Major studio theme parks are great but exploring an off-the-beaten path amusement park can make for an exceptionally memorable day. Whether it’s a family trip or adults only, a visit to these treasures of the American recreational landscape is the perfect way to make everyone on your weekend vacation feel like a kid again.
When in Quebec, a visit to La Ronde is a must. After thrill rides like “Vol Ultime” (the SkyScreamer) and the mind-bending stand-up roller coaster “The Cobra,” take a break in the Nintendo-sponsored video game center. In addition to rides, La Ronde plays host from June through July to L'International des Feux Loto-Québec, a beloved international fireworks competition sure to dazzle any viewer.
22 Chemin Macdonald, Île Sainte-Hélène, QC H3C 6A3, Canada
Coney Island’s beachside boardwalk amusement area is one of the nation’s oldest, and three of its attractions—The Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel, The Cyclone roller coaster and the Parachute Jump—are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The 103-year-old amusement park got a bit of a face-lift recently, but this iconic Brooklyn amusement park retains its classic ambiance and is more fun than ever. You can still play Skee-ball, ride bumper cars and eat a hotdog at Nathan’s original location. In the summer, Coney Island hosts The Mermaid parade, and the beach, once a crowded destination for day-trippers, is a peaceful, tranquil escape.
1000 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Home to the very first amusement-park flume ride, “El Asseradero,” Six Flags Over Texas offers a great bang for your back. With shows, dining and a plentiful supply of both high-intensity thrill rides and milder, kid-friendly attractions, you’ll most likely run out of energy before you run out of things to do.
2201 Rd to Six Flags St E, Arlington, TX 76011
Kennywood, in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, has rides dating back to the early 1900s. The park’s Kiddieland was one of the country’s first recreational facilities to provide children’s rides, and Pittsburgh’s undulating terrain inspired the construction of daring, semi-terrifying rollercoasters that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.
4800 Kennywood Blvd, West Mifflin, PA 15122
From the nine-foot dinosaur constructed entirely of LEGO bricks at the park’s entrance, visitors of all ages will be captivated by this inventive and inspiring take on a theme park. Rides like “The Dragon” coaster and the spinning “Bionicle Blaster” will keep you entertained, and LEGOLAND’s attached water park featuring a wave pool, slides and flume rides make it feel like two parks in one!
One LEGOLAND Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Originally conceived as a leisure park for the employees of the Hershey Company, this spot has an abundance of attractions that are sure to please every member of the family. Water adventures like the Coastline Plunge and aggressive thrill-rides like The Sidewinder will entice even the eye-rollingest of teenagers. Meanwhile, kids rides like the Dizzy Drums and the Flying Falcon are varied and inventive enough to keep little ones engaged and excited for hours.
100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, PA, 17033
Built on the site of a former berry farm, this park has old-school rides and charm to spare. With four themed areas – Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk and Camp Snoopy – and seasonal attractions like autumn’s spooky “Knott's Scary Farm” attraction, you’ll never have the same visit twice.
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620
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Tampa’s Africa-themed amusement park is divided into a variety of themed “neighborhoods,” accessible by a replica steam-train called the “Serengeti Railway.” Along with the usual coasters and thrill rides, Busch Gardens features African wildlife and other animal attractions, including Bird Gardens, a free-flight aviary and the Orangutan Outpost, where visitors can ascend to tree-top observational platforms to watch and interact with the park’s family of apes.
This Louisville gem has everything: a lazy river and dozens of water rides to refresh you, stomach-turning roller coasters with 360-degree spins like the Cyclos and even a 5-D mini screening of The Wizard of Oz where moving seats bring the classic film to life.
937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209