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With summer just around the corner, many travelers are planning their family vacations, and what better way to spend some time together than enjoying classic fun at an American amusement park? These parks offer some of the best of the best when it comes to entertaining the whole family, and are while worth planning a vacation around.
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Walt Disney World is consistently the most popular theme park on the planet. If you haven’t been, it’s probably on your bucket list. The resort includes the flagship Magic Kingdom, which opened nearly a half-century ago in Orlando, and was followed by Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is represented by Cinderella Castle, inspired by the fairy tale castle seen in the 1950 film. It hosts all of the “lands” that the very first Disney Park, Disneyland, offers like Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Fantasyland, one of the most popular areas with attractions themed after classic Disney movies like “Peter Pan,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Dumbo.” Every night, visitors can watch a spectacular fireworks display from the castle, along with a flying Tinkerbell that bids goodnight to all.
If you live on the west coast, or are closer to it, Disneyland in Southern California may be the ideal place to go. The park celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015, and is the original Disney park, with Sleeping Beauty Castle its centerpiece. Since it opened back in 1955, Disneyland has undergone a number of expansions and major renovations, including the addition of New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (now Critter Country) in 1972, and Mickey’s Toontown in 1993. In 1998, Disney California Adventure was constructed in what was once a parking lot. Despite all the rides, the resort area is relatively small compared to its Orlando counterpart, making it a lot more walkable. Still, from the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion to Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight, this park hosts rides that are famous not only throughout the nation but the world. Main Street, U.S.A. welcomes visitors, as it does at Disney World, with old-town charms, quaint shops, a town hall, and a firehouse.
Universal Studios Hollywood began giving tours of the studio lots back in 1964 before eventually becoming a fully operational theme park with rides, shows, and live character appearances. It’s become increasingly popular, even giving Disney a run for its money after opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016 that was part of a $1.6-billion upgrade. The park’s other major attractions include rides-themed after films like “Jurassic Park,” “Transformers,” “Fast & Furious,” and “Despicable Me.” The world-famous studio tour is the most legendary attraction, however, offering guests the chance to explore the working backlot of a real Hollywood movie studio. Visitors take a tram ride that rolls past sets from films like “War of the Worlds,” “Psycho,” “Jaws” and more, while also featuring Peter Jackson’s heart-pounding King Kong 360 3D, the largest 3D experience in the world.
Busch Gardens Tampa is themed after 19th-century Africa. It’s home to 12,000 animals and features thrilling rides across its tropical 300-acre landscape. There are major thrill rides here, the most popular of which include Cobra’s Curse, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, and Falcon’s Furry. The park’s newest ride is Cobra’s Curse which is a serious spin coaster with a 70-foot vertical lift that’s set in the Egypt-themed area of the park. SheiKra is the first dive coaster in North America and has a major 90-degree drop, clear car floors that provide unobstructed views of all the drops, twists, and loops, along with a surprise water feature. Busch Gardens is also known for its over-the-top holiday decor and celebrations, with Christmas Town in the winter offering the chance to see the park transformed with holiday lights and real snow.
Not only is Cedar Point one of the most popular amusement parks in Ohio, but it is the second-oldest operating theme park in the country, with its origins dating back to 1870. Often rated as one of the best amusement parks in the U.S., it’s a summer park, open from Memorial Day weekend through early September, and features 18 roller coasters and over 70 rides in total, making it a world-record holder for the most rides. Its newest roller coaster, Valravn, has a 223-foot drop at 75 miles per hour, which makes it the world’s fastest dive coaster. The resort sits on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie, meaning if you get tired of the rides, you can go enjoy hanging out at the beach. When the weather is sizzling out, visitors can now pop over to the 18-acre water park which includes a six-story plunge, Point Plummet, and Crosscurrent, three tube slides that use fast currents to move you along.
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valentia is just one more reason to head to Southern California, if you want to experience a record-breaking amount of roller coasters, that is. It boasts 19, more than any other park on the planet. The 19 coasters include 4 kid coasters and 3 family coasters, with the rest offering a major adrenaline rush, so there’s something for everyone here. You can also enjoy the unique experience of spiraling around the track on the world’s first 4D roller coaster, riding outside the track on X2, a groundbreaking inspiration in the world of thrill rides that also includes carefully designed music and lighting to heighten the sensory experience. While the park may be lacking in things like shows, it definitely boasts one of the world’s best collections of coasters.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas, located in San Antonio, is one of the primary reasons the city is the most visited in all of Texas. The park is different from the rest in that it has a unique integration into a quarry wall which serves as its backdrop, many consider it the prettiest of all the Six Flags parks too. It hosts world-renowned coasters like Iron Rattler, Superman Krypton Coaster, and Batman: The Ride, as well as other amazing coasters, including the Road Runner Express and Poltergeist.
Kings Island is a seasonal amusement park that is open from early spring until Labor Day, with the exception of several weekends around Halloween, when it’s open for popular Halloween Haunt events. The 364-acre Kings Island amusement park houses what’s been voted the No. 1 kids area, as well as the best Top 3’s of any amusement park: Diamondback, Banshee, and The Beast, and they’re the reason that so many coaster junkies travel to southern Ohio.
Wisconsin Dells is famous for its water parks, with dozens of indoor and outdoor water parks throughout the region, including the country’s largest water park, Noah’s Ark. It offers a practically overwhelming array of aquatic rides including two wave pools, a surfing simulator, and 51 slides. Scorpion’s Tail, a favorite with those looking for heart-pounding thrills in the water, propels riders down a nearly vertical slide into an inclined loop. The Mt. Olympus Theme Park & Water Park is another favorite. The 300-acre outdoor, 120,000-square-foot indoor park hosts over 40 water slides, eight go-kart tracks, seven roller coasters, a large wave pool with 9-foot waves, lazy rivers, hot tubs and areas just for little ones, along with three hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Hershey, Pennsylvania is all about chocolate. This is the home to the famous Hershey’s Chocolate company, and Hershey’s Chocolate World, found right next to the Hersheypark. The top-rated amusement park in Pennsylvania hosts various roller coasters that pass over the midway into drops, loops, twists, and turns, which make a visit to Hershey worth it just to experience how amazing they really are. But, of course, all of that chocolate – sample it at Hershey’s Chocolate World, visit the Hershey Story Museum and stay at Hotel Hershey, the official resort of Hersheypark, which includes a chocolate spa for enjoying a luxurious whipped cocoa bath.