A tour of the country's many amusement parks is a hallmark of the great American summer, but what of the poor thrill junkie who has seen it all, rode it all, and bought the keychain?
If you've already passed the turnstiles of the big parks, why not take a spin through a few of the more lesser-known but no less thrilling theme parks that dot the country? For those brave souls looking for that next unknown coaster to brave, read on.
The best park for families to check out this summer should be Knoebels Amusement Resort, the country’s largest free-admission amusement park in upstate Pennsylvania. While the rides each cost money, entering the facility is completely free of charge.
For a family on a budget, that’s a great start.
On one hand, there are a plethora of rides for smaller children like the bumper cars, boat rides, a mini Ferris wheel and everything in between, so parents with younger kids can feel confident that everyone will have a good time.
Older kids and adults are looking for a little more thrill, and Knoebels has them covered. Between the classic wooden roller coaster feel of the Phoenix and the brand-new opening of the steel roller coaster Impulse, even the teenagers will have no choice but to enjoy themselves.
The park also offers a plethora of ticket discounts that, along with the free admission and free parking, make this the perfect all-around summer vacation for the family looking for an under-the-radar park.
2. Holiday World
It may sound odd, but one place families must visit during the summer months is Santa Claus, Indiana, and the always entertaining Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.
While Holiday World doesn’t have the size as many other top parks in the world, it does have an old-school flair that is undeniable. Add several one-of-a-kind attractions like the new Thunderbird steel roller coaster, and this should be on each family’s summer must-see list.
As if the thrill rides and kiddie attractions weren't enough to put a smile on the entire family’s face, the water park is a major relief in the heart of the hot summer. With huge wave pools, water slides and a giant bowl, there is an attraction for every hydrophile.
The park does not offer a huge assortment of discounts, but the tickets are fairly priced for the excitement in the park. If your summer vacation makes its way through Indiana, stopping in Santa Claus to enjoy Holiday World is a must.
3. Luna Park
Many tourists target New York City on their itinerary for the one-of-a-kind locations and unparalleled city experience, but Luna Park at Coney Island is one of the coolest amusement parks in the northeast.
Built on the site of the old Astroland, the new Luna Park was opened in 2010 and has been growing ever since. With two huge roller coasters—the Coney Island Cyclone and the Thunderbolt—right off the boardwalk, thrill seekers will have room to breathe in this smaller venue.
There are plenty of rides for smaller children as well, and enough food stations serving local cuisine to make any visitor happy they stopped into the park. Add in affordable prices for an all-day pass, and Luna Park at Coney Island should be on every visitor’s schedule in NYC.
And if you show up on July 4, it's just a short stroll down the boardwalk to the famed Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.
4. Dutch Wonderland
Nestled in the Amish town of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is one of the best amusement parks aimed at younger children in the United States, Dutch Wonderland. Dubbed “A Kingdom for Kids,” it was built in 1963 and remains one of the most underrated parks in the nation.
If you are traveling with teenagers, Dutch Wonderland likely won’t be enough to satisfy them, but for children up to 13 or 14 years old, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The majority of the rides may be geared toward smaller kids, but the Duke's Lagoon water park portion of the area will have even older children excited.
Add in frequent shows at the park’s theaters and plenty of discounts for families and groups, and those making the journey across Pennsylvania should stop at Dutch Wonderland for an entertaining experience.
5. Little Amerricka Amusement Park
The final park that made the list is definitely underrated, but is a must-visit destination for any family or group passing through Marshall, Wisconsin, this summer. If you have the chance, check out Little Amerricka Amusement Park & Miniature Golf.
From go karts to the vintage Meteor wooden roller coaster to a haunted house to a full 18-hole mini golf course, there is something for every member of the family. Add in the Toboggan—one of three remaining toboggan roller coasters in the world—and the rides are a huge draw.
Of all the attractions and interesting portions of the park, the Whiskey River Railway takes visitors on a train-guided tour of the Wisconsin countryside that includes the unique sights and sounds of the area and even a crossing of the Whiskey River.
There is no admission fee to enter the park and the most expensive ticket package is under $22 for a full day of fun. For the family looking for something off-the-radar and affordable, Little Amerricka is a park to consider.