Disney is magical, from the boozy beignets to the new Toy Story Land that debuted at Disney World in Orlando. But when it comes to the theme parks, well, it’s not really a small world after all!
Here are seven amusement parks throughout the United States that are also bidding for your family’s attention (and that generally cost less than Disney and don’t have lines that are quite as long).
1. Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Canon City, Colorado
We’re bending the definition of theme park a tad. But if it’s got a roller coaster (and a magnificent one at that!) it counts, right?
If your family loves outdoor adventure, set your sights on the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, where you can zip through the canyon on the Cloudscraper, which bills itself as the highest zipline in America, or fly high over the Arkansas River on the Royal Rush Skycoaster, which is like a free-falling bungee swing. We dare you to look down as you swing out over the edge of the canyon!
If you’ve got little ones, head to the Tommy Knocker Children’s Playland, which has play equipment, a carousel and a place where kids can pan for gold, a nod to Colorado’s gold rush era. Round out the adventure by rafting on the Royal Gorge with Echo Canyon River Expeditions. The outfitter has cameras affixed to the raft, which will snap a rad family photo for you.
2. Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Billing itself as the “sweetest place on Earth,” Hersheypark has all the usual theme park amenities — like roller coasters, water rides and kiddie rides — but the park also satiates your sweet tooth with its candy and fudge shops. Plus, your kids can meet the candy characters, including Hershey’s Bar, Twizzler, Kit Kat, Rolo, Jolly Rancher and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. (P.S. in case you meet Reese, here’s how to properly say his name! First impressions matter, right?)
3. Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin
What if we told you that you could ride a roller coaster for just $1? Yes, in 2018! Bay Beach Amusement Park is a city-owned park that’s been around for a century and has 22 rides, and admission and parking is free. Ride tickets cost a quarter and most rides require just a couple of tickets. Four tickets will get you admission onto the Zippin Pippin, a wooden roller coaster and park favorite. For more fun, you can catch free water ski shows in downtown Green Bay on Wednesday nights from mid-July to the end of August.
4. Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia
New this year at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a virtual reality ride called the Battle for Eire. The ride combines a motion-based theater simulator with 360-degree virtual reality headsets, and it gives riders a story line involving a fairy guardian who needs to rescue the “Heart of Eire” from an evil villain.
The theme park also has thrill rides and kids’ rides, and a family-friendly “Rhine River Cruise,” in addition to festivals and performances.
5. Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, Texas
Superheroes are a theme at this Six Flags outpost in San Antonio, Texas and, in fact, the park just opened its Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster. The coaster features a 100-foot, 90-degree drop, and those behind the ride claim that it’s the world’s first single rail coaster.
There are also several rides for the younger kids, including a kiddie coaster and Yosemite Sam’s Wacky Wagons, a wild west spin on a Ferris wheel. Plus, the whole family can enjoy nightly fireworks.
6. Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas
Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas, has an uphill water roller coaster, plus dozens of other rides that come with an added bonus: They’ll cool you down.
Schlitterbahn has parks throughout Texas, and one in Kansas City. But we’re partial to the park in New Braunfels, because you can actually spend the night inside the water park by renting one of the tree house suites.
Plus, the Raging River Tube Ride lasts for 45 (!) minutes and, at the end, merges with a real river that runs alongside the park and is shaded by trees.
A theme park that’s not dependent on weather? Perfect! The indoor water parks at Great Wolf Lodge, a water park resort that has 16 locations nationwide, make for the perfect family-friendly getaway.
The water park is inside the actual resort, which makes logistics easy-peasy. In addition to the water slides and rides, there are also arcade games, MagiQuest (a live-action adventure game) and on-site dining. Parents will also appreciate the spa.
The Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs is a great base camp for other family-friendly activities. Your little ones can do kid-friendly yoga classes in the morning and head to story time at night. And of course, they’ll want to ride the rides all day. You can also feed giraffes at the nearby Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, tour the Olympic Training Center or marvel at the crimson sandstone rock formations at Garden of the Gods.
Where will you book your next trip?