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Taking the Kids: What's new at theme parks this summer

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Midwesterners will have their own new thrill ride -- Maxx Force Coaster at Six Flags Great America, located between Chicago and Milwaukee, complete with five upside-down inversions; the coaster reaching speeds of 78 miles per hour in less than two seconds. It's the park's 17th coaster and has the tallest double inversion in the world. Gulp!

In Denver, Elitch Gardens' Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape combines a haunted house, fun house and more as you take on interactive challenges. All brought to you by a joint effort by the theme park and a New Mexico-based art group.

Chocolate lovers of all ages can head to Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, separate from Hershey Park, is opening Hershey's Unwrapped, an immersive chocolate-tasting journey where they join Doc Chocolate in a secret chocolate lab to participate in a chocolate experiment. Hershey's Unwrapped is the latest attraction to be featured at Hershey's Chocolate World, which currently includes a 4-D Chocolate Movie, Trolley Works, Create Your Own Candy Bar and Hershey's Chocolate Tour ride.

And for younger park-goers, there's Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway 3-D ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The younger set will think the Skyliner, Walt Disney World Resort's new transportation system which ferries guests to and from certain hotels and Epcot and Hollywood Studies, is an attraction in itself, as guests ride in overhead gondolas decorated with Disney characters.

LEGOLAND Florida, meanwhile, about 45 minutes from Orlando in Winter Haven, has just opened The LEGO Movie World, its largest expansion at a park designed exclusively for younger kids. The LEGO MOVIE comes to life with the THE LEGO MOVIE Masters of Flight ride that takes you on a suspended ride aboard Emmet's Triple Decker Couch surrounded by a virtual screen. You'll feel as though you are flying through a world created completely from LEGO® bricks. There's also the Battle of Bricksburg, the only water ride at LEGOLAND Florida Resort, challenges riders to stop DUPLO aliens from invading and stealing LEGO bricks by spraying water at targets from their boats.


But however old the kids, be safe -- no standing on tiptoe to meet the height requirements. Those safety rules are there for a reason. Make sure the kids understand the importance of the rules and don't attempt to wriggle free or loosen restraints. That's how accidents happen.

And never force anyone to ride an attraction. Too often I've stood behind parents in line doing just that. There's no shame in walking away if the kids don't want to ride. Remember, the point is to have fun out there!


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