I once fainted after riding a kiddie roller coaster at Disneyland and had to be picked up in a golf cart "ambulance" driven by Mickey Mouse. Despite that humiliation — and an unfortunate predisposition for motion sickness — my enthusiasm for theme park jaunts has never waned.

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Years ago, we'd climb into the family van with cousins, grandparents and friends, all eager to experience the newest thrill ride. Now, theme parks entice visitors with gravity-defying, heart-pounding 3-D attractions. But their core audience remains unchanged: Coast to coast, families are the lifeblood of the amusement park business.

"Hispanic families, especially those in Southern California, are such a big part of our clientele," says Jennifer Blazey, spokesperson for one of the country's oldest themed amusement park, Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.

My summer plans already include a number of amusement park visits. If yours do, too, keep in mind that a little advance research goes a long way.

"We encourage our guests to go online and take a look at what the park offers," says Marcie Perez of Universal Studios Hollywood.

That's where Spanish-language planning tools can offer added convenience for the entire family.

Road trips through Hispanic Heritage (en español)

Se habla español

Growing up, I remember serving as a translator for my grandparents during amusement park visits. Now grandparents and parents can use the parks' Spanish-language websites to plan their visit.

Universal Studios Hollywood offers a Spanish-language website and a mobile application.

Disneyland's Spanish website is filled with park information, plus special offers. You can also peruse online all of the Disney theme parks, both here and abroad, and a "Moms Panel" in Spanish. Are you a Facebook user? Try Disneyland's Spanish Facebook page.

Find general information for Chicago's Six Flags Great America on the park's Spanish website.

Most theme parks also offer Spanish-language park maps, and Spanish-speaking guides to help guests, so be sure to ask for them when you arrive at the park.

See also: Chicago travel guide


Once you're at the park, another time-saving strategy is to split the group into thrill-seekers and gift shop browsers (my preference). Then arrange to meet for lunch or dinner at a specific time. Many parks feature call-ahead dining reservation systems that can eliminate long wait times during peak meal hours.