The 20 most popular amusement parks in North America

Theme-park attendance has risen steadily in the past few years

Magic Kingdom draws the most visitors
Despite the Griswold family’s troubled trips to Walley World, amusement parks continue to be a popular vacation choice. In fact, theme-park attendance has risen steadily in the past few years.

More than 146 million people visited the top 20 amusement parks in North America last year, up 5.9% from the previous year, according to the annual-attendance report from Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.
 
Disney continues to dominate the list, with its parks taking the top five spots. Magic Kingdom draws the most visitors by a large margin, consistently ranking as not only the most popular in North America but the rest of the world as well. 

In total, seven of the top 10 amusement parks are located in Florida. While ticket prices tend to increase in the peak summer season, they are usually lower if purchased ahead of time and online. 

For those wanting to take the ultimate summer vacation without breaking the budget and traveling too far from home, here are the top 20 theme parks in North America.

20. Busch Gardens Williamsburg



Visitors take a ride down Escape from Pompeii.

Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Attendance 2015: 2.78 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $77, Ages 3-9 $67

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is modeled after nine different European cities, each with its own unique attractions, style, and food. The Parisian streets of France, the hamlets of Scotland, and the Oktoberfest celebrations of Germany are among the top inspirations. The park is known for its roller coasters, themed holiday celebrations, and wild-animal attractions. 
 
19. Six Flags Great Adventure



Green Lantern roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Location: Jackson, New Jersey
Attendance 2015: 3.05 million
Cost of Day Pass: $72

Six Flags Great Adventure features 11 themed sections, including Fantasy Forest, Adventure Alley, and Frontier Adventures. The park is known for its many family-friendly rides and attractions, and its most popular annual event is Fright Fest during October, which offers walkthrough haunted attractions and free-roaming zombies. 
 
18. Six Flags Magic Mountain



Six Flags rides are known to be high flying, fast, and upside down.

Location: Valencia, California
Attendance 2015: 3.1 million
Cost of Day Pass: $80

With 19 roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain maintains the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park. The park teamed up with Samsung Gear VR to enhance the experience of riders using virtual-reality headsets on its The New Revolution roller coaster in 2016. 

17. Hersheypark



Family fun at Hersheypark.

Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Attendance 2015: 3.28 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 9+ $63, Ages 3-8 $40

Founded initially as a leisure park for the employees of Hershey Chocolate Company, Hersheypark, is a family-oriented theme park with over 70 rides, many of which are kid-friendly and 13 of which are roller coasters. Visitors can head next door to Hershey's Chocolate World for a chocolate factory-themed tour ride. 

16. Kings Island



The Beast ride at Kings Island.

Location: Kings Island, Ohio
Attendance 2015: 3.34 million
Cost of Day Pass: $64

Kings Island is a seasonal amusement park that's open only from early spring until Labor Day, except for a few weekends surrounding Halloween for its popular Halloween Haunt events. Some former employees of Kings Island are Carmen Electra, Woody Harrelson, and Nick Lachey, who each worked at the park before going on to successful careers in singing and acting. 

15. Cedar Point



Top Thrill Dragster ride at Cedar Point.

Location: Sandusky, Ohio
Attendance 2015: 3.51 million 
Cost of Day Pass: $52

With origins dating back to 1870, Cedar Point is the second-oldest operating theme park in the country. The park has 18 roller coasters and over 71 rides in total, making it a world-record holder for most rides. Its newest roller coaster, Valravn, has a 223-foot drop at 75 mph, making it the fastest dive coaster in the world. 

14. SeaWorld San Diego



A 3-D attraction at SeaWorld San Diego.

Location: San Diego, California
Attendance 2015: 3.53 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 3+ $79

One of three SeaWorld parks in the US, SeaWorld San Diego was founded in 1964 from the initial idea of an underwater restaurant that instead turned into a marine zoological park. The park's over 20 marine shows feature killer whales, dolphins, and sea lions. Next year, the park is adding five more attractions, one called Ocean Explorer that takes riders through the simulated sea while inside a submarine.

13. Canada's Wonderland



Family fun at Canada's Wonderland.

Location: Maple, Ontario 
Attendance 2015: 3.62 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 3+ $48

Canada's Wonderland is the first and largest amusement park in Canada, open from May to September along with a few weekends surrounding Halloween. The park features several different themes that include International Street, Medieval Faire, Action Zone, and Planet Snoopy. For summer visitors, Canada's Wonderland includes free access to its water park, Splash Works, which holds the largest outdoor wave pool in the country. 

12. Knott's Berry Farm



The Ghostrider roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm.

Location: Buena Park, California
Attendance 2015: 3.87 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 12+ $50, Ages 3-11 $42

Located on the site of a former family-owned berry farm, Knott's Berry Farm consists of four themed sections: Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, and Camp Snoopy. The Ghost Town was the first attraction built by the original owners, the Knott family, in 1940. There are 40 rides in all, including roller coasters, family- and kid-friendly rides, and historical rides that highlight the rich history of the California frontier. 

11. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay



Visitors can see giraffes when experiencing Busch Gardens Tampa.

Location: Tampa, Florida
Attendance 2015: 4.25 million  
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 3+ $89

Busch Gardens Tampa is themed after 19th-century Africa and features tropical landscape, exotic animals, and thrilling rides. The park is known for its over-the-top holiday decor and celebrations, with Christmas Town in the winter being widely visited by travelers wanting to see the entire park transformed with twinkling lights and real snow. 

10. SeaWorld Orlando



Visitors see marine life at SeaWorld Orlando.

Location: Orlando, Florida
Attendance 2015: 4.78 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 3+ $79

SeaWorld Orlando is separated into different areas known as "seas," of which Sea of Fun and Sea of Power are the most popular. Sea of Fun includes shows and kid-friendly rides themed around Shamu, the park's killer-whale mascot. Sea of Power features the famous live killer-whale shows that have come under fire within the past several years. 

9. Universal Studios Hollywood



"Jurassic Park" attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Location: Los Angeles, California 
Attendance 2015: 7.1 million 
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $105, Ages 3-9 $99

Universal Studios Hollywood began giving tours of the studio lots to visitors in 1964 before slowly becoming a fully operational theme park with nine rides, seven shows, and live character appearances. This spring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened after Universal following epic success with it in its Orlando parks. Additionally, the park features rides themed after its movies "Jurassic Park," "Transformers," and "Despicable Me." 
 
8. Universal's Islands of Adventure



Hogsmeade at the Islands of Adventure.

Location: Orlando, Florida 
Attendance 2015: 8.79 million 
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $105, Ages 3-9 $100 
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Islands of Adventure features seven islands that each are themed in vastly different ways. The most recent, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, has seen great success and largely contributed to the 8% attendance growth of the park. Other popular sections include Toon Lagoon, Seuss Landing, and Marvel Super Hero Island. Each island has its own unique rides, shows, characters, and shops. 

7. Disney California Adventure



Location: Anaheim, California 
Attendance 2015: 9.38 million 
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $105, Ages 3-9 $99

Disney California Adventure is themed after the history and culture of California, featuring live entertainment shows and seven districts. After having a rough attendance rate in its first five years, California Adventure introduced new attractions like Cars Land and Buena Vista Street to strike up more patrons. Hollywood Land is a popular district inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood — the 1930s — complete with a mock-up of a studio lot. 

6. Universal Studios Florida



Men in Black: Alien Attack.

Location: Orlando, Florida
Attendance 2015: 9.59 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $105, Ages 3-9 $100

Universal Studios Florida saw a 16% rise in visitors last year, due much in part to the very popular opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley. Other popular sections include Production Central, where visitors might see Shrek walking around, and Hollywood, where Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop hang around for fans of older TV shows. Live shows and immersive experiences are what Universal Studios prides itself on the most, specifically its Transformers: The Ride — 3D and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. 

5. Disney's Hollywood Studios



The 4-D Toy Story Mania ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Location: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Attendance 2015: 10.83 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $114, Ages 3-9 $108 (peak season) 

With the famous Tower of Terror on its Sunset Boulevard, Disney's Hollywood Studios is inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, but it also features attractions that focus on some of the most popular movies in modern history. "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," "Toy Story," and "The Muppets" are among the attraction inspirations at the park. Disney plans to expand Hollywood Studios in the next couple years by adding Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.

4. Disney's Animal Kingdom



Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Location: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Attendance 2015: 10.92 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $114, Ages 3-9 $108 (peak season)

Opened on Earth Day in 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom is themed around nature, animals, and conservation. It's the largest amusement park in the world based on its 580 acres of land, giving the animals plenty of space and visitors a more natural environment. Three areas — Oasis, Africa, and Asia — feature animal exhibits and live shows. The park plans to introduce a new section, Pandora, based on the world in the popular James Cameron movie "Avatar." 

3. Epcot



The famous Spaceship Earth, the landmark for Epcot.

Location: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
Attendance 2015: 11.8 million 
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $114, Ages 3-9 $108 (peak season)

Epcot celebrates technological innovation and international culture through its two themed sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World features attractions such as Mission: Space, which lets visitors simulate floating like an astronaut, as well as Test Track, which allows visitors to experience high speeds in an automobile-efficiency-test simulation. World Showcase is reminiscent of a world’s fair with 11 sections representing the culture and cuisine of 11 different countries. It hosts the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and showcases live cultural entertainment throughout the year. 

2. Disneyland



Disneyland in Anaheim celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Location: Anaheim, California 
Attendance 2015: 18.28 million
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $105, Ages 3-9 $99

Disneyland celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, resulting in a 9% increase in attendance from the previous year. From the Haunted Mansion to Space Mountain to Peter Pan's Flight, Disneyland features rides that are known throughout the country. Main Street, U.S.A. welcomes visitors to the park with old-town charm with its town square, quaint shops, town hall, and firehouse. 
 
1. Magic Kingdom



Fireworks light the sky at the Grand Opening of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Location: Lake Buena Vista, Florida 
Attendance 2015: 20.49 million 
Cost of Day Pass: Ages 10+ $124, Ages 3-9 $118 (peak season)

Known as "the most magical place on earth," Magic Kingdom is part of Walt Disney World and is consistently the most popular theme park on earth — and attendance was up 6% from 2014. 

Fantasyland is one of the park's most popular sections, as it features attractions themed after classic Disney movies like "Peter Pan," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "The Little Mermaid," and "Dumbo." 

Every night at Cinderella Castle — the theme parks iconic landmark — glowing fireworks and a flying Tinkerbell bid goodnight to visitors at Magic Kingdom. 

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