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A Thrill a Minute

Nothing says summer like roller coasters, waterslides and other adrenaline -inducing thrill rides. From the most extreme to the enduring classics of childhood memory, these 9 parks deliver. Step right up for summer fun!

Port Aventura
Salou, Spain
This seaside park, an hour from Barcelona, recently expanded to the tune of $90 million, adding exciting new features. The park’s Himalaya-theme Shambhala coaster is the tallest and fastest on the continent (83 miles an hour); and the water toboggan King Khajuna is Europe’s highest, at 10 stories. Gentler souls can drift in tubes down the lazy river in the new Costa Caribe Aquatic Park section.

Tivoli Gardens
Copenhagen, Denmark
A national treasure since 1843, Tivoli is an amusement park with 2 dozen rides as well as a lake and gardens, all packed into 21 acres in central Copenhagen. The big news for 2014 is the restoration of the century-old wooden roller coaster. But this venerable park keeps up with the times, as evidenced by Aquila, a state-of-the-art ride unleashing four g’s of centrifugal force on riders.

Rust, Germany
Go eye level with ladybugs in the new Arthur: In the Minimoys Kingdom, the largest indoor attraction added to Germany’s behemoth theme park since it opened, in 1975. Mammoth ants and bees and skyscraping blades of grass turn detailed scenes from French film titan Luc Besson’s fantasy saga Arthur and the Invisibles into a dream universe. Of course, the 210-acre park has some fantastic roller coasters among its 100-plus attractions, like the Blue Fire, its first coaster with inversions.

Coney Island
Brooklyn, New York
A wonder of the world when electric light was new, Brooklyn’s Coney Island still draws the crowds for boardwalk honky-tonk—750,000 for the outrageous, arty Mermaid Parade alone (June 21 in 2014). Sideshows by the Seashore is one of the country’s last venues for sword swallowers, fire-eaters, contortionists and snake charmers. The legendary 1927 Cyclone roller coaster, the swinging cars of the 150-foot Wonder Wheel and the refurbished circa 1906 carousel will get some steep competition in 2014 from the sleek new Thunderbolt, a modern-day steel looping coaster with corkscrew turns and a stomach-tossing 125-foot drop.

Steel Pier Amusement Park
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Grab a pair of wraparound shades and head for the Jersey Shore, where $23 million in recent improvements to the Steel Pier Amusement Park has brought the iconic 116-year-old attraction into the present day. Extending 1,000 feet into the ocean, the pier features 2 dozen rides, from such kiddie classics as Beach Buggies and the double-decker carousel to daredevils’ favorites, like the Slingshot, the Mix and the Freedom Flyer, all aglow in retro colors at night.

Massanutten Waterpark
McGaheysville, Virginia
It’s all about H2O at Massanutten’s Waterpark, part of the 4-season Massanutten Resort, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, outdoor attractions, like the Rockingham Racer, a competitive 4-person downhill slide, join such year-round rides as Skyline Falls, 250 feet of sharp turns and sudden drops, and the Massanutten Meltdown, a bit of everything from water cannons and waterfalls to a giant tipping bucket. There’s the Frog Pond for the little ones and tubing at Peak Splash and the Blue Ridge Rapids, and the surf’s always up at the popular Pipeline.

Busch Gardens
Tampa, Florida
The jewel-spangled land of Pantopia, a celebration of ancient lore and fantastical architecture, debuts at Busch Gardens Tampa in 2014. Its centerpiece: Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower. Riders will pivot in midair into a facedown dive earthward at 60 miles an hour. This is also the site of one of the country’s largest zoos, famed for its 65-acre Serengeti Plain®, where you’ll find endangered Grévy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes and Malayan tiger cubs.

Six Flags Fiesta
San Antonio, Texas
Is a 6-story free-fall your idea of a good time? Then you’ll love Bahama Blaster, the new waterslide with a trap-door launching pad at Six Flags Fiesta. After the floor drops out beneath you, you’ll race in a clear capsule through twists, loops and coils before ending with a splash. And the year-old Iron Rattler is a high-tech marvel of a roller coaster, combining a wooden support structure with a steel track and rails for ultra-smooth turns, inversions, flips and barrel rolls.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park
Santa Cruz, California
Familiar to film buffs (The Lost Boys, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude) and renowned for its stunning Pacific Ocean backdrop, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park is home to the 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster as well as the handcarved 1911 Looft Carousel, one of a handful of vintage merry-go-rounds anywhere with a working ring dispenser and original Victorian pipe organ. Old fashioned carnival games line the boardwalk, while a 300-game arcade offers nostalgic throwbacks, like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, as well as the latest in video games.

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.