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- There are amusement parks all over the country that are great – and cheaper – alternatives to Disney parks.
- Cedar Point in Ohio, Silver Dollar City in Missouri, and Dollywood in Tennessee have thrilling rides that are comparable to those at Disney.
- Busch Gardens, Six Flags, and Universal Studios each offer multiple parks all over the country, and they are great options for the whole family.
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Although a trip to Disney is supposed to be filled with magic, sometimes it can just be expensive, crowded, and downright disappointing.
But there are other amusement parks all over the country that have exciting rides and experiences at half the cost. While Disney World for example will put you back about $100 for a single park, you can instead save money by staying closer to home and experiencing the rides at your local amusement park.
These are the theme parks you should consider for your next vacation before booking a trip to Disney.
Cedar Point, located on Lake Erie in Ohio, is known as the roller coaster capital of the world.
- Jeremy Thompson/Flickr
Daily admission price: $49.99
With 18 roller coasters, Cedar Point has a ride for every level of thrill seeker. The Woodstock Express is perfect for the little ones, but the Steel Vengeance coaster is for the more experienced, as it reaches 205 feet in height and 74 mph. There’s also Cedar Point Shores Waterpark, which offers a wide range of water rides that are perfect for summer. When visiting, don’t forget to plan a day for water excursions on nearby Lake Erie.
But Ohio’s other amusement park, King’s Island, claims to be the largest amusement park in the Midwest.
- Sonja/ Flickr
Daily admission price: $47.99
Just outside of Cincinnati and a few hours away from Cedar Point is Kings Island, which boasts more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions. The amusement park is known for its world-class roller coasters, including Mystic Timbers, The Beast, and Diamondback. While those rides will quench any thrill seeker’s thirst for adventure, the park also offers four smaller roller coasters for children and parents. Soak City also has over 50 water rides to help you cool down in the summer heat.
Knott’s Berry Farm in California claims to be America’s first theme park.
Daily admission price: $49
Knott’s Berry Farm opened in 1920, and is home to Ghost Rider, one of the fastest and longest wooden roller coasters in the country, as well as the Timber Mountain Log Ride, which has been open since 1969, and takes guests through an 85-foot-high, 330-foot-long mountain range. If you love water parks, then check out Knott’s Soak City, which has some of the best water slides in the country. In fact, the park had 4 million visitors in 2018 and was ranked the 10th best park in North America.
Pennsylvania’s Knoebels Amusement Resort is America’s largest free amusement park.
- Joel Styer / Knoebels
Daily admission price: Free
Yes, Knoebels Amusement Resort is free. Well, kind of. It is free to enter the park and enjoy the atmosphere and shows, but it does cost money to go on rides. Like a carnival, you pay for individual tickets, which are then used to pay for rides and games. So, it will cost you to ride the two wooden roller coasters, the Phoenix Roller Coaster, and the Twister, and to go for a spin on the park’s lit-up Cosmotron.
Also in Pennsylvania is Hersheypark, which is one of the biggest amusement parks in the state and dubbed the “sweetest place on Earth.”
- Jason Dickert/ Flickr
Daily admission price: $38.95
Hersheypark is not just for chocolate lovers. Yes, it is Hershey’s themed, but it also has over 70 rides, 14 of which are roller coasters. There’s also an 11-acre water park, and a Hersheypark’s Camping Resort.
European-themed Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, is almost taking an international trip.
Daily admission price: $84.99
Although Busch Gardens is located in Virginia, it feels like a trip through Europe as the park is separated into different countries. In Italy, you can ride Escape from Pompeii; in France, you can catch a show at the Royal Palace theatre; and in Ireland, you can take a spin on Finnegan’s Flyer. If that isn’t enough, there’s also Germany, England, and Scotland – all filled with fun rides and entertaining shows.
Meanwhile, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida is African themed.
Daily admission price: $84.99
While most flock to Florida to visit Disney World, there is an even better option a few hours away from Orlando. A trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay will feel like a trip across the world – to Africa, specifically. All the rides are named after things the continent is famous for, like the Congo River Rapids, Cheetah Hunt, and the Serengeti Express. But the best part of this park is its zoo, which has over 200 species of animals. Kids will love experiencing thrill rides and getting the opportunity to see tigers, lions, and gorillas all in one day.
Dolly Parton helped open the famous Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
- matthew macpherson/Flickr
Daily admission price: $74
Dolly Parton herself helped open Dollywood in 1986, and the park has been welcoming families since. It’s home to 40 rides, including the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, as well as a water park. However, best of all it’s located in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, which has a number of outdoor activities for the whole family.
Missouri’s 1880s-themed park, Silver Dollar City, takes you back in time.
- Shane Adams/Flickr
Daily admission price: $68
Branson, Missouri, is home to the legendary Silver Dollar City. The 1880s theme can be felt all over the park – from authentic log cabins depicting the pioneer life to resident craftsmen demonstrating classic crafts – transporting you back to a much simpler time. But, most importantly, the rides aren’t dated. With over 40 rides, including Fire-in-the-Hole and FireFall, there is something for everyone in the family.
Sesame Place in Pennsylvania is a great alternative to the children’s rides at Disney World.
- Shawn Collins/Flickr
Daily admission price: $59.99
Inspired by “Sesame Street,” Sesame Place is filled with the show’s famous characters, which kids can interact with at live shows that take place throughout the day. There are also 16 kid-friendly regular rides and nine kid-friendly water rides in the park that will keep children entertained all day long.
Although there are Six Flags parks all over the US, Great Adventure and Magic Mountain are arguably the best.
Daily admission price: $51.99
Six Flags Great Adventure is located in Jackson, New Jersey, and Magic Mountain is in Los Angeles, California. Both parks best represent what the Six Flags brand is all about: fun, and thrilling rides for the whole family. The parks are home to some of the most famous roller coasters in the world, including Bizarro, El Toro, Kingda Ka (the world’s tallest roller coaster, and the world’s second fastest), Viper, and Ninja.
Universal Studios has some of the best amusement parks in Orlando and Los Angeles.
Daily admission price: $115
Universal Studios is Disney’s closest rival – literally. The amusement park is located in Orlando just a few miles from Disney’s four parks. While they are close in proximity, the parks could not be more different. Universal Studios focuses primarily on adult and thrill rides, tied to big blockbuster movies. The most notable part of Universal Studios is its Harry Potter World, which has a replica of Diagon Alley and a number of magical rides fit for any wizard. Additionally, there is a Universal Studios park in Los Angeles that acts as a great alternative for west coasters.
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