With Disney’s ever-increasing prices, there are other theme parks to consider.
It’s not surprising that at the top of many vacation bucket lists is a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. But families are looking for alternative theme parks to visit as Disney parks continue to increase prices–Disneyland prices now typically start at $115 for a Tier 1 single-park ticket and Disney World single-park tickets typically start at $134.
From Dollywood to Universal Studios Hollywood, there’s plenty of family fun to be had across the United States without burning a hole through your wallet. The following destination resorts offer thrilling theme parks, exciting dining, and immersive entertainment at a lower price than Disney.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Ticket prices begin at: $89
With Dolly Parton as its “Dreamer-in-Chief,” Dollywood offers industry-defining roller coasters with a side of Southern hospitality. What makes this east Tennessee theme park shine is its incredible culinary offerings that showcase inspired versions of regional delights, including its now iconic cinnamon bread. On the park’s many stages, guests can take in live daily performances from national music artists, including Parton’s family.
Visiting during the holidays is a must as the park installs over 6-million twinkling lights creating stunning visual displays during the annual Smoky Mountain Christmas. Parton is known to visit the park occasionally, so you never know when you’ll get a chance to catch a glimpse of the music icon. A trip to Dollywood is complete with a stay at the nearby DreamMore Resort & Spa, a refined resort just minutes from the theme park.
WHERE: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Ticket prices begin at: $76
The sweetest place on Earth, Hersheypark, has grown to become the premier theme park destination in the northeast with a zoo, water park, stadium, and several on-site resorts. The over 100-year-old park is a family favorite with attractions for guests of all ages, including over 15 roller coasters and endless chocolate-fueled fun to be had. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy meeting character versions of their favorite candy bars and plenty of Willy Wonka-esque creations, like their award-winning king-size shakes.
The theme park is in a continuous state of growth with a recent $150 million expansion, Chocolatetown, that honors the legacy of Milton S. Hershey. Those looking to continue the fun after the parks can stay on-site at one of its nearby accommodations, including The Hotel Hershey, a serene AAA Four Diamond-rated resort and spa just steps from the park.
Silver Dollar City
WHERE: Branson, Missouri
Ticket prices begin at: $85
Located in the Ozarks, Silver Dollar City flies under the radar as a one-of-a-kind theme park. Embracing its location in the mountains, this 1880s-themed spot features record-breaking roller coasters, strolling entertainment, and cuisine reflective of the region. What truly makes this park special is its many local, multigenerational artisans showcasing their work—from confectioners to pottery makers—effortlessly blending the past with today.
Its several annual festivals are a highlight, including the Bluegrass & BBQ Festival, which brings in some of the biggest names in the genre. An Old Time Christmas is its award-winning holiday celebration and sees the park transformed into a wintery wonderland complete with over 6.5 million lights and festive shows.
WHERE: Santa Claus, Indiana
Ticket prices begin at: $44.99
Holiday World may be smaller than many on our list, but it takes the cake as one of the most charming. The family-owned and operated theme park is located in Santa Claus, Indiana—and yes, Christmas is celebrated all year long. The park is divided into several lands that celebrate everyone’s favorite holidays, like Halloween, Fourth of July, and Christmas, with distinctly themed attractions and dining in each. Here, the focus is on family and affordability as it ranks as one of the most budget-friendly parks. All guests also receive complimentary sunscreen and unlimited soft drinks to further pack the savings.
Unique bites, like a traditional turkey dinner, round out the experience while award-winning attractions, like the awe-inducing wooden roller coaster The Voyage, seriously deliver in the thrill department.
Universal Orlando Resort
WHERE: Orlando, Florida
Ticket prices begin at: $109
Universal Orlando Resort has grown significantly since opening in 1990 to feature two world-class theme parks, a water park, a dining complex, and eight on-site resorts making it a true destination. The theme parks blend movie magic with an essence of nostalgia — and fans can’t get enough of classic attractions like E.T. Adventure. Cutting-edge IPs are also celebrated, like Transformers and Jurassic World. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a true marvel in theme park design with incredibly detailed architecture, having you feel like you’ve stepped directly into the pages of the iconic book series.
The already vibrant park comes alive with several annual themed events, like Mardi Gras Celebration, an annual family-friendly event that celebrates the holiday with specialty food, a parade, and plenty of beads. Its annual Halloween Horror Nights have set an industry precedent and become the world’s most widely regarded horror-themed event.
Universal Studios Hollywood
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Ticket prices begin at: $104
While smaller than its east coast counterpart, Universal Studios Hollywood was the theme park that started it all for the mega entertainment company—and is still home to working sound stages and sets. Its iconic studio tram tour dates back to 1964, but the resort has grown to feature attractions inspired by beloved film franchises and characters, like The Simpsons and Harry Potter. It’s also home to one of the last remaining theme park stunt shows, Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular. The Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash is an innovative dark ride attraction that combines physical set pieces with advanced screen technology.
This year’s opening of America’s first Super Nintendo World—a highly immersive and interactive land complete with a Mario Kart-themed attraction—further solidifies its place on our list.
Knott's Berry Farm
WHERE: Buena Park, California
Ticket prices begin at: $69
One of the country’s oldest themed amusement parks, Knott’s Berry Farm, began as a literal roadside berry stand. The Southern California theme park, located just minutes from Disneyland, has grown significantly since its humble roots but still maintains the same charm that seldom can be replicated. The boysenberry, the fruit that started it all, is celebrated park-wide on its menus, with it being infused in everything from craft beer to corn dogs and soft serve. The culmination is its annual Boysenberry Festival, which brings in dozens of additional items featuring the unique flavor combination of raspberry, blackberry, and loganberry.
While the park offers a mix of iconic attractions and daring roller coasters, the cornerstone of Knott’s Berry Farm is its entertainment offerings. From daily atmospheric actors to its annual Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm fills the park streets with over 1,000 scare actors. Its flagship restaurant, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, has been serving the family’s iconic recipe for fried chicken since 1924.
WHERE: Winter Haven, Florida
Ticket prices begin at: $84
“Everything Is Awesome” at LEGOLAND Florida, the theme park resort inspired by the favorite childhood playtoy. One of three in the United States, the resort is specifically designed with younger guests in mind, including roller coasters and other thrill attractions with minimum height requirements compared to other large-scale attractions. Built on the sites of the historic former Cypress Garden, the park honors the park with the preservation of its botanical gardens and all-new attraction, Pirate River Quest.
Guests of all ages will love exploring Miniland USA, an elaborate LEGO creation depicting miniature versions of famous locations worldwide. In becoming a multi-day destination, the resort is now home to a water park, the world’s first Peppa Pig theme park, and elaborately themed hotels.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
WHERE: Williamsburg, Virginia
Ticket prices begin at: $76.99
Located in the historic colonial region of Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of the country’s most visually stunning theme parks. Each distinct land transports guests to different European locales through lush landscaping and intricate architectural detailing, including Bavarian Germany and Scotland. The experience is fully immersive, tapping into all senses as the food and music are unique to each setting.
While family-friendly, the major draw is its stellar line-up of roller coasters, including the award-winning steel coaster, Apollo’s Chariot. Sesame Street Forest of Fun will entertain the littlest of parkgoers with four family-friendly attractions, including Grover’s Alpine Express, a junior roller coaster. In recent years, the park has upped the ante on its growing annual events, including Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town, and the Oktoberfest-inspired Bier Fest.