Best theme parks for Teens in the United States

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Theme parks and teenagers go together like peanut butter and jelly! But, some amusement parks are better than others at catering to family travel with teens. So, look no further than this list of the best theme parks for teens in the USA as you plan family 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!

family smiling in front of entrance to Universal Orlando theme park

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 amusement 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, Walt Disney World) 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.

Family looking into candyshop window at Universal Studios with Harry Potter robes and wands

To fully appreciate this part of Universal Orlando, you need tickets for both parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Can’t miss attractions for teens at Universal Orlando:

  • 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.
theme parks for teens at universal orlando you will get wet

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!

Purchase Tickets: Check Undercover Tourist for discount tickets and vacation packages to Universal Orlando. This company has been in business a long time and is well-trusted.

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

Next on our list of the best theme parks for teens is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

I grew up going to Cedar Point, 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 midway at night shows rides, rollercoasters as the sun sets

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 for teens at Cedar Point amusement park:

  • Steel Vengeance — the biggest and best roller coaster at Cedar Point, and my all-time favorite.
  • 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.
Raptor roller coaster at cedar point is one of the many coasters that make this a top theme park for teens

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Cedar Point tickets are deeply discounted when you purchase them online in advance.

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.

Tempesto Roller Coaster at the Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia

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 Busch Gardens with friends and 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, including Water Country USA, a great waterpark with a lazy river, wave pool and lots of intense water slides to entertain teens and kids for a full day (or two)!

Before you go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, read our top tips for visiting Busch Gardens, newly updated for 2023.

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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

Of course, Walt Disney World makes the list of the best theme parks for teens in the United States! The hardest part is deciding what to do first, especially if you have limited time!

I asked our daughter’s opinion on the best parks at Walt Disney World for teens, and she had a hard time coming up with an answer. So, here’s a guide to pick what’s best for your teen:

  • Magic Kingdom — The ICONIC Walt Disney World experience with Mickey, Minnie and the gang, classic rides, the castle fireworks and parades. Newer rides like TRON add some teen thrills!
  • Hollywood Studios — More thrill rides and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge make this a great park for teens. Interactive experiences throughout Galaxy’s Edge really bring the Star Wars experience to life.
  • Animal Kingdom — The World of Avatar brings another immersive experience that teens are sure to enjoy. The park is best visited when it has extended evening hours to see The World of Avatar after dark.
  • EPCOT — With Guardians of the Galaxy, Soarin’ and Test Track, EPCOT has upped its cool factor for teens. Great food in the World Showcase and a tremendous light show make it a great choice for foodie families.
Crowd in front of a space ship at Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Florida.
Our daughter couldn’t get enough of the imagery at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! And, neither could my R2D2 loving husband!

When visiting Walt Disney World, we prefer park hopper passes that allow us the flexibility to visit more than one park in a day. If the weather changes or lines are long at one park, we can go to a different one.

Get discount tickets from our trusted partners at Undercover Tourist: Compare plans and options to find the best one for your family.

Hotel Recommendations: Best family friendly hotels near Walt Disney World

Our top hotel pick at Walt Disney World (if you don’t stay onsite): Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace at Disney Springs

Read our review of the Buena Vista Palace Hotel!

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 in Ohio.

In front of the fast lane pass at Fury 325 at Carowinds amusement park, a great theme park for teens.

PRO TIP: 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 the water slides and other attractions in the waterpark!

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. You’ll see references to the beach, to NASCAR, to the Carolina connection to air flight! Southern cuisine is featured here, too!

Purchase Carowinds tickets online to save:

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 amusement park for teens, for kids and for adults!

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. 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!

Purchase Kings Island tickets online to save big!

  • Get the best ticket prices by purchasing in online in advance. If you plan to add the water park or want to spend two days in the park, consider multi-day tickets.
  • 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 Serengeti Flyer. 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 mph.
  • 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.

Purchase Busch Gardens Tampa Bay tickets online to save:

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

Next on our list of the best amusement 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!

Opened in 2022, WONDER WOMAN Flight of Courage, 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. And, the park is open year-round with limited dates in November and December.

PRO TIP: The crowds are least busy in January, which means more ride time for thrill seekers.

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.
Superman at Six Flags Magic Mountain makes this one of the best theme parks for teens

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Hotel Recommendations: Top Hotels near Six Flags Magic Mountain

Our Top Hotel Pick near Six Flags Magic Mountain: Springhill Suites by Marriott Valencia

I did not include Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier when I first wrote this post, because we have not personally visited. But, several readers who live in Texas messaged me to say that teens love it!

Parents like it for the memories, and, because it’s more affordable than many amusement parks.

This historic amusement park has it all: Great rides, good food, fun midway games and live entertainment. Readers say the top rides are the Iron Shark Rollercoaster, the 100 foot tall Galaxy Wheel (best at night for the LED lights), and the Mysterious Underworld 5D Theater Ride.

Purchase tickets online for convenience.

Learn more: Galveston Island’s Historic Pleasure Pier

Hotel Recommendations: Best hotels near Galveston Island’s Historic Pleasure Pier

And there you have it! These are the best theme parks for teens with great roller coasters, incredible park theming, and other unique experiences!