Baseball may be America's pastime for the boys of summer, but for roller-coaster daredevils and thrill-seeking tourists, amusement parks are the only game in town.
Most of the parks aren't sitting on past thrills. For the 1991 season there's an all-star collection of new players, from roller coasters and water rides to glitzy stage shows:- Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, is out to break some records with its new Mean Streak wooden roller coaster. The $7.5 million wooden coaster is billed as the world's tallest and fastest, with a 160-foot lift hill, a 155-foot first drop and a speed of 65 mph. Its addition will give Cedar Point 10 roller coasters, more than any other park. The park's most recent steel roller coaster, Magnum XL-200, holds the title of tallest steel coaster.
- Six Flags Magic Mountain, in Valencia, Calif. (north of Los Angeles), is saluting a longtime legend, the Coney Island Cyclone in New York, with its new Psyclone wooden roller coaster. Its track is modeled after the 1927 coaster's configuration with computer-controlled brakes and a modern price tag of $5 million (compared with the Cyclone's $100, 000 cost). The park also sports a remodeled Coney Bay area adjacent to the ride, to set the beachfront tone.
- Kings Dominion, in Doswell, Va. (near Richmond), is introducing a steel roller coaster that loops six times. The $5 million Anaconda boasts a 126-foot underwater tunnel, billed as the only one of its kind. It also rolls riders through a "butterfly configuration" loop, the only one in the U.S.
- Sister park Kings Island, in Kings Mills, Ohio (near Cincinnati), is adding a $4 million special-effects roller coaster to its lineup. Adventure Express sports a jungle adventure theme, with mine trains that plunge through steamy volcanic tunnels, across rickety bridges and into a deserted mine shaft inhabited by snakes and spiders.
- Great America, in Santa Clara, Calif., has added a stand-up steel roller coaster this year. The $5.5 million Vortex loops vertically, then horizontally through the vertical loop, and finishes up with a corkscrew.
- Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pa., is opening a boomerang-style looping roller coaster, Sidewinder, this season. It runs through its track forwards and backwards, returning to the starting point like a boomerang.
Water rides, always a big hit on sultry summer days, are being introduced at several parks:
- Six Flags Great Adventure, in Jackson, N.J., will unveil a 15-acre themed section, Adventure Rivers, this season. It will feature 10 "dry" water rides, with two-person rafts in which patrons can ride without changing to swimsuits (which is not to say they won't get wet).
- Ragin' Rivers, at Six Flags Over Georgia, in Atlanta, also a "dry" water ride, features four flumes that riders navigate in inflatable boats.
- Dorney Park, in Allentown, Pa., is adding a whitewater raft ride, Pepsi Depth Charge. The 107-year-old park is also expanding its children's play area.
- And at Six Flags Mid-America, in Eureka, Mo., the new Tidal Wave waterfall boat ride is virtually guaranteed to get riders wet in the wake of its splashdown.
Traditonal rides are also popping up at a few parks this year. Condor, which perches riders atop a tall pole and then gives them a spin, lands at both Astroworld, in Houston, and Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill. (between Chicago and Milwaukee).
Worlds of Fun, in Kansas City, Mo., is introducing a 60-foot open-cage Ferris wheel, Skyliner, and a spinning Himalayan-bobsled ride set to music, Rockin' Reeler.
On the high-tech front, Busch Gardens Tampa will open a not-yet-named special-effects flight simulator ride this summer.
For those not into thrill-seeking, spectator entertainment at the parks offers a fun alternative. Astroworld will debut the Sid and Marty Kroftt celebrity puppet show "Blast" in June. The big stage show this year at Nashville's Opryland USA "Love My Country," features country star Louise Mandrell.
California's Great America is showing the latest IMAX film, "Blue Planet." The 3-D IMAX film "The Last Buffalo" makes its U.S. debut in May at Six Flags Great America, Illinois.
Neighboring Southern California parks Disneyland (Anaheim) and Knott's Berry Farm (Buena Park) are featuring interactive children's activities this summer.
"Disney Afternoon Live at Disneyland" is a lineup of action-adventure activities and shows with Disney characters such as Baloo and Chip and Dale (through fall 1991). Knott's park-wide salute, "Snoopy's Great American Celebration," features a musical show and a circus parade starring the comic-strip pooch. It runs Memorial Day through Labor Day.
At Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington (between Fort Worth and Dallas), the renovated Looney Tunes Land children's area has four new rides. Carowinds, in Charlotte, N.C., is expanding its Paladium Amphitheatre, which will open May 25 as a stand-alone concert facility.
Along with the new attractions, most parks have raised their admission prices slightly for 1991. The exception is Missouri's Worlds of Fun, which maintained its 1990 admission rates. The highest cost for a one-day adult admission is at Walt Disney World in Florida ($33); the lowest is $17.95, at Pennsylvania's Dorney Park. Most parks charge $20. 95 to $21.95 for an adult ticket; many have a bargain rate for two-day admissions.
Knott's Berry Farm reduced its children's admission price this year by almost half, from $16 to $9.95. Opryland has adopted a new $10.95 rate for children 48 inches and shorter. And many of the parks offer reduced rates for children under age 12 or under 48 inches tall, the minimum height requirement for most major rides.
(Connie Yeager is a reporter at The Cincinnati Post.)