Nothing screams summer like being fastened in a careening roller coaster as it plummets, curves and bolts through coiled tracks.
The delirium of fear-inducing rides, and even the tamer rush from an amusement park's festive midways and live shows, are long-standing summertime staples.
With more than 340 million visits in 2007 -- a 26 percent surge in attendance from 1990 -- the seasonal tradition is as popular as ever.
But it's also increasingly expensive. The nation's 400 amusement parks raked in $12 billion in 2007, a jump from $9.6 billion in revenues in 2000.
A fun-filled day packed with rides, food and games can easily total $100 -- per person.
But there's no reason to pay full price. Special deals can help trim high prices and make amusement parks a more affordable thrill. Season passes and small group discounts also can provide dramatic savings.
Amusement parks offer a multitude of ways to save -- from bringing a Pepsi can or bottle to Seabreeze in Rochester, to passing report cards at Martin's Fantasy Island on Grand Island, to birthdays at Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan, Ont.
"Everybody can get into the park with a discount one way or another," said John Norris, vice president of Seabreeze Amusement Park and Raging Rivers water park in Rochester. "We like offering discounts and there are different ways to do that."
"The variety of discounts is to make it possible for families to come and enjoy the park," said Ray Wigel, public relations director of Martin's Fantasy Island.
The hard part is tracking down the discounts.
You can shave dollars off admission using online promo codes or coupons available at area stores. Senior citizens, veterans and members of AAA and CAA are admitted at reduced prices at most area parks. Evening arrival, midweek visits, multiday tickets and group tickets are ways to enjoy dramatic savings at the entrance gate.
But for avid amusement park fans, a season pass is the best value. Period.
"It's the biggest way to save," said Cassandra Okon, public relations director of Darien Lake. "If you visit the park twice, the season pass pays for itself."
At Darien Lake, season passes are $74.99 each when you buy four or more, and the all-day price is $42.99 at the main gate. A single season pass is $79.99.
MarineLand's season pass offer is the sweetest. Unlimited admission for the entire season is just $5 more than a single-day ticket at the theme park with animal attractions in Niagara Falls, Ont. Cedar Fair's platinum pass is the mother of all season passes. For $165, it covers Canada's Wonderland, Cedar Point in Ohio and 14 other major amusement parks owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment.
But if you're no roller coaster enthusiast and would be content with one amusement park visit this summer, go online to avoid full-price, one-time admission.
The Web is essentially deal central for amusement parks. Tickets are $2 to $6 less online and parks offer savings on their sites.
"People should just go to the Web page because most of our deals are Web deals," said Robin Innes, public relations director at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. "And they'll also find exclusive online savings."