Ranking America’s Most-Loved Theme Parks – See Who Made The List

Rollercoaster at Carowinds Theme Park, North Carolina

Attendance at America's top theme parks has taken owners on a roller coaster ride with more ups and downs and dynamic turns than anything the Imagineers could have come up with.

While the summer travel season looms large, it's impossible to say whether crowds will break records in the positive or the negative this year.

The parent companies of both Universal Parks and Resorts and Disney Parks and Resorts revealed during their 2023 shareholder meetings that revenue figures had increased from 2021 to 2022. While those companies often withhold specific attendance numbers, both Comcast and The Walt Disney Company pointed to an increase in attendance in 2022.

Meanwhile, Six Flags, the third-largest amusement park purveyor, saw attendance and profits plummet by 23%.

Study Shows America's Most-Loved Theme Park

According to AirportParkingReservations.com, the most popular theme park in the US is Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, Florida. Though the theme park ranked in the number one spot may not be shocking, a few of the theme parks rounding out the top ten were unexpected.

California Has Most Theme Parks Ranked on Study

Disney parks
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While Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Hollywood, ranked one and two, respectively, have similar audiences and theme attractions, Walt Disney World has a slight advantage over the California park by having 170+ rides and attractions scattered across its four Florida theme parks.

However, according to the study, California can boast three of the top ten theme parks, with Universal Studios Hollywood ranking second, Disneyland Resort in eighth, and Knott's Berry Farm in ninth place.

North Carolina Theme Park Ranks at Number Three

Rollercoaster at Carowinds Theme Park, North Carolina
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Surprisingly, affordable Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina came in at number three on AirportParkingReservations.com‘s list. A one-day ticket to Carowinds comes in at $39.99 plus tax, and the lowest tier of the park's seasonal pass offerings is the same price as a one-day ticket to Walt Disney World, $109 plus tax.

Additionally, Carowinds boasts 39 rides and fourteen rollercoasters, seven times the number of rollercoasters available at Universal Studios Hollywood. Carowinds is a popular visit for coaster enthusiasts who enjoy their world-renowned steel rollercoaster Fury 325.

Ohio Theme Park Has Most Rollercoasters in The Top 10

Ohio Theme Park
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Coming in at number ten is Ohio's Cedar Point Amusement Park. According to its website, Cedar Point opened in Ohio in 1870 as a public bathing beach.

22 years later in 1892, the park's first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, opened and ran at an astonishingly fast, for the time period, ten miles per hour. Fast forward to 2023, and the park now boasts 72 rides and fifteen rollercoasters-the most out of any theme park in the top ten.

Virginia and Tennessee Round Out The Top Five

Dollywood Theme Park
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Virginia's Kings Dominion and Tennessee's Dollywood ranked fourth and fifth in the study. These two theme parks were separated by a 1.4 index score of 33.6 and 32.2 respectively. Though Kings Dominion has fewer total rides, 48, than Dollywood, 50, the Doswell, Virginia theme park is at a significantly lower price point of $39.99 per ticket to Dollywood's $89.00 individual ticket price.

Procedure for Determining Theme Park Rankings

The team at AirportParkingReservations.com compiled a list of over 300 theme parks across the U.S. and collected data informed by Google Keywords to determine which theme parks were the most searched for in 2022. After narrowing the list to the top 50, they created an index including ten key factors.

  • Ticket prices, number of rollercoasters, number of total rides, and capacity were gathered from each theme park's website.
  • Google Search, YouTube, and Instagram data were all collected with the help of Google Keyword Planners.
  • Linkfluence was used to inform the “likability” score for each park.

Each ranking factor was then normalized and added up to rank the most-loved theme parks in the US for 2023.

Theme Parks Ranked in The Top 10 for 2023

Tampa Busch Garden
Image Credit: Feng Cheng / Shutterstock.com.

After highlighting some interesting observations from the study, these are the top ten most-loved theme parks for 2023.

  1. Walt Disney World, Florida
  2. Universal Studios Hollywood, California
  3. Carowinds, North Carolina
  4. Kings Dominion, Virginia
  5. Dollywood, Tennessee
  6. Six Flags America, Maryland
  7. Busch Gardens, Virginia
  8. Disneyland Resort, California
  9. Knott's Berry Farm, California
  10. Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio.

Social media popularity was one factor in determining rankings, but it was not enough to help some parks. Walt Disney World had over 108 million Instagram posts, which helped it maintain its number-one ranking. Though Virginia's Busch Gardens came in second with over 800,000 Instagram posts, it dropped in the rankings, likely due to a lower search volume overall.

More Rankings Reveal Six Flags Parks Most Represented

Fantastic Family-Friendly Alternatives to Too-Expensive Disney World
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The study concludes with theme parks ranked in spots 11-20, revealing that Six Flags parks dominate the list. Parks include Six Flags America, 6th place; Six Flags Great America, 11th place; Six Flags Magic Mountain, 12th place; Six Flags Over Georgia, 13th place; Six Flags Fiesta Texas, 18th place; and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 20th place.

Thrill seekers will want to plan a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain as it has the most number of rollercoasters, 20, of any theme park on the list. However, visitors looking for an affordable park will want to consider Jolly Roger Amusement Park, ranked 19th, in Ocean City, Maryland as its tickets start at just $28.99 per person.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks Travel.

Author: Sarah Gilliland

Title: Managing Travel Editor

Bio:

Sarah Gilliland is a travel journalist and managing travel editor for Wealth of Geeks with over ten years of experience writing, editing, and producing content related to family travel. She freelances for other online outlets in addition to her role as the managing travel editor at Wealth of Geeks. Sarah's beats include theme parks, family travel, cruises, and road trips. When she isn't traveling or writing freelance columns, Sarah can be found on her website, On the Road with Sarah, or binging the latest geeky thing on Netflix or Disney+.