Rides, Animals, Action!
As the proud mother of a 16-year-old adrenaline fiend, theme parks are a staple of our summer travel plans. And as there is no such thing as too big, too fast, or too intense for my son, I've learned head on about what meets the requisite thrill factor. So to help you amp up this summer's family action, we present an overview of the year's newest attractions in California's world-famous theme parks.
Los Angeles Area Parks
Six Flags Magic Mountain (661.255.4100; www.sixflags.com) in Valencia, California, opened its Tatsu coaster in May of 2006, billed as the longest, fastest, tallest flying beast on Earth. Hitting speeds of up to 62 mph, you'll drop 263 feet from the ride's highest point to within inches of the ground, twisting through pretzel loops, flat spins, and 360-degree rolls. With the addition of Tatsu, this park now holds the record for the most coasters in one park -- a total of 17 stomach-churning, head-spinning rides. The park is 36 miles north of Los Angeles off of I-5.
The mothership of all things fantastical, Anaheim's Disneyland (714.781.4565; www.disneyland.com) is still celebrating the 50th anniversary of the "Happiest Place On Earth" with an amazing fireworks show, Walt's Parade of Dreams, and revamped classic attractions in the park. Space Mountain has been updated and the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened in consort with the launch of the first sequel to the first movie of the same name, complete with props and effects from the actual film. Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue has debuted across the way at California Adventure, Disneyland's sister park, offering a mad taxi ride through the streets of Monstropolis that young 'uns will love.
Movie junkies have to hit Hollywood's Universal Studios (1.800.UNIVERSAL; www.universalstudios.com), nestled in the hills fringing Los Angeles. This summer, visitors on the Studio Tour can enjoy "The Fast and The Furious: Extreme Close-Up," a pyrotechnic behind-the-scenes display of cars and stunts modeled after the movie of the same name. Universal CityWalk is the ideal place to enjoy dinner and shopping after a day in the park; afterwards, linger to enjoy the carnival atmosphere of street concerts and entertainers including BMX tricksters, stilt walkers, jugglers, and acrobats.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication