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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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Disney Theme Parks

  • Locations: Anaheim, Calif. and Orlando, Fla.
  • Prices, hours, attractions: see website

No list of family amusement parks would be complete without a mention of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, Calif. in 1955, started it all. Today, the 500-acre Disneyland includes two theme parks. In Orlando, Fla., Disney World has four theme parks to visit and boasts more than 25,000 acres of amusement. A trip to see Mickey and Minnie is at the top of many kids' wish lists and definitely something the whole family will never forget.

Hersheypark

  • Address: 100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Penn.
  • Phone: 717-534-3900
  • Roller coasters: 11
  • Rides/attractions: 65 (including 20 kiddy rides)
  • Hours: vary; check online for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $57.95/ages 9-54, $36.95/ages 3-8, free/2 and under
  • Parking fees: $12

With chocolate as the backbone of this 110-acre theme park, it's no wonder kids love it. Rides' thrill level is measured according to candy. That's right – youngsters can look for signs for Hershey's miniatures for kiddy rides all the way up to Jolly Ranchers for high-speed rides (Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are somewhere in the middle).

Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari, New Jersey

  • Address: 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson, N.J.
  • Phone: 732-928-1821
  • Roller coasters: 13
  • Rides/attractions: 75
  • Hours: vary; check online for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $62.99/general, $37.99/kids under 54 inches; free/2 and under (online discounts available)
  • Parking fees: $22

Signature rides at this amusement park include El Toro, which has the steepest drop of any wooden coaster in the United States, Nitro, a steel coaster that speeds along at 80 miles per hour, and the Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world and fastest in the country. Younger riders have three different areas of the park to go to for rides tailored just for them. New this year: On the Safari Off Road Adventure, you can go on a guided tour to see 1,200 animals from six different continents within a 350-acre area.

Six Flags Great America

  • Address: 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee, Ill.
  • Phone: 847-249-4636
  • Roller coasters: 14
  • Rides/attractions: 60
  • Hours: vary; check online for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $61.99/general, $41.99/kids under 48 inches (online discounts available)
  • Parking fees: $22

From Batman: The Ride, known for its one-of-a-kind zero-gravity "heart line" spin, to the wooden thriller Viper, there are tons of rides to explore here (and, every now and then, the two we just mentioned are run in reverse!). The 2013 season also debuts a new Wing Coaster called X Flight. If you're not up for twists and turns, there are plenty of family rides, too.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

  • Address: 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, Calif.
  • Phone: 661-255-4100
  • Roller coasters: 17 (one more coming this year)
  • Rides/attractions: 100-plus
  • Hours: vary; check website for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $64.99/general, $39.99/kids under under 48 inches, free/2 and under (online discounts available)
  • Parking fees: $18

In the quest for bigger and better roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain adds a doozy to its list that's slated to open this summer – Full Throttle. The ride includes a 160-foot loop, a zero-to-70 mph jump and, at one point, the ride lurches backward. Want to take the plunge? For youngsters that aren't ready for inverted loop-de-loops, you'll find an assortment of kiddy rides, too.

Universal's Islands of Adventure

  • Address: 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando, Fla.
  • Phone: 407-363-8000
  • Roller coasters: 3
  • Rides/attractions: 15
  • Hours: vary; check website for the day you're visiting
  • Tickets: $92/adults, $86/kids
  • Parking fees: $15

Become part of your favorite story in Universal's Islands of Adventures. For wannabe wizards, there's no better place to go than The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Kids can also step into the role of Spider-Man, The Cat in the Hat, dinosaurs from Jurassic Park – and the list goes on. The attractions literally let you become like the characters. Wanna feel like the Hulk? You will when the gamma-ray accelerator is warning you of imminent danger as you're accelerating from zero to 45 mph in two seconds.

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