Calling all adrenaline junkies and fun seekers! Everyone knows Disney and Six Flags, but when it comes to amusement ostarks, there are options all over the country…and many of them will blow your mind. Some parks have short seasons, but others are open all year long. We picked out some of our favorites, just in time for you to plan a trip before school is back in session. These parks meet a variety of budgets, preferences and levels of thrill. It’s time to blast off!
1. Wisconsin Dells – Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Summer in the Midwest means it’s time for a family trip to Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World. With 21 indoor and outdoor water parks, campgrounds, boat rentals and tours, plus live entertainment, the Dells boasts adventure for all ages. Tube slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, you name it…you’ll find it! Other attractions like the Wisconsin Deer Park and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum are worth a break from the water! Your kids will reminisce about this family vacation for years to come.
2. Knoebels – Elysburg, Pa.
Among the cheapest amusement parks in the world, Knoebels offers free parking and admission. That means you only need to pay a few bucks for individual rides and food. This is an ideal draw for parents who cringe at $50 or higher admission fees to watch their children hop on and off rides. Knoebels has oodles of kid-friendly rides, swings, motorboats and other activities for the not-so-adventurous members of your family. Unlike many popular amusement parks, wait times for Knoebels’ rides are generally much shorter, which should keep you and your kids happy.
3. Hersheypark – Hershey, Pa.
Hersheypark, the “sweetest” amusement park in the country, was founded in 1907 as a leisure park for the employees of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. The park contains 13 roller coasters, more than 70 rides and attractions (including more than 20 kiddie rides), a waterpark, ZooAmerica and Hershey’s Chocolate World. In May 2015, Laff Trakk, the country’s first indoor, spinning, glow-coaster, opened at Hersheypark. This family ride takes a whole new spin on the crowd-pleasing funhouse.
4. Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
Attention all thrill-seeking, roller coaster enthusiasts! Cedar Point has been named the Roller Coaster Capital of the World for a reason. For the true adrenaline junkies, the Top Thrill Dragster (world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster in 2003) is worth the anticipation. We suggest you get in line right when the park opens or right before it closes for the shortest wait time. Don’t worry, there are also low- to mid-thrill level rides for the really young ones.
5. Schlitterbahn Waterpark – New Braunfels, Texas
Right outside San Antonio, Schlitterbahn Water Park offers endless water fun with three miles of tube slides, seven children’s water playgrounds, 17 water slides, the world’s first surfing machine and three uphill water coasters. It’s been ranked the No. 1 Kid-Friendly place in the Lone Star State. The best part is that only four of the attractions have height requirements, so your entire family can easily enjoy the park together. Depending on the age of your children, here are some tips for making the most of your Schlitterbahn experience.
While you’re in the area, check out some of the other top attractions we visited for our San Antonio episode from Season One of “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly.”
Bonus! Morgan’s Wonderland – San Antonio, Texas
Speaking of our San Antonio episode, fun has no limits at Morgan’s Wonderland, the first inclusive amusement park designed for the enjoyment of individuals with special needs and disabilities. It is a truly inspirational experience with many fun rides and attractions, including The Sensory Village and the family-friendly Picnic Place. There’s also a large lake with catch-and-release fishing, water cannons and remote-controlled pirate ships for children of all ages.