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Local Amusement Parks More Popular than Ever

(ARA) - According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 73 percent of America's travelers are seeking safer, nearby destinations for their summer outings this year. For this reason, along with a recovering economy, options for a still-jittery traveling public (especially families with children) may be somewhat limited.

Local amusement parks are a natural for filling this travel void. They are easy to get to, and provide a day of family fun at a reasonable cost. Amusement parks truly provide something for every member of the family, from hair-raising roller coasters for teens to mellow merry-go-rounds for toddlers, making them a good value for those looking to get the most for their entertainment dollar.

Attendance at the approximately 450 U.S. amusement parks rose steadily in the 1990s, and in 2001, 319 million people visited U.S. amusement parks, according to Joel Cliff, communications coordinator for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). "The U.S. amusement industry accounts for 54 percent of worldwide revenues, and is the most mature market, with the average person going to a park once a year," says Cliff. "In 2001, the industry generated $9.6 billion in estimated gross revenue and employed more than 500,000 seasonal staff."

Santa's Village, a 55-acre park with three themed areas, has been a Chicago-area family tradition for more than 40 years. The park's proximity to downtown Chicago also makes it a good bet for working parents who may bring their family along on a summer business trip.

With three new attractions this year, the park now offers 24 thrill and children's rides. For kids and adults, the new Parachute Drop pulls riders up 40 feet, lets them go for a thrilling three-second free fall, and then slows them to a gentle stop. For dizzying fun, riders of the Fire Chief sit in a fire truck that travels in circles both clockwise and counter clockwise. And finally, just for kids, the Dragonfly whirls riders up and down in a collection of small helicopters.

Santa's Village features three themed areas -- Coney Island, Santa's World and Old MacDonald's Farm. In addition to rides, the park also boasts a petting zoo with pony rides, live music and magic shows. Park guests can test their skill on arcade games, browse souvenir shops, and eat at restaurants, picnic areas and food kiosks. As always, visitors can count on Santa to make a special visit at the North Pole.

Family Value

"Catering to the entire family is what makes Santa's Village unique to Chicagoland," says Crystal Varney, guest relations supervisor and director of operations. "And even with new attractions and increased operational costs, we're still holding the line on our admission prices."

The park's all-inclusive price remains $19.95, as it has for the last two years; free parking and free admission to children age 2 years old and younger add to the affordability of this one-day vacation. Notably, unlike other area theme parks, patrons are encouraged to bring their own food and refreshments, and Santa's Village provides shaded groves for picnicking. "A family of four could easily spend at least $50 for food and parking alone," adds Varney.

Adjoining Santa's Village is the Racing Rapids Action Water Park, offering 10-acres of cool water fun for the entire family. It features two 50-feet-tall by 400-feet-long Slidewinder waterslides, the Twister Tube Slide, a smaller children's waterslide, Bumper Boats, "Fun Island" children's play area, the Lazy River Tube ride and Auto Kid's Car Wash. Guests can dry off while testing their driving skills on the Gran Prix Go-Karts.

The parks are open daily through Labor Day weekend, and weekends through Sept. 22. Admission discounts through Santa's Village's CyberCoupons are available at the Santa's Village Web site, For updates and recorded information available 24 hours a day, call (847) 426-6751, or visit the Web site.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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