8 Cool Amusement Parks You’ve Never Heard Of

You have the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, and an appetite for thrills. Where are you? Possibly at an amusement park, psyching yourself up for the adrenaline rush that comes with a ride on that mean-looking roller coaster. The following amusement parks offer a great time, even if you’ve never heard of them.

Dells Water Park

Located in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, this isn’t just a water park — it’s an accumulation of them. Travelchannel.com calls Wisconsin Dells “a water park aficionado’s dream, with dozens of indoor and outdoor water parks to splash around in.”

One of the most notable water parks in Wisconsin Dells is Noah’s Ark, the largest water park in America. The 51 water slides are among the many attractions at Noah’s Ark. If extreme slides aren’t your thing, you can relax in one of the endless rivers or a wave pool. Or, you can work on your tan and watch the little ones play in the Tadpole Bay Kiddie Play Area.

Schlitterbahn

Schlitterbahn

Photo by CJ TravelTips.

Sprechen sie Deutsch? No? That’s all right. You don’t have to know German to have a blast at Schlitterbahn. It’s another enormous water park, and you’ll find this one in New Braunfels, Texas. According to one list of the best amusement parks in America, Schlitterbahn is the 11th most attended water park in the world. It has 40 rides, three lazy rivers, nine tube chutes, and tube rides that go on for miles.

(By the way, schlitterbahn is a German word for a children’s slide, but that doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean that grown-ups aren’t welcome.)

Silverwood

If you prefer drier fun and live in the Pacific Northwest, you should pay a visit to Silverwood, the largest theme park in that region. It’s located in northern Idaho and totally worth the drive. With more than 65 attractions, there’s something to entertain everyone in the family.

Craving a mega rush? Hop on the Spincycle, which has nothing to do with the chores you left at home. It’s a unique, 104-foot tall ride that revolves 360 degrees while also swinging like a pendulum. Riders face outward so all they see is a blur of sky and the sights below. You better get your scream ready for this ride.

Adventuredome

There’s a lot more in Las Vegas than slot machines, a crowd of Elvis impersonators, and drive-thru weddings. If you’re in Vegas with the kiddos, pay a visit to Adventuredome. It’s a huge indoor theme park that offers plenty of rides (try the Sling Shot and the Canyon Blaster) and games to keep you occupied for an afternoon. If you visit in late January 2014 or afterward, you can get a rush when you ride the new El Loco Roller Coaster. Needless to say, you shouldn’t hit the buffet too hard before you go.

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm

Photo by Brent Schmidt.

What’s so thrilling about a farm? Well, at this farm they cultivate fun and nostalgia. Knott’s Berry Farm is the oldest theme park in the United States — and one of the best. The rich history of this park began in 1920 when Walter and Cordelia Knott rented a small amount of land in Buena Park, California. Their dogged determination and innovative thinking led to the birth of this must-visit park. New owners took over the park in 1997, but they haven’t diminished the spirit of Knott’s Berry Farm.

Attractions include a variety of rides, ones that thrill along with those for ones who prefer a tamer day. You can catch live entertainment at Knott’s Berry Farm, enjoy delicious food, and go shopping at California MarketPlace. Best part is, you can start looking for your tickets on ScoreBig.com and grab some choice seating.

Knoebels

If you’re in the neighborhood of Ellysburg, Pennsylvania — and if you’re not in the neighborhood, you should find a way to get there — a visit to Knoebels is a must. Admission to this park is free, and the rides themselves aren’t outrageously priced so the entire family can have a day for fun without injuring the piggy bank.

The Phoenix is a wooden roller coaster, one of the best in the world, and absolutely worth a go or three or four. If you’re in the mood for a spook, check out the Haunted Mansion. Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of riding a carousel at a fair? Take a stroll through the Knoebels Carousel Museum to learn about the history of these iconic rides.

King’s Island

Live like a monarch of fun at King’s Island, an all-around fun park in the Midwest. This is an especially great destination if you have children; King’s Island boasts one of the best kids’ areas in the world, so no one is too short to have a fantastic time.

Dinosaurs Alive! Well, they’re not quite alive, but that’s the name of one of the highlights of any visit to King’s Island. This attraction contains upwards of 60 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. However, if you want entertainment that is actually flesh and blood, you can check out some of the live shows at the park.

There’s also plenty for those who love thrill rides. Beast is the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, and Son of Beast is the world’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster. Those are just two of the park’s 15 roller coasters, making King’s Island without a doubt one of the best amusement parks in America.

Gilroy Gardens

Among the many amusement parks in California is the unexpected Gilroy Gardens. What is unexpected about it? It has a botanical theme, “inspired by a collection of extraordinary trees, trained into fantastic shapes,” says an article at about.com, so it’s a feast for the eyes.

The good news is that some of the above parks are open year round, so you don’t have to wait until summer to get your fun on. The bad news is that there are so many great parks to choose from. Where will you visit first?