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High Flying at Region's Theme Parks

The newest attraction at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the Griffon, is a floorless steel coaster that features a 205-foot drop.
The newest attraction at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the Griffon, is a floorless steel coaster that features a 205-foot drop. (By Scott K. Brown -- Busch Gardens Europe)

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By Christina Talcott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007

Whether it's thrill rides, slides or -- let's be honest -- funnel cake you crave, summer isn't complete without a trip to a theme park. And this year, a jaw-dropping roller coaster, two splashy water parks and weekly fireworks are among the additions to area parks.

At Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the longest lines are bound to be for the Griffon, the park's new floorless steel coaster. The stats: It has a 205-foot drop at a 90-degree angle, reaching 75 mph before heading into an upside-down loop, then flying around more drops and loops before skimming a pool below.

Kings Dominion, too, has a new development: a water park that's less afterthought, more destination, featuring a wave pool, a huge funnel ride (a la Six Flags America's Tornado), plus a four-person tube ride, the Zoom Flume.

In honor of Hersheypark's 100th anniversary, the sweet spot in Pennsylvania has a new water park, the Boardwalk, featuring thrill rides and slides, a wave pool and a special play area for children. Plus, the park puts on a fireworks show Saturdays through Sept. 1.

To make the most of a theme park visit, verify hours and prices before you go, and make sure to take plenty of sunscreen. Here are the seven closest major theme parks:

Maryland

SIX FLAGS AMERICA Capital Beltway to Exit 15A, five miles east on Route 214 in Largo. 301-249-1500.http://www.sixflags.com/parks/america. New this year is a Wild West show called "Desperate Horsethieves," starring three cowgirls duking it out in an old Western town; Looney Toons cartoon screenings at the Crazy Horse Saloon; and "Movie Magic," an interactive show that lets guests play camera operators, actors, directors and more.

The park is open daily through Sept. 3, and Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 6-28; also open Sept. 8 and Oct. 26. Usually opens at 10:30. Closing times range from 8 to 11. Call or check Web site for hours.

Admission to the park is $49.99, $34.99 for disabled patrons and children 54 inches and shorter (age 3 and younger free). Season passes are $69.99 with an optional upgrade for $19.99; passes admit you to any of the Six Flags parks in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Parking is $15.

Virginia

BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG Interstate 64 east to Exit 243A, three miles east of Williamsburg. Drive time is about 2 1/2 hours from the Beltway. 800-343-7946.http://www.buschgardens.com. This 100-acre park features more than 50 rides and attractions in a 17th-century European-style setting. New this year: the Griffon roller coaster, as well as shows, including "Pet Shenanigans," with real animals performing wacky tricks, and a one-man special-effects and storytelling show, "Secrets of Castle O'Sullivan."

The park is open daily through Sept. 3; weekends through Oct. 28. Opens at 10 daily. Closing times range from 6 to 11. Call or go online to verify hours.

Admission is $54.95, $47.95 for children ages 3-9 (age 2 and younger free). Individual season "passports" to Busch Gardens Williamsburg start at $54.95, with many options available, including Virginia resident "Fun Cards," multi-day passes, group rates and vacation packages; a seven-day pass to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA is $79.95. Parking is $10.


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