Best Amusement Parks in the USA
Amusement parks are popular all around the world, but most can't compare to the ones located in North America. Ever since Disneyland opened in 1955, Americans and international tourists have traveled from far and wide for a chance to meet cartoon characters, take a plunge on their favorite coaster, and make memories that last a lifetime.
Fortunately for today’s American and international vistors, there are now well over four hundred amusement and theme parks sprinkled throughout the United States and a lot of choice depending on interests and budget.
There are famous worldwide resorts and also small independent lesser known parks which attract millions of American and international tourists every year.
But with so much choice, which ones should you choose to visit?
Check out our list of the top rated amusement parks in the United States and start planning the adventure of a lifetime.
1. Disney World, Orlando, Florida
The world’s most visited theme park, Disney World in Orlando, Florida sets the standard for all other amusement parks, comprising six separate parks (four theme and two water parks). With accommodations ranging from budget-priced campgrounds to ultra luxurious villas, and over a hundred restaurants, Disney World attracts more than 52 million visitors a year.
With six separate and uniquely themed areas — Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Main Street U.S.A., and Tomorrowland — Disney’s Magic Kingdom alone rivals any other amusement park in the world. Opened in 1982 (just about ten years after the Magic Kingdom), Disney’s Epcot Center offers a World’s Fair type experience. There are pavilions representing eleven different countries including the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, the United States, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, Canada, and Mexico.
Themed after some of Disney’s most popular films, Disney's Hollywood Studios gives fans a chance to meet some of their favorite Disney characters and enjoy rides like Star Wars Launch Bay, Toy Story Mania, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Part theme park, part zoo, and part safari park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom lets visitors enjoy a real-life safari on Kilimanjaro Safari, get up close and personal with tigers or water buffalo on Maharajah Jungle Trek, or careen through icy Himalayan peaks on Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.
2. Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Over a hundred different rides, live entertainment, and a sprawling water park make Dollywood one of the country's favorite theme parks. With dozens of rides and attractions for small children, several heart-stopping coasters, and multiple concerts and dinner shows throughout the seasons, Dollywood offers families the perfect amusement park experience.
Along with Dollywood, family vacationers flock to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area for a variety of other reasons, as well. The sister cities play host to four world-class mountain coasters, three other amusement parks, and several theaters that offer family entertainment including comedy, music, and magic shows. Then, of course, Dollywood's location at the foot of the best national parks - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - means visitors also enjoy access to plenty of outdoor activities, as well.
Even the lodging joins in the fun on a trip to Dollywood. A popular place to stay is Pigeon Forge rental cabins which offer guests a unique combination of rustic charm and modern convenience. Most Gatlinburg rental cabins are climate-controlled, with fireplaces, fully equipped kitchens, large decks with swings, rocking chairs and frequently a hot tub. Inside, the cabins are equipped with comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms, often a Jacuzzi, and lots of arcade games and a pool table, along with several televisions and Wi-Fi Internet.
Some larger cabins even have built-in home theaters. And all the cabins are in the midst of the Smoky Mountains, many with stunning views.
3. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia
Busch Gardens Williamsburg features an old-world European theme - in fact it was originally known as Busch Gardens: The Old Country. Similar to Disney’s Epcot Center, Busch Gardens Williamsburg consists of themed areas representing a number of different countries.
Themed European villages make up the ten separate areas of the park known as “Hamlets.” Guests enjoy traditional food, music, and themed rides from England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Ireland, as well as Broadway-class shows
Kids are welcomed here, with plenty to keep them occupied. From the Sesame Street Forest of Fun to the Apollo's Chariot Hyper Coaster, Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers plenty of fun for all ages. Its proximity to Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, Virginia Beach, and Water Country U.S.A. also makes Busch Gardens Williamsburg one of the most popular theme parks in the country.
4. Universal Studios Orlando, Florida
Packed with entertainment themed rides and attractions, Universal Studios Orlando gives its guests a chance to "ride the movies". Two theme parks and one water theme park, nine resort hotels, and plenty of shopping, entertainment, and restaurants make up the Universal Studios Orlando experience.
Notable thrill rides include Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and Revenge of the Mummy. Different “character zones” let the little ones meet some of their favorite cartoon stars like Shrek, Homer Simpson, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure has more of a fantasy feel than Universal Studios, with themed areas like Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, and Seuss Landing. Islands of Adventure also plays hosts to the majority of thrill rides at Universal Orlando. Meanwhile, for those hot Florida days, Universal’s Volcano Bay water park provides relief, relaxation, and plenty of “wet and wild” thrills.
5. Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri
A unique mix of thrill rides, family entertainment, and year-round festivals bring over two million visitors per year to the 1880's-themed Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.
Attractions range from the “kid-friendly” Elephant March where riders control their own speed and height, to the world's most daring wood coaster, Outlaw Run. Daily shows at the park include music by the Homestead Pickers, comedy by award-winning comedian Eric Haines, and stage productions like Sagebrush Sadie’s Wild West Adventure.
The annual “Bluegrass and Barbeque” concert series held in May at the park brings in some of the top Bluegrass performers from throughout the United States such as the Lonesome River Band, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and the Larry Stephenson Band. Silver Dollar City also plays host to one of the nation’s top Christmas festivals where over a million LED lights, and an eighty-foot tall tree, create a memorable Christmas experience in the park’s Town Square.
Silver Dollar City’s water park, White Water, was voted fifth best in the country by a USA Today “Readers' Choice” poll. The 13-acre, 2 million-gallon water park offers a night swim and a sand beach, as well as the famous Surf's Up wave pool, with 4-feet high waves for tune and body surfing. Silver Dollar City lodging options include campsites, RV sites, trailer rentals, and rustic log cabins.
Other Parks to Consider
These are some of the other top rated parks with millions of visitors every year:
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- Cedar Point, Ohio
Canobie Lake Park, Salem, New Hampshire
Castles N’ Coasters, Phoenix, Arizona
Carowinds, Charlotte, North CarolinaDisneyland, California
- Disney California Adventure
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Florida
- Epcot, Florida
- Hersheypark, Pennsylvania
- Kings Island, Mason, Ohio
- Knott’s Berry Farm, California
- Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
- Pigeon Forge, Tennesse
- Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California
- Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois
- Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Florida
- Universal Studios, Hollywood
Have you ever been to any of the parks featured on our list? Or do you have any recommendations for somewhere we have missed? Let us know in the comments section below. If you are keen to be more than just a tourist then considering going to work in the USA and search theme park jobs to spend an amazing season making money and making new friends.