Six Flags Great America Theme Park

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The only problem for families visiting this 110-acre amusement park is trying to get to all the rides, shows, games and shops in one day. Cool off at Hurricane Harbor, the midwest's largest outdoor water park, opening May 28. For daredevils, there's the Raging Bull roller coaster and the Giant Drop, a 227-foot free-fall tower. Attractions include "Dino Island II 3D: Escape from Dino Island," featuring a 3-D motion simulator adventure, a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Stunt Show and the Hollywood Animal Action Show. Other family faves are the Camp Cartoon and Looney Tunes National Park in the Yukon Territory, which are designed for kids. The Southwest Territory is a re-creation of an old Southwest town, complete with singing cowboys, dance-hall girls and the Crazy Buffalo Saloon (a restaurant with waitstaff), and five rides including the racy Viper coaster. Among the park's other attractions for those with brave hearts are the wooden American Eagle roller coaster, with a 147-foot, white-knuckle first drop; and Shock Wave, with seven loops. Tamer, but still exciting (and good for kids as young as 5) are the Whizzer coaster, the splashy Logger's Run, Yankee Clipper, Splashwater Falls and the whirling East River Crawler. All ages can enjoy such classic family rides as the double-decker Columbia Carousel at the front of the park and the Scenic Railway. Cool off (or escape raindrops) in one of the indoor shows. The IMAX Theater in Carousel Plaza shows really-big screen attractions. To make the most of your day, purchase tickets in advance, arrive early (before opening time), go to the back of the park and to major rides first to avoid long lines, dress in lightweight clothing (or you'll feel soggy all day after water rides), take sunscreen and eat lunch early or late to avoid clogged tables. Check out shops or see a show after eating; hit the whirling rides after lunch digests. Stay into the evening if you can. The view from the top of the roller coasters after dark is terrific, and at 9 p.m. daily you can check out the park's parade. Great America is located midway between Chicago and Milwaukee off Interstate 94 in Gurnee; take Grand Avenue east exit; follow the signs.