We’re not talking family theme parks where a giant mouse reigns supreme. We’re talking about family theme parks with thrilling roller coasters that make us shriek, scream and sometimes even cry when we’re done loop-de-looping and plummeting 100 stories at breakneck speeds. These amusement parks for families are perfect for thrill-seeking families, yet go above and beyond by also featuring things for toddlers and the not-ready-for-prime-time kids to do so. These are our favorite amusement parks for families.
Written by Lissa Poirot
Cedar Point - Sandusky, Ohio
What's New: Steel Vengeance, which features a wooden structure below and a steel track above, is now the tallest, fastest and longest hybrid roller coaster in the world!
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: Cedar Point trains kids to love thrills at an early age, with rides that will spin and drop for those under 3 feet tall. There are four different kid areas in the park, so you can stay close to your bigger kids riding the rails, and two Family Care Centers provide a quiet and comfortable place to nurse and change diapers.
Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN
What's New: The new 230-foot Drop Line gives you awesome views of the mountains above Timber Canyon. Several new musical events and festivals will take place in 2018, too!
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: More than a dozen rides are available for kids under 3 feet in height, and there are tons of live shows the entire family will enjoy. Bottle warmers, nursing stations, changing stations, kids' meals, stroller and Baby Care Centers are offered in the park, along with a Parent Swap for adults and big kids to enjoy the coasters and wait with younger kids.
Hersheypark - Hershey, PA
What's New: In 2018, the park opened two new rides at the Boardwalk at Hersheypark. Breakers Edge Water Coaster, an open-air flying saucer with four-person rafts, and Whitecap Racer, the longest mat racing slide in the world, are making a splash this year.
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: There are more than two dozen kiddie rides, and the family-friendly park categorizes its rides into six different height zones. Free admission to the neighboring Chocolate World with candy-themed rides and attractions is a great break for little ones, and the park features quiet areas and a nursing mothers station.
Kings Island - Mason, Ohio
What's New: The Beast still rules but the wooden coaster, Mystic Timber, joined the fray and reaches speeds of 53 miles per hour.
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: There are tons of rides with no minimal height up to 3 feet in height for toddlers to experience, including water flumes, trains, flyers and carousels. Kids 3 and younger do not pay for admission, and for parents and big kids wanting to ride the coasters, a Parent Swap line alternative is available.
Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO
What's New: Construction is finally complete on the highly anticipated new scream machine, Time Traveler. It is the world's fastest, steepest and tallest, SPINNING roller coaster! It reaches speeds of 50.3 miles per hour and has a 90-degree vertical drop. This one is not for the faint of heart!
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: Silver Dollar City's attractions are most welcoming to families, with a number of rides for children feet in height. Nursing stations, family restrooms, the ability to warm bottles at all restaurants, stroller rentals and daily locker rentals are available for families.
Six Flags - Nationwide
What's New: The parks are often adding new rides each year, such as the 12-story-tall, free-flying coaster The Joker, bringing twisted laughs around the country.
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: The Bugs Bunny-themed play areas and rides for toddlers with no minimum height requirements includes a treehouse climbing structure. Six Flags offers Baby Care Centers with bottle warmers and a comfortable place to nurse, with these and every restroom offering baby changing stations. If kids aren't tall enough to ride a ride, take part in the Kid Swap, where taller members can ride one at a time and swap places in line to stay with younger children and not miss out on the fun.
Universal's Islands of Adventure - Orlando
What's New: Islands of Adventure took a backseat to Universal's new Volcano Bay, but added a King Kong-themed ride in 2016.
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: While the scream-inducing rides are here, so are the more family- and tot-friendly rides, so all ages can enjoy a day at the park. Kids' play areas can be found at Camp Jurassic, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, If I Ran the Zoo and Me Ship, The Olive. The park offers a Child Swap program, single and double stroller rentals, multiple nursing facilities and diaper-changing facilities in all restrooms, as well as family restrooms.
Universal Studios, Hollywood and Orlando
What's New: The Orlando location welcomed Fast & Furious: Supercharged recently where there are iconic vehicles and memorable location from the movie as you race through the experience. The ride also features a "virtual line" allowing guests to select a return time so you don't need to waste time waiting.
But wait! It's also good for little tykes because: The Super Silly Fun Land play zone with 80 different water play features that will keep kids cool in the heat of summer is located right next door to Despicable Me, a family-friendly ride. Characters can be found roaming the park, and studio tours on a slow-moving tram can be enjoyed with young ones. A Child Switch option is available on big rides.