Open Season

Amusement Parks Spring To Life With New Rides And Attractions

April 26, 2009|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman | Michelle Deal-Zimmerman,michelle.deal@baltsun.com

With the chills of winter slipping away, the thrills of spring (and summer) are just beginning. That includes the openings of theme parks across the Mid-Atlantic region beginning in early May. Several parks have new rides, new shows and new attractions for all ages. Here's a look at some nearby amusement parks.

Six Flags America, Bowie

Distance from Baltimore:: About 40 minutes by car

Opening day: : Open weekends now; daily hours begin May 22

What's new: : Six shows, most of them musical, have been added to the lineup. Among them are PULSE!, a hip-hop dance and acrobatics show; Rhythm Stix!, a drumming-and-percussion showcase; and Rockin' the Country, a song-and-dance show highlighting current country hits.

What's tried and true: : Two rides saluting comic-book heroes are here, including Batman's Batwing and Superman, the Ride of Steel. Both are exhilarating thrillers, but the Superman coaster, at 205 feet (20 stories), is one of the tallest on the East Coast and requires nerves of steel.

Don't miss: : Hurricane Harbor. The water park, which opens May 23, has slides and rides galore, including Tony Hawk's Halfpipe, a water slide shaped like a skateboard halfpipe.

Admission: : A Play Pass, which allows unlimited visits, is $49.99, the same price as a one-day ticket. Park admission also includes free entry to Hurricane Harbor. Parking is $15.

More information: : sixflags.com/america or 301-249-1500

Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster, Pa.

Distance from Baltimore:: About two hours by car

Opening day: : May 2 for weekend hours; daily hours begin May 23

What's new: : The Twister is a 20-seat circular-motion ride that spins horizontally, then fluctuates in waves. A Dragon's Tale, a high-dive act featuring the adventures of Queen Gwinneth and Puff, her pet dragon, is a twice-daily show.

What's tried and true: : Thomas & Friends Live is a sing-along show based on Thomas the Tank Engine that gets everyone involved. Storytime With Princess is another all-time favorite with kids - and parents.

Don't miss: : The colorful Kingdom Coaster is a delightful choice for a child's first roller coaster - and it has just enough dips to be fun for adults, too.

Admission: : One-day admission is $30.95 for adults and children ages 3 and older; $25.95 for adults ages 60-69; and $18.95 for adults ages 70 and older. Children younger than 2 are free. Combinations passes, which include other area attractions, offer savings.

More information: : dutchwonderland.com or 866-386-2839

Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa.

Distance from Baltimore:: About two hours by car

Opening day: : May 1 for weekend hours; daily hours begin May 20

What's new: : The park is expanding its enormously popular Boardwalk water attraction that opened two years ago. Boardwalk: The SEAquel adds the Shore, a 378,000-gallon wave pool that mimics the currents of the ocean, and the Intercoastal Waterway, a lazy-river ride that lets guests float along on individual rafts. The two attractions open May 23.

What's tried and true: : The Storm Runner roller coaster may not be the fastest coaster in the land, and some might argue that at just 58 seconds, it's among the shortest rides, but every second is pure adrenaline. It's one thrill ride that you'll remember.

Don't miss: : The Hershey Story, a new interactive museum that tells the history of Hershey, features a hands-on Chocolate Lab with classes on cocoa beans, and has a cafe that offers tastings of exotic chocolate from around the world. Details at hersheystory.org.

Admission: : Regular one-day admission is $51.95; junior (children ages 3-8) is $30.95; children ages 2 and younger are free. Seniors ages 55-69 pay $30.95, while a Senior Plus ticket, for those 70 and older, is $20.95. Multiday and combination tickets offer savings.

More information: : hersheypark.com.

Kings Dominion, Doswell, Va.

Distance from Baltimore:: About 21/2 hours by car

Opening day: : Open for weekends now; daily hours begin May 23

What's new: : Americana is a 110-foot Ferris wheel, the first ever at the park, with 24 six-person gondolas. If you prefer a slightly bigger thrill, the El Dorado is a swinging ride that seats up to 40 riders in a blue, 1950s-style El Dorado convertible car that acts as a pendulum, rotating riders to a height of 85 feet in the air in two different directions.

What's tried and true: : The Dominator, a 65-mph ride, is the world's longest floorless roller coaster. At Waterworks, the adjoining park included in admission, the Tornado is a swirling raft ride that gives riders a rush.

Don't miss: : Nickelodeon Central features kid-centric entertainment and rides, including Rugrats Toonpike and the Slime Zone. Kidzville is an entire town of favorites for children, including playgrounds and rides.

Admission: : Tickets at the gate are $54.99 for most adults and kids taller than 48 inches. Seniors ages 62 and older and children smaller than 48 inches in shoes pay $31.99. Save $15 when you purchase tickets online at least three days in advance. Parking is $10.

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