year begins with Dollywood’s Festival of Nations (March 17-April 9). Guests can tour the world through this fascinating festival which offers a captivating glimpse at a number of cultures from across the globe. Guests experience the excitement of traditional music, dance, food and crafts from a wide array of countries while also enjoying internationally-known performing groups. The National Dance Company of Siberia, The Flamenco Kings starring Los Vivancos, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo bring three unique, high-energy shows to Dollywood. Festival of Nations is a fun, educational and exciting experience for families. Authentic international cuisine and daily celebrations by visiting nations throughout the park provide guests with an escape around the world without leaving the heart of the Smokies.

Dollywood’s all-new Spring Mix music series (April 11-29) brings three weeks of performances by award-winning artists across multiple music genres. The first week features classic country talent including Crystal Gayle, Suzy Bogguss, Shenandoah, Pam Tillis, T.G. Sheppard and Connie Smith. Inspirational artists such as Amy Grant, David Phelps, Carman, Selah, and The Blind Boys of Alabama perform during the series’ second week, while a number of classic artists take to the stage during the third week. Classic artists include The Marshall Tucker Band, The Drifters, Orleans, Atlanta Rhythm Section and Debby Boone. Different artists are scheduled to appear every day during the Spring Mix concert series. All concerts are included with park admission. For a full concert schedule, visit

Dollywood’s popular Barbeque & Bluegrass presented by BUSH’S® (May 25-June 10) adds an extra week in 2018, giving fans of the genre even more great talent to enjoy during this kickoff to summer. This year’s festival features an impressive bluegrass lineup with a multitude of free daily concerts from an amazing collection of talented performers. More than 350 concerts take place during the festival. Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association winner Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, IBMA winners Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Dailey & Vincent, and The Grascals are just a few of the headliners which make this one of the biggest bluegrass events around. This annual tradition wouldn’t be complete without pounds of saucy pulled pork, barbequed chicken and ribs by the slab. This guest-favorite event is music to the ears—and a treat for the taste buds!

Dollywood’s Summer Celebration (June 16-Aug. 5) is just that—a time to celebrate making memories with family at a place everyone enjoys! This summertime event features extended park hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, giving families a unique chance to ride Dollywood’s world-class attractions, including Lightning Rod and Wild Eagle, all day and well into the night! A multitude of options keeps families entertained with iLuminate and DRUMLine Live!, thrilling guests with their unique shows during the festival. America’s Got Talent finalists iLuminate come to Dollywood June 16-July 4 with their electrified glow-in-the-dark costumes to perform dynamic dance routines and illusions. From July 7- July 21, DRUMLine Live! creates a synchronized musical masterpiece based on the hit 2002 movie Drumline—but it’s not the typical halftime performance! To complete the day, the park’s festive nightly fireworks show is a colorful extravaganza set to uplifting music which celebrates the fun of Dollywood after dark!

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana (Sept. 28-Nov. 3) provides more fall family fun with the expansion of the new guest-favorite Great Pumpkin LumiNights and the largest Southern gospel event in America. Dollywood is open until 9 p.m. every night during the festival. More than 600 performances by award-winning Southern gospel acts take place during the festival, while each night, thousands of carved pumpkins illuminate the dark with an expanded number of displays and activities for families to enjoy.  Dollywood guests also can enjoy the spectacular artistry of visiting crafters from across the country, or sample the special harvest-themed food items from Dollywood’s award-winning foods team. Each day is a picture-perfect opportunity for your family to enjoy the traditional experiences of a Smoky Mountain harvest!

Celebrating a decade of being honored as the Best Christmas Event at any theme park worldwide, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (Nov. 10-Jan. 5, 2019) provides the perfect holiday atmosphere to put families in to the Christmas spirit. Wander through the park’s more than four million holiday lights, enjoy the spectacular holiday performances and warm Christmas atmosphere, or taste the holiday-themed food, and it is easy to understand why it has become a family tradition for so many. From the cheer of Dollywood’s Parade of Many Colors, to traditional holiday shows like It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in the Smokies, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas helps families create memories to share for a lifetime.