Training Ground

While at Planet Snoopy, the children’s area of Kings Dominion, I had this photo taken with Woodstock, one of the characters in the Peanuts comic strip about which Planet Snoopy’s rides are themed. For those of you unfamiliar with Kings Dominion, it is an 85-mile (137 km) long traffic jam south of Washington, D.C.

Planet Snoopy is the world’s largest Peanuts-themed children’s area, covering 14 acres (5.7 hectares). The park added three new family rides this year from Zamperla, bringing the total number of rides in Planet Snoopy to 20. All of the rides are designed for families to experience together. Plus, children three to five years of age can experience all that Planet Snoopy has to offer for free.

Adding family rides is good marketing tactic. Offering them to kids for free is a brilliant marketing tactic. Here’s why. Children’s rides are the training ground for your future customers. This is where children learn to love the joys of a theme park. The rides are the right size, and the thrills are modest. Offering the rides free to children is cost-effective, too. They will not attend without their parents, who do pay, and the entire family eventually consumes their way through the park. Free rides for children is an investment in the future.

Children’s rides, or kiddie rides, or family rides, whatever you wish to call them, are how I learned to love the park experience. By the age of five I was hooked. I loved the miniature train ride, the small tumble bug, the carousels filled with fire trucks or race cars painted in primary colors, the drive-your-own car along a side-rail enclosed track, the prancing menagerie-filled big carousel, the little boats in a round pool of water, and of course, the kiddie-sized roller coaster.

Today’s family rides are more attractive than those of my childhood. Stamped metal ride vehicles have been replaced with glistening fiberglass ones, the restraints are much improved over the simple leather strap that hopefully held me in as a child, and the ride experiences are smoother but always thrilling for youngsters.

Family rides attract your ideal audience, families with children. But I’m probably preaching to the choir. As I travel the continent visiting parks, I can’t think of a park that does not have a very good to excellent collection of children’s rides. Operators keep the area clean, the rides in good condition, and they upgrade in timely fashion.

Some operators sprinkle their family rides throughout the park, but most have an area dedicated just to these rides, just as Kings Dominion does. It’s certainly makes it easier on the families with less walking involved, and enables the facility to target the merchandise in this area to children. Similarly, it simplifies food offerings. Entertainment, when added to the area, can be tailored to this audience. Pet shows or character shows work great in this environment. Best of all, it segregates kids and their families to their own dedicated area and leaves the grown-up areas to teens and young adults. And to those of us wise enough to thoroughly appreciate the joys of a theme park.

Posted in: Park Hoppin'