Thrill Roller Coaster; Courtesy of Cassiohabib/
All Ages

10 Electrifying Amusement Parks

See recent posts by Lissa Poirot

We’re not talking family theme parks where a giant mouse reigns supreme. We’re talking about family theme parks with thrilling roller coasters that make us shriek, scream and sometimes even cry when we’re done loop-de-looping and plummeting 100 stories at breakneck speeds. These amusement parks for families are perfect for thrill-seeking families, yet go above and beyond by also featuring things for toddlers and the not-ready-for-prime-time kids to do so. These are our favorite amusement parks for families.

Written by Lissa Poirot


Cedar Point - Sandusky, Ohio

One of the largest amusement parks in the world based on its number of rides and roller coasters -- 75 rides and 18 coasters -- visitors will twist, turn, drop, plunge, loop, swing and race to their rushing hearts' content at the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. Try Maverick, with a 400-foot-long tunnel; the 40-story-high Top Thrill Dragster with a 420-foot-tall tower; or Valravn, the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in the world. The amusement park has a 38-acre water park for even more thrills and spills.

What's New: Steel Vengeance, which features a wooden structure below and a steel track above, is now the tallest, fastest and longest hybrid roller coaster in the world!

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: Cedar Point trains kids to love thrills at an early age, with rides that will spin and drop for those under 3 feet tall. There are four different kid areas in the park, so you can stay close to your bigger kids riding the rails, and two Family Care Centers provide a quiet and comfortable place to nurse and change diapers.

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN

In the heart of the Smoky Mountains, you can catch a ride on a Tennessee Tornado or a Wild Eagle at the theme park created and named for area resident, Dolly Parton. Wild Eagle is the first wing coaster in the country, and you'll be so high you'll feel you have a birds' eye view. You can also experience drops from 20 stories on the Lightning Rod; Dollywood is clean-cut and a little bit cheeky, just like Dolly.

What's New: The new 230-foot Drop Line gives you awesome views of the mountains above Timber Canyon. Several new musical events and festivals will take place in 2018, too!

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: More than a dozen rides are available for kids under 3 feet in height, and there are tons of live shows the entire family will enjoy. Bottle warmers, nursing stations, changing stations, kids' meals, stroller and Baby Care Centers are offered in the park, along with a Parent Swap for adults and big kids to enjoy the coasters and wait with younger kids.

Hersheypark - Hershey, PA

While Hersheypark is technically a theme park with attractions centered around chocolate and its candy factory tour, it's still unique enough to fall into our category of amusement parks, with 14 roller coasters. The Sooperdooperlooper holds the title as the first looping coaster on the East Coast, and the park is friendly to height-challenged youngsters who are tired of being turned away from rides. Laff Trakk is sure to get everyone in the family laughing as they spin through glow-in-the-dark sights and sounds of vibrant characters, whimsical mirrors and more. Three drop towers with heights high into the sky are for the fearless.

What's New: In 2018, the park opened two new rides at the Boardwalk at Hersheypark. Breakers Edge Water Coaster, an open-air flying saucer with four-person rafts, and Whitecap Racer, the longest mat racing slide in the world, are making a splash this year.

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: There are more than two dozen kiddie rides, and the family-friendly park categorizes its rides into six different height zones. Free admission to the neighboring Chocolate World with candy-themed rides and attractions is a great break for little ones, and the park features quiet areas and a nursing mothers station.

Kings Island - Mason, Ohio

There must be something in the Ohio air, because a second amusement park in the state makes our cut. From its famed "Beast" - the world's longest wooden roller coaster at 7,400 feet across 35 wooded acres - to intoxicating coasters with inversions, suspensions, catapult, high speed and dizzying heights, such as Xtreme Skyflyer, where you'll hang glide from 153 feet at 60 miles per hour, Kings Island has it all!

What's New: The Beast still rules but the wooden coaster, Mystic Timber, joined the fray and reaches speeds of 53 miles per hour.

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: There are tons of rides with no minimal height up to 3 feet in height for toddlers to experience, including water flumes, trains, flyers and carousels. Kids 3 and younger do not pay for admission, and for parents and big kids wanting to ride the coasters, a Parent Swap line alternative is available.

Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO

In the heart of the Ozarks awaits Silver Dollar City, with its scream-worthy collection of nine thrill rides, including the Outlaw Run, one of the world's top-rated wooden rollercoasters. The park offers more than 40 rides to visitors to enjoy.

What's New: Construction is finally complete on the highly anticipated new scream machine, Time Traveler. It is the world's fastest, steepest and tallest, SPINNING roller coaster! It reaches speeds of 50.3 miles per hour and has a 90-degree vertical drop. This one is not for the faint of heart!

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: Silver Dollar City's attractions are most welcoming to families, with a number of rides for children feet in height. Nursing stations, family restrooms, the ability to warm bottles at all restaurants, stroller rentals and daily locker rentals are available for families.

Six Flags - Nationwide

No matter where you live, a jaunt on the fear-inspiring roller coasters of a Six Flags park is easy to come by. California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York or Texas -- pick your poison. Time and again, rankings of America's best roller coasters turn up results at the Six Flags Great Adventure (New Jersey), Six Flags Great America (Chicago) and Six Flags New England (Massachusetts), so if you can trek to one of these parks, you'll encounter some of the fastest and highest coaster rides.

What's New: The parks are often adding new rides each year, such as the 12-story-tall, free-flying coaster The Joker, bringing twisted laughs around the country.

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: The Bugs Bunny-themed play areas and rides for toddlers with no minimum height requirements includes a treehouse climbing structure. Six Flags offers Baby Care Centers with bottle warmers and a comfortable place to nurse, with these and every restroom offering baby changing stations. If kids aren't tall enough to ride a ride, take part in the Kid Swap, where taller members can ride one at a time and swap places in line to stay with younger children and not miss out on the fun.

Universal's Islands of Adventure - Orlando

Even before Harry Potter and his Wizarding World descended upon Universal's Islands of Adventure, this park has been a hit with the 'tween and teen crowd too bored with the "kiddie" rides at the other Orlando theme parks (in their words, not ours!). Feel the Hulk's rage as you speed from 0 to 40 mph in two seconds on the Incredible Hulk Coaster. Dog another coaster as you wind around in the Dragon Challenge, or get over your fear of heights in Doctor Doom's Fearfall (well, maybe not).

What's New: Islands of Adventure took a backseat to Universal's new Volcano Bay, but added a King Kong-themed ride in 2016.

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: While the scream-inducing rides are here, so are the more family- and tot-friendly rides, so all ages can enjoy a day at the park. Kids' play areas can be found at Camp Jurassic, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, If I Ran the Zoo and Me Ship, The Olive. The park offers a Child Swap program, single and double stroller rentals, multiple nursing facilities and diaper-changing facilities in all restrooms, as well as family restrooms.

Universal Studios, Hollywood and Orlando

This dual theme park on the West and East Coast is filled with thrills for big kids, from zombies in the Walking Dead to wild car chases in the Fast & Furious to encounters with a T-Rex is Jurassic Park to the wizardry of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Special events at Universal Studios throughout the year target kids who want to get their shriek on. Don't miss the "Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon," featuring the late-night talk show host, at the Orlando location.

What's New: The Orlando location welcomed Fast & Furious: Supercharged recently where there are iconic vehicles and memorable location from the movie as you race through the experience. The ride also features a "virtual line" allowing guests to select a return time so you don't need to waste time waiting.

But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: The Super Silly Fun Land play zone with 80 different water play features that will keep kids cool in the heat of summer is located right next door to Despicable Me, a family-friendly ride. Characters can be found roaming the park, and studio tours on a slow-moving tram can be enjoyed with young ones. A Child Switch option is available on big rides.


Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.