This 400-acre fanciful facility is one of the most popular theme parks on the East Coast. Although it offers a wide variety of attractions, it's principally known for its thrill rides and water park. It's especially famous for having one of the largest roller coaster collections on the East Coast (you can spend all day here just being jolted up and down). Almost like its own theme park, the splash-happy WaterWorks features two monstrous wave pools and White Water Canyon, a wet-and-wild ride simulating white-water rafting. Most rides are included in the price of admission but some cost extra, which can throw a wrench into a well-planned budget.
Best Western Kings Quarters, 16102 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047 (tel. 804/876-3321; www.bestwesternkingsquarters.com), offers accommodations on-site.
Getting Your Money's Worth in Kings Dominion -- My friend Tatyana Hillock and her daughter, Jennifer, have visited Kings Dominion several times and give this advice: The park is huge, so arrive early and spend all day to get your money's worth, but wear comfy shoes or sandals as you will be on your feet most of the day. Lines for the rides are shorter on weekdays and after 7pm on weekends; it's also cooler after 7pm in summer. Food, drinks, and bottled water are costly inside the park, but there are inexpensive fast-food outlets across the parking lot, and you can refill empty water bottles at any park restaurant. The park's coin-operated vending machines don't always work properly. Spectacular July 4th fireworks are best seen from the parking lot, where no crowds or buildings block your view. Tatyana closes her eyes to avoid fright on the coasters, but 12-year-old Jennifer says she keeps hers wide open!