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September 3, 2013

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American Theme Parks – VIP tours and VIP passes

by Jason Dutton-Smith
Manta® flying roller coaster at SeaWorld® Orlando

America is the theme park capital of the world. With over 120 million people, or five times the Australian population visiting a theme park every year, this can mean long lines and wait times. So why wait? Most parks now offer VIP tours and passes to help you skip the queues.

Disneyland VIP Tour

It’s dubbed the happiest place on Earth and arguably the most famous theme park in the world today. Disneyland VIP tours offer a customised visit to fast track you through to see more in less time. Let’s break it down starting with what you receive for your hard earned dollars.

  • Start any time of your choosing during park hours
  • Service of a highly knowledgeable tour guide
  • Insider stories and insights, personalised service
  • Reserved seating at main shows and night time spectaculars
  • Reservations at select restaurants (meals not included)
  • Complementary valet parking at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

Cost: $315 per hour with minimum 6 hours for one guide. Up to 10 people included. If more than 10 extra hourly fee applied
Entry fee: Not included, must be purchased separately per person (starting from $92 per adult)
Thoughts: For minimum cost of $1,890 plus your entry fee, I would expect a little more such as free entry to the park, front of line passes and at least one meal option. But to have a personal guide offering insights to the most famous theme park in the world and mapping your day out for you takes away a lot of hassle. Most visits to Disneyland are once in a life time so doing it in style is always a plus.


Universal Studios VIP Experience

Welcome to the home of Hollywood movie and TV productions and one of our favourite theme parks. Universal Studios has all the great theme park attractions such as rides and shows with the added attraction of backlot tours, movie sets, sound warehouses and movie magic secrets revealed.

  • Private VIP lounge with breakfast
  • Gourmet lunch in a private dining room
  • Valet parking and private entry/exit from the park
  • Exclusive backlot tour access with private trolley and guide
  • Access to backlot film locations not available to the public (Desperate Housewives Wisteria Lane, New York City street sets and the Bates Motel up close)
  • Behind the scenes look at the prop warehouse and lighting and sound studio (not available to the public)
  • Front of line pass and unlimited ride pass all day
  • Best seats for all shows

Cost: $299 per person
Entry fee: Included in price (normally starting from $84 per adult)
Thoughts: This is great value for anyone on a time limit. To have entry, meals, private guide and access not available to the public is quite the draw card and will allow time savings during busy periods which is basically year round.


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SeaWorld San Diego VIP Expedition Tour

SeaWorld has all the thrill rides and experiences expected of a world class theme park and leads the way in educational programmes and awareness. The SeaWorld team is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of marine life. A visit to SeaWorld is always guaranteed to be a fun family day out and their VIP experience will take you behind the scenes and up close to all your favourite animals.

  • 3 hour private guided walking tour
  • Up-close poolside dolphin encounter
  • Behind the scenes of Shark Encounter
  • Feeding of endangered animals such as turtles, flamingos and sea lions
  • Reserved seats for two animal shows
  • Front of line access to select thrill rides
  • Visit to the Animal Care Centre for a behind the scenes look
  • Expert knowledge and insight from an experienced guide

Cost: $1,200 for up to 15 people
Entry fee: Not included and to be purchased separately (starting from $79 per adult)
Thoughts: If travelling with a small group of 15 people this is great value at $80pp. A unique experience to get up close to the animals and enjoy a line and wait time free experience plus access to normally closed off areas.

Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego.

Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego.


Six Flags – Great America Chicago VIP Standard Tour

With 13 locations throughout the U.S.A. including one in Canada, Six Flags is a great value family entertainment location full of rides and activities. While each location has different pricing and inclusions, we look at Six Flags Chicago having visited this park ourselves.

  • Free admission to the park
  • Free parking
  • 4 hours with a professional guide
  • One snack, one meal, sport bottle with unlimited refills
  • Unlimited front of the line ride access with a ‘Flash Pass’
  • Character meet and greet
  • Reserved show pass
  • $10 in games vouchers
  • Single attraction voucher (Winners Circle or Sky Trail)

The inclusions above are for the Standard VIP Tour and other packages are available.
Cost: $250 per person
Entry fee: Included with tour costs (normally $47pp)
Thoughts: A great family day out with comparison in Australia to Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. A cheaper option is to purchase tickets separately (entry from $47 and front of line pass from $55) but with the services of a personal guide it offers a unique angle.


Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida – Elite Adventure Tour

A unique version of the modern theme park, Busch Gardens offers thrill rides, live shows, animal attractions and adventures such as a Serengeti Safari and Elephant experience. Part of the SeaWorld group of attractions, Busch Gardens is part theme park and part animal adventure and educational experience.

  • Continental breakfast and guide meet and greet
  • Personal guide for 7 hours to plan your days adventure
  • Front of line pass to all rides and attractions
  • Close up encounter on the Serengeti Safari
  • Complimentary lunch

Cost: $199 per person
Entry fee: Not included. Prices start from $89 per adult
Thoughts: This is a great all encompassing theme park, a cross between a regular theme park with its rides and SeaWorld with its animal and marine attractions. The park itself is well worth a visit and one of America’s favourites.


Cedar Point, Ohio VIP Tour

Winner of ‘Best amusement park in the world’ fifteen years in a row and dubbed ‘roller coaster capital of the world’, Cedar Point Ohio has more thrill rides than ones stomach may be able to handle. Other attractions include a water slide park, live entertainment and kids attractions. Just watch how many hot dogs are consumed as approximately 91 miles of hot dogs are sold each year!

  • Personal guide for up to 8 hours
  • Early entry up to one hour prior to scheduled public times
  • Front of line access to rides
  • Reserved tables at restaurants (meals not included)
  • Priority seating at live shows
  • VIP seating to the Luminosity show
  • Free parking

Cost: $395 per person
Entry fee: Included in the fee (normally from $55 per adult)
Thoughts: Cheaper to purchase ticket and front of line pass to rides (with later starting from $60 per adult). Priority seating and personal guide to help plan your day are a nice and convenient touch though.

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