Cliff's Amusement Park: A Family Owned Park for Family Fun

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
At Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque, N.M., generations have come to enjoy the versatile park, which combines both amusement park and waterpark attractions. Originally opened in 1959, the park has 24 rides for all ages, as well as a wide array of food options, retail, and carnival games.

According to Director of Marketing Lance Smith, this year, few changes have been planned, but in 2019, new rides and attractions are definitely in the works. “This year, most of the changes are within our infrastructure, things like new roofing, pavement, sidewalks, and new retail shops. From an attraction standpoint we are gearing up for our 60th year next year.”

Presently, the park has plenty of popular attractions. “I would say the most popular is our New Mexico Rattler, our hybrid wood and steel roller coaster,” Smith relates. “It’s just a lot of fun, a unique rollercoaster that winds through the entire park rather than being in one location within itself. That makes it unusual compared to other parks’ rollercoasters. You can literally zoom on it through the entire park.”

For family groups, Smith reports that the most popular attraction is the park’s Rocky Mountain Rapids. “That is a log flume ride, and it’s just a classic. It’s been around for several years, and part of its popularity in the summer is due to the fact that it is quite hot here in New Mexico, and the ride finishes with a cool splash. And of course, it’s good for all ages, so the whole family can enjoy the ride.”

Thrill rides such as the spinning, light-filled MusikExpress and the tower drop ride Cliff Hanger are also popular in the park.

While the park is relatively small in terms of acreage and square footage, Smith states that “We really maximize what we have with the amount of attractions we fit in here. And, we don’t neglect really investing in our landscaping and overall park experience for all guests. We want to make sure that everyone, not just the riders, but those who just walk around and spend the day here, have a great time.” To ensure that, Smith notes that “We spend a lot on seasonal flowers and natural shade structures with trees. We try to maximize what we’ve got not just in terms of space but by knowing how important it is to have an aesthetically pleasing park.”

The family-owned park is coming up on its third generation of family owners. “We started as an arcade, a kiddie land type park. In fact, we were known as Uncle Cliff’s Kiddieland. Originally, we focused on things for small children, but as we started adding other attractions, we also began to rebrand and we showed we were a park not just for younger kids but for guests of all ages. We re-branded in 1991, changing our name to Cliff’s Amusement Park at that time.”

At that point, according to Smith, the park began to add more thrill-type rides, and to embrace the idea that the park was enjoyable for ages one to one hundred. “We still have an entire section of the park devoted to small children, from babies in laps to up to eight or nine years old. We still call that section of the park Kiddieland,” Smith says.

In planning for the future, he explains that the park looks at new rides across all demographics. “Above all we are very family friendly. And moving forward, I think with being in New Mexico and the heat in the summer, one of our focuses will be more water park rides. The water attractions we have now really appeal to a lot of our weekday traffic.” He notes that for now, the wet attractions Cliff’s provides are more water elements than they are actual rides.

“In 2012, we added a section called Water Mania to the park,” Smith asserts. “It consists of two different elements. One is Water Monkeys, which is a large water element with features such as bucket dumps and fun ways to squirt people. It’s really like a large water jungle gym. The second element is called Little Squirts, and it’s more of a splash pad feature. It’s tailored for kids under 42 inches in height. The Water Monkeys section can get a little chaotic, with kids running to get under the bucket dumps and that type of thing. So that’s for older kids. Little Squirts offers guests a safe place for small children to get wet without being bumped into by older children.”

When it comes to marketing, Smith says the park uses a combination of traditional vehicles such as radio, TV, and billboards, as well as email blasts. However, over the last two years Smith says “We have been reallocating quite a bit of our marketing spin to online digital ads on social media, SEO optimization, and even geo-fencing, to be able to target customers based on other locations or attractions they are visiting.”

The park opens in April of each year, and has seen a steady increase in attendance over the past five years, according to Smith. “We anticipate that 2018 will be a great season for us. Weather of course we can’t control, and it plays a big impact on our overall season. We’ve been blessed with good hot weather in the past year, the kind of weather that really brings people out.”

Smith wants park guests to know that the park strives to deliver what he calls the “ultimate family experience. We try to pay attention to all the details that appeal to visitors from toddlers to pre-teens, teens, parents, and grandparents. With being in this business for 60 years, we’re on our third generation of visitors. We have people who came to us as a kid and are now looking to bring their grandchildren here. It’s important to us to know that we’ve made an impact for multiple generations,” he attests.