Thrilling Regional Theme Parks Across the U.S.

Discover these 7 Family-Friendly Park Adventures
AAA Travel Team

When it comes to summer adventures, there's nothing quite like a theme park. The thrill of the rides, fun foods, and spending time with your family all make for an unforgettable experience.

And if you prefer to explore something other than the major theme parks, there are plenty of great options across the country. Explore these 7 regional theme parks for fun family adventures.

Dollywood, Tennessee

Tucked into the rolling landscape of The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, you’ll find the family-friendly amusement park founded by the great country singer Dolly Parton, Dollywood.

It’s located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where Dolly grew up.

With 50 world-class rides, Splash Country waterpark, and live entertainment, this park has something for everyone. The newest and largest attraction is the family-friendly Big Bear Mountain rollercoaster. Other popular rides and attractions include Dragonflier, which mimics the flight of a Smoky Mountain dragonfly, Daredevil Falls log flume, and the County Fair section dedicated to the little ones. While many theme parks have trains, the Dollywood Express is a coal-fired steam engine train that takes you on a five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Plus, you can explore the beautiful Smoky Mountains’ streams, rivers, waterfalls, and wildflowers on your trip and rent a log cabin, popular accommodation in the area.

HersheyPark, Pennsylvania

HersheyPark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, perfectly combines two family favorites - chocolate and theme parks. Rides include the Cocoa Cruiser family coaster, Kissing Tower, Jolly Rancher Remix, and Candymonium, the park's tallest, fastest, and longest coaster. Meet your favorite Hershey candies characters. They call it “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”

The newest land is Hershey's Chocolatetown, inspired by the company's founder and has the park's historic carousel. Just outside the park's entrance, you must visit Hershey's Chocolate World, where you can take a delicious free tour and learn how Hershey's chocolate is made.

In addition to the park, you can explore nearby Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Story Land, New Hampshire

Nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this park is specifically designed with young children in mind offering rides and entertainment to families for over 65 years.

Whether watching dinosaurs come to life or walking into Wonderland with Alice, Story Land is the perfect fairy tale amusement park for kids. It features over 30 attractions that put children at the center of their favorite stories. Dine with Cinderella, listen to the tales of Mother Goose, and high-five Humpty Dumpty.

Cedar Point, Ohio

Cedar Point is located on the Lake Erie Shore near Cleveland. Dubbed the "Roller Coaster Capital of the World," Cedar Point has 18 world-class roller coasters.

As the second-oldest amusement park in the United States (the oldest is Lake Compounce in Connecticut), Cedar Point is home to 70 rides, the Cedar Point Shores Waterpark, three kids’ areas, including a "Peanuts" area with themed rides where kids can meet Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang. The newest themed area, The Boardwalk, is a modern interpretation of the Cedar Point of yesteryear with a collection of family rides that are quintessential Cedar Point.

And thanks to its location along the shoreline of Lake Erie, you can spend part of your day on the beach or out on the water. Kayak, paddleboard, wave runner, and boat rentals are available.

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Indiana

Located in Santa Claus, Indiana, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari is a family-owned and

operated theme park with a mix of classic and modern attractions. With four themed areas, including Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July, this park always has something to celebrate.

Attraction highlights include The Voyage, one of the park's three wooden coasters, which has been named one of the top wooden coasters in the world; one of three water coasters, Mammoth, the world’s longest water coaster; and Thunderbird, a steel coaster with “wing style” seating – instead of a climbing a lift hill to start the ride, it launches riders from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds on a thrilling adventure through the park.

And if you get too hot, cool off in the refreshing Splashin' Safari water park.

Silver Dollar City, Missouri

Silver Dollar City is an internationally awarded 1880s-style theme park in Branson, Missouri. It celebrates the Ozarks' history and culture with 100 resident craftspeople demonstrating America’s heritage crafts, all sitting atop one of Missouri’s deepest caves.

Some top attractions of its over 40 include Time Traveler, the world's fastest, steepest, and tallest spinning coaster, and Mystic River Falls, a family river expedition that takes riders on a half-mile journey through the Ozark waterways.

You can also tour Marvel Cave, the natural underground attraction Silver Dollar City was built around, splash around Silver Collar City White Water water park, and cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle.

Knott’s Berry Farm, California

Located 23 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, you’ll find Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The park began as a family-run berry stand in 1920, then a restaurant was added serving mouthwatering chicken dinners. The Knott family built an entire western-themed town that remains the heart of Knott's Berry Farm today.

A day at Knott’s Berry Farm means taking on mammoth roller coasters, Old West adventures in the authentic 1800’s Ghost Town, paying tribute to California’s Hispanic roots in Fiesta Village, experiencing the Southern California beach lifestyle along the Boardwalk, and going on a High Sierras adventure with Snoopy.

You can still experience pieces of the park's history, like the famous fried chicken at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, panning for gold (one of the early attractions in the park's ghost town days), and, of course, eating anything and everything boysenberry.

Planning Tips

When planning your summer family adventure to the theme parks, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Check the park's hours of operation, research the attractions and rides, and plan your visit accordingly.
  • Check the park's website for any special events or promotions that may be happening during your visit.
  • Consider staying at a nearby hotel or campground to make the most of your visit.
  • Pack appropriate clothing and gear for the park, including sunscreen, hats, comfortable shoes, handi-wipes, and portable phone chargers.

When planning, check for all your AAA Special Member Discounts for theme parks, attractions, hotels, rental cars, and more.

Whether you’re looking for thrills, aquatic fun, or activities for younger children, there’s something for everyone at these family-friendly parks. So why not break away from the traditional and discover some hidden gems for a summer of family fun?

Theme Park Adventure Awaits!

Theme Park Adventure Awaits!