Seven refreshing theme park rides

Spinnaker

Summer isn’t summer without theme parks. Standing in agonizingly long lines with nothing between sweaty you and a scorching day is hardly the way to spend a summer, though. To save time and sunscreen and still have a killer summer, check out the following rides. Compiled from theme parks within three and a half hours from Jacksonville, here are the top seven to try out in July: 

7. Revenge of the Mummy- Universal Studios Orlando
This favorite of Universal guests is an indoor coaster with an indoor line. The coaster sweeps riders through a series of fast-paced turns, drops and reversals but no loops or twists to speak of. Less intense than the other coasters on this list, it’s a good one for the coaster-wary. In this attraction, the wait is part of the experience. The queue leads riders through interactive and visually interesting areas, gearing them up with tales of the cursed film set the ride follows.  However, for those willing to forgo a back story and the wait that comes with it, there is a single-rider option. It’s a great ride to start off a day at the park and shouldn’t be missed!

6.  Blackfoot Falls- Wild Adventures, Georgia
The wait is mercifully short, and the soaking is wonderfully thorough. Blackfoot Falls is exactly what it seems: a simple, thrilling and entirely drenching flume. On hotter days, many parkgoers flock to Tasmanian River Rapids while this old reliable seems to get the short end of the fame stick. Blackfoot Falls pulls riders up its outdoor track then sends them racing down the flume, where a nearly impenetrable wall of water sweeps across them and keeps them soaked for hours. Be sure your hats, glasses and issues of the Spinnaker are stowed safely away

5. Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Starring Aerosmith- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This ride combines two of the greatest things about summer: roller coasters and rock music. This indoor coaster stars rock band Aerosmith as it’s late to a concert to which everyone’s invited. To get there, riders climb into a super stretch “limo” and race down the track into a view of downtown nightlife in Los Angeles. With speakers in each “limo,” the ride is filled with Aerosmith’s music as the track winds and inverts through the black-lit and neon urban jungle. Though the wait for the ride is completely under shelter, it breaks down occasionally. Be sure to call Disney before making plans to go.

4. The Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster- Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
As one of the fastest steel coasters in the country, Hulk rockets its riders out a giant green tunnel at 67 miles per hour and sends them careening through several loops and twists reaching 110 feet high. It’s near the front of the park so get ready for lines. However, there is a single-rider line for those willing to split up the group. For those who aren’t, the wait is 70 percent under shelter with strategically placed fans and the back story of the coaster playing on screens. Head straight for Hulk at the park’s opening for a minimal wait.

3. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey- Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
It’s a neat trick to get through this one without waiting at least 20 to 30 minutes. However, the wait for the ride — located inside Hogwarts Castle — is part of the fun. Although much of it is outside, the queue runs through the Hogwarts Greenhouse and is lined with trees and fans to cool the soggiest tourist. Once inside the castle, the queue winds through Dumbledore’s Office and Hogwarts corridors with talking portraits where Potterphiles can get their fix. This indoor part coaster/part simulator is a revolutionary addition to Islands of Adventure. It has plenty of delicious air-conditioning and even moments of spritzing. All in all: entirely worth the wait!

2. The Kraken- Seaworld, Orlando
Reaching heights of 150 feet and claiming speeds over 65 mph, the Kraken is nothing but intense. Aggressive and smooth, the coaster drags riders up a maddeningly slow climb after which they rocket down the first of many drops and upend again and again. The real secret of this gnarly ride is its construction. Made with a floor track and elevated seats, it’s deceptively quiet as it hauls riders about with nothing to rest their feet on. In fact, guests with prosthetic limbs are warned to check that they’re on tight or risk losing them. This beastie is no joke. Its wait is usually longer than 30 minutes, but with tourists racing to Atlantis, it’s a safe bet early on.

1. Sheikra- Busch Gardens, Tampa
Say hello to the ultimate coaster experience. This floorless coaster carries riders up a steep 200-foot climb before dangling them over a 90-degree drop, nothing below their kicking feet but track and air. A few tormenting seconds later, it releases them into a myriad of drops, turns and inversions at screaming speeds. The only downside to this killer is the queue of longer than 30 minutes. Before and after the ride, stop by Sheikra’s designated splash zone and prepare for a brief but torrential downpour. As the ride whizzes past, it kicks up gallons of water and drenches your sun-baked noggins. It’s a super high, pee-your-pants terrifying coaster and a cool, refreshing water break from July’s sizzling heat. Can’t ask for much more.