The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 1 of 11
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 2 of 11
1: Disney's Animal Kingdom,
When it comes to theme parks, Disney is king. Animal Kingdom trumps the company's other parks because of the educational aspect that accompanies the rides and because it appeals to a wide demographic of kids. More than 250 different species populate the Animal Kingdom, and exhibits range from petting zoos for the younger set to roller coasters and a conservation education center for the older ones. Rides are interspersed with animal encounters and jam-packed with information on our natural world. Who knows? Your kids might walk away having learned a thing or two. One-day entry is $74 for kids ages 3-9; $82 for those ages 10 and up.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 3 of 11
2: Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia
If you can't vacation abroad this year, head to Busch Gardens and hit up attractions that mildly represent the Euro life. Designed to resemble old world Europe (well, old world Europe if it had roller coasters that could take your breath away), Busch Gardens Williamsburg contains country-specific attractions on top of the rigmarole of coasters and whirly rides. Kids get to check out Scottish sheep-herding demonstrations and traditional Irish dancing while their parents celebrate the park's year-round Oktoberfest. Admission is $63.99 for adults, $53.99 for kids ages 3-9.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 4 of 11
3: Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio
They don't call it the roller coaster capital of the world for nothing. Armed with 17 different coasters, this park will score high for thrill-seekers but also offer a number of attractions for younger kids, too. Families can tackle just the park or add admission to Cedar Point's water park, Soak City, as well. The park also does a good job of providing amenities for families including private, rentable VIP cabanas where you can keep wallets and valuables, an indoor family care center for relaxing, lockers and stroller rentals. An added bonus is the parent swap program designed for parents who want to ride some of the adult attractions but have younger children. With the parent swap pass, one parent waits in line while the other takes the kid. After the ride is over, that parent hands the operator the ride pass, takes the child and allows the other parent to ride without having to wait in line. Admission without Soak City is $46.99 for guests over 48 inches tall; $21 for those under 48 inches or over age 61.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 5 of 11
4: Holiday World and Splashin Safari, Santa Claus, Indiana
You won't find Disney-level theme park amenities here, but you will get one of the country's most family-friendly theme park experiences. Small and family-run, this holiday-themed park has a few roller coasters but caters largely to kids ages 12 and below. On-site entertainment ranges from high-dive acts to story time with Santa himself. If you forgot anything, don't sweat it, the park's got you covered. Admission includes free unlimited drinks, sunscreen, parking, life jackets and access to the air-conditioned nursing mothers room. Strollers, wagons, scooters, wheelchairs, lockers and pet kennel facilities can be rented for a small fee. Regular admission is $42.95; $32.95 for guests under 54 inches or over age 59.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 6 of 11
5: Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Forget breaking the bank for a family day out; Knoebels prices their rides individually. Think anywhere from $0.75 for smaller rides, $3 for roller coasters and $5 for a bucket of balls to take to the on-site golf course. Entry to the park is free and includes certain attractions, such as access to the mining museum and bald-eagle habitat. Guests with tiny tots are welcome to chill by the on-site pool while older kids take on the more sophisticated rides. All-day passes and bargain packages are available starting at $9. Ride All Day tickets that include all attractions are $38.50 for guests 48 inches and taller; $25 for shorter kids.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 7 of 11
6: Islands of Adventure,
The prices make us want to puke, but it's hard to deny the coolness factor of Islands of Adventure, especially since the park opened its Harry Potter section. In addition to the nearly to-the-letter replica of the Harry Potter world, complete with a few rides Harry and his friends might take pause before embarking on, the park also contains attractions for kids of all ages as well as a live stunt show for when you need a breather. Extra points go to Islands for including an open play area and Dr. Seuss show for young tykes who may not want a constant barrage of rides. One-day entry is $74 for kids ages 3-9; $82 for those ages 10 and up.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 8 of 11
7: Sea World, San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando
Sea World wins a spot on here if for no other reason than it's the only theme park (to our knowledge) that allows you to check your kids in overnight. On top of rides, animal shows and exhibits, all three Sea World locations offer day camps for younger children and overnight camps for the older ones (more info on that here. Families who opt for the standard theme park experience can jazz up their time by throwing on a wet suit and jumping right in with dolphins, whales, sea lions or even sharks at the park's animal interaction sessions. Shows, rides and animal interactions vary from park to park, but you're guaranteed a good time at all three. One-day admission ranges from $47.50 to 71.99.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 9 of 11
8: Legoland, Carlsbad, California and Winterhaven, Florida
An entire theme park devoted to building blocks sounds lame, but actually the park's immaculate Lego sculptures are only a small part of the attraction. Catering almost exclusively to younger children, Legoland's real draw is the fact that's it's actually an alterna-theme park, containing traditional rides and attractions as well as other family-friendly activities like a fossil dig, Lego factory tour and mini golf. Come expecting to shell out some serious bucks but also be ready to take home some good memories. Admission for the basic Legoland park without water park or Sea Life aquarium entry is $65-$69 for adults ages 13 to 59; $55-$59 for kids and seniors.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 10 of 11
9: Indiana Beach, Monticello, Indiana
Finally, a park that won't break the bank. Part amusement park, part water park, Indiana Beach contains the standard allotment of roller coasters (including a 10-story beast called the Steel Hawg), mid-tier rides and those designed for smaller kids, but the real draw is that they offer it for less than half the cost of many of their larger competitors. In 2011, Indiana Beach will add a little something special for the older kids and their equally thrill-seeking parents: a zip line, high ropes course and rock climbing facilities. Admission to Indiana Beach rides only is $29.95 for those 48 inches and above, $19.95 for shorter guests. Water park and Adventure Point passes are extra.
The 10 Best Amusement Parks for Kids 11 of 11
10: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, New Braunfels, Texas
Schlitterbahn holds a place in our hearts because it's simply the most elaborate water park we've ever seen. Mentally accept the fact that it's a German-themed water park plopped down in Texas and you'll be treated to an assortment of delightful oddities such as Dragon's Revenge, a haunting tube ride that incorporates fake fog and faux fire. While the park will undoubtedly be crowded during the worst summer months, kids can escape to the myriad no-wait attractions while adults nosh on food purchased in the park or snacks they brought in from the outside world (that's allowed here!). Admission is $62.97 for adults, $54.97 for seniors and kids.