Summer Fun: Theme Parks Provide the Perfect Getaway

A Blue Horizons performer and friends at Sea World San Diego. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

SAN DIEGO/ANAHEIM/LONG BEACH-Sometimes you just need to get away. Every now and then you need some chill time from all of the hustle and bustle that goes on in your life. Sometimes you just want to let your hair down and have some fun.

In my case, hair is no longer an option since I am bald and a bit on the gray side. But you get the point.

Life can wear on you. Life in itself can drive a person to their knees in one form or another. The beautiful thing, however, is there is always an outlet that you can find that allows you to free your mind. Theme parks allow you to do that. Theme parks is a place where a kid can be a kid. It is also an atmosphere when an adult can pretend to act like one as well.

Theme parks serve a certain purpose in that they provide escape from life’s sometime difficult realities. It is a place of make belief and fantasy wandering. Summertime is when many people follow their instinct of wanting to get away and indulge in a form of entertainment that the entire family can enjoy.

Summer is when theme parks thrive and are at their best. The good thing about living in Southern California is that a person has options when it comes to picking the right theme park to relax and have fun. You can have your pick of choosing heart-pounding roller-coaster rides or slowing it down a notch or two in order to catch some shows and appreciate the nostalgia of childhood memories.

The best thing about living in the Southland is having the the variety of theme parks at your disposal for your relaxing pleasure. For a couple of weekends this summer, I decided to forget about anything and everything I was sweating over and took my family to several theme parks where we all could get our groove back.

A native American dancer at Knott's Berry Farm. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman
A native American dancer at Knott’s Berry Farm. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

After catching the San Diego Chargers in action for a couple of hours at their annual Fanfest, my children and I made a dash to Sea World San Diego for the rest of the day.  If you’re in a real at ease state of mind, Sea World is the perfect place to be. Good weather combined with great family entertainment makes Sea World the perfect gateway for relaxation and tranquility.

Like any amusement or theme park, Sea World has its share of one or two roller-coaster rides to give it the necessary punch to attract teenagers. But what makes Sea World distinct compared to other theme parks is how it is able to bring the coldness of the arctic to our front yard.

The biggest gate attraction, of course, are those very large black and white creatures called Orcas that give off the impression, because of its liquid body makeup, of being a squeezable and huggable friend. Well, there is a reason why they are called killer whales.

Orcas are the largest carnivores in the arctic, a ruthless and savvy killer with a penchant for dominating the landscape by feasting on seals, sea lions and fish.

However, because it is part of the dolphin family, Orcas or killer whales are highly intelligent creatures, which has made them a magnet of fascination for learning and observation. In short, Orcas have star appeal. The killer whales are the main attraction at Sea World. Seeing this incredible species up close and personal is worth every penny of admission.

There is something to be said when you have an opportunity to see some of God’s amazing art work in person. Sea World, through its many marine life exhibits and shows, gives us a glimpse of that artistic canvas.

From the 280,000 gallon Shark Encounter display to camping out in some very cold water and hanging out with a couple of large bodyguard at the Beluga (whale) Interaction Program and getting a peep at under the sea living through the eyes of southern stingrays, Eagle Rays and Leopard Sharks, you can test the waters at your own discretion.

That doesn’t include wading into heavily-splashed territory when you decide to have some fun at the Sea World San Diego’s Blue Horizons lights out show.  The kids and I lucked out and survived this time around by not getting water doused on us by the crowd-engaging bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales doing their best to bushwhack individuals with some, good-old fashion H2o.

A Sand Tiger Shark is one of the main attraction at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo: Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific
A Sand Tiger Shark is one of the main attraction at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo: Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific

This is what Sea World is all about. It is good family-fun. But there are other places that can say the same thing. Knott’s Berry Farm has always been known as a family place of entertainment. Over the years, Knott’s Berry Farm has undergone huge changes to increase its entertainment value to be more hipper for the younger crowd.

Some of the attractions that can be found at the Anaheim-based theme park is Knott’s Soak City and the increase of livelier, more daredevil-type roller-coaster rides. The rides were what my two teenage boys’ imagination went to when I mentioned the possibility of heading to Knott’s Berry Farm as a last summer gift before they head back to school. Well, I didn’t have to mention it twice.

They were all in. So was my nine-year-old daughter. Myself, I just kind of made my way around Ghost Town, hopped on the Butterfield Stagecoach ride, caught some of the Old West shootout and hunkered down in several places I recall seeing when I was a youngster myself.

That is the main attraction about Knott’s Berry Farm.  It makes fuddy-duddies like myself think about the good-old days when getting on the Calico Railroad and kicking it on the Wheeler Dealer Bumper Cars was the best experience ever.

As far as my kids, I was dismissed for the day while they went and did their thing on Rip Tide, Supreme Scream and Boomerang. You can say that Knott’s Berry Farm is about embracing the new as well as keeping up with the old. It is a little bit of everything, which makes it a perfect place for everybody.

A white Beluga whale gets some needed attention at Sea World San Diego. Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

A place for everybody certainly fits the vision of Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific. It is an arena where my children fit right at home. Being full-time nature buffs, particularly when it comes to marine life, the treat of hitting up the aquarium’s Shark Lagoon, taking in the Ocean Science Center and exploring other exhibits was like striking gold for my three younger sidekicks.

If you have a love for ocean life, Aquarium of the Pacific is the perfect break from stomach-dropping roller-coasters and top-of-the lungs screaming riders. The wonder thing about going to a place like the Aquarium of the Pacific is that it is much more than a fun getaway. It is an marine educational spot that gives you pause to think, observe and learn about the magnificent oasis called the ocean.

The look of amazement of young visitor’s eyes when they comes across the Ocean Exploration display or taking part in petting friendly stingrays are pictures worth a thousands words. Those memories are the reasons why we care so much about our theme parks.

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