Six Flags Theme Parks: Extreme Fun For All - My Family Travels

There’s big news this year from Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, considered the world’s largest regional theme park company.  With over $1.0 billion in annual revenue, noted Jim Reid-Anderson, chairman, president and CEO on a recent conference call, it made sense to invest almost a $100 million in capital improvements so that each of the company's parks would have something to report.

"We want to keep our guests coming back year after year," he added.

Two of the busiest parks (and two of our favorites) are Magic Mountain in California and Great Adventure in New Jersey. Both offer a mix of rides and attractions that cater to families wanting either a leisurely time or a more harrowing and "extreme" experience. And both parks are undergoing lots of change and upgrades for 2013 as part of the company's investment program.

Check out the Six Flags theme park nearest your family, and you're likely to find a similar combination of fun for all ages.

Six Flags Magic Mountain of Thrills, California

Six Flags Magic Mountain, north of Los Angeles in Valencia, is known for having more coasters than anywhere else. For 2013, families with fearless fans will be able to try their latest record-breaking ride: Full Throttle, already said to be the world’s tallest, fastest looping roller coaster. According to our press sources, "Full Throttle will accelerate from zero to more than 70 miles per hour on two forward launches, and an unprecedented third backward launch. Riders will experience a record 160-foot loop, plus a never-been-done-before launch up and over a 'Top Hat' that traces the outside of the world record loop." Whew! Sounds impressive.

Full Throttle will go into a new area of the 160-acre theme park which already has more than 100 rides. And that's not to mention Hurricane Harbor, the separate admission waterpark next door also owned by the same company. With so many attractions and so much land you'd think there would be enough fun to go around, but we recommend the Flash Pass here. This "head of the line" pass comes in three flavors — priced by day, type and good for up to six guests — so that your group can avoid the long lines at the most popular rides.

Of course, Magic Mountain is known for thrill rides for those who want fast-moving coasters. You may be interested in Tatsu, where you'll fly through the mountainous terrain of the park at speeds in excess of 62 mph. You'll be flying, spiraling, and falling — a lot, as there are 263 feet worth of plunges — on what used to be the tallest, fastest and longest flying coaster in the world.

Apocalypse is the park's crazy wooden roller coaster, an extreme ride that clatters and clacks over five hills and six steeply banked turns. The courageous and fearless can also test their stomachs on Goliath, as it features an initial drop of 61 degrees and speeds up to 85 mph. It is so fast, that during the ups and downs of the ride it will feel like there is zero gravity.

X2 teeters on being a 5th dimensional coaster since its upgrade to sleeker, lighter trains and state of the art special effects. This is how X2 differs from other coasters: riders are seated aboard wing-shaped trains where the seats extend off to the sides of the vehicle. The seats are then allowed to independently rotate, giving the riders an experience they will surely never forget.

Magic Mountain with Younger Themepark Goers

Parents and young children, do not be alarmed. While Magic Mountain may sound more like an "extreme park," it still offers rides and attractions for those who aren't as interested in fast rides. Bugs Bunny World is the section for littler thrills, and even has rides that kids 42" and taller can ride by themselves.

Canyon Blaster is a much tamer and friendlier coaster (you won't be going anywhere near 80 mph, for sure). All your three-footers can ride the new Road Runner Express, a quieter coaster whose single train zooms up a 28-foot-tall hill so everyone sticks together.

Parents who want the best of both worlds can take advantge of "Parent Swap," when adults with kids under 54" are allowed to wait in a designated area, while the other parent rides, then swap places to experience more adult thrills.

Six Flags Great Adventure Rocks, New Jersey

Thrill-seekers on the east coast, don't get too jealous over what Magic Mountain has to offer. Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey also has its share of attractions and extreme record-setting coasters. For 2013, the company is uniting Six Flags Wild Safari into the main theme park to create Safari Off Road Adventure. Guests will have to park their own cars and board an off-road vehicle (with a guide) to meet 1,200 animals in their habitat. Families will also be able to feed and interact with the animals in a controlled setting. Together they make Six Flags Great Adventure the largest regional themepark in the world and the only park you can ride a wave, go on safari and soar on coasters in the same day.

Among the many terrifying rides at this flagship park, Kingda Ka is heralded as being the fastest roller coaster on Earth, with a top speed of 128 mph. It is also the tallest, as its zenith reaches 456 feet (45 stories) above the ground. Nitro can also provide the adrenaline rush thrill-seekers are looking for. This award-winning coaster (Amusement Today magazine voted Nitro the #3 top steel roller coaster for 2011) is not as tall (23 stories) and not as fast (speeds only approach 80mph) but you still might lose your lunch.

El Toro is more of an old-school roller coaster (it's made of wood instead of steel) but it still provides tons of thrills. Its 76-degree initial drop is the steepest of any wooden coaster. Plus, Theme Parks magazine voted El Toro as the #2 wooden roller coaster. The drops on this coaster will give riders feelings of weightlessness while the numerous high-banked turns will definitely make the ride feel extreme.

Great Adventure does offer many alternative family activities (after all, not everyone wants to ride Kingda Ka seven times). Various Looney Tunes characters welcome children at the gate. If you can't find them by the gate, you'll be sure to find them wandering around the park, either posing for pictures or ensuring everyone is having a great time. Kids turned away from other rides because they don't meet the height requirements can ride on mini-versions of rides in Bugs Bunny Land. There is also the Looney Tunes Seaport where parents can accompany their children on a variety of rides.

In the warm weather, don't forget to spend an extra day experiencing the splash and thrills of the Six Flags waterparks called Hurricane Harbor. For 2013, Great Adventure's water park will unveil Big Wave Racer, a massive slide complex that sends riders barreling; head first, down multiple lanes that stretch 1,800 feet on an aerodynamically-designed water toboggan. Check out the water parks next door to each of these theme parks, with their own special variety of fun for all ages.

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