ALL POSTS IN [Amusement Parks]

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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Brookdale Lodge

Tonight at 9|8c, catch an all-new episode of Ghost Adventures when the guys head to Brookdale, CA. There they investigate the once-famous, but recently-closed Brookdale Lodge, which was known as a resort getaway for the rich and famous, but now seems to be haunted by an evil presence. This presence has led to more than one bloody nose, and seems to be a little too heavy for the guys, who escape for a day to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. READ MORE

At Kings Island Amusement Park near Cincinnati, OH, one roller coaster has seen its last go-round. The Son of Beast, built in 2000 and touted as the world’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster with a 118-foot loop, is being demolished with pieces of the ride being sold by the amusement park. Grab a wooden plank for $49.99 or a bolt for $24.99 — that should spice up the game room.

But if collecting the skeletal remnants of a ride that turned out to be nothing but trouble for Kings Island isn’t up your alley, then let Travel Channel satiate your need for speed with these (still-functional and lawsuit-resistant) picks for top roller coasters.

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We all know about Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point and Kings Dominion, but what about theme parks and rollercoasters in China? Our resident rollercoaster expert and founder of Theme Park Review, Robb Alvey, is on the road in China and having the time of his life! READ MORE

Last night, 4 of the most insane looping coasters in the country went head-to-head in a dizzying category called “Wrong Way Up”! With vertical loops as high as a 12-story building, all 4 of the competing coasters leave riders asking “which way is up??”

This May, viewers voted on whether Orlando’s Kraken, Pennsylvania’s Hydra the Revenge, Ohio’s Vortex or Tennessee’s Wild Eagle would be crowned the most insane Wrong Way Up coaster. So which coaster now holds the title of Lord of the Loops? READ MORE

Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984. And lucky for us and the 90% of Americans who are ice cream lovers, today is National Ice Cream Day! We want to help you celebrate this most appetizing of summer holidays with tips on where to find the very best places for a bowl (or cone!) of the creamy stuff. Sure, you could have your own ice cream social, but there are a few events happening around the country that might spark your appetite for some chilled confections.

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Staycationers and vacationers alike, rejoice! This weekend, Travel Channel premieres Extreme Waterparks and Insane Coaster Wars, in addition to our summer lineup that includes Trip Flip with Bert Kreischer, which premiered last week and Top Spot, starting next week.

These shows might be too adrenaline-pumping for certain New York Times’ writers, but for those of us looking for a vicarious thrill and perhaps some ideas for our next thrill-seeking adventure, it sounds like the perfect way to spend a Sunday night. Insane Coaster Wars will pit the best and scariest rollercoasters against each other in categories like “G-force Giants” and “Speed Demons,” while Xtreme Waterparks will give viewers a peek at the world’s craziest water attractions.

As far as we’re concerned, journalist Neil Genzlinger’s idea for “Insanely Xtreme Top Shot” sounds pretty entertaining, but we wouldn’t recommend shooting rabbits with a hose or attempting to make a waterslide on your roof. So instead watch videos of insane coasters and extreme waterparks to prepare yourself before buckling down for the jaw-dropping premieres.

Catch double episodes this Sunday, July 8th, of both Xtreme Waterparks at 8|7c followed by Insane Coaster Wars at 9|8c.

The Olde Time Coney Island Strongman Spectacular …
In a display that has not been seen at Coney Island for over 60 years, some of the strongest men in the country gathered on the streets — once known for their outrageous spectacles — to showcase unusual acts and super-human feats. Among the performers were a man who pulled a truck down a street with his teeth and a master escape artist. READ MORE

by Troy Petenbrink

Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and sunshine, is the No. 1 tourist destination in the US. It attracts over 50 million annual visitors — and it’s gearing up for more. As Orlando approaches its summer season, it is launching many new and exciting upgrades to its amusement park attractions.

The Amazing Spider-Man at Universal Studios Orlando

Sea World
At SeaWorld Orlando, Orca has some new friends, with the introduction of TurtleTrek, a mix of uber-technology and naturalistic habitats. On the tech side, visitors can experience a 3-D/360-degree film in a cool dome theater that uses dozens of projectors to immerse the audience in an underwater journey of a sea turtle’s life. Real rescued sea turtles, along with thousands of fish and manatees, can also be seen as are part of 2 new habitats — one saltwater and one freshwater.

EcoSafari’s EcoPark
Fans of roller coasters might enjoy The Rattlesnake at Forever Florida EcoSafaris’ expanded EcoPark. The roller coaster-style zipline launches from a 65-foot-high platform before whipping around a 1,000-foot course and reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

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