25 Places to Take the Family Now That Disney Is So Expensive

Knott's Berry Farm, Anaheim, California

Vuoch. L./Yelp

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Knott's Berry Farm, Anaheim, California
Vuoch. L./Yelp

Beyond the Happiest Place on Earth

To ease crowding, Disney raised the price of admission to its theme parks last year, with even children's tickets exceeding $100 a day. The increased rates may inspire budget-minded travelers to seek another vacation spot for a few days of family fun. Fortunately, there's no shortage of alternative attractions to enjoy for less.

Related: Amusement Parks: Then and Now

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio
David McGill 71/shutterstock

Cedar Point

Sandusky, Ohio
Thrill-seekers will find far plenty to enjoy at Cedar Point. The Sandusky, Ohio, theme park is legendary for its roller coasters, including one that ranks as the world's tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster. Save on the $50 daily admission by purchasing tickets as a group or for multiple days.

Related: 25 Amusement Parks That Aren't Horrible for Parents

Kings Island, Mason, Ohio

Kings Island

Mason, Ohio
Fifteen unique roller coasters speed through dense wooded terrain at Kings Island. Between high-flying thrill rides, including the recently installed Orion roller coaster that sends riders screaming down a 300-foot drop, and daily shows featuring acrobatic stunts and themed music, the park also boasts reasonable ticket prices beginning at $55.

Related: Tallest, Fastest, and Wildest Theme Park Record Breakers

Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia
Richard C./Yelp

Kings Dominion

Doswell, Virginia
A one-third scale replica of the Eiffel Tower is only part of the park's showcase of European and colonial architecture. Kids will likely be more interested in the dozen roller coasters scattered throughout the park, including one of the East Coast's tallest, the Intimidator 305. Online tickets to Kings Dominion

Carowinds, Charlotte, North Carolina


Charlotte, North Carolina
Guests can ride roller coasters in two states at Carowinds, a nearly-400-acre theme park straddling the border of North and South Carolina. In addition to its standard selection of thrill rides and family attractions, the park also features tasty classics of Carolina cuisine at Harmony Hall and other dining options onsite. Starting at $35, daily tickets also include admission to the attached waterpark Carolina Harbor and old-school County Fair area.

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California
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Six Flags Magic Mountain

Valencia, California
Six Flags Magic Mountain's 262 acres feature water rides, live music, and Looney Tunes character meet-and-greets as well as 20 roller coasters. Buy daily tickets in advance and get up to $35 off the standard $120 admission at the gate.

Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey
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Six Flags Great Adventure

Jackson, New Jersey
This East Coast park has 14 roller coasters, including the newest Jersey Devil coaster, as well as the interactive Justice League ride that lets guests fire blasters into animatronic scenes of DC Comics characters. Visit the Golden Kingdom area of the park for live animal presentations showcasing giraffes, sea lions, and more.

Canada's Wonderland, Vaughan, Ontario
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Canada's Wonderland

Vaughan, Ontario
Canada's first major theme park remains its largest thanks to 17 roller coasters, spinning thrill rides, midway games, Peanuts-themed kids' shows, and the onsite water park Splash Works. Daily admission starts at $40 online and includes access to the water park.

Knott's Berry Farm, Anaheim, California
Vuoch. L./Yelp

Knott's Berry Farm

Anaheim, California
Divided into districts built to resemble a beach boardwalk, Mayan temples, and an Old West village at Knott's Berry Farm, Knott's Berry Farm is less than 10 miles away from Disneyland. For the $70 admission, families can visit a blacksmith, participate in spontaneous street performances, or ride stomach-churning roller coasters. An extra $30 adds admission to onsite water park Soak City.

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Ashlea W./Yelp


Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The Smoky Mountains are the backdrop for Dolly Parton's country-themed amusement park, famed for its music, vaudeville performances, and crafts demonstrations as much as spinning roller coasters and steam train excursions. An adult one-day ticket costs $89, but guests can stay three days and visit two parks for just $30 more.

Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri

Silver Dollar City

Branson, Missouri
Experience thrill rides as well as Ozark hospitality at this Branson theme park, where guests can earn new culinary and craftsmanship skills as well as enjoy family-friendly thrill rides. The three-day, two-park access ticket offers visitors the best deal — $119, which is just $30 more than the price of a single-day admission.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Tampa, Florida
At $90 a person tickets aren't exactly cheap, but families may want to spend an extra $40 for the park's Serengeti Safari tour to see animals not typically found outside the African savannah. Otherwise, guests can spend their time watching live performances or riding the park's signature roller coaster, Cheetah Hunt.

Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania
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Hershey, Pennsylvania
This 121-acre amusement park has far more going for it than just chocolate, though guests can find plenty of that at onsite eateries or the adjacent Hershey's Chocolate World. For the single-day admission price of $77, visitors can enjoy 14 unique roller coasters and an educator-led stroll through the 11-acre animal showcase ZooAmerica.

Knoebels Amusement Park, Elysburg, Pennsylvania
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Knoebels Amusement Park

Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Knoebels has been the nation's largest free-admission amusement park for more than 90 years. Families can park, use picnic facilities, and explore the wooded grounds for free, then pay $2.50 to $4 a person to experience thrill rides ranging from roller coasters and flume rides to sky swings and haunted houses.

Funland, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
With just 20 rides, Funland in Rehoboth Beach doesn't compare in scope with many other theme parks, but it makes up for its small size with the authentic atmosphere of an Atlantic coast boardwalk. Guests can use tickets costing 60¢ each to access the rides or play old-fashioned arcade games.

Bay Beach Amusement Park, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Bay Beach Amusement Park/Yelp

Bay Beach Amusement Park

Green Bay, Wisconsin
Parking and admission are both free at this long-standing lakefront attraction, where experiencing one ride typically costs only two 25¢ ride tickets. The exception is the Zippin Pippin roller coaster, which costs four tickets. Don't like roller coasters? Order grilled hamburgers and soft-serve ice cream cones at the concession stands or enjoy classic rides like the bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, or merry-go-round.

Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana
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Holiday World

Santa Claus, Indiana
Located in the town of Santa Claus, Holiday World is open May through October and often has the jolly old elf hard at work reading stories to kids, but he's not the only attraction. Visitors can ride steel or wooden roller coasters or plummet down the two longest water coasters in the world. Free soft drinks and sunscreen are provided at kiosks throughout the parks, too. Daily tickets purchased online start at $60.

Legoland, Carlsbad, California
Sharon K./Yelp


Carlsbad, California
Starting at $100 online, a multipark ticket to Legoland costs just $10 more than one-day ticket and includes admission to 10 themed areas offering unique rides and attractions made from the colorful building block toys plus the Sea Life Aquarium. There are also plenty of onsite shops and an interactive adventure featuring "The Lego Movie" characters.

Nickelodeon Universe, Bloomington, Minnesota
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Nickelodeon Universe

Bloomington, Minnesota
One of many attractions located within the sprawling Mall of America, Nickelodeon Universe is an indoor amusement park celebrating some of the TV network's series with family-friendly thrill rides like the Fairly Odd Coaster and Backyardigans Swing-Along. A one-day wristband with access to unlimited rides costs $45. Save $5 on Deal Days.

Schlitterbahn Braunfels, New Braunfels, Texas
Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort/Yelp

Schlitterbahn Braunfels

New Braunfels, Texas
The flagship location of this water park chain distinguishes itself with unusual water rides like the inland surfing ride Boogie Bahn and an uphill water coaster called the Dragon Blaster. Discounted online admission to Schlitterbahn starts at $60 for adults and $50 for children. Families can rent a cabana near the park's heated pools and kiddie playgrounds but should reserve in advance — and be prepared for prices starting at $150 a day.

San Diego Safari Park, Escondido, California

San Diego Safari Park

Escondido, California
Affiliated with the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Safari Park offers a chance to see animals in their environment. For the price of a $67 adult pass ($55 for children 3 to 11), guests can take a safari tour through grasslands full of exotic animals and witness a cheetah reaching speeds of 70 mph in just four seconds. Additional safari tours offer more specialized wildlife encounters for additional fees.

Boulder Dash, Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut

Lake Compounce

Bristol, Connecticut
The oldest continuously operating theme park in North America, Lake Compounce opened in 1846 and stays up-to-date today with attractions like the Boulder Dash wooden coaster, the triple-launch Phobia Phear coaster, and a collection of water park slides and wave pools. Single-day admission is $60 for adults, but discounted packages, including several varieties of season passes, can be found online.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz, California
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a seaside amusement park offering classic thrill rides, vintage carnival games, mini golf, laser tag, fried foods, and more in a setting that's quintessentially California. Visitors can buy $1 points to spend on individual attractions and games, or purchase combo tickets ranging from $50 for an all-day rides wristband to $100 for a season pass.

Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville, Kentucky

Kentucky Kingdom

Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky Kingdom and its adjoining water park, Hurricane Bay, have more than 70 attractions, including six roller coasters. While children enjoy the rides, adults can appreciate the park's meticulous landscaping, allowing visitors to see different plants blooming at different times of year. In 2021, the park was sold to the operator of Dollywood and has been focused on infrastructure improvements. General admission tickets at the end of the 2022 season were $43 for kids and adults.

Playland's Castaway Cove, Ocean City, New Jersey

Playland's Castaway Cove

Ocean City, New Jersey
Playland's Castaway Cove is the oldest amusement park in Ocean City and boasts an indoor arcade, a go-kart speedway, nautical-themed mini golf, and more. Visitors purchase packages of $1 tickets, which never expire, to pay for admission to individual rides and attractions.

Canobie Lake Park, Salem, New Hampshire
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Canobie Lake Park

Salem, New Hampshire
Enjoy wooden roller coasters from yesteryear at Canobie Lake Park, which also has kid-friendly and water rides in a lakeside location. The park also has unique carnival games like their paintball shooting gallery, pinball machine parlor, and newly added puzzle rooms. General admission costs $48. After 5 p.m., the price drops to $32.