7 best theme parks for Teens in the United States
Theme parks and teenagers go together like peanut butter and jelly! But, some theme parks are better than others at catering to the teen crowd. So, look no further than this list of the seven best theme parks for teens in the USA as you plan your summer vacation with teens in tow!
My daughter, the family adrenaline junkie and theme park afficionado, helped curate this list. These are her favorite theme parks for teens — starting with the best!
The BEST theme parks for Teens in the United States
We’ve compiled this list of the best theme parks for teens based on personal experience. We asked friends with teens for input as well. We know that these theme parks for teens are the best in the country! And we explain why with each park!
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida
Universal Orlando, which is actually two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, is more than just an amusement park — it’s got immersive theming that transports you to another place. Yes, other parks (we’re looking at you, Disney) have excellent theming — but Universal Orlando, particularly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, makes this our top pick of the best theme parks for teens.
Universal Orlando Vacation Planner
Plan your trip to Universal Orlando with this handy planner geared for first time guests.
Get great planning tips for visiting the parks, where to stay, where to eat, and when to go!
Of course, the top draw for most teenagers at Universal Orlando is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To fully appreciate this part of Universal Orlando, you need tickets for both parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Other things we felt were “can’t miss” attractions for teenagers are:
- Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges in Islands of Adventure, where you will get wet and you will laugh,
- The Incredible Hulk coaster, which my daughter rode three times, and
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which is the only traditional “roller coaster” on the Universal Studios side of the park.
Plan your visit to Universal Orlando: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase refundable Universal Orlando tickets online and save:
To fully enjoy Universal Orlando, you need a minimum of two days — one for each park. As the best theme park for teens, we recommend three days. Cover the basics the first two days and enjoy all your favorites the third day!
- Buy 2 day, 2 park tickets and get THREE days free (park hopper, lowest price guarantee, and free cancellation),
- Buy 2 day, 1 park per day tickets and get THREE days free (lowest price guarantee and free cancellation — cannot park hop or ride the WWOHP train with this ticket)
- Create your own ticket (7 options up to 3 parks, 3 days with THREE days free) (lowest price guarantee and free cancellation, may or may not include park hopper option)
Learn More: Universal Orlando Resort
Hotel Recommendations: Top hotels near Universal Orlando
Our Top Hotel Pick at Universal Orlando: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
Coming in second on our list of the best theme parks for teens is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
My husband and I went to Cedar Point when we were teenagers, and the park holds the same draw for teens today. Cedar Point is the best roller coaster park in the United States! It might even be the best roller coaster park in the world!
Cedar Point Trip Planner
Learn everything you need to know for a great trip to Cedar Point theme park with teenagers, including roller coaster reviews.
Of course, Cedar Point’s roller coasters make this one of the best theme parks for teens!
And, while they can be expensive, we do recommend fast lane passes if you can only visit Cedar Point for one day — especially on weekends. Fast lane passes are limited for each day and let riders bypass the regular/stand-by line for 22 of the most popular attractions. There’s no need to buy fast lane passes for everyone, just for the adrenaline junkies.
Can’t miss attractions at Cedar Point amusement park, especially for teenagers are:
- Steel Vengeance — the biggest and best roller coaster at Cedar Point, and my all-time favorite. You cannot carry a bag or a fanny pack on this ride — for good reason! It’s a hybrid wood and steel roller coaster (mostly wood) that soars. And it is the very best roller coaster I have ever ridden!
- Gatekeeper — the highest inversion roller coaster in the world, with an incredibly smooth ride, In fact, it’s so smooth I actually relaxed and enjoyed the feeling of weightlessness. It sits on the beach, so you get brief views of Lake Erie as you soar!
- Maverick — This is one wild ride, with a 95 degree drop that messes with your senses. Morning lines are long for Maverick, so go later in the day if you don’t have fast lane passes.
Plan your visit to Cedar Point: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Cedar Point tickets online to save!
Cedar Point tickets are deeply discounted when you purchase them online in advance. For 2023, you save $30 on single day tickets compared to purchasing tickets at the gate. Multi-day tickets and season passes offer even greater savings.
- Daily tickets start at $49 when purchased online (they can be higher).
- Season passes start at $105 when purchased online and includes free parking (summer pass)
Note that Gold and Platinum passes include more benefits like bring-a-friend discounts, water park admission and other perks.
If you plan to visit Cedar Point for two days, get the summer pass instead of daily tickets. To visit Cedar Point and the Cedar Shores Water Park, consider the gold pass. If, like us, you want to visit Cedar Point and any of its sister parks in the same season, get the platinum pass.
Learn More: Cedar Point
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Cedar Point
Our Top Hotel Pick at Cedar Point: Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia is another great theme park for teens! This beautiful park is fairly compact, but has several distinct areas that make it feel special.
It’s voted the most beautiful theme park year after year. Once you visit, it’s easy to understand why!
Busch Gardens has several great roller coasters, two of which stand out for being unique. Our teen daughter just got back from a band trip to Busch Gardens, and she says the best coasters are:
- Griffon — an exciting coaster that’s ten seats wide. After climbing to the top of the hill, the coaster rolls past the top and suspends riders looking straight down before releasing them to “fall.” It sounds absolutely terrifying, but it’s a smooth ride and an incredible thrill.
- Verbolten — another exciting coaster that’s got some unexpected thrills — like a free fall that you can’t predict! The Verbolten roller coaster is an indoor/outdoor coaster that is unlike any other coaster we have ridden.
- Apollos Chariot — the highest roller coaster at Busch Gardens, Apollos Chariot can be seen from far away, and it offers great views of the surrounding community…. if you’re willing to open your eyes at the top!
Busch Gardens has more to offer than just roller coasters, so it’s an appealing theme park for teens of all temperaments. Their shows are award winning, and their seasonal special events are some of the best we have ever done. Particularly scary, and teen worthy, is Busch Gardens Howl O’Scream.
Before you go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, read our top tips for visiting Busch Gardens, newly updated for 2023.
Plan your visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Busch Gardens tickets online and save:
- Best Value Tickets, 2 Park Season Passes for Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, includes admission to special events like Howl O’Scream and other discounts and perks.
- Special 50% discount (through June 4, 2023) offering 50% off on a variety of ticket options!
- If you’re considering the Busch Gardens Meal Deal, we have crunched the numbers to help you decide if the Busch Gardens All-Day Dining Plan is worth it!
Learn More: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Our Top Hotel Pick at Busch Gardens: Holiday Inn Express at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina
We are lucky to live just a couple hours from Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Carowinds amusement park is a sister park to Cedar Point — and we meet lots of Ohioans who visit on their spring break! Who can blame them? The weather in the Carolinas is beautiful in the springtime!
Carowinds is unusual among theme parks for teens outside the state of Florida because it’s open year-round as of 2023. During the winter months, it’s only open on weekends, and we love having year-round roller coaster access!
Carowinds offers a fast lane pass, but we have never felt like we needed it to enjoy a day at Carowinds. However, we do recommend that you ride Fury 325 within the first hour of park opening or after 4:00 p.m. At mid-day, the line is long!
A unique feature at Carowinds is that Carolina Harbor Water Park admission is included with your regular theme park admission. You don’t need a separate ticket to enjoy both parks, so water loving teens will consider this one of the best theme parks for teens!
Back to Carowinds theme park! Carowinds straddles the state line for North Carolina and South Carolina and they play up the location on the state line well — as they should. The park is not quite a theme park, but it does a great job incorporating its southern roots throughout the amusement park. You’ll see references to the beach, to NASCAR, to the Carolina role in aeronautics at the NEW Aeronautica Landing area, and of course, pulled pork and barbecue!
Plan your visit to Carowinds: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Carowinds tickets online to save:
- Purchase daily tickets to Carowinds for $39.99 through June 14, 2023 and save $35!
- Other daily and two day passes are available for up to $75. (You need two days to see Carowinds and enjoy Carolina Harbor fully)
- Purchase season passes, starting at $109, to visit all year long. Season tickets offer other discounts and savings. NOTE: The silver pass does not include admission to special events!
Learn More: Carowinds: The Carolinas Amusement Park
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Carowinds
Our Top Hotel Pick at Carowinds: Springhill Suites by Marriott at Carowinds
Want to learn more about Carowinds? Read our full review!
Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio
The first time I went to Kings Island in Cincinnati, I was 16. My uncle took us, and I still remember how much I loved that trip.
Fast foward a few decades, and when I walked down that distinctive midway, all the feelings came rushing back. Kings Island has that effect on people! It’s a great park — for all ages.
But, a theme park for teens specifically? YES! It’s amazing!
Some of the best roller coasters for teens at Kings Island are:
- Diamondback — From the first drop of 215 feet, riders can expect serious air time throughout the 3 minute ride. We loved the drops, twists and turns so much we rode it three times — and it’s even more awesome after dark!
- Mystic Timbers — a newer ride at Kings Island, this one’s for the wooden coaster purists. It’s a fun ride with a bit of a surprise ending but not as terrifying as The Beast.
- Backlot Stunt Coaster — This state-of-the-art linear induction motor launch coaster delivers a no-holds-barred, high-speed experience like none you’ve ever experienced before. If you’ve ever wanted to be in a high speed chase in a movie, this is the ride for you!
Kings Island Park Planner
Learn everything you need to plan a great day at Kings Island amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio! Coaster reviews, insider tips and more!
Plan your Visit to Kings Island: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Kings Island tickets online to save big!
- Save on one day admission if you purchase by June 29, 2023 — only $45 online!
- Best single day ticket savings, the fun day bundle — only $69 (includes parking and all day dining!)
- Consider season tickets, which start at $109 if you plan to visit for 3 days or more.
Learn More: Kings Island
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Kings Island
Our Top Hotel Pick at Kings Island: Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati/Mason
Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida is a great family vacation destination, and when you add Busch Gardens Tampa Bay to your vacation plan, your teen will be quite happy!
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is among the best theme parks for teens because of its great thrill rides, and because of some fun, unique animal encounters — like sloths! If you have a teen, you know sloths hold a particular allure these days!
The zoo portion of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is one of less than 24 zoos in the United States to earn the Humane Certified™ seal from American Humane — providing naturalistic habitats and care for animals from around the world. And, while teens might groan at the mention of a day at the zoo, they won’t complain about a trip to the theme park! Once inside, they’ll enjoy both.
The theme park uses the zoo as inspiration for its rides, such as the newest ride, Serengeti Flyer which just opened this year. The ride soars over the Serengeti plain below — and if you’re brave enough to look around, you’ll get a great view of the animals below.
Top roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay include:
- Serengeti Flyer — a coaster/swing hybrid.
- Tigris — designed to mimic the movement of a Tiger, this roller coaster flies through twists and turns as it swoops forward and backward at speeds of more than 60 moh.
- SheiKra — a cousin to Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, after suspending at the top of the hill, this coaster plunges 200 feet at 90 degrees at speeds of 70 mph.
With great coasters and a unique — and impressive — zoo experience, all for one price, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is another great theme park for teens.
Plan your Visit to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Busch Gardens Tampa Bay tickets online to save:
- Check here for the latest offers online, with savings up to $65.
- Annual passes offer the greatest overall savings and additional perks based on level you choose.
- Available through JUNE 4, 2023 — save 50% on tickets and passes when you purchase online.
- Busch Gardens and Adventure Island Water Park Fun Cards — save on combo tickets you can use all season long, a great option for visits of three days or more.
- Get single day tickets here — use any day. See terms when purchasing.
If you have more time, Busch Gardens Adventure Island water park is a sister park to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Annual passes and combo tickets provide flexibility to enjoy the parks based on weather and crowds.
Learn More: Busch Gardens Tampa
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Our Top Hotel Pick at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Hampton Inn & Suites near Busch Gardens
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles
Last, but not least, on our list of the best theme parks for teens, is Six Flags Magic Mountain. This theme park for teens has more roller coasters than any other theme park in the world!
The newest coaster, opened in 2022, is WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage. It holds the record as the tallest AND the longest single-rail roller coaster in the world.
Located just north of Los Angeles, Six Flags Magic Mountain has great weather year-round. The park takes advantage of the weather with operating dates all year long. In November and December, park open dates are limited, so check the calendar before going. The crowds are least busy in January, which means more ride time for thrill seekers.
Theming based on the DC Universe makes this especially fun for teens. It’s no surprise that the roller coasters in this part of the park are a top draw.
Top roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain are:
- WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage — the tallest and longest single rail coaster in the world, this coaster is unlike any other we’ve ever seen.
- BATMAN The Ride — a hanging coaster, chase the nefarious of Gotham on this roller coaster that twists and turns, corkscrews and loops at speeds up to 50 mph.
- SUPERMAN Escape from Krypton — for the truly daring, this ride flies backward, straight up 415 feet at speeds up to 100 mph. Reach the top before flying back down to earth. There’s no other ride like it — and those who “survive” will know exactly how Superman feels as he soars through the skies to save the world.
Plan your visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain: Tickets, Hotels and Quick Links
Purchase Tickets for Six Flags online to save:
- Purchase discount tickets through our trusted partners at Undercover Tourist to save.
- Purchase tickets online at Six Flags Magic Mountain to save. Single Day tickets start at $64.99 (savings of $50 over tickets at the gate). Annual Passes start at $99 and are a good value.
Learn More: Six Flags Magic Mountain
Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Six Flags Magic Mountain
Our Top Hotel Pick near Six Flags Magic Mountain: Springhill Suites by Marriott Valencia
And there you have it! These are the best theme parks for teens with great roller coasters, incredible park theming, and other unique experiences!