NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

June 21, 2013

See a theme park like a VIP with no waits, hassles

America’s biggest theme parks will pack in around 120 million people this year.

That’s a lot of standing in long lines for roller coasters, juggling show schedules and figuring out when and where to eat. But there’s a way to eliminate the stress of making the annual trek to Disney, Universal, Six Flags and other popular parks.

Many now have VIP tours with perks usually reserved for celebrities — private tour guides, no waits for the biggest attractions, reserved seating at shows and parades, along with behind-the-scenes peeks at places normally off-limits.

All of this, of course, comes at a steep price.

The VIP tours at Six Flags parks in New Jersey and near Los Angeles come in at $299 per person. Cedar Point in Ohio charges $395 apiece for a full day of perks that include front-of-the-line access to its 16 roller coasters. Disney World’s VIP tour starts at $315 per hour for up to 10 people.

“Time is money and when you’re waiting in line, you’re wasting money,” said Joey Ray of Sparks, Nev., whose vacations usually revolve around theme parks.

The ability to bypass the lines means he can see everything in a day instead of staying an extra night or two at a park. Ray said he’s gone on a few of the VIP tours, including at Universal Studios Hollywood, where visitors get to see the studio’s costume and prop departments and walk through the courtyard in the back lot where “Back to the Future” was filmed.

Just seeing that was worth the splurge, he said.

Those in the theme park industry say there are two distinct types of visitors now — those who closely watch what they spend and those who are willing to shell out more but are limited by time.

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