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In depth

US Theme parks attract the family with Dazzling new Attractions


Teenagers might sulk a little more and wear black with a little more truculence as theme parks around the US look to the family as opposed to the teen market.  It might not be fair but adrenaline junkies seeking the newest, tallest or make-your-hair-go-whitest roller coaster buzz may just be slightly disappointed this summer.. .


With no records broken in 2007 , one park retiring a couple of its geriatric coasters and another actually re-engineering a wooden coaster to make it a less thrilling, 2007 looks set to be the year of the family as major operators chase the family and tween market (American “tweens”, ie 8-13s, pack a mighty $39 billion)  with a whole host of unique and inventive rides and atractions and Waterparks ramp up their pulling power with many new slides and wet rides.

There are of course a few new white knuckled rides out there (five inversions at more than 50 mph ? How about a coaster dropping at 95 degrees, that is steeper than the vertical ) but it is the slightly left field, the jaw-dropping family experiences which take centre stage this season.  Cue blue headed, bald men,   joke-texting monsters , 3D Lego racers and a taste of The Wild West as we takes a brief look at what’s in store…

Thrill Rides.

• Cedar Point’s Maverick at Sandusky, Ohio, takes guests on a 95-degree drop (steeper than straight down) and upto 70 mph.

• Dollywood’s Mystery Mine at Pigeon Forge, Tenn., may be the most highly themed new coaster, simulating a spooky, abandoned coal mine and drops 85 feet at 95 degrees. Top speed on the 2-minute, 30-second ride is 60 mph.

• Billed as the tallest — and first floorless — dive coaster , Griffon at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Va., is set in a French village, with a 90-degree drop and no floor..

• SheiKra, Busch Gardens Africa‘s 2-year-old coaster is loosing it’s floor, providing “an unobstructed view of the 70 mph rush.”

• Wicked at Lagoon near Salt Lake City is 110 feet high and goes up to 55 mph.

• Two Six Flags locations (St. Louis and San Antonio) feature Tony Hawk’s Big Spin, which simulates the skate star’s tricks as the ride’s cars spin as it goes around the track at 31 mph

• Firehawk in Ohio, Kings Island ‘s 14th coaster, takes riders 115 feet high and through five inversions at more than 50 mph. The park is also removing the signature loop from its Son of Beast wooden coaster after a malfunction last year. It was the first wooden coaster with a loop.

A Por Pourri of Thrills, Space and Monsters

• Text your own jokes to the characters at Disney World’s “Monsters Inc” show in Orlando where instead of collecting screams, like in the movie, the characters look to elicit laughs (“gigglewatts, ”)  to power their city, Monstropolis.

• NASA ‘s first theme park style ride opens , the $60 million Shuttle Launch Experience at the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor area. Simulating a shuttle blast-off and journey into space (complete with the sernity of a view of the earth), Astronauts were consulted to ensure the most genuine experience.

• The Xtreme Frisbee ride opens at Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H. Riders sit around an enormous Frisbee (26 feet wide) that spins and swings 63 feet high. There are even moments of weightlessness.

•  Anoter movie based attraction, Disneyland’s “Finding Nemo” is relaunched in Anaheim, Calif., The popular Submarine Voyage ride takes visotors on a trip to an active undersea volcano with the cartoon characters in Tomorrowland.

• Sensations of weightlessness and “back-to-back G-force kicks” are promised at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., with its Giant Swing, which sends riders up 75 feet in opposite directions and nearly 230 degrees.

Waterparks, Tornadoes and Cloverleaf Rafts

• The seven-story Bakuli opens at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., taking riders in complete darkness through a 9-foot-wide tunnel before a huge drop into a brightly colored bowl, then another tunnel.

• Now the state’s largest water slide complex, Magic Springs and Crystal Falls in Hot Springs, Ark., add  three new speed slides, four tube slides and a new play pool.

• 80 feet tall and enclosed, Voodoo at Blue Bayou Waterpark and Dixie Landin’ in Baton Rouge, La. also debuts this summer.

• Tornado at Six Flags Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Queensbury, N.Y. takes patrons on cloverleaf rafts and through tunnels into a giant funnel .

• Part coaster, part water ride, SeaWorld San Antonio adds “Journey to Atlantis, ” with boats zooming into the water for the finale at 49 mph.

• Deluge, a new hydromagnetic water coaster at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom takes patrons in four-person rafts through a series of tunnels and turns. A Buccaneer Beach play area for young children is also added to the park’s Splashwater Kingdom.

• Boulder Beach at Silverwood in Idaho adds new attractions too — a VIP Cabana Island for rent, 40-foot tall raft ride, new wave pool and kid’s area.

• More new additions as a second wave pool, a 65-foot Tornado water ride and new log flume are opened at WaterWorks at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va.,

• 4 slides, a new kid’s play area and wave pool help Hersheypark in Pennsylvania celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Get off your horse and drink your milk

Saddle up and mosey on down to the erm.. ol’ corral (can’ you tell I’m British?) at the 2 new Western themed parks..

• Closed since 2002, Ghost Town in the Sky at Maggie Valley, N.C., reopens with its old 56mph coaster renamed and revamped as “Cliff Hanger”

• Just outside Wichita, Kansas’ first theme park , Wild West World has six thrill rides, nine family rides and nine kids’ rides.

A Rose by any other name..

• Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, Calif., now goes by the name “Six Flags Discovery Kingdom” and is split into 3 themed areas;  “Land, ” “Sea” and “Sky.”

• After being sold by Six Flags, Denver’s theme park changes its name back to Elitch Gardens
Just  for Kids

• Holiday World is adding a new tilt-a-whirl in its Thanksgiving area.

• SeaWorld Orlando is doubling “Shamu’s Happy Harbor” and adding 3 new rides. A new carousel features 65 sea creatures, The Ocean Commotion is a swinging boat ride and the Flying Fiddler lifts riders 20 feet in the air .

• New “Wiggles World” areas are coming to Six Flags parks in Jackson, N.J., Gurnee, Ill. and Agawam, Mass.

• Wild Safari Exploration Station also debuts at Six Flags in New Jersey near the Wiggles attraction, featuring hands-on activities about animals on six continents.

Enjoy the Summer!

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