Best Amusement Parks 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  

Hersheypark, Hershey, PA

Hersheypark, Hershey, PA

Chocolate lovers of all ages will be in heaven at Hershey Park. Family travel expert and founder of Kidventurous.com, Erin Gifford says, "You can listen to singing cows and learn how chocolate is made from bean to bar at Chocolate World before riding multiple roller coasters and floating along a lazy river just next door at Hersheypark." Before you go, download the free mobile app to plan your day and navigate the park. While you might be here for the free chocolate samples, your kids won’t want to miss 3 new rides just for them, including the Cocoa Cruiser, a pint-sized roller coaster. 960 1280

The Hershey Company  

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  

Cedar Point, Ohio

Cedar Point, Ohio

Our resident daredevil Bert Kreischer, host of Trip Flip, has visited amusement parks all around the world, but Cedar Point, located in Sandusky, OH, remains his number one pick. Cedar Point boasts to be the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World “ with 72 rides, including 17 roller coasters and more than 10 miles of roller coaster track. "Hands-down, no questions asked, the number 1 thrill park in the world. They have more intense rides per square inch than anywhere I've ever been in my entire life," says Kreischer. For an unforgettable "race to the sky" in 17 seconds, ride the accelerator roller coaster, Top Thrill Dragster. Or test your vocal chords on the newest ride opening this summer, Pipe Scream, a thrill ride that careens over 302 feet of track, flying 43 feet above the midway at 43 mph. 960 1280

Cedar Point  

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 Parks and Water Parks 2014 Advisors

Meet our panel of advisors for our Best Amusement Parks list.

Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks: Fan Favorite

Tell us what amusement park or water park is your favorite!

Travel's Best Amusement Parks

Get our list of the best amusement and water parks for 2014.
Goliath

Hottest Amusement Park Attractions 2014

Get the inside scoop on the hottest new attractions to hit amusement parks around the globe, courtesy of roller-coaster reviewer and coaster enthusiast Robb Alvey.
Goliath (Six Flags Great America - Gurnee, IL)

Goliath (Six Flags Great America - Gurnee, IL)

Following up Silver Dollar City's opening of Outlaw Run in 2013, Rocky Mountain Construction is building yet another world record-breaking, wooden roller coaster for Six Flags Great America. Goliath will be the world’s fastest, tallest and steepest wooden roller coaster, plunging 180 feet at 85 degrees and traveling at 72 mph. 960 1280

Six Flags Great America  

Banshee (Kings Island - Mason, OH)

Banshee (Kings Island - Mason, OH)

At just over 4,124 feet long, Banshee will be the world’s longest inverted roller coaster. Riders will hit 7 inversions, where the track will turn adrenaline junkies upside-down and then right-side up. This ride will reach top speeds of 68 mph. 960 1280

Kings Island  

Helix (Gothenburg, Sweden)

Helix (Gothenburg, Sweden)

Right in the heart of Gothenburg, Sweden, Liseberg amusement park will open the multi-launched roller coaster Helix in 2014. Riders will travel more than 4,530 feet of track and 7 different inversions. Mack Rides developed this coaster and built Blue Fire, featured on Insane Coaster Wars Season 2. 960 1280

Liseberg  

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom - Orlando, FL)

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom - Orlando, FL)

A new breed of family thrills opens at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 2014. The masterminds behind this homage to the 1937 flick Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will offer a new element never before seen at any Disney park. The mine cars on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will swing and rock back and forth as the cars navigate the track to simulate being in a real mine shaft. 960 1280

Disney  

Kentucky Kingdom Reopening (Louisville, KY)

Kentucky Kingdom Reopening (Louisville, KY)

After several attempts to revive Louisville's Kentucky Kingdom, Ed Hart, the former operator of the amusement park, and a group of investors will reopen Kentucky Kingdom in 2014. A $7 million steel roller coaster and expanded Hurricane Bay waterpark will be added to the remodeled tourist attraction. 960 1280

Kentucky Kingdom  

Falcon's Fury (Busch Gardens - Tampa Bay, FL)

Falcon's Fury (Busch Gardens - Tampa Bay, FL)

It might just be the most terrifying drop tower ever created! Falcon’s Fury will lift riders 300 feet into the air, tilt them 90 degrees, and give them a clear view of the ground before dropping them at 60 mph. This ride is going to be absolutely insane! 960 1280

Busch Gardens  

FireChaser Express (Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, TN)

FireChaser Express (Dollywood - Pigeon Forge, TN)

Dollywood’s tagline for this family-friendly coaster is "Heroes come in all sizes!” FireChaser Express climbs nearly 80 feet and launches riders back and forth. With a height restriction of 39 inches, this thrill ride is where the entire family can scream together. 960 1280

Dollywood  

Medusa Steel Coaster (Six Flags - Mexico City)

Medusa Steel Coaster (Six Flags - Mexico City)

With the success of Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas in 2013, Rocky Mountain Construction will work its magic again, transforming the wooden coaster Medusa at Six Flags Mexico. The remodeled coaster, Medusa Steel Coaster, will be one of the tallest, fastest hybrid roller coasters in the world, showcasing elements like an inverted first drop -- a feature never seen on any hybrid coaster. 960 1280

Six Flags  

Ratatouille (Disneyland Paris)

Ratatouille (Disneyland Paris)

Like Pooh's Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland and Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, Ratatouille is a newer breed of ride, using modern trackless vehicle technology. You won't see any track on the ground, and the maneuvers this ride is capable of doing are unbelievable! If this attraction turns out anything like “Pooh” or “Manor,” Disneyland Paris Resort will have its own popular ride for Disney fans! 960 1280

Disneyland Paris  

Flug der Dämonen (Heide Park - Soltau, Germany)

Flug der Dämonen (Heide Park - Soltau, Germany)

This new coaster is sure to become one of Europe's best steel coasters in 2014. Built in the Transsilvanien-themed section of Heide Park, Flug der Dämonen is expected to be one of the most impressive wing coasters built to date. Similar to X-Flight featured on Insane Coaster Wars Season 2, the ride has passengers sit on the outside of the track, while the train barrels through some impressive twists and turns. 960 1280

Heide Park  

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios - Osaka, Japan)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios - Osaka, Japan)

Universal is keeping the details about this amusement park attraction quiet, but rumors are that a new theme park will open in Japan similar to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, including Hogwarts Castle and the Forbidden Journey. 960 1280

Universal Studios  

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley (Universal Studios - Orlando)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley (Universal Studios - Orlando)

In what could be the most expansive theme park attraction ever, the new Harry Potter expansion will link Hogwarts at Islands of Adventure to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida via the Hogwarts Express. The new development will feature an attraction with a Gringotts Bank theme, accompanied by new shops, restaurants and nearly everything any Harry Potter fan would want in a multi-destination theme park experience. 960 1280

Universal Studios  

Zumanjaro - Drop of Doom (Six Flags Great Adventure - Jackson, NJ)

Zumanjaro - Drop of Doom (Six Flags Great Adventure - Jackson, NJ)

Don’t hop on this ride if you have a weak stomach. When Zumanjaro opens this year, it will be the world's tallest drop tower at a record-breaking 415 feet. Built on the side of the world's tallest roller coaster, Kingda Ka, this new ride has riders pause at the top for a few seconds before plummeting to the ground at 90 mph. 960 1280

Six Flags Great Adventure  

Cinecitta World (Rome)

Cinecitta World (Rome)

A fascinating new $700 million theme park is rising just outside of Rome. Cinecitta World will be a beautifully detailed park featuring roller coasters, thrill rides, family rides and movie sets based on the 3,000 movies and television shows that have been produced by Italy's Cinecitta Studios to date. 960 1280

Cinecitta