There is nothing like the anticipation of waiting in line for the biggest roller coaster at an amusement park.
The screams. The smell of fried food. The rumble of a coaster carts careening down the tracks. All of it comes together in a harmony that so many love.
There are plenty of amusement parks near D.C. that can fill your empty summer days. We have five of the best ones here:
Six Flags America (Upper Marlboro, MD):
This Six Flags amusement park has 'America' tacked onto its name due to its proximity to the nation's capital, situated less than 20 miles east of D.C. The park boasts 54 attractions, including nine roller coasters and 15 kiddie rides. You will also find six themed sections, such as Looney Toons Movie Town for children under six. The newest coaster, the Ragin' Cajun, which opened in 2014, can be found in the Mardi Gras section. The ride is a unique approach to modern coastering, according to the park's website, and its 1,378 feet of track features 360 degree spins.
Park goers also have access to Hurricane Harbor, a water park within the grounds, for no additional charge. If it happens to be a hot day, you can take advantage of numerous slides and other water attractions, including Wahoo River which debuted last summer.
If you want to take a break from all the rides and high-paced action, Six Flags America offers plenty of shows and musical acts too. The park also hosts seasonal events, including Spring Break, Fourth of July and Halloween.
Kings Dominion (Doswell, VA):
If you don't mind traveling further out of town, about 75 miles south of D.C., this 400-acre park might be the place for you. With its 60 shows, rides and attractions, including 12 rollercoasters, there might be even more to fill your time than Six Flags America. The park's name comes from the combination of its sister park 'King Island' and the nickname of Virginia 'Old Dominion.'
Kings Dominion boasts one of the tallest and fastest coasters on the east coast, according to its website, as the Intimidator 305 takes you up 305 feet before it plummets you to earth at an 80-degree angle at 90 miles per hour. If roller coasters are not your thing or you have children with you, Planet Snoopy is where you will want to aim for. The rides are not too fast and do not go upside down, and there will be plenty of Peanuts characters to snag a photo with.
Like the previous park, Kings Dominion has its own water park. Soak City spans 20 acres and features plenty of slides, splash pads, wave pools and a lazy river.
Adventure Park USA (Monrovia, MD):
Situated about 40 miles north of D.C., this western theme park is smaller and newer than the previous two amusement parks. Opened in 2005, it features both indoor and outdoor activities, including 21 rides and attractions. Indoor activities are open year-round and include laser tag, arcade games, rockwall climbing, bumper cars and a ropes course. Outdoor activities are open during the summer and include mini golf, go-karts and several rides. One of the park's three roller coasters the Wild West Express is 53 feet tall and features tight turns and drops.
Fun Land of Fredricksburg (Fredricksburg, VA):
Going in the opposite direction, Fun Land is situated about 50 miles south of D.C. The biggest attraction that sets this place apart is its brand new multi-level go-kart track. Thunder Speedway is the first of its kind in Virginia, according to Fun Land's website. Due to the attraction's novelty, the park warns of long wait times on the weekends, so plan accordingly if you can not make it during the week. The park does offer a virtual line system that will page you when your turn is coming up so that you can enjoy the rest of the park while you wait.
Like Adventure Park USA, Fun Land features both indoor and outdoor activities. Attractions include a mini Ferris-wheel and rides, laser tag, go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages, mini bowling, rockwall climbing and bumper cars. The arcade also features over 100 video games.
SplashDown Waterpark (Manassas, VA):
Situated about 35 miles southwest of D.C., this place is all about water and is a great place to hang out on a hot summer day. Across its 13 acres, there are two pools and eight water slides, including the four-story-tall Pipeline Tower and 770-foot lazy river. There is also plenty for younger park goers. The zero-depth childrens area features bubblers, fountains and four smaller water slides. The park also hosts events like 'Mommy Mondays', where one parent gets in for half price with the purchase of a full price child ticket.