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Nearby attractions offer families vacation options

Posted May 26, 2009 3:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2009 3:35 p.m. EDT

This might not be the year for a lengthy and expensive family vacation, but that doesn’t mean a summer stuck at home. Several attractions within easy driving distance of the Triangle are opening or expanding in time for the travel season. So save money on airplane tickets because there’s fun to be had closer to home.

Williamsburg’s Busch Gardens has long offered the opportunity to enjoy a little taste of Europe just up the road. Now, one of the best-known neighborhoods in the U.S. is also part of the amusement park with the recent opening of Sesame Street Forest of Fun.

The 65,000-square-foot kid zone includes places to play and eat and four new rides that are smaller versions of ones at other popular attractions, including a junior roller coaster for parents and children to ride together. Other features include the following:

  • Elmo’s Castle performance stage and wet playground
  • Prince Elmo’s Spire, a shot-n-drop ride for the whole family
  • Bert and Ernie’s Loch Adventure flume ride for parents and kids
  • Oscar’s Whirly Worms family-friendly rock-n-tug ride
  • Oscar’s Yucky Forest playground
  • Sunny Days Celebrations musical performances by Sesame Street characters
  • 1-2-3 Smile with Me! character and guest photography studio
  • Abby Cadabby’s Treasure Trove gift shop

The Forest of Fun expands the park’s kid-friendly offerings, which also include the Land of Dragons play area and junior rides throughout the park. Find out more at www.buschgardens.com/BGW2 or by calling 1-800-343-7946.

West of the Triangle, Wet ‘N Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park in Greensboro celebrates its 25th anniversary with the opening of Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror. The new ride is one of two Dr. Von Darks in the nation and includes a 40-foot drop and two high-speed 360-degree spins, all in total darkness.

"Good Morning, America" and The Travel Channel have named Wet ‘N Wild one of the top 10 water parks in America. As part of its anniversary celebration, the park has special discounts and events scheduled throughout the season, which runs through Sept. 7. More information is available at www.emeraldpointe.com or by calling 1-800-555-5900.

Concord offers a different kind of watery fun with the opening of the Great Wolf Lodge, which features an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park with 11 slides, four pools and an interactive tree house water fort. Other activities include the following:

  • Howl in One themed 18-hole miniature golf course
  • Northern Lights Arcade, with more than 100 video games and a prize center
  • Cub Club children’s activity area, with program content provided by National Geographic Kids
  • gr8_space tech center, with Internet access, docking stations for MP3 players, gaming stations, karaoke, movies and musical entertainment
  • Elements full-service spa and Scoops Kid Spa for children 12 and under

The resort employs more than 100 nationally certified lifeguards and offers kid-friendly guest suites with several different room configurations. Other amenities include two themed restaurants, meeting space and a fitness center.

This is the 11th Great Wolf Lodge to open in the U.S. and Canada. Visit www.greatwolf.com or call 1-866-925-9653 to learn more.

Carowinds has added its 12th scream machine. The Carolina Cobra recently debuted at the Charlotte theme park with a 120-foot drop and three inversions, including a cobra roll and loop, which riders get to enjoy a second time in reverse after the ride reaches the end of the line. The boomerang coaster – it travels the same track backward and forward – is the park’s second-largest and is located, appropriately enough, near the entrance of Boomerang Bay.

More information is available by calling 704-587-9050 or at www.carowinds.com.