Amusement parks in Virginia offer a thrill-filled way for a family to spend the day together. Whether you want to scream your lungs out on a roller coaster or thump a family member while driving bumper cars, there is a ride in a Virginia park just for you. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on family-fun parks, here is our guide to all the key information visitors need to know about Virginia amusement parks.
Boasting some of the craziest, fastest roller coasters on the East Coast, Busch Gardens is an oasis of fun set in the middle of Virginia's Historic Triangle area. This park, which has won many awards for its beautiful grounds, has something for everyone, including rides and attractions for children, entertaining shows, wild animals at Jack Hanna's Wildlife Reserve, and an appreciation of Old World Europe, including a beer garden and Oktoberfest entertainment in one of its two German-themed areas.
The AlpengeistThe Alpengeist roller coaster has long been a park favorite. Its white steel frame can be seen as visitors pull into the park. The screams that echo from its riders as they fly at speeds of up to 67 mph and to heights of 195 feet are among the first sounds to greet Busch Garden visitors. This coaster's lines can be long, so hit it early or late in the day. Busch Gardens also offers a Quick Queue pass that gives its owner priority boarding at the park's rides.
Explore Different LandsBusch Gardens is divided into sections that reflect different European heritages. Alpengeist and Curse of DarKastle — another park favorite, especially on hot days when this cool, dark ride provides welcome relief from Virginia's sweltering summer temperatures — can be found in the park's two German-themed areas: Rhinefeld and Oktoberfest, respectively. In the park's two Italy-themed areas — Festa Italia and San Marco — be prepared to get wet on both the Roman Rapids and the Escape from Pompeii attractions. Busch Gardens also has rides designed just for kids, as well as costumed characters, in its Sesame Street Forest of Fun area.
Dine By CountryIn addition to the standard amusement park fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers, each European nation represented in Busch Gardens offers dining to complement its heritage. For example, visitors to Killarney (the Ireland section of the park) can visit Castle O'Sullivan for Irish fare, while Das Festhaus has beer, German food and Oktoberfest revelry.
Safety RecordIn 2010, the Virginia Gazette reported a number of guests were injured, including five who were taken to the hospital, when high winds picked up an inflatable prop and blew it into the path of the Griffon roller coaster. In 1999, one of the most famous incidents at Busch Gardens occurred when Fabio, a model, was hit in the face by a goose as he rode the Apollo's Chariot roller coaster on its opening day. Although other injuries have been reported over the years on the Theme Park Insider website, Busch Gardens is overall one of the safer amusement parks to visit.
Address: One Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA 23187
Hours: The park generally opens at 10:00 a.m. and its closing hours vary from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Busch Gardens closes for the summer the week after Labor Day, but is open on a limited basis during the Halloween and winter holiday period. It typically reopens again on a limited basis around the spring-break period, then is open every day during the summer months. Check with the park before visiting for the exact hours of operation during your visit.
Price: Children two and under are free; children three to nine, $53.99; regular admission, $63.99.
Located just minutes from Richmond, Kings Dominion is a diverse park best known for its roller coasters, including its newest addition, Intimidator 305, and an old favorite, Volcano. The park also has an area with rides for children, as well as a water park for those really hot days.
The IntimidatorThe park's signature ride is called the Intimidator 305, and the roller coaster definitely lives up to its name. Featuring an insane drop of more than 300 feet, it has been known to cause black- or gray-outs in riders. Because of the high G forces, speed and airtime that riders experience on this coaster, it is not recommended for the faint of heart. This ride offers single-rider lines, which may lessen the wait time, which can be long on busy days.
Coasters And MoreRoller coaster fans will also find a number of other cool rides, including the floorless coasterThe Dominator; the Anaconda, a coaster that takes riders through an underwater tunnel; and the Volcano, which features the world's tallest inversion. Of course, Kings Dominion also has a number of tamer rides, as well as attractions for the kiddies in Planet Snoopy, featuring costumed Peanuts characters.
Classic Park Fare And Fast Food ChainsIn addition to the usual hot dogs, chicken fingers and hamburgers, Kings Dominion also has fast food outlets Chick-fil-A and Panda Express on its grounds. There picnic tables outside of the park's main gates in the parking area.
Safety RecordThere were two minor injuries reported on the Rebel Yell in the first half of 2011, according to the Amusement Safety Organization. In May of 2010, Theme Park Tourist reported a number of riders complained of blacking- or graying-out on the Intimidator 305, and in 1999, the Tech reported a student fell to his death from the Shockwave roller coaster.
Address: 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA, 23047
Hours: Kings Dominion is open daily from May 30 through September 5. Typically, it opens between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and closes anywhere between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. The park is open on a limited schedule during September and October, before closing down completely between November and March. During April and May and spring break, Kings Dominion opens on a limited schedule.
Price: $36.99 for riders less than 48 inches (4 ft) or older than 62; $47.99 for those that are 48 inches or taller. Ages two and under, Free.
Other Noteworthy Parks Near VirginiaTrimper's Rides
Six Flags America
Galewinds Amusement Park & Raceway
What's your favorite amusement park in Virginia?
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