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Family Travel: Amusement Park Tips

Family Travel: Amusement Park Tips

Are you planning to check out some amusement parks with your family this summer? They make for a wonderful family-friendly environment, but also require a lot of planning. That's why we have these amusement park tips for family travel.

Momtrends learned more how to make the most out of our amusement park adventures with writer and amusement park expert Arthur Levine. As the Theme Park Guide, Arthur shared with us what's new at amusement parks in 2012 and why they continue to be a great value for families looking for a fun, inexpensive getaways. Here are some more tips to check out before you go.

Momtrends: What are the best theme parks for families with small children?
Arthur Levine: Nearly all parks have specific areas and rides geared to younger kids. Some, such as Fantasyland at Disneyland and Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure (part of Universal Orlando), do a wonderful job of making attractions accessible to the whole family. There are a few parks, however, that are expressly designed exclusively for small children.

Among the best are the two Legoland parks in California, Germany and Florida, which offer lots of hands-on, interactive opportunities as well as gentle, pink-knuckle rides themed to the popular plastic bricks. Another wonderful park for the younger set is Sesame Place near Philadelphia. It brings families in contact with the "Sesame Street" gang and features some great water park slides along with dry rides.

For more under-the-radar parks, there is Idlewild, near Pittsburgh, which dates back to 1878 and has a wonderful traditional vibe as well as a "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"-themed Land of Make Believe. Two of my very favorite -- and very under-the-radar -- parks for small children are both located near one another in New Hampshire's White Mountains: Santa's Village offers a whimsical Christmas setting, while Story Land uses classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes for its inspiration. Both are impeccably maintained, reasonably priced, low-key, and incredibly charming.

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Momtrends: What are some of the must-see attractions for the whole family?
Arthur Levine: My top pick is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure. Using vehicles mounted on robotic arms and a combination of filmed sequences and real set pieces, the stunning ride transports visitors into J.K. Rowling's books and the movies they inspired. Also check out our Harry Potter London feature.

My second-best is another Islands of Adventure attraction, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. The groundbreaking ride uses a roving motion simulator vehicle and 3-D film to immerse riders in the Marvel universe. It was recently updated with all-new, high-definition animation that is eye-popping. My third pick is the classic Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. The timeless ride launched the films that, in turn, led Disney to incorporate elements from the movies back into the yo-hoing ride.

Momtrends: What are some of the new features at theme parks?
Arthur Levine: This is an incredibly exciting year with lots of new developments at parks. Among the most high-profile debuts is Cars Land, the 12-acre addition to Disney California Adventure that is based on the Pixar movies. Its signature attraction will be Radiator Springs Racers, a ride that will pit two carloads of guests against one another in slot car-style vehicles. Universal Studios Hollywood recently opened the highly anticipated Transformers- The Ride, which uses a ride system that is similar to Spider-Man. The Magic Kingdom at Disney World is in the midst of a major expansion to Fantasyland. Storybook Circus, which offers a second Dumbo ride, is now open. Later this year, Fantasyland Forest will open with lands and attractions based on "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast."

There are also some wild coasters opening this year, including three "wing" coasters (at Six Flags Great America near Chicago, Dollywood in Tennessee, and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania) that place riders in seats alongside the tracks, rather than over them, for a unique ride experience.

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