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  

Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Best Country to Keep Watch On: Cuba

Airlines, hotel chains, cruise companies and US travelers alike are all hopeful for an official removal of the travel ban on Cuba after President Obama’s announcement of plans to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Caribbean country. With the possibility of this once-difficult-to-visit destination’s rigid travel restrictions easing up, our dreams of mojito-fueled nights of salsa dancing in colorful, classic-car-lined streets will be that much easier to attain.  960 1280

Walter Bibikow  

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Best Meal-to-Go: Beefsteak

Move over, bacon: Veggies are getting the celeb-chef treatment this year. Chef José Andrés is taking on the trend of fast-casual restaurants and opening a vegetable-focused chain in early 2015. It’s called Beefsteak (named after a type of tomato, for those who don’t know) and will serve up healthy food, fast. While steering away from calling it a vegetarian restaurant, Andrés wants merely to make meat the side dish for once and celebrate the unsung power of vegetables while bringing wholesome food to the masses.   960 1280

The Washington Post  

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

Best Under-the-Radar Destination: Guatemala

While other Latin America countries have been more on the radar for travelers — especially Mexico and Costa Rica — Guatemala hasn’t received the tourism spotlight it deserves. With 33 volcanoes, a World Heritage Site in the city of Antigua, Mayan ruins, and the mystical volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán​, Guatemala is brimming with intriguing history, colonial grandeur and outdoor adventures that will keep every type of traveler intrigued. Take in the breath-taking beauty of Guatemala at Casa Palopo, a boutique hotel with panoramic views of Lake Atitlán and 3 majestic volcanoes across the shore. ​ 960 1280

Image Source  

Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Best Reason to Take a Cruise: Total Solar Eclipse

Think all cruises are the same? How about a cruise to see a rare eclipse? A total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015, will be visible from the remote Faroe Islands, between Norway and Iceland.  Several companies are offering cruises to witness this rare event, which will not happen again until 2026 and, if you’re lucky, could include another awe-inspiring show from Mother Nature — the northern lights. With pricey tickets selling out for a phenomenon that lasts no more than 2 minutes, 47 seconds, we imagine there will be many prayers made for a clear day. 960 1280

Karl Lehmann  

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

Best Extreme Sport: Volcano Boarding

With new luxury eco-resorts cropping up, Nicaragua seems to be on every travel list for 2015. There’s 1 extreme sport in particular here that’s catching our attention: volcano boarding. Racing down an active volcano at speeds of up to 30 mph on a wooden sled — sounds like a life highlight, right? That is, if you don’t fall.  Adventure junkies should proceed with caution and wear protective gear, because you don’t want to get cut by volcanic ash on a tumble.  960 1280

Matthew Micah Wright  

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Best Outdoor Adventure: Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Hollywood isn’t the only one trying to re-create Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey; throngs of fans inspired by the best-selling author’s 1,100-mile solo trek are hitting the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the country’s longest and wildest thru-hikes, in record numbers. With the film adaption of <i>Wild</i>, we expect 2015 to usher in even more rookie hikers on the PCT. Embracing the growing interest, the Pacific Crest Trail is sharing fans’ stories and even Strayed’s exact route, so you can follow in the author’s footsteps. We suggest wearing better-fitting boots, though. 960 1280

Anne Marie Fox  

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

Best Reimagined Destination: Haiti

A Caribbean island nation with a vibrant Creole culture and stunning beaches, Haiti was a hot travel destination back in the 1970s, when the Clintons even honeymooned there. Now, 5 years after the devastating earthquake that shook the country, curious travelers and sustainable travel companies are trying to put this often-overlooked and feared destination back on the tourism map. Using local suppliers in an effort to keep money in the country, G Adventures is one of the pioneering companies that firmly believes tourism can be a force for good in Haiti — and it’s launching 5 Haiti trips in 2015 to prove it. 960 1280

  

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Best US Comeback City: New Orleans

Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2015, New Orleans is celebrating its resiliant nature and welcoming travelers more than ever as it looks forward to its tricentennial in 2018.  So if you haven’t been to Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or eaten your way through the city, overindulging in beignets and shrimp po’boys, don’t go another year without visiting America’s comeback city.   960 1280

Franz Marc Frei  

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

Best Travel Gadget: Apple Watch

With the highly anticipated Apple Watch going on sale in 2015, the travel world is gearing up to support wearable technology. A watch that doubles as a smartphone is the latest advance that will make it easier to plan and manage travel. Hotels, airlines and travel companies are now offering smartwatch apps that let you check in, book flights and download boarding passes … all from your wristwatch. With a hands-free device, it’s that much easier to score fleeting travel deals on the go, too.  960 1280

  

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

Best Travel App/Website: EatWith.com

With the rising success of peer-to-peer websites such as Airbnb, start-ups are popping up using similar concepts but connecting travelers to foodies around the world. One of our favorites, EatWith.com, connects hosts who love to cook with travelers who want a taste of local cuisine. From a 9-course meal on a family farm in Florence, Italy, to sampling typical Peruvian dishes in the Andes Mountains, what could be a better way to experience a destination than to connect with locals over a homemade meal? 960 1280

  

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

Best Destination Wedding Spot: Florence, Italy

With some of the world’s biggest celebrities — including most eligible bachelor George Clooney and internet-breaking Kim Kardashian — tying the knot in Italy in 2014, brides-to-be are imagining their own Italian fairy-tale weddings. Feel like a superstar yourself by saying your “I do’s” at the luxury hotel Il Salviatino, an exquisitely restored, 15th-century villa perched on the hillside of Fiesole with sweeping views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside. Even if your groom isn’t George Clooney, you couldn’t have dreamed of a more romantic wedding destination.  960 1280

Antonio Pistillo  

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