Summertime isn’t complete without a trip to an amusement park filled with tasty foods and thrilling rides. Big parks often get all the attention, but it’s actually the smaller parks that welcome repeat visitors with unique, wholesome offerings and fewer crowds. It's time to be wowed by some lesser-known amusement parks that pack a lot of fun.
HOLIDAY WORLD & SPLASHIN’ SAFARI, INDIANA
First opening its doors in 1946, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari is a 4th-generation, family-owned park in Santa Claus, Indiana. The award-winning park offers a blended theme and water experience, with ticket prices that include free parking, sunscreen, and unlimited soft drinks. The park entertains 1 million guests each season and boasts the world's three, top-ranked wooden roller coasters. Splashin’ Safari is considered the Water Coaster Capital of the World.
Castle. Photo courtesy of Storybook Land
STORYBOOK LAND/WYLIE PARK, SOUTH DAKOTA
Step into classic nursery rhymes at Storybook Land/Wylie Park in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Explore Land of Oz, an enchanting area celebrating the great story by Frank Baum. Let the kids loose to storm castles, slide down the Tin Man’s legs or interact with all sorts of animals at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Six rides promise a rollicking good time—from the stomach-turning Humpty-Dumpty’s Roller Coaster to the more easy-going Land of Oz Carousel.
WonderWheel and Rainbow. Photo courtesy of Wonderland Amusement Park
WONDERLAND AMUSEMENT PARK, TEXAS
Enter Wonderland Amusement Park in Amarillo, Texas, and you'll find yourself among multigenerational families enjoying what many describe as a nostalgic getaway. For more than seven decades, visitors have flocked from near and far, making the pilgrimage to Wonderland a tradition that is passed from generation to generation. Family members of the original founders run day-to-day operations, lovingly overseeing the park’s 30-rides, game center, 18-hole miniature golf course, and concessions.
Enjoying a roller coaster ride with a unique sensory. Photo courtesy of Lake Compounce Amusement Park
LAKE COMPOUNCE AMUSEMENT AND WATER PARK, CONNECTICUT
Operating continuously since 1847, Lake Compounce Amusement and Water Park in Bristol, Connecticut, is famously known as the first amusement park in America. The park has reimagined itself over the decades to continue offering thrills and entertainment to its guests. Touted as the largest water park in the state, Lake Compounce is renowned for the stomach-turning, six-story descent of the Venus Vortex water slide. A floating stage featuring live music on the lake will be unveiled this season, allowing music lovers to shimmy from the shoreline
Kennywood. Photo courtesy of Kennywood
At this Pittsburgh institution, families come for the park's world-famous Potato Patch fries and of course, the rides. Kennywood offers a cocktail of classic and innovative rides, such as 1920s-era roller coasters and the newly unveiled Spinvasion. The first of its kind, the sky-high adventure takes you on an intergalactic, multi-action joyride in Area 412, the new, extraterrestrial section of the park. This year, Kennywood turns 125, celebrating with a curated food menu and special programming.
Grand father Tree. Photo courtesy of Story Land
STORY LAND, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Part of every New Englander’s childhood for 70+ years, this iconic park brings fantasy to life. In Glen, New Hampshire, memories built over decades are celebrated at Story Land during Nostalgia Nights, created for "kids" over the age of 21. Dubbed "Little Disney of the North" it’s preferred by many visitors for the fresh mountain air and fewer crowds. Kids can hang out with Tinkerbell or ride the magic pumpkin coach to Cinderella’s castle for tea with the princess. Fans of Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittycat can enjoy a show plus opportunities for photos with the stars.
SDC Rides Grand Expo Magnificent Wave Carousel. Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City
SILVER DOLLAR CITY THEME PARK, MISSOURI
Since 1960, Silver Dollar City Theme Park in the Ozark Mountains has swept guests back into the 1880s to enjoy era-themed activities, award-winning food, and thrilling rides. The discovery of Marvel Cave formed the area’s first attraction and inspired the Herschend family to develop this entertainment theme park in Branson Missouri. For the 2 million visitors each year, the choices are seemingly endless, with nine festivals, 40+ rides and attractions, and a 100+ strong artisan colony demonstrating old-world crafts.
Little Dipper. Photo courtesy of Memphis Kiddie Park
MEMPHIS KIDDIE PARK, OHIO
In Cleveland, Ohio, things are pretty simple at Memphis Kiddie Park, which, the owners will tell you, is exactly the point. Most of the rides are created with the littlest ones—under 50'' tall—in mind, and the miniature golf course allows antsy kiddos to play holes willy-nilly rather than in order. The flagship ride is the Little Dipper, known as America’s oldest continuously operating steel roller coaster. Don’t miss the signature funnel cakes at this old-school park, which strives to retain its original 1950s-era atmosphere.