Top 10 Theme Parks
Photograph by David Sucsy/Getty Images
1. Magic Kingdom Park, Orlando, FL
Not just our top theme park, it's also our top attraction overall, and that should come as a surprise to no one. The Magic Kingdom, after all, is quintessential Disney, from Cinderella Castle to Pirates of the Caribbean to that famous flying elephant -- the perfect place for your kids to get face time with their favorite characters and thumb their noses at gravity on a world-class selection of rides. A South Carolina family nailed it when they called the Kingdom "a complete escape from our normal lives."
2. Universal's Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL
Yes, it's home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and for fans of the boy wizard, that's reason enough to visit this attraction-packed theme park. But don't end your trip at Hogwarts. There are six other "islands," each devoted to a favorite movie, character, or group of characters, and each offering enough shows, interactive attractions, and topflight rides to keep kids and adults entertained for the better part of a day. In fact, one Florida dad called the rides "the best of any park I've ever been to." We bet he's not the only one who feels that way.
3. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
More families had visited here than any other destination in our survey, and many explained their choice in just two words: "It's Disneyland!" Nowhere else does the expression "something for everyone" ring so true. In a single day, you can journey to a galaxy far, far away on the Star Tours attraction, go for a spin at a mad tea party, and speed down a five-story waterfall. Families appreciated the attention to detail and the friendly environment. Said a California mom: "Everyone makes it their mission to ensure that you have a good time and that the kids believe in the magic."
4. Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
Cedar Point bills itself as the "roller coaster capital of the world," and with good reason. The park has 17 coasters offering stomach-wrenching drops of as much as 300 feet and speeds of up to 93 mph, plus thrill rides, tamer family areas, a boardwalk, water sports, and a mile-long beach along Lake Erie.
5. Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, FL
Get your thrills amid scenes from popular movies and TV shows on rides such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Men in Black Alien Attack, and Kang and Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl.
6. Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA
Disney and Pixar stories and characters come to life in eight themed lands featuring live shows, rides, boardwalk games, and interactive experiences.
7. Disney's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL
With more than 1,700 animals representing 250 species, this sprawling park offers an impressive mix of animal encounters, thrill rides, games, shows, and other attractions.
8. Disney's Hollywood Studios, Orlando, FL
Immerse yourself in the magic of Disney movies and TV shows: meet your favorite characters, watch live stage shows and a 3D movie, and explore a huge selection of themed rides and attractions.
9. Kings Island, Mason, OH
In addition to family and thrill rides like the brand new Banshee -- the world's longest inverted roller coaster -- Kings Island also features a special Planet Snoopy section for its youngest visitors, an animatronic dinosaur park, and a 33-acre waterpark.
10. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA
Along with a wide range of amusement-park rides and theatrical performances, this lushly landscaped park is home to a host of animals on display, including wolves, eagles, alligators, and pythons, as well as such domesticated species as Clydesdale horses, sheep, and border collies.