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Theme Park Tourist Roundtable: Our Favorite Rides

Which theme park do you believe doesn't get as much attention as it deserves and why?

Image: Knott's Berry FarmAmanda Kondolojy:

Knott's Berry Farm. I literally only visited this park because it was near Disneyland and I figured I might as well. But after visiting once and learning more about the history of this park, it's a must-do for me now whenever I can make it out to Anaheim.

Brian Krosnick:

Image: Busch GardensDefinitely agree with Knott's, and increasingly so as Cedar Fair rolls back their coaster obsession and rehabs the park's classic dark rides!

My "underdog" theme park has to be Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia. By nature of being SeaWorld Parks' only major park to operate seasonally, it's often left out of industry conversations... but it definitely shouldn't be. With villages themed to European countries (each with authentic food and entertainment) all set in the forested valleys and hills of Virginia, it's been voted the most beautiful theme park on Earth for 29 consecutive years!

But most importantly, it skillfully blends "thrills" and "theme." Yes, it has a modest coaster collection (just seven adult coasters) but the rule here is "quality over quantity." Each of the 7 feels like the best of its kind in the world – Alpengeist, Verbolten, Tempesto, Griffon, Invadr... that little bit of theming goes a long way in elevating them. Plus, the park's focus on myths and legends of "the old country" has created some cool dark rides, like the now-closed Curse of DarKastle (the first ride after Spider-Man to use the SCOOP technology!) and today's Battle for Eire, a VR-simualtor through an Irish fable of dragons and fairies.

Natalie Sim:

Image: Cedar FairWe loved Canada's Wonderland when we visited in 2010 and Behemoth has got to be one of the craziest rollercoasters I have ever ridden with the lap restraints. It was such a strange sensation to be travelling up a super high lift hill and to be able to move my arms completely freely. So terrifying but thrilling all at the same time.

Jett Farrell-Vega:

Image: DisneyUnfortunately, I can't make much comment on parks outside of Disney because it has been so long since I've been to one (I do recall Busch Gardens Williamsburg being quite excellent when I visited though). Within Disney, I would say Epcot gets a lot of unfair flack as a park only for adults or the "nerd" park. Epcot is so unique among theme parks - a celebration of the human experience. I think the biggest mistake Disney could make would be trying to make it like their other parks (which I fear is exactly what they're about to do the next few years). Epcot has the perfect combination of great rides, some excellent food choices, the seasonal excitement of its festivals, and surprisingly good all-ages appeal, even with teens.

Ashley Varela:

Image: Children's FairylandWhile I don’t normally go out of my way to visit non-Disney parks (maybe I’m part of the problem!), a local favorite in Northern California is Children’s Fairyland. It’s not a traditional theme park - that is, it doesn’t offer the standard roller coasters and cutting-edge thrill rides many other chains do - but it has a very charming, storybook-like feel and, among a selection of other rides and attractions, puts on elaborate productions at the longest-running puppet theater in the country. Perhaps because of its dedicated focus on kids’ attractions and family activities, its small size, and its noticeable lack of adult-sized thrill rides, it doesn’t quite belong in the same category as well-known franchises like Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Disney, and Universal, but it’s still a hidden gem nonetheless.

David Mumpower:

Image: Cedar FairAccording to the latest theme park attendance report, Cedar Point is only the 15th most popular park in North America. It received 3.676 million guests last year, which is maddening to me.

This place is unquestionably the roller coaster capital of the world. Even more impressively, the coasters that they build here stand the test of time. Magnum XL-200 is 30 years old and still thrilling. Gemini dates back to the Jimmy Carter administration, but I still ride it five or six times per park visit.

Then, there's the 21st-century stuff, including the record-setters, Millennium Force and Top Thrill Dragster. I haven't even mentioned the latest rides for adrenaline junkies like Valravn and Steel Justice. I've kind of aged out of Cedar Point as my body can't take these rides it once could. But I will always love it and warmly recommend it to everyone. Cedar Point is the absolute best for thrill-seekers.

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