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10 Amusement Parks That Are Better in the Off-Season

See recent posts by Cortney Fries

With fabulous festivals and fewer crowds, there are more amusement park thrills to be had in the fall, spring, and even winter. These are the best amusement parks to visit in the off-season.

Santa talking to a little boy during Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania

1. Hersheypark, PA

As if visiting Hersheypark wasn’t sweet enough, it is super special during the holiday season. From mid-November through New Year’s Day, Hersheypark gets decked out with four-million twinkling lights for its annual Christmas Candyland. Live entertainment, Santa and his nine reindeer and more than 50 rides (including six coasters) make your visit festive and merry. Enjoy the thrill of Hershey Triple Tower and Sidewinder, open for the first time during Hersheypark Christmas Candylane in 2018. And don’t miss the Create Your Own Candy Bar experience at Hershey’s Chocolate World!

Recommended Hotel: The Suites at Hershey

2. Six Flags Magic Mountain, CA

Now open year-round, Six Flags Magic Mountain in sunny Southern California is a dream to visit when the weather isn’t ideal in your hometown. If you are a Six Flags member or season pass holder, you’re especially lucky. Your home park pass allows you access to Six Flags Magic Mountain any day, without blackout dates. Currently holding the record as the U.S. amusement park with the most roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain has 19. Get giddy on the new CraZanity, the world’s tallest and fastest pendulum thrill ride.

Recommended Hotel: Comfort Suites Near Six Flags Magic Mountain

'Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular' Show during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney

3. Disney World, FL

The end of summer and early fall are great times to visit Walt Disney World, as ride lines are shorter and the weather is pleasant. Plus, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes place at the Magic Kingdom from mid-August through October. It’s super cute to see the kids dressed up in costumes, and reassuring to know all hauntings are happy. The Epcot International Food & Wine festival also runs in the fall. Fun for foodies — with small plates of global cuisine and cooking demonstrations — the event also offers kid-friendly fun, such as character dance parties and cooking opportunities in Junior Chef Kitchen.

Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Pop Century Resort

4. Kings Island, OH

This Midwest favorite has been awarded Best Kids’ Area by Amusement Today 17 years in row; plus, in 2017, Kings Island won Best New Ride for Mystic Timbers (and let us tell you, it’s a fast blast of crazy fun!). WinterFest returns the day after Thanksgiving through the end of December. Ice skate on the Royal Fountain and see the Kings Island Eiffel Tower transformed into a Christmas tree with carolers and holiday treats all around. Visit Jack Frost, see a holiday show, then buckle your seatbelts for the 53 mph ride on Mystic Timbers!

Recommended Hotel: Great Wolf Lodge Cincinnati/Mason

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California

5. Knott’s Berry Farm, CA

Knott’s Berry Farm is a more affordable California theme park with plenty of thrill rides and entertainment options. And in January and February, families can enjoy the Knott’s PEANUTS Celebration. Hang out with Pig Pen and his friends; learn how to sketch PEANUTS artwork with the park’s resident art teacher; and enjoy a family-friendly rock concert. You’ll also enjoy countless PEANUTS-inspired photo ops around the park, including Charlie Brown kites and kite-eating trees. If you’re brave enough, try the new Hangtime ride, which will give you the sensation of floating!

Recommended Hotel: Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel

6. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, FL

Any time of year is a great time to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since it’s open daily. But fall nights are especially festive and frightful for older kids up for visiting Howl-o-Scream. Haunted houses, scare zones and thrill rides in the dark are sure to get them screaming. Tweens and teens will also love Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower! This intense ride turns you face down to drop-dive like a falcon in search of its prey.

Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tampa, USF, Busch Gardens

Splash Country at Dollywood

7. Dollywood, TN

If you’re looking for good shows, tasty food and friendly vibes for your amusement park visit, then Dollywood is the ticket. Amusement Today has awarded Dollywood Best Shows nine years running, Friendliest Park six years running, Best Food four times and Best Christmas Event 10 years in a row! Bring on the joy of the season with the Parade of Many Colors and It’s a Wonderful Life performances. And don’t forget to try the cinnamon bread!

Recommended Hotel: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa

8. Knoebels, PA

“America’s Largest Free-Admission Amusement Park” provides free parking, free picnic facilities and free entertainment. While weekday all-you-can-ride passes are a great deal, and Wednesdays and Sundays tend to have fewer crowds, many say the best time to visit is the start of the season (spring). Opening weekend tends to have BOGO (buy one get one free) offers. Plus, the weather can be nice for rides during the day and cool for camping at night. Log cabins and campsites are available close to the family-run, traditional park. Take a spin on the award-winning carousel or try a Flying Turn classic bobsled coaster. This quirky park in the mountains of Pennyslvania is just the place to reconnect as a family.

Recommended Hotel: Comfort Suites Bloomsburg

Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point in Ohio

9. Cedar Point, OH

The end of summer is a great time to visit Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The park hosts its Last Blast of Summer on the final two weekends in August. Not only can you rock their 150 rides, but you can also get in some food truck fun. Sample tasty bites from Ohio and Michigan food trucks as they compete in the Ohio vs. Michigan Food Truck Challenge. Just don’t eat too much before you take your ride on the new Steel Vengeance! HalloWeekends in the fall are a fun time to visit, too.

Recommended Hotel: Maui Sands Resort & Indoor Waterpark

10. Disneyland, CA

If you’re looking for less wait time, fewer crowds and more fun, mid-January through mid-February is the best time to visit Disneyland, the second most attended amusement park in the world. Visiting during the week and outside of school holidays is your best bet to squeeze out the most magic. Whether you prefer Space Mountain over Splash Mountain, you’ll be even happier at the happiest place on earth when you get to spend more time riding the rides again and again.

Recommended Hotel: Disneyland Hotel

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