A Guide to the Theme Parks

Universal Studios Orlando, Florida

Movie-making and TV production, on a vast area strolled by look-alike movie characters--Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields. After a a major expansion, it now rivals the major Disney parks in size. Current standout features at Universal Studios Florida: "Men in Black: Alien Attack," "Twister" and "Terminator 2:3D," plumbing new depths of mindlessness, a simulated-motion "ride" where one sits on a vibrating seat in a 700-person auditorium, surrounded by movie screens showing images that whoosh and careen and plunge and soar. Its purpose: to scare you, to make you dizzy and seasick, nothing else. (Someone should remind the Orlando planners that the late Walt Disney created the nation's first major theme park for the specific purpose of supplying an alternative to the roller coasters and mindless "whip-em" machines of the average carnival--the only entertainment that he was able then to find for his own children. Sad to see how his successors--for Universal is one of the successors--lack the imagination to design pavilions appealing to innocent mirth and dreams, as Walt Disney did in the "Magic Kingdom".) In 2000, Universal demonstrated improved creativity with the opening of a second Orlando park, Islands of Adventure. Although its attractions, situated on islands based on Jurassic Park, and characters from Marvel Comics, Dr. Seuss, and the funny papers, are mostly corporate tie-ins or copies of West Coast originals, they're closer to the coaster-and-screams standard held by traditional theme parks such as Six Flags. Prices for either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure are $49.95 for adults, $40.95 kids aged 3 to 9, and toddlers are free, but these rates are sometimes subject to reductions based on widely circulated coupons or tour package promotions. For information on either park, call 407/363-8000. Web site: usf.com.

Contacting the major parks

Here's a listing of more major parks throughout the country (particularly the ones that might be selected as a multi-day or overnight destination), plus a few American favorites abroad:

California

  • Disneyland and California Adventure, Anaheim, CA, 714/781-4043, disneyland.com/
  • Knott's Berry Farm,Buena Park, CA, 714/220-5200, knotts.com/
  • Paramount Great America, Santa Clara, CA, 408/988-1776, knotts.com/
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA, 661/255-4100, sixflags.com/
  • Six Flags Marine World, Vallejo, CA, 707/643-6722, sixflags.com/

Colorado

  • Six Flags Elitch Gardens, Denver, CO, 303/595-4386, sixflags.com/

Florida

  • SeaWorld Adventure Park, Orlando, FL, 407/351-3600, seaworld.com/
  • Walt Disney World(including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom), Lake Buena Vista, FL, 407/W-DISNEY, disneyworld.com/

Georgia

  • Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell, GA, 770/948-9290, sixflags.com/

Illinois

  • Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, IL, 847/249-4636, sixflags.com/

Kentucky

  • Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville, KY, 812/941-7707, sixflags.com/

Louisiana

Maryland

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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