Dream theme | 

Set your adrenaline junky side free with America’s thrilling amusement parks

Hulk rollercoaster Universal Studios in Florida

Disneyland Park in California

Luna Park in Coney Island

Cedar Point in Ohio

Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida

Daragh Keany

LONG gone are the days when Funderland was as exciting as it got. Nowadays we need our thrills to be bigger and bolder and that’s why theme parks regularly feature on Irish tourist’s ‘to-do’ lists and no one does them better than the Americans.

1: Universal Studios Florida Orlando, Florida

Universal Studios in Orlando is, quite simply, a mecca for fun. Thanks to the parent company’s movie and TV franchises you can have breakfast in Springfield before spending the afternoon in Hogwarts.

All the while, you are taking part in some of the most unique and exhilarating park rides in the whole of the US.

You can get up close to naughty minions, fly around with The Simpsons, ward off alien attacks in the Men in Black simulator, or get lost in a world of magic on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. It’s not all kids’ stuff though.

The Bourne Stuntacular, the Rip Ride Rockit or the insanely scary annual Halloween Horror Nights event ensures that no one leaves Universal Studios thinking they should have done more. There’s even Volcano Bay water park for those looking for a thrill-seeking adventure in water. The Ko’Okiri body plunge slide is the best 12 seconds of fun you can have in North America.

Disneyland Park in California

2: Disneyland Park Anaheim, California

Disneyland Park features eight themed areas that are packed with rides, colourful characters, live music, and street parades. Located on Disneyland Drive, it’s easily one of the best theme parks in the USA.

Thrill seekers can enjoy exhilarating rides at the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain,while families with young kids can explore the Sleeping Beauty Castle and meet Disney princesses at the Royal Hall.

Luna Park in Coney Island

3: Luna Park Brooklyn, New York

Luna Park is a longstanding fixture on New York’s Coney Island. Visitors of all ages can enjoy more than 25 thrilling rides and dozens of traditional fairground and arcade games.

What I love about this place is that, despite not being a destination theme park, it is huge in size and has been modernised over the last few decades but still has the look and feel of an old-school theme park with its iconic Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster ride,. Each occasion I have been there it has seemed less busy than the other theme parks on this list. It is open until midnight on weekends.

Cedar Point in Ohio

4: Cedar Point Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point has more than 70 thrilling rides, 17 of which are roller coasters of varying sizes and speed. But the most popular ride by far is Valravn, which is a dive coaster that rides up to 67 metres into the Ohio sky before dropping at a 90-degree angle.

Cedar Point has family-friendly attractions such as water playgrounds, kid-sized slides and mini cars for the smallies.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida

5: Disney’s Magic Kingdom Bay Lake, Florida

Disney’s Magic Kingdom is one of the largest theme parks on the whole continent and is only 20 minutes along Route 4 from the aforementioned Universal Studios. Hence why these two parks work so well together.

Irish people travel to Orlando in their tens of thousands and can easily divide their time between the two. In Magic Kingdom you can have fun at six different lands inspired by popular fairy tales. The iconic Cinderella Castle stands as the park’s centrepiece, and is lit up every night at 10pm by the famous fireworks display.

6: Six Flags Magic Mountain Santa Clarita, California

Two words…Pendulum Ride!!! Six Flags Magic Mountain has more than 18 roller coasters, some of which are inspired by DC characters such as the Green Lantern and Batman.

Located half an hour north of Los Angeles, SFMM is known for its CraZanity ride, which is one of the fastest pendulum rides in the world. You get to experience speeds of up to 75 mph.


■ Book your tickets well in advance on a site like the brilliant attractiontickets.com. Tickets are nearly always dearer at the entrance to a theme park, plus you won’t have to queue. ■ Bring supplies for water rides, take a waterproof casing for your phone, a poncho to keep you dry(ish) or swimsuits, so you don’t have to worry about getting wet.

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