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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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  

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

Home to both Dead Horse State Park and Arches National Park, the resort-like town of Moab offers some of the most stunning red-rock scenery you’ll ever experience, says Anna Vawser of blog, The Legendary Adventures of Anna. Whether you’re a novice outdoorsman or seasoned explorer, there’s no shortage of exciting adventures to be had, including mountain biking, hiking and 4-wheeling. Vawser recommends “rock climbing among the gorgeous cliffs, touring the Hell’s Revenge Jeep Trail and whitewater rafting down the grand Colorado River.” 960 1280

Green River at sunset, Canyonlands National Park  

Black Hills, Dakotas

Black Hills, Dakotas

Want remote, rugged beauty with a heaping helping of Americana? Then head directly to the western Dakotas. “Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorials are some of the largest mountain carvings ever, a testament to the United States’ ‘bigger is better’ motto,” says the Martin family of thatTripUSA.com. “Awesome day trips include the historic Wall Drug Store (a rustic mall for weary travelers), Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (an underground, nuclear-themed throwback to America’s Cold War) and the Enchanted Highway (home to rest stops decorated with a bunch of world-record sized scrap metal sculptures).” While you’re there, visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, one of the Martins' favorites, for a chance to be surrounded by herds of buffalo, chattering cities of prairie dogs, deer, and herds of wild horses. 960 1280

South Dakota Tourism  

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Remember what absolute silence sounds like? Most days, neither do we. That’s when we escape into the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree National Park, a treasure trove of its namesake Joshua trees and rock formations like Skull and Arch Rock. Kinga Philipps, our resident National Parks expert, suggests “spending days bouldering among Martian-looking landscapes, exploring the palm-fringed oases, watching [fiery] sunsets and experiencing silence so golden that you can hear the rush of air through a bird’s feathers as it flies overhead.” 960 1280

Robb Hannawacker / NPS  

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

You can comb the states over and not come across a body of water more mind-blowingly beautiful than Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. “The lake is the purest shade of blue, surrounded by striking, 2,000-foot cliffs,” Vawser says. Formed in a dormant volcano’s crater, the magnificent blue lake is entirely filled from direct precipitation of rain or snow – the crater receives an average 44 feet of snow a year! “You can make your way down the Cleetwood Trail for a swim, try your hand at fishing, or have a relaxing picnic while enjoying the view,” says Vawser. Just don’t put off your summertime visit – Crater Lake’s first snowfall is often in September. 960 1280

Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Nantucket Island, Massachusetts

Just off the coast of Cape Cod, MA, Nantucket is full of New England charm, great restaurants, eclectic shops and truly stunning beaches – making it a summer island paradise. The Grey Lady [nicknamed for its mystical fog and weathered grey-shingled houses] educates and delights, says Travel Channel host Don Wildman. “The Whaling Museum provides the sea legs for future readers of Moby Dick and Great Point Lighthouse is a family expedition for the books.” 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh in the summer? Hear us out on this one. Home to more than 39 colleges and universities, Pittsburgh is bubbling over with young people helping to redefine the city. Steel City has even become an arts destination thanks to institutions such as the iconic Andy Warhol Museum, as well as the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum with room-sized installations spread throughout a 4-story warehouse. “It’s not only one of the hippest cities in America, but also it’s located in the great expanse of western Pennsylvania,” Wildman says. “Spend the day in town at the Carnegie Museums, then head south to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to see an architectural wonder or to Ohiopyle State Park for thrilling whitewater.” 960 1280

Carmine Sarazen / Visit Pittsburgh  

Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida

<a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/road-trips/articles/everglades-national-park-florida">Florida’s Everglades National Park</a> has one of the most unique ecosystems in the US, a subtropical paradise of plants, birds and rare wildlife -- even manatees. But don’t just take our word for it. “Take an airboat tour and keep your eyes peeled for alligators and crocodiles – it’s the only place in the world where they coexist,” says Philipps. The Everglades offers an array of activities, from fishing, camping and hiking to biking, kayaking and canoeing. Explore the tropical mangrove forests and miles of sawgrass, says Philipps. “Just don’t forget the bug spray.” 
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Everglades National Park  

Bannack State Park, Montana

Bannack State Park, Montana

If you’re road tripping through southwestern <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/montana/photos/experience-montana">Montana,</a> James Fisher, founder of <a href="https://roadtrippers.com/">Roadtrippers.com</a>, suggests pulling into Bannack State Park for a taste of America’s past. Just 2.5 hours south of Helena, “Banack State Park is not only gorgeous, but also a perfectly-preserved ghost town that you’re invited to explore,” Fisher says. Founded in 1862 after a major gold discovery on Grasshoper Creek, this massive abandoned mine town in Beaverhead County has 2 campgrounds and more than 60 buildings (most of which can be explored). Don’t miss “Banack Days” during the 3rd weekend in July, when you can see Bannack as a boomtown. The “historical reconstitution” revives gold rush times, with reenactments by miners and an old-timey breakfast served in the old Hotel Meade. 960 1280

John Elk / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images  

Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, New York

The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its world-class wineries, gourmet restaurants and spectacular scenery, but there is a hidden gem located along Route 14, just 4.5 hours north of NYC. “You should detour to Watkins Glen State Park,” Fisher says. “It looks like a scene out of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but it’s actually a breathtaking waterfall gorge.” With 19 waterfalls, and 2 miles of lush forest, crystal-clear streams and 200-foot cliffs, road trippers can camp, swim and hike along rim trails that overlook the awe-inspiring waterfall gorge. 960 1280

Lamar Gore / USFWS, flickr  

Washington DC Metro Area

Washington DC Metro Area

No childhood is complete without a visit to our nation’s capital. “The list of free or nearly-free attractions is virtually endless: The White House, Capitol Hill, Smithsonian Institute (we recommend the National Air and Space Museum and Museum of American History), Washington Monument, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Ford’s Theater, the National Archives and National Zoo; to name just a few,” says the Martins. Baseball fans can choose to root for 2 MLB teams, the Washington Nationals on the SW Waterfront or the Baltimore Orioles, whose throwback-style stadium is within easy driving distance from DC. The Martins say, “Another treat -- during the summer only -- is a free evening concert by the Marine Band and Bugle Corps (known as the 'President’s Own') as well as an awesome precision demonstration by the US Marines’ silent drill team (with rifles and fixed bayonets flying)!” 960 1280

Panoramic Images / Getty Images  

ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse (Pittsburgh, PA)

ScareHouse is the place to be this year, especially because it has an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to help create the scariest Halloween to date. Featured attractions include The Summoning, Pittsburgh Zombies: Black Out and The Basement. This Halloween haunt offers a big-budget sensibility without losing its hometown appeal. “ScareHouse is my pick because sociologist and ‘fear expert’ Margee Kerr is always on staff to research and develop new ways to truly disturb visitors,” says geek culture and paranormal pop-culture expert Aaron Sagers. 960 1280

ScareHouse  

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Fright Dome (Las Vegas, NV)

Located in Circus Circus’ Adventuredome, the Fright Dome is one of Las Vegas’ largest and longest-running Halloween attractions. With 6 new haunted houses, the theme park is transformed into a pitch-black, lights-out, haunted spectacle – easily making it the scariest on the Strip. The 5-acre theme park also includes 25 rides and attractions, multiple live shows at night and 4 new scare zones, including the Clown Overload Zone. “My personal nightmare of clowns with glowing eyes surrounding me came to life,” says Zak Bagans, lead investigator of Ghost Adventures. “I had the worst panic attack. Needless to say, I’ll go back again, because it was badass!” 960 1280

  

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

Netherworld (Atlanta, GA)

With more than 200 animated monsters and 100 live actors, Netherworld is one of the nation’s most famous attractions. Having been featured on TV and in movies such as Zombieland, this spooky attraction has amazingly detailed sets. “And unlike other Halloween attractions, Netherworld’s creepy characters greet patrons in the parking lot before they purchase tickets, scaring them off before they even enter,” says Larry Kirchner, owner of HauntWorld.com and Halloween Productions. 960 1280

  

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

The 13th Gate is one of the most, if not the most, elaborately detailed haunted houses in America, thanks to a construction crew that includes award-winning set designers, lighting and sound technicians, and special-effects artists. Sets are over-the-top and feature live animals, including snakes and gators. In each of the 13 themed indoor and outdoor areas, more than 100 professional actors and 12 special makeup artists help bring the horror to life. “Hollywood production companies have rented the attraction multiple times to film movies such as The Reaping,” says HauntWorld Magazine owner Larry Kirchner. “The 13th Gate is, without any doubt, one of the best haunted houses in America.” 960 1280

  

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Haunted House (Weston, WV)

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is one of the most memorable haunted locations for Ghost Adventures lead investigator Zak Bagans, who completed a live 7-hour investigation with the Ghost Adventures crew. The spirits that roam the asylum’s halls are extremely active, and tours are offered to see how the mentally insane lived and died within these walls. “It is undeniably the scariest overall haunted attraction that I’ve been to in the US, outside of the Fright Dome,” Zak says. Additionally, visitors can participate in zombie paintball, a fall festival and the Asylum Ball, which includes a costume contest. 960 1280

  

13th Floor Haunted House

13th Floor Haunted House

The 13th Floor Haunted House is the largest and longest indoor haunted attraction in Colorado. It was renovated this year with 2 new attractions. “Watch evil take control of unwilling bodies in Undead: The Possession, or run for your life as terrifying ghouls and monsters come alive as you walk through Dwellings of the Dead,” says TravelChannel.com video project manager Arthur Hsu. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology such as Microsoft Kinect, the robotic monsters are more than capable of frightening the victims who dare to venture into the 13th Floor. 960 1280

  

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

Bennett’s Curse (Jessup, MD)

This haunted spectacle outside Baltimore is one of the top Halloween attractions in the mid-Atlantic region. It features 3 terrifying haunted houses — Medieval Underworld, Inferno 3D and Sanctuary of Insanity — and the owners of this popular haunt continue to add monsters and twists to keep the attractions exciting for new and returning visitors. Arthur Hsu says, “Not only has Bennett’s Curse been featured on Travel Channel’s America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions 3, but it has consistently been ranked by several sources as one of the best Halloween attractions in the US.” This spooky spot is also among the first to frighten its victims with the latest cutting-edge technology. 960 1280

  

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights (Orlando, FL)

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando should be at the top of anyone’s Halloween bucket list, especially fans looking for big-budget scares. Aaron Sagers says, “Movie industry experts craft haunted houses so loaded with detail that visitors walk through and feel like they’ve been dropped into an episode of The Walking Dead or the movie From Dusk Till Dawn.” Other popular attractions featured at the theme park include Bayou of Blood, Dollhouse of the Damned and Roanoke – Cannibal Colony. Those willing to face their fears can also enter, at their own risk, the Halloween house for a face-to-face meeting with Michael Myers, the iconic masked slasher from the movies. 960 1280

ROBERTO GONZALEZ  

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Festival of the Dead (Salem, MA)

Salem, MA, is historically known for the 1692 Witch trials that left 20 people executed. This year’s Festival of the Dead includes 2 weeks of events and parties designed to bring out your inner Witch. Attend a séance to speak with the dead, share your stories with others at the Mourning Tea, pick up new ghost-hunting techniques or learn about death’s macabre customs and strange rituals. Finish the festival with the Official Salem Witches’ Ball on Oct. 31, and you’ll leave this town spellbound. Author, TV personality and paranormal expert Jeff Belanger says, “This town will cast a spell on you.” 960 1280

Chad Champoux  

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA)

The Queen Mary was built in the early 1930s as a luxury trans-Atlantic ocean liner, but it was pressed into military service to carry troops during World War II, when hundreds died in and around the ship. This Halloween, the haunted ship is offering its Dark Harbor tours with 4 new attractions: the Soulmate maze, the B340 maze, Voodoo Village and Monster Midway, which features a freak show, a mechanical monster and a new ride, the Sinister Swings. “Keep your eyes open, because those ghostly apparitions you see may not just be another special effect,” says Jeff Belanger. And before you go, make sure you check out the Ghost Adventures’ lockdown and investigation of the Queen Mary. 960 1280

  

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

Fan Favorite: Waverly Hills Sanatorium (Louisville, KY)

We asked and the majority of the people who responded on Twitter and Facebook told us that Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville, KY, should be the fan favorite pic for Travel’s Best Halloween Attractions 2014. Built in 1908, the original building was designed to accommodate up to 50 tuberculosis patients. Today, it’s the site for paranormal investigations, tours and creepy sightings. Add it to your must-see spooky spots on Halloween. 960 1280

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