Parks, zoos, museums, and outfitters are gearing up for the summer family-travel season, offering fresh incentives to hit the road, whatever your clan’s interests.Thrill Rides
? Mountain coasters — roller coaster-style rides on elevated rails that use the natural pitch of a mountainside to generate speed — are all the rage this summer. Hop on the new Gold Runner coaster at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado (breckenridge.com) or the Timber Ripper at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont (okemo.com).
? Clip into new zip lines at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, offering a series of five lines plus adventure obstacles including a 40-foot net climb and a narrow plank bridge (skicb.com). In Puerto Rico, the new Toroverde Nature Adventure Park debuts The Beast, a nearly mile-long line with a double-harness system that suspends riders horizontally to simulate bird flight (toroverdepr.com).
? Among theme parks, riders can swing 30 stories above the Lake Erie shore on the new Windseeker ride at Cedar Point in Ohio (cedarpoint.com). Ricochet Rapids, a unique family raft ride with a 40-foot hill, splashes down at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho, less than an hour from Spokane (silverwoodthemepark.com).
? One of two new family-focused national-park trips from Austin-Lehman Adventures, the six-day Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks Adventure visits hoodoos, hanging gardens, and waterfalls in the company of guides known to surprise guests with fresh-churned ice cream on the trail. Their Yosemite trip offers rock climbing, rappelling, and hiking among sequoias (austinlehman.com).
? Cruise the less trafficked branches of Alaska’s Inside Passage with the new InnerSea Discoveries line launching this May. Itineraries highlight kayaking amid icebergs, whale watching, and glacier hiking rather than traditional port calls (innerseadiscoveries.com).
? Raft the rapids of Oregon’s scenic Rogue River with a new lodge-to-lodge trip from ROW Adventures. Take on beginner-friendly rapids through forests and canyons by day and sleep in comfort by night on these three- and four-day excursions (rowadventures.com).
Animals on Display
? The new Turtle Reef, opening in June at SeaWorld San Diego, show-cases more than 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles in a 300,000-gallon aquarium spied via an underwater viewing window (seaworldsandiego.com).
? Dive in and snorkel with some of the 50 rays (pictured) inhabiting the new Stingray Cove opening in August at The Mirage in Las Vegas as part of Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat (mirage.com).
? Immerse yourself in the wilds of Africa replicated in the new African Elephant Crossing exhibit at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The exhibit hosts meerkats, rock pythons, and burrowing rodents known as naked mole rats, as well as the namesake pachyderms (clemetzoo.com).
? Design a LEGO racecar, take a factory tour, or watch a 4-D movie complete with rain and wind effects at the new Legoland Discovery Center Dallas/Fort Worth (legolanddiscoverycenter.com). In July, the neighboring Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium will open with more than 5,000 animals, feeding shows, and a touch tank (visitsealife.com).
? Gape at model sauropods up to 150 feet long among The World’s Largest Dinosaurs, occupying the American Museum of Natural History in New York through January 2, 2012 (amnh.org).
? Build forts, vehicles, vaults — whatever — out of giant foam blocks, slides, and noodles at the new Imagination Playground designed by architect David Rockwell at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California (baykidsmuseum.org).