Roller coasters are ready to roll, lights are set to shine on new shows, and parades are about to wind down the avenues as amusement parks across the region open for the season.
Kings Dominion will present eight new shows this year for both adults and children.
“Franklin’s Dance Party,” playing several times a day at the Peanuts Playhouse, will give children the chance to bust a move onstage through May 24.
Blast off with Lucy, Charlie Brown and Snoopy in “Space Beagle,” when the world’s most famous beagle becomes the first dog on the moon.
Another new show, with acrobatics, opens June 22 in the King’s Dominion Theater.
“We have a brand new cirque-style show. It’s called ‘Gravity.’ It’s kind of this retro, ’50s space vibe,” said Kings Dominion spokeswoman Maggie Sellers.
With 12 roller coasters, Kings Dominion can offer thrills all over the park. The Intimidator 305 takes riders up 305 feet and plummets them down 80 degrees to reach 90 mph.
The Apple Zapple, Avalanche and Backlot Stunt Coaster are more suited to younger riders and families.
Kings Dominion is also offering three new beers exclusive to the park this season, Sellers said.
“We’ve even got a brand new tap room coming in later this spring for those 21 and older. We’ll have 12 rotating craft beers on tap. It’ll be called The Parched Pig,” she said. “It’ll be in our Old Virginia section of the park, and three of those beers will be our exclusive Center of the Universe beers that you can only get at the park.”
In addition to the funnel cakes, Dippin’ Dots, frozen yogurt, Italian ices, ice cream and all of the other food one can expect at an amusement park, there are new culinary creations on the menu this season, Sellers said.
“From a food standpoint, we’ve got several new items like Walking Chicken and Waffles. We’ve got some new, specialty pizzas like a Buffalo chicken pizza,” Sellers said. “The smoked-meat pizza has several meats like bacon and sausage and some brisket on top and it’s pretty darn good.”
Grand Carnivale, a new “immersive summertime event,” will open June 15 and run through July 7. The daytime festival starts at 5 p.m. each day and features the sights, sounds and tastes of India, China, Italy France and Germany. And right around dark every night, there will be a parade.
“At about 8 p.m. there will be a spectacle of color. It’s an interactive light parade. It’ll start in one end of the park and finish at the Eiffel Tower,” Sellers said. “It has glowing floats—larger than life representing each of the countries. They’re absolutely beautiful.
“We cap off the night with the Grand Carnivale Street Party. All the performers from the parade will be there and, you can join them for the party of all parties,” Sellers said.
“We have something for everybody. We’ve been making memories with families for 44 years now. We have over 60 rides, shows and attractions, so there’s something for everybody in the family from your tiny tots in the Planet Snoopy who want to ride the kids rides or just see a show, all the way up to the high thrill-seekers that want to take on Twisted Timbers to Intimidator 305 and everything in between.”
Kings Dominion will open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in April and May, and will open daily in June, July and August, with the exception of June 3-6 when the park will be closed.
Six Flags America
At Six Flags America, a new “roller coaster experience” will feature the only floorless roller coaster in Maryland, Six Flags America Spokeswoman Denise Stokes said.
Firebird is the park’s new thrill ride with a 90-foot drop.
“These trains are precision-designed by a Swiss roller coaster company with multiple high-bank curves, high-speed carousel, corkscrew rolls with speeds up to 55 mph. The track is 2,900 feet long and it’s a two-minute ride altogether. This’ll be a game changer for the park as far as roller coaster rides go,” Stokes said. “It will be open to the public in May and we’re super excited about it.”
Stokes said the park, which opens for the season Saturday in Upper Marlboro, Md., offers some of the best roller coasters in the world.
“We’re known for coasters. That’s the No. 1 reason people come to Six Flags America to ride roller coasters,” Stokes said. “Last summer, we actually hosted a roller coaster convention and we had 800 people show up from around the world.”
Even those who don’t come for a convention will find fun on the coasters at the park, Stokes said.
“People will take their very first roller coaster rides at Six Flags America. It’s a favorite summer hangout amongst families, and it’s a place where people literally fall in love with theme parks and with riding roller coasters,” she said.
Beads for wearing and sharing will be tossed around at the park’s Mardi Gras celebration held weekends from April 27 through May 12, Stokes said.
“Mardi Gras is back with the sights, sounds and entertainment of New Orleans, and there’s a culinary experience in there as well,” Stokes said. “We hire local musicians that specialize in that Mardi Gras sound flavor.”
For its 20th season, Six Flags America will offer a special gift to people who had significant life events happen on May 8, 1999, Stokes said.
“If you have a birth date or a marriage certificate from that day, we’re going to give you a free season pass from the day we open until Mother’s Day, which is May 12,” Stokes said.
On May 4, the park will host the eighth annual Six Flags America Spring Cheerleading Extravaganza Competition, where college, parent and special needs cheer teams will compete. The event will be open to spectators.
Six Flags will be open Saturday and Sunday and again April 13-14. The park will be open daily between April 15 and 22, and again April 27-28. The park will also be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until May 26. Beginning May 27, the park will open daily through August. Opening times in September will be limited to Sept. 1, 2, 21, 22 and 28-29.
Finnegan’s Flyer, scheduled to open later in the spring at Busch Gardens, should be an outstanding attraction, said Busch Gardens and Water Country USA Spokeswoman Cindy Sarko.
“Finnegan’s Flyer is still under construction, but its grand opening is right around the corner in May. This screamin’ swing will be a popular attraction, with seating for 32 and pendulum-like arms that reach a thrilling height of more than 80 feet at a speed of 45 mph,” Sarko said.
Sesame Street Forest of Fun, with family-friendly rides, playgrounds and appearances by Sesame Street characters, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Sarko said the fun at the forest will continue this year with improvements.
“We’re adding a Sesame Street Sunny Days Mural to that section of the park, which will be a focal point throughout our Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends during the month of April. These special weekends will feature a different theme and a featured Sesame Street character every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April 5 through April 28,” Sarko said.
Food at the park’s several restaurants include German pretzels and beer; fries with an assortment of toppings; Italian, Mediterranean and Asian fare; burgers; fish; cheesesteaks; brisket; ribs; chicken; and more.
Sarko said Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the place to be for fun-loving families.
“We have something for everyone in the family, from thrilling rides to world-class dining options, entertaining shows and kid-friendly attractions, and we have special events throughout the year, including our Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends coming up in April, our Food & Wine Festival, Bier Fest, Howl-O-Scream and our popular Christmas Town event rounds out our season,” Sarko said.Busch Gardens will closed on April 8-11 and April 29-30, but open daily in the remainder of April. The park will be in operation Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in May with daily opening beginning on May 26 through Aug. 31.