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7 Best Amusement Parks in North America, Rated by Real Parents

Believe it or not, Disney doesn't top this year's list.

7 Best Amusement Parks in North America, Rated by Real Parents

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If you're getting a headstart on summer travel plans for the family, be sure to add one of the best amusement parks in North America to your travel goals bucket list. In addition to the best all-inclusive resorts for families, these fun-making theme parks offer jam-packed days of adventure for the whole crew.

We compiled our list based on real user data, ratings and reviews from TripAdvisor users. To break all the data down, the site calculated the percentage of highest-mark reviews left on each part to create a final ratio determining the ultimate popularity of each. The most surprising finding was that Disney didn't come out on top. And yes, they're all baby and toddler-friendly.

The most popular amusement parks in North America 2023

  1. Universal's Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort
  2. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort
  3. Disney California Adventure Park
  4. Cedar Point
  5. Disneyland Park
  6. Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando Resort
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

Universal's Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort

best amusement parks in north america, universal islands of adventure Instagram.com/oscarsairtime

With over 52,000 user ratings and a nearly-perfect 4.6-star average, Universal's Islands of Aventure takes this year's top spot in the list of best amusement parks in North America. We know it's 2023, but this all-joy-all-the-time park also won a coveted 2022 Traveler's Choice award.

The description says, "Prepare for a place where superheroes, beasts, and magical creatures stand before you. You're entering lands where everything is real. Explore a secret school of witchcraft and wizardry. Fly high above the city streets with a famous web-slinger. Hide from hungry dinosaurs and hope you're not their next meal. And you can face the most colossal ape ever to walk the earth. Let the adventures begin."

But really, we're obsessed because Orlando is easy to get to, the park has attractions that appeal to every age and stage, the lines are manageable and the hotel and food selection is plentiful. Just remember, if you're staying offsite in an Airbnb or smaller hotel room, you'll want to pack your toddler travel bed.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

best amusement parks in north america, magic kingdom at walt disney world Instagram.com/waltdisneyworld

It comes as no surprise that Magic Kingdom makes the list of best amusement parks. If you've been there, you know it really is magical. We love how friendly it is for families of every age, stage and style and how much emphasis this park puts on making everyone feel like they belong in this absolute wonderland of fun.

With nearly 70,000 TripAdvisor user ratings, it's been labeled, "Fairytale dreams come true for children of all ages." We have to agree, having taken infants, toddlers and big kids to this park. Each enjoyed their time fully, and at night, the parents got to go out on the Disney-themed town (yes, babysitters are available).

Six whimsical lands within the park await your arrival, each better than the last. The best part? Disney really thinks of every detail. That means the resorts have the most comfortable kids' mattresses we've ever seen, stroller rentals exist and you can even buy pacifiers in the gift shops should you lose your own.

Something else we love is how accommodating Disney is with special needs children and adults—they really roll out the red carpet to make sure everyone has the most memorable experience possible.

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Disney California Adventure Park

best amusement parks in north america, disnleyland anaheim TripAdvisor

Disney does it again! This time, California's Adventure Park takes the cake with nearly 16,000 user ratings and the absolute top slot for Anaheim. It's smaller than Walt Disney World, but users report "short lines" during off-peak hours and "easy access" with strollers and wheelchairs. The park features are seemingly endless.

"Buckle up for an exhilarating ride around Pixar Pier on the Incredicoaster," the description reads. "Zoom through the desert landscape of Cars Land on Radiator Springs Racers, and explore a campus created for the next generation of Super Heroes at Avengers Campus."

We agree it's the best theme park for West Coasters and those visiting sunny California, though far-flung Disney fans with a few days to commit to amusement may be better off in Orlando. We think Disneyland in Anaheim is more of a one or two-day trip, tops.

Cedar Point Sandusky Ohio

best amusement parks in north america, cedar point ohio TripAdvisor

Finally, a top spot on the list of best amusement parks goes to a northern US state, and we couldn't be more excited. Cedar Point is located in Sandusky, Ohio, making it easily accessible to the entire Midwest, much of the Northeast and several Canadian metro areas. In fact, the park location is one of the few designed to be within reach for the Great Lakes regions.

"More than just an amusement park, Cedar Point features hotels, restaurants, beautiful grounds along with an impressive variety of thrill rides," the description reads. If you ask locals, the best time to hit this one up is the summer or early autumn when the water park rides are in full swing.

A variety of attractions for kids and toddlers of every stage exist, and theme park tickets are more reasonable than Disney and Universal's pricing. Not sure where to stay? Dozens of nearby hotels offer nightly rates ranging from $65 to $700—a fraction of Orlando's high-season pricing.

Disneyland Park

best amusement parks in north america, disnleyland anaheim TripAdvisor

The main Disnleyland Park in Anaheim wins this spot for reliable fun and family-friendly adventure. While it's separate from the top Disneyland spot, you can definitely access both with the same tickets. We love how stroller and wheelchair-friendly this park is, and how hardworking the staff members are.

The last time we were there, at least eight Disney-themed characters helped guide us to bathrooms, drinks and changing tables. With tickets starting at about $285 each for adults, it does cost a pretty penny—but it's well worth it for the roller coasters and access to nearby Los Angeles.

You can probably get through the best parts of the park in a single day, though many families say turning this into a weekend trip is the best bet. That way you don't have to rush or feel pressured to hit every ride in record time.

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Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando, best amusement parks in north america TripAdvisor

We suggest committing a good two days to your Universal Studios Florida experience—there's just so much to do and the kids will want to ride everything twice. Rides for all ages exist, and they're all themed around major movie moments the kids will happily recognize and you'll squeal with when you realize all your nostalgia buttons are being pressed.

"Hang on tight," the description says. "Your heroes are about to burst through the screen and yank you into the story. You’re the star here and you’ll disappear into one jaw-dropping adventure after another. Dodge evil villains. Defend the earth. Face a fire-breathing dragon."

So yeah, you guessed it, dads love this park to above-and-beyond levels we can't possibly begin to explain beyond just telling you that Dad is going to leave with a perma-smile. There's something for all types of thrill seekers. Expect lifelong memories and family photos you'll end up printing and framing for the grandparents.

Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort

best amusement parks in north america, disney animal kingdom in orlando Instagram.com/disneyanimalkingsom

Nearly 35,000 ratings earned Disney's Animal Kingdom the final spot on our list of the top amusement parks in North America, though honestly, we'd put it first. We loved our time there with a six-month-old, three-year-old, six-year-old and a nine-year-old. Plus, it's not quite as crowded as the other Disney parks and probably has even more family-friendly attractions than anywhere else.

"Encounter exotic animals and exciting adventures at Disney's Animal Kingdom park, one of the largest animal theme parks in the world," shares the TripAdvisor text. "Home to more than 2,000 animals across 300 unique species, the park reflects Walt Disney’s dedication to conservation and is committed to animal care, education and research. Explore seven enthralling lands: Oasis, Discovery Island, Pandora - The World of Avatar, Africa, Rafiki's Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand, U.S.A."

Seriously, if you love animals and want the closest possible thing to a kid-safe safari experience without leaving North America, this is it. And it's SO good, and easily coupled with other Disney parks experiences. Reserve a full one to two days for this adventure.

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