Theme Park Rides

Theme parks have many types of rides.
Theme parks have many types of rides.

A good amusement park will have a wide variety of theme park rides for guests to enjoy, from thrilling roller coasters to mild kid-friendly attractions. By understanding the different types of rides available, prospective visitors can plan a theme park getaway to a park with just the right rides for them.

Types of Theme Park Rides

There are several different types of amusement park rides, each one offering a unique thrill for guests to experience. While not every park will feature every type of ride, guests who know what types of rides they are interested in can plan a great amusement park visit.

  • Roller Coasters: Roller coasters are a park's main attractions. From tremendous, high tech thrill machines to more mild, simpler coasters, there are many roller coaster designs that parks can feature, and most amusement parks will have at least two or three types of roller coasters. The dips, curves, drops, and inversions of these extreme rides are popular with many park guests.
  • Circular Rides: These are the classic carnival rides that many park guests are familiar with, such as the Scrambler, Matterhorn, and Tilt-a-Whirl, and they are called "circulars" because spinning is their primary action. These are not suitable rides for individuals prone to nausea or motion sickness, but they are staples at many parks because they can offer an exciting ride in a small space.
  • Family Rides: These milder attractions are suitable for all ages, and many allow young riders to participate when they are accompanied by a responsible adult. Examples of common family rides include bumper cars, Ferris wheels, carousels, and swings.
    Drop towers offer thrilling rides.
  • Transportation Rides: Many large amusement parks offer guests mild rides to take them from one end of the park to another. Trains, monorails, and sky rides are the most common choices, and these rides typically have more than one station where guests can begin or end their rides.
  • Water Rides: There is no better way to cool off on a hot summer day than to take advantage of a park's water rides, such as log flume rides, small water slides, or river raft rides. These are rides where you will get wet, however, so bringing a change of clothes or wearing a swimsuit to ride (if permitted by the park's dress code) is advisable.
  • Extreme Thrill Rides: Drop towers, shot towers, and pendulum rides are examples of extreme thrill attractions that many parks build to offer an adrenaline rush in a small space. These rides are not recommended for guests with health problems or those prone to motion sickness.
  • Dark Rides: Enclosed, heavily themed rides are called dark rides and offer a unique experience for guests. Rides such as the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland or Jaws at Universal Studios Florida are dark rides, and many parks feature haunted houses and similar attractions.
  • Kiddie Rides: Younger guests can enjoy smaller, milder versions of many adult rides in children's areas of amusement parks. Pint-sized bumper cars, miniature Ferris wheels, and bouncy towers are common kiddie rides, along with bumper boats and circular rides themed as motorcycles, race cars, and space ships. These rides typically have a height limit to restrict them to younger guests, though parents may be able to accompany nervous youngsters on some rides.
  • Pay-Per-Ride Attractions: Many amusement parks not only have a wide selection of classic rides, but they also offer additional attractions guests can pay to ride. These are often more extreme rides such as bungee jumps, go karts, and skydiving simulators, and costs can range from $5 to $30 or higher per guest.

Riding Tips

To make the most out of your amusement park visit and experience a wide range of theme park rides…

Water rides are crowded on hot days.
  • Plan ahead by researching what rides a park offers. Check the park website, theme park maps, and current brochures to see what attractions are new or what popular rides are recommended.
  • Be prepared for long lines on the newest and most extreme rides. Milder rides will fill up during the park's busiest hours, and water rides are always popular on hot days.
  • Read all posted warning signs and riding instructions, and obey them. Riders should also listen to instructions from rider operators and other park employees.
  • Secure all loose belongings before riding by stowing them securely in pockets, lockers, or the ride's storage bins. If possible, leave items such as cameras, cell phones, and car keys with a non-rider to ensure they are not lost or damaged.
  • Ride safely and carefully by following all posted instructions and fastening a seat belt, lap bar, shoulder harness, or other restraints snuggly. Do not attempt to stand up, turn around, or otherwise behave improperly on a ride.
  • Know your limits in terms of extreme rides and take a break when you're feeling worn out or woozy. Drink plenty of water, wear comfortable clothing, and minimize sun exposure to stay healthy and have fun.

Theme park rides are the backbone of any amusement park visit. Understanding the different types of rides available and how to ride them safely will help you have a spectacular and thrilling getaway, whether you prefer roller coasters, water rides, extreme thrills, or any other of the dozens of attractions at your favorite amusement park.

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Theme Park Rides