Theme parks add to thrills, building rides at rapid pace

Thrill seekers looking for the fastest, tallest or longest roller coasters might have their work cut out for them this summer.

That's because theme park operators are building more new roller coasters than at any time since the 2008 recession, roughly 17 in all. That number nearly doubles when considering all the major attractions amusement parks are debuting in 2015.

"With the economy improving, attendance up at theme parks and revenue up, they are a little bit more bullish," About.com theme park expert Arthur Levine told CNBC's "On the Money."

The industry is experiencing "maybe a little bit of pent-up demand, a little bit of delayed projects that are now coming online so we're seeing a whole bunch of new roller coasters and all kinds of other attractions coming into theme parks," he added.

Read MoreWorld's tallest roller coaster; 500 foot drop

According to AECOM, global theme park attendance increased 4 percent last year, its fifth consecutive year of growth. In the U.S. specifically, the International Association of Amusement Parks reports that more than 300 million people visit amusement parks annually, and the industry generates $12 billion in revenues.

The Fury 325 roller coaster at Carowinds theme park in Charlotte, N.C.
Carowinds
The Fury 325 roller coaster at Carowinds theme park in Charlotte, N.C.

Levine, a theme park enthusiast who has been reviewing rides for About.com since 2002, expressed excitement about this summer's lineup. He listed to CNBC his top three rides to try, and their locations.

Levine's first pick is Six Flags Magic Mountain's Twisted Colossus in Valencia, California. Formerly called Colossus, it's actually an iconic coaster that was built in the 1970s and was recently modified to accommodate more current tastes. It's now the longest hybrid coaster in the U.S., with a 116-foot drop.

"It has all kinds of wonderful new elements including inversions, which is very unusual for a wooden coaster, and it has an 80-degree drop, nearly vertical," said Levine. "It has incredible airtime … one of the best airtime coasters I've ever been on."

Another one of his favorites is from regional theme park Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina, called Fury 325. It's a part of a new breed of roller coasters called the gigacoaster, which is any roller coaster with a height or drop of 300 to 399 feet. Guess how much this one falls? A whopping 325 feet.

"It's one of the tallest coasters in the world, and it also goes 95 mph, making it one of the fastest coasters in the world," Levine gushed. "So this is all about speed, height and acceleration. Talk about thrilling."


The Thunderbird roller coaster at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind.
Holiday World
The Thunderbird roller coaster at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind.

Last but not least, his third pick is from Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana—a monster called Thunderbird. It's the nation's first launched wing coaster, which means that seats are on either side of track, rather than being directly over the track.

It provides a unique perspective, and therefore experience, during the ride.

"At different points during the ride, the train is racing towards, in this case, what looks like a dilapidated shack; and it looks like you're just going to crash into it," Levine describes. "But at the very last moment, it tilts sideways and you thread the keyhole and just barely make it through."

The most unique quality is that the Thunderbird "is the only one in the U.S. that launches so it goes from 0-65 mph in a matter of seconds out of the loading station," he added.

Levine revealed that families looking to experience all of these new rides don't have to go broke doing so. There are a few tricks on how to save depending on which type of park you're visiting.

Heading to Disney World or Universal Studios? Levine said that these "destination" amusement parks typically offer package deals rather than discounted tickets, where tickets are bundled with deals on hotels or food.

Another way to save is to visit during the off-season, in the fall or winter, when parks are less crowded, he added.

For regional parks such as Six Flags or Cedar Fair, Levine warned visitors to never pay full price. He said to research specials on the companies' official websites. Visitors can also save by purchasing tickets in advance online.

His most surprising recommendation? Consider buying a theme park's season pass if going more than once.

"For a chain like Six Flags, it especially makes sense because their passes will be good not only at the local park, but at all the parks in the chain," Levine explained. "So if you're going to be doing some traveling, you might want to think about getting a season pass."

Disclosure: Universal Studios is owned by Comcast, the parent company of CNBC.

On the Money airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 pm, or check listings for airtimes in local markets.