Having fun is not always for the faint of heart.

That’s why amusement park operators — and amusement ride aficionados — pride themselves on always looking for a ride that’s bigger, faster, scarier.

Yes, there are those of us who can have fun on a mild, gentle ride, something like the Toddling Tea Cups. (As long as they don’t toddle too violently.) But there’s a huge group of summer fun fiends who want to try every new ride, and the faster, the better.

For those folks, New England’s amusement parks are always trying to become a bit more challenging. This year is no exception, with at least three area parks adding new attractions.

There’s the five-story-high roller coaster, Gotham City Gauntlet, at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Mass. There’s a new coaster filled with twists and loops — the kind where you have to be secured with shoulder straps! — called Untamed at Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H.

And at Palace Playland, right on the sand in Old Orchard Beach, there’s a new 70-foot-high Ferris wheel with more than 3,000 LED lights that can blink and light in a never-ending combination of patterns.

So whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for something to make the cheeks on your face stretch back, or someone who wants a calm, relaxing ride to the clouds, you can find it within driving distance of Portland. And some of the parks are offering free admission for dads for Father’s Day, so Sunday provides a great opportunity for a family outing.

Following is a rundown at what’s on tap this season at the most popular theme parks in the area.

CANOBIE LAKE PARK

This park has been a destination for generations of New Englanders, and celebrates its 109th season this year.

For this season — which also marks the 75th anniversary of the park’s historic wooden roller coaster, the Yankee Cannonball — the park has launched a new coaster, Untamed.

Untamed is 72 feet high with 1,184 feet of track, a 97-degree drop, loops that turn riders upside down, and banked turns. It’s being billed as the only vertical lift “Compact Euro Fighter”-style coaster in New England.

That means riders climb 72 feet straight up — not on a hill like conventional roller coasters — while laying on their backs and looking at the sky. Then they drop, then fly into a loop. The cars hit about 45 miles per hour, but the turns and twists make it seem faster.

WHAT: Canobie Lake Park

WHERE: Exit 2 or 3 off Interstate 93 in Salem, N.H.

WHEN: Hours vary in June, but after June 25, the park is open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through August.

HOW MUCH: $32 for all-day admission; $23 for children under 4 feet tall.

SPECIALS: Fathers get in for free and get a free lunch with paid child admission on Father’s Day.

INFO: (603) 893-3506; canobie.com

SIX FLAGS NEW ENGLAND

Six Flags bills itself as the “coaster capital” of New England, and the Gotham City Gauntlet is the park’s 10th roller coaster.

The coaster starts with a five-story climb, then passengers are sent spinning and twirling on a maze of 17 hairpin turns and dips along 1,213 feet of track.

The coaster, which opened in April, is located in the park’s DC Super Hero Adventures section. The ride is supposed to represent a thrill-filled “Escape from Arkham Asylum,” a Gotham City facility for the criminally insane.

Whether you’re insane enough to try the Gauntlet is up to you to decide.

WHERE: Six Flags New England, 1623 Main St., Agawam, Mass.

WHEN: Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days in summer.

HOW MUCH: $44.99 for all-day admission; $34.99 for children under 54 inches tall.

SPECIALS: Adults save $10 per ticket when they buy online.

INFO: (413) 786-9300; sixflags.com

PALACE PLAYLAND

Set to open sometime this month, the new Ferris wheel at Palace Playland will be about 70 feet high and have more than 3,000 LED lights, so it’s eco-friendly, too. The lights can be programmed to blink and flash in a myriad of ways, so it’s a light show besides being a ride.

From the wheel, people will be able to see up and down the beach, including OOB’s famous boardwalk. Conversely, people up and down the beach will be able to see the lighted wheel, since there aren’t a lot of tall buildings in the beach town to block one’s view.

WHERE: Palace Playland, 1 Old Orchard St., Old Orchard Beach

WHEN: Opens at 11 a.m. most weekends and noon most weekdays. Closing times vary.

HOW MUCH: Free admission. Rides require two to four tickets each, and tickets are $1.20 each or less in volume.

SPECIALS: One- and two-day passes are available, providing discounts on rides.

INFO: 934-2001; palaceplayland.com

FUNTOWN/SPLASHTOWN USA

There aren’t any new rides this year, but there’s still plenty to do at this two-for-one amusement park in Saco.

The Funtown side has good old-fashioned amusement rides such as bumper cars, a log flume and go-karts, while the Splashtown side has state-of-the-art water slides, a wading pool and a pirate ship for smaller children. Or, you can simply lounge poolside and relax with a drink from the tiki hut. Coolers are allowed.

WHERE: Funtown/Splashtown USA, 774 Portland Road (Route 1), Saco

WHEN: Hours vary through the summer and at the two parts of the park, but are generally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Splashtown and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Funtown.

HOW MUCH: $28 for Funtown and $23 for Splashtown for adults ($35 combo for both parks); $19 for Funtown and $20 for Splashtown for children under 4 feet tall and seniors ($26 combo for both parks).

SPECIALS: Fathers get into both parks for free on Father’s Day if accompanied by a paying child or adult.

INFO: 284-5139; funtownsplashtownusa.com

AQUABOGGAN

Billed as Maine’s “original water park,” Aquaboggan opened its doors more than 30 years ago. It will open for the 2011 season June 25.

There aren’t any new rides this year, but there are plenty of existing attractions to keep both adults and children happy. Zoom down a high-speed water slide, or relax on an inner tube in the wave pool. There are also picnic areas, and you can bring coolers.

WHERE: Aquaboggan, 980 Portland Road (Route 1), Saco

WHEN: Hours vary, but the park is usually open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer.

HOW MUCH: $20 for adults: $16 for children under 4 feet tall.

SPECIALS: Special passes are available.

INFO: 282-3112; aquabogganwaterpark.com

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]