Travel's Best Amusement and Water Parks 2015
Photo By: SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando
Photo By: Carowinds
Photo By: Disney
Photo By: Joel Styer/Knoebels
Photo By: Knott’s Berry Farm
Photo By: Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts
Photo By: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Photo By: Six Flags
Photo By: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Photo By: Wet ’N’ Wild Hawaii
Aquatica, SeaWorld's Waterpark, Orlando
Ihu's Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld's Aquatica is billed as the tallest and steepest waterslide in Orlando, sending thrill-seekers 40 feet straight down before they twist and turn their way through the colorful slides. Race headfirst against 7 other guests on Taumata Racer, a high-speed racing slide, or wind down at the park’s lazy river. The popular wave pool and the splash fortress with a 500-gallon dumping water bucket will please even the smallest park guests.
Carowinds, Charlotte, NC
Standing 325 feet high, the new Fury 325 roller coaster at Carowinds is among the 5 tallest coasters in the world. Taller than the Statue of Liberty (305 feet), it sends riders racing up, down and around turns at 95 miles per hour. If you want even more heart-pumping action, Carowinds has 9 other roller coasters that offer drops, loops, turns and spins — both forward and backward.
Disneyland, Anaheim, CA
2015 marks the 60th anniversary of “the happiest place on Earth.” Disneyland will have its Diamond Celebration with a spectacular new nighttime parade and fireworks show. Along with mainstay attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which was upgraded last year), they will deftly stir emotions with eye-popping technology and huge doses of nostalgia, where the Mouse House excels.
Knoebels Amusement Park, Elysburg, PA
Plan to stay all day at Knoebels Amusement Resort, which is about 2 1/2 hours outside Philadelphia. Admission is free, and guests pay per ride. The newest attraction to grace the amusement park, Impulse, is a hair-raising roller coaster with a 90-degree vertical drop. There are also historic rides such as the 1948 classic wooden roller coaster Phoenix and a brass ring carousel, which is a rare find in the United States. And if you like camping, Knoebels features one of the largest campgrounds at any traditional amusement park.
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
For small-town charm and fantastic roller coasters, pay a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm (and save $25 per ticket if you purchase online in advance). This year, Voyage to the Iron Reef, a new 4-D interactive experience, has riders battle against the Queen of the Kraken and her army to save the park’s iconic attractions before they become scrap metal. Knott’s other thrills include the speedy Montezooma’s Revenge and the looping Boomerang, as well as various offerings for small screamers and kids just getting started on coasters.
Schlitterbahn, New Braunfels, TX
Stuffed to the gills with water fun, Schlitterbahn is an enormous, unique and innovative water park. Among its notable attractions are 2 of the world's firsts: the wavemaking Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride and the Master Blaster uphill water coaster, which sends passengers racing in the dark for a face-to-face encounter with a dragon. Thanks to the industry pioneers behind the circa-1979 Texas landmark, both attractions have become staples at many other parks.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Los Angeles
For a twisted new ride this summer, hop on the Twisted Colossus. According to Six Flags Magic Mountain, it has 5,000 feet of wood and steel track, making it the longest and most innovative hybrid coaster in the world. But Trip Flip host Bert Kreischer’s favorite ride in the world is Magic Mountain’s Superman: Escape From Krypton. “I spent the entire summer shooting a series for Travel Channel at this park, and every single day at sunset, the entire crew and I would meet at the 415-foot tower for 1 last ride before the park closed,” he says.
Six Flags White Water, Atlanta
Six Flags White Water offers fun for all ages, with rapids, twisters, free falls and tube rides, plus 3 kid-friendly zones — Captain Kid’s Cove, Lilypad Crossing and Tree House Island — with the oh-so-fun water-dumping buckets and splash play areas. This summer, the park is unleashing Dive Bomber, which drops brave riders through a trapdoor for a zero-gravity, 10-story, heart-stopping fall. If guests prefer more chill than thrill, White Water offers cabanas for families to relax and escape from the sun.
Splashin’ Safari Water Park, Santa Claus, IN
After taking a ride on the new $22 million Thunderbird roller coaster, cool down at Splashin’ Safari Water Park, part of the Holiday World theme park. Splashin’ Safari features 2 of the largest hydromagnetic water coasters in the world — the Mammoth and the Wildebeest, which are consistently ranked among the best water-park rides in the country. There’s also a variety of fun family attractions, including Monsoon Lagoon, the Bahari Wave Pool and Hyena Falls. Other great guest perks include free parking, soda, Wi-Fi and sunscreen. There’s never a dull — or dry! — moment at Splashin' Safari.
Wet ’n’ Wild Hawaii, Kapolei, HI
A trip to Oahu must always be accompanied by a visit to what might be one of the best water parks in the country, Wet ’n’ Wild Hawaii. The new Waimea Whirl, set to open this summer, is among several water thrills packed into the 29-acre park, which competes with some of the world’s best beaches. Shaka — a favorite ride of Bert Kreischer, host of Travel Channel’s Trip Flip and Bert the Conqueror — has a 2-person inner tube plummeting down more than 4 stories, and the ride doesn’t end until gravity and inertia are done with you.