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rollercoaster_homespunRISMEDIA, August 21, 2009-(MCT)-Why not add thrills to your summer? Pete Trabucco, author of “America’s Top Roller Coasters and Amusement Parks” offers insight on family-friendly options for riding the rails.

As you consider these suggestions, keep in mind each family member’s tolerance for speed, height and hype that go along with roller-coaster rides. It’s not just about age.

1. Vapor Trail, Sesame Place, Langhorne, Pa.
This steel coaster, just 50 feet tall, is good for beginners and intermediates. Riders cruise down a 1,300-foot-long track at just 30 mph. This small-scale thrill ride, added to what once was only a water park, offers riders a view of the water features, too. www.sesameplace.com.

2. Boulder Dash, Lake Compounce theme park, Bristol, Conn.
Traditionalists take note: Trabucco considers this one of the best wooden coasters ever created. Climb on board, creep to the top for a view of the majestic mountain setting, then take a 90-degree turn before a thrilling drop that riders don’t soon forget. At 155 feet tall with speeds up to 60 mph, the coaster offers a thrill ride through trees and around rocks, all tucked within a family-oriented amusement park. Ranked by Amusement Today as one of the world’s five best coasters. www.lakecompounce.com

3. Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
The world’s first steel-track coaster, the ride climbs to around 80 feet but contains no steep drops while maintaining a speed of around 18 mph. It’s quite slow compared with other coasters, but the beauty lies in its design and feeling of illusion. The entire family will enjoy weaving in and out of a scaled-down version of the Swiss Alps. Kids love the abominable snowman and ice caves along the way. www.disneyland.com.

4. Flying Unicorn, Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando, Fla.
With a drop of only 30 feet, this junior coaster is a nice ride to sample before tackling the big-name coasters such as The Hulk and Dueling Dragons that are synonymous with this park. Rolling through woods in the Lost Continent section of the park adds to the experience. At 2,000 feet long and reaching speeds of nearly 30 mph, this one is popular among kids and their parents. www.universalorlando.com.

5. Millennium Force, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio.
Thrill-seekers, this one is for you. At a height of 310 feet, with over-banked turns of 122 degrees, this $25 million steel marvel can be seen for miles in any direction. Once on board, prepare for traveling at speeds of more than 90 mph throughout the 6,500-foot track and dropping at an 80-degree angle. Dizzying heights and consistent high speeds, topped off with three of the tallest hills anywhere, make for a breathtaking ride. Cedar Point is a coaster hot spot. The family novice can check out the mellow Woodstock Express. www.cedarpoint.com.

(c) 2009, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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