Thrills and Spills
Jun 17, 2013 02:45PM ● Published by tina
Cool off in one of the many rivers, pools and chutes at Schlitterbahn.
Travel with Linden Wilson
This summer, it’s all about chills, thrills and unforgettable family entertainment. With school finally out and June kicking off the season, we’ve rounded up three theme parks that fly a bit below the radar but absolutely deliver when it comes to scream-worthy rollercoasters and steep and slippery waterslides. We already know our area is packed with activities perfect for making the most of hot, lazy days (check out our Summer Fun feature on page x), but if you’ve got the travel bug, read up on these must-see amusement playgrounds.
Knoebels — Elysburg, Pennsylvania
At America’s largest free-admission park, you don’t have to worry about exorbitantt ticket prices. Even the parking, entertainment and picnic facilities are free of charge. Thrill rides are priced affordably between $1.50 and $2.50 and will undoubtedly excite the riskiest risk-takers in your family. The StratosFear, which opened in April, stands at a towering 148 feet and straps in 12 people for a ride to the top before dropping at 47 mph back to the bottom — the entire ride lasts an exhilarating 70 seconds. Spin around at quick speeds when you take a ride in the Satellite, a longtime park favorite, and get super-soaked on the Sklooosh, the park’s wettest ride named for the sound riders make as they walk away.
Knoebels also has kiddie rides, family rides and park attractions, like an 18-hole golf course, laser tag, shooting gallery, theater and carousel museum, where you can learn all about the history of carousels in America. Kids will be ecstatic over camping out at the theme park; Knoebels has two campgrounds that accommodate passenger vehicles as well as cozy cabins that can sleep up to 16 people.
If ending your day at a comfortable hotel sounds more appealing, make your reservation at the landmark Lewisburg Hotel, nestled in downtown Lewisburg and just a scenic 45-minute drive from Knoebels. Established in 1834, the hotel has been elegantly restored and remodeled and provides a welcoming retreat that’s also rich with history.
Knott’s Berry Farm — Buena Park, California
Knott’s Berry Farm might sound more like an actual farm than an amusement park, and that’s because it originated as just that. In the 1920s, Walter and Cordelia Knott began farming 20 acres of land on Highway 39 in Buena Park, where they grew and sold a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eventually they opened a berry market, where Cordelia sold pies, jams and jellies to make ends meet during the Depression. The Knotts also opened a restaurant featuring delicious chicken dinners so popular, Walter decided to build an adjacent Ghost Town attraction to entertain customers while they waited to be seated.
In the 1950s, more exciting attractions were added, and Knott’s Berry Farm blossomed into a full-blown theme park that continues to thrive despite competition from California amusement parks behemoths like Disneyland. This summer, three new family-friendly attractions are opening in the park’s popular Boardwalk section; the Coast Rider takes you 52 feet high and down 1,339 feet of track filled with spins and turns, while the Surfside Gliders allow you to be the pilot as you fly a two-man aircraft at 28 feet over the picturesque Boardwalk Bay. Stay cool riding Bigfoot Rapids, a whitewater rafting adventure where you’ll bounce and splash your way through rapid currents, or join the kids in a race aboard one of the park’s colorful balloons.
Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel is a must-stay when you visit the park. The 320-room property features luxurious accommodations, a gym, sport courts and even a Snoopy-themed wing. Don’t fret about dinner plans — the hotel’s Amber Waves Restaurant and Bar specializes in all-American fare and also offers late-night dining.
Schlitterbahn — New Braunfels, Texas
Looking to leave the Metroplex but don’t want to venture too far? Schlitterbahn makes for your best bet. The waterpark opened in New Braunfels in the late ’70s and continues to provide South Texas with endless ways to cool off when summer temps sizzle. With more than 40 water rides, rivers, pools and parks, there’s something for everyone. Blastenhoff Beach’s giant umbrellas and sun loungers dot the sandy beach making it a Schlitterbahn favorite. It’s located at the start of the Torrent Wave River, a continuous float ride up to 4 feet deep replete with ocean-size waves.
The Dragon’s Lair heated pool and swim-up bar, with its relaxing vibe and inviting shade, is a hangout of choice, while the kids will enjoy splashing around on the Raging River Tube Chute, Wolfpack Raft Slide or Der Bahn Speed Slides, which begin high above the Comal River and let three people race side-by-side down a slippery slope. Make sure that you also check out The Falls, the world’s longest waterpark ride that opened in 2011.
Conveniently located next to the waterpark, The Resort at Schlitterbahn provides all the amenities you’ll need after spending hours outside; its hotel rooms, vacation homes and condos offer serene escapes from a hectic day. For authentic German ambiance, stay at The Faust Hotel, located in historic downtown New Braunfels. It’s a combination hotel, events center, brew pub and full bar and restaurant and is mere minutes from Schlitterbahn. The hotel’s newly redesigned guest suites incorporate 1920s Art Deco touches with modern features, and the Faust Brewing Company will allow you to sample the beer that the town is famous for.