The Top Amusement Parks in the USA
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Summer is high season for amusement parks. Find your fun at parks themed after everything from the jungles of Africa to Hershey’s chocolate. Read on for an all-access pass to the top amusement parks in the U.S.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Animal-lovers—approximately 10.9 million of them—flock to this animal and nature-themed park in Florida’s Lake Buena Vista each year. Since it opened on Earth Day in 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has amazed visitors with animal exhibits and live shows held on its 580-acre property divided into three areas: Oasis, Africa, and Asia.
Six Flags Great Adventure
With 11 distinct themed areas, Six Flags Great Adventure invites park-goers to choose their own adventure. The varied attractions at this Jackson, New Jersey amusement park include areas like the Fantasy Forest, family-friendly rides, stomach-flipping rollercoasters, and the popular annual Fright Fest event.
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Amusement comes in many forms at this multi-themed park in Orlando, Florida. Comprised of seven different islands, including the popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island, Universal’s Islands of Adventure offers entertainment for the whole family. With unique rides, shops, and characters in each section, Islands of Adventure grants guests access to seven parks in one.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Roller-coaster connoisseurs won’t want to miss the record-setting attractions at Colorado’s Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Situated 7,000-feet above sea level, this park is home to North America’s highest elevation coaster – and the only ride in the world to drop passengers underground. Don’t leave without riding the Alpine Coaster, a pioneer in the U.S., which allows riders to control their speeds on its 3,400-foot track.
Originally founded as a leisure area for Hershey Chocolate Company employees, Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark is now open to all. Favored especially by families, many of the 70-plus rides here, including roller-coasters and water attractions guarded by candy bar-themed height charts, are aimed squarely at young kids.
The Magic Kingdom in Florida’s Walt Disney World is the most popular theme park in the world, enchanting more than 20 million visitors each year. Popular Disney characters can be seen milling around attractions themed after The Little Mermaid and Cinderella, including the park’s iconic Cinderella Castle, where a firework display and a flying Tinkerbell appear each night.
Knott's Berry Farm
What was once a family-owned berry farm is now one of the oldest amusement parks in the U.S. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California transitioned into a park in 1940 when the Knott family built its first attraction, Ghost Town. Some 78 years later, the Town is joined by Fiesta Village, Camp Snoopy, and The Boardwalk, which together feature 40 diverse rides.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
marries parents’ desire to travel with kids’ wishes for family-friendly fun. The Williamsburg, Virginia theme park transports guests to nine different European cities via Italian-inspired rides and a Viking-themed wooden roller-coaster. In between rides, the areas’ unique food, appearance, and attractions, provide entertainment.
America’s second-oldest amusement park continues to be one of its best, thanks to its 365 acres of more than 71 rides. The “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” is more than its 18 thrill rides though: with its Ferris wheel and adult carousel, the 1870-founded Cedar Point is also a must-visit for nostalgic riders.
The largest water park in the United States features 51 slides, two wave pools, and much more. Wisconsin Dells’ aptly-named Noah’s Ark is a pioneering park offering attractions like a water roller-coaster and the country’s “first nearly vertical waterslide loop.”
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These recommendations were updated on August 6, 2018 to keep your travel plans fresh.