From the Jurassic Park coaster at Universal Studios to Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood, the best amusement parks in the U.S. have so many different thrills to offer.
Whether you’re a thrill-seeking roller coaster fanatic, or just enjoy strolling through a more laid-back setting, you can find an amusement park out there that has what you’re looking for.
Check out this list of the best amusement parks in the country the next time you’re planning a summer vacation. And feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!
Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
Located in rural Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is considered by many to be the best thrill-ride theme park in the world. It’s one of my all-time favorite parks.
Featuring 16 roller coasters spread across 364 acres, it’s hard to experience everything in one day. A few record breaking coasters include:
- Steel Vengeance: Oepened in 2018 as the tallest, fastest, and longest hybrid coaster.
- Top Thrill Dragster: It was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world when it opened in 2003.
- Millennium Force: Also broke height and speed records when it was built in 2000.
- Wicked Twister: Formerly the tallest, fastest inverted roller coaster in the world (retired in 2021.)
Disneyland (Anaheim, CA)
Built in 1955 in Anaheim, California, Disneyland has been a West Coast tourist destination for decades. Disneyland is a true theme park, and is a great place to take a family.
The park is divided into sections, all of which have attractions for both small children and adults.
While you’re there, check out classic rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, It’s a Small World, and the Haunted Mansion. And be sure not to miss the nightly parades and fireworks displays.
Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL)
Following the success of Disneyland, the Walt Disney World Resort was planned and built near Orlando, Fla., in 1961.
Spread across more than 30,000 acres, the location is the most-visited entertainment resort in the world and consists of dozens of theme parks, family friendly attractions, golf courses and hotels.
Walt Disney World contains a few separate amusement parks, including Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and more. I still love Space Mountain, one of the best indoor roller coasters!
Universal Studios (Orlando, FL)
Also located in Orlando, the Universal Studios amusement parks allow guests to “ride the movies” though several film-inspired rides and attractions.
From Harry Potter to Minions, the park’s shows and rides make your favorite movies come to life. Thrill rides include the Jurassic Park Velocicoaster and The Incredible Hulk Coaster.
There’s also a Universal in Hollywood, of course, which offers great attractions as well.
Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, CA)
Six Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles holds the distinction of having more roller coasters – 20 – than any other park in America.
The 200-acre park has been open for more than 50 years. The park has a good mix of brand new rides and classic ones.
Recently-opened rides include Twisted Colossus, the world’s longest racing coaster; and Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, which was the world’s fastest and tallest single-rail coaster when it opened in 2022.
Old rides worth trying include Batman: The Ride (1994), the suspended coaster Ninja (1988), and Gold Rusher (1971), the park’s first coaster.
Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL)
I loved Six Flags Great America when I lived in Chicago. The Superman coaster was always my favorite, because the seats hang from an overhead track.
That means you’re actually suspended with your arms out in front of you, just like Superman!
I also loved the X Flight wing coaster, the Tornado water raft tunnel, the Revolution spinny ride, and the Maxx Force coaster. I can’t wait for the Sky Striker rotating pendulum ride, opening in 2024.
Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
Hersheypark was one of my personal favorite theme parks for a long time. It doesn’t have as many high-speed thrill rides as Cedar Point, but the ones it does have are a lot of fun.
I like Skyrush, the inverted Great Bear coaster, and the Wild Mouse, a small mousey ride that is way more fun than it looks.
Hersheypark is cool because it’s in Hershey, Pennsylvania, hometown of the chocolate company. So you can visit the factory while you’re in town.
Hersheypark also has a large concert venue with great shows. I’ve seen both the Dave Matthews Band and *N Sync there!
Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, VA)
One of two Busch Gardens locations, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has an impressive collection of steel roller coasters that earn it a place on our list of the best roller coasters in the U.S.
Apollo’s Chariot was ranked the seventh-best roller coaster by the Golden Ticket Awards recently. The park is festively divided into 11 sections, each with its own country or fantasy theme.
Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Dolly Parton is a national treasure, and her park Dollywood has grown to be one the most popular parks in the south.
Dollywood has been developed as a family-friendly park with various attractions. Of course there are coasters, but it also has performance theaters, a steam train, and a zip line. They host festivals, dinner shows, and parades.
Kings Island (Mason, OH)
Here’s another park I visited as a kid. Kings Island blew me away, because it was the first park I’d ever heard of that had a standup roller coaster. That was almost unheard of in the ’80s!
This huge park near Cincinnati has highlights like the Diamondback hypercoaster, the Invertigo inverted coaster, and Orion, which was the seventh Gigacoaster in the world when it opened a few years ago.
Kings Island reportedly sees the third-highest attendance of any seasonal theme park in North America, behind Cedar Point and Wonderland in Canada. (That statistic doesn’t count parks that are open year-round.)
Kennywood (Homestead, PA)
Besides the big coasters – Phantom’s Revenge and the Steel Curtain – The Exterminator is a cool indoor spinny mouse ride. Don’t overlook the water rides – the Raging Rapids and the Pittsburg Plunge (intentionally misspelled to honor a bygone era) are both great.
Kennywood has several decades-old wooden coasters that are worth trying, like the Jack Rabbit and the Racer.
Avoid the Thunderbolt, though – this old wooden coaster may very well toss you around and give you back or neck pain. I can’t believe the ride is still allowed to be open.
And make sure to eat some Potato Patch fries, as they are legendary!
Many amusement parks have hotels or resorts nearby, which makes them great road trip destinations.
What’s your favorite amusement park in America?