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Awesome Family Amusement Parks in America

Looking for thrills close to (and far from) southeast Michigan? Find summer 2013 fun for kids, from roller coasters to carousels, at these U.S. theme parks.

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Hitting the amusement park is a summer rite of passage for kids. After all, charting how much your kids have grown over the past year becomes a matter of what rides they're tall enough to board. Inching up to the point that your child will finally be able to go on the most talked-about, scream-worthy rides – a badge of pride among younger kids. For tweens and teens, they feel a sense of independence when they're old enough to venture through the park, sans mom and dad.

Michigan thrill-seeking kids have been lucky enough to grow up going to one of the best amusement parks in the country, next door in Ohio. But real ride enthusiasts won't be satisfied with one place. There are a slew of family-friendly amusement parks just waiting to be discovered. Here's a taste of some marvelous meccas that are worth the trip!

Busch Gardens Tampa

  • Address: 10165 N. McKinley Drive Tampa, Fla.
  • Phone: 813-987-5000
  • Roller coasters: 8
  • Rides/attractions: 27
  • Hours: vary; check online for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $85/general; $77/ages 3-9
  • Parking fees: $15

Walk into a safari at this amusement spot suited for animal lovers. Experience the jungle with up-close encounters in the Jungala attraction. For more of an adrenaline rush, soar above the park 200 feet before dropping 90 degrees on the SheiKra roller coaster. If that's not enough excitement for you, head over to the Kumba, which includes a 360-degree spiral … after a 135 drop. Whew!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

  • Address: 1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, Va.
  • Phone: 800-343-7946
  • Roller coasters: 6
  • Rides/attractions: 100-plus
  • Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; check ahead for possible variation
  • Tickets: $70/ages 10 and up, $60/ages 3-7
  • Parking fees: $15

The indoor/outdoor Verbolten whisks riders through the Black Forest before plunging them 88 feet toward a river. Don't worry: It's all in good fun at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Along with thrill rides, the European-themed park features variety shows, food festivals and much more.

Carowinds

  • Address: 14523 Carowinds Blvd., Charlotte, N.C.
  • Phone: 704-588-2600
  • Roller coasters: 13
  • Rides/attractions: 50
  • Hours: vary; check website for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: start around $56.99/adults and $39.99/juniors and seniors; see website for pricing and specials
  • Parking fees: $15

Celebrating its 40th anniversary season in 2013, Carowinds' 398-acre park is spread over two states – both North and South Carolina. The thrill park boasts the tallest, fastest, longest roller coaster in the Southeast, aptly dubbed the Intimidator! But it also has plenty of rides to thrill youngsters. Your price of admission also includes the 20-acre water park.

Cedar Point

  • Address: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, Ohio
  • Phone: 419-627-2350
  • Roller coasters: 16
  • Rides/attractions: 150
  • Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Friday; check ahead for possible variation
  • Tickets: $54.99/adults, $29.99/kids (online discounts available)
  • Parking fees: $15

Just across the border in Ohio, Cedar Point is known as the roller coaster capital of the world. Since 1870, this haven for adrenaline junkies boasts some of the tallest, longest and fastest roller coasters around. Everyone has a favorite among the various coasters. For diehard coaster fans, the Millennium Force is the ride. After all, this 310-foot behemoth was the very first giga coaster (yes, "mega" didn't cut it when the ride debuted in 2000). In 2013, it's breaking more records with the GateKeeper, its Wing Coaster.

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