Rides, games, cotton candy and way too much junk food are at the center of many a childhood memory of the summertime family trip to the local amusement park. It may not have been much, but for a long holiday weekend or a summer outing, many times it was all we had.
Personally, some of my favorite memories include checking out the water rides with my little brother. Why we love them so much to this day – now that we’re both in our 40s – is beyond me. But I can tell you we gladly grabbed the seats on the front row because that’s where you got really wet, and laughed ’til we cried when we made a big splash at the end of the ride and got soaked. Drenched. And otherwise waterlogged, pun intended.
Back then, amusement parks were much simpler with typically a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and only one roller coaster. Going to Disneyland or Disney World was a once, maybe twice-in-a-childhood event. These days, some families go every year. The good news is there are a wider variety of parks available these days – everything from action-packed-thrill-a-minute roller coaster parks to water fun to historical re-enactments.
So, how’s a family to pick which theme park to explore?
Well, the Travel Channel recently selected their top five family-oriented theme parks. Here’s the run-down of which ones they picked, how much they cost, what’s particularly cool about the place, and where they’re located:
First, there’s something my brother and I would love – Water Country USA in Williamsburg, Virginia. Located on Water Country Parkway – natch – this park offers water cannons, slides, waterfalls, fountains and enough water to make the little swimmers in your family very happy. Water Country USA is a member of the Anheuser-Busch family and it’s located just three miles from the 100-acre Busch Gardens.
The attractions here are geared towards the younger set, but adults can have just as much fun in the Minnow Matinee Theater and Kid’s Kingdom. Be advised though, Water Country USA is only open from May 6TH through September 17TH.
And while you’re in Williamsburg, visit Colonial Williamsburg, a one-mile-long area of preserved buildings in the heart of the city. It has more than 20 nationally acclaimed historical attractions depicting the colonial and civil war eras in U.S. history. You can watch skilled craftspeople hand stitch shoes, make musical instruments and even sew together powdered wigs, using the tools and techniques of the colonial era. There are more than 80 restored buildings, including a jail, a mental hospital and the governor’s palace.
Six Flags originated in the 1960s as Six Flags Over Texas, located near Dallas-Fort Worth. Six Flags now consists of 28 parks in 12 states, and they’re not all alike. Some have water parks as well as theme parks, while others have animal or marine attractions. Six Flags is located in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and the Lone Star state. Something the kids will especially like are the Warner Brothers characters that roam around the parks.
Yes, you’re likely to run into Bugs Bunny, that “wascally wabbit,” Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck. The average Six Flags season runs April through October and the cost varies with each park.
Our next stop is Langhorne, Pennsylvania, home of Sesame Place. If Big Bird, Elmo, Kermit and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are objects of your child’s affection, this is the place for you.
These characters and all the others walk around the park and interact with the crowd. Kids can meet Bert and Ernie, and see the Sesame Street neighborhood, including Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can. Another cool part of the park is the Nets and Climbs attraction, where parents and kids alike can climb hundreds of yards of cargo netting. It’s about $32 a person and the park is open from May through October.
Carlsbad, California is the place to go if your child…or you…like LEGO® toys. LEGOLAND is the company’s first park in the United States. It’s designed specifically for kids age 3 to 12 and their parents. In LEGOLAND everything is made of…yup, you guessed it…Legos. There’s a life-sized gorilla, an Egyptian-type Pharaoh – complete with his own tomb, a ferocious polar bear with his very own ice-white cave, and even a wolf pack defending its pups.
For older kids, there’s the Aquazone Wave Racers. LEGOLAND is off Canon Road near Interstate 5 and it’s open from June through September.
And last, but certainly not least it’s…sing it with me, now…M-I-C…see the Magic Kingdom…K-E-Y…why?
Why? Are you kidding??
Yup, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is probably the penultimate amusement park. From Space Mountain to Dumbo The Flying Elephant, to the Animal Kingdom, to Epcot Center, to Disney-MGM Studios and the Water Parks…if you can’t find something to keep you amused and out of trouble at this place, then you’re a L-O-U-S-E.