The Best Amusement Parks in the US, Summer 2018
Packing up the kids and heading off to one of the best amusement parks in the US is a true American pastime. The thrill of the roller coasters; the dizzying delight of the teacups; the starchy, greasy wonderland of park-only staples like funnel cakes and nachos with only the most deliciously synthetic of cheeses—there's really nothing else like it. And with all the parks dotting the US, we wouldn't be surprised if you had a hard time choosing just where to go. That's where we can help! We've compiled a list of the 20 best amusement parks in the US (preswith a special focus on the best amusement parks for families.
1. Cedar Point
Number of Rides: 72, including 17 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: Millennium Force, which has a 300-foot drop and can reach speeds of 93 mph and a 4.5 G-force (For comparison, NASA's Space Shuttle on reentry only hits 3 Gs.)
New Ride Alert: Steel Vengeance is the park's newest coaster (which opened this year) and is also the first wood-steel hybrid ride. It features a 90-degree vertical angle drop at speeds up to 74 mph with upside-down maneuvers.
Where to Eat: Pink's Hot Dogs; it's cheap, it's filling, and they have a special Cedar Point dog topped with bacon, tomatoes, sour cream, sauerkraut, and more.
Number of Rides: 70, including 14 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: Skyrush, which sends riders zooming around at speeds of up to 70 mph and hits up to a walloping 5 Gs
New Ride Alert: The park's fourteenth coaster is called Breakers Edge. With rafts that fit four, this hydromagnetic water slide features flying saucer turns.
Where to Eat: Head to the S'mores Cart to grab a gooey bite of the signature treat (I mean, you're at Hersheypark after all!).
Pigeon Forge, TN
Number of Rides: 40, including 8 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: The Wild Eagle, whose unique winged design lets riders feel as if they're soaring through the sky
Where to Eat: Aunt Granny's: the all-you-can-eat setup—whose offerings include homestyle favorites like fried chicken, cornbread, and mashed potatoes—ensures you'll get the most bang for your buck.
Number of Rides: 53, including 15 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: Raging Bull has been the fan favorite since its opening in 1999 due in no small part to its initial 20-story drop.
New Ride Alert: In 2018, the park's newest coaster debuted, the Mardi Gras Hangover. This ride features a 360-degree turn that includes multiple upside-down suspensions for riders.
Where to Eat: Johnny Rockets provides standard, reliable park fare, such as burgers and milkshakes, plus some room to take a load off between rides.
5. Kings Island
Number of Rides: 49, including 15 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: Diamondback, which kicks things off with an intense 74-degree drop and takes riders through a splashdown zone for a dramatic effect
Where to Eat: Skyline Chili is a southwest-Ohio classic, and the Coney combines the famous chili with a tasty hot dog, making it a perfect on-the-go park dish.
Number of Rides: 54, including 8 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: Griffon is the fastest roller coaster in the park (it's also got a perfectly straight-down first drop), hitting speeds over 70 mph and tearing through a splashdown area that shoots a refreshing spray at passersby.
Where to Eat: Das Festhaus is a great place to chow down and be entertained; the German-style beer hall regularly has live entertainment.
New Braunfels, TX
Number of Attractions: 43, which includes multiple pools, waterslides, and lazy rivers
Best Attraction: Half roller coaster, half waterslide, theMaster Blaster water coaster drops riders down three stories before using water jets to shoot them back up, where more downward plunges await.
Where to Eat: Bring your own picnic! Unlike other parks, Schlitterbahn lets guests bring in their own eats, saving parents a pretty penny.
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Number of Rides: 25 rides and attractions, but a whopping 47 water slides
Best Attraction: One of the country's longest water coasters, Black Anaconda sends riders through a quarter mile of dips, turns, and thrilling splashes.
Where to Eat: Dole Whip Oasis, which makes the famous Floridian pineapple-soft-serve treat readily available in this Midwestern wonderland
9. Knott's Berry Farm
Buena Park, CA
Number of Rides: 35, including 10 roller coasters
Best Roller Coaster: GhostRider, a 4,500-foot-long wooden coaster that takes riders through a double out-and-back course that's packed with sharp turns and relentless ups and downs
New Ride Alert: In 2018, Knott's Berry Farm opened it's newest attraction, HangTime. This coaster features a 15-story 96-degree drop and is only the second in the Western Hemisphere with a negative-g stall loop.
Where to Eat: Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where you can get a plate of fried chicken, biscuits, and to top it all off, a slice of boysenberry pie
Number of Rides: Two parks with nearly 50 rides and attractions
Best Roller Coaster: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has been rated one of the top rides in North America, and with good reason. This 3D coaster is thrilling and disorienting—in the very best way. Potter fans will not be disappointed.
Where to Eat: Keep up the HP theme by sitting down at the Three Broomsticks for lunch. Enjoy fish and chips and a frozen butterbeer to cool off on a hot day.
Number of Rides: 56
Best Roller Coaster: Fury 325, a two-time Golden Ticket award winner for best US roller coaster, it reaches a top speed of 95 mph and has an 81-degree drop
Where to Eat: Camp Cookout at Camp Snoopy—grab great campfire faves like jumbo hot dogs and juicy burgers, plus make any order of fries into cheese fries for just 99 cents
12. Walt Disney World
Number of Rides: 46, spread across four parks
Best Ride: Kilimanjaro Safaris trades high-speed thrills for a chance to see real life lions and giraffes in a simulation of their natural habitat
Where to Eat: At Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, across from the Disney BoardWalk, you can order the Kitchen Sink which is a monstrous ice cream sundae served in a literal kitchen sink.
New Attraction Alert: Toy Story Land finally opened in 2018 and lets guests wander about a world that'll make them feel toy-sized, plus they can meet from the popular franchise such as Woody and Buzz.
Number of Attractions: 32, plus 6 roller coasters
Best Ride: Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout, which opened in 2017, took over the former home of the Tower of Terror. Get ready for multiple freefall drops and serious thrills!
Where to Eat: Enchanted Tiki Room in the Adventureland park, which is the original home of the now famous Dole Whip: a creamy, nondairy, pineapple soft-serve treat
Number of Rides: 43, including 18 roller coasters
Best Ride: the X2, which is considered the first "4D" roller coaster, features a blaring rock soundtrack and freewheeling seats that can spin riders 360 degrees as they make twists and turns
Where to Eat: Food Etc. will make it easy to appease even the pickiest eaters because it serves everything from quesadillas and salads to sushi.
15. SeaWorld Orlando
Number of Rides: 13
Best Ride: Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is part ride, part penguin habitat in a chilly faux-arctic environment; you'll see up to 5 different species of penguins in one trip.
Where to Eat: At Shark's Underwater Grill, you can enjoy upscale full-service dining amid a massive shark-filled aquarium that you can view while you eat.
Number of Rides: 50
Best Roller Coaster: This one's easy: Kinda Ka isn't just the best coaster here, it's also the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the WORLD.
Where to Eat: Dietary restrictions? Head to Yum Yum Cafe, which offers vegetarian, Kosher, and gluten-free options.
17. Knoebels Amusement Park
Number of Rides: 63
Best Ride: the carousel, which has earned the Golden Ticket for Best Carousel every year the prize has been awarded
Where to Eat: At the International Food Court, sure, you'll see standards like burgers and tacos, but we think you oughta go for the alligator bites: deep-fried alligator, served with a spicy dipping sauce.
Number of Rides: more than 60, including 8 water rides
Best Ride: Lost Kingdom Adventer arms kids with laser blasters so they can fight off mummies and skeletons on a search for lost treasure.
Where to Eat: Granny's Apple Fries basically serves up deconstructed apple pie: snackable fried apple slices served with vanilla cream.
19. Kings Dominion
Number of Rides: 60
Best Ride: the Intimidator 305, which is (you guessed it) 305 feet tall and can reach up to 90 mph
Where to Eat: Forget burgers and go for a tricked out bowl of mac'n'cheese at The Mac Bowl, where you can top your cheesy dish with steak, jalapeños, sauces, and more
20. Silver Dollar City
Number of Rides: 31
Best Roller Coaster: Outlaw Run, a classic wooden roller coaster that still packs serious thrills with a 162 ft. drop
Where to Eat:
New Ride Alert: The Time Traveler opened in 2018 and is being billed as the steepest, spinning roller coaster around. Basically, imagine the classic spinning teacup ride, only put it on a steel track and rocket it up to 50 mph.
Follow our guide to getting the most out of a day at the park—minus the meltdowns.
From Coney Island to Charlotte, we've got a couple surprises on this list. Think you can tackle 'em all?
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