Roller coaster parks and amusement parks deliver the best warm-weather experiences. Whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, roller coaster parks provide incredible thrill rides, delicious treats, and maybe even some fun characters to meet.
The 15 Best Roller Coaster Parks in the U.S.
Most of the parks on this list offer a delightful theme to give an air of magic to your entire visit. This theme provides essential direction for your entire experience, including signature desserts or a special language for communication within the park.
Play like a kid at these best roller coaster parks in the U.S. We will discuss the unique perks of each park as well as reviews of:
- Rides and attractions
- Foods and desserts
- Theme or special perks
- Ease of park visit
Continue reading to learn more about our top 15 favorite American roller coaster parks!
1. Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida
With locations in both California and Florida, the Universal Studios roller coaster parks boast some of the most notable attractions of the last 20 years.
With properties like The Simpsons, Harry Potter, and Minions, this roller coaster park brings together some of the most popular characters today. Universal Studios offers three parks to explore, including Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.
Universal Studios park delivers The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as rides from The Fast and The Furious and E.T. Visit Islands of Adventure for kid-friendly Dr. Suess rides as well as Doctor Doom’s Freefall roller coaster.
Volcano Bay provides a break from the Florida heat with awesome water rides. This large park requires advanced planning and strategy to ensure a happier experience. Explore express passes or stay at a resort hotel to save money and time during your visit.
2. Disneyland in Anaheim, CA
One of the most iconic roller coaster parks on this list, Disneyland continues its reputation of offering the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland continues its dominance by recently adding a brand-new Star Wars attraction to iconic rides like Space Mountain and the Incredicoaster.
While Walt Disney World in Florida offers a sprawling, incredible spectacle, we love the unique, nostalgic feel at Disneyland.
Walt Disney’s original dream project, this roller coaster park offers proprietary rides like the iconic Matterhorn coaster. Disneyland is a busy place, so it is best to intricately plan your visit.
Look into Fast Passes to skip lines and ride more rides. Disneyland is always innovating to make your trip even better. Look into their apps and other services to streamline your next visit.
3. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
Cedar Point is commonly listed as the most famous roller coaster park in the United States. This Ohio park frequently makes headlines for its boundary-pushing, intense roller coasters.
These thrill rides are the most notable detail about Cedar Point, but this park provides rides for all ages. Rides like the Maverick, Magnum XL-200, and Millennium Force deliver classic roller coaster thrills.
Explore other intense rides like slingshot rides, the spinning Monster ride, or wild water slides in the adjoining water park. Tickets to Cedar Point cost about one-third of the price of the previous two roller coaster parks on this list.
Annual passes are also available for even more savings. Cedar Point is a large, roomy park. Some planning may be needed to hit your favorite rides, but spontaneous visits to Cedar Point are still just as fun.
4. Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia
With locations in both Virginia and Tampa, Florida, Busch Gardens delivers roller coasters and amazing attractions. Busch Gardens is best known for its amazing zoos within its theme parks.
Both parks are nestled deep within natural surroundings, resulting in towering roller coasters peeking out from dense forests and swamplands. There is no connecting theme throughout this park.
Instead, intense roller coasters celebrate Roman gods like the Pantheon, Scottish cryptozoology with the twisting Loch Ness Monster ride, and the Alpengeist with six different inversions along the way.
Young visitors have plenty to do at Busch Gardens too. Bumper cars, a carousel, and Sesame Street characters delight the smallest theme park enthusiasts.
Water rides help guests beat the humidity at this Virginia park. Busch Gardens offers one of the most affordable trips on this list. Enjoy free parking and annual passes if you live nearby.
5. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California
Six Flags Magic Mountain holds the honor of the roller coaster park with the most coasters in the United States. With a staggering 20 roller coasters, every thrillseeker will find a ride for them at this Six Flags location.
Several roller coasters celebrating D.C. comic book characters entertain guests, like Riddler’s Revenge or Batman the Ride. The Full Throttle ride is the largest looping coaster in the world, launching guests 160 feet in the air!
Like the other straightforward roller coaster parks on this list, passes to Six Flags are relatively affordable. Check out annual passes to save even more and encourage yourself to ride even more rides this year.
6. Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri
Branson, Missouri, bills itself as a wholesome alternative to Las Vegas, nestled in the middle of the United States. This quirky resort town offers lots of music and entertainment in a very family-friendly environment in the Ozarks.
This park offers a few classic wooden coasters, like the Outlaw Run, Time Traveler, and Powder Keg. Young theme park enthusiasts will love low-key rides like the Royal Tea Party’s spinning cups or the Magnificent Wave carousel.
Beat the humidity with Silver Dollar City’s water rides or a riverboat cruise on the nearby Lake of the Ozarks. If you’re looking for heartstopping thrills, this park may not be exactly it. But Silver Dollar City delivers wholesome fun at an attractive price.
7. Kings Island in Mason, Ohio
This Ohio park infuses European style into its massive, nearly 350-acre roller coaster park. One end of Kings Island is anchored by an Eiffel Tower and small cottages hold the food stalls, souvenir shops, and other booths at this Cincinnati-area park.
Kings Island flies under the radar more than others on this list. However, this park offers tons of rides for every age.
Carousels, water rides, and age-appropriate coasters entertain the preschool crowd and those looking for content laughs instead of thrilled screams. Try the Mystic Timbers or Adventure Express wooden roller coasters for old-school thrills.
Upgrade to the modern Banshee, Invertigo, or Diamondback coasters for gasp-inducing rides. Other than coasters, rides like Flight of Fear and Drop Tower provide unforgettable roller coaster park experiences.
8. Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Built to honor the iconic country star Dolly Parton, Dollywood offers roller coasters, a water park, and wholesome shows and demonstrations. Parton famously celebrates her Tennessee heritage, and this love for Tennessee is infused in this park.
Dollywood delivers the most popular amusement park in Tennessee, located in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains. This park holds nine roller coasters, including Lightning Rod and Mystery Mine. This park leans heavily on family-friendly and educational entertainment.
Ride a train through the park and visit the included museums and daily demonstrations on historical activities like blacksmithing. Dollywood may be the only roller coaster park on this list with a chapel inside.
Dollywood tickets provide affordable fun for families. Look into season passes for a budget-friendly option. Preschoolers also receive free admission to this park to encourage exploration and education.
9. Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Located in rural central Pennsylvania, Knoebels may be the least-known roller coaster park on this list. And the locals probably like it that way! This park is the largest free-admission park in the United States.
Free admission means visitors can enter the park without buying a pass. If you want to just enjoy the vibes, you can enter without paying.
However, riding any of the rides requires a one-day pass or paying for the individual ride. There is no annual pass option. Knoebels offers six roller coasters, including the famous Phoenix and Twister wooden coasters.
Like many of the roller coaster parks on this list, Knoebels visitors enjoy water rides and a water park. Other Knoebels attractions include a golf course, history and mining museums, and a haunted house.
10. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California
Called California’s original theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm combines the heritage of its location with good, old-fashioned thrills. This park sits in Southern California, only about six miles from Disneyland in Anaheim.
This theme park highlights California gold rush ghost towns as well as Latino culture, So Cal style, and Peanuts characters like Snoopy. Roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm include Ghost Rider, Montezooma’s Revenge, and La Revolucion.
Enjoy the relentless sun with water rides and a water park. One of the water rides at Knott’s Berry Farm achieves the highest thrill level at the park!
As the name may suggest, food is one of the most important aspects of Knott’s Berry Farm. Enjoy the park’s famous fried chicken and boysenberry pies, or take homemade jam with you to remember your visit.
Affordable daily passes and season passes make this a budget-friendly theme park destination in Southern California.
11. Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Enjoy a sweet adventure with this candy-themed park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Named after the family who invented their signature chocolate bar, this park offers a traditional theme park experience.
Incredibly, this under-the-radar park offers a spectacular variety of 15 roller coasters – some of the most coasters in any park in the country! The Cocoa Cruiser and Candymonium continue the theme at Hersheypark.
Candymonium offers the longest coaster in the park. The Jolly Rancher Remix ride offers randomized experiences, so you never know what’s coming next. Hersheypark offers seasonal entertainment for holidays and an extensive water park during the summertime.
Tickets to this park are comparable to other similar theme parks and season passes are available. This park is easy to navigate spontaneously without the need for advanced planning.
12. SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida
While no longer offering animal shows, SeaWorld in Orlando provides plenty of entertainment for thrill-seekers. The Ice Breaker rollercoaster delivers a “beyond vertical” drop for an experience unlike anything else.
Many of the amenities of SeaWorld Orlando are similar to Busch Gardens. Enjoy free parking, a water park, and Sesame Street Land for fun for all ages.
SeaWorld is located in the same city as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. But those parks require extensive planning and coordination.
And SeaWorld provides a more affordable and less intimidating theme park visit in this part of Florida. This roller coaster park costs less than half of those other neighboring parks, and annual passes are available.
13. Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
This Pittsburgh-area roller coaster park is the final Pennsylvania park on our list. Who knew Pennsylvania delivered so many spectacular theme parks? Ride the Jack Rabbit, a moderately speedy ride operating at Kennywood for more than one hundred years.
Enjoy more intense thrills on Phantom’s Revenge or the spinning indoor coaster named Exterminator. Kennywood is another location marketed more toward family-friendly attractions.
While there are some intense coasters, the majority of attractions are indoor boat rides, carousels, bumper cars, and swings. Tickets for Kennywood rank near the top of the list for affordability, and season passes are available.
For a smaller park in Western Pittsburgh, Kennywood entertains all year round. Enjoy international specialties during a summer food festival as well as holiday celebrations for Halloween, Christmas, and the Fourth of July.
14. Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana
Located in Santa Claus, Indiana, Holiday World delivers a theme park experience all its own. Visitors explore different sections of the park celebrating holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
As the name of the city implies, this park loves holidays! In addition to steel and wood roller coasters like The Legend, The Raven, and The Voyage, Holiday World provides hair-raising water coasters as well.
Summer in Indiana can be brutal, but at Holiday World, visitors enjoy the Watubee and Wildebeest Water Coaster to provide summer fun and sweet relief.
15. Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina
Carowinds, the only North Carolina park on this list, offers one of the top steel roller coasters in the United States: Fury 325. The Carolina Cyclone, Carolina Gold Rusher, and Afterburn provide true thrill rides.
During the peak season, Carowinds also holds a popular water park with water coasters and a wave pool.
This park ranks as one of the most affordable on this list. The additional perk of bring-a-friend passes makes Carowinds a budget-friendly and welcoming destination.
Things to Consider
A day at the roller coaster park involves thinking ahead about the safety and comfort of everyone involved. It’s important to plan for discomfort coming from weather, minor injuries, and exhaustion fueled by so much fun in the sun.
Follow these basic guidelines for the best day at your favorite roller coaster park. Pack plentiful sunscreen, bug spray, and water to protect yourself.
Be sure everyone’s footwear supports their feet all day long and stays in place when riding the rides. Avoid flip-flops or other flimsy shoes for a day at the roller coaster park. We recommend packing an additional set of clothes.
By the end of the day kids and adults alike will feel great changing out of sweaty, stained clothes from a long day at the theme park. Review the amusement park’s website to understand the intricacies of navigating your park of choice.
In addition to special attractions and shows throughout the day, your trip to the theme park improves when you understand fast-track passes and other unique perks.
Consider mapping out your trip to the larger theme parks to cut down on frustration and fear of missing out. Prioritize your can’t-miss attractions and don’t forget to enjoy the magic of the moment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the most commonly asked questions about the best roller coaster parks in the U.S:
What is the most common amusement park?
The Walt Disney family of amusement parks is considered the most common, based on the number of global locations. Disneyland Paris in France marks the only European Disney park. Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland delight visitors in China. Tokyo Disney was the first global Disney park, first debuting in the 1980s.
What is the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the United States?
The Kingda Ka coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure holds the title of the tallest and fastest roller coaster in America. This New Jersey park’s ride reaches a top speed of 128 miles per hour in just over three seconds. Kingda Ka has maintained this title since its debut in 2005.
What was the first roller coaster in America?
Believe it or not, America’s first roller coaster debuted in 1984. This coaster traveled a blistering six miles per hour and was a huge attraction to the then-new Coney Island in New York.
Which park has the most roller coasters?
California’s Six Flags Magic Mountain boasts a mind-boggling 20 total roller coasters within its park. In comparison, Six Flags Over Georgia holds 11 rides, and Six Flags America delivers nine rides.
Are roller coasters dangerous?
Approximately four deaths annually in the United States are associated with roller coasters. Thousands of theme park goers ride roller coasters every day, showing the relatively low risk of roller coaster parks. However, there is always some risk when riding roller coasters.
So, What’s the Best Roller Coaster Park in the U.S.?
Whether you are new to the world of theme parks or have visited every park in America, there is always something new to explore. Even if you’re not a fan of thrill rides, roller coaster parks provide entertainment and fun for all ages and abilities.