George’s Favorite Books of 2020

George’s Favorite Books of 2020

Each year, there are more and more Disney- and theme park-related books published. As a theme park nerd, this makes me very happy, but it also means there’s a lot of wheat to separate from the chaff. And that’s part of why ImagiNERDing exists; I always want to present a fair and unbiased look at Disney and theme park books.

With the ease of self-publishing, it means that everyone can tell their theme park story or create their own Disney book. This is a double-edged sword: not only do we get an enormous amount of material, but it also means that quality control (editing, proof-reading, copy-editing, design, etc.) is often neglected. Regardless of the content, grammar, spelling, and style are all important and are a big part of whether a book makes my list.

Books, Books, and More Books from 2020

What follows is the list of my favorite books from the past year in chronological release date.

  • Rolling Through the Years: a Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology by Ken Miller—This is the ultimate history of Cedar Point and might be one of the greatest amusement park books ever written. It’s a huge book and is the most comprehensively detailed book about Cedar Point. And I always recommend that Disney park fans spend time visiting regional parks, like Cedar Point, because they offer a look into the growth and development of themed entertainment.

  • The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, and Paul Wolski—talk about the ultimate release for fans of Walt Disney and the history of the monorail! The book takes us on a trip through the different iterations of the monorail through history (no, Disney did not invent the monorail) and the development of monorails at Disney parks. Every Disney fan needs to own this!

  • Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks: Celebrations Around the World from Fall to Winter by Graham Allen, Rebecca Cline, and Charlie Price—this is a book that Disney fans have been waiting years for. It’s a massive book that looks at all the how the holidays are celebrated in all of parks, resorts, hotels, and cruise ships. There is a smattering of history, which is nice, but the majority of the 1900 photos are from the past few years. This is an important release, especially concerning the lack of celebrations happening in the parks in 2020 and for the many fans that aren’t able to travel. I enjoyed the book, mainly for the photos, but really with there had been more of a vogue on the history of the holidays in the parks.

  • Polishing the Dragons: Making EPCOT’s “Wonders of China” by Jeff Blythe—Polishing the Dragons is a perfect example of how small and independent publishing houses can offer incredible content that is well-written, well-designed, and, fortunately, well-edited! Disney fans will relish every sentence and they will devour Jeff’s book about the making of the Circle-Vision film. Seriously, I’m still amazed that there is a whole book dedicated to one subject. The book is awesome.

  • Boundless Realm: Deep Explorations Inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Foxx Nolte—I’ve known Foxx for more than ten years and her blog has been one of the main inspirations for what I do at ImagiNERDing. The Haunted Mansion is a fan favorite and the attraction has been plagued by a lack of a stated backstory. Foxx takes us very deep to explore all of the influences of the Imagineers that led them to make the spooky house on the hill. This book is amazing and deserves to be in every Disney and theme park fan’s collection.

Haven’t Quite Finished It Yet…

My Favorite Books of 2020?

There you have it: my favorite books from 2020. I’m often asked what my favorite book of the year is, and I’ve offered the ImagiNERDing Book of the Year in years past. But this year, there are so many books that deserve the title that I can’t make an effective choice. If you’re on a limited budget, the Disney Monorails, Polishing the Dragons, Imagineering an American Dreamscape, and Boundless Realm, are all fantastic titles that shed light into Disney history from vastly different points-of-view and offer a wonderful reading experience.

What Are Your Favorite Books from 2020?


FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of 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!

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!

Power Failure at Cedar Point

Power Failure at Cedar Point

My first visit to Cedar Point was in 2016 and I did not expect power failure at Cedar Point (or any other major amusement park). I mean, who expects a Cedar Point power failure?

The visit to Cedar Point was part of a larger coaster trip that also included Kings Island, Holiday World and Kentucky Kingdom. I read that there were occasions storms that blew though the peninsula, but I was more worried about the number of bugs I heard were in the area during the early summer.

One thing I quickly discovered was that it was best to keep your mouth shut on coaster rides at Cedar Point…just sayin’.

Cedar Point Blackout Video

It was very strange to walk around a major amusement park and not hear the familiar sounds of roller coaster lift hills or guests screaming down that first drop.

What was there to do during a blackout at Cedar Point? Food? Water? Restrooms?

How did Cedar Point staff handle the needs of guest safety and concerns?

Check out my other posts about Cedar Point, here.

Looking for an Amazing History Book on Cedar Point?

Check out Ken Miller’s new book: Rolling Through The Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology. You will love it!

Cedar Point History Book

Cedar Point History Book

This new Cedar Point history book by Ken Miller is so much more than a history book. Rolling Through The Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology is probably the greatest amusement park book ever written. Sure, I still love The Nickel Tour and the Marc Davis books, but Ken’s new Cedar Point book is the prototype for how a history and chronology book should be written.

The Cedar Point history book measures in at 12″ X 18″.

I bought my copy online and couldn’t wait to break the spine, so to speak. I’ve visited Cedar Point twice and I had two more trips scheduled this summer, but had to cancel them. I didn’t even read the blurb on the back of the book before starting this video so I could experience it firsthand.

Rolling Through The Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology Video Preview

Why Should I Buy This Book?

Fans of Cedar Point have to add this book to their collection. Besides offering an incredible history, it is a way to experience the much loved  amusement park like never before. Amusement and theme park fans should add this book to their collection due simply to the breadth and depth of knowledge and history presented in one place. Authors like Ken need the support to create lasting works like this. Die-hard Disney fans need to visit Cedar Point. I know many will scoff at this, but there is a reason that Cedar Point has been around for 150 years.

Check Out My Other Cedar Point Posts


Visit the publisher to order a copy, and tell ’em that George sent ya!

FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of this review (but not on this post). 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!

Cedar Point Roller Coasters: From Blue Streak to Valravn

Cedar Point Roller Coasters: From Blue Streak to Valravn

There are 16  roller coasters at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point is often call the Roller Coaster Capital of the World despite the fact the Six Flags Magic Mountain has 19 coasters. The Cedar Point roller coasters are varied by type and design and there is a semi-decent historical representation, from a classic wooden coaster to modern steel. After three visits, I was finally able to experience all of the coasters. Contrary to most opinion, I didn’t find the visit to be as satisfying as other parks. Even though Kennywood only has seven roller coasters, I enjoyed the Kennywood coasters more than anything else at Cedar Point. The roller coasters at Cedar Point were good, but I found their counterparts at other parks to be a much better experience. For instance, Thunderbird at Holiday World and Wild Eagle at Dollywood are much better wing coasters. Griffin at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa are much more enjoyable dive coasters.

Cedar Point Roller Coasters Video

Check out my Youtube video featuring the 16 Cedar Point roller coasters and a bit about their history. I also included important stats, like the manufacturer, height and speed. And any recored that were held or broken.

Cedar Point Roller Coasters List

  1. Blue Streak
  2. Cedar Creek Mine Ride
  3. Corkscrew
  4. Gemini
  5. Wilderness Run (Gemini Jr.)
  6. Iron Dragon
  7. Magnum XL-2000
  8. Raptor
  9. Rougarou (Mantis)
  10. Woodstock Express
  11. Millennium Force
  12. Wicked Twister
  13. Top Thrill Dragster
  14. Maverick
  15. Gatekeeper
  16. Valravn

I still recommend a trip to Cedar Point for roller coaster and theme park fans. The park is steeped in history and offers several unique experiences, like the Cedar Downs Racing Derby (which is a lot of fun). Surprisingly, Gemini and Cedar Creek Mine Ride were my two favorite roller coasters at Cedar Point.

Which Cedar Point coaster is your favorite?

Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point: Food and History!

Trying out the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point was on my list during my last trip to the theme park. It’s a local chain in Northern Ohio and this is their first season at Cedar Point. My first visit to Cedar Point last year was rained out when a storm blew out the power on the causeway. There was only power in the front part of the park; I was only able to eat at Pinks during that visit. I was looking forward trying some of the signature food at Cedar Point and I was very excited about this new venue.

The Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point is located in the Planet Snoopy area of the park. It’s in the former Joe Cool Cafe building.

Image courtesy CPFoodBlog http://cpfoodblog.com/

You can see the changes made to the building to offer a more grown-up dining experience. Black metal awning replaces the shingles. The porte-cochere (of sorts) was removed, giving the building a more streamlined entrance. Also, the dining bumpout was removed and they now have patio seating with umbrellas. Overall, it’s a significant change to the feel of this side of the Planet Snoopy area and blends in so much nicer with the historic Great Hall and the surroundings.

Inside the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Behind the check-in desk and near the doorway to the restrooms is a fantastic mural by Jake Kelly representing logos from Cedar Point’s history. Right off the bat, you understand that the Melt Bar & Grill celebrates the history of the resort. It’s going to be so much more than just a theme park eatery.

The mural, alone, is worth checking out. Just wait till you see the rest of the restaurant.

Along the walls are photos and other memorabilia. You’ll want to spend time investigating them after your meal. My only complaint is that the spot lighting on the photos and prints makes it almost impossible to get a good photo. And sometimes you might want to interrupt other diners, but don’t.

This was one of the oldest Cedar Point maps on display. It was amazing to see the changes.

There is a lot of concept artwork featured for different attractions and signs. You never see a lot of concept artwork outside of Disney circles, so it was very exciting to see all of the Cedar Point art. Do you remember any of these?

It’s actually kind of amazing that Cedar Point kept all of this ephemera in their warehouses. I do hope that guests will take a few moments to stroll through Cedar Point’s history.

The Food at Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point

Obviously, you’ll be getting food at the restaurant. Gourmet grilled cheese has become extremely popular over the past few years, and this is a perfect addition to Cedar Point’s lineup of offerings. Kids will still have a good time at this more grown-up restaurant..

The Monte Cristo at the Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point. Yum!

The choices on the menu seemed insurmountable: Mighty Macaroni; the Dude Abides; Hot Italian; the Cleveland Cheese Steak and more. I finally decided on the Monte Cristo, since it’s a dish I’ve had often at Disneyland and I know how it should taste.

Monte Cristo (honey ham, smoked turkey, Swiss, American, crispy battered & deep fried, powdered sugar, berry preserves for dipping)- $10.39 Half; $13.79 Whole

I was not prepared for how good and filling the sandwich was going to be. The best theme park food has always been at Dollywood, hands down. The sandwich at Melt Bar & Grilled was superb. The berry preserves were perfect and put the Monte Cristo over the top. Overall, the food offerings at Cedar Point, besides Pinks and Melt Bar & Grille, were simply average. I wonder why it takes an outside vendor to make a worthwhile food offering.

I wish that Walt Disney World would offer a restaurant with a historical perspective like this somewhere on property.

Have you tried Melt Bar & Grilled at Cedar Point or any of their other locations?


Looking for a book on Cedar Point’s history? Check out Images of America: Cedar Point.

Cedar Point Blackout of 2016!

The Cedar Point Blackout of 2016!

As part of my big coaster trip, I visited Kings Island, Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom and Cedar Point. Four parks, three days, 1600 miles and 42 coasters.

Of course, I knew I wouldn’t get all 42 coasters; sometimes a coaster is down or it might be too painful of a coaster (I’m looking at you Vortex and Mean Streak). Regardless, I was visiting three parks I’ve never been to before and getting a lot of coaster rides. Of course, no one expects a Cedar Point blackout. Sort of like how no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

This post is going to focus on Cedar Point and the Cedar Point Blackout (#CPblackout) on Sunday, June 5, 2016. Yes, I was at a major theme park and power was lost for most of the day.

I was at Cedar Point and parked before opening. I was able to tackle seven of the seventeen coasters at the park. In order of rides:

  1. Valravn
  2. Blue Streak
  3. Raptor
  4. Gatekeeper
  5. Iron Dragon
  6. Rougarou
  7. Millennium Force

Around 1:00, I made my way back to Frontier Town to do the mine coaster and Maverick. I instantly fell in love with the Frontier Trail in Frontier Town and spent some time exploring the shops and area. Closer to 2:00, the weather started to turn and my trusty weather app showed lightning strikes nearby. Almost all of the buildings at Cedar Point double as a storm shelter, so I stopped at the Addington Mill (transplanted from Franklin, NC) to wait out the storm.

The Addington Mill was a surprisingly good storm shelter. But the Candy Shoppe would have been better!

There’s a recurring show in the mill (really, just an audio history of the mill) and about halfway through the third time listening to it, the power went out in the building.

I assumed it was just a local power outage. Maybe one just for the building since it was an older structure. But after the storm abated and I was able to make it back into the sunlight, I noticed that the other shops were without power.

I ambled towards Maverick to see if anything was running.

It was obvious that a lot of the park was without power.

The first employees that I ran into were near the restrooms by the Last Chance Saloon/Palace Theatre. People were visiting the restrooms and discovering that the automatic flush toilets do not work in a blackout. Neither do automatic sinks.

The employees in the area by the saloon were offering three different tales, so to speak.

  1. The power is out throughout the entire park,
  2. There is power at the front of the park, or
  3. I don’t know what’s going on.

For the most part, I was able to get better and more reliable information from Twitter. Basically, during the storm, the heavy winds knocked down the power poles on the causeway (one of two roads on and off the island). Unfortunately, it also appeared that a few cars might have been trapped under power poles. I haven’t heard of any injuries and I hope those people were alright.

I understand not wanting to have employees give out the wrong information, but when you’ve got an island with 30,000 or so people on it and no power, well, that is an emergency situation. Imagine part of your city or town being without power? Anyway, I still think that all employees should have been able to answer basic questions. Especially concerning restrooms, water fountains, food and potential evacuation needs. The Cedar Point blackout could have been more serious but I’m glad it was a simple day.

From that point, I just walked around taking photos of empty areas and attractions not operating. It had a very post-apocalyptic feel.

While on Twitter, I ran across @MovieGuysCraig and @MovieGuysJosh. They were tweeting and using the hashtag #CPBlackout. It was very irreverent and I quickly joined in their conversation about repopulating the world from Cedar Point and hunting down squirrels for food. It helped to make a very strange day more enjoyable.

I spent the next few hours taking photos of Camp Snoopy, Gemini, Maverick, Mean Streak and talking to plenty of employees and other guests.

During the Cedar Point blackout, people would line up for the coasters and then run as soon as more rain appeared. This was one of the only moments of entertainment that I found!
No queues or coaster trains running during the Cedar Point blackout.
Gemini was another coaster on my list!

It was incredibly erie to be in an amusement park and have it be completely devoid of sound. There was no background audio, no clanking of roller coaster lift hills and no screams of guests going down the hills. The Cedar Point blackout was truly odd.

Camp Snoopy was very empty during the Cedar Point blackout. I did run into Sally and Snoopy who were posing for photos.

Employees were doing a lot of work. Some were cleaning areas while others were performing ride and vehicle maintenance.

When I finally made it to the Midway, I started to see and hear signs of life.  The scrambler was the first ride I saw operating. Shortly after that, I heard the strains of the modern music being blasted in the front part of the park.

At that point, almost all of the flat rides in the midway were functioning. All the rides in Planet Snoopy and the Kiddie Kingdom were running with almost no wait. All the drink stands and the restaurants were running, so I was able to eat and drink. There was still no word about being able to exit the island, but based on the lack of crowds, people were able to leave. I’d heard that the causeway was still blocked  but the Chaussee was open. The Chaussee is a two-lane road that is part of a residential neighborhood. It was destroyed in 1919 and rebuilt a few miles west.

The line for Guest Services was very long, but Cedar Point was on point during the Cedar Point blackout.

They had employees walking the line and offering guests a comp ticket to return during the rest of the season. Also, if you’d purchased a Fast Lane or Fast Lane Plus, they were creating an electronic record in their system to offer you another Fast Lane on your next visit. Most people were thrilled with the offerings and it made the queue move quickly.

But for people like me, who own a Platinum Pass to Cedar Fair parks, there wasn’t much to do. Especially since it’s a seven-hour drive to come back (and the cost of a hotel room). I felt that was strange, since a Platinum Pass holder has spent a lot more money and should be considered more valuable, right?

I left the park around 6:30 after it was announced that the Cedar Point blackout was causing the park to close at 7:00pm. The parking lot was nearly empty. It looked like there were only about 100 cars left in the lot. It did take me almost 30 minutes to travel down the Chaussee, which should normally be a 5 minute drive.

Cedar Point Blackout Photos from MovieGuys.org

Craig and Josh from MovieGuys.org were in the park that day and doing live tweeting. They offered to let me use a few of their images, as well. Check them out on twitter: @MovieGuysCraig and @MoviesGuyJosh.

Arcades with No Power sounds like a great name for a 1980s album.
All they’re doing is just playing in the water! – Craig
On the verge of trying out that new squirrel recipe!

A final shot from the MovieGuys as they exit the park. Have you ever seen the parking lot that empty?

Overall, I’m glad I was able to experience the Cedar Point blackout. Of course, I would have rather experienced the park on a normal day and done all of the coasters, but how often do you get to walk through a nearly vacant theme park?

A few thoughts on the Cedar Point blackout:

  • Make sure all employees can communicate what is happening. They were very nice, but you could tell they felt bad about not knowing what was going on.
  • Offer bottled water in the areas with no power. Or block off the areas with no power. Was it really ok for me to be walking around those areas?
  • Offer something to the Platinum Pass holders. Aren’t they Cedar Fair’s biggest fans? Why should they be penalized simply because they have the Platinum Pass?

Have you ever been in a Cedar Point blackout? Or another park with no power?