When factoring in the 10 best American theme parks, the list is based on a family-oriented hot spot that draws in a steady crowd of locals and tourists. American culture is vast and continues to experience new waves of diversity as society continues to set new trends along the way. Sometimes, those trends are welcomed with open arms but sometimes they’re met with hostility. With that being said, sometimes not all trends move society in the right direction. Mankind’s timeline repeatedly shows how trends can sometimes send people down a destructive path that’s met with tragic consequences. Despite the rollercoaster ride humanity has been riding on since the dawn of time, the human race has always managed to come out on top, one way or another.
In many cases, themed parks are designed to serve as a reflection of the accomplishments made by a collection of people that played key historic roles. Among the nations that embrace the concept of theme parks, there is a favor to show what makes them think their country is so great. In the United States of America, this is no exception. While the population who call the USA their home seem to be divided when it comes to political and social opinions, there should be no argument that theme parks play an important role in American culture. Theme parks are designed for people to visit as a special world that serves as a happy place. In America, there are ten theme parks dedicated to the nation’s history and culture that really excel at this.
10 Best American Theme Parks
# 10 – Fun Spot America
The city of Orlando, Florida is well-known for its incredible collection of theme parks. Among them, Fun Spot America serves as a theme park designed for the whole family. This is the home to the city’s only wooden rollercoaster, White Lightning. There is also Freedom Flyer, a family-suspended steel coaster that’s worth the ride if you’re seeking some thrills. This is also where the world’s second tallest SkyCoaster calls home, standing at two hundred and fifty feet tall. There is also a Ferris wheel that stands just over one hundred feet high, and a flurry of rides and activities to keep every visitor entertained for hours. While here, don’t forget to visit Gator Spot, a massive oasis that features over one hundred alligators, birds, and exotic reptiles. What’s nice about Fun Spot America is it’s one of the most affordable theme parks in the Orlando area. Don’t let the lower price fool you as this by no means suggests this is an inferior park that doesn’t have much to offer. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Orlando isn’t the only city that has a Fun Spot America park in its midst. These theme parks are also located in Kissimmee, Florida, and Fayetteville, Georgia. Fun Spot America has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1979. It was originally founded as Fun N Wheels and became the world’s first themed action park after it premiered Raging Riptide, as a forty-foot-high waterslide. That particular park had since closed as Fun Spot move to another location that better suited their needs. In 2007, Kissimmee became the second location before Fun Spot America branched beyond Florida’s borders in 2017 to Fayetteville, a community approximately twenty minutes away from Atlanta.
# 9 – Cave of the Winds Mountain Park
In 1881, Cave of the Winds was a discovery in Manitou Springs, Colorado that quickly became famous for its beauty and expansive collection of caverns. Located just west of Colorado Springs, this is a theme park that stays true to its American roots while at the same time demonstrating what makes the nation so great. It blends today with yesterday so few parks as popular as this are able to do. While here, check out Williams Canyon and have the thrill of your life with the TERROR-Dactyl. This is a one-of-a-kind aerial dive ride not meant for the faint at heart. If you’re up for a hiking challenge, try the Wind Walker Challenge Course. As for rides and attractions designed for every member of the family, this amazing theme park has no trouble catering to that. The appeal behind Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is the pioneering spirit of America when the nation was still relatively young. So much of the American frontier had yet to be explored The Manitou Grand Caverns is an undeveloped gem that’s really worth checking out. While many travelers are likely to think about a theme park loaded with hi-tech rides, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park takes a step away from that.
# 8 – Universal Studios Theme Parks
In 1912, Universal Studios began in Los Angeles, California, as a company focused on theatrical productions. As movies and television swept across the United States of America, Universal Studios Hollywood officially became a theme park destination on July 15, 1964. What designates Universal Studios Theme Parks as one of the best American theme parks is owed to the influence it’s had on USA’s cultural landscape. Even after the studio first opened up shop in California, it became a tourist attraction. Because it became so popular, another Universal Studios Theme Park was built in Florida in 1990. Three more were built overseas, the first among them in Osaka, Japan. That was built in 2001. In 2010, Singapore, and in 2021, Beijing, China. Today, millions of guests pour into these theme parks. The concept of a theme park that featured some of the most popular blockbusters of all time continues to be one of the biggest draws that keep visitors coming back for more.
Through Universal Studios, as film productions and theme parks, so much of America’s culture was featured that showed all the highs and lows that shaped the nation into what it is today. Despite opposing opinions of people who debate over the current direction of America, the bottom line is the nation and Universal Studios have been tightly knit together for over a century. The production giant glorified what made America great while at the same time laying out gruesome tales of a nation that underwent and still goes through growing pains.
# 7 – The Island in Pigeon Forge
Situated on twenty-three acres, The Island in Pigeon Forge is a Tennesseean gem that beautifully illustrates what made the United States of America one of the best countries in the world to live in, as well as visit. While at The Island, two icons that serve as a tasty example of America’s food culture are Jimmy Buffett and his Margaritaville restaurant and Paula Deen and her Family Kitchen. There is also The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a massive observation wheel that stands two hundred feet tall. What a great opportunity to take in the view of Pigeon Forge’s magnificent landscape. While at the park, be sure to check out the awesome fountain show as it dances about to the mix of light and music, just like a proud American would.
When visiting The Island, you’re at the foothills of the infamous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not only do you take in some of the best natural scenery the United States of America has to offer but a good dose of American culture at its finest. The Island is more than a theme park. It is an experience. There is a nostalgic feel to The Island, especially when you walk down Market Street. Don’t forget to take a scenic ride on the Ferris wheel while you’re there. The view is worth it. As for some awesome American history, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum exposes you to its dark side as you learn more about the nation’s criminal syndicates and the law enforcers that rose to the challenge to keep America safe.
# 6 – Silver Dollar City
Located between Branson and Branson West, Missouri, Silver Dollar City has been a world-class American theme park for over five decades. It hosts six world-class festivals, as well as an impressive collection of attractions and rides that have something for everyone. There are forty live shows that run daily, as well as sixty unique shops that feature the work of some of the most talented craftsmen. Silver Dollar City was designed as an 1880s-era reflection of the American Wild West. However, it also features White Water, a waterpark situated on thirteen acres, loaded with rides, slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool.
On May 1, 1960, Silver Dollar City opened up as a theme park for the first time as a family-friendly tourist attraction loaded with good old-fashioned American charm. Currently owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, this sixty-one-acre theme park is situated at the Ozark’s Marvel Cave. This is one of the region’s oldest attractions that was first discovered by Canadian miner Willam Henry Lynch in 1889. Seeing a golden opportunity to turn it into a tourist destination, he and his family made an investment to welcome sightseers to check it out. Launching forward to the 1969-70 season of a popular television show known as the Beverly Hillbillies, Silver Dollar City was featured at the time as an actual town instead of a theme park. This was enough to spike interest in the park by tourists across the nation, as well as worldwide. Silver Dollar City still represents one of the best elements that defined American culture as it continued to grow as one of the world’s greatest nations.
# 5 – Hersheypark
If you’re looking for a world-class amusement park that glorifies American history, Hersheypark is the place to go. The inspiration behind this park came from Milton S. Hershey himself, opening up its doors in a town he also founded, Hershey, Pennsylvania. The park opened in 1906 with considerable fanfare that quickly made it a popular tourist attraction. It also played a key role in the development of Hershey, Pennsylvania. However, it wasn’t until 1970 did it officially become a theme park.
Now as a theme park, Hersheypark continued its development with a number of themed areas. These included Animal Garden, Carousel Circle, Der Deitsch Platz, and Tower Plaza. In 1985, Pioneer Frontier was established as a tribute to the settlers who braved the unknowns of the wild frontier belonging to a much younger American nation. In 1996, Midway America was developed, then The Boardwalk in 2007. If you want a theme park that pours so much focus on what made America great, Hersheypark is it.
The popularity of Hersheypark usually sees at least a million tourists visit the park, year after year. It one of the world’s most unique resort destinations. If you’re a chocoholic by heart, bypassing an opportunity to visit Hersheypark would seem unfathomable. This is where Hershey’s Chocolate World is located, offering every chocolate concoction imaginable and beyond. Another added bonus while at Hersheypark is access to ZooAmerica, allowing visitors to view more than two hundred animals found in North America.
# 4 – Six Flags
The beginnings of Six Flags Entertainment Corporation began in 1961 as Six Flags, Corp. August G. Wynne was the brainchild behind a theme park that first sprang up in Arlington, Texas. Nowadays, there are twenty-seven Six Flags Theme Parks located in North America. Aside from amusement parks set up in the United States, Six Flags has locations in Canada and Mexico as well. Millions of guests flock to these parks, year after year. As a name, Six Flags represents six different nations that once upon a time governed the state we now know as Texas. Those six nations are the Confederate States of America, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Spain, and the United States of America. Nothing says American theme quite like Six Flags has done all along. Even in Canada and Mexico, the influence of American iconic culture can be heavily felt, even before stepping through the entrance gate.
In 1957, Six Flags Theme Parks was created by Wynne and his investors. The first park featured a Native American village, as well as a gondola, railroad, a stagecoach, and a series of shows representing the Wild West. There was also Skull Island, a pirate-themed adventure attraction that became incredibly popular. Over time, most of these attractions were replaced by log flumes, rollercoasters, shoot-the-chute rides, and swing rides. However, the railroad remained as this played an integral role in the growth and development of America as a nation. Today, Six Flags features rides and attractions based on the historical trends of American pop culture. This includes influences from DC Comics, Garfield, and Paws Inc.
#3 – Knott’s Berry Farm
Near Anaheim, California is Knott’s Berry Farm. What started out as a small berry farm started by Walter Knott in 1923 eventually became one of America’s most popular theme parks. Camp Snoopy serves as the ideal playground for smaller kids while the Old West Ghost Town bursts with a theme that wonderfully depicts what life was like in America during the Wild West. There is also Fiesta Village, the park’s wonderful contribution to the State of California’s Hispanic roots. While here, touring Knott’s Boardwalk shows off what the beaches of Southern California look and feel like. This is where you’ll find some of the most extreme rollercoasters, as well as a stage for some live entertainment. If you really want a feel of what makes America so great, Knott’s Berry Farm is the place to go. Oh, and come hungry so you can devour some fried chicken at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
There are about four million visitors that come to Knott’s Berry Farm each year. While still dedicated to preserving its earliest roots, this theme park keeps up with trendy Americans by coming up with new ways to keep the visitors coming back for more. Although a full century has gone by since starting off with a berry stand, Knott’s Berry Farm still has its tasty jams and preserves sold to the consumer market. Whether it’s by the store brand label Smuckers or the Berry Market brand sold at the park, these come from the recipes that were used by Walter Knott and his family.
# 2 – Dollywood
Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is considered one of the world’s best theme parks, thanks to its award-winning shows, rides, and special events. Named after American country music icon Dolly Parton, this is one American theme park that stands out as a major fan favorite. As one of the pioneers that shaped the country music industry, along with enough influence to shape other musical genres, Parton’s legacy shines almost as bright as the star herself at this park. Probably one of the best opportunities to really take in the Dollywood experience is to visit between November and December so you can soak up the Smoky Mountain Christmas. If you’re a fan of gospel music and glowing pumpkins, the Dollywood Harvest Festival is a must-visit during the fall season. Although Dollywood thrives as an American theme park, it hosts the Festival of Nations each spring. This invites artists and entertainers from all over the world to showcase their talent before a live audience. As a nation, what makes America so great is its diverse culture. Mixing the vibrance of different ethnic backgrounds in the United States offers a unique flavor not felt anywhere else in the world.
Prior to becoming Dollywood, the park was a small tourist attraction known as Rebel Railroad. The ownership changed hands a few times before Herschend Family Entertainment acquired it in 1976. The location of the site was part of Parton’s homeland. At the time, it was called Silver Dollar City, serving as a sister park to the one in Missouri. In 1986, Dolly Parton teamed up with Herschend as a co-owner as it was her desire to return to her homeland and make a positive difference in the community. When it comes to the spirit of a pioneer wanting to turn their home into a thriving community, it doesn’t get any more American than this.
#1 – EPCOT
Mention Walt Disney and one of the first images that come to a fan’s mind will be Mickey Mouse. Who guessed 1928’s Steamboat Willie would have launched an entertainment empire the world would simply recognize as Disney? No other name in the history of entertainment draws as much attention as Disney. No other amusement park in the world shares the same recognition level as Disneyland and Walt Disney World. As familiar as Disney is worldwide, there is one particular theme park associated with the conglomerate that deserves mention as one of the best American theme parks.
EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Before Walt Disney’s death in 1966, he wanted to create a park that was dedicated to human achievement. The very foundation of the United States of America was based on incredible achievements made by the nation’s founding fathers who sought to have a nation free from oppression. Since then, the USA has constantly struggled to maintain those freedoms one way or the other. To this day, the fight continues.
Interestingly enough, when Disney died in 1966, it seemed as if his EPCOT dream died with him. However, it became reality in 1982 when it was built near Orlando, Florida, as part of Walt Disney World. What makes EPCOT qualify as one of the best American theme parks is exactly what its full name represents. The United States of America has been a leader when it comes to bringing forth innovative ideas and technology to the world stage. From the ground up, America was built by pioneers, regardless of cultural background and skin color. Instead of dwelling so much on the sins of the past, these pioneers chose to focus on today and work together as one.
This is what’s called the pioneering spirit. Live and work for today for the sole purpose of a better tomorrow. Because of the shared vision among those pioneers, America became a nation that made theme parks like Disney, EPCOT, and so many others possible. Walt Disney knew this and wanted to let his fellow Americans know it, too. He wanted the entire world to know it. He knew tomorrow can’t happen without making today count. EPCOT’s massive collection of cultural appreciation, as well as its dedication to a better tomorrow, is what makes this one of the best possible American theme parks you can visit.
The United States was designed as a melting pot society. When the rest of the world realized America enjoyed an abundance of freedoms and opportunities, so many flocked to the nation with big dreams and a lot of heart. That is what defined America. It was never about skin color or any other factor. It was about spirit. EPCOT celebrated that spirit through the vision of Walt Disney. It still celebrates it today. It will still do so tomorrow and that’s what makes it as American as it gets.
10 Best American Theme Parks article published on BigCityReview.com© 2023
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