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.

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fall, folaige, vermont, hogback mountain, greenery
Northeast: Vermont

Northeast: Vermont

"When I lived in Vermont, hundreds would come and ride the scenic train every fall." – Michele F. 960 1280

By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL  

Northeast: New Hampshire

Northeast: New Hampshire

"White Mountains in New Hampshire – Kencamagus Highway is gorgeous!" – Stephanie C. 960 1280

By Miles Scanlon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Northeast: Maine

Northeast: Maine

"Acadia National Park in Maine, of course!" – Darcy G. 960 1280

Jeff Gunn  

Northeast: New Jersey

Northeast: New Jersey

"Sculpture garden, Hamilton, N.J." – Jay P. 960 1280
Northeast: New York

Northeast: New York

"Thatcher State Park near Albany, N.Y.!" – Kelly B. 960 1280

Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images  

South: Tennessee

South: Tennessee

"Gatlinburg is absolutely beautiful! Can't beat the Smoky Mountains in the fall!!" – Amanda M. 960 1280

Chris Murray/Aurora/Getty Images  

South: Arkansas

South: Arkansas

"The Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. Very beautiful scenic beauty there also." – Matthew G. 960 1280

By Doug Wertman (Flickr: Overlooking The Buffalo River) [CC BY 2.0]  

Midwest: Ohio

Midwest: Ohio

"The covered bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio." – Marilue B. 960 1280

By IntuneDan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]  

Midwest: Minnesota

Midwest: Minnesota

"Northern Minnesota: the Iron Range or North Shore of Lake Superior. GORGEOUS!" – Ted G. 960 1280

By kkmarais [CC BY 2.0]  

Midwest: Illinois

Midwest: Illinois

"Galena, Illinois." – Seung K.

Whether you're window shopping on Main Street or watching the fall foliage creep over the countryside, it's small town Americana at its best.

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Bob Hallam/Getty Images  

Midwest: Wisconsin

Midwest: Wisconsin

"Door County in Wisconsin" – Kathy K.

Where brisk weather, vibrant forests and delicious farmers markets and orchards makes sure it feels, looks and tastes like fall.

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By Leif and Evonne [CC BY 2.0]  

Midwest: Michigan

Midwest: Michigan

"The upper peninsula of Pure Michigan! Copper Harbor and Tahquamenon Falls." – Michelle M. 960 1280

Danita Delimont, Getty Images  

Midwest: Indiana

Midwest: Indiana

"Indiana near the beautiful covered bridges". – L. Morrison 960 1280

By Cszmurlo [GFDL or CC BY 3.0]  

Midwest: Colorado

Midwest: Colorado

"I live in Colorado and a lot of local peeps go up on the Grand Mesa around color Sunday. All of the aspens, brush and other trees are very beautiful." – Shelli P. 960 1280
West: Idaho

West: Idaho

"McCall, Idaho!" – Alexis D.

Nowhere are the bursts of red and yellow more bright than beneath the aptly named Rainbow Bridge over the Payette River just two hours north of Boise.

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West: Washington

West: Washington

"Seattle, Washington"  – Sarah K.

You don’t have to go far to see Autumnal hues, picnic and play in fallen leaves at Woodland Park (just south of the zoo) or stroll along nearby Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Lost Meadow loop.

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Mid-Atlantic: North Carolina

Mid-Atlantic: North Carolina

"Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina." – David R. 960 1280
Mid-Atlantic: West Virginia

Mid-Atlantic: West Virginia

"Highland Scenic Highway, Pocahontas County, W.V."– Carol S. 960 1280

By Squashpup [GFDL  

Mid-Atlantic: Virginia

Mid-Atlantic: Virginia

"Charlottesville, Virginia (or better yet, at a nearby vineyard)." – Brian P. 960 1280
Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania

Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania

"Bucks County, Pennsylvania!" – Jeff H.

Embark on a tour of Bucks County’s charming covered bridges (there are 12 in all) or getting a bird’s-eye view of the countryside with the U.S. Hot Air Balloon team!

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Photos

Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

"For great package deals, check out the website HolidayPirates.com. They find incredible deals for packages, flights and more departing to and from Europe. I've found some incredible, hard-to-find offers on that website, like $500-roundtrip flights to Europe or $50 flights from Europe to Turkey." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

"US Airways offers economy round-trip tickets to Europe from North America for just 35,000 miles from Jan. 15 to Feb. 28. If you have their co-branded credit card, that price drops to 30,000 miles roundtrip. American Airlines also offers off-peak discounted award tickets to Europe from Oct. 15 to May 15 for 40,000 miles, down from the usual 60,000. If you have their co-branded credit card, you can even get 10% of those redeemed miles back, up to an annual cap." -- Summer Hull, Mommy Points 960 1280

Thinkstock   

Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

"Starwood Preferred Guest is a great hotel program, with a vast portfolio of hotels throughout the world. Redemptions start at just 2,000 points and members have the option to transfer points to dozens of airlines at a 1-to-1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus on every 20,000 points transferred." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

"Calling, texting and emailing while abroad can rack up thousands of dollars in fees. However, there are great apps like Viber that you can use for free with an internet connection. Viber users can send free text messages, photo messages, video messages and more with other users, and it’s compatible with iPhone, Android, and other major mobile and desktop devices." -- Brian Kelly, The Points Guy 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

"For a great-value trip, head to Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine) for very cheap destinations, great food, friendly people and few tourists. It's the medieval Europe you want without the crowds in Prague or Tallinn." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

"If you have a Costco membership, you can get good deals from Costco Travel such as no additional driver fees with certain rental companies. If booking abroad, AutoEurope.com gives good rates in Europe. I used it to book a wagon for a trip to Paris which saved me about 40% off booking directly with the rental company." -- Arthur Hsu, Mileage Runner 960 1280

iStock  

Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

"United MileagePlus is a great program, as it offers access to an extensive route network and award inventory. In short, they make it easy to redeem your miles. United miles are also easy to earn, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offering instant 1-to-1 transfer of points to United." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

Getty Images   

Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

"If you don’t want to constantly check and recheck websites for the best fares, then sign up for Yapta’s fare alerts. They will automatically keep you updated on the fares you are interested in. All you have to do is set the date(s), city pairs and the price point, and they will alert you via email." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

"When I shop around for hotels and car rentals, I don't think there is any better place than Priceline. But keep in mind when you use their Name Your Own Price feature, you can't cancel. Before I make a blind bid, I always log on to BiddingForTravel.com to see what other people's luck was with their bids. It shows how much people paid for which dates and will give you a pretty good idea of which hotel you will end up with." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

Getty Images   

Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

"The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers generous sign-up bonuses and flexible points that can be transferred to both airline and hotel partners. The Sapphire Preferred makes it easy to amass points quickly, with 2x points on travel and dining. The original signup bonuses can be worth over $500 in travel after you meet the required minimum spend, within the first 3 months typically." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Knott's Scary Farm (Buena Park, CA)

Knott's Scary Farm (Buena Park, CA)

"In late fall, Southern California's Knott's Berry Farm morphs into the most-attended Halloween attraction in the world. In addition to heart-stopping rides like GhostRider (one of the longest and tallest wooden roller coasters in the world), Knott’s Scary Farm Haunt's elaborately themed mazes, like the brand new Trapped: The New Experiment, will give you memories you'll never forget … try as you might. Six sinister live shows, including my very own Elvira's Sinema Séance, all add up to the ultimate horror experience!" -- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark 960 1280

Knott's Berry Farm  

The Haunting of Lemp Brewery (St. Louis)

The Haunting of Lemp Brewery (St. Louis)

“I had the pleasure of walking around Lemp Brewery when I was filming in St. Louis for our 100th Ghost Adventures episode. The building alone is creepy, and to put an actual haunted attraction inside is freaky. Very cool history of the Lemp Brewery. A must-see.” -- Nick Groff, Ghost Adventures Investigator 960 1280

  

Markoff's Haunted Forest (Calleva Farm in Dickerson, MD)

Markoff's Haunted Forest (Calleva Farm in Dickerson, MD)

“Ask anyone in the DC area for a Halloween pick and they’ll tell you to head to Markoff’s Haunted Forest, where they’ve been freaking out guests for more than 20 years. Haunted hayrides, zombie hunts and a walk through the Not-So-Fun House Maze are just a few ways your creepy adventure unfolds on one of 2 terrifying trails. Dress in your warmest clothes and bring your best running shoes. Beware of the chainsaw-wielding stalker ... and be prepared to get spooked!” -- Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer, Travel Channel 960 1280

Markoff's Haunted Forest/Calleva Inc.  

Disney's Haunted Mansion (Orlando, FL)

Disney's Haunted Mansion (Orlando, FL)

“Such a classic family attraction! Beautiful sets and wonderful illusions. We definitely go through the Haunted Mansion whenever we're at Disneyland or Disney World! It's like having a Halloween experience year-round. Fun and spooky but not so scary that you would need to have your children in therapy for years!” -- Ed Edmunds and Marsha Taub-Edmunds, Owners of Distortions Unlimited Corporation 960 1280

Disney  

Spooky Empire's The Ultimate Horror Weekend (Orlando, FL)

Spooky Empire's The Ultimate Horror Weekend (Orlando, FL)

Spooky Empire is a horror convention that takes place in my hometown of Orlando, FL, a week or two before Oct. 31. It feels like a 3-day Halloween party full of treats when you're surrounded by horror icons such as George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Bruce Campbell and Elvira. Besides appealing to my love of Halloween, this hometown event offers me the chance to see family and reminisce about Octobers gone by.” -- Aaron Sagers, Geek Culture & Paranormal Pop Culture Expert 960 1280

Michael Gavin/Spooky Empire and Mel Allebach Photography  

Eastern State Penitentiary's Terror Behind the Walls (Philadelphia)

Eastern State Penitentiary's Terror Behind the Walls (Philadelphia)

“Eastern State is by far my favorite supposedly haunted location in the country. And at Halloween, ESP gets even better. A haunted attraction in a haunted prison is cool enough, but the elaborate designs, effects and costumes at play here are artistically terrifying. I have been through countless scary attractions and Terror Behind the Walls is always good for a few startled jumps.” -- Aaron Sagers, Geek Culture & Paranormal Pop Culture Expert 960 1280

Jeff Fusco  

Spooky World's Nightmare New England (Litchfield, NH)

Spooky World's Nightmare New England (Litchfield, NH)

“I really liked walking around Spooky World because of the variety of haunted attractions they offer. Spooky World has frights for everyone, as well as family fun, for extreme people who need a rush, like myself. I had a blast at Spooky World, especially when I got to shoot zombies with paintball guns!” -- Nick Groff, Ghost Adventures Investigator 960 1280

The Pixel Perfection  

Zombie Pub Crawl (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Zombie Pub Crawl (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

“Sometimes for fun and sometimes to promote charitable causes, zombie crawls are organized public gatherings of people dressed up as zombies. In 2012, the largest zombie crawl was in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), with an estimated 30,000 in attendance, making it the largest gathering of zombies according to Guinness World Records. It's not hard to become a zombie. Take some old cloths, cut them up and spray paint them with some dark brown and gray primer. -- Ed Edmunds and Marsha Taub-Edmunds, Owners of Distortions Unlimited Corporation 960 1280

Davide, flickr  

Bloody Mary's New Orleans Tours

Bloody Mary's New Orleans Tours

Fans chose Bloody Mary's New Orleans Tours as their favorite to add to our list of Travel's Best Halloween Attractions 2013. With historian, author and photographer Bloody Mary, tourists visiting the Big Easy have a few options for a spooky guided tour, including the French Quarter Walking Tour, the Tour of the Undead and the Moonlight Graveyard Tour. Explore NOLA's creepiest haunts to learn about the ghosts and spirits that still lurk in the French Quarter, Treme, the Garden District and the Mid-Cities of the Dead aka the New Orleans Cemetery District. 960 1280

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Out-of-This-World Views: The Lasso, SD, to Devil’s Tower, WY

Out-of-This-World Views: The Lasso, SD, to Devil’s Tower, WY

TV host Don Wildman chose the 110-mile loop from Rapid City, SD, to Devil’s Tower, WY, as one of the country's best road trips. While Wildman was brave enough to cover the Badlands during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, he says it’s just as memorable to travel by car, since either way you’ll drive through deep forests and thrilling mountain vistas. If you’re not brave enough to ride a Harley like Wildman, you can at least follow in his footsteps and stop at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in South Dakota.

"Maybe you’ll even have a close encounter to write home about,” adds Wildman; Devil’s Tower is the site where the iconic alien landing scene was filmed in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
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South Dakota Department of Tourism  

Off-Road Adventure: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Off-Road Adventure: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

For the intrepid road tripper, Bolivia offers off-road adventures across otherworldly landscapes. “The world’s largest salt flat, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is a surefire, natural amazement,” says Don Wildman, host of Mysteries at the Museum. After a short flight south from La Paz, Bolivia, a number of skilled tour companies will house you in a hotel constructed entirely of salt and then drive you out to experience extraordinary visuals not to be missed in this life, adds Wildman.

While the salt flats are the smoothest “road” you’re likely to drive on, keep in mind you’re at an altitude of 12,500 feet, so take measures to prevent altitude sickness.
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AFP / Getty Images  

Unexpected Fall Foliage: Glacier National Park, Montana

Unexpected Fall Foliage: Glacier National Park, Montana

One of the most iconic drives in the country, Montana's “Going to the Sun Road,” is a true bucket list drive not to be missed, says RoadTrippers.com CEO and founder James Fisher. The road spans a breathtaking 50 miles of Glacier National Park's most beautiful twists and turns. Considered an engineering marvel, the road was completed in the fall of 1932, after workers blew through half a million pounds of explosives for its construction.

Jackson Glacier Overlook, between Logan Pass and St. Mary offers the park's best views of a glacier from the road. And while Montana might not be the first place that comes to mind for viewing fall foliage, we suggest taking a drive here in autumn to witness the dazzling color show.
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David Restivo / NPS  

Castles, Caves and Cheese: Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England

Castles, Caves and Cheese: Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England

It’s no surprise that Fisher, born and raised in the English countryside, also picks a road trip in the United Kingdom. It all starts at a castle, says Fisher: Tintagel Castle, located high atop the rugged coast of Cornwall. Fisher advises then taking the scenic route to Bath, past the fishing village of Boscastle, which dates back to the 1500s. The gorge itself is one of England's most interesting areas, a land of witches, caves and waterfalls.

Fisher adds, “But most importantly it is home to the original, cave-matured, cheddar cheese.” See the cheese being made by the town’s only remaining cheesemakers at Cheddar Gorge Cheese Factory, followed by free tastings of the town’s namesake.
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Britain On View / Getty Images  

Mountains and Mining Towns: The San Juan Skyway, Colorado

Mountains and Mining Towns: The San Juan Skyway, Colorado

Nicknamed the "Road to the Sky," the San Juan Skyway loops through the heart of southern Colorado's towering San Juan Mountains and is a "must-do" for road tripping fans, says filmmaker, photographer and road tripper, Allison Otto. The Skyway passes through old Colorado mining towns like Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, climbs to an elevation of more than 14,000 feet and circles down to the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park.

“The views are dazzling, especially in the late summer/early fall, but be careful along the cliffside-clinging stretch known as the ‘The Million Dollar Highway,’ where there are parts of the road that lack guardrails," adds Otto.
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Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images  

Adventure South of the Border: Creel to Batopilas, Mexico

Adventure South of the Border: Creel to Batopilas, Mexico

Skip the touristy beaches of Mexico and take an adventurous road trip instead. Otto suggests driving from the Mexican town of Creel to Batopilas: “This is an amazing white-knuckle, eye-popping drive to the base of Mexico's Copper Canyon, which is actually a series of 20 canyons formed over the years by 6 rivers,” says Otto. The narrow, mostly dirt road begins in Creel, which has a frontier feel, and ends in Batopilas, a sleepy old silver mining town at the base of the canyon.

There are no guardrails on this route and drivers can expect to weave through a few cattle, donkeys and goats along the way. “The views are truly breathtaking, though, and Batopilas, which was founded around 1632, is definitely worth a visit and a perfect base for day hikes in the canyon,” adds Otto.
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Altrendo / Getty Images  

Beaches and Leaf Peeping: Michigan's Gold Coast

Beaches and Leaf Peeping: Michigan's Gold Coast

“Leaves, lighthouses, and sugary beaches! New England? Nope: Michigan!” reveals Robert Firpo-Cappiello, executive editor of BudgetTravel.com. Treat yourself to a 3-day autumn road trip starting in Grand Rapids, MI, where you can soak up serious art, public gardens and craft beer, suggests Firpo-Cappiello. Drive along the “Gold Coast” highway west to the jaw-dropping shoreline of Lake Michigan. “From Grand Haven down to Saugatuck and on to South Haven, you'll have a great weekend and bring home bragging rights for having 'discovered' some of the finest beaches, highest dunes and freshest seafood in America,” says Firpo-Cappiello.

Take a break from driving and ride on Saugatuck’s ferry to Oval Beach, the only remaining chain-driven ferry in the United States.
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Thinkstock  

The European Tour: France to Italy to Switzerland

The European Tour: France to Italy to Switzerland

Skip the train, and travel at your own speed on a road trip through Europe’s charming lakeside towns. Start your journey along the banks of Lake Annecy that sits under the French Alps’ Mount Blanc, advises travel writer and TV personality, Kim Mance. “You’ll cross many picturesque canal bridges as you drive toward Italy, with countless castles on hilltops,” says Mance.

After you stop for an Italian fondue lunch (yes, that exists!), Mance suggests you head back north toward Switzerland’s tiny villages, which dot the mountainside. From here, make your way to the stunningly beautiful Belle Époque city of Montreux, Switzerland on the shore of Lake Geneva. The entire drive from Annecy to Montreux can be done in about 4 hours, but Mance suggests taking a week.
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Switzerland Tourism  

Tour of the Island: Oahu, Hawaii

Tour of the Island: Oahu, Hawaii

The best way to explore the island of Oahu? By car, preferably a Mustang convertible to be exact, says Kathleen Rellihan, interactive producer for TravelChannel.com. Escape Honolulu’s crowds and explore the hidden gems on Oahu, from the Halona Blowhole to Lanikai Beach (often ranked as one of the world’s best beaches) and Tropical Farms’ Macadamia Nut Farm.

Plan to stay at least a night on Oahu’s famed North Shore , a relaxed surf mecca that’s home to Pipeline, a world famous surf break, and beach-basking sea turtles. “Don’t miss the garlic shrimp trucks along Kamehameha Highway and stop at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach to watch big wave surfers and incredible sunsets,” adds Rellihan.
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Hawaii Tourism Authority / Tor Johnson  

Seaside Foodventure: Puglia, Italy

Seaside Foodventure: Puglia, Italy

If you’re looking for a road trip off the beaten track with plenty of unforgettable food stops, look no further than Italy’s Puglia region. With over 250 miles of ancient olive groves, charming fishing villages and glistening Adriatic coastline, Puglia “the heel on Italy’s boot,” is less tourist trodden than other regions in Italy and best explored on a slow-paced road trip, says Rellihan.

As you drive along the coast of Puglia, steering clear of cattle and steep rocky drops, stop at cliffside wonders like Vieste’s fortified whitewashed castle and Bari’s Grotta Palazzese, one of the many restaurants nestled inside ancient caves perched over the blue-green Adriatic Sea.
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E+ / Getty Images  

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