Whether you’re a thrill-seeking solo traveller looking for the world’s most intense roller coasters or a family planning a magical vacation filled with fun for parents and kids alike, theme parks have something for everyone. From historic European destinations to record-setting parks in the Middle East, this list of the world’s best amusement parks highlights some of the most beautiful, thrilling, and downright fun spots to visit across the globe. By
Disney and Universal dominate the list with their famous theme parks in the USA and abroad, but regional options in far-flung destinations offer unique experiences, rides, and themes that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here are 20 of the best amusement parks in the world
Tokyo DisneySea, Japan
Tokyo Disney Resort tops the must-visit list for many Disney theme park fans. Tokyo Disneyland is very similar to Magic Kingdom in Florida or Disneyland Park in California, but Tokyo DisneySea is unique with its nautical theme, fantastical lands, and beautiful sections inspired by the Mediterranean, Arabian, and American coasts.
Disneyland Park, the USA
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the 1955 opening of Disneyland Park in California forever impacted the tourism industry and American pop culture. The first theme park in the ever-expanding Disney empire (and the only one finished under the supervision of Walt Disney), Disneyland is still packed with nostalgia and history, with many opening day attractions still drawing crowds.
Epcot, the USA
Epcot, located at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, is a permanent world fair of sorts, celebrating human progress, technology, and international cultures. The front half of the park is made up of World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery, while the back half features 11 country pavilions located around World Showcase Lagoon. Like all Disney parks, Epcot has family-friendly attractions and character meet and greets, but it’s especially fun for adult guests who love trying snacks, beer, wine, and cocktails from around the world in each country.
Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
One of the world’s oldest operating amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens is a must-visit attraction in the heart of Copenhagen. The park dates back more than 175 years, and it has rides, theatres, and restaurants spread across its charming grounds and gardens.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the USA
The second theme park at Universal Orlando in Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure has lands spanning a wide range of themes — from kid-friendly Dr Seuss to popular Harry Potter. Park highlights include thrilling rides like Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, just to name a few, as well as the immersive The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade.
Efteling is the Netherlands’ largest and one of Europe‘s most-visited amusement parks. Its imaginative rides, gardens, and attractions are themed to Dutch folklore and fairy tales, including a 15-acre Fairytale Forest with more than two dozen scenes.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, the USA
This theme park, located outside of Los Angeles, is a must for thrill-seekers. Six Flags Magic Mountain has the most roller coasters of any amusement park in the world (19), so it’s safe to say that it has earned its title as the “Thrill Capital of the World.”
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the USA
This Disney World destination is half zoo and half amusement park, wholly dedicated to animals — both real and fictional, living and extinct. The park has some of the best rides at Disney World, including Avatar Flight of Passage in the fantasy land of Pandora, thrilling Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safaris, which gives guests the opportunity to spot live animals, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, and more, from a safari truck. Diverse experiences for guests of all ages, educational exhibits, and beautifully themed lands make Animal Kingdom stand out.
Germany‘s largest theme park, Europa-Park, is exactly what it sounds like — a Europe-themed amusement park with more than 100 attractions and 18 themed areas, with 15 representing different countries and regions around Europe. Look out for some Disney inspiration throughout the park design and attractions (doesn’t that geodesic dome look a little familiar?).
Dollywood, the USA
Dolly Parton-owned Dollywood is packed with dozens of rides, live music, comfort food, and of course, Dolly Parton memorabilia, all in a beautiful Smoky Mountain setting. Dollywood is a unique, family-focused park that celebrates the Tennessee spirit, and it hosts four annual festivals for added fun.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the USA
Get a taste of Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia, at this theme park, which has lands devoted to Italy, Scotland, England, Ireland, France, and Germany. You’ll find a mix of thrilling coasters, kid-friendly attractions, live performances, and international eats spread across the themed lands at this park, often ranked among the most beautiful in the United States of America.
Universal Studios Japan, Japan
Japan is home to some of the best amusement parks in the world. Universal Studios Japan, located in Osaka, incorporates themes and attractions from its USA counterparts, but it’s also home to the first Super Nintendo World, an area with rides and restaurants dedicated to Mario and friends.
Astérix Park, France
France has several large theme parks, with a few popular options just a day trip from Paris. Astérix Park offers a uniquely French theme park experience; it’s based on Asterix, a French comic book series, and it has 42 attractions, with something for everyone.
Magic Kingdom, the USA
Magic Kingdom is the most-visited theme park in the world, and right now, it’s celebrating 50 years since opening as the first Disney World theme park in Florida. Its layout, themes, and attractions were based on Disneyland Park in California, but there are nuances that distinguish it, including the impressive Cinderella Castle that sits at the centre of it all.
PortAventura Park, Spain
Located on the Spanish coast just about an hour from Barcelona, PortAventura Park has six lands themed to China, Polynesia, Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Far West (think: American Old West), and Sesame Street, with plenty of rides the whole family will love.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the UAE
This primarily indoor Ferrari-inspired theme park in Abu Dhabi is a must-visit for car and thrill lovers. It’s home to the world’s fastest roller coaster, highest loop ride, and more attractions, plus Ferrari driving experiences.
Universal Studios Hollywood, the USA
What started as a studio tour in 1915 has evolved into one of the world’s most recognisable theme park companies. Universal Parks & Resorts now has several theme park resorts around the world, but Universal Studios Hollywood was first, and the studio tour lives on as one of its most iconic attractions.
Everland Theme Park, South Korea
Everland, located in Yongin, is South Korea’s largest amusement park, and it’s home to a fun variety of themes, including Global Fair, Zootopia, European Adventure, Magic Land (best for kids), and American Adventure. The park also hosts a tulip festival filled with blooms each spring.
Alton Towers Resort, England
Located in the Staffordshire countryside, Alton Towers was once a private estate with a history dating back hundreds of years. Guests can still explore the towers (now filled with attractions) and gardens, as well as experience thrilling coasters and delightful kids’ rides, at this UK theme park.
Shanghai Disneyland, China
Shanghai Disneyland opened in 2016, making it the newest Disney theme park in the world. And that means it’s home to some of Disney’s newest and most exciting attractions, including the “Tron”-themed coaster and an innovative take on the classic Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com