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11 Amusement Parks for the Whole Family

  • Courtesy of Dutch Wonderland

    Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

    This 48-acre park is designed with young children in mind. More than 30 rides (on some, kids get to take the driver’s seat), a water park and live performances by the park’s own magical characters make for a day you and the grandkids will remember. It’s all within walking distance of free parking. Unexpected rain? No problem. If it lasts for more than an hour, you can leave and come back for free any day during the remainder of the summer season.

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  • Courtesy of Wild Adventures

    Wild Adventures, Valdosta, Georgia

    With four classes of rides — thrill, kids, family and water—everybody can enjoy the day. Set the preschoolers loose in the Critter Crawl play area, and meet the teens after they take a few passes on the Cheetah, a 90-foot-tall, 3,000-foot-long beast of a wooden roller coaster. Then everybody pile on to the Safari Train for glimpses of antelopes, zebras, giraffes and water buffalo. Frisbee-catching dogs and Indian tigers round out the animal adventures.

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  • wikimedia commons

    Canobie Lake Park, Salem, New Hampshire

    This park, established more than a century ago, is a 35-minute drive from Boston. Put the little ones in Kiddie Canoes and on Mini-Scooter rides; from late September through late October, set the older kids loose at the Screeemfest, “where fear meets fun.” Classic arcade games add the flavor of a boardwalk. So does the lemonade and pizza — or “Minuteman” Fried Clams, if you’re up for that.

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  • Courtesy of Hershey Park

    Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania and Hershey’s Chocolate World

    Who can resist a theme park featuring that famous chocolate? Here, sweets abound — even in the form of costumed characters dressed as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Kisses. More than 65 rides, including 20 for younger kids, satisfy roller-coaster cravings. But don’t miss the tasting adventure at neighboring Hershey’s Chocolate World, featuring interactive learning about chocolate lore — and culminating in a Master’s Degree in Chocolate Tasting from Hershey’s University. and

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  • tedeytan/flickr

    Children's Fairyland, Oakland, California

    This storybook theme park is a whimsical walk for children, young and old, through nearly 40 storybook tales. Built to child-size proportions, sets feature classics like the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel and Peter Pan’s Jolly Roger Pirate Ship. The park also features farm animals, rides, gardens and Aesop’s Playhouse, where local kids audition to play characters from folktales. 

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  • Courtesy of Dollywood

    Dollywood’s Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

    Set in the Smoky Mountains, this water park, founded by country music legend Dolly Parton, has 23 waterslides and thrill rides. Get on the Big Bear Plunge and raft through dark caverns, churning rapids and a wall of water that sends you splashing down a bumpy slope into a pool below. Not your style? Tube along a lazy river through mountain scenery. And for the small fry, there’s a wave pool and Little Creek Falls, with mini-fountains and slides.

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  • Mazku/Finnish Wikipedia project

    Knoebels, Elysburg, Pennsylvania

    This one’s not too big, not too small — it’s just right. Climb aboard one of the granddaddies of wooden roller coasters, The Phoenix, and the century-old Grand Carousel, where you can still get lucky and catch the brass ring. Teens will love the Haunted Mansion, and there’s an 18-hole golf course next door. Admission to Knoebels is free; you can pay separately for each ride or buy “pay-one-price” passes.

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  • Courtesy of Storybook Land

    Storybook Land, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey

    It’s all about the youngsters at this park, just 10 miles west of Atlantic City. Since 1955, family owners have focused on classic stories and nursery rhymes with rides like the Tick-Tock Clock Drop, Beanstalk Bounce and J&J Railroad.

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  • Courtesy of Little Amerricka

    Little Amerricka, Marshall, Wisconsin

    This park keeps family fun simple. For little kids there are the low-key Fire Truck Rescue and Red Baron rides, and for the older set, Bumper Boats, Tilt-A-Whirl and Go-Karts. Take the Whiskey River Railway through 2 miles of Wisconsin countryside. Hungry? The food’s not fancy, but who doesn’t crave those good-old American classics: hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and soft-serve vanilla ice cream?

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  • Courtesy of

    Pixieland, Concord, California

    Small and sweet, Pixieland is geared toward the young ones. Plan a birthday party for 10 with pizza and juice boxes for lunch, unlimited access to all rides and a game booth where every kid wins a prize. Invite siblings, parents and grandparents to pay a fee at the entrance so everyone can join in the fun.

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  • Fk714/wikimedia commons

    Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

    What better place for sky-high views than a Ferris wheel on the beach? This family-owned park embraces all the traditions of a seaside summer vacation, with more than 30 rides, including both steel and wooden roller coasters, a log flume, midway and arcade games, and live entertainment. Admission is free; passes and individual-ride tickets are available. And if the actual Atlantic Ocean doesn’t suit the kids for swimming, they can tube and slide to their hearts’ content at the water park across the street. 

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  • Courtesy of Dutch Wonderland
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