Years ago, we'd climb into the family van with cousins, grandparents and friends, all eager to experience the newest thrill ride. Now, theme parks entice visitors with gravity-defying, heart-pounding 3-D attractions. But their core audience remains unchanged: Coast to coast, families are the lifeblood of the amusement park business.
"Hispanic families, especially those in Southern California, are such a big part of our clientele," says Jennifer Blazey, spokesperson for one of the country's oldest themed amusement park, Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.
My summer plans already include a number of amusement park visits. If yours do, too, keep in mind that a little advance research goes a long way.
"We encourage our guests to go online and take a look at what the park offers," says Marcie Perez of Universal Studios Hollywood.
That's where Spanish-language planning tools can offer added convenience for the entire family.
Se habla español
Growing up, I remember serving as a translator for my grandparents during amusement park visits. Now grandparents and parents can use the parks' Spanish-language websites to plan their visit.
Disneyland's Spanish website is filled with park information, plus special offers. You can also peruse online all of the Disney theme parks, both here and abroad, and a "Moms Panel" in Spanish. Are you a Facebook user? Try Disneyland's Spanish Facebook page.
Find general information for Chicago's Six Flags Great America on the park's Spanish website.
Most theme parks also offer Spanish-language park maps, and Spanish-speaking guides to help guests, so be sure to ask for them when you arrive at the park.
Once you're at the park, another time-saving strategy is to split the group into thrill-seekers and gift shop browsers (my preference). Then arrange to meet for lunch or dinner at a specific time. Many parks feature call-ahead dining reservation systems that can eliminate long wait times during peak meal hours.