Theme Park thrills

Theme Park thrills

By Sydni Ellis

Click, click, click. Your heart beats faster with each passing second. Click, click. Your stomach is clenching-the cotton candy you ate earlier is threatening to reappear. Click. You’re holding your breath at the top. Whoosh! You’re hurtling full speed ahead with your hands in the air and hair in your face while screams and laughter surround you. This roller coaster may only last two minutes, but it will be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life! 

After a busy school year, summer is a welcome break for the kids and the parents – no more homework, practice or car pick-up lanes for three months, yay! This June, take the kids to the coolest theme parks around the world. Hop on high-speed, twisting roller coasters to feel your stress melting away, sample exquisite cuisine, enjoy next-level entertainment and be transported to a place where anything is possible. You’ll know you’re having a good time when the kids actually put down their phones – and your face literally hurts from smiling so much. 

Thrilling rides are the main attraction. After all, that stomach-dropping, why-did-I-agree-to-this feeling you get on a roller coaster can’t exactly be recreated at home. Adrenaline junkies must visit Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, which opened in 1870. It is home to 70 rides, including maXair, one of the largest pendulum rides across the globe; Skyhawk, a 103-foot-tall swing set that takes you 12 stories high at 65 mph; and Steel Vengeance, the award-winning hyper-hybrid roller coaster that holds the world record for tallest, fastest and longest hybrid coaster at 205 feet, 74 mph and 5,740 feet!  

New for 2019 at Cedar Point is the Forbidden Frontier on Adventure Island. Here, you can test your wits, go on secret missions, raft across the Snake River Swamp, help with farm chores, find the missing treasure map and more. Also, come June 7-30 to see the new Frontier Festival. Families will be transported to the Old West, where you can make music on antique metal items, take line- and square-dancing classes, and eat delicious comfort food like bison chili, toasted sunflower vinegar slaw and wild strawberry shortcake.

A different kind of food is cooking at Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C. Granny Byrd’s county fair-winning jam is made with copperhead snakes – but you weren’t supposed to know that! Once you discover the secret, make your getaway on the brand-new Copperhead Strike coaster.

 This ride has a definite sting: it’s filled with fast loops and turns and more head-over-heels inversions than any double launch coaster in the country. While you’re here, be sure to check out the steel coaster, Fury 325, which is the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster at 325 feet tall with speeds up to 95 mph! 

Speaking of high-flying thrills, Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario, has launched the Yukon Striker this year. This steel coaster is the fastest (80mph), longest (3,625 feet) and tallest (245 feet) dive coaster in the world! This ride is not for the faint of heart. With its floorless trains, 90-degree drop that goes through an underwater tunnel, and the only 360-degree loop for a dive coaster, this coaster is unbelievable.

Trade steel for wood and ride on The Legend at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., featuring the world’s first spiral drop. Don’t lose your head on this wooden coaster as the Headless Horseman chases you through twists and turns. Wooden coaster fans will also like the Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn. This rickety ride speeds through a scenic mountain landscape of forests and boulders (hence, the name); although you probably won’t get to appreciate it as you’ll be distracted by the many sharp drops! 

Because Lake Compounce is the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the country, it offers some vintage attractions to enjoy as well. Sit in the 1911 open-air trolley or hop on a majestically painted horse on the carousel built in 1898. If you love history, make sure to stop by Luna Park in Brooklyn, N.Y. to ride the Coney Island Cyclone. This classic roller coaster is 92 years old, and people are still excited by its 12 drops, 27 elevation changes and drops at 60 mph. 

Head overseas to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England for more exhilarating experiences. This park is home to the Revolution coaster, which had the first 360-degree loop in Europe. Also check out The Big One, the tallest coaster in the U.K. standing at 235 feet, and the ICON, the first double launch coaster in the U.K. Later, take the kids to Nickelodeon Land inside Pleasure Beach to meet your favorite characters, go for a spin on SpongeBob’s Splash Bash or Dora’s World Voyage, and eat delicious food. 

Sometimes the best part of a theme park is, ahem, the theme. Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. takes the cake (or the candy bar) for being the most delicious theme park around. Billed as “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hersheypark offers a chance to meet life-size Twizzlers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Kisses while eating their bite-sized counterparts. And it’s not all about the sugar – you can also enjoy 70 interactive attractions including 14 roller coasters and many entertaining shows. New this year is the Reese’s Cupfusion ride, notable for its many targets (more than any other ride in the world) for guests to shoot at as they protect the chocolate factory. 

Another can’t-miss destination is Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Owned by Grammy-winning legend Dolly Parton, Dollywood is full of delights – and is known as one of the friendliest the parks ever! Families will love everything, from soaring high on the Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster, to touring a replica of Parton’s own Tennessee Mountain Home and tour bus. In addition, Wildwood Grove opened this year, a charming spot where you can soar in the Dragonflier, dance through the air in The Mad Mockingbird and celebrate the beauty of fall inside a floating leaf in Treetop Tower. 

Finally, no theme park aficionado can skip out on two of the most popular ones in the country: Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Just walking through these parks is a joy, as the characters, food and decor has been designed with impeccable detail. Both parks are offering amazing new experiences for guests this summer. Opening June 13 at Universal is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, featuring an incredibly lifelike Hagrid from the Harry Potter series as your guide, who will take you through the Forbidden Forest to see amazing magical creatures. At Disneyland, you can travel to a galaxy far, far away-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge officially opened May 31. Jedi’s-in-training can board the Millennium Falcon and steer it on an adventure through space that would make Han Solo proud. Inside Galaxy’s Edge, you can also build your own lightsaber and droid, drink blue or green milk like Luke Skywalker, and take home exclusive souvenirs. 

Amusement parks spell “f-u-n” for everybody! Whether you stick to the kiddie rides or you let loose on the most intense roller coasters, you will have a great time making memories and sharing smiles. The only thing more thrilling than riding roller coasters is bringing joy to your family. Buckle up – this summer is going to be a wild ride!

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