12 Family-Fun Theme Parks That are Much Cheaper Than Disney

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You don’t have to bust your wallet on a trip to Disney World when there are other more affordable options.
Updated Feb. 7, 2024
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Happy father with his little son in an amusement park

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Summer is the perfect time to head to a local amusement park for some extra fun. For many, Disney World tops the list of such places. It’s filled with famous rides like Space Mountain, Disney characters entertaining families, and great food.

But it can also be expensive. A family of four where the kids are 10 or older would have to pay $436 for the park, or $109 per ticket, for one day at Disney World.

But other amusement parks can give you just as many thrills and chills for less, especially if you use one of the best travel credit cards. Here are a few places to consider that may be a more affordable day out for your family.

Dollywood

Courtesy of dollyparton.com Dollywood water slide

Dollywood is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It includes a theme park, a water park, resorts, and more. The park was named Dollywood in 1986, when singer and actress Dolly Parton came on board as an investor in the park.

Today, visitors can spend the day riding attractions like the Barnstormer, Daredevil Falls, or the Dollywood Express for $84 per ticket, or $336 for a family of four if the children are 10 or older.

Cedar Point

Joe Hendrickson/Adobe Cedar Point Amusement Park

Located on the edge of Lake Erie in Ohio, Cedar Point is known for its soaring roller coasters that have broken world records for their height and speed. Check out the Millennium Force, which is among the tallest roller coasters in the world.

Ticket prices can vary based on the day of the week and your height, as those under 48 inches tall get a discount. But generally, a family of four can spend the day there for $49.99 per ticket, or $199.96 for the family.

Hersheypark

karenfoleyphoto/Adobe Welcome to Hersheypark sign

One of the great amusement parks in the Northeast is Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It has a theme befitting its name: Hershey’s chocolate. Rides include Candymonium, Cocoa Cruiser, and the Reese’s Cupfusion.

A one-day ticket is $56.95, making it a family trip of $227.80 for one day.

Universal Orlando

TOimages/Adobe Universal Studios Orlando Florida USA

Want the Orlando theme park experience without going to Disney World? Try a trip to Universal Orlando, which has plenty of rides to please theme park visitors.

Its biggest attractions are related to the Harry Potter franchise, but you can also check out rides inspired by "Minions" and "Despicable Me," "Transformers," or "The Simpsons."

Tickets start at $109 per person, which puts it on par with Disney World. But the overall tab may be cheaper than at Disney, depending on where you stay.

LEGOLAND

eqroy/Adobe Legoland Florida Resort theme park in Orlando Florida

If you’re looking for a vacation in Florida but don’t want the Disney vacation experience, take the kids to LEGOLAND.

The rides may not be as thrill-seeking as at some other parks, but they’re the perfect size for younger kids who may get overwhelmed at the Magic Kingdom.

Tickets start at $84.99 per person, which comes to $339.96 for a family of four.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Peter/Adobe Busch Gardens Cheetah Hunt roller coaster

Virginia’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg has plenty to offer for everyone in your family. It has roller coasters for the thrill-seekers as well as more kid-friendly rides for the younger ones.

And if you need a break from the amusement park, check out the animals at the park, or some of the fun shows.

Tickets usually cost $99.99, or $399.96 for a family of four.

Adventureland

Courtesy of Adventureland/Facebook Roller coaster

Want to get out of New York City for an amusement park experience? Try Adventureland in Long Island. The park features typical amusement park thrill rides, water rides, and even things for little kids.

It may not be as flashy as Disney, but it’s a quick trip for New Yorkers and costs $31.99 per ticket for those who are 25 and older if you purchase your tickets online. Tickets cost $41.99 for those who are ages 2 to 24. So, you can take a typical family of four for $147.96.

Nickelodeon Universe

Courtesy of mallofamerica.com Nickelodeon Universe

If you’re looking for a park you can go to rain or shine, check out Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Minnesota.

Nickelodeon-themed rides include the Avatar Airbender, Shredder’s Mutant Masher, and the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster.

The park charges $44.99, costing a family of four $179.96 to spend the day there.

Kings Island

Courtesy of visitkingsisland.com Roller coaster

Kings Island, near Cincinnati, is packed with roller coasters like The Beast, kids rides, and a water park if you need a place to cool down on a summer vacation.

Daily tickets start at $49.99, or $199.96 for a family of four.

Six Flags Over Texas

Courtesy of the Arlington CVB Roller coaster

Six Flags has become an attraction-park franchise with amusement parks across the country, but nothing can beat the original. Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961 in Arlington, Texas, and includes everything from roller coasters to rides for kids.

The park also features live shows each day. A one-day ticket costs $41.99, or $167.96 per family.

Knott’s Berry Farm

Nick/Adobe Rollercoaster On The Lake

Knott’s Berry Farm is close to Disneyland in California. This amusement park includes thrill rides for adults and kids, as well as a water park to keep you cool during warm California days.

Tickets start at $69 per person or $276 per family.

Holiday World

Courtesy of holidayworld.com Roller coaster

Of course, an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana, has to have a holiday theme. Holiday World’s attractions can be found in different areas of the park, including Christmas, Halloween, and Fourth of July.

Pick up tickets for the festive park for $59.99 per person, or $239.96 for the whole family.

Bottom line

TimeStopper/Adobe roller coaster running on the rail in amusement park

Disney World is fun. But it can be expensive, even if you’re holding one of the best Disney credit cards in your wallet.

Instead of waiting until you can save up for a trip to Disney, take a chance on other parks that might be cheaper and closer, while still offering all the thrills and fun of a Disney park.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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