Other Great American Theme Parks to Explore

Photo op from Exclamation Point

You won’t find a theme park on top of a mountain, much less inside a mountain, anywhere but Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. But if you’re interested in collecting a variety of rolling, watery, funny, tasty, accessible, thrilling, and good old-fashioned theme parks, we like this list from Grandparents.com.

  1. Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1963 and family-owned until 2001, this 48-acre park calls itself a Kingdom for Kids. It has more than 35 rides, attractions, and shows, including a water play area, three roller coasters (one wooden), a log flume, a riverboat ride, animatronic dinosaurs, bumper cars and high-dive shows.

  1. Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania

Knoebels was founded on July 4, 1926, and is still family-owned. Part of its attraction is free admission, free parking, free entertainment and free picnic facilities. The park has more than 60 rides and attractions, including six roller coasters (one wooden), arcade games, mini-golf, a bald eagle habitat and two carousels originally built more than 100 years ago. You can still catch the brass ring for a free ride.

  1. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana

Opened in 1946, with the water park added in 1993, this 125-acre family-owned park was one of the first to offer unlimited soft drinks to visitors. The park is divided into Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and 4th of July themed sections, with food and music as well as rides reflecting the season. It has three wooden roller coasters, one steel coaster and two water coasters.

  1. Silverwood Theme Park and Boulder Beach in Athol, Idaho

Opened in 1988, with the water park added in 2003, this 413-acre playground is the northernmost U.S. theme park. It has 66 rides and attractions, including one of five giant inverted boomerang coasters in the world, five other roller coasters (two wooden), a Ferris wheel, bumper boats, a drop tower, a log flume, water slides, two wave pools and a popular steam train.

  1. Adventureland Amusement Park in Altoona, Iowa

This family-owned playground, opened in 1974, with the Adventure Bay water park added in 2010, has more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including five roller coasters and a whitewater river raft ride. It has numerous kid-friendly rides, a petting zoo and three game areas – Alpine Games, County Fair, and Dragon Island.

  1. Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut

Lake Compounce, founded in 1846, is the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States. The 332-acre playground was completely renovated after it opened under new management in the mid-1990s. It has 44 rides, including one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world and one of the newest, the mountainside Boulder Dash, among its five coasters. Lake Compounce, where cold drinks are free at hydration stations, also has a lakeside train ride, a drop tower, a Ferris wheel and a log flume.

  1. Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas

Built in 2010 by Gordan Hartman after his daughter was born with cognitive and physical delays, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed for children with special needs, although it is open to everyone (the accessibility is also convenient for older adults). The 25-acre nonprofit park has about 25 wheelchair-accessible attractions, including a carousel, Ferris wheel, train ride, wheelchair swings and Sensory Village. The three-acre Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park was added in 2017. Children with disabilities are admitted free.

  1. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California

Knott’s Berry Farm started on a berry farm that also sold preserves and pies in the 1920s, then added restaurants and shops, and finally built a Ghost Town in 1940. It expanded with a Camp Snoopy in 1983 and was sold by the family in 1997. Soak City, a water park, was added in 2000. The playground has five themed areas – Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, Camp Snoopy and Indian Trails. It has 35 rides, including nine roller coasters, two water rides and train rides. Knotts.com

  1. Carousel Gardens Amusement Park in New Orleans, Louisiana

This center in New Orleans City Park is focused on the 1906 Live Oak Ladybug Rollercoaster, locally known as the Flying Horses but has 16 other rides including a drop tower, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a miniature train. It is closed for most of the winter.

  1. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point, opened in 1870 and second only to Lake Compounce for longest-running park, attracts more than 3.5 million visitors a year, the most of any seasonal theme park. The 365-acre playground has more than 70 rides, including 16 roller coasters, two water rides, a 136-foot Ferris wheel, a 1912 carousel,and a train ride along Lake Erie. Performances are in the Extreme Sports Stadium, the Celebration Plaza Stage and smaller venues.

Seven Years of Screams

Giant Canyon Swing

Seven years after the Giant Canyon Swing opened at 1,300 feet above Colorado River, the thrill ride continues to attract international attention for its scenic beauty and sheer fright. As one French enthusiast posted with an online video of the experience: “Le Giant Canyon Swing du Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, dans le Colorado, est l’une des attractions les plus effrayantes au monde” – The Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, in Colorado, is one of the most scary attractions in the world.”

The swing has been featured in Sweden, Iran, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, and other countries, listed among the top scare experiences anywhere. Imfromdenver.com ranked it No. 3 of 5 Of the Most Terrifying Things To Do In Colorado. Those who manage to open their eyes during the ride describe the lush green vistas below and Glenwood Springs in the distance as they travel a 112-degree arc back and forth across the cliff at up to 50 mph. The requirement of a signed waiver, the height minimum of four feet, and owner Steve Beckley’s refusal to ride his own creation more than once all enhance the appeal for extreme thrill-seekers.

Major news channels and travel networks have featured the attraction, with celebrity hosts sometimes even daring the swing like Good Morning America’s Sam Champion and the Travel Channel’s Bert the Conqueror. Others, like Crystal from Colorado Radio in April, admire from afar, posting about the swing but declining to ride after watching others’ videos. Business Insider posted a new video of the swing earlier this year.

EarthTripper named the Giant Canyon Swing one of the 10 Scariest Rides On The Planet. “One look at the Giant Canyon Swing in Colorado makes it easy to see why it made this list,” Simon Tingle wrote in a post updated in May. “The ride is precariously positioned right on the edge of a cliff and catapults passengers straight over the edge, with a 1,300 foot drop down to the Colorado River below!”