10 Best U.S. Amusement Parks to Visit This Summer

Going to an amusement park is one of the best ways to spend a summer weekend with your kids. Amusement parks aren’t just about adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. There are entertaining shows, arcade and carnival-style games, waterpark rides, and fun food! With summer right around the corner, it’s time to start planning a trip to one of these amazing U.S. amusement parks. 

From world-renowned theme parks to lesser-known attractions that make for a memorable day on a family vacation, this guide includes the top 10 amusement parks in the United States.

Best U.S. Amusement Parks

While many of these U.S. amusement parks are well known, and rightfully so, we’ve included some other great theme parks that don’t get enough credit, and for that reason, may have fewer crowds and shorter queues.

1. Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

The iconic castle at Walt Disney World.
The iconic castle at Walt Disney World.

No surprise here – considered by many people to be the best theme park in the entire world, Orlando’s Walt Disney World is Florida’s number one attraction. Disney World has four major theme parks compared to only two in California’s Disneyland. It sits on almost 25,000 acres of land — you’ll have fun getting around using ferry boats, buses, gondolas and monorail. 

Epcot at night
Epcot at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

In addition to being one of the most popular wedding destinations, Disney World is home to more than 120 attractions, 140 dining locations and 50 entertainment options.

Of course, a Disney summer vacation doesn’t come cheap. A standard ticket starts at $109 for a day pass, while a special four-day, four-park magic ticket costs $99 per day or $396 per ticket. It can be expensive but watch out for sales on the site for good deals.

2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia

A popular water ride at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg
A popular water ride at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Located in the Historic Triangle of Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg lets you experience world-class roller coasters like the Loch Ness Monster and Pantheon set among European-style half-timbered buildings. Voted as one of the most beautiful theme parks for 33 years, this 422-acre European-themed park offers rides that will make you scream for fun and different areas designed to look like some of your favorite European countries – like the United Kingdom, Germany, and France

the England area within Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens is designed with a European theme with different areas modeled after different countries.

On a sunny day, join Elmo and his furry friends as they entertain guests through dancing, singing and playing games. Secure a front seat row to watch the lively medleys of Sounds of San Marco or jive with classical Bavarian melodies in the Das Festhaus Oom-pah Band performance. 

One of the best things to do in Williamsburg with kids, you can save money by booking your tickets in advance or even purchasing a combo 2-day ticket to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

3. Disneyland Resort, California

Disney California Adventure Pixar Pier
Pixar Pier within Disney California Adventure is just one of the themed areas to visit at the Anaheim resort.

Also high up on the list of best US theme parks is Disney’s West Coast attraction — Disneyland in California. The first park to open among all the Disney properties worldwide, this massive location was built in 1955 and has thrived since then. It took Anaheim from a sleepy town with nothing but oranges to a major tourist destination and one of the most popular destinations in Southern California for a family vacation.  

The resort draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. 

What can you expect from the land of magic? A lot. Between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, you’ll find different lands like Adventureland, Frontierland, and Cars Land.

Star Wars area of Disneyland
The Star War’s land is one of the most impressive areas of Disneyland.

Also be sure to explore the Avengers Campus, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Pixar Pier. If vacationing with grandparents or older family members, It’s A Small World, The Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight are non-jerky favorites that won’t hurt your back or neck. End the night with the special musical by Disneyland band on Main Street and the spectacular show of colorful fireworks as the finale. 

Standard admission starts at $96 for a day’s pass and special tickets for SoCal residents range from $75-$92. Make a reservation for your visit and download the Disneyland app on your phone to get park updates and for easy navigation. 

Disney Tip: At both the California parks and the Florida parks you will want to invest in the Genie+ pass to limit the length of time you spend waiting in line.

4. Universal Studios, Florida

The Harry Potter area at Universal Studios Orlando
Harry Potter fans will love Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios is another major attraction for tourists visiting Florida. This park boasts the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for die-hard Potterheads. Imagine casting spells like Hermione and riding the Hogwarts Express to take you from Universal Studios to the Islands of Adventure. 

Invite everyone to be minions and take a tour of the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem or ride the Revenge of the Mummy or Fast and Furious Supercharged. Choose between three parks — Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay. There’s no shortage of things to do here. 

Ticket admission for the Universal Studios and Islands of the Adventure starts at $119, while Volcano Bay costs $80. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. Pick the best time to visit and plan your around the shows. 

5. Hersheypark, Pennsylvania

a roller coaster at Hersheypark
One of the adrenaline-rush roller coasters at Hersheypark

Nobody could have guessed that a leisure garden created by Milton S. Hershey for his employees would become the largest amusement park in Pennsylvania, boasting 15 thrilling roller coasters and the best waterpark in the state. 

While you can visit Hersheypark year-round – even in winter, summer access runs from May 23 to September 8. When you reserve online, you can pick an any-day ticket for $59.99 and visit any time you want. Get the two-day pass for $45 per day to maximize your time in the Keystone State. 

the ferris wheel at hersheypark
Hersheypark Is One Of The Best Places To Visit In Pennsylvania With Kids. | Photo By Solocoot From Pixabay

Mix a fun day at Hersheypark with a quick educational family visit at the Hershey Story Museum. Learn more about Milton Hershey and the history of the popular chocolate brand in a 45-minute interactive class in the Chocolate Lab. Taste various warm chocolate drinks and treat yourself at a Pantry Café. 

6. Six Flags Magic Mountain, California

a rollercoaster and the US flag at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags is known for its intense roller coasters.

This 209-acre park in Valencia is another must-visit theme park in the US if you plan to hunt for fun in The Golden State. Like at other Six Flags parks, at Magic Mountain you’ll find lots of roller coasters so prepare yourself for jaw-dropping thrill rides like Apocalypse, Goliath and Scream. There are also gentle adventures for young children or older family members. Its tagline, “All Screams, No Breaks!” certainly delivers though. Your adrenaline-junkie teens will go home extremely satisfied with your summer getaway. 

A day’s access to the theme park starts at $79 and is customizable based on your preferences. If you’re lucky, you can snag a daily ticket with a gold pass upgrade for the same price, which offers a 5% discount on food and merchandise. The park also has platinum and diamond passes if you want more benefits.

7. Cedar Point, Ohio

a circular pendulum ride at Cedar Point
With scream-inducing rides to tamer crowd pleasers, Cedar Point is a great, lesser-known theme park in the US.

If you’re down for adrenaline-pumping adventures, visit Cedar Point in Ohio. Enjoy a full day of non-stop fun with 68 rides. You can choose your favorites based on your thrill-level appetite. Let kids have fun in Balloon Race, Dune Buggies and Helicopters, but try The Giant Wheel, Midway Carousel and Pipe Scream for yourself, too. 

After you get bored with the land rides, make a splash at the waterpark on one of the plunging slides, leisurely float at Cedar Creek, swim in the Breakwater Bay, or guide the kids to the Lakeside Landing where they can enjoy a go at slippery slopes. 

Daily admission to the park costs $49.99, and the fun day bundle starts at $74.99, which includes the entrance and all-day dining for a meal every 90 minutes. 

8. Knott’s Berry Farm, California

a roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm
A great alternative to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm is another fun amusement park in southern California.

What was once a berry farm is now one of the best US amusement parks to visit during summer. Fun seems to be California’s nickname — you’ll never run out of options for summer adventures in the Hollywood state. Another must-visit is Knott’s Berry Farm, which is one of the oldest and largest theme parks in the U.S. This 160-acre entices you with roaring rides, entertaining live shows, top-notch dining options and lovable Peanuts characters roaming the park. 

Kids will love the Balloon Race, Beach House Slides and Pig-Pen’s Mud Buggies rides. Pay $59.99 to access the rides and other special events for the day or opt for unlimited visits from $16 per month. 

9. SeaWorld Orlando, Florida

kids touching glass aquarium tank with dolphins swimming inside
SeaWorld is a theme park that is best for kids who are more interested in marine life than roller coasters.

If your kids would rather bond with marine life, SeaWorld is your best bet for a summer adventure. Since there’s water everywhere, expect to get wet. But this twist is part of the park’s magic and adds a layer of pleasure, which makes you want to take a chance at high-thrill rides like the Ice Breaker or Manta. Introduce your young ones to aquatic creatures — like dolphins and stingrays — and remember to take tons of pictures while they interact with them. 

Get a flexible one-day ticket you can use within six months of purchase for $112.99 or upgrade to all-day dining for $159.98. Get the whole family and swim with the dolphins or chill at the pristine beach of SeaWorld’s waterpark this summer.

10. Dollywood, Tennessee

Dreams do come true — it’s true for Dolly Parton, who redeveloped the Silver Dollar City and converted it into Dollywood, one of the country’s best parks. Have a ball trying the rides, slides and food. Watch music and special events. Bring your young ones along as this kid-friendly location has 12 rides and attractions for kids, including Granny’s Garden, Frogs and Fireflies and Black Bear Trail. 

As for you, alternate voice-crushing rides, attractions, award-winning music festivals and meal breaks at restaurants that offer full dining service. A one-day regular admission at the park costs $92 while a 2-day ticket sets you back at $119. Discounts are available for a group package — reach out to their customer service for a quote. Have a whale of a time in Tennessee by stopping by Dollywood for a day.

Quick Tips for Enjoying Amusement Park Visits

my daughter and i posing for a photo at Disneyland
Theme parks require a certain level of planning these days if you don’t want to stand in each line for an hour or more, particularly at Disney parks.

To get the most out of your single-day visit to any of these parks and avoid problems, remember the following tips: 

  • Make a plan. Download the park’s map or app for easy navigation. 
  • Research shows, attractions and dining options. Ride or watch those you want first.
  • Stay hydrated under the sun. Bring a water bottle and get a refill at the stations. 
  • Don’t forget to put on some sun protection. It will be hot, so bring a hat and stay protected.
  • Take breaks and find shaded areas to catch your breath for a few minutes. 
  • Take lots of pictures. Those happy faces will end up in your photo album for years. 

If you’re planning a family escapade the summer season, keep in mind that any of these USA amusement parks can get chaotic during peak season, so plan your getaway in advance to stay safe, and expect crowds and queues at the most popular rides.

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Photo credits: DisneyWorld castle: stinne24 from pixabay | DisneyWorld Epcot: Brian McGowan from Unsplash | Disney California Adventure: Brandi Alexandra from Unsplash | Star Wars: Rod Long from Unsplash | Universal Studios: Erasto Chavez from Unsplash | Hersheyland rollercoaster: Joshua Choates from Pixabay | Hersheyland Ferris Wheel: Solocoot from Pixabay | Magic Mountain: El Malandro from Unsplash| Cedar Point: Aaron Burden from Unsplash | Knott's Berry Farm: Ryan Zaxueta from Unsplash | SeaWorld: Mick Haupt from Unsplash 

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