ALL POSTS IN [Amusement Parks]

 

Photo Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

Book by August 31.

If you’re itching to see the new Diagon Alley expansion at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando, this package offers you a great and less expensive way to do it.

For $669 per person, this deal from Delta Vacations includes round-trip airfare, 3 nights at a brand new resort, a 3-day park ticket to Universal Orlando, free “Universal Express Unlimited” access that lets you skip the lines and early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With this offer, you’ll save about $120 on travel dates later in the season.
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Diamondback rollercoaster on the left and Verruckt waterslide on the right

(L to R): Diamondback rollercoaster (Credit : Kings Island), Verruckt waterslide (Credit : Verruckt)

“Insane” and “extreme” return to Travel Channel as the season opener for Insane Coaster Wars: World Domination touches down in Taiwan, Missouri, Texas and more! Then, it’s off of Kansas City, MO, for Building the World’s Tallest – Verruckt! Travel Channel is there for the making of this “insane” — literally (Verruckt means Insane) — waterslide. READ MORE

Hold on to your sorting hats Harry Potter fans, tonight on an all-new episode of Trip Flip, host Bert Kreischer surprises one lucky family with the adventure of a lifetime to Universal Studios Orlando.

Not only do our lucky winners get a whole day to enjoy the park, but they also receive an exclusive opportunity to be the first guests to walk the grounds of the latest addition to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley has everything a wizard could ever want: select a wand at Ollivander’s (or let it select you, really), collect novelty items from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and pick out your Hogwarts threads at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. And for those of you who dabble in the Dark Arts, there is no better place for you then Borgin and Burkes, located down Knockturn Alley. READ MORE

Summer’s almost here and that means it’s time to start planning some fun for when school is out.  Treat the whole family to a time-honored summer tradition: A visit to an amusement park. But not just any ho-hum amusement park. From Bahamas’ Aquaventure to Tennessee’s Dollywood, our advisors handpicked the coolest theme parks all around the world for Travel’s Best Amusement and Water Parks. With chocolate-themed attractions and world-record-breaking waterslides, these amusement parks and water parks will wow kids of all ages (including the adult kid-at-hearts).

Each winning park was chosen by our expert panel of advisors, which included resident daredevil and host of Trip Flip Bert Kreischer, roller coaster reviewer Robb Alvey and family travel blogger Erin Gifford.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. What did we miss? We want to hear from you! Vote for your favorite amusement park or water park.  The park with the most votes will be featured as the 11th pick on our Travel’s Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks for 2014.

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Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, KS

A drop higher than Niagara Falls and the Statue of Liberty, an incline that reaches the heights of the tallest wave ever surfed and a ride that will be faster than the planet’s fastest animal — the cheetah! Are you ready to climb the 264 steps to Verrückt? Before Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, KS, opens its doors Memorial Day weekend and debuts its newest ride, Verrückt, Guinness World Records (accompanied by a handful of major media and news outlets, including Travel Channel) will put Verrückt through its toughest test today — a measurement that will determine whether or not Verrückt is in fact, the tallest and fastest waterslide in the world!

Until the final judgment is declared, you be the judge! Go behind the scenes and watch the making of Verrückt. Tell us what you think in the comments below. Are you ready to ride, or are you terrified? And don’t miss all-new episodes of Xtreme Waterparks (featuring Verrückt) this summer on Travel Channel.

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Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark

We’ve got at least one item on your summer 2014 to-do list: Ride Verrückt. If you haven’t heard the latest buzz about Verrückt, allow us to enlighten you. Designed by Jeff Henry, the “Wizard of Water” and co-owner of Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas City, KS, Verrückt, once complete, will be the tallest, fastest and, dare we say — scariest — waterslide in the world!

View from the top of Verruckt waterslide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark

The 17-story Verrückt waterslide, which requires 4 people to ride it at one time, will be taller than Niagara Falls  and the Statue of Liberty. And Travel Channel is on the ground capturing the entire build — we’ll be there when the first 4 brave souls take the first plunge! The waterslide will be featured in next summer’s Xtreme Waterparks, our hit series about the coolest, most ridiculous and most extreme waterparks in the world.

Stay tuned for more on how Verrückt’s build is progressing. Until summer 2014, wet your appetite with our Xtreme Waterparks pictures.

 

Photo: Castle Park

We love amusement parks as much as the next person. But sometimes a good day of fun can go horribly wrong, as we learned with last Friday’s tragic event at Six Flags Over Texas. This isn’t the time to turn alarmist — but it is time to brush up on amusement park safety tips, say industry experts.

First, keep things in perspective. A whole lot of people, well into the millions, take amusement park rides every year nationwide. And the number of serious injuries is minimal.

Chances of Injury Are Small

“Regardless of where we are on the spectrum, there’s always more we can do [in terms of amusement park safety],” says Dr. Gary Smith, who directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.

It’s true, says Smith, there’s a global issue ahead to face — mainly, the current patchwork of oversight on amusement park safety, with differing standards by state and localities, and no umbrella government agency to oversee it all. Still, adds Smith, “The chances of a serious injury are small and that’s something parents can take comfort in.”

Know Before You Go

Already, states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania — home to a large number of amusement parks — have issued reminders to adventure seekers on how to enjoy rides responsibly. (Late June was Amusement Park Ride Safety Week in Pennsylvania, in fact.)

Check out tips from Pennsylvania authorities on amusement park ride safety here, and from the Ohio Department of Agriculture here. The main takeaway: Stay informed. Know before you go, it’s the best way for you and your family to have fun.
 
Top Ride Safety Tips

Ken Martin, an independent inspector and amusement park safety consultant with KRM Consulting in Richmond, VA, offers a great roundup of ride safety tips for parents. Also keep in mind the following:

    • Pay attention to the sizing device located by many rides and attractions — it’s put there for your safety. “Yes, trying to sit in one of these seats to see if you fit the ride may be a little embarrassing,” says Martin, “however, a little embarrassment may be better than the alternative.”
    • Do you take any medication? Consult your physician before you think of trying a ride, says Martin. “Pay attention to ride rules and patron warnings,” he says. “Should you take medication for medical conditions, it’s best to consult your physician before riding any amusement ride or attraction – as a precaution you want to make sure you have [medical information] on your person or have someone in your party who knows your medical history.”
    • Take note of your surroundings. “If you see behavior or something you don’t like, bring it to someone’s attention with the amusement park,” says Martin. “All employees should be wearing a uniform and a name tag. They are there to help and serve you.”
    • Avoid heavy foods or sugary beverages as much as possible. “Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water,” says Martin. “Also, lines to some attractions can be very long. Take a restroom break before you get in line.”
    • Trust your gut. As a parent, don’t just go by minimum height and age requirements — ask yourself if your child is developmentally ready for a ride, says Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Finally, be sure the ride fits you and your child. “Restraint systems should fit as close to your body as possible, but not tight enough to hurt,” says Martin. “Then sit back and enjoy the thrill — remember we are taking you to the edge and bringing you back safety, if all the rules are followed.”

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Dolly Parton at Dollywood's Splash Country

Dolly flipped the switch, and RiverRush welcomed its first riders at Dollywood’s Splash Country.

“There’s a lot of fun in store at my Dollywood’s Splash Country in 2013,” Dolly Parton said. “Growing up, playing in the creeks and streams here in the Smoky Mountains, I could only dream of something like a water coaster. But look at us now!”

Thanks to cutting-edge hydromagnetic technology and linear induction motors, RiverRush defies logic. Guests ride a 4-person boat 237 feet in the air and race down a 25-foot, 45-degree drop. Moving water continues to propel them up hills, through twists and tunnels, hairpin turns, rapids and 3 more scream-inducing drops along the 1,176-foot track.

Named America’s Must-See Waterpark in 2009 by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Dollywood’s Splash Country also features Fire Tower Falls, the state’s tallest twin-speed slides, a 25,000-sq-foot wave pool, a 1,500-foot lazy river and more than 25 speed slides and white-water rafting adventure rides.

In preparation for the highly anticipated RiverRush, Dollywood’s Splash Country introduced Time Saver, a convenient line reservation system. The system reserves a rider’s spot in select lines, freeing them to experience other attractions. A waterproof wristwatch device indicates when it’s time to return to the ride.

Dollywood’s Splash Country, located next to Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN, is open 10am-6pm daily through Labor Day.

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Photo Courtesy of Susan Balsley

My amazing adventure in 2012 was an adventure … that was almost not meant to be. Due to an intense 10U travel baseball schedule, my family was not planning on a 2012 vacation, beyond a visit to beautiful Omaha, NE, for a baseball tournament and to pay a visit to the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Unfortunately, the team, and ultimately our plans for that trip, fell through and we were faced with time, and money, still left to spend. When in doubt, go Disney, or go home!

Along with my parents, we were able to find a time share available close to the Disney property.   Within 2 weeks, the van was packed up and we were ready to start our adventure! Traveling with a 10 year old, 6 year old and a 2 year old, we had TVs hooked up and iPods charged to get us through to Valdosta, GA, where we stopped for the night, outlasting 6 rush-hour car accidents in the Atlanta metro area. The next morning, we set out for the last few hours of our drive into Orlando. We met my parents, who flew in from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), at the resort and settled in, each with our own unit (we learned THAT lesson the hard way!). Our resort was packed full with miniature golf, pools, cabanas, batting cage, paddle boats and a huge inflatable waterslide.

On this trip, I decided we were going to play it by ear. We chose Sunday to visit SeaWorld, which is actually my kids’ park of choice. The crowd was minimal, I’m guessing due to travel weekend and others choosing to start their vacation at the Disney theme parks. My 2 year old got to see Elmo & Friends in a live show, while my 2 older children decided to sit in Shamu’s “Splash Zone” and found that description to be accurate! That show turned into the purchase of a couple of beach towels to dry off. We ventured on to other shows: dolphins, walruses,  sea lions and more.

We did stop by Dolphin Cove. However, we played by the rules and did NOT hold our plates over the water for the dolphins to jump at! We fed stingrays some dead fish (yick!) and were able to pet them as they zipped past us in their tank. We moved on to the water ride Atlantis and then to the Kraken and Manta, which my 10 year old declared the “BEST ROLLER COASTER EVER!” We ended our night with Shamu Rocks, and rock we did!

We took the next day off and hung around our resort. Pretty low-key. The following day was Magic Kingdom day! As expected, we shared the park with over 100,000 of our closest friends, many coming from far and wide. Our Fastpasses were a huge success for rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The little ones enjoyed It’s a Small World, again and again and again. We visited with Disney princesses and the stars of the park, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The day ended with an extended stay in the parking lot due to a diaper bag snafu whereby my parents left the park to take the 2 year old back to the resort, along with the car keys! A family leaving at the same time was kind enough to offer us drinks/snacks from their cooler in their car to get us through the wait.

Again, the following day was an off day, and we visited more family staying at Bonnet Creek resorts. The boys golfed at the Waldorf Astoria, while the girls hit the pool and lazy river. Poolside entertainment included an adult women vs. men trivia game, of which I was on the losing end. (Who knew I would ever need to know the words to the Flintstones theme song?!) Our last day in Orlando was spent at Downtown Disney, where we ate at the Rainforest Café (and were served by someone who is from our hometown and had my brother as a teacher!). We also had a Louisville Slugger bat engraved, and turned my 6 year old into a Fairy Mermaid Princess.

At the end of the long week, we packed up the van and headed home. We drove through the night to take advantage of sleepy children. While impromptu, our adventure made memories to last us a lifetime. Every single day, my now 3 year old asks me, “Mama, are we going on bacation today? I want to see the whales.” And every day I shake my head gently and say, “No, not today, but maybe soon.” Just maybe …

- Written by  Susan Balsley

 

Sentosa is the Orlando of Singapore — an island comprised of a Universal Studios theme park, and as many spas, casinos and beaches as you could ever desire. Last month, the tourist-friendly island opened its newest addition: the world’s largest oceanarium.

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