What kid isn’t excited by the magic of the words “Disney World?” It’s no secret that kids love the Disney theme parks. But Disney doesn’t have a monopoly on theme park fun, and for lots of reasons, many families are interested in unique family vacations. USA amusement parks range from big to small, and there’s a Disney alternative out there that’s just right for you and your family!
Here are thirteen alternatives to the House of Mouse that will deliver the fun your family craves on vacation.
If your kids are old enough that the rides in the Magic Kingdom seem too tame, Cedar Point has the roller coasters they crave! There are fun rides for little kids, too.
Key Information: Sandusky, OH – $49.99 – Cannot bring food into the park
Good to Know: The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is just a little over an hour away if you’d like to get some outdoor activity during your Ohio vacation.
One of the popular alternatives to Disney World in Orlando, ICON Park is home to a giant observation wheel that lifts you 400 feet above the city! This fun amusement park is home to a wax museum and aquarium, so it’s a great place on rainy days as well as sunny ones.
Key Information: Orlando, FL – Ticket prices depend on attractions – Lots of kid-friendly dining options.
Good to Know: Kids love the Sugar Factory candy store in the park.
Family-friendly Knott’s Berry Farm has something for everyone! For the littlest kids, there are gentle rides and fun characters at Camp Snoopy, while older kids can enjoy the coasters and thrilling rides.
Key Information: Buena Park, CA – Tickets start at $69 – Outside food and drink allowed
Good to Know: There are only two locations with changing stations in the park: one in Camp Snoopy and the other in the California Marketplace.
Busch Gardens Tampa isn’t just a theme park—it’s also an amazing zoo! There are plenty of fun vacations other than Disney in central Florida, and Busch Gardens’ thrill rides and wildlife encounters make it a star.
Key Information: Tampa, FL – Tickets start at $89.99 – Sesame Street-themed play area for kids.
Good to Know: If your kid loves animals, Wildlife Insider tours are a great option for them.
Six Flags Magic Mountain calls itself “the thrill capital of the world,” and with more roller coasters than any other park in the world, it’s easy to see why!
Key Information: Valencia, CA – Tickets start at $65 – Most restaurants are too small for strollers and ask you to park them outside
Good to Know: Little kids will love the Looney Toons-themed junior ride section.
Ride coasters, enjoy amazing food, and have old-fashioned family fun at Dollywood. Dollywood is famous for the quality of its park treats and eats, including slices of the park’s 25-pound apple pie—a single slice is three whole pounds! It’s served up with vanilla ice cream, of course.
Key Information: Pigeon Forge, TN – Tickets start at $89 – Lots of sit-down shows that are good for taking breaks
Good to Know: Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a dinner show with rodeo stunts that’s great for kids of all ages.
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The two Universal parks in Orlando are one of the best-known and most-beloved alternatives to Disney World. Their biggest draws are their awesome rides and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you want to go to Orlando but skip the Disney vacation, these might be the parks for you.
Key Information: Orlando, FL – Single park tickets start at $109 – Dining options are very allergy-friendly
Good to Know: If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express, you will need to purchase admission to both parks.
Branson is Missouri’s entertainment capital. In addition to the great shows, resorts, and lakeside activities, the area is home to Silver Dollar City, an Old West-themed park with rides, live entertainment, a water park, and more.
Key Information: Branson, MO – Tickets start at $79 – Lodging packages available
Good to Know: You are allowed to bring food and drinks into the park, but not hard-sided coolers or glass containers.
Hersheypark was developed as a leisure park for the employees of America’s sweetest company and is now enjoyed by families from around the world! Enjoy fun rides and learn all about the history of Hershey’s and how chocolate is made.
Key Information: Hershey, PA – Tickets start at $54.95 – Includes admission to ZooAmerica
Good to Know: If you want to park hop over a weekend getaway, Dorney Park in Allentown is only about an hour away!
Where can you go zip lining over live alligators? Gatorland in Florida! This Orlando classic has lots to see and do, including letting you (safely!) hold a live alligator.
Key Information: Orlando, FL – Admission starts at $22.99/$32.99 for adults – No outdoor food and beverages
Good to Know: The zipline is ADA accessible, one of only a few ADA-accessible ziplines in the country.
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Famous for its roller coasters, King’s Island is a great Midwestern park. Kids of all ages love the rides and live entertainment that this park has to offer.
Key Information: Cincinnati, OH – Tickets start at $49.99 – Inclusive dining packages available
Good to Know: Kids too small for coasters will love the tot-sized fun in the Peanuts-themed kiddie section of the park.
Sometimes smaller parks close together can provide an opportunity to stay in one place and take family day trips. Like Disney, you can have different types of experiences—however, when you choose smaller parks, you can be assured that you’ve found a cheaper alternative to Disney World. If you’re in the Midwest, you can enjoy the wooden roller coasters and wave pools of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Indiana. Then, hop over the Ohio River to Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville for more great rides and fun.
Key Information: Santa Claus, IN, and Louisville, KY – Holiday World admission is, Kentucky Kingdom admission starts at $29.99 – 1 hour and 19 minutes apart
Good to Know: Holiday World offers free drinks and free sunscreen to all park guests
Another great park-hopping trip is a visit to Six Flags Fiesta Texas and the enormous Schlitterbahn New Braunfels water park. Both parks are located right outside of metro San Antonio, and have thrill rides and kiddie rides that the whole family can enjoy.
Key Information: San Antonio area, TX – Six Flags admission starts at $49.99, Schlitterbahn admission starts at $54.99 – 45 minute drive between parks
Good to Know: Schlitterbahn offers free life jacket rentals for small kids and inexperienced swimmers.
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