10 Best Amusement Parks for 2015

Courtesy of Kentucky Kingdom

Have you ever gone from zero to 60 m.p.h. in three and a half seconds while dangling off the side of a steel track? The only place in the world you can experience that is on the new Thunderbird wing launch roller coaster opening this spring at Holiday World, Indiana, one of the 10 most exciting amusement parks to visit this year. As it goes in the industry, there will always be records to break, thrills to enhance, and screams to ignite, and this year is no exception. With the season just underway, new boundary-pushing roller coasters (as well as rewarding new expansions and family-friendly additions) are already setting hearts aflutter.

By Zachary Laks

Courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain

WHERE: Valencia, California

Main Attraction: Twisted Colossus

Six Flags Magic Mountain delivers untethered thrills with almost every variety of coaster imaginable. Joining the recent hybrid wooden and steel coaster craze, Magic Mountain ushers in a true feat of thrill engineering as the new Twisted Colossus rises from the foundation of its longstanding wooden classic Colossus. The ride will be the longest hybrid coaster in the world when it opens this spring, combining outrageous elements such as the “Top Gun Stall”—an inversion where the train slows down while upside down—and a Zero G Roll during the four-minute thrill. For the best odds at conquering all the coasters in one day, plan a mid-week visit to avoid crowds.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Travel Guide

Courtesy of Hersheypark

Hersheypark

WHERE: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Main Attraction: Laff Trakk

Hersheypark consistently delivers high-quality theme park experiences for the whole family with its well-kept grounds, top-of-the-line thrill rides, and the best sweets of any park in the country, hands-down. This year, the chocolate empire expands its park with the zany Laff Trakk coaster, the country’s first indoor, spinning, glow-coaster. The Laff Trakk takes families through a vibrantly colored modern fun house in a spinning car that reaches speeds up to 40 mph. While at the park, don’t miss the opportunity to attempt SkyRush, the heart-racing wing coaster, where the seats extend beyond the track with minimal restraints.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Pennsylvania Travel Guide

Courtesy of Six Flags New England

Six Flags New England

WHERE: Agawam, Massachusetts

Main Attraction: Wicked Cyclone

Returning to the list again this year, Six Flags New England reimagines its long-standing Cyclone coaster into a new hybrid, the Wicked Cyclone—constructed on the base of the retired Cyclone. This coaster is the first of its kind to feature two Zero G Rolls and a mind-boggling 200-degree stall. The park is already known for its hypercoaster Bizarro, but don’t underestimate the many other thrills it has to offer, including the dizzying Pandemonium or the towering scare of Goliath (one of the park’s two boomerang coasters).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Massachusetts Travel Guide

Courtesy of Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

WHERE: San Antonio, Texas

Main Attraction: BATMAN: The Ride

An amusement park known for its robust waterpark, Six Flags Fiesta Texas ups the ante this year with its jaw-dropping new coaster BATMAN: The Ride. Though the name of the coaster might be unoriginal (the park has a long history of rides fashioned after the superhero), the innovation and thrill-capacity are sky-high. This 4D Free Fly Coaster teeter-totters along the compact track, where riders have the power at times to control the spin of the car with a kick of their legs. With six full inversions and two beyond-90-degree raven drops, you’ll probably want to wait to eat lunch until after you’ve gotten off the ride.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Antonio Guide

ruigsantos | Dreamstime.com

Universal Studios Hollywood

WHERE: Universal City, California

Main Attraction: The Simpsons’ Springfield

As construction is just a year away from completion on the west coast’s very own Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Hollywood rolls out an impressive, newly enhanced immersive “Springfield” thoroughfare, capturing the spirit of one of TV’s most beloved animated series, The Simpsons. The scope and size of this themed area encompass all of the signature Springfield classics, offering visitors the chance to taste a Krusty Burger, indulge in a slice from Luigi’s Pizza, and down a pint of the foamy, picture-perfect Duff Beer—brewed exclusively for the park. This new area expands around The Simpsons Ride, a motion simulator ride that tests the limits of 3D interaction, as riders experience mist, smoke, and scent effects through the narrative.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Los Angeles Travel Guide

Courtesy of Kentucky Kingdom

Kentucky Kingdom

WHERE: Louisville, Kentucky

Main Attraction: T3

Having just reopened less than a year ago after shutting down about four years prior, the newly revamped Kentucky Kingdom continues to add to its coaster roster, this year with an old favorite. Going off of the park’s dormant T2, Kentucky Kingdom rolls out what it bills the “Next Generation of Fear”, the T3 – Terror to the Third Power. A new train, custom-built for the track to provide a smoother ride, will zip through the 2,260 feet of track with five hair-raising inversions. Among the park’s other coasters, the complementary Lightning Run (a one-of-a-kind 10-story steel coaster) and Thunder Run (a classic wooden coaster), provide a compelling reason to visit the newly revitalized park.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kentucky Bluegrass Country Travel Guide

Courtesy of Carowinds

Carowinds

WHERE: Charlotte, North Carolina

Main Attraction: Fury 325

Pushing the barriers of physics, North Carolina’s Carowinds breaks records this summer with its new giga coaster (a class of extreme coasters that don’t feature inversions), Fury 325. Clocking in as the tallest (325 foot first drop) and fastest (up to 95 mph) giga coaster in the world, this teal-colored extreme machine takes brave riders on a mind-bending three minute and 25 second ride. Standing as the tallest coaster in the world with a chain lift hill, you’ll have plenty of time to anticipate the 81-degree plummet from the sky before careening through high-speed banked turns, airborne curves, and stomach-churning camel hills. Coming in as the signature attraction at Carowinds, Fury 325 has been constructed over the park’s new front entrance plaza, passing over the park’s pathways six times!

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s North Carolina Travel Guide

Courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Water Park

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Water Park

Where: Santa Claus, Indiana

Main Attraction: Thunderbird

Southern Indiana’s thrill destination, Holiday World ushers in the nation’s first-ever launched wing coaster with great fanfare this April. A family park with a focus on its adventurous water attractions, Thunderbird is the fourth coaster in the park alongside its three wooden favorites, The Voyage, The Legend, and The Raven. Sink into the bucket seats alongside the track of the Thunderbird and let your feet dangle freely as you’re mercilessly shot from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. Breathtaking loops, rolls, and twists provide unrelenting thrills for the one minute and 18-second ride. Prepare to launch!

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Indiana Travel Guide

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Knoebels

WHERE: Elysburg, Pennsylvania

Main Attraction: Impulse

There’s a winning charm throughout Elysburg’s small-but-mighty Knoebels Amusement Resort. The free-entry park welcomes families (and even their dogs!) to the grounds, where per-ride charges top out at a very reasonable $3. Boasting powerful wooden coasters such as Phoenix and Twister, Knoebels adds Impulse, a high-end steel coaster, to its roster this year. This bright yellow and blue scream machine gains its momentum from a 90-degree free fall drop as it propels riders through intense rolls and sharp turns. When the pang of hunger strikes (maybe after you’ve given Impulse a try…), seek out one of the homemade fresh apple dumplings topped with vanilla ice cream—a park favorite.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Pennsylvania Travel Guide

Courtesy of 2015 Silver Dollar City Attractions

Silver Dollar City

WHERE: Branson, Missouri

Main Attraction: Fireman's Landing

Silver Dollar City, Branson’s expansive theme park complete with more than 40 rides and dozens of live music shows, continues to expand this year with its all-new park zone, Fireman’s Landing. Built with families in mind, the area is set up to model an old-time volunteer firefighter recruitment fair with activities of skill and might in place to test the new recruits. Don’t miss the new Firefall in the area, a launch drop ride that sends riders up eight stories before gravity takes over, bringing the car down for a thrilling bounce. The Firefighter’s Fire Drill offers the younger set an interactive fun house of buckets to fill and dump, as well as foam ball cannons to shoot at various targets.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Branson Travel Guide