Travel's Best Amusement and Water Parks 2015
Take a look at our list of the top 10 amusement and water parks for 2015, and plan your summer vacation with the family.
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 straight down 40 feet before they twist and turn their way through the colorful slides. “Keep the adrenaline flowing at Taumata Racer, a high-speed racing slide that allows up to 8 guests to race at the same time,” says Erin Gifford, family travel expert and founder of Kidventurous.com. But it's not all thrills and spills at Aquatica. A lazy river, a wave pool and a splashy structure with a 500-gallon dumping water bucket will please even the smallest park guests.
Carowinds, Charlotte, NC
The general manager of Carowinds, Mike Fehnel, has said that the experience of riding the new Fury 325 roller coaster will be with you for the rest of your life. Standing at 325 feet tall, the Fury 325 is among the 5 tallest coasters in the world. “Taller than the Statue of Liberty, which is 305 feet tall, the Fury 325 sends riders racing up, down and around turns at 95 miles per hour,” says Erin Gifford. Need more? Carowinds has 9 other roller coasters that offer drops, loops, turns and spins — both forward and backward.
Disneyland, Anaheim, CA
It's always a joy to visit the happiest place on Earth, but 2015 will be especially joyful as the eminent park marks its 60th anniversary with a Diamond Celebration. “In addition to old standbys such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which got a cool upgrade last year), there will be a spectacular new nighttime parade and fireworks show,” says Arthur Levine, theme park expert for About.com. Doing what the Mouse does best, the presentations will deftly stir emotions with eye-popping technology and huge doses of nostalgia.
Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, PA
Don’t miss a ride on the hair-raising Impulse, the park’s newest attraction — a roller coaster with a 90-degree vertical drop. In addition to this new coaster, the park features historic rides such as the 1948 classic wooden roller coaster Phoenix and a brass ring carousel — a rare find in the US. Knoebels Amusement Resort is located in Elysburg, PA, which is about 2 1/2 hours outside Philadelphia. Admission is free, but guests do pay per ride. “Plan to stay all day. Knoebels has several rides, the best amusement-park food and fun activities to keep your family happy for hours,” says Robb Alvey, theme park expert and founder of ThemeParkReview.com. And if you like camping, Knoebels features one of the largest campgrounds at any traditional amusement park.
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
Visit Knott’s Berry Farm this year to experience Voyage to the Iron Reef, an interactive 4-D battle against the Queen of the Kraken and her army. Riders must save the park’s iconic attractions from becoming scrap metal. In addition to this new interactive experience, parkgoers come here for its small-town charm and fantastic roller coasters. “From the speed of Montezooma’s Revenge to the looping Boomerang, Knott’s has great thrills — even offering small screamers for kids who are just getting started on coasters,” says Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of FamilyVacationCritic.com. Another perk? Save $25 per ticket by purchasing in advance online.
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 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,” says Arthur Levine. “Thanks to the industry pioneers behind the circa-1979 Texas landmark, both attractions have become staples at many other parks.” Some of Schlitterbahn's waterslides empty into the river that meanders through the park.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Los Angeles
Looking for a twisted new ride to try this summer? Hop on the Twisted Colossus, which has 5,000 feet of wood and steel track, making it the longest and most innovative hybrid coaster in the world — well, according Six Flags Magic Mountain. The park excels in thrills and roller coasters. “Superman: Escape From Krypton is my favorite ride in the world,” says Bert Kreischer. “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.” In addition to coasters, the park has other fun rides and activities, including the Tidal Wave, Roaring Rapids, Daffy’s Adventure Tours, Justice League meet and greets, and the Looney Tunes Kids Club Show.
Six Flags White Water, Atlanta
This summer, Six Flags White Water is unleashing Dive Bomber, where riders are dropped through a trapdoor to experience a zero-gravity, 10-story fall. “This water park offers something for all ages — rapids, twisters, free falls and tube rides — and my kids love the dumping buckets and splash play areas at Captain Kid’s Cove, Lilypad Crossing and Tree House Island,” says Lissa Poirot. “Parents will also love the park’s cabanas for a place where the family can relax and get out of the sun a bit.”
Splashin' Safari Water Park, Santa Claus, IN
Cool down at Splashin’ Safari Water Park after you hop on the new $22-million Thunderbird roller coaster at Holiday World. Splashin’ Safari – part of the Holiday World theme park – is one of the best water parks in the country. “It features 2 of the largest hydromagnetic water coasters in the world,” says Robb Alvey. “The Mammoth and the Wildebeest coasters have consistently ranked as the best water-park rides in the country.” In addition to these amazing attractions, this park also provides a variety of fun family amenities, such as Monsoon Lagoon, the Bahari Wave Pool and Hyena Falls. Guests get a few more perks, including free parking, soda, Wi-Fi and sunscreen. There’s never a dull — or dry — moment at Splashin' Safari!
Wet ’n’ Wild Hawaii, Kapolei, HI
Wet ’n’ Wild Hawaii might simply be one of the best water parks in the country. It’s an absolute must if you're visiting Oahu. The new Waimea Whirl — opening this summer — is among several water thrills packed into the 29-acre park, which has to compete with some of the best beaches in the world. “The park is not only known for the Hawaiian Waters Wave Pool and Da’ Flowrider, where you can practice surfing, but it’s also known for the incredible ride Shaka,” says Bert Kreischer, host of Travel Channel’s Trip Flip and Bert the Conqueror. “The 2-person inner tube plummets down more than 4 stories, and the ride isn't over until gravity and inertia are done with you.” Grab the kids, pack a few towels, and head away from the beach to Wet ’n’ Wild.
Meet our panel of experts who helped choose the top 10 best amusement parks and water parks to visit this year.
Meet our panel of advisors for our Best Amusement Parks list.
See our panel of advisors' picks for Travel's Best Halloween Attractions 2013, amazing pumpkin carvings, creepy vampire destinations and more!