Join us on a whirlwind photo tour of the most scream-worthy thrill machines in the U.S.
YOUNG AT HEART
8 Record-Breaking Theme Park Thrills
They’re fast, they’re furious…and they all hold a special spot in the record books. From wet and wild waterslides to robotic roller coasters, these shriek-inducing rides will get you in gear for summer.
When to Go: Each morning, the park opens in two waves, with the front half opening at 9 a.m. and the back half opening at 10 a.m. Those who brave the early crowd can be first into the back section of the park, staking out a spot at the wave pool for the day. Late May, when the park first opens, is probably the least-crowded time to go, as most of the local schools don't let out until the first week of June. tickets $32.99 for adults, $28.79 for seniors and children 47 inches and below (rates reflect tickets purchased online), noahsarkwaterpark.com
America's Longest Duration Roller Coaster: The Beast, King's Island, Mason, Ohio
The Beast is a huge, well, beast of a coaster, covering a 35-acre, densely wooded area in the park, which lends a dark and eerie feel to the ride. The record-breaking running time—4 minutes, 10 seconds—is about a minute and a half longer than most of its counterparts, steel or wood. And, with a track length of about 1.4 miles (7,359 feet), the Beast also ranks as the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Two huge vertical drops of 135 and 141 feet, dark tunnels, and speeds of up to 65 mph make this wooden coaster just about as scary as they come. The Park: In 2011, King's Island opens the world's largest animatronic dinosaur park, Dinosaurs Alive!, with more than 60 life-size beasts. The park also includes a Snoopy-themed play area called Planet Snoopy for younger children. The on-site Boomerang Bay Water Park, included in the price of admission, includes the surf-able Pipeline Paradise and the huge, resort-like Great Barrier Reef wave pool, complete with chair-side waitress service.
When to Go: Since King's Island is open until 10 p.m. most evenings (and midnight on Saturdays during July), there's no reason to rush over right at opening. Rather, plan to arrive about 3 p.m., when the crowd clears out. Otherwise, the best times to visit are weekdays (excluding Fridays) and any day that the park is open during its shoulder season: April, May, and October (Sundays, especially, in October tend to be quiet). tickets $35.99 for adults, $31.99 for children and seniors (rates reflect tickets purchased online), visitkingsisland.com
The World's Longest Water Coaster: Wildebeest, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Santa Claus, Ind.
At a third of a mile long, the Wildebeest ranks as the world's longest water coaster. It all starts with a huge four-story drop, before plunging into six more drops and two tunnels, at top speeds of 25 mph. Seated with three of your closest friends in a toboggan-style boat, wearing just your suimsuit, that's pretty darn fast. The best part of all might be the uphill conveyor belt ride, meaning there's no leg-crushing climb to the top, like most other water rides in the country. The Park: A ticket grants admission to both Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, the attached theme park, which is divided into four holiday-themed lands (Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving). Opened in 1946, Holiday World was the first themed amusement park in the world, and it features a handful of coasters and family-friendly rides like bumper cars, spinners, and a huge tree house to climb on. Splashin' Safari offers high-volume wave pools, tube rides, and, new in 2011, an entire splash area called Safari Sam's SplashLand that is devoted to the little ones.
When to Go: As with most parks in the Midwest, hitting the spring and autumn shoulder seasons is always the best bet for less-crowded conditions, as are weekday mornings, when the park opens at 9:30 a.m. (get in early, and you can be first in line to enter the Splashin' Safari, which opens at 10:30 a.m.). tickets $42.95 for adults, $32.95 for seniors and those under 54 inches (kids ages two and under are free), parking is free, as are soft drinks, sunscreen, and use of inner tubes, holidayworld.com
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