8 Iconic Amusement Parks Where Admission is Still Free April 2024

The price of everything else is skyrocketing, but it’s still free to enter these charming, classic amusement parks.
Updated April 11, 2024
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beautiful Navy pier at dusk with chicago skyline

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Over the last few decades, many amusement parks have done away with ride tickets in favor of an entry fee to the entire park that includes rides and attractions. But this means that park-goers who don’t want to hop aboard roller coasters or other rides still have to pay for them.

Fortunately, there are some amusement parks that offer free admission. So, you can spend the day and only pay for the rides you enjoy. Which means you get to keep your money in your bank account.

The following eight amusement parks promise free fun in the hot sun.

Coney Island, New York

travelview/Adobe people visit famous old promenade at Coney Island,

Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, is the iconic American amusement park experience, and people savor the nostalgia of riding the Cyclone. But Coney Island is actually just a boardwalk and a free public beach accessible from the D, F, ,N, and Q subway lines.

So, come and hang out for as long as you want to for free. You pay for the rides, to play the carnival games and to buy food from vendors. But being at Coney Island is free.

Pacific Pier, California

Zarnell/Adobe Santa Monica Pier

On the other side of the country is another famous amusement park experience, Pacific Pier amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California.

This amusement park is so famous that it has appeared in hundreds of movies, from “Forrest Gump” and “The Sting” to “Sharknado.”

You can buy a wristband to ride rides and enter other attractions, but it’s absolutely free to enjoy the boardwalk and the concourse and enter the amusement park. When it’s too cold to go to Coney Island, it’s still warm and sunny at the Santa Monica Pier.

Navy Pier, Illinois

f11photo/Adobe Navy Pier in Chicago

Jutting out over Lake Michigan, Chicago’s famous Navy Pier amusement park is known for the enormous Ferris wheel that dominates the skyline, and for its summer fireworks shows.

Admission to the park is free, but some attractions will cost you. The fireworks shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays are free, and there are nearly 250 free public concerts and events every year at the pier.

The rides are intense, from the huge Ferris wheel to a 4D virtual reality experience. You can even buy a park pass that lets you enjoy rides multiple times.

Morey’s Piers, New Jersey

Wirestock/Adobe  MoreysPier from the Ferris Wheel in Wildwood

Wildwood is a city on the New Jersey Shore famous for its boardwalks and Morey’s Piers. Admission is free to the amusement piers at Morey’s — Surfside, Mariner’s, and Adventure — and you don’t have to pay to see and be seen on the boardwalk. But you will have to pay for the rides and the water park.

The Jersey Shore has been a vacation destination for centuries, and Morey’s Piers opened in 1969. Morey’s Piers has rides for everyone, from the kiddie boats and corkscrew roller coasters to swings and more.

Pro tip: Get more out of your trip to the shore including discounts and rewards with the best travel credit cards for beginners.  

Waldameer Park, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Waldameer Park Waldameer Park

Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, is located on a hill overlooking Lake Erie. Unlike Coney Island and the Santa Monica Pier, Waldameer is a fully enclosed park, with two free parking lots.

Admission is free at Waldameer Park, which opened in 1896. However, you pay for access to rides, including the famous Ravine Flyer II roller coaster that swoops over highways outside the park twice as it follows its path.

Waldameer is a true family park, with smaller rides and attractions for children in a section called Kiddieland, as well as the more thrilling rides that attract roller coaster enthusiasts. Waldameer is a great deal for travel on a budget because of all the free amenities at the park.

Knoebels, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Knoebels Amusement Park Knoebels Amusement Resort

Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, is the largest admission-free amusement park in the country. It offers free admission, free parking, free entertainment, and free picnic facilities.

The park has large roller coasters, smaller rides, entertainment, and other attractions that you have to pay for. Knoebels prides itself on its size and variety of rides and attractions, and on offering amusement for all ages. 

The amusement resort has nearby campgrounds, rental cottages, and a bed-and-breakfast, so guests can stay overnight easily on or near Knoebels’ property.

Family Kingdom, South Carolina

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Myrtle Beach South Carolina USA

Family Kingdom Amusement Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is another amusement park with free admission. Rides will cost you, however.

Coolers are not allowed, but there are concessions throughout the park. Parking is not free. Family Kingdom has 35 rides, from a wooden roller coaster and a log flume to the famous Tilt-A-Whirl. There’s something for everyone in this classic vacation amusement park.

Belmont Park, California

mdurson/aDOBE Belmont Park In San Diego California

Belmont Park, a seven-acre amusement park on the beach in San Diego, is another amusement park with free admission and free parking.

Belmont Park was built in 1925 as the Mission Beach Entertainment Center. The first two attractions, The Giant Dipper and The Plunge, have undergone multiple restoration efforts and are still open today for visitors to enjoy.

Bottom line

belyaaa/Adobe people having fun on a roller-coaster in an amusement park at sunset

If you and your family are big roller coaster riders, you’re probably better off going to an amusement park that charges for admission and includes all rides.

But if you only want to ride a few rides, or people in your group don’t want to ride at all, one of these free-admission amusement parks makes more financial sense, and can let everyone have summer fun together.

Check out some of the best travel credit cards that offer points and rewards for traveling to these iconic parks

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Author Details

Elizabeth Rollins Elizabeth Rollins has degrees in literature and business, and she's combined these loves into a career in writing about personal finance. Her special areas of interest are debt, value, budgeting, education, and retirement.

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