Imagineering an American Dreamscape, a Book Review

Imagineering an American Dreamscape by Barry R. Hill, a Book Review

The history of Disney Parks and larger regional amusement parks, like Cedar Point and Six Flags, have been well-documented. But what about the other theme parks? The ones that helped usher in the idea of themed entertainment or were part of the 1970s amusement/theme park revival? How does the growth of regional theme parks fit into the landscape of the history of theme and amusement parks? With Imagineering an American Dreamscape: Genesis, Evolution and Redemption of the Regional Theme Park, author Barry Hill shares a well-written and well-presented history of America’s theme parks. One that is sure to intrigue and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory lane of your favorite local park. Or parks.

Why Do You Need to Read This Book?

Contrary to popular belief, theme parks didn’t start with Disneyland in 1955. The term theme park was born with the opening of Walt’s nascent park, but the idea of theme parks had existed in a few parks prior to Walt’s creation. Barry wastes no time jumping into the history of parks by exploring pre-Disneyland, Walt’s influences, and, then, the major players, like Angus Wynne, Busch, Randall Duell, and so many others.

I’ve been a Disney park fan for most of my life and a self-styled Disney historian since the mid-1990s. After being on an award-winning podcast for years and writing weekly histories of Disney, I started to wonder how we got to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. What about other world-class parks like Universal and Busch Gardens Tampa? Where did they start and how did parks change over the years?

And why do so many people know so little about theme park history?

Look at that: almost 100 pages dedicated to an index, notes, a bibliography, and other important background information!

If you’ve ever visited a Six Flags park, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Holiday World, Great America, Hersheypark…or so many others, then this book is a treat. Barry takes the history of theme parks seriously and offers a condensed story of how the parks came to be, evolved, survived, and, in some cases, quietly slipped away.

If anything, this book will afford Disney fans the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and understand the larger tapestry of theme parks that exist outside of Disney and Universal. For most of the parks presented, Barry takes us back in time to wander the opening season of the park to look at the design and early attractions. It really is a stroll down memory lane.

What’s Inside Imagineering an American Dreamscape?

Barry ruminates on the successes and failures of so many parks and the forces behind the parks. When Barry talks about Carowinds (Charlotte, NC), he shares the inside story of E. Pat Hall, the Charlotte-area business man who planned to bring a Disneyland-style resort to the booming city. Massive plans included a short-lived monorail and hotels. The looming energy crisis changed everything, as it did with Taft, Marriott, and other regional parks. Some survived, some were bought out, and some just languished.

Obviously, Barry can’t cover every park, but he does share the ones that influenced the themed industry more than others. My only complaint about the book relates to the lack of maps and photographs to illustrate the work. Barry addresses this in the book by directing readers to his website: Rivershore Creative.

Randall Duell and the Duell Loop: the Ultimate Theme Park Designer

We also get an inside look at some of the most important people in the theme park industry. Barry spends pages discussing Randall Duell, the architect responsible for the modern theme park. Duell was able to take the successes of Disneyland and translate them into early Six Flags parks. He became the most in-demand designer and is responsible for being able to integrate thoughtful design, architecture, and theming.

After the main sections of the book, Barry introduces us to Mel McGowan and Rick Bastrup. Both are McGowan is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Storyland Studios; Bastrup is President and Head Designer of R&R Creative Amusement Designs. Both offer salient chapters on Duell and other theme park design legends. McGowan and Bastrup share the stories as fans and industry insiders.

In all honesty, Imagineering an American Dreamscape is almost the story of Randall Duell. The warp and weft of the theme park industry is ingrained with so many of Duell’s deft touches and ideas. I’m so glad Barry presented the book in this way.

So, yes, you should grab this book. And, yes, you will enjoy it. Barry has written a work on a staggering subject and he has distilled it to the most important concepts and people. You will learn something from Barry’s work, regardless of your prior theme park experiences.

What is your favorite regional park? Mine is Kings Island.

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Anheuser Busch and Busch Gardens History

How Did the Anheuser Busch Company and the Busch Family Get into the Theme Park Business?

Busch Gardens Tampa and Busch Gardens Williamsburg are world-renowned theme parks. But how did a beer company get into the theme park business? The story of the Busch Gardens parks has a long history that dates back to the very first Busch Gardens park in Pasadena, California.

Busch Gardens Pasadena?

There were also two failed Busch Gardens theme parks: Busch Gardens Houston and Busch Gardens Van Nuys (Los Angeles). What happened to these parks?

Busch Gardens History Video

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more videos on Disney history, Universal Studios, theme park books and more!

The Busch family (Aldolphus and Lilly) left a legacy that the Anheuser Busch Company continued and expanded in order to promote their breweries and wildlife. The parks may have changed hands, but they still follow the rich traditions of the Busch Family.

Did You Ever Get to Visit the Two Closed Busch Gardens Parks?

Want to Learn More about Busch Gardens? Check out these posts:

Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa 2018

Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa 2018

Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa is a bit different from the holiday offerings at the other Central Florida theme and amusement parks. After visiting the Magic Kingdom, Universal, Disney Hollywood Studios, etc., it was obvious to spot the strengths and weaknesses of each of them, especially when looking for holiday cheer. By far, Busch Gardens Tampa offers the most lights throughout the park. But it doesn’t stop there.

Check out my video about visiting Busch Gardens Tampa at Christmas time!

Don’t forget to stop by my YouTube channel to subscribe and leave a comment! I post semi-weekly videos about Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld Universal, theme park history, roller coasters and Disney books.

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Special thanks to Wes B. for supporting me on Patreon.

Check out the ImagiNERDing Patreon page to be part of the ImagiNERD community. Get special updates, behind-the-scenes information and more!

Bier Fest At Busch Gardens Tampa

Bier Fest At Busch Gardens Tampa

Bierfest At Busch Gardens Tampa is a new food, beer and wine celebration for the theme park.

Raise a glass this weekend, as the all-new Bier Fest kicks off this Saturday at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay. Park guests can enjoy the Tampa Bay craft beer scene and Florida’s best thrill rides each weekend from August 25 through September 16, including Labor Day. This unique festival will offer more than 100 different beers and a contemporary menu with traditional roots.

I was invited to attend Bier Fest as media on Friday evening. It was a little rainy, so I wondered what the event would be like. I didn’t need to worry, though, the staff at Busch Gardens Tampa had everything prepared and the event went off without a hitch!

More than 100 beers from 60 different breweries around the world will rotate throughout the four-weekend festival, including some of Florida’s best-known craft beers and favorites from around the world. Bier Fest is included in park admission and also features live entertainment and flavorful fare.

Unlike Epcot’s Food & Wine, Bier Fest uses a punch card system which makes it really simple. There’s no cash exchanged at the booths (but you can pay with cash) and it keeps the prices relatively the same.

Bier Fest at Busch Gardens Tampa Prices and Upgrades

The 12-item bier fest sampler is a pass member exclusive and a great deal!

You can pay per item, but it is a much better deal to buy a punch card and it’s much easier.

Hoppy on Tap menu and prices.

The Tulip & Thistle menu and prices.
Malt & Mill menu and prices.
Go for the Grain menu and prices.

The Clove & Pine menu and prices.
Hops & Handhelds prices and menu choices.

Bier Fest at Busch Gardens Tampa Food!

The food options are presented at different booths except for the Hops & Handhelds location.

Hops & Handhelds

Fired Cheese Curds with Beer Cheese Sauce
Truffle Mac & Cheese Fritters
Reuben Croquettes with Mustard & Honey Dipping Sauce
Soft Pretzels with Bacon Beer Cheese

The Best of the Wurst

Clearly, this booth had the best name…

Bratwurst Sandwich on a Pretzel Roll, Currywurst and Holy Schnitzel on a Pretzel Roll

The Currywurst was so good!

Das Sliders

I didn’t get to sample all of the food at Das Sliders, but I really enjoyed the Impossible Slider. You really need to try it.

Das Sliders menu and prices.
The Impossible Slider was impossibly AMAZING!


The kebabs were juicy and tasty!

Thoughts on Bier Fest at Busch Gardens Tampa

Bier Fest at Busch Gardens Tampa is well worth a visit, especially as an alternative to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. The food choices seem to be a bit larger and the prices better. As are the rotating beer choices. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the Food and Wine Festival at Disney and the drunken crowds. The Bier Fest at Busch Gardens is going to offer a much more relaxed atmosphere and better food choices. It’s also being held at the second best theme par in Florida…just sayin’.

My favorite food items were the Impossible Slider and the Reuben Croquettes.

Are you going to check out Bier Fest at Busch Gardens Tampa?

Busch Gardens Preschool Card!

Busch Gardens Preschool Card!

The Busch Gardens Preschool Card is a great offer for families in the Central Florida area.

I’ve visited Busch Gardens Tampa several times and I’m simply enchanted with the park. There are world-class coasters, surprising animal encounters and historical details from the past in this Florida theme park. If Busch Gardens isn’t part of your Florida vacation, then it should be.

The Sesame Street Safari of Fun is a wonderful kid’s area. There are plenty of trees for shade and the attractions are rarely close together. And who doesn’t love Muppet-inspired buildings!


New Pirate-Themed Event Features Popular Sesame Street Friends, Scavenger Hunts and More, Every Saturday and Sunday from Feb 3 – Feb 11

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan 26, 2018) – Back by popular demand, Florida preschoolers can now enjoy all Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay has to offer with the 2018 Busch Gardens Preschool Card, including Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends all year long.

Every Saturday & Sunday, starting February 3 through February 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the new Sesame Street Pirate Party Weekends will feature character parades, themed story time, treasure scavenger hunts, crafts and dance parties!

The 2018 Preschool Card is valid for unlimited visits at two of Florida’s favorite parks, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando for children ages five or younger. The card is exclusively for Florida residents, for visits anytime through December 31, 2018.

The card works for all park events included with admission, such as Busch Gardens Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends and SeaWorld’s Just For Kids event.

To learn more and to register for the Preschool Card, Florida residents can visit Advanced registration for the Busch Gardens Preschool Card is required, and only availablefor a limited time through May 20, 2018.

Busch Gardens Tampa Videos

Check out some of my videos about Busch Gardens Tampa:

Feeding Flamingos, Kangaroos and more!

Visiting Busch Gardens Tampa and More!

Don’t forget to stop by my YouTube channel to subscribe and leave a comment! I post weekly videos about Disney, Dollywood, Carowinds, theme park history, roller coasters and Disney books.

Have you had a chance to visit Busch Gardens Tampa?

Feeding Kangaroos and Flamingos at Busch Gardens Tampa!

Feeding Kangaroos and Flamingos at BuschGardens Tampa!

And checking out the Animal Care Center, penguins, lions and the birds at Lory Landing…

This lovely flamingo posed perfectly for me when I was feeding the flamingos at the Animal Connections area at BGT.

Busch Gardens Tampa (BGT) is one of my favorite theme parks in the world and I’ve made the Tampa park part of every central Florida visit for the past few years. In addition to world-class coasters, Busch Gardens Tampa offers some unique animal encounters. In this video, I feed (and touch) the kangaroos at Kangaloom and I fee the flamingos at the Animal Connections area. I’ve also got some video of the penguins, I talk about the Animal Care Center and I hear a strange noise in the lion area. There’s so much to do at BGT for animal lovers, even without riding any of the roller coasters.  Oh! And I’ve got some video of a few gorgeous birds at the Lory Landing area (one of the oldest sections of the park).

Feeding Flamingos and Kangaroos at Busch Gardens Tampa Video


Check out my other posts about the Busch Gardens Tampa theme park:

Have you had a chance to visit Busch Gardens Tampa?

The Count’s Spooktacular at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

The Count’s Spooktacular at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is offering some kid-friendly activities and events through October!

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia (Sept. 20, 2017) – Come celebrate silly, not-too-spooky, family fun this fall at Busch Gardens® Williamsburg.

/©2017 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. ©2017 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Every weekend in October, children 9 and younger are encouraged to come dressed in their best Halloween costume to enjoy Halloween shows, dancing and playing with their favorite Sesame Street® friends at The Count’s Spooktacular. This can’t-miss event includes an all-new show, Count’s Countdown to Halloween, dance parties and parading with friendly, furry monsters through the park to end the day for families before the serious haunts and scares of Howl-O-Scream begin in the evening.

Kid-friendly rides, family activities and trick-or-treating will be offered around the park for our littlest guests to celebrate the fall season. Halloween decorations will be set up during the day, but the scare squad, dim lighting and fog will not start until 6 p.m.

Parents, if your child’s costume has a mask or prop, we ask for you to kindly leave those at home. Smiling faces always look better in family photos. We offer plenty of options to jazz up your child’s costume with face paint, glow items, and more at the park. Guests can visit one of our face-painting booths to transform into a favorite Halloween character.

The daytime event runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 7 through Oct. 29, and is included in park admission. Save 50% with a special kids’ ticket available to use in October. For more information, visit .

Special Washington DC Rates for Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Special Washington,  D.C. Rates for Busch Gardens Williamsburg Press Release

If you live in Metro Washington, D.C., then you might want to check out this offer from Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (June 15, 2017) – Residents in Washington, D.C., are in serious need of a vacation. A recent survey shows workers in the nation’s capital left more than 17.3 million vacation days on the table last year. The cure is just down the road in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off report on Under-Vacationed America shows Washington, D.C. tops this year’s list of U.S. metropolitan cities with the most unused vacation time.

As D.C.’s favorite family-fun getaway, Busch Gardens® and Water Country USA® in Williamsburg, Virginia, encourage Washingtonians to take time away from work this summer.

For about $1 a day, Metro Washington residents can buy a specially priced pass for unlimited visits to both parks through Sept. 10.

This limited-time offer, available only to D.C.-area residents, can be accessed online at through June 22.

“The states and cities that have the dubious honor of being at the top of the unused vacation list would do well to realize that employees who take time off are happier, healthier, and more productive,” said Project: Time Off author Katie Denis.

Instead of letting those precious days go to waste, Washingtonians can make the short trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA for a summer getaway.

Busch Gardens’ newest attraction is InvadR, the first wooden roller coaster at the park. The Viking-themed coaster features a 74-foot drop and nine air-time hills that make it a force to be feared.

Keeping cool during a summer of thrills is easy. Guests can splash and slide the summer away at Water Country USA, Virginia’s largest water park. The park offers fun for the entire family with resort-style amenities and more than 40 state-of-the-art water rides and attractions.

For more information, visit,, or call (757) 229-4386.

Baby Hyena at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Introducing Mandazi, a 20 week-old male hyena cub!

Mandazi was born at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in April and has become a member of the clan in the Edge of Africa habitat. Check out the following release for more information and some incredibly adorable images.

If you’ve never visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, then I urge you to check it out on your next visit to Central Florida. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has eight coasters and some amazing animal encounters. It’s definitely worth the trip!

Continue reading Baby Hyena at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Cobra’s Curse Queue Photos!

Cobra’s Curse Queue Photos!

Busch Gardens Tampa has just released some Cobra’s Curse queue photos! Cobra’s Cures, the new spin roller coaster, at Busch Gardens Tampa, has been designed with families in mind. From the well-themed queue to the 40mph ride, it’s sure to make everyone scream with delight! Check out the press release and Cobra’s Curse queue photos!

Family Thrill Coaster to Open Friday, June 17

TAMPA, Fla. (June 10, 2016) – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay announced today that the highly anticipated opening of the park’s newest attraction, Cobra’s Curse will be officially open Friday, June 17.

Cobra’s Curse Striking Facts:

  • One-of-a-kind spin coaster features a menacing 30,000-pound snake king icon and a 70-foot vertical lift that will take riders within inches of its 3 foot-wide eyes and 4-foot-long fangs.

  • During the three-and-a-half-minute ride, the coaster trains speed along at 40 mph down 2,100 feet of serpentine-like track, travelling backward, forward and then spinning freely.

  • Guests will experience a new spin with each ride. Each train spins randomly, with frequency and direction determined by the rider weight distribution.

  • The ride’s air-conditioned queue naturally fuels guests’ adrenaline with an immersive themed experience and a state-of-the-art snake exhibit featuring four exotic snake species including some of the world’s most feared and often misunderstood vipers.

  • Riders must be 48 inches to ride, or 42 inches with a parent or guardian.

I get really excited when I see a queue with a lot of theming, especially in the Orlando area (yes, I know it’s about an hour from Walt Disney World). After my first visit to Busch Gardens Tampa last year, I can’t wait for my next trip. It’s gorgeous and feels more like how Disney’s Animal Kingdom should have been done. It’s got world-class coasters, family attractions, shows and amazing animal displays.

What do you think about the Cobra’s Curse queue photos? Is this a ride that you’re looking forward to?