Some of the best memories of summer are made at amusement parks. Getting up the nerve to ride a thrilling roller coaster. Stuffing your face with nachos, cotton candy and funnel cakes. Hanging out with friends and getting fun souvenirs. Spinning around on a ride until you're dizzy or nauseous while speakers play hits that become remembered as the songs of that season.
If you're looking to add an amusement park visit to your summer plans, there are several to choose from within a few hours drive of Northwest Indiana, making them great day trip or overnight destinations to fill your summer of 2017 with lasting memories.
At Indiana Beach in Monticello, a lot of emphasis has been put on returning rides and rental units to tip-top shape.
“We’ve made significant updates to our accommodations with fresh floors and paint in several units. We’ve updated and upgraded a lot of units on the property,” said Gary Fawks, Indiana Beach representative. Fawks said that the penthouse suites have been completely redone, along with rebuilding the Beach Inn.
Another noticeable change this year will be with the Sky Room Lounge. The kitchen will now be operated by D.T. Kirby’s, a popular restaurant and bar in Lafayette. They’ll also manage the rooftop lounge and entertainment and will have the restaurant and lounge open in the off-season. The perimeter fencing also has been rearranged so that the restaurant will be open to those who would like to dine without entering the park.
Ticketing now includes the short 30-minute ride on the Shafer Queen paddle wheel boat. Extended trips are still available for an additional fee.
The big buzz this year at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, is the addition of THE JOKER Free Fly Coaster. Featuring one-of-a-kind onboard magnetic technology it allows for free-fly flips in 4-D wing vehicles that seat up to eight people per vehicle with a total of five vehicles. The coaster is 120-foot tall with a 90-degree hill that is ascended by an elevator-style, chain link lift. There are two 90-degree drops experienced as you ride.
“THE JOKER Free Fly Coaster is one of the most unique coasters ever built in Six Flags Great America’s 41 year history,” said Hank Salemi, park president. “The sensation of weightlessness as you flip 360 degrees from this innovative magnetic technology is truly incredible.”
What’s old is new again at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in downstate Santa Claus, Indiana. Last fall park officials decided to restore a vintage ride obtained from another park. The classic Calypso ride, called the Firecracker, is charmingly old-school and sure to bring joy to young visitors as it did their parents and grandparents.
"There are only a handful of these rides left in North America," Park President Matt Eckert said. "Restoring this ride for future generations to enjoy took a lot of research and months of work, but it was a labor of love. We just know families will add Firecracker to their ‘must-ride’ list for each visit.”
The park has added new features this year to make the park more accessible and convenient for everyone. Holiday World has a new Holding’s Treehouse play structure designed for children of all abilities and has made the carousel and train rides wheelchair accessible. They’ve also added the new reservable Calming Room for guests who may need a break from sensory overload.
Visit the website, holidayworld.com for information on new performances and other popular favorites like fireworks, high dive shows and Halloween weekends.
Santa’s Village Azoosement Park in East Dundee, Illinois, traditionally has been know as a kiddie park that entertains “toddlers to tweens,” but with the addition of a new coaster, they’ve expanded to a thrilling coaster for the older set. The Super Cyclone opened this season and was built specifically for the park by the Italian company Interpark. The coaster itself was a million dollar investment not including labor and landscaping.
Within the park is a working zoo and farm that is part of the ticket price and you’ll see some new creatures there this year that includes two baby wallabies and new water buffalo and prairie dog attractions.
“We always have an evolving array of animals,” said Rob Kramer, director of marketing.
Appearances by television personalities from Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel are also a new feature this year at the park. Earlier this season a celebrity from Disney Channel’s show “Girl Meets World” visited and on July 22 visitors will have a chance to meet Brec Bassinger of Nickeodeon’s show “Bella & The Bulldogs.”
“We’re growing and the last three years have seen excessive growth,” Kramer said. “During the park’s highest point, there were 24 rides and we’re back to that point. We’ll continue adding attractions and rides in the future.”
Wherever you decide to go this summer to get your thrills and have some family fun, be sure to do a little homework before you go. By visiting the website in advance you’ll find different ticketing offers and discounts that can save you some money.