Summer Benefits in my Backyard: Amusement Parks and Beaches

Jonathan Kaupanger
May 29, 2018 - 2:53 pm

Dreamstime

Americans have been heading to amusement parks since the 19th Century.  They started out basically as picnic grounds where working men could go relax.  Our country had it's first amusement park when Coney Island opened in 1895. The idea for the park was based on the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.  

When it comes to the first theme park in the country, most people will automatically think of Disneyland, which opened in 1955.  But the first theme park actually opened in 1946 in Indiana and was called Santa Clause Land.  The 260-acre park had an Alpine village with a toyshop, rides just for kids and of course Santa was on hand every day. 

The Big Four Amusement/Theme Parks

These are the top four amusement park corporations in order of annual attendance.

  • Disney Parks.  It’s not a cheap place to visit, but they do love the military!  It’s less expensive if you book tickets on-line or through the MWR office on military posts. The military/veteran discount doesn’t end at the front gate either, so keep asking wherever you go in the parks.  Make sure you have some sort of military ID with you if you plan on using this discount.  Don’t forget to check out Shades of Green for a place to stay while visiting.
  • Universal Studios.  A proper veteran/military ID cuts $3 off the ticket price at the front gate.  You can go to your base Military Ticket Office and get an even better discount.  These discounted rates are NOT available at other ticket offices.  If your base/post doesn’t have a Military Ticket Office, call (901) 874-6891 for more purchasing options.
  • Six Flags.  A proper ID will get you a 20 percent discount at the Guest Services Center of any Six Flags Park.  Check with MWR/ITT on your base for a better discount on tickets. 
  • Cedar Fair parks.  You can receive discounted admission, with a proper ID, to any of the 13 Cedar Fair parks.  You can purchase up to six additional tickets at the same discounted rate as well.  This company owns Great America, Kings Dominion and Knott's Berry Farm.

Personal favorite amusement parks

  • Hershey Park, Hershey, PA.  I took my niece and nephew on their first rollercoaster at Hershey Park.  There are options for nervous first time riders all the way up to the “scream your lungs out” rollercoasters. Here’s the link to the Military Appreciation coupon.   It will get you $20 off regular admission and $4 off junior/senior tickets too.  And then there’s the chocolate, I mean it is Hershey Park. 
  • Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, CA.  You may not know about this one, yet.  It’s just pure, simple fun.  You can purchase all day rides wristbands or just pay as you go.  The fifth oldest rollercoaster in the country is at the Boardwalk.  The Giant Dipper has been described as “a tooth-loosener, eyeball-popper and one long shriek.”  If rides aren’t your thing, then the weekly concerts and movies on the beach just might do it for you.  You can get the discounts from your Military Travel Office or AAA Travel Department.
  • Dollywood, Great Smoky Mountains, TN.  I have to admit that I’ve not been to Dollywood yet, but hey, Dolly Parton!  Who doesn’t love Dolly?  They have a special military ticket that you can purchase at the gate.  You’ll want to be sure you have your IDs with you in order to get this 30 percent discount. 
  • Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, IN.  Again, I’ve not been to this one yet, but considering the fact that a Navy veteran played Santa for four decades here, I’m already sold!  AND it’s a theme park about holidays, so what’s not to like?  They offer a discount to military, veterans and Gold Star families.  You can show your ID at the gate and save $12 off the entrance fee for adults and $5 for children and seniors.  During Happy Halloween Weekends you can use the discount also.  The discount can be used to purchase up to six tickets per visit.

Dreamstime

Beaches

I do love a good beach.  You wouldn’t know it to look at me though but then that’s why we have sun umbrellas. 

Best beach by military base outside of the US

  • Rota, Spain.  Besides the private beach on Naval Station Rota, the town of Rota is a vacation destination all on its own.  You can hang out on the wide beaches, wander the tree lined streets or just nibble on some local munchies at a café.  For veterans this is such a deal because rooms at the Navy Lodge are just $75 a night. 
  • Camp Darby, Livorno, Italy.  On the Italian Riviera, US Army Garrison Livorno has an “American Beach” that is complete with fireworks on the Fourth of July.  Darby’s Sea Pines Lodge has lodging that ranges from basic campsites to deluxe suites.  Rooms start at $65 per night.
  • Okuma Beach and Recreation Center, Okinawa, Japan.  The 135-acre beach and rec center has camping, cabana and cabin rentals.  You can also enjoy jet skis, kayaks, snorkeling, scuba and other watersports.  Basic rooms start at $55 per night.  Other “American” beaches on the island are the Navy’s White Beach, the Army’s Torii Beach or the Cottages at Oura Wan Beach on the Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab.

Best beach by military base in the US

  • California.  Both San Onofre and Del Mar beaches are located on the Marine’s Camp Pendleton.  There are lifeguards, food/vending, parking and rental cottages.  For calmer waters, go a little farther south on North Island to Naval Base Coronado in San Diego
  • Florida.  Pensacola and Key West beaches.  Barrancas Beach at Naval Air Station Pensacola has white, powdery sand that’s so bright and reflective you’ll want to take extra precautions so you don’t get burned.  MWR’s Oak Grove Park rents one-bedroom cottages for $90 a day.  In Key West you can get a standard room at the Navy’s Beach Patio Recreation Center for $55
  • Virginia.  Fort AP Hill.  Run by the Army, this property has great discounts going on this summer.  If you want something a bit more intimate, try the cottages at the Dam Neck Annex at Naval Air Station Oceana.  Room rates start at $56 for a basic room and $76 for VIP suites.  Rates go up in the summer, so book early and lock in the lower rates.

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