Best Aquariums in the US
Ever wanted to touch a shark or stingray? How about see New England’s only white beluga whales? Discover amazing secrets of the sea at the best aquariums in the US.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans)Come face to face with an array of sealife at a 400,000-gallon water tank filled with stingrays, sea turtles -- and 17-foot-long sharks! They’re all part of the Gulf of Mexico exhibit at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. The aquarium showcases aquatic life throughout North and South America. 960 1280
Texas State Aquarium (Corpus Christi, TX)At the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, visitors can see the 2 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins -- Shadow and Kai above water … and below, courtesy of an underwater viewing room that features a 70-foot-long window. 960 1280
Ripley’s Aquarium (Gatlinburg, TN)In the heart of the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find Ripley’s Aquarium. The facility in Gatlinburg, TN, is home to 10,000 sea creatures, representing more than 350 individual species, such as giant stingrays, snappers and some very large sharks -- as long as 13 feet! 960 1280
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (Kure Beach, NC)It’s only fitting that the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher should be located near … Cape Fear! You and the kids will encounter plenty of fear-factor moments: Touch a live shark, discover North Carolina’s fiercest predator and come face-to-face with an alligator -- if you dare. 960 1280
National Aquarium (Baltimore)You’ll find all kinds of fish at the Baltimore National Aquarium. Since it opened in 1981, the aquarium has garnered an astonishing collection of sea life: nearly 20,000 specimens representing 660 species. 960 1280
Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport, OR)Wow, are we underwater, Dad? It’ll feel like it as you and the kids journey through this underwater tunnel at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Cool views like this help explain why the facility in Newport, OR, has been ranked one of the top 10 aquariums in North America by Coastal Living magazine. 960 1280
Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, CA)This 5-acre site in Long Beach, CA, is home to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The little ones will enjoy plenty of interactive fun: Kids can pet sharks and stingrays, and feed nectar to parrots known as lorikeets. 960 1280
Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA)Did you know that corals are animals, not plants? Your kids will learn these and other facts at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Coral Reef Kingdom. See them ooh and aww at the colorful ocean homes where these tiny animals live in colonies. Also check out the aquarium's other attractions, including stingrays, jellyfish and sea otters. 960 1280
New England Aquarium (Boston)These brave kids stick their hands in the “touch tank,” as stingrays glide through the clear shallow water. Kids (and adults) can touch various species of sharks and rays at Boston's New England Aquarium, including cownose rays, southern stingrays and coral catsharks. 960 1280
John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago)You’re looking at one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago houses more than 5,000,000 gallons of water in which 25,000 fish (and counting!) make their home. 960 1280
Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta)How’s this for big: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta contains between 100,000 and 120,000 fish and other sea creatures. One of the biggest reasons to visit is to see the aquarium’s whale sharks -- it’s the only institution outside of Asia to house this particular shark species. 960 1280
Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga, TN)Come face to face with sharks at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, TN. The captive sharks may look menacing but they're typically not a threat to humans. Unless, of course, you engage in some spearfishing -- fortunately, not an option at this aquarium! 960 1280
Waikiki Aquarium (Honolulu)Just what makes a fish a fish? Find out at the Waikiki Aquarium, the third oldest aquarium in the US. At the aquarium’s very official Fish School, kids as young as 5 can learn all about the many critters of the sea and their amazing adaptations to their environment. Don’t worry, though, it’s not all learn and no play -- the class includes a scavenger hunt among the exhibits.
Newport Aquarium (Newport, KY)Sharks, sharks and more sharks! Sand tiger, sandbar, whitetip, blacktip reef and zebra -- see these intriguing shark species glide above your head in Newport Aquarium’s underwater tunnel. Also explore the aquariums additional attractions, such as the Jellyfish Gallery, Frog Bog (home to 20 species of exotic frogs) and Gator Alley, where visitors can stare into the eyes of Tut, their Nile crocodile.
New York Aquarium (Brooklyn, NY)See these cute black-footed penguins at the New York Aquarium, located on Coney Island. As the oldest continually operating aquarium in the US, the aquarium holds no shortage of marine mammals and aquatic life, from sea lions, otters and walruses, to cownose rays and moray eels. 960 1280
Downtown Aquarium DenverYes, even mermaids live at the aquarium … or at least put on a good show. At Downtown Aquarium Denver, see live mermaid performances in the Under the Sea exhibit. Also check out the aquarium’s exhibits spanning barrier reefs, rainforest, wharf and desert habitats. 960 1280
Downtown Aquarium HoustonHouston’s 6-acre Downtown Aquarium is home to a veritable who’s who of aquatic animals: Electric eels, nurse sharks and stingrays are among the 200 diverse species of underwater life found here. In between exploring exhibits like the Louisiana Swamp (yes, alligators live here) and the Rainforest, unwind at the aquarium’s Dive Lounge. 960 1280
Castle Park in Riverside, California
In Southern California, head to Castle Park. You’ll love the park’s medieval castle, mini golf course and 21 amusement rides, such as Merlin’s Revenge and Dragon Flyer (pictured).
More California Amusement Parks:
Adventure City - Anaheim
Belmont Park - San Diego
California's Great America - Santa Clara
Castle Park - Riverside
Children's Fairyland - Oakland
Funderland Amusement Park - Sacramento
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park - Gilroy960 1280
Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Beyond Disneyland’s entrance, the wonder of childhood dreams await: Step inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle; take a ride through Splash Mountain; and hop aboard a carriage as you take in the sights of Main Street, in the “happiest place on Earth.”
More California Amusement Parks:
Knott's Berry Farm -- Buena Park
Pacific Park -- Santa Monica
Pixieland Amusement Park -- Concord
Rotary Storyland & Playland -- Fresno
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk -- Santa Cruz960 1280
Legoland in Carlsbad, California
Love Legos? You got to visit this Legoland -- the first one outside of Europe. Spread across 128 acres in Carlsbad, California, "Legoland greets the kids with a welcoming dinosaur right by the entrance. Lie inside a life-sized dinosaur footprint on Dino Island; venture into the wilds of Africa in Duplo Village or get soaked with 350 gallons of water at the waterpark.
More California Amusement Parks:
Scandia Amusement Park -- Sacramento and Victorville960 1280
SeaWorld San Diego
A San Diego attraction since 1964, SeaWorld San Diego upped the ante in summer 2012 when it launched Manta, the mega-coaster that features two launches of up to 43 m.p.h. Manta joins park mainstays like the Dolphin Point exhibit, the Bayside Skyride gondola ride and the Sky Tower, a 320-foot-high panoramic tower.
More California Amusement Parks:
Six Flags Magic Mountain -- Valencia
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom -- Vallejo960 1280
Universal Studios Hollywood in CaliforniaDon’t panic! That guy going up in smithereens is part of the moviemaking magic at Universal Studios Hollywood. The movie studio is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood movie studios still in operation. One of its theme park highlights is Transformers: The Ride, which opened in 2012 featuring 3-D technology, fight simulation and more!
Elitch Gardens Theme Park in DenverFrom late April through Halloween, this seasonal, 70-acre park in Denver is worth a family’s visit. With 30 rides, including nine roller coasters, Elitch Gardens's attractions include Half Pipe, a snowboard ride that will have you thrashing and spinning around … and around. Plus, cool off in Elitch’s waterpark. 960 1280
Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut
You’re looking at the oldest continuously-operating amusement park in the U.S. Lake Compounce first opened its doors in 1846. Today, the amusement park spans 332 acres, with more than 40 rides, including Thunder n' Lightning (pictured). The park also has a beach and waterpark.
More Connecticut Amusement Parks:
Quassy Amusement Park -- Middlebury960 1280
Funland in Rehoboth, DelawareThere’s something for the whole family at Funland. Choose from among 19 rides -- everything from the carousel to the more fast-paced Sea Dragon thrill ride. The kids and you can also enjoy games, from Ring Fling to amusement-park fave Whac-a-Mole. Perhaps the coolest part about Funland: Many of the rides are decades old, so adults can enjoy a walk down memory lane while the kids discover rides for the first time. 960 1280
Aquatica Orlando in Florida
There’s a reason this is the ninth-most visited amusement park in the U.S.: Spanning 200 acres, Aquatica Orlando showcases live shows and animal exhibits -- stingrays, turtles, flamingos and more -- plus rides like Dolphin Plunge, the most popular ride in the park.
More Florida Amusement Parks:
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay -- Tampa
Fun Spot -- Kissimmee
Fun Spot -- Orlando
Legoland Florida -- Winter Haven
Old Town -- Kissimmee960 1280
Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida
What kid wouldn’t love swimming with (and smooching!) a bottlenose dolphin? Interactive fun is yours at Discovery Cove. Also snorkel alongside rays in the Grand Reef and wade through water in the Freshwater Oasis, where a face-to-face encounter with an otter awaits.
More Florida Amusement Parks:
Sam's Fun City -- Pensacola
Silver Springs -- Ocala
Weeki Wachee Springs -- Spring Hill960 1280
SeaWorld Orlando in FloridaAlong with Discovery Cove and Aquatica, this massive theme park is part of the SeaWorld Parks and Resorts entertainment complex. You could spend days in this one alone: Spanning 200 acres, SeaWorld Orlando boasts four roller coasters, including the fierce Manta and Kraken. 960 1280
Walt Disney World in Orlando, FloridaIt’s a small world after all… except at Walt Disney World! As the largest vacation resort in the world -- and the most visited -- this legendary entertainment complex is pretty darn big: over 30,000 acres, with 24 themed resorts, four theme parks and two aterparks. 960 1280
Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, Georgia
Just west of Atlanta, Six Flags Over Georgia spans 290 acres, with more than 40 rides -- including Batman: The Ride (pictured). Twirl in a 98-foot-wide circle -- as your feet dangle 24 stories above ground and wind blows in your face at 40 m.p.h. You just might scream.
More Georgia Amusement Parks:
Lake Winnepesaukah -- Rossville
Wild Adventures -- Valdosta
Silverwood in Athol, IdahoLive in the Northwest? You’ll want to check out Silverwood. Spread across 413 acres, the amusement park is the largest theme and waterpark in the region. Silverwood has more than 65 rides, slides and other attractions. Top draws include Silverwood’s Aftershock, the champion of inverted coasters! 960 1280
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois
Another reason Chicago is our kind of town: Six Flags Great America. Located in Chi-town’s metro area, this theme park boasts 51 rides (including 13 roller coasters and four water rides) spread across 304 acres. Hop aboard Columbia Carousel, the world’s tallest carousel, and Raging Bull, the park’s tallest, longest and fastest coaster.
More Illinois Amusement Parks:
Santa's Village Azoosment Park -- East Dundee960 1280
Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana
This combo theme park-waterpark in southern Indiana celebrates the holiday spirit year-round; Holiday World is divided into four themes: Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and July Fourth. Lest you start thinking this is some folksy traditional hangout, Holiday World’s Voyage coaster will set you straight.
More Indiana Amusement Parks:
Indiana Beach -- Monticello960 1280
Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa
This family-owned amusement park has you covered, with more than 100 rides, shows and attractions. Adventureland spans 180 acres, making it the biggest family resort in all of Iowa. Don’t miss the Giant Skywheel, the largest open-gondola wheel built in the U.S. since the 1800s. Plus, take a dip in Adventure Bay waterpark.
More Iowa Amusement Parks:
Arnolds Park Amusement Park -- Arnolds Park960 1280
Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky
If you’re in Kentucky with the kids, Beech Bend is the place to go. Take a ride on one of three coasters (Kentucky Rumbler is the star, with a 96-foot drop). Enjoy Granny Jones’ Petting Farm (sheep, goats and more); and ride Sea Dragon, which was purchased from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
More Kentucky Amusement Parks:
Guntown Mountain -- Cave City960 1280
Carousel Gardens in New Orleans
The 15 rides at this seasonally operated amusement park will have your kids smiling. Hop aboard the antique coaster -- one of only 100 carousels of its kind in the U.S. -- that’s been a fixture of Carousel Gardens for more than a century. Take a ride on the Miniature Train, or cool off with a trip down the Fun Slide.
More Louisiana Amusement Parks:
Dixie Landin' -- Baton Rouge960 1280
Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco, Maine
This family-owned amusement park features Excalibur, the only wooden roller coaster in Maine; it’s also the tallest and longest roller coaster in northern New England. Funtown’s other attractions include Dragon’s Descent (a 220-foot-tall drop tower) and Splashtown waterpark, with 18 waterslides and pools.
More Maine Amusement Parks:
Palace Playland -- Old Orchard Beach
York's Wild Kingdom -- York Beach960 1280
Six Flags America in Mitchellville, Maryland
Just 15 miles from D.C., and 30 miles southwest of Baltimore, Maryland’s only theme park goes all out, with more than 100 rides, slides and shows. Of them all, Six Flags America’s top attraction is Superman: Ride of Steel, one of the tallest coasters on the East Coast.
More Maryland Amusement Parks:
Frontier Town -- Berlin
Jolly Ranger -- Ocean City
Trimper Rides -- Ocean City960 1280
Six Flags New England in Agawam, Massachusetts
Visiting Connecticut or Massachusetts this summer? Take the kids to Six Flags New England. Less than a mile from the Connecticut border, and three miles from Springfield, Massachusetts, this park houses Superman: The Ride, formerly called Bizarro, one of the world’s top coasters with a new virtual reality feature.
More Massachusetts Amusement Parks:
Edaville USA -- Carver
Salem Willows -- Salem960 1280
Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon, Michigan
You want adventure? You’ve come to the right place! Spanning 250 acres, Michigan’s Adventure is the largest amusement park in the state, with 53 rides -- including Shivering Timbers roller coaster -- as well as WildWater Adventure, an outdoor waterpark.
More Michigan Amusement Parks:
Crossroads Village -- Crossroads Village
Deer Acres Storybook Amusement Park -- Pinconning
Dutch Village -- Holland
Stagecoach Shop USA -- Irish Hills960 1280
Valleyfair Amusement Park in Shakopee, Minnesota
This 125-acre playground is your ticket to fun! At Valleyfair Amusement Park, choose from among 48 rides, including eight roller coasters -- try Wild Thing, a steel beast that’s currently the tallest coaster in the park.
More Minnesota Amusement Parks:
Como Town -- St. Paul960 1280
Six Flags in St. Louis, Missouri
Home to nearly 10 roller coasters, Six Flags St. Louis added Boomerang to its lineup in 2013. The steel roller coaster leads you on a pulsating vertical loop ride reaching speeds of 47 m.p.h. -- in just under two minutes. Keep the adrenaline pumping at Six Flag’s Hurricane Harbor water park, home to Bonzai Pipeline, the looping waterslide.
More Missouri Amusement Parks:
Route 66 Carousel Park -- Joplin
Silver Dollar City -- Branson
Worlds of Fun -- Kansas City960 1280
Fun-Plex in Omaha, NebraskaTake the family to the largest amusement park in Nebraska. Fun-Plex is also home to the Big Ohhhhhh!!! -- the only roller coaster in the state. Also enjoy a “Putt-Terrific” 18-hole golf course, a twisty ride down a five-story waterslide and slip-and-slide fun in a speedy go-kart. 960 1280
The Roller Coaster in Las Vegas, Nevada
Head to the New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the Strip for the ride of your life: a 203-foot lift, then a 144-foot drop -- that’s just the start of what awaits aboard The Roller Coaster. Did we mention the speed on this exhilarating ride is 67 m.p.h.
More Nevada Amusement Parks:
Buffalo Bill's Hotel and Casino -- Primm
Stratosphere Tower Thrill Rides -- Las Vegas960 1280
Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire
Since 1953, Santa’s Village has entertained the whole family with holiday magic. Ride above the trees in Santa’s Skyway Sleigh; hop aboard Rudolph on the Reindeer Carousel; and get behind the wheel of a bumper car -- they’re among the 16 rides the kids will enjoy at this Christmas-themed amusement park.
More New Hampshire Amusement Parks:
Canobie Lake Park -- Sale
Clark's Trading Post -- North Woodstock
Hampton Beach -- Hampton Beach
Six Gun City -- Jefferson
Story Land -- Glen960 1280
Luna Park in Coney Island, New York
Ride the granddaddy of all roller coasters: Coney Island’s Cyclone. Luna Park’s other thrill rides include Elctro Spin and Sling Shot -- who wouldn’t want to get shot up over 150 feet in the air… at 90 mph?
More New York Amusement Parks:
Adventureland -- Farmingdale
Darien Lake -- Darien Center
Deno's Wonder Wheel -- Coney Island
Enchanted Forest -- Old Forge
The Great Escape -- Queensbury960 1280
Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina
More North Carolina Amusement Parks:
Ghost Town in the Sky -- Maggie
Gold City -- Franklin
Santa's Land -- Cherokee
Tweetsie Railroad -- Bowling Rock
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
More Ohio Amusement Parks:
Coney Island -- Cincinnati
Jungle Jack's Landing -- Powell
King's Island -- Mason
Memphis Kiddie Park -- Brooklyn
Stricker's Grove -- Hamilton960 1280
Oaks Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon
A short way’s from downtown Portland is Oaks Amusement Park. Spread across 44 acres, the park includes Looping Thunder, a steel looping roller coaster; Disk'O, a pulsating flat ride; and the Rock-O-Plane, kind of like a Ferris wheel, only these seats rock and roll!
More Oregon Amusement Parks:
Enchanted Forest -- Salem960 1280
Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania
“Two Great Parks for the Price of One” is no exaggeration: Located between N.Y.C. and Philadelphia, Dorney Park is also home to Wildwater Kingdom waterpark. Try braving Steel Force, the world’s ninth-longest steel roller coaster. Or kick back in a cabana rental within the waterpark.
More Pennsylvania Amusement Parks:
Bushkill Park -- Easton
DelGrosso Amusement Park -- Tipton
Dutch Wonderland -- Lancaster
Idlewild and Story Book Forest -- Ligonier
Kennywood -- West Mifflin
Knoebels Amusement Resort -- Elysburg960 1280
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania
More than 65 rides and other attractions await at this oh-so-sweet family theme park. Head to Hersheypark for a mix of high-adrenaline thrill rides and more laid-back fun, from the extreme coaster Skyrush, to the more leisurely Intercoastal Waterway water ride.
More Pennsylvania Amusement Parks:
Lakemont Park -- Altoona
Sesame Place -- Langhorne
Waldemeer Park -- Erie960 1280
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Head to the biggest ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee: Spread across 150 acres, Dollywood showcases 27 rides, including six roller coasters: You owe it to yourself to try Dollywood’s Thunderhead -- our own Bert Kreischer calls it the best wooden coaster he’s ridden!
More Tennessee Amusement Parks:
Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park -- Chattanooga
Fun Mountain -- Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg -- Gatlinburg960 1280
Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas
“Slippery road” is what this waterpark’s name literally translates to -- and with three locations in Texas, Schlitterbahn delivers with tube chutes, kiddie pools and water coasters. Brave the Downhill Racer -- we dare you not to scream.
More Texas Amusement Parks:
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier -- Galveston
Joyland -- Lubbock
Kemah Boardwalk -- Kemah
Kiddie Acres -- Austin
Kiddie Park -- San Antonio
Six Flags Over Texas -- Arlington960 1280
SeaWorld San Antonio in Texas
One of the largest of the three parks in the SeaWorld chain, SeaWorld San Antonio spans 250 acres, with a marine mammal park, oceanarium and theme park. See One Ocean (the newest Shamu show), explore aviary habitats, and ride on The Great White, the park’s first coaster, which reaches speeds of 50 m.p.h.
More Texas Amusement Parks:
Six Flags Fiesta Texas -- San Antonio960 1280
Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington
Every spring and summer, Spokane’s 100-acre Riverfront Park sees its Pavilion transformed into an amusement park wonderland: Enjoy rides like the Sizzler, which speeds up to 70 m.p.h., and the Spider, which, you guessed it, will have you spinning and twirling.
More Washington Amusement Parks:
Wild Waves -- Federal Way
Fun Forest -- Seattle960 1280
Complete Guide to U.S. Amusement Parks 40 Photos