Theme park attendance in North America rises 3% in 2011


Theme park attendance rose nearly 3% in North America last year, according to a new report.

But about half of that increase was because of one attraction — the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure park in Orlando, Fla.

None of the major theme parks makes its attendance records public, but annual estimates are made by AECOM, a Los Angeles engineering and consulting firm. Those figures were used in a report released by the Themed Entertainment Assn. trade group.


The report pegged the overall 2011 year-over-year rise in attendance at 2.9%, compared with an estimated 1.8% increase in 2010.

At Islands of Adventure, 2011 attendance jumped to 7.7 million, a 29% increase, according to the report.

Without that jump in attendance, overall theme park attendance growth in North America would have been only 1.6%, the report said.

Even though the boost in attendance in North America was due in large part to one attraction, the overall rate was a good sign, Brian Sands, a vice president at AECOM, said in the report.

“It’s a very positive indicator of solid growth,” Sands said. “This was despite continued weakness in the U.S. economy.”

Most of Southern California’s major theme parks enjoyed modest increases in attendance in 2011, according to estimates in the report.

Disneyland, Southern California’s most popular theme park, drew an estimated 16.14 million visitors, a 1% increase from 2010. Next door, Disney California Adventure Park hosted 6.34 million visitors, also a 1% increase.

Universal Studios Hollywood had 5.14 million visitors, a 2% increase from 2010.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park drew 3.65 million visitors, a 1.5% increase.

And Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia hosted 2.7 million visitors, a 3.8% increase.

The only major park in Southern California to get a big boost was SeaWorld San Diego. It hosted 4.29 million visitors, a 13% jump. The increase was at least partly because of the show One Ocean, starring not only Shamu but also Baby Shamu.