Credit: Flickr/Doug Jones
When it comes to amusement parks, one big name comes to mind: Chris Sawyer, the designer of Roller Coaster Tycoon. What, that wasn't who you had in mind? Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking of close second Six Flags, as they have pretty much dominated the hearts, minds, and queasy stomachs of Americans since their inception back in 1962. So, in the interest of giving the spotlight to a bunch of other places (that also aren't Disneyland), we rounded up a list of some of the other best amusement parks this country has to offer.
Known for: Millennium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and many, many more
We'd be remiss -- and we'd be failing you -- if we didn't include Cedar Point on this list. The self-billed "Roller Coaster Capital of the World" would probably be exactly that, if roller coasters were sentient and could vote democratically on such matters. Its site, a Lake Erie-adjacent peninsula, currently contains 16 of them (and 72 rides total), three of which made it onto our list of the scariest roller coasters in America, but don't discount the park's other thrills, including a giant frisbee and the world's largest swing ride.
Credit: Flickr/Stephen Dettling
Known for: Apollo's Chariot, Griffon
It's kind of odd that an amusement park with areas themed after old-world Europe could be so fun, since they had all that feudalism and disease and stuff, but Busch Gardens -- originally founded by Anheuser-Busch (the beer people!) back in 1975 -- accomplishes that goal through a mix of awesome roller coasters (like Apollo's Chariot), immersive settings, and impeccable groundskeeping (note: it has actually won awards for this). Plus, animals at Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve! That's the guy from your childhood nature documentaries!
Credit: Flickr/Jeremy Thompson
Known for: Steel Force, Thunderhawk
The fact that Dorney Park is owned by Cedar Fair -- the company responsible for Cedar Point -- will be enough to convince anyone who's heard of Cedar Point give it major props. It's home to the longest roller coaster on the East Coast (Steel Force), as well as one of the oldest (Thunderhawk, running since 1923), is adjacent to a huge waterpark (Wildwater Kingdom), and is probably the most fun you can have in East Central Pennsylvania besides at a Lehigh University frat party.
Credit: Flickr/Jim, the Photographer
Known for: Chocolate, primarily, but also Skyrush
Yes, Hersheypark is an amusement park run by a chocolate company. Yes, you can eat a ton of chocolate at the park and ride on chocolate-themed rides. And yes, the height requirements for kids have cutesy names like "Miniatures," "Kisses," and "Reeses." But the park also features some seriously gravity-defying roller coasters like Skyrush, Storm Runner, and... SooperDooperLooper. OK, so that last one is a bad example, but this park knows what it's doing, dammit!
Credit: Flickr/Jeff Krause
Universal Studios Florida
Known for: The Incredible Hulk, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you've ever wanted to live inside a movie or TV program, please watch The Truman Show -- it'll teach you about your misguidedness. But if you've ever wanted to visit those places, well, Universal Studios in Orlando is about as close as you can get without being that kid from Boyhood. With several movie-themed rides & attractions including Jurassic Park, Shrek, The Incredible Hulk, and Harry Potter, Universal Studios manages to re-instill a sense of awe for "the movies" that some folks might think had left them long ago. Then again, that might just be the Butterbeers talking.
Canobie Lake Park
Known for: The Yankee Cannonball, Untamed
Canobie Lake Park was opened back in 1902, before the concept of amusement parks had even been invented -- and that's not because nobody was having fun, it just didn't occur to people to create parks specifically for that purpose. Instead, it was a trolley park designed to increase the buzz around the Massachusetts Northeast Street Railway Company. The trolley business eventually went under, but Canobie Lake Park survived, and today flourishes as the one field trip destination kids from Massachusetts and New Hampshire (and their adult chaperones) get truly excited about.
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