America’s Best Amusement Parks for Younger Kids
There’s something inherently special about a well-appointed amusement park that transcends age. It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 55, you simply can’t spend the day traipsing around a theme park without a smile on your face — and that’s why we took it upon ourselves to pull together some of the best amusement parks from coast to coast.
Whether you’re planning your next family trip or looking for inspiration in your own backyard, we’ve rounded up some of the absolute best amusement parks for younger kids across the country. From classics like Universal Studios and Disneyland to more rustic and whimsical attractions, these theme and water parks promise a fun time for all.
25. Beech Bend Amusement Park
Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
Year opened: 1906
Highlights: Beech Bend Amusement Park opened at the turn of the 20th century and has been a family-owned operation ever since. Plus, there's a 1950s drag strip next door at Beech Bend Raceway where families watch races or even take a drive themselves.
Why Beech Bend Amusement Park Is One of the Best
It’s the great American amusement park experience that offers more than 40 rides, including Michael Jackson's Sea Dragon ride and the most twisted wooden roller coaster in seven states, the Kentucky Rumbler.
Other favorites include Bluegrass Breeze, Zero G, Vortex, Wild Mouse Spinning Coaster, antique cars, miniature golf, go-karts and a petting zoo.
24. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Year opened: 1975
Highlights: This stunning European-inspired setting has won “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park” every year since 1990 and continues to offer endless rides and attractions for young families and adults alike.
Why Busch Gardens Williamsburg Is One of the Best
Busch Gardens Williamsburg allows families to “travel” all over England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy without requiring a passport.
The park showcases regional food, landmarks and entertainment inspired by each country — alongside a myriad of rides and roller coasters, too.
23. Massanutten Resort & Water Park
Location: Massanutten, Virginia
Year opened: 1974
Highlights: Massanutten Resort & Water Park might be nearly 50 years old, but it’s just as relevant as ever thanks to the stunning mountain air and 6,000 acres of unspoiled land.
Why Massanutten Resort & Water Park Is One of the Best
This resort and water park hybrid offers both incredible amenities and indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family. Think: multiple escape rooms, ziplining through the mountains, and ice skating and snow tubing come winter time.
The park also features a full-service day spa for parents hoping to sneak in a little rest and relaxation.
22. Lake Compounce
Location: Southington, Connecticut
Year opened: 1846
Highlights: Lake Compounce dates all the way back to 1846, making it one of the oldest operating amusement parks in North America. The family-friendly park is also very budget-friendly with ticket prices sitting at under $40.
Why Lake Compounce Is One of the Best
Lake Compounce might be one of the oldest amusement parks in operation, but it remains modern and relevant by way of its exhilarating rides and attractions.
The park’s most famous attraction — the Boulder Dash — was voted the world’s best wooden roller coaster five times as part of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards.
21. Big Kahuna's Water & Adventure Park
Location: Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Year opened: 1986
Highlights: Big Kahuna's Water & Adventure Park features an impressive 40 different water play areas, including rides, slides and pools for all ages and interests.
Why Big Kahuna's Water & Adventure Park Is One of the Best
Big Kahuna’s features just about every water ride and attraction you could think of — from the classic Lazy River to the 100-foot Sky Coaster.
Thrillseekers will especially appreciate the Cyclone Twister. The star ride spins around and around at over 50 miles per hour and goes over 140 feet in the air. Obviously, you’d have to go on this one without the younger members of the family.
20. Schlitterbahn Water Park & Resort
Location: New Braunfels, Texas
Year opened: 1979
Highlights: The Schlitterbahn water park and resort is one of the best in all of Texas. It has a wide variety of amenities including a tubing river and lots of pools.
Why Schlitterbahn Water Park & Resort Is One of the Best
Schlitterbahn Water Park & Resort is home to one of the most fun and challenging roller coasters in all of Texas.
Those who prefer a more relaxing experience, though, might prefer The Falls — the world's longest tubing river.
19. Knott’s Berry Farm
Location: Buena Park, California
Year opened: 1945
Highlights: Knott’s Berry Farm is the ideal combination of classic Americana and modern theme park, which is why the 57-acre theme park is one of the most-visited in the country.
Why Knott’s Berry Farm Is One of the Best
No, Knott’s Berry Farm isn’t a quaint little roadside spot for fruit and berries. Rather, it’s a bustling theme park that features an ideal mix of both historic rides (like the ornate carousel) and dozens of modern rides.
Our favorite? The Timber Mountain Log Ride, one of the world’s longest log flume rides.
18. Universal Studios
Location: Orlando, Florida
Year opened: 1990
Highlights: Universal Studios is one of the most popular amusement parks in the world — and for good reason. The theme park is over 30 years old but continues to offer adventure and thrill for the whole family through its eight different movie-themed areas.
Why Universal Studios Is One of the Best
This well-known theme park has become a household name since its inception in 1990.
The park is best known for its film-inspired rides and attractions, including everything from Marvel to Harry Potter.
17. Dutch Wonderland
Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Year opened: 1987
Highlights: Packed with family-friendly rides and attractions, Dutch Wonderland offers family passes for $79.99 as well as discounts for military families and first responders.
Why Dutch Wonderland Is One of the Best
This well-loved amusement park in Lancaster features many different rides for all ages — including the Mine Train, the Scrambler and Splash Works.
Dutch Wonderland might have been founded in 1987 but continues to add new rides and attractions on a regular basis.
Location: Carlsbad, California
Year opened: 1999
Highlights: Legoland is a must-visit for Lego fans both young and old. The park is packed with rides and attractions, but the Lego-inspired construction is worth the visit alone.
Why Legoland Is One of the Best
Think of the Legoland theme park as the imagination of a child, building with Lego bricks.
The layout is based on various themes and worlds found in children's books and movies — with many models actually made of Legos.
Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Year opened: 1906
Highlights: Hersheypark is packed with endless thrills for all members of the family. It dates back over a hundred years but continues to innovate to keep visitors coming back year after year.
Why Hersheypark Is One of the Best
This century-old amusement park features more than 14 roller coasters and more than 70 other rides and attractions suitable for all ages.
The star of the park is the sooperdooperLooper (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), which is the first looping roller coaster on the East Coast. There are tons of other additional attractions like dining, shopping and, of course, the next-door Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can take a chocolate tour and even create your own candy bar.
14. Sesame Place
Location: Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Year opened: 1980
Highlights: Sesame Place features more than 16 kid-friendly rides, live “Sesame Street” shows and even a daily parade packed with everyone’s favorite “Sesame Street” characters.
Why Sesame Place Is One of the Best
Who didn’t grow up obsessed with Oscar the Grouch or Elmo? Sesame Place is a must-visit for anyone who loved “Sesame Street” as a child. The park is packed with fun attractions for all ages and is also designated as the first theme park in the world to be a Certified Autism Center.
Not only do the staff receive special training but quiet rooms, sensory guides and noise-cancelling headphones are also available for those who require them.
Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Year opened: 1986
Highlights: It’s no secret that Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park that is literally built into the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, embodies Parton’s heart and essence in every aspect. Family is one of her core values, so it only makes sense that the park is very kid-friendly.
Why Dollywood Is One of the Best
The park has a strategic mild-and-wild layout, where milder rides are situated next to wilder rides (like roller coasters) — and there are plenty of food stops and shops interspersed.
So, the entire family (no matter what ages the kids are) can travel through the park together versus being forced to divide up as some parks with “kiddie sections” require you to do.
12. Story Land
Location: Bartlett, New Hampshire
Year opened: 1954
Highlights: This family-friendly amusement park opened in 1954 but continues to add more rides year over year. The latest signature attraction, the Roar-a-saurus, comes as a dinosaur-themed roller coaster.
Why Story Land Is One of the Best
Story Land in New Hampshire is an absolute must for any family looking for an amazing kid-friendly park to visit.
Unlike other large amusement parks, the rollercoasters at this one have a very low height requirement, making them perfect for younger children.
11. Silverwood Theme Park
Location: Athol, Idaho
Year opened: 1988
Highlights: From live entertainment to restaurants and lodging, everything you need to enjoy an eventful family vacation can be found at Silverwood.
Why Silverwood Theme Park Is One of the Best
Silverwood Theme Park is the Northwest’s largest theme park with over 70 attractions, from rides and slides to shows and a water park.
There’s fun for the whole family, and the ride rating system — highlighting low-, medium- and high-intensity rides — makes it easy to figure out who will enjoy what.
10. Wings and Waves
Location: McMinnville, Oregon
Year opened: 2011
Highlights: This incredible water park offers the best of both worlds: thrill rides and more kid-friendly water attractions as well as cabanas and poolside food and drink services.
Why Wings and Waves Is One of the Best
Wings and Waves, the waterpark at the nationally renowned Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, has everything you’d need for an ideal family vacation.
Nestled in the heart of beautiful Oregon wine country, it's essentially a space museum with an indoor waterpark. There's nothing like it throughout the rest of the U.S.
9. Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park
Location: Tampa, Florida
Year opened: 2020
Highlights: This unique amusement park brings the magic of winter to Florida by way of dozens of unique snow- and holiday-inspired attractions for the entire family.
Why Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park Is One of the Best
Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park features an ice-skating ribbon, private igloo rentals, a holiday market, and a magical music and light show every evening.
The park also features a 60-foot tall tubing slope and a 10,000-square-foot dome that features actual snow.
8. Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park
Location: Rossville, Georgia
Year opened: 1925
Highlights: Looking for an amusement park to suit the thrillseekers and water bugs in your household? Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park offers the best of both worlds, with more than 40 rides and attractions for all interests.
Why Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park Is One of the Best
Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park, known by locals as Lake Winnie, offers up roller coasters, an antique carousel, water slides and the Crazy River made for kicking back and relaxing.
Plus, its Boat Chute attraction is the oldest of its kind still in operation in the U.S.
7. Margaritaville at Lanier Islands
Location: Buford, Georgia
Year opened: 2018
Highlights: Looking for a budget-friendly amusement park for the whole family? Margaritaville at Lanier Islands costs just $20 per car—regardless of how many passengers.
Why Margaritaville at Lanier Islands Is One of the Best
Don’t let the name fool you: Margaritaville is a family-friendly water park for kids of all ages.
Tucked into the Lanier Islands park, this outdoor park features a handful of water attractions as well as a zipline, flyboarding experiences and private beach access.
6. Playland Park
Location: Rye, New York
Year opened: 1928
Highlights: Located less than one hour outside of New York City, Playland Park is conveniently located for families and city dwellers looking for a spot to indulge in everything from roller coasters to historic rides.
Why Playland Park Is One of the Best
Playland Park is best known for its abundance of modern and century-old rides set against gorgeous beachside scenery and Art Deco architecture.
It also features an onsite arcade and mini-golf course for those who want a break from thrill rides.
5. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
Location: Galveston, Texas
Year opened: 2012
Highlights: Standing over the Gulf of Mexico, this gorgeous amusement park and iconic symbol of the Galveston beachfront was made for family day trips.
Why Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier Is One of the Best
Looking for an amusement park that’s equally gorgeous and fun for the whole family? Look no further than the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
This gorgeous park on the pier features rides, games, shops, live music and even a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant.
4. Silver Dollar City
Location: Branson, Missouri
Year opened: 1960
Highlights: Silver Dollar City is more like a fun-filled town than a simple amusement park. The attraction is packed with rides, events and festivals thay cycle throughout the year.
Why Silver Dollar City Is One of the Best
Tucked into Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City started as a re-creation of the mining town that stood at the mouth of Marvel Cave, which lies underneath the park.
Today, the cave is still open for tours, and the 100-acre, 1880s-style park features more than 40 rides and attractions, along with equally amazing seasonal festivals and special events. It’s especially fun to see the 100 demonstrating craftspeople who show off their skills in everything from woodworking to glassblowing.
3. Michigan’s Adventure
Location: Muskegon, Michigan
Year opened: 1956
Highlights: Located in Muskegon right near Lake Michigan, Michigan’s Adventure is the largest amusement and water park in the state.
Why Michigan’s Adventure Is One of the Best
Home to seven roller coasters, including Shivering Timbers and Thunderhawk, and a number of water park rides, this charming amusement and water park is beloved throughout the Midwest.
Several new attractions, like Beagle Scout Lookout, Camp Bus and Peanuts Trailblazers, were recently added for younger children to enjoy.
2. Santa’s Workshop
Location: Wilmington, New York
Year opened: 1949
Highlights: Santa’s Workshop opened in 1949 and currently holds the title of “America’s Oldest Theme Park.” It’s open year round and was made for Christmas lovers and retro fiends.
Why Santa’s Workshop Is One of the Best
Since 1949, the park's retro, whimsical feel has never waned — it's just as much fun today as it was on opening day but slightly more endearing.
The charming park is not overly commercialized and really allows families to sink into the feeling of Christmas by way of reindeer, visits from Santa, cookies and milk, and a variety of fun rides and attractions made specifically for children.
Location: Anaheim, California
Year opened: 1955
Highlights: When it comes to amusement parks, Disneyland is one of the best and most-visited parks in the U.S. — it’s known as the Happiest Place on Earth, after all. The popular theme park is packed with classic attractions, great dining options, and must-visit shows and attractions.
Why Disneyland Is One of the Best
Disneyland is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known theme parks in the United States — and for good reason. The original Disney theme park is packed with classic and more modern rides and attractions.
From Mickey’s Toontown to Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, there’s something to suit everyone in the family — young and old.