Best Amusement Parks in the USA

Jocelyn Murray August 9, 2012 No Comments

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Amusement parks have long been a preferred venue for families in search of exciting entertainment. From favorite roller coasters, to high-speed thrillers, traditional family and children’s rides, live entertainment, shops and dining, these alphabetically listed parks have something for everyone in the family.

 

 

BUSCH GARDENS  WILLIAMSBURG – Williamsburg, Virginia

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Verbolten is one of the many exciting rides at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

One of the most visited parks in the United States, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia has an exciting array of European-themed rides, shows, tours, and animal exhibits committed to conservation including gray wolves, lorikeets, red foxes and bald eagles. The park itself is very beautiful and divided into 10 hamlets inspired by Europe. Guests can take behind-the-scenes tours, watch entertaining shows, indulge in mellow to thrill-seeking rides, and shop and dine in the many venues themed after European countries including Italy, France, Germany and Ireland. There are also plenty of attractions for kids, making it perfect for the whole family. For more information visit http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg

 

CEDAR POINT – Sandusky, Ohio 

Cedar Point Dinosaurs Alive

This animatronic T-Rex is a roaring sight in Cedar Point’s Dinosaurs Alive! attraction

Dating back to 1870, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is the second oldest amusement park in North America. This highly acclaimed theme park has drawn people to its pleasure grounds on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie time and again. Known as the roller coaster capital of the world, Cedar Point is a sprawling 364 acres with 15 roller coasters and everything from brain-scrambling thrill rides, to family rides, areas for children like Planet Snoopy and Camp Snoopy with their own exciting rides and attractions, to live entertainment, shops and great dining. It also features the prehistoric-themed attraction Dinosaurs Alive! (nominal fee required) with 50 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. For more information visit www.cedarpoint.com

 

DISNEYFlorida & California    

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park

Cinderella’s Castle rising in the midst of Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park

Disney has enchanted children for decades, and both Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, are wonderful places to spark their imaginations with their rides, attractions and entertainment. The parks are divided into themed lands (varies by park) including Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland, with favorite attractions like “it’s a small world,” the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the beautiful fairytale castles. Activities for all ages abound, from shopping, dining, games, rides galore, dazzling entertainment, a host of favorite Disney characters, and so much more. For more information on Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando, Florida visit Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Visit our Disney World and our Disneyland Articles for a more in-depth look into the theme parks complete with reviews and family tips.

 

DOLLYWOOD – Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood Express Pigeon Forge

The Dollywood Express affords gorgeous views of the Great Smokey Mountain foothills (Courtesy of Jeff Hunsaker)

With the Great Smokey Mountains rising majestically in the background, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee blends an invigorating country flavor into its gorgeous natural setting. This award-winning theme park has spectacular rides, attractions, live entertainment and craft shops that combine the southern tradition and history of Tennessee into an authentic and unforgettable experience. There are rides for all ages from white-knuckle thrillers like its newest wing coaster Wild Eagle, to kiddie rides, playgrounds for children, rides that make the most of the spectacular views and scenery of the mountain foothills like the Dollywood Express steam engine, plenty of shops, delicious dining, and more. For more information visit www.dollywood.com

 

HERSHEYPARK – Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hersheypark

Hersheypark is like three parks in one with its dry rides, water park rides in The Boardwalk, and its 11-acre zoo called ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park

Hersheypark has been entertaining people since its original founding in 1907 by Milton S. Hershey as a place of enjoyment for his employees. With over 65 rides and attractions including 12 coasters and a whole slew of rides for children, exciting live entertainment, games, shops and food, this outstanding 110-acre theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania has built a highly respected reputation in its industry. One admission price also includes access to the water park style rides and attractions of The Boardwalk, as well as to ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park – an 11-acre zoo with over 200 animals from more than 60 species representative of North America, making it a world of delight for all ages. For more information visit www.hersheypark.com

 

HOLIDAY WORLD & SPLASHIN’ SAFARI – Santa Claus, Indiana

Holiday World HallowSwings

The flying carousel ride HallowSwings at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari offers panoramic views (Courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari)

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari thrills guests with its dynamic duo of an amusement park and water park. With free parking, free unlimited soft drinks, free sunscreen, free Wi-Fi, rides for all levels, exciting attractions, shows, shops and dining, this theme park makes for an outstanding time for the whole family. This Santa Claus, Indiana park is themed after traditional holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and 4th of July. It is also home to the world’s longest water coaster Mammoth, and has a wonderful play area for kids that includes the interactive climbing structure Holidog’s Treehouse, and Magic Waters with its geysers for splashing fun. Holiday World was previously featured in our 20 Best Small Amusement Parks for Families in the USA article, while Splashin’ Safari was included in our Top 10 Best Waterparks in the United States article. For more information visit www.holidayworld.com

 

KINGS ISLAND – Mason, Ohio

Kings Island, Mason Ohio

Kids can ride on The Great Pumpkin Coaster at Kings Island Planet Snoopy

The largest amusement park in the Midwest also features the water park Soak City with more than 50 splashing attractions, so guests can have twice the fun for one admission price. Over 80 rides, attractions and shows at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio await to entertain families with kids of all ages. There are family rides like bumper cars, coasters, and flying swings, to thrill rides like the coasters Diamondback and The Beast, to special kids’ attractions like Planet Snoopy with its own rides, shows and favorite Peanuts characters, to live entertainment, plenty of dining options and more. Visitors can also meander through the fascinating Dinosaurs Alive! attraction with 60 life-size dinosaurs in a lush Jurassic setting (requires an additional nominal fee). For more information visit www.visitkingsisland.com

 

LEGOLAND– Carlsbad, California

Legoland Pirate Reef

Legoland’s Pirate Reef ride is great for sailors and landlubbers alike!

Where else can you see famous sites like the Las Vegas Strip, New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, New Orleans’ French Quarter, Washington D.C.’s monuments, and more reproduced on a miniature scale of 1:20 entirely from Lego bricks?  Legoland of course! This fabulous park is an absolute delight for families with children and features rides, shows, hand-on free play areas for young children to explore, attractions, shops, dining, and an exciting water park and aquarium (requires upgrade fee). The park is divided into themed areas including Dino Island, Pirate Shores and Castle Hill that captivate visitor’s imaginations and are strewn with life-sized models of characters made from Lego bricks. For more information visit Legoland, Carlsbad California or visit their official website at: http://california.legoland.com/en. Carlsbad’s Legoland was also featured in our 20 Best Small Amusement Parks for Families in the USA.

 

SEAWORLD – California, Texas & Florida

SeaWorld BlueHorizonsShow

See exciting dolphin shows and more at SeaWorld (Courtesy of SeaWorld San Diego)

SeaWorld combines the thrills of an amusement park, with the wonder of the animal world. With three exciting locations to choose from (San Diego, CA, San Antonio, TX, and Orlando, FL), guests can learn all about the intriguing animals at these parks while having a roaring good time on the rides, attractions, shows, shops and dining. There are exciting rides for all levels of thrill seekers, like the flume coaster Journey to Atlantis, Sky Tower with its spectacular views, splashing raft rides, and gentler rides for younger children. The exhibits feature fascinating animals like penguins, playful otters, tropical fish aquariums, sleek sharks, and lots more.  All three parks have fantastic shows including dolphins, killer whales, sea lions and acrobatic stunts. There are lots of touch/feed pools, behind-the-scenes tours, and animal encounters for viewers to learn more about the amazing animals up close. For more information about their Southern California location please visit Sea World San Diego California Family Review, or you can also visit their official site at  http://seaworldparks.com

 

SESAME PLACE – Langhorne, Pennsylvania 

Sesame Place Elmo

See Elmo and other lovable furry characters at Sesame Place (Photo contributed by Sesame Place)

This fantastic amusement park is the only one of its kind in the country, and perfect for families with younger children. See the Sesame Street Neighborhood come to life complete with its beloved furry characters like Elmo, Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, as well as the Furry Arms Hotel, Oscar’s trash can, Mr. Hooper’s store, Bert and Ernie’s house, and more. This Langhorne, Pennsylvania park offers games and plenty of wet and dry attractions for kids to ride, play, climb and explore including Big Bird’s Court, the Cookie Mountain, an interactive water play castle, slides, wave pool and more. Exciting shows and the popular Neighborhood Street Party Parade with all the favorite furry friends makes a visit to this outstanding theme park a memorable experience. For more information visit www.sesameplace.com

 

SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA – Gurnee, Illinois

Six Flags Great America Carousel

The dazzling Columbia Carousel stands 10 stories with two decks for a nostalgic ride (Courtesy of Six Flags Great America)

Located in Gurnee, Illinois, Six Flags Great America is also home to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor where guests can get their fill of dry and wet thrills, and best of all, the water park is free with park admission. There are countless rides including the thrilling coasters Raging Bull and Viper, Jester’s Wild Ride rocking tugboat ride, Big Easy Balloons, Little Dipper family coaster, the resplendent Columbia Carousel, lots of shops, dining options, and shows with live entertainment including the Glow in the Park Parade. Three areas dedicated just for kids ensure that even the youngest guests are thoroughly entertained and include Skull Island, Kidzopolis, and Camp Cartoon with rides, attractions and play areas. The water park boasts slides, raft rides, a wave pool, a relaxing lazy river, and more. For more information visit www.sixflags.com/greatAmerica/index.aspx

 

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS – Orlando, Florida 

Universal Studios Orlando

The iconic globe of Universal Studios Orlando

The world of film and television has a marvelous element of fantasy that is lots of fun to explore at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  From behind-the-scenes shows, to real working movie sets, and exciting rides and attractions, a visit to this park is unforgettable. There are 3-D and 4-D interactive experiences like Shrek 4-D and Terminator 2 3-D, play areas for kids like Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playground, shows like A Day in the Park with Barney, Fear Factor Live with lots of audience participation, the Horror Make-up Show, a variety of shops, and a delicious array of dining including cafes and restaurants. For more information visit Universal Orlando: Not Just for Thrill-Seeking Teens.

 

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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