Theme parks offer instant thrills and a sense of escapism that you can’t find anywhere else. They are fast becoming a popular vacation choice and can be an affordable getaway, especially if they are within driving distance. Whether you want to ride the tallest rollercoaster, eat the world’s best funnel cake, or get lost in live entertainment, you’re sure to find a theme park that’s right for you! Here are 10 theme parks in the US that provide all-day family fun and excitement.
Dollywood – Pigeon Forge, TN
This amusement park first opened in 1961 and is in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain area. Dollywood offers a unique combination of thrill rides, family-friendly attractions, musical entertainment, and delicious comfort foods. Thrill-seekers will discover plenty of roller coasters to ride in Dollywood. Top attractions at this Dolly Parton brainchild include the Tennessee Tornado coaster, which takes you on a 128-foot drop through a mountain at speeds nearing 70 mph, as well as the Lightning Rod, a wood and steel hybrid coaster. You’ll find many other rides to enjoy - bumper cars, a giant swing, and the chance to drive a vintage Thunderbird around a racetrack. Visit the resort's water park which features a lazy river and plenty of slides. Restaurants are abundant here and tend to serve Southern favorites like grits, funnel cake, and barbecue. To top it off, Dollywood even has its own resort, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa, which has two pools and on-site kid activities. Visit Dollywood
Silver Dollar City – Branson, MS
Located in Missouri's Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City is an 1880’s-style theme park with over 40 rides and attractions, demonstrations from craftspeople, and live entertainment. This theme park opened in 1960 and gets its name from the idea to give visitors silver dollars as change to help the park gain exposure. The park features a few small historic buildings to explore such as a log cabin and 1800’s era schoolhouse. There are plenty of live entertainment options, over 60 shops, and 18 award-winning restaurants. You’ll also find culinary and craft classes you can attend during your visit. Their water park, White Water, is home to 13 acres of water rides, slides, a 500,000-gallon wave pool, and a lazy river. The park is open year-round, but you’ll find the world-class festivals and events are from spring through Christmas. If you visit Branson around Christmas, you’ll want to see the park all lit up with over 6.5 million lights. Stay at the Silver Dollar City Campground, which offers a complimentary shuttle service, a pool, and cabin rentals.
Visit Silver Dollar City
Busch Gardens – Williamsburg, VA
Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia is a park themed around different European countries, with areas devoted to Italy, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England, and France - all connected by a steam train. There are roller coasters in each zone, including Griffon, which is floorless, has a 205-foot drop at a 90-degree angle and reaches speeds up to 75 miles per hour. All other family-favorite rides are here too - carousels, swing rides, and water slides. Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been voted the “most beautiful park” in the country according to The National Amusement Park Historical Association for the last 32 years in a row! Don’t forget to check out the animals too! Visit Busch Gardens
Knott’s Berry Farm – Buena Park, CA
Once a working berry farm in the 1920’s, Knott’s Berry Farm is now home to a 57-acre theme park that is broken into 4 distinct regions - all with unique rides and attractions. Old West Ghost Town is equipped with Western themed coasters and a saloon. Camp Snoopy has rides that are designed for younger kids. Fiesta Village honors California’s Hispanic roots, and Knotts Boardwalk gets its inspiration from SoCal beach vibes. The Boardwalk offers a large stage for live entertainment and the most extreme coasters such as Hangtime which has a steep drop at a 96-degree angle. The park is open every day except Christmas, and the water park, Knott’s Soak City, is open from May to September. Visit Knott’s Berry Farm
Santa’s Village – Jefferson, NH
It's Christmas all year round at Santa's Village, a holiday-themed amusement park with winter and Christmas-inspired rides and attractions. This charming village is filled with festive decor and buildings visitors can tour. Some attractions you’ll find here include Elf University (where you learn how to become an elf), the Blacksmith Shop, St. Nicholas Chapel, and Santa’s Home. Don’t forget to stop by the stables and feed Santa’s reindeer! There are a few Christmas-themed rides at Santa’s Village, like a chimney drop and yule log flume. Visitors can also stop by the 3D theater to view festive movies. This park is open from May through December and geared towards children under the age of 13.
Visit Santa’s Village
Universal Studios Florida – Orlando, FL
Universal Studios Florida allows guests to step inside their favorite movies and TV series such as Harry Potter, Transformers, and Despicable Me with family-friendly rides. It is designed to take you behind-the-scenes of some of the most famous films in the world. Each area is filled with shops and fun activities to do and often are filled with costumed characters to meet. This amusement park holds live entertainment throughout the day which range from parades to stunt shows. If you like Universal Studios, check out Universal’s Island of Adventure which features even more thrilling rides, and Universal's Volcano Bay Water Theme Park. Passes to all three are sold separately. Visit Universal Studios Florida
Cedar Point – Sandusky, OH
Cedar Point is known for its diverse selection of more than 70 rides, including 18 world-class rollercoasters. With 11 miles of track on the site, it calls itself “the rollercoaster capital of the world”. Notable coasters include Steel Vengeance which boasts 30 seconds of “airtime” giving riders the feeling of being weightless, and Valravn which drops riders from 223 feet in the air at a 90-degree angle going into a 270-degree roll. Many of the coasters have set records for fastest, longest, highest in the world. Steel Vengeance set 10 different world records when it was introduced back in 2018. Cedar Point’s 364-acre site also offers lower octane rides for kids and less adventurous guests as well as a waterpark. The park is open from May to October and holds festivals and live shows, so check the calendar before your visit.
Visit Cedar Point
Six Flags Magic Mountain – Valencia, CA
Six Flags Magic Mountain rivals Cedar Point with 19 rollercoasters and over 100 rides for children & adults of all ages. The coaster, Full Throttle, is one of the tallest and fastest looping rollercoasters in the world and has 3 unique launches. Smaller thrill-seekers can find something more their speed with bumper cars, a train ride, water slides, or live shows. The 260-acre amusement park is open year-round and pays homage to the DC Universe and Bugs Bunny. Visit Six Flags Magic Mountain
SeaWorld – San Diego, CA
SeaWorld is an outdoor aquarium and marine mammal theme park open year-round. Experience animal encounters, thrilling rides, and presentations. See the sharks, orcas, dolphins, walruses, and sting rays up close. Guests can also discover large coasters like Emperor – which delivers a 14-story vertical drop with riders facing straight down. In spring 2023, the park is set to launch a brand-new coaster called Arctic Rescue, a straddle coaster with over 2,800 feet of track that reaches speeds over 40 miles per hour. For kid-friendly fun, families are invited to enjoy rides such as Tentacle Twirl, Sea Dragon Drop, Octarock, and Aqua Scout in the kids section called Sesame Street Bay of Play. The park does not have hotels on site, but they do offer packages with local resorts.
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Hersheypark – Hershey, PA
Hersheypark was originally created by Milton S. Hershey as a recreational area for his chocolate factory workers. Today, it is open to the public and not only allows you to try thousands of different types of chocolate, but you can also spend time on rides and enjoy various performances. Boasting a variety of roller coasters, family rides, and water rides, it is also home to Hershey's Chocolate World, which features every possible chocolate concoction and dessert imaginable. A ticket to Hersheypark also includes access to ZooAmerica on the same day, which lets you get a closer look at more than 200 animals found in North America. The park is open year-round and is home to seasonal attractions which include a waterpark in the summer and a sweet winter wonderland during the holiday season. Visit Hersheypark
We hope this inspired you to plan a theme park visit, and if you have visited one of these amazing parks and want to tell us all about it then reach out to us at WinniWanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor
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