Best Amusement and Water Parks 2014

travels-best-amusement-parks

Marcio Silva

Ready for a heart-pounding ride on a death-defying roller coaster? Or is an inner tube float around a lazy river more your speed? Maybe a fun outing for your family includes chocolate tasting or listening to country music? Whatever thrills you seek, there's an amusement park or water park perfect for you and your family.

We pulled together a panel of amusement park and water park experts -- including our resident daredevil and host of Trip Flip Bert Kreischer, roller coaster reviewer Robb Alvey and Insane Coaster Wars executive producer Steve VanDis -- to give thrill seekers the inside scoop on the best amusement parks and water parks all over the world. Our advisors for Travel's Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks scoured the globe in search of the coolest theme parks with the most hair-raising, heart-pumping roller coasters and rides.

Meet our advisors and see what parks made this year’s list. And let us know if we missed one of your favorite parks. Go to our Fan Favorite page and tell us why your favorite amusement park or water park should be added to Travel’s Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks.

Epcot at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Travel's Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks 2014

From Tokyo’s DisneySea to Tennessee’s Dollywood, our advisors handpicked the most thrilling theme parks for our family fun list, Travel's Best Amusement and Water Parks 2014.
Epcot at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Epcot at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Theme parks aren’t just for kids, especially ones like Epcot at Walt Disney World. "While it has fun and thrilling attractions for the whole family, including Test Track, Mission: SPACE, Soarin', Spaceship Earth, etc., the real attractions at Epcot are the World Showcase's 11 countries, where you can sample food and drinks from Germany, Mexico, Norway, Canada, Japan, Italy, France...," says Alvey. In the fall, Epcot's World Showcase transforms into the International Food & Wine Festival, an event featuring food and drink samples from nearly 30 different countries. 960 1280

Gene Duncan, Disney  

Aquaventure, Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

Aquaventure, Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

While the region's beautiful beaches might beckon you to the Bahamas, your kids will be in paradise at the largest water park in the Caribbean, Aquaventure at Atlantis. A free perk for overnight guests of the Atlantis resort, the water park has it all: a gentle lazy river, exciting rapid rides and multiple water slides that take guests on huge vertical drops, around 5-story corkscrews and along twisting water coasters. "Kids will love jungle-themed slides and fountains, as well as Splasher's, a Mayan-themed water playground that’s perfect for the smallest guests," adds Gifford. 960 1280

Courtesy of Kerzner International  

Schlitterbahn, Kansas City

Schlitterbahn, Kansas City

Get ready for the world’s tallest waterslide, set to open at Schlitterbahn in summer 2014. According to Insane Coaster Wars producer Steve VanDis, the excitement is building for this one. "This 17-story waterslide will be the tallest waterslide in the world, with just the construction of this massive coaster dominating the skyline," he says. Those not so keen on stomach-hurling rides may be more comfortable floating on the lazy river or relaxing in a private beach cabana (which you can reserve ahead of time) while watching the kids play on 13 mini-slides. Looking to save money? Pack a picnic (you can bring your own food and drinks into the park) and grab a table near Henry’s Hideaway so you can have a breather while the kids play nearby, suggests VanDis. 960 1280

Schlitterbahn Kansas City  

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Calling all Dolly Parton and country music fans! Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood combines a family-fun atmosphere with down-home country music and fare, including a new lemonade stand featuring over 300 flavors. Kreischer says Dollywood is his favorite family-friendly park, and a perfect spot for a family reunion. Dollywood hosts 5 annual festivals in 2014, including the popular Barbeque & Bluegrass festival that pairs the best barbecue in the South with the biggest names in bluegrass (May 24 -June 8). Fair warning, don’t expect to see Dolly here in person, but you can visit Dolly’s Smoky Mountain Home, an attraction modeled after the country singer’s childhood home. 960 1280

Dollywood  

Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

When it comes to water parks, Kreischer’s pick is Noah's Ark, the largest water park in the US located in Wisconsin Dells, WI, and for one simple reason: Scorpion's Tail! "This is a ride you have to ride multiple times just to figure out what is happening to your body. You start in a coffin-like capsule, then the floor drops out from underneath you, and you freefall for roughly 40 to 50 feet before you're flipped upside down and around in the high-speed, G pulling loop. Before you know it you're squirted out for the masses with a look of shock on your face as they giggle and see you try to figure out what just happened," says Kreischer, who rode this ride over 20 times the first day it opened. Don’t miss trying to hang 10 on the park's newest attraction, Surfing Safari. Or for gentler rides, there’s Bumper Boats and several lazy rivers to relax on in family-size tubes. 960 1280

Noah’s Ark  

Busch Gardens, Virginia

Busch Gardens, Virginia

Don’t have the time or money to take the family to Europe? Head to Busch Gardens for a taste of the "Old World" culture in Williamsburg, VA, which features attractions like Escape from Pompeii, Loch Ness Monster and the 3-D ride, Europe in the Air. There’s more here than just the coasters according to VanDis. "Whether you’re here for the annual Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival or just enjoying the food stands and eateries, the food is always amazing. I love the BBQ spot and I try to stop by every time I’m there," he says. Steve’s all-time favorite coaster? Griffon. At over 200 feet high, it’s still the fastest dive coaster in the world, reaching speeds over 70 mph. Just plan on eating after riding this one. 960 1280

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment  

Tokyo DisneySea, Japan

Tokyo DisneySea, Japan

"There is nothing like Tokyo DisneySea anywhere else on the planet. The moment you step foot inside the park you are transported to another world unlike any other Disney park you've ever seen, with some of the best themed environments ever created," says Robb Alvey, theme park expert, Insane Coaster Wars. Attractions like Journey to the Center of the Earth (a thrilling voyage through the park's centerpiece volcano); a Japanese version of Tower of Terror; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; a section dedicated to The Little Mermaid, and the Raging Spirits roller coaster make up just a handful of the unique Disney rides and attractions found at this park. 960 1280

stevenocchipinti, flickr  

Blizzard Beach at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Blizzard Beach at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Walt Disney World has more to offer than just its 4 main parks – there is also a water park you can’t miss during your stay, too. "Themed as a 'ski resort that is melting' this water park stands out as my favorite water park in the world," says Alvey. There is something for everyone here. For thrill seekers, there is Summit Plummet, once the world's tallest water slide, and for families there are many different attractions including Teamboat Springs, Alvey’s favorite "family raft ride." 960 1280

Gene Duncan, Disney  

Best Amusement and Water Parks 2014 Advisors

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Travel's Best Amusement Parks

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