We love 'em. We flock to them every summer. We're talking about theme parks and entertainment attractions, and Texas has more than its fair share of some of the best of the best in the USA. Just check out all the awards Texas attractions are garnering. Check out the new rides and the new shows. Hold on to your hat, it's theme park season in the Lone Star State, and we've got the full skinny on the latest news, the newest rides and the greatest bang for your budget. Here's our take on the 2007 Theme Park season.

Summer is upon us and along with  the dog days comes the promise of fun...fun...fun. Kids can hardly concentrate during the last remaining days of school and adults are looking forward to long weekends, summer holidays and the planning of the annual summer vacation -- something that will please every member of the family from young to old....something fun. The quest for fun, in fact, can be found in every corner of the Lone Star State and there seems to be a theme or amusement park for just about every taste.

A National Trend
But Texans aren't alone in their quest for fun. There are more than 450 amusement and theme parks and over 1,000 waterparks nationwide with more parks being added every year. You could say Americans have a passion and obession with theme park fun. However, Texans have always had a way of doing things bigger and well...better.

Every year the oscars of the amusement park industry, called a Golden Ticket, are awarded by Amusement Today, the #1 amusement industry magazine and web site. To win a Golden Ticket  translates not only into honor among your peers, but increased revenues at the gate - which is always the bottom line. The awards are presented at the end of traditional theme park season in the fall before the christmas theme park holiday season begins.

Texas faired well In 2006, in particular Schlitterbahn Waterpark  New Braunfels that walked away with three Golden Ticket Awards for  Best Waterpark,  Best Landscaping  and Best Waterpark Ride (Master Blaster). Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio came home with the Golden Ticket for Best Shows.

The distinguished Publisher’s Pick Awards  are also handed out each year and Texas walked away with two of these notable awards. The 2006 recipients are the famed State Fair of Texas, Dallas, for its remarkable 120 years of amusing the biggest fair crowds in the United States; Pat Thomson of Western Playland, El Paso, Texas, for doing the unthinkable and moving his entire park to a new location (Sunland Park, NM).

Winning these titles and awards are great and it certainly helps the park 's attendance  but any amusement park industry pro will tell you it's not just about having the newest rides and the most ticket sales. Parks today are focusing on customer service and guest satisfaction more than ever. It's all about finding that perfect format for providing quality entertainment that keeps customers coming back year after year.

While old favorites keep us coming back to theme parks, it is definitely the new rides and attractions that theme park enthusiasts get pumped up about. This year brings a bumper crop of exciting additions to Texas theme and amusement parks.

What's New for 2007
Six Flags Corporation will continue it's theme it began last year of Looney Toon Characters and Justice League Comic book characters meeting and greeting park visitors upon arrival. Visitors will also be able to participate in photo and autograph opportunities, daily parades, fireworks shows and other showcase events in the parks with their favorite Looney Tune characters including Bugs Bunny, as well as their favorite DC Comics Super-Heroes from the JUSTICE LEAGUE including BATMAN, ROBIN, THE FLASH, GREEN LANTERN and WONDER WOMAN. Six Flags will introduce character breakfasts and lunches, afternoon storybook readings and special daily events with these favorite characters.

Introducing Tony Hawk's Big Spin -  Inspired by one of the greatest action sports athletes of all time, Tony Hawk.  Six Flags Fiesta Texas presents this radical ride that twirls you as it hurls you.  If parents have ever wondered what it felt like when you watch your kids skateboarding here's your chance! You'll sit in a car fashioned like a skateboard and spin with ever-increasing speed as you fly forward, rip through wild turns, helixes, and a camelback. Now you've just become a really cool parent...and you may even enjoy it! A new themed restaurant called Johnny Rockets is also new this year and the best news of all is the park will have an expanded season with Holiday in the Park.

Journey to Atlantis- The first of its kind in the United States, Journey to Atlantis incorporates the elements of a roller coaster and water ride. Its distinguishing feature is that riders enjoy part of the ride traveling backwards. Journey to Atlantis will be SeaWorld San Antonio’s third state-of-the-art coaster.

Waggin’ Tales- Incredible animals – many rescued from pet shelters and trained to perform amazing feats – star in animal shows at SeaWorld San Antonio's Nautilus Amphitheater. This hilarious, western-themed animal show features pigs, ducks, pigeons, dogs, cats, skunks, parrots and many more.

Sea Lion Interaction Area
Meet curious, energetic California sea lions during the enhanced and expanded Sea Lion Interaction Program. This program, launched in 1999, has been traditionally conducted behind-the-scenes but guests throughout the park can now observe the interactions in the newly redesigned facility. The new facility will allow for multiple sessions each day and increase the number of guests who will be able to participate in each session. Participants assume roles as “apprentice animal trainers” and engage in a splashy encounter of the sea lion kind.

Cirque Dreams Coobrila is a Six Flags Over Texas exclusive, Cirque Production's latest marvel of costume, lighting effects, music, and death-defying acrobatics is an astounding theatrical spectacle, the likes of which has never before been seen. Catch Cirque Dreams Coobrila's international debut and enjoy an immersive experience of lights, music and acrobatics. It's all a part of the  "Late Nights Six Flags" experience only during the summer from June 16-August 19.

 Blastenoff is a new expansion area to this one year old park with seven new signature attractions which include some of the most wicked slides ever imagined. Guests can challenge the vertical plummet of the Cliffhangers from a summit of nearly 80 feet. For the ultimate thrill seeker, dare to ride into disorienting darkness on the F5 Twin Twisters water slides. Other new attractions include the White Water River, the Aquaveyor, Treasure Island's Kids' play area, and the enormous Blastenhoff Hot Tub.

This company has a series of waterparks that also have small amusement attractions throughout the Dallas Ft. Worth area with their newest addition Aloha Adventure park in Lewisville, Tx. They have added a wave pool and concert stage this year to their Garland location and a new slide complex and water spray ground at The Colony location.

On Your mark, get set, go! It's 100 degrees outside and a downward hill of water sits before you. You look to your left and see your parents. On your right, your best friend sends you a competitive glance. The questions is, who will reach the finish line first? Find out this summer when you compete head-to-head on The Accelerator, the next new attraction to make waves at NRH2O. Challenge your friends before they challenge you! This waterpark is located in North Richland Hills, also in the Dallas metroplex area.

Located in Lubbock Texas this park purchased one of Astroworlds' most beloved roller coasters upon its closing. Re-construction is still under way for Greezed Lighting, but visitors are being asked to rename the ride for Joyland Park. Two new picnic pavillions to the park for this year.

The third largest amusement park in Texas is located in Amarillo and is always adding rides into the mix. They also benefited from the closure of Astroworld by procuring the famous family coaster Yo-Yo and the ride Chance. Both will be available soon for patrons to enjoy once again.

IT'Z opening in Houston marks the company's first location in Texas, bringing the area an upscale dining and entertainment destination for Houston families. iT'Z combines high-quality food, themed dining rooms, video games, amusement rides, bowling, party facilities and large scale amusement rides that you would normally find at outdoor venues...only these rides are all indoors to help you escape the Texas heat. There is also a retail outlet in a 70,000 sq. ft. building

The newest attraction in South East Texas. Opening Memorial Weekend 2007 the season will extend through September. The park is small but contains two body slides, each over 200 ft. long. The Hawaiian twister is a twisted body slide with both open and enclosed parts of the slide.The Cliffhanger is a totally open twisted body slide plunging over 200 feet to the bottom. Kahuna Lagoon, the children's play area will feature body slides, interactive water attractions and a coconut water dumping bucket, plus much more. There are attractions for all ages from toddler and up. On The Hula Loop you will be able to lay back in your tube and enjoy the tropical scenery of the river which includes waterfalls and bubbling springs.

The main attractions of the 35-acre complex are its many restaurants overlooking Galveston Bay, recreational sailing, and rides. The area was developed by Landry's, which owns all of the restaurants on the boardwalk. Activities include shopping and midway games, as well as a miniature train that traverses the entire area. Additional attractions include a 36-foot carousel and a 65-foot Ferris wheel. However since the closing of Astroworld they have decided to expand their ride options by first adding a very exciting wooden roller coaster called the Boardwalk Bullet which will open this summer.

Future Parks and Theme Hotels
While more and more amusement parks and theme parks are being built across the country the trend for huge hotel chains to convert hotels to water/theme parks or design a hotel/theme park is a new trend in the industry. Big chains like Holiday Inn are looking to convert their Holidome hotels into water park areas to attract family visitors. Perhaps leading the way on this trend is Great Wolf Lodges.

Great Wolf Lodges is the largest owner, operator and developer in the United States of drive-to family resorts featuring indoor waterparks and other family-oriented entertainment activities, based on the number of resorts in operation. They provide a full-service entertainment resort experience to the a highly targeted customer base: families with children ranging in ages from 2 to 14 years old that live within a convenient driving distance from their resorts.
 Great Wolf Lodge of Grapevine has been under construction and is set to open late 2007. These chain of parks are among the most highly rated in the country. So far the park has not released details about the actual rides and slides that are forthcoming for their Texas property but it will probably feature the usual, including tube slides, body slides, kiddie slides, a lazy river, whirlpool spas, and Great Wolf's signature interactive play structure with tipping bucket. Other features may include showcase attractions such as a wave pool and/or a family raft ride.

In addition to the water park attractions, the Great Wolf Lodge will feature a huge arcade with redemption games, on-site restaurants, a fitness center, and an Aveda Concept Spa to pamper and help get the wrinkles out of waterlogged guests. The kid-friendly accommodations will include 400 all-suite guest rooms. Apart from its property in Williamsburg, Virginia, all of the Great Wolf Lodges are in colder climates. The Texas resort will be the chain's southernmost location.

Snow Theme Park - It's Coming to Texas!
Though we love our hot weather fun there is not a Texan alive that doesn't love to get cold on occasion! Texans will be buying snow skis, doning snowboards and canceling their tickets to Colorado when this announcement hits the press!

The most exciting announcement for Texas theme park enthusiasts is the future Coolzone Winterplex .Though there is no set date for opening, CoolZone Winterplex will be a year-round, one-of-a-kind theme park that offers a variety of winter sport opportunities in a place that no one would ever dream: the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

With amazing new technologies, imaginative theming and unique retail and dining experiences, a day of skiing, snowboarding, hockey, skating, or simply playing in the snow -- in the summer -- will be possible.

This beautiful, naturalistic environment is made possible by a technology called Snowflex, a high-tech application that creates a remarkably real skiing surface. The CoolZone Winterplex will feature several ski runs of varying lengths and experiences. A main slope—and one of the major visual icons—is a straight, downhill run built for maximum speed and thrills. Other scenic, tree-lined runs feature winding paths, moguls, and hills to offer every type of skier and snowboarder a satisfying adventure.

Along with a toboggan run and a bobsled run, a “bunny run” will introduce the sport to beginners wishing to get their “ski legs.” Platforms throughout the park will offer ample opportunities for spectator viewing and sipping hot cocoa.

Needless to say the Dallas Metro area is looking to increase it's tourism revenue with this attraction and hopes that large national events such as ESPN X-Games, the United States Snowboard Association, amateur hockey organizations,and many others will want to call Dallas their new winter home.

Who knows? This winterplex idea may catch on and be the birth of a new wave of winter theme parks across the nation. If it catches on like waterparks that began back in the '80s, it will be nice to claim it all started right here in Texas!

Whether the fun is actually bigger and better here in Texas isn't really the point. Just plan on having all the fun you can with these new and exciting attractions, rides and venues offered across the state this year. Whether it's catching a wave or hanging on the slopes, Texans are fortunate to stay at home and get their fun on!