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Knott's Berry Farm
Photograph: Courtesy Knott's Berry FarmSilver Bullet at Knott's Berry Farm.

The best amusement parks in the US

The best amusement parks in the US are filled with thrilling rides, tasty treats, and plenty of fun for everyone

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois

When people think of quintessential summer activities they likely think of going to the beach, a baseball game, or shooting off fireworks. Another must-do summer activity is hitting up the very best amusement parks in the US. While you might instantly be thinking of the big ones like Walt Disney World or Universal Studios, there are a few others around the country worth visiting as well. 

Many of the best amusement parks feature rollercoasters with heart-pounding drops and loops, a fried feast of food options and a small army of employees working to ensure you have a great day. Amusement parks can be found along the East Coast, in the heart of the country, and over on the West Coast, so no matter where you live there’s likely one nearby.

When you’re ready for a day of thrills over a relaxing day at the beach be sure to hit the amusement parks. Just don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, you’ll definitely need it just like you do at the beach. These are the 20 best amusement parks in the US. 

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Best amusement parks in the US

Six Flags Magic Mountain | Valencia, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Magic Mountain/Craig T. Mathew

1. Six Flags Magic Mountain | Valencia, CA

Known for its massive rollercoasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain is the place to go for thrill-seekers. The park is getting ready to open its 20th coaster in the summer of 2022, Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, which will be the longest single-rail coaster in the world. DC Comics fans will also want to make a point to stop and have lunch at Big Belly Burger, which is the fictional burger chain from the beloved superhero world.

Disney California Adventure | Anaheim, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

2. Disney California Adventure | Anaheim, CA

Disney California Adventure is the second gate at the Disneyland Resort, and where you'll find the exciting new Avengers Campus. Here you can dine like a superhero inside an Ant-Man-themed restaurant or sling webs with Spider-Man on the Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure attraction. A casual stroll around Pixar Pier will bring you to some of the most iconic attractions at the park, like the Incredicoaster and the Pixar Pal-A-Round. For a delicious bite to eat, stop at the Cozy Cone to get a bread cone filled with gooey macaroni and cheese as you explore Carsland.   

Disneyland Park | Anaheim, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

3. Disneyland Park | Anaheim, CA

Disneyland Park is easily the most recognizable of the theme parks in the United States with its cute pink castle at the end of charming Main Street USA, there's no denying this is the place to be in Anaheim. The park is home to California's version of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which boasts the same attractions as its sister site in Orlando. Real Disney fans will want to book a tour to see Walt Disney's apartment, which sits over the fire department on Main Street USA. The night here ends with a bang as fireworks and a projection show light up the sky and leave visitors in awe. 

Universal Studios Hollywood | Universal City, CA
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

4. Universal Studios Hollywood | Universal City, CA

The park features a decent-sized Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, where you can ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. One thing that we absolutely love about this park is the studio tour, which takes you behind the scenes at a real working lot to see how movies and shows are made. The tour is led by the hilarious Jimmy Fallon, who is on a screen of each ride vehicle sharing stories and fun facts about each location. Universal Studios Hollywood will keep you coming back time and time again. 

Knott's Berry Farm | Buena Park, CA
Photograph: Courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

5. Knott's Berry Farm | Buena Park, CA

One of the more unique California theme parks is Knott's Berry Farm, which is entirely themed after the humble boysenberry. The theme park has four themed areas, including one very authentic 1800s ghost town. Kids will enjoy Camp Snoopy, which was the first-ever theme park area made just for kids. Throughout the year Knott's hosts a variety of seasonal activities like spooky haunted Halloween events, festive Christmas parties, and the popular Boysenberry Festival, which draws in thousands of guests a day. 

Magic Kingdom Park | Orlando, FL
Photograph: David Roark

6. Magic Kingdom Park | Orlando, FL

Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World is one of the most visited parks in the world. This is the place where you'll find some of the most iconic Disney attractions, including Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and of course that tasty frozen pineapple Dole Whip treat. The park is currently in the midst of celebrating Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary, with a new nighttime fireworks show, merchandise, and themed foods. One thing not to miss is the 50th-anniversary spring rolls near Adventureland, which are filled with pastrami and pepper jack cheese! 

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park | Orlando, FL
Photograph: Courtesy Disney

7. Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park | Orlando, FL

A wild day awaits at Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park. The family-friendly park is great if you're traveling with kids who love getting up close with animals. Don't miss out on the Kilamanjaro Safari attraction, which takes you on a ride through a very realistic African savanna to see animals like giraffes and rhinos. For more thrills get in line for Expedition Everest, which is a roller coaster themed to Mount Everest, where you may even encounter the elusive yeti.

Disney's Hollywood Studios | Orlando, FL
Photograph: Walt Disney World

8. Disney's Hollywood Studios | Orlando, FL

Star Wars fans will want to make their way to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World for an epic adventure inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. The theme park land is a favorite among guests who can't get enough of piloting the Corellian spice freighter on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run or trying to escape the clutches of Kylo Ren on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Other big attractions in the park include the adorable family ride, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, and the kids-sized coaster, Slinky Dog Dash. 

EPCOT | Orlando, FL
Photograph: David Roark

9. EPCOT | Orlando, FL

This is the park where adults can often be seen trying to catch a brief breather and kids are begging to go another round on the Frozen-themed attraction. EPCOT is currently undergoing a multi-year transformation to bring more life to the front of the park, and more Disney stories into the overall feel. One new attraction that guests can't wait to hop onto is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is set to open May 27. The new coaster is themed after the Marvel characters of the same name, and will feature Disney's first reverse launch...

Universal Studios Florida | Orlando, FL
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Orlando Resort/Sheri Lowen

10. Universal Studios Florida | Orlando, FL

Adults and older kids will have a great time at Universal Studios Florida, where attractions are fast, thrilling, and perfectly themed to iconic movies. One of our personal favorites is The Mummy, which is a high-speed coaster themed to the movie with the same name. Even if you don't have kids you're still going to want to ride the adorable E.T.-themed attraction where you must get adorable alien back to his home planet. And of course, no trip to Universal Studios Florida is complete without a journey into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley to save Harry and his friends from Gringotts bank. 

Knoebels Amusement Resort | Elysburg, PA
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Knoebels Amusement Resort | Elysburg, PA

This year, Knoebel’s Amusement Resort is set to open for its 96th season starting April 30. One unique thing about this amusement park is that admission and parking are free, but the park still uses old-school ticket books just like what used to be used at Disneyland Park when it opened in 1955. The ticket books allow you to use a ticket to gain entry to rides and are based on a set price per ride. For instance, the bumper cars cost $3, while the carousel is $2.50. This park has a nice combination of family-friendly rides and thrill rides so everyone can pick and choose what they want to do.

Universal's Islands of Adventure | Orlando, FL
Photograph: Kevin Kolczynski

12. Universal's Islands of Adventure | Orlando, FL

The ultimate day of thrills awaits at Universal's Islands of Adventure. This is where you'll find Universal's most exciting roller coasters like the Incredible Hulk Coaster, Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure, and the brand new Jurassic World Velocicoaster. When it's time to grab a bite to eat be sure to head to the Three Broomsticks, which is located in the Hogwarts-themed section of the park. Here you can get authentic British fare served in a casual setting that looks like it's jumped out of the pages of the Harry Potter books. 

Hershey Park | Hershey, PA
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Hershey Park | Hershey, PA

Chocolate lovers, Hershey Park is a playground made just for you. The exciting theme park has plenty of attractions themed after candy, including the brand new Jolly Rancher Remix coaster coming to the park this summer. One place to be sure to visit is Chocolatetown Treats, which is making delectable hand-formed pretzels that are served with a variety of dipping sauces. When the day is done, but you're still craving chocolate, The Chocolatier has you covered with over-the-top desserts and plenty of chocolate-laced cocktails! 

Dollywood | Pigeon Forge, TN
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Dollywood | Pigeon Forge, TN

Who wouldn't want to visit a theme park that's entirely the brainchild of America's icon, Dolly Parton? Dollywood celebrates life in the Great Smoky Mountains, with more than 40 different attractions, and an onsite water park. Those who want the fully Dolly experience can even stay at one of the two accommodations, a resort hotel or in a rustic cabin. One thing not to miss at Dollywood is the delicious cinnamon bread. We promise that you'll smell it from wherever you are in the park and it will draw you in with the sweet smell. 

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Water Park | Santa Claus, IN
Photograph: Courtesy Holiday World

15. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Water Park | Santa Claus, IN

Holiday World is a fun amusement park that is loosely based on favorite holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day. While at the park guests won’t have to pay for parking, sodas, or sunscreen as it’s all included in the price of admission. Holiday World is home to America’s only launched wing coaster, while Splashin’ Safari Water Park has the world’s longest water coaster. Both of these rides are worth the cost of admission alone, then add in the adorable kid's rides and you’re set for a fun day.

Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay | Louisville, KY
Photograph: Courtesy Kentucky Kingdom

16. Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay | Louisville, KY

Those looking for an amusement park and water park all in one spot will want to venture out to Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, which has over 70 rides and attractions, two wave pools, and plenty of other water areas to splash around in. The park is known for its kid-friendly attractions like carousels and bumper cars. The park is also home to the tallest rollercoaster in Kentucky, T3, which has a total of five inversions.

Carowinds | Charlotte, NC
Photograph: Courtesy Carowinds

17. Carowinds | Charlotte, NC

For more than 45 years Carowinds has been giving guests the best of the Carolinas through an amusement park. The park is home to nearly 60 rides, a water park, and seasonal events. Kids will love Camp Snoopy, where rides are themed to the lovable Peanuts and are created with kids in mind. Thrill-seeking adults will find that there’s plenty for them as well with dozens of high-speed rides like roller coasters and giant swings.

Six Flags Great Adventure | Jackson Township, NJ
Photograph: Courtesy Six Flags Great Adventure

18. Six Flags Great Adventure | Jackson Township, NJ

Six Flags Great Adventure is a seasonally operated amusement park that brings people from around the area to have a day of fun. The amusement park is also home to Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure, which is about a one-hour drive through a man-made safari to see animals like giraffes, ankole cattle, and black bears. The nice thing about this safari is that guests drive themselves in their personal vehicle and can go at their own pace to stop and see animals as they get near.


19. Kings Island | Mason, OH

Kings Island is a staple mid-west amusement park. Since opening in 1972, the park has continued to expand adding in more rides and entertainment than ever before. If you’re traveling with kids then you’ll want to be sure to get over to the Planet Snoopy Play Area, where there are more than 20 Peanuts-themed attractions and live shows. When the heat really gets to be too much splash down at Soak City Water Park, which has an impressive 36 water slides, two wave pools, and a kid’s play area.

Cedar Point | Sandusky, OH
Photograph: Courtesy Cedar Point

20. Cedar Point | Sandusky, OH

For more than 150 years, Cedar Point has been welcoming guests to its amusement park. With more than 70 rides that range from family-friendly fun to high-speed thrills, there’s something for everyone here. The amusement park has a whopping 17 rollercoasters, many of which can be seen from the nearby highway to amp up your excitement level for the day. When it’s time to take a break, consider sitting back and enjoying a ride on a real coal locomotive and watching reenactments of life on the American frontier.

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