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!

Carowinds Food and Restaurants for 2018

Carowinds Food and Restaurants for 2018

Let’s talk Carowinds food!

So, you’re planning a trip to Carowinds and wondering what food and restaurants are there? Check out this video to see all of the menus, food, restaurants and quick-service dining options at the Charlotte amusement park.

I traveled all over the park to get images of the restaurants and food choices to show you what is available at Carowinds for the 2018 season. I’ve included the menus for Harmony Hall, Wings, Papa Luigi’s, Jukebox Diner, Panda Express and all the other places to eat at Carowinds.

Find out about:

  • Three sit-down restaurants
  • Three funnel cake eateries
  • The Churrowinds pretzel
  • The massive Fury Dog and more!

Just want to snack at Carowinds? I’ve got all of the snack stands, including funnel cakes, french fries, ICEEs, ice cream and more!

Do you have a favorite Carowinds Food or Restaurant?

Join me on Patreon!

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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.

Carowinds 2018 – What’s New this Summer!

Carowinds 2018 – What’s New this Summer!

Changes for Carowinds 2018 is more than just Camp Snoopy, although that’s the biggest change. The historic Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel was also relocated to the former Carolina Showplace which has been renamed Carousel Park.

Carowinds 2018 – What’s New Video:

I also highlight the interior of the Camp Snoopy Camp Cook Out restaurant and share the outdoor seating area and menu.
One of the three signs I found for the new Carousel Park area of Carowinds. I love that the signs all have three-dimensionality and have been built out.
The Camp Snoopy Camp Store is the fourth shop / restaurant to occupy this space! Check out the video to see what the building originally was.
Camp Cook out is a new counter-service eatery for Carowinds 2018. Seating is outside and the menu is very limited.
You can see he menu for the Camp Snoopy Camp Cook Out listed on the outside of the building. I wonder how easy it would be to change the menu…
Here’s the menu and prices for the Camp Snoopy Camp Cook Out counter-service restaurant at Carowinds for 2018.

Check out my video on the rides and attractions of Camp Snoopy, here. Camp Snoopy is a fantastic re-theming of the Planet Snoopy area and kids are going to love the rides and the playground. But, there will be long waits during the hot summer months. Get there early and try to tackle as much as you can before the crowds arrive.

Are you excited about the Carowinds 2018 changes and additions?

Join 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!

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.

Carowinds Camp Snoopy – New Rides for 2018

Carowinds Camp Snoopy – New Rides for 2018

Carowinds Camp Snoopy is new for 2018! Carowinds re-magined what Planet Snoopy was and created a camping theme with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and all of the Peanuts gang. Carowinds added six new rides (even though they did take a few away) and the results are going to make children and parents very happy.

Take a look at my Carowinds Camp Snoopy Video


The new Camp Snoopy area is patterned after the same areas at Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm, with a few Carolina twists added. The six new rides are:

  • Camp Bus: Buckle up on the wacky camp bus and take a ride that will lift guests into the air and back down to the ground in smooth extensions.
  • PEANUTS Trailblazers: Get behind the wheel of a Jeep-themed vehicle and burn rubber on a small, round speedway.
  • Kite Eating Tree: Ride along in a kite vehicle that travels up and down a tree.
  • Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies: Take a trip in a “mud buggy,” where guests will rotate around the popular Pig Pen character while bouncing on a bumpy ride.
  • Woodstock Whirlybirds: Spin around in an oversized birds nest on this classic ride.
  • Beagle Scout Acres: an 8,000 square foot play and climb area.

All of the existing rides have been re-themed or re-painted to go along with the Camp Snoopy theme. There’s even a new restroom near Harmony Hall, just outside of Camp Snoopy!

If you’re planning a trip to visit Camp Snoopy with kids, then make sure you are at the front gates at least 10 minutes before posted opening (remember, parking adds about 10 minutes to your travel). You should be able to get most of Camp Snoopy finished before the massive crowds hit (usually an hour and a half after opening). The queues can be pretty long, meaning that you’ll have to wait a while for each ride.

Are you excited about the new Carowinds Camp Snoopy?

Join 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!

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.

Carowinds Winterfest Christmas Celebration

Carowinds Winterfest Christmas Celebration

Carowinds Winterfest debuted for the 2017 holiday season at the Charlotte, North Carolina, amusement park. Following in the footsteps of the highly successful Winterfest at Kings Island, I wondered how this event would stack up to other holiday events, like Dollywood and Walt Disney World.

Carowinds Winterfest: the Video Review

Check out my Winterfest at Carowinds video!

Carowinds used over 5 million lights in the Winterfest event. There is also live entertainment, ice skating and special holiday foods. It’s promised that at least 16 rides would be open each evening of Winterfest. One thing I noticed is that the majority of the rides open were in the Planet Snoopy area and had very long lines. Granted, opening Planet Snoopy makes the most sense based on the intended audience; with the conversion to Camp Snoopy, though, there were construction walls and a few rides missing (check out my video link at the end of the post for more on Camp Snoopy at Carowinds).

Overall, it was a very enjoyable event, but I loved the Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood so much more. Everything at Carowinds felt like it was temporary and placed without a lot of forethought. My biggest gripe is that the smoking areas were right in the middle of areas in which kids and families had to pass through. It was really annoying and made walking through Candy Cane Lane and going into Harmony Hall rather aggravating. There were also some crowd control issues, which I relate to guests simply not sure what to expect.

Still, Winterfest is a fun way to stroll through millions of Christmas lights and get your holiday feelings. There were plenty of performances and activities, but the overall feeling was that the lights were the true spectacle. I do hope that Carowinds learns a lot from the 2017 Winterfest and we see some improvements for the following year.

Are you going to visit Carowinds Winterfest this year?

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.

Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds

Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds

Check out my video on the Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds:

The Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds is every Saturday and Sunday through October 29. It’s a perfect event for young children and their families. Most of the activities happen between 11:00am to 5:00pm.

What to do at the Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds

The first area you run into, near Harmony Hall, is the Winner Every Time Games section. You purchase tokens at the booth, which are 2 games for $6 and 4 games for $10. The games include a duck pluck, wicked wheel, football toss and more.

As you head into Planet Snoopy, there are activities, events and shows. One of the first things you run into is a truck with bubbles. And an occasional character meet and greet! Of course, the Peanuts characters are dressed in their halloween costumes. There’s also Sally Brown’s Creepy Crafts and Coloring. Your artwork will be featured on the coloring wall!

The Peanuts Showplace features quite a few shows, including Halloween Hullabaloo; Monster’s Lip Sync Madness; The Monsters Are Coming Charlie Brown; and the Friday Cat Puppet Show. Linus’ Great Pumpkin Patch is near the showplace and children 12 and under are invited to stop in and pick out a free pumpkin.

Peppermint Patty’s Hay Bale Maze is next to the Carousel. It’s a cute maze that offers quite a few dead ends. Pig Pen’s Foam Zone is sure to be a hit with the kids under 36 inches tall.

Heading over to the Carolina Boardwalk area is the Sleeping Giant. Try not to wake up this 12 foot tall giant…

Back by the Dodgems and Plants VS Zombies is the petting zoo. During my visit it was presented by Darby Acres Farms and they had quite a few different types of animals.

Don’t forget that there are other events. There’s a costume contest, a dance party, a costume parade, and trick or treating at various stations throughout the Great Pumpkin Fest from 3-5.

And parents, the set decorations for Scarowinds are up during the daytime. A lot of the displays were extremely gruesome and inappropriate for children. And me. Just keep that in mind as you walk through different areas of the park.

Are you going to visit the Great Pumpkin Fest at Carowinds?

Carowinds 2018 Announcements!


Check out my YouTube video about the 2018 Carowinds Camp Snoopy expansion:

  • Expansion will bring six new attractions, including an 8,000 square foot play area
  • New FREE Pre-K Pass introduced

Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 16, 2017 – Carowinds will debut a newly expanded kids’ area, Camp Snoopyopening for the spring 2018 season. Formerly known as Planet Snoopy, Camp Snoopy will feature new rides, a climb and play area and a more natural looking midway that celebrates the beauty of the Carolina wilderness. Also new for 2018 is the Pre-K Pass, a season pass offering free admission to children ages three to five.

The Camp Snoopy playtime spot will feature five new rides:

  • Camp Bus: Buckle up on the wacky camp bus and take a ride that will lift guests into the air and back down to the ground in smooth extensions.
  • PEANUTS Trailblazers: Get behind the wheel of a Jeep-themed vehicle and burn rubber on a small, round speedway.
  • Kite Eating Tree: Ride along in a kite vehicle that travels up and down a tree.
  • Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies: Take a trip in a “mud buggy,” where guests will rotate around the popular Pig Pen character while bouncing on a bumpy ride.
  • Woodstock Whirlybirds: Spin around in an oversized birds nest on this classic ride.


In addition, an 8,000 square foot climb and play area, Beagle Scout Acres, will be added. Children can explore the wide open space with three all-new features:

  • The youngest adventurers will be able to gather in a fenced-in toddler area with lots of hands-on activities.
  • A new play hill will be an open area for guests to enjoy slides and climb on a turf covered mound.
  • Playground wood structures will have hands-on interactives, slides and plenty of things to climb.

The child care facility and Snack Shack restaurant will receive improvements as well.

Also for 2018, Carowinds will introduce the Pre-K Pass, a free season pass specifically for children. The Pre-K Pass provides complimentary admission for kids three to five years of age throughout the 2018 season as well as the remainder of 2017.  Online pre-registration is required.

“The expansion of our kids’ area along with the introduction of the Pre-K Pass puts Carowinds as a top destination for families,” said Pat Jones, Carowinds vice president and general manager. “The new Camp Snoopy area joins our world-class attractions such as the record-breaking Fury 325 giga coaster and the massive Carolina Harbor water park in offering features that meet the needs of guests ranging from three to 23 to 93, providing unique opportunities for creating family memories.”

Guests may purchase a 2018 Gold Season Pass at the lowest price of the year. 2018 Gold Season passholders receive unlimited access to Carowinds as well as its Carolina Harbor water park in 2018, along with free admission to SCarowinds and WinterFest, access to special passholder-only events, plus one free visit during the remaining 2017 season. The special pricing ends October 29, 2017.

Carowinds Rides: Family and Thrill Rides!

Carowinds Rides: Family and Thrill Rides!

If you love roller coasters, then you’re familiar with the Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, NC. But what about other Carowinds rides that are for families and kids? For people that might not want to ride roller coasters or might be too big for Planet Snoopy?

Check out my video featuring the family and thrill rides of Carowinds!

Carowinds Rides: Family and Thrill Rides Video

Since opening in 1973, Carowinds has had a long history as an amusement park catering the locals in North Carolina and South Carolina. Planet Snoopy, the young kid’s area, has always had a great selection of rides, even when it opened in 1975 as Hanna-Barnerra Land. Carowinds is also the place to go for roller coasters, with rides like Fury325, Afterburn, Woodstock Express and Carolina Goldrusher.

Carowinds Rides

The Dinosaurs Alive walk-thought attraction is a must for Dino fans. You get some great views of Intimidator, Afterburn and the Woodstock Express (pictured) from Dinosaurs Alive!

Most amusement parks are missing great family rides like those found at Disney theme parks. With almost 40 attractions at the park, you do find a good mixture of different types of rides suitable for all ages and interests.

The electro-Spin is one of the “new-to-Carowinds” rides for 2017. Cedar Fair, Carowinds owner, bought the four rides in Europe and installed them at Carowinds.

Carowinds opened the County Fair section this summer (2017) and added four flat rides to their roster of rides. The “new rides”  are all geared more towards the thrill-seeking families that might not want to ride coasters. Of course, coaster fans are going to love the rides, as well.

The Character Carousel in Planet Snoopy is the Philadelphia Toboggan Company #67 carousel and was built in 1923. It was moved to Carowinds in 1975 and is the oldest ride in the park.

I include three roller coasters in my video, because they are classic rides that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. You’ll find family rides and thrill rides scattered throughout the park, which makes it much easier for families and groups; there’s less of a need to split up if members want to do different attractions.

Carowinds even has a family restroom!

Do you have any favorite Carowinds rides?

County Fair at Carowinds!

County Fair at Carowinds—New Rides and More!

County Fair is the new area at Carowinds. It replaces the former County RFD (Rural Farm Delivery) area and is located between the Carolina Boardwalk and the entrance to the Carolina Harbor waterpark.

In 2015, the parent company, Cedar Fair, went shopping for vintage flat rides in Europe  to add to the North American properties (check out my video on flat rides, here). Carowinds is slated to be one of the biggest parks in the Cedar Fair chain and has a lot of room for expansion. Fans rejoiced because Carowinds would be getting some new attractions.

The County Fair section of the park was teased over the 2016 season with the Mayor of Carowinds proclaiming four more if he was re-elected. It was a fantastic marketing campaign, but it just didn’t get enough traction.

Carowinds County Fair Rides: the Do-Si-Do

The Do-Si-Do is a Huss Troika that let’s riders glide up, down and around. The central column rotates one direction while the gondolas rotate in the opposite attraction. The term troika is Russian for three, hence the three arms.

The Do-Si-Do looks like it’s a lot of fun and offers some minor airtime. Sadly, I didn’t get to try it out on my visit. While in line, it broke down.

Carowinds County Fair Rides: Rock’n Roller

Rock N Roller is a music express from Mack Rides. The ride is based off of older caterpillar-style rides and you might know them as himalayas. The sloped hills make ample opportunity for squishing whomever is on the outside of the car.

The ride vehicle actually looks like a record!

There’s some cute theming with WNDZ as the local radio station’s call number and also standing for the Winds of Carowinds.

The photo opportunity near the entrance says “Property of Dan Zing Beets, Charlotte, NC”—because it is on the North Carolina side of the park. And the dancing beats.

Carowinds County Fair Rides: Rock’n Roller

The Flying Cobras is the renamed and repainted Carolina Cobra by Vekoma. It’s still a slow-loading (and painful) Vekoma roller coaster but, they’ve added a backstory to the ride!

County Fair: Flying Cobra’s Backstory!


With Chet in flight you know you’re about to witness death-defying climbs, loops and drops as he maneuvers through the clouds at remarkable speed! His signature ‘Cobra Roll’ is sure to take your breath away! Enjoy pulse-pounding thrills as he swiftly, deftly and safely navigates the blue yonder.


Flip knows how to beat a hasty retreat! As Chet’s chief mechanic and business manager, he’s been on the wrong end of a prop more than once! Still, their brother bond is unshakeable, and Flip happily greases the gears and palms of the local law ro keep Chet flying and the turnstiles spinning.

County Fair Rides: The Zephyr

The Zephyr is a swing ride from Zeirer that takes you up and in a circular motion. The top also tips, which offers a wave-like movement.

The paint job on the Zephyr is fantastic!

County Fair Rides: The Electric Spin

The Electro-Spin is a Mondial top scan ride that is supposed to offer a freely rotating orbit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in service when I visited.

County Fair General

The Funnel Cakes eatery is a re-purposed building. This facility used to called Surfer Joe’s and was in front of the opening of the older water park. Right now, ice cream and the World Famous Funnel Cake are the only items served. It’s $9.99 and it’s topped with ice cream, strawberries, chocolate, caramel and whipped topping.

The former Fry Shack is now Fair Fries. during opening weekend, there still wasn’t signage on the quick-service eatery. According to the Carowinds web site: Fair Fries will feature…fries, but also traditional County Fair staples like corn dogs, fried corn, hot dogs and more! It looks like it will be a welcome reconfiguration with some fun picnic seating.

There were a few props in the area, like this ticket booth, which lists rides that aren’t in the park but help to give it that 1950s feel. And several photo spots that you would see in tourist destinations.

This truck prop really confused me. I haven’t run across anything like it in any of my research on amusement parks and fairs. Plus, those are real phone numbers, but I haven’t called any of them. I can only imagine that it’s an amusement ride for tours of an area. Do you know what it’s for?

There were several other photo props in the area. They ranged from a 1950s outer space theme to a fair awards presentation. They were a very cute way to share photos on social media.

This horse statue was located in front of the Flying Cobras and didn’t make any sense to me at all. A comment on my YouTube video stated that it had been replaced with a cobra.

Check out my County Fair Opening Weekend Video

Make sure to check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos on theme park history, Disney books, roller coasters and visits to theme parks like Carowinds, Busch Gardens Tampa, Universal Studios Florida and Epcot!

County Fair Thoughts and Musings

The addition of the County Fair area and the four new flat rides is a much needed improvement for Carowinds. The park has lacked the smaller rides that will appeal to kids and adults that aren’t ready or willing to ride Fury 325, the Intimidator or the other roller coasters. The area, apparently, is still under construction and will have more theming elements added over the next few months. Right now, it seemed rather lackluster and felt like it could have been in any Cedar Fair park in the country. Carowinds has a very unique theme and history, and I’m glad to see that Cedar Fair is using the Carolina theme.

The biggest downside is that all of these attractions (including the Flying Cobras) are very slow-loading. The load and unload time is going to be about twice as long as the ride time. The rides are also part of the Fast Lane, which means that lines will be longer. I can imagine that on a busy day, that half of the seats will be taken by Fast Lane. I think that the only option is for Carowinds to have more attendants helping check safety latches and belts.

Overall, I love the new rides and can’t wait for more expansion in different areas. When Paramount owned the park, the move was towards thrill rides and coasters. Cedar Fair has done a great job of adding food locations and more family-friendly attractions. But they still need to adda really good wooden coaster.

What do you think about County Fair and the four new rides?

FTC Disclaimer: I own a Cedar Fair Platinum pass and was not reimbursed in any way, shape or form from Cedar Fair or Carowinds for this post.

Let’s Go to Carowinds Video #Don’tTellTomCruise

Let’s Go to Carowinds Video with MrCoaster1

Bill (MrCoaster1) and I shot two videos ranking the roller coasters of Carowinds. We also shot some odds and ends to make an odd video that Bill featured on his channel. Despite the inclusion of Batman, Linus and #TomCruise, we still didn’t get kicked out of the Carowinds amusement park.

Check out the video!

Head on over to MrCoaster1’s YouTube channel and leave a comment! (Tell him he needs more George in his videos.)

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