No matter how much an adventure park has to offer, its experiences can be, at times, static. To counter that, parks are offering special events or themed nights, both to attract a different crowd and mix things up for existing customers. Around the country, these events are gaining popularity and making money.
Ideas for themed activities at parks are endless, but many parks are building events around holidays, with Halloween the frontrunner. Two Outdoor Venture parks in Michigan—West Bloomfield Adventure Park and the Adventure Park at Frankenmuth—have had success with Haunted Forest nights held on weekends throughout October. Brittany Blaha, operations manager for both parks, says two models were used to target different crowds: a tamer haunted walk for younger kids at West Bloomfield, and a scarier haunted house experience for those ages 10+ at Frankenmuth.
The Haunted Walk offered a stroll through the woods, with various stops along the way where visitors trick or treat and watch skits performed by professional actors who were recruited from local theater groups. A popular pumpkin hunt followed the 25-minute tour. In the Frankenmuth haunt, actors from the same theater groups created a scarier experience with more gore.
Blaha says the idea behind the haunts was to bring attention to the park so that people would come back and enjoy climbing. By design, both haunts took place right near the aerial courses.
“We think it was successful in helping bring awareness to our park during the fall season, especially since people are more likely to stay indoors that time of year,” says Blaha. “In polling new customers about how they heard of us, some said the Haunted Forest was their introduction.” The parks plan to offer haunts again in October 2016.
The December holiday season offers myriad opportunities. Mount Hermon Adventures in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains opens its Redwood Canopy Tours at night for Twinkle Tours, which take place Thursdays through Sundays from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve. “Elf guides” lead the way through a forest covered in twinkling lights. Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas offers a similar experience, lighting up the park and offering a “Flying Elf” zip tour that gives riders a treetop view of a fully decorated Christmas Village and neighboring Reindeer Roundup.
BUILDING A FOLLOWING
At West Bloomfield and Frankenmuth, summer Glow Nights have a cult following. Each park hosts two or three Glow Nights a summer, with a limited number of tickets for each only available to buy in advance online.
For these evenings, lights are strung throughout the parks, and for $23, participants get LED lighting and glow attire, glow face paint stations, black lights, and sequenced laser lighting. They have the opportunity to win prizes and participate in trivia contests. Occasionally, a theme like the ‘80s or ‘90s is incorporated into a Glow Night. Climbers are invited to dress for the theme, and the park plays music from that era over the sound system. “We just like to remind people that this is a fun place,” says Blaha.
She adds that Glow Night is the parks’ biggest event and attracts a lot of attention. “It draws in a different crowd. We’ve had visitors enjoy it so much that they register right away as soon as tickets go on sale.”