Monday, 11 August 2014


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The Best 15 Amusement Parks In The World
By Robert James,
Hi Consumption, 9 August 2014.

No doubt about it, we like to be amused, and we’re willing to spend a fortune on keeping ourselves that way. We build whole parks full of advanced technology devoted to maximizing our sense of amusement. This need is connected to fear, as we seem to be most amused when our fear response kicks in. We like horror movies and thrill rides that push us literally over the edge. We climb mountains, walk tightropes over great gashes in the earth’s crust. Adrenaline surging rapidly through our bodies is very entertaining, because in our increasingly cossetted world, it makes us feel alive. Amusement parks have been around for a while. We won’t say exactly how long just yet, but take a guess now and read on to see if you’re right. You might be surprised at the answer. Here’s our pick of 15 of the world’s best amusement parks.

1. Dyrehavsbakken, Denmark

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Just ten minutes outside of Copenhagen, Dyrehavsbakken (commonly referred to as Bakken) is the oldest amusement park in the world. On Wednesdays if you pay cash, you’ll get a 50% discount on the rides. Disabled visitors can have companions ride for free. So how old would the first amusement park be? Seventy? Eighty? A hundred years old? Bakken first opened in 1583. One of the main reasons for it being here is that a natural spring was discovered. Four hundred years ago clean water was hard to find, so you tended to hold onto it when you did come across it. In particular, the water here was believed to cure illness. Crowds came to get well, and with crowds came entertainers. Hence, an amusement park was born, though by today’s standards it was probably something less than gut-wrenchingly amusing. The Roller Coaster - Bakken’s hallmark - was completed in 1932. Today there are thirty three rides, including Mine Train, Ulven, and TarnGyset. [Bakken website]

2. Magic Kingdom, Florida

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In 1971 the first of the four theme parks at the Disney Orlando resort opened. Last year, Magic Kingdom hosted close to 20 million visitors, making it the most visited theme park in the world for the fifth year in a row. People like Magic Kingdom. After Walt Disney watched a cowboy wander through Tomorrowland at Disneyland, he recognized a problem. To avoid a similar conflict of worlds, tunnels called utilidors were built underneath Magic Kingdom so that employees could make their way around the resort unseen by guests. [Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World website]

3. Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

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Opened in 2010, Ferrari World claims to be the largest indoor amusement park in the world. It’s big. Despite what you might think, Ferrari World is family focused, with the majority of rides suitable for everyone. But if you long for the thrill, try the Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster on the planet. In less than 5 seconds, you’ll be doing 150mph. It’s probably best not to eat anything beforehand.

4. Six Flags Great America, Illinois

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Six Flags Great America is home to Goliath, the Usain Bolt of roller coasters, the tallest, fastest, steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. There’s also X Flight, or 3000 feet of drops, inversions, barrel rolls and zero-g rolls. The park is all around family entertainment, including water rides and family rides, live performance entertainment, kids rides, and yes, thrill rides.

5. PortAventura Park, Barcelona

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PortAventura is Europe’s biggest theme park and is also a water park and hotel resort with four themed 4-star hotels, each with over five hundred rooms. When it opened in 1995 its headliner was the Dragon Khan rollercoaster: eight inversions and at the time the highest loop anywhere. The FiestAventura show was voted best outdoor show on the planet, though not, we’re guessing, by opera lovers. PortAventura has thirty seven rides, more than one hundred shows every day, and is divided into six themed areas: Mediterrania, China, Polynesia, Mexico, Far West and SesamoAventura. Hurakan Condor puts you through 3gs, and that’s when it’s slowing down.

6. Coney Island, New York City

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Not so much an amusement park as an amusement area, from around 1880 to 1920, Coney Island was America’s amusement capital, the largest amusement area in the US. At its peak there were three parks, Dreamland, Steeplechase Park, and Luna Park from 1903 to 1944 until it was destroyed by fire. From 1962 to 2008 there was Astroland, and since 2010 a new incarnation of Luna Park has been opened. Over the years there was also Deno’s Wonderwheel Amusement Park, 12fth Street Amusements, and Kiddie Park. Arguably the most famous of its rides, The Cyclone is a wooden roller coaster built in 1927 and still running today, and declared a New York City landmark in 1988.

7. Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Part of the appeal of Tivoli is its location in the heart of Copenhagen. If you’re already in town, it’s right there on your doorstep, and when you’re done it’s likely not too much of a walk back to your hotel. This is because it was opened in 1843 during a time when pleasure gardens started appearing across Europe. Usually called Tivoli or Vauxhall, they were intended as places to escape city life. Tivoli is the second oldest amusement park in the world, and after Walt paid a visit became an inspiration for Disneyland in California. Today Tivoli is not just gardens, but a place of entertainment that includes music, theatre, performance artists, food and thrill rides. Depending on your mood, you can take a leisurely journey through HC Andersen’s fairy tales, or find out what 4gs feels like on the Aquila.

8. Kings Island, Ohio

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Kings Island is home to Banshee, the longest inverted roller coaster in the world. With 4,124 feet of track and seven inversions, it is similar to some descriptions of hell. Apparently we like hell, and are willing to line up for it. There’s also live entertainment at Kings, a water park, kids area, more rides, and the world’s largest animatronic dinosaur park with over 65 life-size dinosaurs.

9. Beto Carrero World, Brazil

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Beto Carrero World is the largest theme park in Latin America. It is divided into seven different sections that include Fantasyland, Radical Adventure, Pirate’s Island, and German Village, each one offering different themed restaurants, attractions and rides. Horror buffs will go for Portal of Darkness, a maze of horror scenes from seven classic horror movies such as The Exorcist.

10. Cedar Point, Ohio

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Voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” for 16 years in a row by Amusement Today, Cedar Point, in addition to its 72 rides, delivers one of the tallest and fastest inverted rollercoaster rides in the world with Wicked Twister. Known as America’s Roller Coast, Cedar Point is a succession of “mosts”. Most visited seasonal amusement park, most roller coasters taller than 200 feet, and the only park with coasters in all four height classifications. If Cedar Point were a friend, it would be really friggin’ annoying. But it’s not, so it’s brilliant.

11. Discovery Cove, Florida

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Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive, reservations-only park devoted to the natural world, and restricted to about 1300 guests per day. This is nice as it provides a more intimate, resort-style setting without the customary crowds and lines. Here’s where you get to swim with dolphins, wade with otters and marmosets, or take an underwater walking tour. You can also snorkel with tropical fish and rays, or feed exotic birds right from your hand at the Explorer’s Aviary. Food and drinks are complimentary once you’re in, and the Day Resort Package gives you access to SeaWorld, Aquatica and, if you’re willing to cough up some extra cash, Busch Gardens as well.

12. Busch Gardens, Florida

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Speaking of Busch Gardens, the falcon circles high in the air searching out prey, and when it spots it, miles below, dives hard and fast, plucking small rodents off the face of the earth. Falcon’s Fury, America’s tallest free-standing drop ride, does pretty much the same thing, sending you face first down 335 feet of sheer fright. The difference is you don’t so much catch prey, as feel the need to get down on your knees and pray. Only of course you can’t, because you’re strapped in like a lunatic in an asylum.

13. Alton Towers, England

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Alton Towers opened in 1860, but there’s only been a theme park on the site since 1980. Theme park, water park, and hotel complex combined, it is the UK’s number one theme park. This should hardly come as a surprise when you consider that the competition is Dickens World, an attraction devoted to the works of Charles Dickens. In addition to thrill rides like Nemesis, an inverted coaster, and Oblivion, a vertical-drop rollercoaster, Alton Towers is a great place for younger children. CBeebies Land opened in May of 2014, and brings the popular children’s BBC TV channel to life in rides and landscapes. Well, it’s popular in England, apparently.

14. Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey

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Six Flags Great Adventure is the home of Kingda Ka, the tallest, second fastest rollercoaster in the world. Shaped like an upside down U, The King, as it is affectionately known, will send you from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds, during which time you’ll experience a g-force of 5. According to Zoe Baily of the National Space Centre, astronauts normally experience a maximum g-force of around 3 during a rocket launch. So if you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, you might choose to launch yourself into space instead. The best way to approach this, really the best way to approach any thrill ride, unless you’re a total masochist, is not to think about what you’re doing. Once you’re strapped in, it’s difficult to get off. The track is 456 feet at its highest point, the equivalent of 45 stories. If that isn’t bad enough, you then have to come back down. It’s quick, less than a minute and you’re done, and the only thing you want afterwards is to get back on.

15. Universal Orlando, Florida

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Comprised of two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, the Universal Orlando resort is where you get to step inside the world of Harry Potter, generally agreed to be the most successful film franchise of all time. You can visit Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron, where Harry first encountered Professor Quirrel - who had Voldemort bandaged to his head - Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, as well as Gringotts and other notable sites. You can also escape from Gringotts on the multi-dimensional thrill ride. At the Islands of Adventure you can visit Hogsmeade and pick up some weird sweets.

[Source: Hi Consumption. Edited. Some links added.]

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