by kellie abrahamson
Usually those on a quest for theme park thrills will head south to Orlando or Tampa, but recently my family and I headed north to Wild Adventures and found our new favorite vacation destination. The Valdosta, Georgia hotspot has something for everyone, from tots to thrill-seekers to animal lovers. With so much to offer, and great ticket prices to boot, this park should definitely be on your summer to-do list.
Wild Adventures started out with the humblest of beginnings- it was a small petting zoo when its doors first opened in 1996. Rides weren’t added until two years later and from there the park quickly went from road trip detour to a destination in its own right. Today, Wild Adventures is one of the top 50 theme parks in North America thanks to its impressive array of rides, attractions and family fun.
The park boasts 43 rides, including eight roller coasters. For families with small children, like ours, Wild Adventures is a perfect fit. Most of the rides are kid-friendly and the lines are short enough that they can go “Again! Again! Again!” as many times as they like. But it’s not all just kid’s stuff. Fans of the movie Zombieland got a sneak peek at some of the park’s thrill rides during the film’s climatic final battle. Pharaoh’s Fury, Firecracker (redubbed “Blast Off” for the film), the Rattler, the Aviator and Go Bananas! are all featured in the zombie comedy and are all worth a spin. You’ll also want to give the park’s new rides a try. The Viking Voyage roller coaster, Whirling Wildcats spin ride and Falcon Flyers swings were all added this year and are a lot of fun.
Going to Wild Adventures is also like taking a trip to the zoo. The park is home to over 50 different animal species and offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with them (if they dare). On our visit an alligator, parrot, snake and llama were all at the front gate with their handlers, allowing people to hold, pet or simply gawk at them on their way to the attractions. This type of animal interaction can be found at various locations throughout the park so, combined with knowledgeable handlers readily available to answer questions, you’re able to get a “wild” experience and perhaps learn something new.
South Georgia heat in the middle of summer can be brutal which is why the Splash Island section of the park is such a crowd pleaser. The seasonal water park has slides, a wave pool, a lazy river and multi-person rides that ensure a splish-splashy good time for all. Many theme parks charge you an additional fee to access their water parks but not Wild Adventures. Admission to Splash Island is included in your ticket price so be sure to pack your swim suits!
Your ticket will also get you into all of the shows and concerts that Wild Adventures has going on that day. When we visited the park we got to see a magic show by world-renowned magician Aaron Radatz, the award-winning spectacle that is Tigers of India and a concert with REO Speedwagon and Styx. With summer starting and the little ones out of school, Wild Adventures has some terrific kid-centric events lined up this month and throughout the season. The fun kicks off on June 12th with Kidzpalooza, a nine-week program that features new entertainment for children of all ages. Shows like Creature Features, the amazing Anastasini Circus, hypnotist Tammy Barton, the Doggies of the Wild West and the All American High Diving Spectacular are all scheduled during this family-friendly extravaganza. June is also a great time to take in a show at the park’s massive outdoor amphitheatre (the largest in the region). This month the Wild Adventures concert series will include performances by the Backstreet Boys, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tye Tribbett & Kirk Franklin and Kool & the Gang. More great musical acts will rock the park through October so be sure to check out www.wildadventures.com for a complete concert listing.
Single day tickets for Wild Adventures are just $45.99 for adults and $40.99 for kids and, best of all, full price daily admissions include the next operating day free, so plan to make a weekend of it. If you like what you see, consider a season pass which is only $69.99 (that’s equal to the cost of a single-day admission to Disney). Between all the summer fun and the chills and thrills that come in October with the park’s annual fright fest, Phobia, it’s certainly worth the investment.
by kellie abrahamson