New attractions, packages create summer sizzle

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NEW YORK -- Theme and amusement park trips are more likely to include longer overnight stays (5.3 nights) compared with the average U.S. trip (4.1 nights), according to the Travel Industry Association's Domestic Travel Market Report for 2003.

And one-fourth of these trips last seven nights or more, making theme park vacations a good sell.

Here is a rundown of what's happening at U.S. theme parks this season:

• MGM Studios in Los Angeles signed a two-year deal with Six Flags to open attractions based on MGM's syndicated TV series "Stargate SG-1" at Six Flags theme parks in three U.S. cities.

This marks the North American premiere of Stargate SG 3000, an interactive simulation adventure that made its debut at Space Center Bremen in Germany in December 2003.

The Stargate attractions will open at Six Flags Marine World (Vallejo, Calif.), Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (Louisville) and Six Flags Great America (Chicago).

Stargate SG 3000 features a four-minute simulation film that lets audiences experience what it would be like to soar into different dimensions.

Here's the premise: It's the year 3000. Stargate Command has developed a Gate Key that provides control of all "stargates" throughout the universe. The evil Queen Satra, a character created for Stargate SG 3000, wants to capture the Gate Key and gain control of the universe.

• New this year at Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., is Crocodile Dundee's Boomerang Bay, an Australia-inspired water park that is inside the theme park and free with park admission.

Paramount's Great America is also home to Nickelodeon characters, including SpongeBob SquarePants.

Paramount's Great America hotel packages, which include an overnight stay and two tickets to the theme park, range in price from $99 to $149.

Many of the packages include breakfast and shuttle service to and from the park.

Agents can find a complete listing of the 2004 Paramount's Great America weekend packages at www.santaclara.org. In addition to accessing package information online, agents can obtain a Weekend Package brochure detailing each hotel's rates and amenities by calling (800) 272-6822.

Mountain Creek water park in Vernon, N.J., has 26 rides, slides and attractions, from last year's new High Anxiety slide to the 99-foot drop of the H2-Oh-No Speed Slide.

In addition to the attractions above and the Colorado River Ride, the Tarzan Swings and the High Tide Wavepool, Mountain Creek offers water fun for the little ones in Half Pint Harbor, the Lit'l Dippers Wading Pool, the Fishin' Village and Lost Island, a kid-size lazy river.

Mountain Creek's Waterpark package, which includes townhouse accommodations and a daily pass to the park, starts at $64 per person, per night with a four-person minimum. Commission on lodging is 10%.

For lodging, call (973) 209-3300 or visit www.mountaincreek.com.

blah blah.Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., opened for the summer season on May 8 with a new "runaway" attraction. The $12.5 million Storm Runner, a hydraulic coaster with corkscrew turns, features technology that takes riders from a stopped position to 72 mph in two seconds.

Hersheypark admission rates include a visit to Hershey's 11-acre Zooamerica North American Wildlife Park when entered through the theme park. Rates are $37.95 for ages 9 to 54; $21.95 for ages 3 to 8 and 55 to 69; and $15.95 for ages 70 and older. Children age 2 and younger are admitted free. Two- and three-day Fun Flex tickets and group discounts are available.

Overnight packages offer admission to the park along with lodging at either the Hotel Hershey or the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. The Breakfast at the Park package includes accommodations; a Hershey character breakfast; early admission to Hersheypark; and admission to Hershey Gardens and the Hershey Museum.

The package is available to Aug. 21 at rates beginning at $438 at the Hotel Hershey and $328 at the Hershey Lodge. Rates are per room, per night, based on double adult occupancy.

The Hersheypark in the Dark package, available Fridays and Saturdays from Oct. 15 to 30, includes accommodations; a ride-all-night wristband; a character breakfast at Hershey Lodge; shuttle transportation to Hersheypark in the Dark and admission to the Hershey Museum and Hershey Gardens. Rates are $199 per adult, per night, double; $41 per child; and $66 per night for an additional adult.

For information on the park and on summer events, call (800) HERSHEY or visit www.hersheypa.com. For lodging and package information and reservations, call (800) 533-3131.

Cedar Fair, which owns and operates six amusement parks and five water parks, announced it plans to invest $25 million in its parks. The bulk of the funds ($10 million) will focus on the resort side of the Cedar Point amusement park, located in Sandusky, Ohio, and the park's adjacent Soak City water park, which will be expanded.

The expansion will be highlighted by the introduction of Splash Zone, a multistory, interactive play area. Meanwhile, Cedar Point's $22 million, 51,000-square-foot Castaway Bay indoor water-park resort, under construction and set for completion in November, will be a major expansion to the park's existing Radisson Harbour Inn property and Cedar Point's first year-round attraction.

Castaway Bay's 237 rooms will be centered around the 38,000-square-foot indoor water park. The property will also feature three restaurants, a day-care center, a spa and massage center, an arcade and more than 12,000 square feet of meetings space.

For reservations and information, call (419) 627-2106.

• Opening in Cincinnati in early fall, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the first of its kind in the country, is a 158,000-square-foot facility complete with an education and research center, five history galleries, a changing exhibits gallery and a performance theater.

For more information, visit www.discoverohio.com or call (800) BUCKEYE.

• The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the new thrill ride this spring at Disney's California Adventure. Based on the classic TV series, the attraction is set in an abandoned Hollywood luxury hotel. For more information, visit www.disneyland.com.

To contact Destinations Editor Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].

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