The nation's slowing economy is taking its toll on Orlando, Fla., America's theme park capital, and on other theme parks throughout the nation that attract visitors from long distances.
Regional parks are faring better, and overall U.S. theme park attendance is expected to increase 5 percent over last year's 317 million visits, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
But in the middle of the summer when theme and amusement park visits are traditionally at their highest many parks are seeing a drop in attendance not seen in years. While most of the major U.S. theme parks don't release attendance figures, there are other numbers that tell the story.
In Orlando, home to seven of the most popular theme parks in the world, hotel occupancy rates were down this spring and passenger traffic at Orlando International Airport dipped more than 15 percent in April, the most recent month figures are available.
During the third quarter, the weakening economy caused a 7 percent to 8 percent dip in attendance at Walt Disney World's four theme parks in Orlando and a 5 percent to 6 percent decrease in attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif, according to Merrill Lynch analysts Jessica Reif Cohen and Andrew Slabin. In addition, hotel occupancy rates at both resorts were down almost 3 percent.
Disney's recently opened California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., was struggling to attract 9,000 to 12,000 guests a day, even though it can accommodate 33,000 people at one time, according to some estimates.
To boost attendance for the summer, officials have lowered California Adventure's entrance fee by $10 for adults and will allow one child in free with each paid adult admission. They've also brought back the Electrical Parade, a fixture at Disneyland until it moved to Florida in 1996.
They plan to open a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" attraction in September and have added smaller character shows.