Wild and wet amusements for all ages

Cover Story

May 23, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ah, summertime. Day after lazy day of sitting on the porch, lemonade in hand, listening to the crickets chirp and watching the fireflies flicker.

Sound too sedate? Then why not head to an amusement park for heart-thumping rides, drenching water attractions and spectacular entertainment? Whether you prefer to send your stomach into your throat with a ride on a roller coaster or fill your stomach during a sit-down meal with Tweety Bird, amusement parks in the mid-Atlantic region can fill the bill. Most of the parks are enormous, and offer a wide range of rides, water attractions, shows for all ages, places to eat and activities for just young children.

And this year, all the regional parks are updating their offerings with everything from a new roller coaster (Paramount's Kings Dominion) to a new circuslike show (Busch Gardens Williamsburg). Six Flags America in Largo has a new entertainment lineup, and HersheyPark is debuting the Roller Soaker, which combines a thrill ride and a water attraction.

All of the parks listed below are within a four-hour drive of Baltimore. The price noted is for general admission; tickets for senior citizens, children and the handicapped will be less.

Six Flags America

Six Flags America in Largo is known for its roller coasters, but this year it is focusing on entertainment by offering four new shows. "This Is Your Country" features country music; "City Beat" has pop and hip-hop tunes; "Bugs Bunny and Friends Going Hollywood" presents Looney Tunes characters; and "Way Back West" is a comedy filled with pratfalls and other stunts. All the shows will run three or four times a day.

Although there are no new rides at Six Flags this year, Joker's Jinx now has a lap bar instead of an over-the-shoulder restraint. Riders now should be much more comfortable on this 3-year-old roller coaster, which starts with a blast, speeding up to 60 mph in the first three seconds.

Batwing, which opened last year, is billed as the only "flying" coaster on the East Coast, giving riders the illusion they are defying gravity as they twist, turn and zoom along for two minutes and 20 seconds of terror.

Six Flags America also has a children's section, where visitors can meet Looney Tunes characters and enjoy rides such as Sylvester's Pounce and Bounce and Movie Town Airport.

The Paradise Island Water Park has a wave pool and a covered water slide, among other attractions.

Six Flags America is about 40 minutes south of Baltimore and offers more than 100 rides, shows and attractions. General admission tickets are $35.99 and include the 25-acre Paradise Island water park. For directions and more information, call 301-249-1500 or visit www.six flags.com.

Paramount's Kings Dominion

For amusement-park fans who prefer fear to entertainment, Paramount's Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., is debuting its 12th roller coaster, called the Ricochet.

"Ours is a little bit different in that it's got a big 50-foot drop at the beginning of it," says Mark Riddell, public-relations manager. The three-minute ride features hairpin turns, wild twists and other super-fast surprises. Be prepared to be scared.

Other roller coasters at the 400-acre theme park include the HyperSonic Xtreme Launch Coaster, with a high-speed compressed-air launch, and Flight of Fear, which puts riders through the terrors of roller-coaster turns and drops while in complete darkness.

In addition to roller coasters, the park offers water attractions, including a wave pool and a 77-foot-tall enclosed body slide, called the Nightslider.

Youngsters can ride the less- terrifying Taxi Jam coaster at Nickelodeon Central, a section of the park devoted to kids. It features rides and attractions based on such Nickelodeon shows as Dora the Explorer and Blue's Clues.

In the food department, local pizza fans may be interested to learn that Ledo Pizza has taken over pizza operations at the park.

Paramount's King's Dominion is about 75 miles south of Washington, off Interstate 95.

For directions and more information, call 804-876-5000 or visit www.kingsdominion.com.

Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari

This park, in Jackson, N.J., is showcasing a new summer festival series this year. Each week from June to August, the park's new "festival section" will feature food, music, games and merchandise keyed to specific themes, including Celebrate America, Sports, Mardi Gras and Caribbean Fest.

Entertainers include Mandy Moore, the Neville Brothers, Sugar Ray, the Charlie Daniels Band and Clint Black. All entertainment is free with park admission.

Other new entertainment includes a daily parade of Looney Tunes characters, such as Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and others, as well as a "breakfast with the characters," an hour-long buffet.

Ski Xtreme will feature water-skiing stunts on the park's Great Lake. A new "dolphin discovery" exhibit will feature a show and educational material about dolphins and California sea lions.

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