Good Times in Virginia

Enjoy summer's end with an ultracool theme park weekend.
Farrah Austin

Two of the biggest and best parks in the state, Kings Dominion in Richmond and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, lie an hour from each other. And with Colonial Williamsburg merely a stone's throw away, you and your family are guaranteed a fun-filled weekend.

Friday Frolics
You'll find a number of hotels to choose from in Richmond. Because you won't spend much time in the room, opt for less cushy digs. The key is to stay someplace in close proximity to your destinations. A number of accommodations offer theme park packages that include a discounted night's stay and two theme park passes. The Quality Inn & Suites in Ashland is only 5 miles south of Kings Dominion and includes the most bang for your buck. Choose the park package, which offers one standard room with double beds, two adult one-day admissions, and a complimentary breakfast for two at the Club House Grille for $159 a night; (804) 798-4231 or www.choicehotels.com.

Stop in at the Strawberry Street Café in Richmond for lunch before heading to the park. You can order from the scrumptious salad bar stocked with all-you-can-eat shrimp pasta salad, potato salad, and fresh fruit for $7.95.

Because Kings Dominion boasts an awesome water park, be sure to bring swimsuits for a splashy good time. At Big Wave Bay, 4-foot swells swoosh revelers into a hydrated frenzy. For something more serene, the Lazy Rider slowly takes occupants in inner tubes through waterfalls and geysers. Admission to Kings Dominion, including the water park, is $43.99 adults and $29.99 ages 3-6 or under 48 inches tall.

When you're ready to dry off, hit the rides. Some of the park's best include Shockwave, the first stand-up roller coaster on the East Coast. Next, add Anaconda to the must-do list.

For something slower, venture to the Nickelodeon section, where kids encounter everyone from SpongeBob SquarePants to Susie Carmichaels and her Rugrats friends.

A brand-new attraction, Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Mansion takes guests into the crime-solving world of the doggy dream team. You get to travel in your own Mystery Machine and solve the mystery of the gooey ghost who haunts the mansion.

For dinner, try the park's Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack. It offers everything from a shrimp po'boy ($6.79) to shrimp caesar salad ($5.99) to accommodate your seafood cravings.

Before departing the park, cool off at a show. Paramount's Magic of the Movies goes behind the scenes and shows how special effects add sparks to America's favorite films.

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