The first theme park in the USA opened way back in 1846, and our infatuation with rollercoasters, cotton candy, and waterslides has only grown since then. In the last 170 years, the number of theme parks in the USA has risen from one to over 400 – more than any other country in the world!
Whether it’s a day out to celebrate your child’s birthday or a week-long trip with your friends, America offers the perfect theme park for you to let your hair down in. Yet with so many parks to choose from – and factors including travel time, climates, and variable prices – planning an amusement park trip can seem like a daunting process.
To help visitors understand the options available to them across the country, we’ve researched and created a definitive USA theme park index. Using data from 65 theme parks across 30 different states, we’ve collated some vital information you should know before diving headfirst into your visit. You can read about our methodology here.
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When it comes to sheer visitor numbers, two states dominate the top 10. Put together, the best theme parks in Florida and California attract more than 135 million visitors a year! It’s no surprise to see Disney parks high up on this list, with blockbuster theme parks like Florida’s Magic Kingdom Park and California’s Disneyland Park among the country’s most-visited attractions. In fact, Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park is the most visited theme park on the planet.
Many of the most popular theme parks are in Orlando, Florida, where tourists can enjoy a whole host of other world-class attractions and shows, plus fun themed restaurants and epic vacation homes with incredible pools and game rooms.
|Theme park name||State||Annual visitors|
|Magic Kingdom Park||Florida||20,859,000|
|Disneyland Park / Disneyland Resort||California||18,666,000|
|Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park||Florida||13,750,000|
|Disney’s Hollywood Studios||Florida||11,258,000|
|Universal Studios Florida||Florida||10,708,000|
|Disney California Adventure Park||California||9,861,000|
|Universal’s Islands of Adventure||Florida||9,788,000|
|Universal Studios Hollywood||California||9,147,000|
|Knott’s Berry Farm||California||4,238,000|
Theme parks really do have something for everyone. Where some people’s favorite theme park activity is indulging in delicious snacks, meeting characters, or cooling down on a water ride, others simply seek to get their heart rate up thanks to some of the wildest thrills on offer.
If you’re visiting an American theme park, you’re never short of thrill rides to satisfy your craving. Whether you’re interested in big drops or crazy spins, buckle up and head to one of these death-defying locations.
The top 10 US theme parks for rollercoasters and thrill rides
|Theme park name||State||Number of thrill rides|
|Cedar Point Amusement Park||Ohio||35|
|Knoebels Amusement Park||Pennsylvania||21|
|Six Flags Magic Mountain||California||20|
|Six Flags New England||Massachusetts||20|
|Six Flags Great Adventure||New Jersey||19|
|Luna Park||New York||18|
|Six Flags Fiesta Texas||Texas||18|
Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio
Cedar Point is often referred to as the roller coaster capital of the world, so it seems fitting it should make the top spot on this list. Out of the 72 rides, you can enjoy at this park, 35 of them are thrill rides, ranging from coasters to slingshots to rocking boats to water rapids.
According to Cedar Point, 5 of these rides are considered to be of a maximum thrill level, perfect for those of you seeking out the ultimate adventure. And don’t worry — 23 of these heart-racing rides have a FastPass system, so there’s no reason you can’t try them all.
Knoebels Amusement Park & Carowinds, North Carolina
These next two theme parks are tied, with both of them providing thrill-seeking visitors with 21 thrill rides each. Knoebels may be considered a park for all ages, but that doesn’t mean the thrill-seekers in the family will leave disappointed. Out of the 21 thrill rides on the property, 10 are labeled as “intense”, so you’ll have plenty of rides to entertain you – even while the kids are taken care of with milder attractions.
Carowinds is equally certain to get your pulse racing, with classics that will spin you, drop you, and swing you ‘til you’re screaming with joy. 11 of the 21 thrill rides at this park are considered high or maximum thrill, and nearly all of them are valid for the park’s FastPass system.
King’s Island, Ohio
An incredible 12 rides out of 20 are considered high-thrill at King’s Island, with the fastest ride experience in the park being Slingshot. This high-adrenaline experience catapults guests 275 feet into the air, approaching a dizzying 100 mph.
Six Flags New England, Massachusetts
Six Flags New England is the oldest park in the Six Flags chain, but that certainly doesn’t prevent it from delivering when it comes to thrills. If your heart isn’t already racing thanks to the countless loops that characterize these rides, then perhaps the impressively themed and gut-wrenching Batman The Dark Knight ride will do the trick. Amongst the numerous thrill rides to choose from, some even hold the honor of being record breakers, so that drop will feel even more exciting.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, California
At Six Flags Magic Mountain, you’ll find all your favorites that you’d expect from the renowned Six Flags chain, plus some unique thrills to keep you coming back for more. In the last few years, West Coast Racers, the world’s first racing launch coaster has opened. Here, two side-by-side tracks with four individual high-speed launches will allow riders to experience a genuine race-like experience, complete with a pit stop – an absolute must-see for any thrill enthusiast.
Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey
It’s another Six Flags classic for our final pick, this time in the New York/New Jersey area. Great Adventure provides thrill seekers with 19 rides to choose from, including some one-of-a-kind ride systems that have been pioneers in their respective fields; standouts include Cyborg Cyber Spin, a first-of-its-kind, 7-story high anti-gravity thrill ride. This park combines all the classic thrill ride systems we know and love with impressive theming, as well as the technological advances that make these experiences extra special.
The top 10 fastest rides in the US
|Ride and location||State||Top speed|
|Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure||New Jersey||128 mph|
|Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point||Ohio||120 mph|
|Superman: Escape From Krypton, Six Flags Ma||California||104 mph|
|Fury 235, Carowinds||North Carolina||95 mph|
|Millennium Force, Cedar Point||Ohio||93 mph|
|Intimidator 305||Virginia||90 mph|
|Titan, Arlington||Texas||85 mph|
|Phantom’s Revenge, Kennywood||Pennsylvania||85 mph|
|Goliath, Six Flags Magic Mountain||California||85 mph|
|The Xcelerator, Knotts Berry Farm||California||82 mph|
The top 10 tallest rides in the US
|Ride and location||State||Height|
|Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure||New Jersey||456 ft|
|Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point||Ohio||420 ft|
|Superman: Escape From Krypton, Six Flags Ma||California||415 ft|
|Fury 235, Carowinds||North Carolina||325 ft|
|Millennium Force, Cedar Point||Ohio||310 ft|
|Intimidator 305||Virginia||305 ft|
|Titan, Arlington||Texas||245 ft|
|Goliath, Six Flags Magic Mountain||California||235 ft|
|Intimidator, Carowinds||North Carolina||232 ft|
|Diamondback, Kings Island||Ohio||230 ft|
The best theme parks for great weather
If your idea of a good time is getting wet on a water ride rather than getting caught in a spontaneous thunderstorm, you’ll want to head for the Golden Coast. Unsurprisingly, three of our four picks for sunshine enthusiasts are in California, all of them boasting some of the lowest rainfall in the country. Which one will be your top pick this season?
The top 10 driest US theme parks
|Theme park name||State||Rainy days per year|
|Knott’s Berry Farm||California||32|
|Six Flags Magic Mountain||California||34|
|Disneyland Park / Disneyland Resort||California||35|
|Disney California Adventure Park||California||35|
|Castles ‘n’ Coasters||Arizona||37|
|Legoland California Resort||California||38|
|Seaworld San Diego||California||38|
|Cliff’s Amusement Park||New Mexico||57|
|California’s Great America||California||63|
|Six Flags Discovery Kingdom||California||65|
Knott’s Berry Farm, California
At number one we have Knott’s Berry Farm, located in Buena Park, California. With only 32 days of rainfall each year, there is very little chance of your trip getting ruined with a spontaneous shower. This is thought to be the USA’s first-ever theme park, so you’ll be experiencing a slice of American history while you soak in the California sun.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, California
Six Flags Magic Mountain boasts as little as 34 annual days of rainfall a year and draws in visitors from all over the world. However, if you feel the need to make a splash, Santa Clarita is also home to the adjacent water park, Hurricane Harbour.
Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure, California
Tied for third place are the Disney Parks in Anaheim, which receive a total of just 35 annual days of rainfall. While these theme parks may be smaller than their Floridian counterparts, visitors are almost guaranteed good weather every day of the year, so make sure to load up on the sunscreen.
Castles ‘N Coasters, Arizona
Heading over to California’s next-door neighbor for our final pick, we have Castles ‘N Coasters in sunny Phoenix. It may be located in the Sonoran Desert, but that hasn’t stopped Phoenix from becoming one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the state, including this 10-acre theme park. With only 37 annual rainfall days in this part of the state, visitors certainly won’t need to pack their umbrellas for this trip.
What about the rainiest theme parks?
If you’re visiting one of these theme parks, you might want to bring a poncho and an umbrella. These places get more rain than most other theme parks in the USA!
|Theme park name||State||Rainy days per year|
|Santa’s Village||New Hampshire||163|
|Darien Lake Theme Park Resort||New York||149|
|Story Land||New Hampshire||140|
|Enchanted Forest Theme Park||Oregon||133|
|Canobie Lake Park||New Hampshire||132|
|The Great Escape||New York||127|
|Cedar Point Amusement Park||Ohio||125|
|Silverwood Theme Park||Idaho||125|
The best theme parks for repeat visits
America’s theme parks offer fun-packed, exhilarating experiences that will make you want to go back again and again. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that a theme park holiday can be expensive, whether it’s with a group of friends or a family affair.
If you just can’t stand the idea of visiting your favorite theme park just once a year, then investing in an annual or season pass can be the most affordable way to sustain your thrill fix.
The best US theme parks for repeat visits
|Theme park name||State||Season pass price (USD; rounded to the nearest dollar)|
|Six Flags St Louis||Missouri||50|
|Six Flags Discovery Kingdom||California||50|
|Six Flags Over Georgia||Georgia||55|
|The Great Escape||New York||55|
|Six Flags America||Maryland||60|
|Elitch Gardens Theme Park||Colorado||65|
|California’s Great America||California||69|
|Darien Lake Theme Park Resort||New York||70|
Most American theme parks are family-friendly, but there are a few that give little ones extra special treatment. Two theme parks stand out when it comes to kids’ rides, and both are in Pennsylvania. Hersheypark and Knoebels Amusement Park both offer 22 child-friendly rides.
Which US theme parks have the most kids’ rides?
|Theme park name||State||Number of kids’ rides|
|Knoebels Amusement Park||Pennsylvania||22|
|Disneyland Park / Disneyland Resort||California||21|
|Six Flags Discovery Kingdom||California||21|
|Silverwood Theme Park||Idaho||20|
|Santa’s Village||New Hampshire||20|
|Canobie Lake Park||New Hampshire||18|
Fantastic theme parks for seasonal celebrations
Theme parks across America go all out for seasonal celebrations. Whether is sprinkling a little extra magic at Christmas or ramping up the fear factor at Halloween, parks across the country really get into the seasonal spirit. Here are our top picks for theme parks that are extra special at Christmas and Halloween.
Which US theme parks are best for Christmas vacations?
|Theme park name||State|
|The Wizarding World of Harry Potter||Orlando|
|Disneyland Park / Disneyland Resort||California|
|Knotts Berry Farm||California|
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando
Christmastime at the Wizarding World is, in a word, magical. The already spectacular park is decked out in festive decor, snow blankets the buildings in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts is lit up in a spectacular winter light show. Look out for festive exclusives such as hot butterbeer and limited edition Christmas merch in the stores.
Busch Gardens, Orlando
Every year, Busch Gardens transforms into Christmas Town, a whimsical place where all your festive dreams come true. Twinkling Christmas lights, a cozy festive village with food, drink,s and gifts, ice skating, fireworks, and thrilling rides. What more could you want from a Christmas theme park adventure?
If there’s one place that knows how to put on a Christmas show, it’s Disneyland. Walt Disney’s original California park shines even brighter during the holiday season, with nightly light shows, fireworks, special events, and parades featuring all your festive favorites, including Jolly Old Saint Nick himself. There is also a plethora of limited edition Disney snacks and merchandise to pick up around the holidays.
Dollywood’s festive extravaganza has become known as one of the best in America. During the Smoky Mountains Christmas event, the night sky is illuminated with millions of lights, dancing like fireflies against the inky blue sky. With fun rides, cozy walks down lighted pathways, and irresistible toe-tapping shows, there really is something for everyone to love at Dollywood.
The annual Hersheypark Christmas Candylane event is a hot favorite with festive revelers with a head for heights and sweet tooth. If a candy-themed amusement park already sounds like the most fun place ever, wait until you see the extra merriment that Hersheyland cooks up for Christmas. More than 5 million lights illuminate the park, tempting visitors onto thrilling rollercoasters. Festive dining experiences are, of course, a pretty sweet deal at Hersheyland, and there’s even an annual stopover by a certain jolly fellow and his 9 reindeer.
Savor the season with a family-oriented holiday event at Kennywood. Rides, thrills, and spills for young and old alike are dressed in Christmassy lights and decor, with tempting seasonal food and drink offering a well-deserved break from all that adrenaline. Carol performances from local choirs give the whole event a classical, cozy ambiance, and attractions such as The Holiday Lights Show, Parker’s Dance Party, and Doc Dixon’s Magic Show make Kennywood at Christmas one of the hottest tickets in town.
Kings Island, Ohio
Holiday nostalgia is the name of the game at Kings Island. Christmas traditions, including carolers dressed in vintage clothing, ice skating under thousands of twinkling lights, and the tempting aroma of mulled wine and cookies drifting through the crisp air. Kings Island is a magical place where the Christmas memories of the past make beautiful family memories you’ll remember forever.
Knotts Berry Farm, California
Knotts Berry Farm creates a festive wonderland at Christmas, becoming Knotts Merry Farm. ‘Tis the season for fun, and Knotts Berry Farm goes all out, with festive performances, ice skating, irresistible seasonal food, and enchanting Christmas experiences for the whole family.
Legoland at Christmas is a brick-tacular event featuring all the best parts of Christmas reimagined in Lego. An enormous Lego Christmas tree is the centerpiece of the festivities and events including exciting shows, character experiences, and tasty treats make Legoland a family favorite during the holidays.
Sesame Place, Pennsylvania
Join your favorite Sesame Street characters for an unforgettable experience at the annual ‘A Very Furry Christmas’ event. Chow down on a festive feast with Elmo, dance around the 30-foot tree to your favorite holiday tunes, or visit Santa in his ‘Furry Workshop’.
Spooktacular theme parks in America for celebrating Halloween
|Theme park name||State|
|Silver Dollar City||Missouri|
|Six Flags Magic Mountain||California|
Kings Island, Ohio
Voted by USA Today readers as ‘The Best Theme Park Halloween Event’, Kings Island conjures up a terrifying immersive experience every spooky season. The park is transformed into a horrifying world of scares, mazes, and events, with nightmarish monsters stalking the pathways. The biggest and best rides at Kings Island are also open on Halloween event nights, just in case you’re not scared enough! The Kings Island Halloween Haunt events are for mature audiences and are not suitable for those under 13.
Busch Gardens, Virginia and Orlando
Busch Garden’s annual Howl-O-Scream event is the biggest Halloween attraction in Virginia, one of the most popular in Orlando, and certainly doesn’t skimp on the scares. Find yourself in a frightening haunted park, running for your life from horrifying ghouls, ghosts, and monsters in this immersive experience, featuring costumed characters, rides, and mazes. One for older guests, the event contains mature themes and effects.
Silver Dollar City, Missouri
If you’re not a fan of blood, gore, and ghouls, or perhaps you want a family-friendly Fall festival, never fear, because Silver Dollar City hosts a non-frightful Harvest Festival every year in October. Guests can enjoy the non-spooky side of things with artisanal pumpkin carving, late-night rides, and plenty of cozy Fall-themed events and attractions.
Another top pick for Halloween fun for families is Knoebels. The whole thing has an amusingly spooky atmosphere, but no scares or intense frights to spook the little ones too much. Rides for all ages are open late into the night, and Halloween-themed snacks are available for some gentle ghoulish glee.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, California
One of the biggest Halloween events in the world, the Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain is a top pick for fans of the spooky season. By day, the park offers family-friendly chills and spills, but once the sun sets, the true terrors come out to hunt. The nighttime Fright Fest is for mature guests, with terrifying scare zones and horrifying haunted attractions.
Another one for family-friendly Halloween adventures, Dollywood during the Fall is a cozy and fun place, full of intricately-carved pumpkins, rousing music, and delicious spooky treats to delight the whole gang.
Hersheypark goes spooky for Hersheypark In The Dark, an annual event for the whole family to enjoy. Irresistible delights like chocolate trick or treat trails, coasters and rides, and special dining menus make Hersheypark In The Dark the sweetest Halloween event there is.
Universal Studios, California
This is it; the master of Halloween theme park events. We simply could not complete this list without mentioning the iconic Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. When the sun sets Universal Studios, ghosts, demons, monsters, and nightmares come alive, stalking the trails of the park and terrifying guests. Horrifying, immersive mazes themed around classic and new horror movies are the top attractions here but don’t forget about the rides, performances, and devilishly delicious treats.
The top 10 US theme parks by size
In terms of the total amount of space it takes up, America’s biggest theme park is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, located in Orlando, Florida. But the country’s biggest theme parks aren’t all in the Sunshine State! New Jersey, Idaho, California, and Ohio are all home to at least one huge theme park, while Virginia has two theme parks larger than 380 acres (Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens).
|Theme park name||State||Size (acres)|
|Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park||Florida||580|
|Six Flags Great Adventure||New Jersey||475|
|Universal Studios Hollywood||California||415|
|Silverwood Theme Park||Idaho||413|
|The Great Escape||New York||351|
|Cedar Point Amusement Park||Ohio||346|
Wondering which US states have the best selection of theme parks? Well, it’s perhaps no shock to see Florida and California topping the list with 8 and 10 major theme parks respectively. But you might be surprised to see states like Pennsylvania, New York, and New Hampshire appearing high up too! For thrill rides, nowhere beats California.
Which are the 10 best states for theme park fans?
|US state||No of major theme parks||Total no of thrill rides|
The US theme parks with the best dining options
One thing is for sure: if you’re visiting a theme park in the US of A, you won’t be going hungry. Even the smallest theme parks have multiple dining options to choose from, and at some of the bigger attractions, you can expect to find a veritable feast of restaurants, cafés, and bars.
It’s a close tie for the theme park with the best dining options in the USA. One of the first-placed parks is – unsurprisingly – Hersheypark. This candy-themed park in Pennsylvania is home to an incredible 65 places to eat and drink, including food trucks, donut stands, and pizzerias.
Also in the top spot with 65 dining options is Castles ‘n’ Coasters in Arizona. Visitors here can expect everything from tacos and corn dogs to waffles and ice-cream shakes. Yummy!
The US theme parks with the most dining options
|Theme park name||State||Number of dining options|
|Cedar Point Amusement Park||Ohio||62|
|Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk||California||43|
|Disney California Adventure Park||California||42|
|Disneyland Park / Disneyland Resort||California||41|
|Knoebels Amusement Park||New Mexico||38|
|Disney’s Animal Kingdom||Florida||33|
Frequently asked questions
How many theme parks are there in the US?
Our research has uncovered a total of 65 major theme parks with rides across the United States of America. This figure doesn’t include more sedate theme parks without rides, or religious-themed attractions like Florida’s Holy Land Experience.
Where are most of the US theme parks located?
It’s a tough race, but California is the US state with the most theme parks. The Golden State has a total of 10 major theme parks, including some of the country’s biggest and most famous – such as Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Close behind is Florida, home to 9 major theme parks, many of them in the Orlando area.
What are the most popular theme parks in the US?
According to the latest edition of the Global Attractions Attendance Report, Orlando’s Magic Kingdom Park is the most popular theme park in the US by attendance, followed by Disneyland California.
How many Six Flags theme parks are there in the US?
At the time of writing, there were 27 Six Flags theme parks across the USA. There are also Six Flags theme parks in China, Mexico, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.
How many Disney theme parks are there in the US?
There are a total of six Disney theme parks in the USA, including the 2 Disneyland parks in California and the 4 parks at Disney World in Florida. Additionally, there are several Disney water parks and themed shopping and entertainment areas in Florida.