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If you don’t go now, the next time you visit you’ll be with your kids.

Summer Thrills: 9 Theme Parks to Visit This Summer

A Theme Park for Every Occasion

If you don’t go now, the next time you visit you’ll be with your kids.

By Danielle Wilkinson, Purdue University


With summer coming to a close and school just around the corner, making the most of the last few weeks of summer is a top priority.

My suggestion—visit a theme park. It’s the best way to close out the summer and make lasting memories. Here are nine theme parks everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

1. Disney California Adventures

The sister park of Disneyland in California is a must see because of the colorful carnival-like atmosphere. The park ranges from milder rides such as bumper cars and a classic carousel, to more heart pounding rides like The Tower of Terror with a 13-story drop and the California Screamin’ rollercoaster, a horrifying ride that begins with a rapid launch.

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The park also features A Bugs Land for fans of “A Bugs Life,” an experience designed to make visitors feel like they were shrunken as they walk through tall grass and flowers. My favorite ride by far is the Radiator Spring Racers, which resembles the Fast Track in Epcot but is more aimed toward fans of the Disney movie “Cars.”

2. Universal Studios Orlando

Movie fans, listen up because this is the place you need to be. Universal Studios is a theme park with a ton of movie-themed attractions. Older visitors can go on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, where they can choose a song to listen to as they drop 17 stories at 65 mph, or ride the chilling Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster, a ride that immerses patrons in almost complete darkness. For younger visitors, check out the virtual “Despicable Me” and “Transformers” rides.

Although a replica of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter just opened in Universal Studios Hollywood, the one in Orlando is much more expansive.

universalTourists can visit the sinister Diagon Alley, where they can partake in the Escape from Gringotts thrill ride then take the train to Hogsmeade, in the Island of Adventure, to order butter beer or purchase their first wand. The Orlando location also differs from Hollywood with its Men in Black Alien Attack and E.T. Adventure rides.

3. Universal’s Island of Adventure

Superhero Fans, specifically Marvel Fans, will love the Island of Adventure. The park is Located in Orlando, literally across the bridge from Universal Studios. Fans of Marvel comics can be launched at high speed on The Incredible Hulk Coaster or go help Spiderman battle the Sinister Six in The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman ride.

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The park holds the Hogsmeade half of Harry Potter World, where visitors can choose their dragon on the thrilling Dragon Challenge coaster or ride broomsticks through the Hogwarts Castle. If visitors are looking to cool down in the middle of the day, the Jurassic Park ride and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls get riders soaked. There’s also a Dr. Suess section of the park that’s aimed mainly toward younger visitors, though it can still be fun for adults who enjoy milder rides.

4. Universal Studios Hollywood

The Hollywood location in Universal City, California, is best known for its Studio Tour. The Studio Tour takes visitors backstage to different sets where a multitude of movies, TV shows, commercials and music videos were filmed.

On the tour, visitors will see the 3D King Kong show and will need to hold on tight at the end for the Fast & Furious Supercharged finale.

Also, exclusively at the Hollywood location, visitors can fight their way through zombies in the terrifying Walking Dead Attraction.

Like Orlando, the Hollywood park has actual rides such as the “Jurassic Park” ride, “The Simpsons” virtual roller coaster and the “Revenge of the Mummy” coaster.

5. Cedar Point

Cedar Point is the park for the hardcore thrill seekers. The park is located in Sandusky, Ohio, and has 18 massive rollercoasters, including the famous Top Thrill Dragster, a 17-second ride that launches visitors at 120 mph straight up and straight down.

635666926077654436-cedar-pointThe park also holds several family oriented rides for people who prefer to stay closer to the ground. The only downside of Cedar Point is that it’s extremely popular and unless visitors pay for a Fast Lane pass, they could be waiting for hours to ride one coaster. Aside from coasters, there is also the Dinosaurs Alive section of the park that features interactive animatronic dinosaurs and plenty of educational content spread. Tourists who want to cool down can visit Cedar Point’s Soak City Waterpark.

6. Six Flags

Six Flags is a little different than the other entries on this list in that it can be found in 13 locations across the U.S. and two locations abroad. Its accessibility is what makes it one of the best.

sixThe park is owned by Warner Brothers, so fans of DC comics will be able to find Superman and Batman themed rides, as well as plenty of DC related merchandise. Guests can also find iconic Warner Bros. characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

If there were ever a time to visit a Six Flags location, it is definitely now. This summer nine theme parks introduced the first virtual reality coasters in North America. People can choose to ride roller coasters regularly, or if they’re aged 13 and up, they can choose to wear a virtual reality headset and ride the coaster as if they were a fighter pilot battling aliens or Superman taking flight.

Virtual reality completely changes the game and will definitely be seen at other theme parks in the future. The only downside is that the virtual reality coasters usually have the longest wait, so plan to arrive at the park early and go to the virtual reality coaster first to avoid the wait.

7. Hershey Park

Hershey Town, Pennsylvania, is most well known for its chocolate factory but their theme park is actually really cool. In addition to the family rides and rides for children, the park has 10 roller coasters including Fahrenheit, which drops riders down a 97° plunge.

aerial_view-Hershey-Pennsylvania-2ae04441e6ea4d2dbd40121e63986f31_cThere is also the option of seeing several animals, such as wolves, bear and otters at ZooAmerica, the price of which is included in park admission. Hershey’s water park, The Boardwalk, is also included in park admission and is a really fun way to cool down after a hot day.

8. Busch Gardens

Located in Tampa, Florida, Busch Gardens is definitely a park for older roller coaster enthusiasts. There are rides for children but many fewer than the other entries on this list. As a result, fewer strollers crowd the park.

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Busch Gardens has 8 roller coasters, including the new Cobra’s Curse that elevates guests 70 feet up and then speeds forward backwards all while the car is spinning. My favorite coaster on the lot has to be the Cheetah Hunt, which is 4,400 feet long and launches people to 60 mph.

For visitors who want a high coaster, the Sheikra climbs 200 feet and teeters on the edge of the drop, literally putting riders on the edge of their seat before dropping. Since the park is African themed, those who are not huge rollercoaster fans can go on a walking safari and see a range of animals from lions to lemurs.

9. Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a classic, and people of all ages can enjoy the famous park. The Magic Kingdom as a whole is aimed toward children, so most of the rides are small and kid friendly.

Disney_1The most thrilling roller coaster in the park is no doubt Space Mountain, a space-themed coaster in the dark. Because of its popularity, Space Mountain usually has one of the longest waits in the park, so visitors who really want to ride it should use fast pass.

The best part about Disney World is the nostalgia that comes with it. Past visits to the park or memories of watching Disney movies as a kid make visiting so much more enjoyable. Visitors can get nostalgic and ride The Magic Carpets of Aladdin or the spinning tea cups at the Mad Tea Party. Be sure to download the free My Disney Experience App to find out about wait times, keep track of fast passes and locate favorite Disney characters.

There’s also a really cool restaurant in Beauty and the Beast’s Castle called Be Our Guest. And though it’s 4-years old, the restaurant still requires booking months in advance to even seat a party of two, but I’m sure it’s worth it. It’s also worth staying until nighttime to catch the stunning firework show and Main Street Electrical Parade.

Choose a theme park, go forth and experience the last few weeks of summer to the absolute fullest.

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