A Guide to the Theme Parks

Cedar Point, Ohio

Midway between Toledo and Cleveland, on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie. A giant amusement park of the most traditional sort. Open daily early May through Labor day, then weekends from Labor Day through early October. In the mid-1800s Cedar Point became a warm-weather recreational area because of its natural, two-mile-long white sand beach. Amusement parks rides were then added in 1880, the first roller coaster in 1897. Roller coasters are the chief and, indeed, monumental attraction here, drawing roller coaster addicts from around the world. There are 14 of them (more than in any other park in the world), and some are more technically advanced and larger than any on the planet. Apart from the coasters, every other sort of ride is offered, and there are charming areas for small children, especially the new "Camp Snoopy," featuring the "Woodstock Express" roller coaster (a ride for kids and their parents), and "Kiddie Kingdom" (kid-sized rides, in a pavilion themed in Medieval fashion). Next door is the separate "Soak City" water park ( $23 adults, $13 seniors, $10 kids less than 48 inches tall). Admission price to the Cedar Point park: $42 for persons 48 inches and taller; $20 for those under 48 inches tall; $25 for seniors aged 60 and over. Nearly three million visitors come here each year. Phone 419/627-2350; Web site cedarpoint.com.

DisneylandandCalifornia Adventurein Anaheim, California, near Los Angeles

Consists of "The Magic Kingdom"and "California Adventure," a California-themed resort hotel and entertainment complex. Receives nearly 15 million visits a year. Admission prices for each: $43 for adults, $33 for children 3 to 9; there are cheaper multiple-day tickets and special, changing rates for seniors (phone 714/781-4400 or visit the Web site at disneyland.com.) Most popular lodgings for staying here: the immense Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, a big 12-story slab of identical rooms, geometrically laid out; phone 714/520-5050. And phone 714/781-4565 for general Disneyland information. Rumor has it that Disney will be using "strawberry fields," a company owned lot kitty-corner to the park, to erect more attractions and perhaps a new resort hotel.

Walt Disney Worldat Orlando, Florida

Consists of The Magic Kingdom (first of the parks to open, and a work of genius), Epcot Center ("Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow," a hodge-podge of themes ranging from scientific discoveries to health and imagination to foreign nations; great fun, but outdated and lacking in creativity in many of its components; most pavilions are sponsored by major corporations, like General Motors, Exxon, AT&T, delivering lessons of social responsibility to the rest of us); Disney-MGM Studios (the world of the movies); the newest of the parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom, opened in May of 1997; and several subsidiary parks, lakes and entertainment-shopping areas. Together, they receive upwards of 33 million visits each year, by far the most popular such attraction in America, despite the fact that admission prices have soared in recent years. A one-day visit to one Disney theme park currently costs $48 for adults, $38 for children 3 to 9, but that per-day cost can be reduced by purchasing a multi-day "pass." Call 407/WDW-MAGIC (407/939-6244) for general Disney/Orlando information. Or visit the Web site at disneyworld.com.

Paramount's Kings Island, near Cincinnati, Ohio

Twenty-four miles northeast of Cincinnati, but not an island (it was named in 1972 after a "Coney Island" in Cincy, a small amusement park). This one is a big, 350-acre amusement dominated by a squat replica of Paris' Eiffel Tower in three-quarter size, but its real claim to fame is its profusion of roller coasters: there are 13 of them here, five of them wooden. The park is celebrated in the coaster-enthusiast community for investing large amounts of money for new rides. The newest coaster, Son of Beast, opened in 2000 and is the only looping wooden roller coaster in the world, as well as the tallest and the fastest, with top speeds of 78 miles per hour. Its namesake, The Beast, is in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest wooden roller coaster in the world (it's 7,400 feet long). Two others, Top Gun and Face/Off, are "suspended" roller coasters whose cars hang from tracks above one's head. Other additions to the roller coaster roster (as if rides called Vortex and The Outer Limits--Flight of Fear weren't enough) include the the ominous sounding Drop Zone, the world's tallest (at 315 feet) gyro free-fall ride. There is a water-related, 30-acre facility called WaterWorks with water slides; and for the younger children, the barely disguised advertising-oriented attractions of Nickelodeon Splat City and Hanna-Barbera Land, and a miniature "training" coaster called The Beastie. The price for "adults" (which includes kids as young as 7 years old!) is $41.99 ($36.99 if you purchase online ahead of time); kids aged 3 to 6 and seniors over 60 are $24.99 ($23.99 if you purchase online ahead of time). Three and a half million persons visit each year. You can request current information on Paramount's Kings Island by phoning 800/288-0808 or 513/754-5700. Web site: pki.com.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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