The Washington Post / Contributor

America's Most Underrated Amusement Parks

You've heard of Disney World, Universal Studios, and Six Flags, but have you ever wondered what other amusement parks are out there? Perhaps you're looking for an amusement park near you, or a more affordable option — or perhaps you're just wanting something new. Well, guess what? We've got the perfect roundup of theme parks for anyone who's looking for something more. And we can guarantee that you haven't heard of all of these.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

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This park in Williamsburg, Virginia has something for everyone: Rip-roaring rides, first-class family-friendly entertainment, delicious food, and even beautiful scenery. The different sections of the park are modeled after different countries in Europe — complete with matching scenery, costuming, and music — so you can feel like you're visiting Ireland and France even while chowing down on candy apples and funnel cake. And you'll definitely want to check out the park's top-notch coasters if you're a thrill-seeker. They're unforgettable.

Kings Dominion

Kings Dominion Virginia

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Another hidden Virginia gem, King's Dominion offers up 12 roller coasters and more than 60 rides in total — including the Intimidator 305, which remains one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world. Whether you're six, sixteen, or sixty, you'll find something to love in this park's mass of brightly themed and expertly crafted attractions. And this theme park doesn't stick to just one theme: It blends elements from Paramount movies and TV, Virginia state history, and its creators' limitless imagination.

Hershey Park

Hershey Amusement Park

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It's right there in the name: This park is all about chocolate. Founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1906 as an elaborate break area for Hershey Chocolate Company employees, Hersheypark is now an award-winning destination in Hershey, PA for both thrill-seekers and chocolate lovers. If you get tired of riding the park's 15 roller coasters and over 60 other rides, then pop over to Hershey's Chocolate World to learn about the chocolate-making process and win yourself a free Hershey's chocolate bar.

Cedar Point

Cedar Point Amusement Park

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At Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, you can ride a world-class roller coaster and shake hands with Snoopy in the very same day. For unforgettable thrills, look no further than the Millennium Force's 93-mile-per-hour drop or the Top Thrill Dragster's one-two punch of a zero-to-120 acceleration with a 90-degree drop. But if you want a more relaxing time, then check out the beach, petting zoo, water park, and phenomenal shows. They're all included!

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There's nothing subtle about this amusement park's love for Dolly Parton — and why should there be? Everywhere you turn in this magical theme park, there's a nod to Dolly and her body of work — and that's not all. There's also award-winning food (see: the red velvet funnel cake) and memorable rides (see: FireChaser Express, a.k.a. America's first dual-launch coaster). You can even find an educational, entertaining museum dedicated to Dolly Parton's life and legacy. This park may be tucked away in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, but it's worth the trek.

Canobie Lake Park

Canobie Lake Park

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Most people's minds go to skiing whenever they think of New Hampshire, but Canobie Lake Park may just change that. Located in sleepy Salem, New Hampshire, this 120-year-old park is just as vibrant as it was when it first opened. There are classic attractions like bumper cars, arcade games, and a mirror maze, but there are also coasters and sky rides that provide lovely views of nearby Canobie Lake. Thrill-seekers will not be disappointed, either, as Canobie Lake Park offers both a classic wooden coaster and a modern steel coaster (complete with 97-degree drop).


Knoebels Amusement Park

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If you're a fan of those charming traveling fairs that are free to get into and only charge per ride, then you'll love Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. It's the largest free-admission theme park in the country — and it even offers camping and golfing opportunities in addition to its genuinely thrilling rides and family-friendly attractions. It's family-run and plenty of fun, and even includes six truly hair-raising roller coasters.

Kings Island

This sister park to Kings Dominion is just as fun and just as overlooked — but it's beyond us as to why. With over a dozen coasters and plenty of dazzling live entertainment, Ohio's Kings Island has surged in popularity ever since it appeared on The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch in the 1970s. Now, it's noteworthy for being the largest amusement park and water park in the Midwest — and for costing only $42 a ticket.

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