On your next family vacation, test your fear and keep your cool on thrilling new coasters and giant water slides across the country.
Bring the kids somewhere really cool this sizzling hot summer on your next family vacation. New amusement parks, water parks and rides abound for summer 2008. Whether on vacation from out of town, or taking a staycation, a mini-jaunt to your local theme park is an affordable alternative to increasingly pricey traveling abroad. Moreover, many parks offer admission discounts when you buy online or when you go in groups. So if you’re tired of the same loop-de-loop roller coaster at your favorite park, check out these new, cheap thrills across the country.
Hard Rock City, Myrtle Beach, SC. This 55-acre park includes roller coasters, live shows, shopping and children’s play areas. The main features are the six genre-specific “rock environs,” including: Born in the USA, Cool Country and British Invasion. Admission: general, $50; military, $40; groups of four or more, $40 each. Web special: $45 with two-day notice. www.hardrockpark.com
Aquatica, Orlando, Fla. Across the street from SeaWorld Orlando, this 80,000-square-foot waterpark is modeled after the South Seas and features 36 waterslides, river rides, lagoons, sandy beaches and up-close encounters with dolphins, exotic birds and fish. Admission: adults, $38.95; children ages 3-9, $32.95; children under 2, free. www.aquaticabyseaworld.com
Jungala, Tampa, Fla. A 4-acre section of Busch Gardens in Tampa, Jungala features a zip-line ride above a jungle canopy and tours of Bengal tiger and orangutan habitats offer close encounters with these jungle species. Busch Gardens admission: adults, $64.95; children ages 3-9, $54.95. Busch Gardens offers “second day free” admission with one single-day ticket purchase. www.jungala.com
Nickelodeon Universe, Bloomington, Minn. A 7-acre indoor theme park inside the behemoth Mall of America with rides for young children to teens, including a SpongeBob SquarePants roller coaster. Admission to the park is free—but you have to pay to ride. Unlimited ride wristbands cost $29.95. Check the park’s Web site for a $5 off coupon. www.nickelodeonuniverse.com
Soak City, Sandusky, Ohio. Part of the Cedar Point park, Soak City features inner tube river rides, waterfall chutes and waterslides—including one where riders slide in complete darkness. Admission (not attached to Cedar Point) starts at $29, for ages 3-61. Combo tickets (for both parks) also are available. soakcity.cedarpoint.com
Kalahari Zambezi Outdoor Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells, Wisc. Kalahari Resort’s 110,000-square-foot indoor entertainment complex features a six-story Ferris wheel, laser tag, a ropes course, zip line and a water roller coaster. Admission: $34 per person, Mon.-Thur.; $39, Fri.-Sun. Evening admission: $25. Special deals are available for Kalahari Resort guests. www.kalahariresort.com
The Simpsons Ride: Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. Tour with the Simpson family to Krusty the Clown’s new theme park, Krustyland. A motion simulation vehicle jolts and twists in accordance with film projection.
Thunderhawk: Michigan’s Adventure, Muskegon, Mich. The state’s first suspended roller coaster lets legs dangle as riders hang on for dear life through five upside-down loops and an 86-foot drop at the get-go.
Firefall: California’s Great America, Santa Clara, Calif. A thrill ride that drops 60 feet and twists through fire and water.
Skyscraper: Cedar Point. A giant propeller thrill ride that spins passengers up to 50 mph.
All Wheels Extreme, also at Cedar Point. The 25-minute extreme sports show features bikers, gymnasts, dancers, rollerbladers and skateboarders performing exhilarating stunts.
Ravine Flyer 2: Waldermeer Park; Erie, Penn. This 3,000-foot, wood-track, steel roller coaster features six tunnels, three giant drops (60 feet, 80 feet and 120 feet), views of Lake Erie and a crossing over a four-lane highway.
Voodoo: Dorney Park; Allentown, Penn. Suspended steel roller coaster featuring a 90-degree ascent, a 175-foot drop and 360-degree twists and turns.
The Dark Knight: Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. and Six Flags Great America near Chicago, Ill. Interactive, storytelling roller coaster that takes riders through six 180-degree turns through darkness until Batman comes to the rescue.
X2: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, Calif. Redesigned coaster with added visual and sound effects, 360-degree rotating seats and head-first drops. Also at Magic Mountain, a Thomas and Friends play area for children, featuring a Thomas the Tank Engine train ride.
Tony Hawk’s Big Spin: Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, in Vallejo, Calif. A spinning roller coaster, where riders sit facing each other in a four-person car that simulates big air jumps, spins and tricks on a skateboard.
Planet Snoopy: Cedar Point. A Peanuts-themed children’s play area with seven rides, including mini teacups and a rocket ship ride.
Wiggles World: Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, N.Y. Theme park based on characters from the popular children’s entertainers—The Wiggles.
Ravine Flyer II A roller coaster that crosses over a freeway? Sweeeet!!!