May 09--Ever notice how many pop songs are inspired by amusement parks?
"Slip Slidin' Away." "I Want To Take You Higher." "Upside Down." "Spinning Wheel." "Scream." "Straight Up." "Up, Up and Away." "Joyride." "Fun Fun Fun." "Higher and Higher." "You Spin Me Round." "Help!" "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)."
OK, maybe the songwriters of all those didn't have thrill rides in mind. But I do. Scream season starts Saturday in Erie when Waldameer Park opens. Here's a park-by-park rundown of what's new and other details.
Waldameer Park & Water World
- Where: 220 Peninsula Drive, Erie.
- What's new: Big additions are still in the future: an expanded water park and a restaurant. For 2014, look for cosmetic changes, including eye-popping LED lights on X-Scream, plus new colors on several slides in Water World. A new restroom with family rooms is located beneath Thunder River. The Wally Card is more flexible; you can register, reload it and also check the balance. Showtime Theater shows include "Camp Rockmeer," "Wally and Wendy Bear's Swingin' Safari" and "Let's Go to the Movies."
- Signature rides: A Top 10 coaster graces Erie with Ravine Flyer II, ranked No. 6 on Amusement Today's list of top wood coasters. Music Express, a 2013 addition, gives you a hands-on science lesson in centrifugal force to rock and pop hits with 10,000 glittering LED lights. Steel Dragon, a spinning coaster, the classic Comet wood coaster, Thunder River log flume, X-Scream drop tower, water park and more also keep Waldameer hopping.
- Opens: Saturday and Sunday, then May 17-18, 23-26, May 29-Aug. 31 (except Mondays) and Sept. 1. Water World opens May 24. Fireworks days: May 25, July 3, Aug. 31.
- Prices: Combo pass: 48 inches and over, $29.75 or 27.75. Under 48 inches: $20.50. Season tickets ($83.50) available for limited time.
- Details: Call 838-3591 or visit www.waldameer.com.
- Where: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, Ohio.
- What's new: Pipe Scream, a flat ride/roller coaster that spins riders on 302 feet of track and reaches 40 mph. Family ride Lake Erie Eagles puts riders in a carriage that lifts you nearly 30 feet and simulates flight. The Luminosity light show features new pyrotechnics and music. Donut Time is gone, replaced by a full-service Starbucks. Franchise sports bar Chickie's and Pete's, known for Crabfries and Lisa's Blonde Lobster Pie, joins the park. Lighthouse Point has added 52 deluxe cabins that can accommodate up to 10 people and feature two full bathrooms, four flat-screen TVs and more.
- Signature rides: 18 coasters, including 2013's Gatekeeper, the winged coaster at the front of the park; Millennium Force, the 305-foot steel goliath that's ranked No. 1 by Amusement Today; the No. 9 Magnum, still a thrill despite its age (25); the 400-foot Top Thrill Dragster; the ever-smooth Raptor; and woolly Maverick. The 301-foot WindSeeker swing ride is a modern-day Viewmaster.
- Prices: $49.99, if you buy online. Two- and three-day passes that include Soak City, the adjacent water park, available. Fast Lane, a wristband option ($60), allows you to speed through the line for most major riders, except Top Thrill Dragster and Maverick; cost is $80 to include those, too.
- Opens: Saturday.
- Special events: Coaster Mania (June 6), 50th anniversary of Blue Streak day (June 21), Christmas in July (July 25), armed forces weekends (May 23-26, July 4-6).
- Details: Call (419) 627-2350 or visit www.cedarpoint.com.
Conneaut Lake Park
- Where: 12382 Center St., Conneaut Lake.
- What's new: Hostile Hostel, a dark ride. The miniature golf course is restored and ready for you to yell "Fore!" Or "Two!" (It's mini, remember?)
- Signature rides: The Blue Streak rolls on; it celebrated its 75th birthday in 2013. Other classic rides include the Tumble Bug (1925), the carousel (1910) and the Flying Scooters. Kiddieland sends tots into a tizzy. The Kaylee Bell, which leaves from Hotel Conneaut'sGrass Pier, operates Saturdays and Sundays for lake tours.
- Concerts: Buckcherry rocks the park on May 26; Bret Michaels of Poison performs on Aug. 10.
- Prices: Wristband for everything is $25. Wristband for everything but mini golf and Hostile Hostel is $20. Wristband is $15 (no Blue Streak, train or Hotel Hostile.) Season pass is $75 through May 22; then $85. $1 ride tickets available; Blue Streak and Hostile Hostel are three tickets. The water park is not in operation at this time.
- Opens: May 23 at 4 p.m.; park operates Fridays through Sundays. Camperland is open now. Kaylee Bell offers lake tours.
- Details: Park hours vary; call (814) 382-5115 or visit www.conneautlakepark.com. For Beach Club events, visit http://clpbeachclub.com. For Hotel Conneaut prices and reservations, call (814) 213-0120.
Darien Lake Theme Park
- Where: 9993 Alleghany Road (Route 77), Darien Center, N.Y.
- What's new: Nik Wallenda and the Wallenda Family will spend the summer at, er, over the park. Nik Wallenda did televised high-wire walks over Niagara Falls (2012) and the Grand Canyon (2013). The Wallendas will do one-hour Beyond the Falls shows in Galaxy Theatre, surprise pop-up shows and conduct tightrope training academy. Also new: a guaranteed-happiness policy. If weather interrupts rides for 90 or more minutes, you get a free pass. Wait in line 45 minutes or more? You get an express pass to jump a line later that day. Your favorite ride out of commission for four hours or more? You get in free another day. Anchor Bar, new in 2013, has expanded its menu, while Maria's Italian Bistro has a new look and menu, plus a patio.
- Signature attractions: Ride of Steel rules; it's a genuinely exciting 208-foot steel coaster. Blast Off, a 2013 addition, whisks you up a 185-foot tower. Five-inversion Viper. Predator, the largest wood coaster in New York. SplashTown, a 10-acre water park, is included with admission. The "Rowdy's Ridge" family area has Moose on the Loose (ride a runaway moose) and Heave Ho! (three-story rope tower). The Waterfront Boardwalk includes a carousel, Ferris wheel and an attraction where kids can chase dancing water streams. The amphitheater has 19 concerts, including Dave Matthews Band (June 11), Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd (July 13), Journey/Steve Miller Band (June 24), Kiss and Def Leppard (Aug. 13). With a concert ticket, you can visit the park for $16.75 if you buy in advance or $19.99 on the day of show.
- Opens: Saturday (SplashTown on May 18). Prices: $44.99 (over 48 inches), $29.99 (48 inches and under, seniors 55 and older). Or $39.99 and $26.99, respectively, if you buy online. Parking is $8.
- Details: Call (585) 599-4641 or visit www.godarienlake.com.
- Where: 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin.
- What's new: Johnny Rockets, the park's first new full-service restaurant in more than 30 years, will offer hamburgers, milkshakes and more when it opens in June. The classic 1929 Auto Race Ride has been restored and renovated. Potato Patch has upgraded its order process to speed things up.
- Signature rides: If you have a profound fear of going splat, keep away from Black Widow, which rotates riders, pendulum-style, nearly 150 feet in the air -- including upside down. Phantom's Revenge has inexplicably dropped out of Amusement Today's list of Top 10 coasters, but it's one of the best in the region. Sky Coaster launches you to 50 mph in three seconds. Classics include the Thunderbolt (1968), the Racer (1927) and 1921's Jack Rabbit. Noah's Ark is No. 1 on Amusement Today's list of top dark rides.
- Prices: $40.99, $27.99 (under 46 inches), $20.99 (seniors, 55 and older). Regular price is $33.99 if you buy online. Tickets are $29.99 at Giant Eagle for May, June, September visits, and weekdays in July/August. Website has numerous discounts with coupons, including select buy-one, get-one days.
- Opens: Regular hours for the park's 117th season start Saturday.
- Details: Call (412) 461-0500 or visit www.kennywood.com.
For younger kids
Martin's Fantasy Island, 2400 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island, N.Y.
Dragster's Drench, a four-lane water-park attraction, was added in 2012. Signature attractions include the Silver Comet roller coaster, Dragster's Drench (a four-lane water-park attraction), Crazy Mouse, and the Wild West Shoot Out. The affordable park, entering its 54th season, opens Saturday. Call (716) 773-7591 or visit www.martinsfantasyisland.com.
Midway State Park, 4859 Route 430, Bemus Point, N.Y.
The state of New York owns this popular kiddie park, which started as a trolley park in 1898. The park has 21 rides, including a restored Herschel carousel, Frog Hopper, two mild coasters, a vintage pony tractor ride and slides. Opens May 24. Call (716) 386-3165 or visit www.nysparks.com.
DAVE RICHARDS can be reached at 870-1703. Follow him on twitter at Twitter.com/ETNrichards.
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