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Top 14 Theme Parks in the United States

The United States has some of the best theme parks in the world. With more than 450 places on the map, you’ve got quite a choice when it comes to the fun-filled amusement park thrills. Gigantic corporate-owned and smaller family-run, Hollywood-inspired and entirely unique, Disney and Universal, with scream-inducing extreme roller coasters and kid-friendly relaxing rides. There’s a whole universe of theme parks in the U.S. and this article will help you choose the right destination.

Walt Disney's World's Magic Kingdom - Orlando, Florida Magic Kingdom - Orlando, Florida
Credit: Magic Kingdom - Orlando, Florida by disneyworld.disney.go.com

Walt Disney's World's Magic Kingdom - Orlando, Florida

A logical continuation of Walt Disney’s ambitious theme park vision that started with the Anaheim venture, the 1971-opened Magic Kingdom is among the most beloved and recognizable features of the U.S. itself. Its Cinderella Castle is a staple of pop culture, its rides are unparalleled, and the atmosphere is one-of-a-kind. Combined with a total of 25,000 acres of Walt Disney World Resort, it’s a gargantuan microcosm of amusement that requires several days for a thorough visit. Being the number 1 theme park by visits worldwide (in 2022 alone, 17 million came here), Magic Kingdom invites you on the ride of your life with themed “lands,” more than 30 epic attractions for the whole family, and the happiness-celebrating Disney atmosphere throughout. Just come prepared, have your accommodation booked beforehand, and don’t rush things for a hassle-free visit. 

Disneyland Park - Anaheim, California Disneyland Park - Anaheim, California
Credit: Disneyland Park - Anaheim, California by disneyland.disney.go.com

Disneyland Park - Anaheim, California

The name speaks for itself. One of the most visited theme parks in the United States (and in the world, too), it’s high on the bucket list of all American families. And the truth is, Disneyland is absolutely worth every second of attention it gets. Walt Disney started it in 1955, and the park has been constantly raising the bar of family leisure by adding new rides and experiences ever since. Visit the recently added Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction, get the classic Disney nostalgia at Fantasyland rides, have a full immersion into space at Tomorrowland and walk through the iconic Haunted Mansion. Coming to Disneyland Park in California is a quintessential American theme park experience and a bucket-list thing to do, no less. 

Universal's Islands of Adventure - Orlando, Florida The Incredible Hulk, Islands of Adventure
Credit: The Incredible Hulk, Islands of Adventure by Universal Orlando Resort

Universal's Islands of Adventure - Orlando, Florida

Of course, even if you’re looking to experience something outside of Disney World, Orlando is still the best place to start. Universal’s Islands of Adventure has been named the #1 amusement park in the world by TripAdvisor for multiple years – and we can see why! This adventurous park is perfect for thrill-seekers and movie buffs, as it includes rides dedicated to movie favorites like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Spiderman. Hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to experience both a butterbeer at Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in neighboring Universal Studios. You also have your pick of adrenaline-pumping rides like the iconic Incredible Hulk Coaster®, Dr. Doom’s Fearfall and newer addition Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

Universal Studios Hollywood - Los Angeles, California Universal Studios Hollywood
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood by Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood - Los Angeles, California

On the opposite coast of the U.S. is another Universal theme park that movie lovers must check out – Universal Studios Hollywood. With lifelike rides and attractions that celebrate fan favorites like Super Nintendo World, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter, King Kong, Transformers, and the Fast and the Furious, this top-rated attraction in California is filled with thrills and excitement. Besides the rides, there are exciting shows to watch too, like WaterWorld, that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat as performers demonstrate the secrets behind live animation, realistic fight sequences, and even being set on fire!

Cedar Point - Sandusky, Ohio Cedar Point
Credit: Cedar Point by Cedar Point

Cedar Point - Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point is a 364-acre park located along the shores of Lake Erie and is considered the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” A popular theme park in Ohio, Cedar Point has 18 different coasters, including Valravn – the longest, tallest, fastest dive coaster in the world, and Steel Vengeance – a hybrid roller coaster that has broken ten world records. Besides the coasters, there are plenty of other thrill rides and family-friendly rides to try, a variety of live shows, and the Cedar Point Shores Waterpark that features 18 acres of slides, fountains, lagoons, and pools – all on the sandy shores of beautiful Lake Erie.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - Tampa, Florida SheiKra, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Credit: SheiKra, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay by Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - Tampa, Florida

Animal lovers will want to check out Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, because it’s a theme park and a zoo all in one. For adrenaline junkies, this park has some of the best roller coasters in Florida. There’s a spinning roller coaster, an inverted coaster, and the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America that pivots riders 90 degrees and drops them face-first for over 300 feet. If your idea of entertainment is a little tamer, there are also lots of family-friendly shows to enjoy with music, dancing, ice skating, and live animals. Plus, Busch Gardens is also home to the largest zoo in Tampa, with over 300 different species of animals.

Hersheypark - Hershey, Pennsylvania Hersheypark
Credit: Hersheypark by Hersheypark

Hersheypark - Hershey, Pennsylvania

Chocolate lovers, rejoice! There is an entire amusement park for people like you in Hershey, Pennsylvania – the home of the famous Hershey Chocolate Factory. What first began as a rest and relaxation area for employees of the factory has now turned into a full-blown amusement park for visitors from all over the world. In fact, when you visit Hersheypark, you get to experience three parks in one. First, there’s the park itself, which features a wide variety of rides and attractions. Then, there’s The Boardwalk, a waterpark with slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. Lastly, you can round out your experience with a visit to ZooAmerica – an 11-acre zoo with more than 200 different animals.

Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Credit: Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee by dollywood.com

Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood for Tennessee is what Disneyworld is for Florida, a local amusement park icon it is. Strategically located in Pigeon Forge, minutes away from mountain gem Gatlinburg and Dolly Parton’s birthplace, Sevierville, this theme park is among America’s finest. The Smoky Mountains setting adds to the allure, the connection to all-American superstar-sweetheart Dolly Parton brings authenticity, and the Appalachian flair makes it stand out from the competition. You’ve got 11 theme areas and 50 rides and attractions that are basically a love letter to the culture and customs of East Tennessee and a celebration of the rich cultural imprint of Miss Parton, too. 

Legoland California Resort - Carlsbad, California Legoland California Resort - Carlsbad, California
Credit: Legoland California Resort - Carlsbad, California by legoland.com

Legoland California Resort - Carlsbad, California

Lego bricks have long become a staple of American homes, bringing the joy of constructing toys to children and adults. The Danish company has done a great job of turning its colorful, functional, and pop culture-dominated world into a theme park. Legoland California Resort is the ultimate destination for families with kids. You’ve got more than 60 rides, a focus on experimentation and active engagement, a Lego-themed Sea Life Aquarium, and a fantastic water park with a thrilling extension devoted to Legends of Chima lore. Don’t miss the Miniland USA with American cities entirely made of bricks, the action-packed Ninjago world rides, and the Build-A-Raft River, where you construct your own Lego raft. There are also many dining options to choose from, including burgers, pizza, ramen, churros, apple fries, and ice cream.

Six Flags Magic Mountain - Santa Clarita, California Six Flags Magic Mountain - Santa Clarita, California
Credit: Six Flags Magic Mountain - Santa Clarita, California by sixflags.com

Six Flags Magic Mountain - Santa Clarita, California

Are you a fan of roller coasters? There’s a place just for you near LA. Six Flags Magic Mountain is a theme park with the most roller coasters in the world. You’ve got 20 differently-themed rides that are sure to raise your adrenaline levels and make you scream, too. Vertical loops, twists, turns, and inversions await you on extreme Full Throttle and Batman coasters, Goliath with a 255 feet drop, and The Riddler’s Revenge (the tallest stand-up roller coaster in the world). 25+ dining establishments throughout the park will make sure you’re never hungry or thirsty and will feed you some tasty pizzas, burgers, ice cream, tacos, sandwiches, and hot dogs.

The Island - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee The Island - Pigeon Forge, TN
Credit: The Island - Pigeon Forge, TN by The Island

The Island - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Back east, The Island in Pigeon Forge in Tennessee is a hidden treasure. In fact, there’s so much to do here that you’ll probably want to stay for a few days, which you can easily do right on-site at the Margaritaville Island Hotel or the Margaritaville Island Inn. But what theme park would be complete without fun rides and attractions? This place has plenty, including a ropes course, a mirror maze, bumper cars, an escape room, rides, and the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel – a giant Ferris wheel that gives riders a breathtaking view of Pigeon Forge and the surrounding mountains.

Lake Compounce - Bristol, Connecticut Lake Compounce - Bristol, Connecticut
Credit: Lake Compounce - Bristol, Connecticut by lakecompounce.com

Lake Compounce - Bristol, Connecticut

If you’re an amusement park buff, Lake Compounce in central Connecticut is a must-visit. Opening its door in the distant 1846 (that’s almost 180 years ago), it’s officially the oldest theme park in the US, aka the Grand Dame of American Amusement. While the park has undergone numerous transformations over the years, with a plethora of modern attractions added to the roster of fun things to do, what’s cool is that you can still experience the old-school rides. Like the 1927-built Wildcat wooden rollercoaster, an original Looff/Murphy carousel from 1911, and the 80s Wave Swinger flat ride. Apart from that, it’s a favorite New England family destination with more than 44 attractions, the state’s largest aquapark, and many themed events.

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari - Santa Claus, Indiana Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari - Santa Claus, Indiana
Credit: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari - Santa Claus, Indiana by holidayworld.com

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari - Santa Claus, Indiana

Here is a cool family-operated theme park pick for you. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari has been in operation since 1946 and has become Indiana’s favorite destination for amusement over the years. It has some records, too, boasting not one but two of the world’s longest water coasters (Mammoth and Wildebeest), officially Guinness-certified. Apart from that, there are 40+ rides scattered around four theme holiday-themed zones and the iconic 159 ft wooden rollercoaster called Voyage, which is considered to be among the best in the country. Holiday World is a charming family-oriented park that is more affordable than its big corporate-run counterparts while providing the same thrills. 

Morgan's Wonderland - San Antonio, Texas Morgan's Wonderland - San Antonio, Texas
Credit: Morgan's Wonderland - San Antonio, Texas by morganswonderland.com

Morgan's Wonderland - San Antonio, Texas

A theme park with a big heart, Morgan’s Wonderland is quite a unique place to visit. From the very start, it was designed with accessibility in mind. Inspired by his daughter Morgan, Texas real estate developer Gordon Hartman realized his dream in 2010 and opened a park that can be easily enjoyed by everyone. That’s why attractions here are proudly “ultra-accessible,” pushing a new approach to looking at the amusement park experience. Morgan’s Wonderland, with its 25 acres of territory, 25 rides, and a Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park section, is a perfect family-friendly Texas theme park that is fun and wildly inspiring.

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