Hey Daytrippers! There are hundreds of amusement parks around the United States, and hundreds more around the world, many which have rich histories and incredible rides. I've ridden coasters, thrill rides, theme rides and more at some of the greatest US amusement and theme parks, including all four Disney World parks and both Universal Parks in FL, Carowinds in the Carolinas, several Six Flags locations in the eastern US, and Cedar Point in OH, among quite a few others. I love these parks and can't wait to visit them again very soon, but there are many parks around the US I so badly want to visit. Here's my top 9 parks I want to check off my bucket list next.
As a huge Disney World fan, I actually cannot wait to venture to all of the Disney parks around the world - they all have certain rides only available within each location - but strictly in the US, I can't wait to go to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Not only is Disneyland the OG Disney park, but these parks also feature movie themed rides not found in Disney World, including Alice in Wonderland, Cars, Finding Nemo, Indiana Jones, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus they have Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was a favorite of mine at Disney World's Magic Kingdom before it closed in the early 2000s.
2. Busch Gardens
Part amusement park, part zoo, Busch Gardens has locations in Tampa Bay, FL and Williamsburg, VA, and I'd ultimately love to visit both of these parks. The Tampa Bay park has over a dozen rides, including 7 coasters, an upside down pirate ship, and a train ride through its zoo. The zoo is the largest in Tampa with over 300 animals. The Williamsburg location has 7 coasters, two flume rides, and a brand new virtual reality ride for 2018, among its more than two dozen rides and attractions. My parents and two youngest brothers day tripped to the Williamsburg park a few years ago and had a grand ole' time!
3. Lake Compounce
I actually just heard about this park last year when researching the history of trolleys, and as the oldest continually operating amusement park in the US it's an absolute must! Located in Bristol, CT since 1846, Lake Compounce features the largest water park in CT, several classic rides, and a dozen roller coasters and thrill rides. Amongst them are Wildcat, one of the oldest wooden coasters in the world, and Boulder Dash, a wooden coaster built on the side of a mountain, which has been ranked as the top wooden coaster in the world several times.
I've been a huge country music fan all my life, so of course I've wanted to visit the amusement park of a country legend for a very long time. Situated in Pigeon Forge, TN, right near where Dolly Parton grew up, Dollywood has so much to offer. There's a replica of her family home, a water park, and over two dozen rides and attractions, including a Dolly museum. Plus, there are many crafters throughout the park creating beautiful art on site, such as glass blowers, wood carvers, blacksmiths, candlemakers, leather smiths, potters, and candy makers. Stop by to watch them creating, and even take home a handmade souvenir.
5. Coney Island
Coney Island is more than just an amusement park as we typically hear it referred to. On the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, in Brooklyn, NY, there's several miles of beaches, a boardwalk, and two amusement parks. Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is the smaller of the two, with a separate entrance fee. The main amusement park is Luna Park with over two dozen rides, the most well known being the wooden Coney Island Cyclone. This roller coaster opened in 1927 and has been running ever since. Overall, the coasters and thrill rides in Luna Park look off the hook!
6. Knott's Berry Farm
Located right down the street from Disneyland, this almost century old amusement park has over two dozen rides and attractions. I first heard of Knott's Berry Farm when I was in high school - there was a Key Club Convention in the Anaheim, CA area, and one of the events was a day trip to this park. I didn't venture to the convention, but this park has always remained in the back of my mind. With a dozen coasters and thrill rides, including a 4D ride similar to Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney World's Hollywood Studios, this park is sure to excite. Two new attractions for 2018 are VR Showdown in Ghost Town and HangTime, the first and only dive coaster in California.
7. Six Flags Great America
Not to be confused with Six Flags Great Adventure in NJ, which I have on occasion, Six Flags Great America in Chicago has well over 50 rides and attractions, including 13 roller coasters and a good sized water park. Some super sweet looking rides are Triple Play - cars on rotating arms while the center spins as well, The Lobster - cars swing side-to-side on the end of arms which bob up and down, while the center spins around, and Revolution - sort of like a huge tire swing with a base which spins while it's swung from side to side pendulum style. Two new rides in 2018 are Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, a 4D laser game ride similar to the Men in Black ride at Universal Orlando, and Mardi Gras Hangover looping coaster!
8. Nickelodeon Universe
This amusement park is entirely inside Mall of America! Nickelodeon Universe has 15 rides for adults to enjoy, so it's absolutely for the kid at heart. Most of the rides are named after Nickelodeon shows and characters like SpongeBob Squarepants, Fairly Odd Parents, Jimmy Neutron, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - in other words, some of my favorite shows! If only the Reptarmobiles were adult-sized... Brain Surge let's riders spin their car in all directions, Avatar Airbender's cars rock back and forth as it soars down the track, and TMNT Shell Shock has riders flipping in their seats as their travel along the coaster's tracks. Cowabunga dude!
9. Six Flags Magic Mountain
I have wanted to day trip to this park since the early 90s when I first saw it featured in the opening credits of Step By Step, a favorite sitcom of mine from back in the day. While the show took place in Wisconsin, Six Flags Magic Mountain is actually in Valencia, CA, about 45 minutes north of LA. With 18 roller coasters and thrill rides among its over three dozen rides and attractions, this park looks off the hook. Tatsu coaster has you soaring below the track, as you face the ground below, or sky above. Ninja also has you riding below the track, in cars suspended beneath it, which sway 90 degrees in each direction as you blast along. On Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth, riders stand in a cage as it tilts 45 degrees forward, and are held in place by the G-force as it spins 'round at full speed (Darien Lake used to have this ride, and it was a fave of mine!). New in 2018 is CraZanity, just like maXair at Cedar Point, this is like a ginormous tire swing spinning 360 degrees around as it swings back and forth as well - with seats on the outside, there's times you're facing the ground from way up above, and others when you're facing the sky.
Bonus. Canada's Wonderland
So this one is kind of a cheat to the list for two reasons... First, it's not actually in the US, but just north in Ontario, Canada, and second, I have been here before, but as a toddler with no recollection of the trip or this park. Since I don't remember, and it's on the same same continent, I'll allow this exception because this park looks so awesome. Canada's Wonderland has over 50 rides, water rides, and attractions, some of which are named for quite Canadian things. This park will have you flippin' on rides like Shockwave with arms flipping around as the main part rotates as well, Riptide which flips riders 360 degrees as the two rows spin vertically, and Skyhawk which spins around at 135 feet in the air while riders spin and flip their cars at the same time. Among the 16 coasters, Time Warp has small cars suspended below the track giving riders the feeling of flying, Vortex's cars hang below the track and sway along the way, and Wonder Mountains Guardian is a 3D interactive gaming coaster. Two new rides in 2018 are Flying Canoes, and Lumberjack, an insane thrill ride similar to Screamin' Eagle at Seabreeze in Rochester, NY in which riders are seated below the ride that swings forward and back like a pirate ship before swinging completely up and around several times. So many sick rides here!
Hopefully I can check these off my bucket list over the next few years because many of these parks have been on there for years and they all have insane looking roller coasters and thrill rides. Have you been to any of these parks before? Are there any parks you've been dying to check out? And what parks are not mentioned which are a must? Let me know in the comments below!
Please check each amusement park's website for further details including pricing, hours of operation, and ride restrictions.