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22 Best Amusement Park Restaurants

22 Best Amusement Park Restaurants

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If thinking about amusement park food conjures images of endless peddle carts with greasy, fried foods and jumbo sugary snacks, well, you're missing part of the picture. Sure, most theme parks offer those options — and isn't that part of the fun? — but at the same time, many parks also have choices that aren't so run-of-the-mill… if you know where to look, that is.

Click here to see the 22 Best Amusement Park Restaurants Slideshow!

What makes for good amusement park fare might be subjective, but we’ve ranked our list based on variety of offerings, value, quality of food, and reflection of the park and/or associated ride’s theme.

Some people like casual, down-home fun and raucous rides. Some like a country vibe and family-oriented activities. Some like a bit of culture thrown into the experience. The same goes for food; while some flock to enjoy a longtime-favorite treat that their trip to a park wouldn't be complete without, others decide to splurge on a unique food experience.

Luckily, choices abound at these amusement parks. Some eateries have been around a really long time and enable people to experience and share a certain childhood nostalgia, while other spots are newer and starting their own traditions. Some have won awards from industry magazines, and others have been more quietly dishing out favorite treats and meals for generations. And some even deserve recognition for the options available across the entire park!

So whether' you're craving African, Mexican, French, or Italian cuisine, you can find it all. Or you can always go the safe route and grab a hot dog at Coney Island — about as American as it gets. If you’re up for it, you can also feel like a character in a Harry Potter novel, or eat eye-to-eye with a shark.

Whatever you choose, the food should only enhance the sights, sounds, rides, and your total amusement park experience! Check out our slideshow for our top picks.

These Are the Best Amusement Parks That Won’t Cost a Fortune

Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning how you will spend all that quality family time. A trip to a theme park is always high on the vacation bucket list, but it can also blow your entire summer budget. A new survey ranks the best amusement parks that offer the most entertainment for your money.

HomeToGo, a vacation rental listing site recently evaluated 45 of the most popular theme parks in the US and used their findings to compile the 2018 Amusement Park Price Ranking. The list ranks the 45 parks in order from most affordable to most expensive and some of the rankings might surprise you. Taking the least costly number one spot is Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a total cost of approximately $60 for one adult. The cost includes the price of the ticket and nearby accommodations for one night.

While it might not surprise you to learn that the uber-popular Disney theme parks were not among the top cheapest amusement park destinations, they were not the absolute most expensive either. That award went to Universal Studios Hollywood, which was ranked the most expensive of the 45 parks on the list, with an average total of $267 per day for an adult.

Here are the top ten least expensive amusement parks according to the report:

  1. Cliffs Amusement Park
  2. Castles N’Coasters
  3. Frontier City
  4. Quassy Amusement Park
  5. Canobie Lake Park
  6. Darien Lake
  7. Knoebels Amusement Resort
  8. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
  9. Silverwood Theme Park
  10. Wild Adventures Theme Park

In order to determine the rankings, HomeToGo analyzed each park on several factors including the cost of a single adult ticket, the price for parking and the cost of a meal, which was averaged by the selection of a cheeseburger, fries and fountain drink. The ranking also included the cost of accommodation for one based on a 4-person occupancy. See the complete list of amusement parks here.

The 10 All-Time Best Theme Park Treats Across The Country

While we all sit at home and reminisce about theme parks in general but, more specifically, the foods we can only enjoy at theme parks, I decided to do your asses a huge favor and put together a top 10, all-time best amusement park foods list. If I'm being totally honest, it was an exercise in catharsis on my part, but it also will hopefully serve you well when you start planning your post-pandemic, as-safe-as-humanly-possible theme park trips again one day.

On the list, you'll find some of the usual suspects (the classic Disney churro, for one), but there are some sweet and savory treats you may not have expected. Like, sure, yes, you could go to Hersheypark and eat all of the sweetest chocolate things, but you could also house their Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip Fries and be the world's happiest park-going human. Legoland&mdasha park some of you may remember I struggled hard through&mdashalso made the list with their famous apple fries, a cinnamon sugar-y, deep-fried delight that you can only find in that park.

Anyway. Watch the video above to find out what, of everything I've ever eaten in theme parks, made that coveted top 10. Then be sure to find me on Instagram, DM me your disagreements in a very rude and uncalled for manner, and then blast me in the YouTube comments for not knowing what I'm talking about.

The 16 Best, Most Over-The-Top Places To Eat In Dollywood

Hot take: Dollywood is the happiest place on Earth.

I, a person who enjoys eating lots of food and traveling to new and exciting places, recently trekked to Pigeon Forge, TN, in search of the most iconic eats Dollywood has to offer. The result? An exhausting and exhilarating day that allows me to confidently tell you where you should eat the next time you find yourself at Dolly Parton's theme park. Ready? It's a journey.

The walk-through establishment is without a doubt the perfect place to start your Dollywood day. The choices here are overwhelming&mdashdo you go straight for the slice of mondo apple pie? Is a box of small cinnamon rolls that's been drowned in icing the way to go? What about the cookies? Any of the cookies? Here's what you do: Sit down at Spotlight with the fam for a slice of pie and circle back on your way out of the park for a box of the buns. Skip the cookies, keep chipping at the pie.

I cannot overstate how much of a must Red's is. If you are a human who likes good food, kitsch, and air conditioning, it is one of your finest options. Seriously, the cheeseburger and fries and shakes and decor all feel very 1950s New Jersey, and the temperature control in there is just phenomenal. As a very hot (temperature-wise) person from NJ, I can be trusted on this.

Again, not to be dramatic, but the food truck (parked conveniently outside of Red's) is a very good place to stop if you enjoy, like, eating good food. It's got a curated menu of mac & cheese varieties, the best of which is undoubtedly the pulled pork-topped version. My only complaint: The truck is extremely and inexplicably tall. Anyone who's heigh is less than six feet has to reach for their meal.

Come for the pictures of the gigantic, ever-stewing skillet, stay for the cheese sauce that floods almost every selection on their menu (like this cheesesteak). Bonus: The whole Market Square area has lots of seating and lots of shopping nearby.

Sick of sugar but still need something sweet? The Kettle Korn stop right by Market Square offers Splenda-topped popcorn for those who might need or want it.

Well. I went into this trip very excited about a pickle-marinated fried chicken sandwich, and I left this trip craving that same sandwich every day. You don't need anything but the sandwich at Grandstand Café. It's a phenomenal salty bite I hope all those I love get to experience in their lifetimes.

The line piles up at Miss Lillian's (whether that's because the food is solid or the opportunity to watch meat smoke there is fun), so you can expect a wait. The Carolina Gold barbecue sauce that tops some of their sandwiches is worth it, though. Ohhh, is it worth it.

OK, you know what I just said about lines at Lillian's? They're omnipresent at the Grist Mill. That said, anyone who comes to Dollywood must pass through it. The cinnamon bread is legendary and exactly as good as everyone says it is.

Granny Ogle's is where you go for pork rinds and pimento cheese. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Listen. This wasn't my favorite stop. But if searing-hot turkey legs and chive-y cheese fries are your jams, by all means, enjoy. You'll find your people here.

Got myself a lil' butterfly pretzel at Skyview and loved every bite of it. The salt is thick and crunchy, the pretzel gives beneath all its butter, and the combination is heavenly.

Splinter's is the home of that Fruity Pebble funnel cake you've read so much about. It is very sweet. It is very delicious. Eat it quickly before the whipped cream melts into it, forming a sticky, cereal tie-dyed mosh.

The biggest mistake of my trip was not walking the extra 50 steps to The Dog House to eat my Reuben Dog before the Fruity Pebble Funnel Cake. Learn from my mistakes. Grow from them.

Till and Harvest was the first of two places we hit up in Dollywood's brand new Wildwood Grove, a pristine and gorgeous land that serves as a quieter offshoot for those who need a break from the craziness and heat of the park. The food is reflective of that calmness&mdashthe Smoky Mountain Nachos (which are drowned in all the best nacho toppings. plus an avocado creme) are something worth sitting at and enjoying for awhile.

It was here that I found myself with a "Flit 'N' Flutter" Sundae (which is essentially churros, ice cream, strawberries, and a mountain of whipped cream). It's another Wildwood Grove must, if even for just a few minutes.

Margherita pizza topped with mozz that's (perhaps unintentionally) shaped like a butterfly? Incredible. Find it at Lumber Jack's.

Six Flags Food

Funnel cake is one of those theme park foods that just screams fun, but Six Flags&rsquo funnel cakes stand above the rest, leaving lasting memories of wandering around the parks. If you haven&rsquot had the pleasure of trying this iconic dish yet, it&rsquos a fried-batter dessert that looks like a tasty woven doily. It&rsquos light, fluffy, and covered in powdered sugar&mdashbasically, it&rsquos everything you&rsquore looking for in a sweet treat. Trust us, if you&rsquore going to make any recipe on this list, it ought to be this food from Six Flags Great America.

America's best amusement-park eateries

Epcot guest Kathleen Kramer (left), and her daughter Rebecca, enjoy a visit from "Chef Remy" and French Maitre d' "Armand" at Les Chefs de France restaurant in Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Photo: Gene Duncan)

What makes for good amusement park fare might be subjective, but we've ranked our list based on variety of offerings, value, quality of food, and reflection of the park and/or associated ride's theme.

Some people like casual, down-home fun and raucous rides. Some like a country vibe and family-oriented activities. Some like a bit of culture thrown into the experience. The same goes for food while some flock to enjoy a longtime-favorite treat that their trip to a park wouldn't be complete without, others decide to splurge on a unique food experience.

Luckily, choices abound at these amusement parks. Some eateries have been around a really long time and enable people to experience and share a certain childhood nostalgia, while other spots are newer and starting their own traditions. Some have won awards from industry magazines, and others have been more quietly dishing out favorite treats and meals for generations. And some even deserve recognition for the options available across the entire park!

So whether' you're craving African, Mexican, French, or Italian cuisine, you can find it all. Or you can always go the safe route and grab a hot dog at Coney Island — about as American as it gets. If you're up for it, you can also feel like a character in a Harry Potter novel, or eat eye-to-eye with a shark.

Whatever you choose, the food should only enhance the sights, sounds, rides, and your total amusement park experience!

1. Boma Flavors of Africa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge — Orlando, Fla.

Not your ordinary buffet, this African-themed spot offers ethnic foods alongside old American favorites. The lodge atmosphere, with animals grazing outside, and warm service make this restaurant a mini-adventure in and of itself. Bobotie (an African meat pie) and coconut curry chicken soup are worth trying.

2. Mythos at Universal's Islands of Adventure — Orlando, Fla.

Go inside this dramatic, air-conditioned "cave," complete with cascading water, for a respite from the rides. This striking theme park favorite offers contemporary and eclectic fare. The crabcake sliders and the pad thai are among diner's favorites.

3. Phoenix Junction at Knoebels Amusement Resort — Elysburg, Pa.

This spot has affordable family fun in the truest sense with pay-as-you-go rides! This park even lets you bring food if you choose. But why would you, when it's been in the top running for Amusement Today's Best Food winner? Pierogies, funnel cake, and sliced apples with caramel and whipped cream are just the beginning.

4. The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios — Orlando, Fla.

A charming replica of the classic eatery from Hollywood's Golden Age, this spot is authentic down to the trademark (and delicious) grapefruit cake. Try the Cobb salad, following the recipe created by Bob Cobb, owner of the original Brown Derby.

5. Ms. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm — Buena Park, Calif.

This restaurant is straight out of a simpler time. Come here when visiting Knott's Berry Farm for fluffy biscuits, chicken gravy, and boysenberry pie to accompany the namesake chicken. The large portions and homemade cooking often remind fans of childhood meals.

6. Chefs de France at Epcot Center — Orlando, Fla.

To enhance the feel of a Parisian bistro in this Disney setting, diners can indulge in real-deal items like escargots and quiche Lorraine at this restaurant. Don't miss the crème brûlée and profiteroles afterward. Watch out: Chef Remy from Ratatouille just might stop by your table!

7. Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs at Coney Island — Brooklyn, N.Y.

Like its neighboring roller coaster, the Cyclone, Nathan's is a classic. You don't just get a World Famous Beef Hot Dog here, you're part of a little piece of New York City history as you chow down on the famous boardwalk. (And we recommend you ride the Cyclone before, not after.)

Check out Nathan's additional appearance in our best boardwalks ranking!

8. Carthay Circle at Disney California Adventure Park — Anaheim, Calif.

A reproduction of the classic theater that premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 now offers fine dining with Asian and Mediterranean influences. Located within Disney, the spot offers specialties like a fried biscuit stuffed with Cheddar, jalapeños, and bacon and served with honey apricot butter.

9. La Hacienda de San Angel at Epcot Center — Orlando, Fla.

This building with an "Old World" vibe overlooks a lagoon and nightly fireworks over Epcot Center if your timing is right. Authentic Mexican entrées using ingredients like mole sauce and nopales (cactus leaves) keep the menu interesting.

10. The Three Broomsticks Restaurant at Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal — Orlando, Fla.

Harry Potter fans will enjoy being inside the fictional pub for traditional English dishes like Cornish pasties and turkey legs. The visit won't be complete until you have the "Butterbeer," which comes regular or frozen.

11. Club 33 at Disneyland — Anaheim, Calif.

Due to its exclusivity, Club 33 is not exactly a crowd favorite. To get in, you either need to be a member or know one. This is a mecca for extreme Disneyland fans! Mr. Disney himself had the idea to entertain special guests at this upscale, memorabilia-filled club and with a bit of luck, you can enjoy your Chateaubriand here, too.

12. Woodman's Seafood & Grill at Mel's Funway Park — Litchfield, N.H.

An outpost of the New England favorite (which was originated by the inventor of the fried clam), Woodman's here at the park lets visitors get their fried seafood fix, topped off with coleslaw and fries.

13. Das Festhaus at Busch Gardens — Williamsburg, Va.

Carve out a spot in this enormous hall of bustling activity to enjoy traditional German food and a show. Corned beef sandwiches, sausage plates, beers, potato salad, and apple strudel, as well as non-German selections (even pizza) are available.

14. Aunt Granny's All-You-Care-to-Eat Buffet at Dollywood — Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Dollywood won Amusement Today's Best Food Award in 2012, and you'll find that the queen of country, aka Dolly Parton herself, has provided lots of variety when it comes to the park's fare. You can make yourself at home at Aunt Granny's All-You-Care-to-Eat Buffet with some down-home cookin', but between rides you must try the Tater Twirls. chips loaded with nacho cheese and chili.

15. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios — Orlando, Fla.

At this dine-in theater, sit in a convertible "car" facing a big screen in a darkened "nighttime" space, just like you're at the drive-in. Old movie reels play while you enjoy your burgers, shakes, and fried dill pickles!

16. Graeter's Ice Cream at Kings Island — Mason, Ohio

On The Brady Bunch, Cindy and Bobby couldn't get enough of the food here. The casual eats feature Cincinnati favorites LaRosa's Pizzeria, and Graeter's ice cream, which originated locally in 1870. Try the signature black-raspberry chocolate chip.

5. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Florida

Created over 30 years ago, Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates the art of moviemaking. Visitors will transport themselves into many famous movie settings, such as from The Twilight Zone, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Toy Story, and even come across characters from these films. You’ll not only be able to learn more about cinematography while here, but enjoy rides and many interactive shows as well. Guests to Hollywood Studios will discover many unique restaurants that range from glamorous Hollywood eateries to nostalgic 50s-era diners. There are some behind-the-scenes tours available that will give you some intriguing insight into how the park operates.

351 S Studio Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830, Phone: 407-939-5277

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The Best Theme Park Food to Be Found

I f your family fun involves amusements of the theme park variety, you needn&apost resign yourself to a diet of fried (and refried) chicken fingers and funnel cake. Not that there&aposs anything wrong with a medieval-sized turkey leg now and again, but if you&aposre anything like us, a big part of what makes vacations so great is the food, and we&aposre happy to say it exists even in the land of roller coasters. Here are our picks for the best theme park food, from casual to refined.

Chefs de France, Epcot Theme Park

Perhaps you&aposd expect a park whose acronym stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow to serve chalky astronaut food or Jetsons-esque pills.

But among the restaurants in Epcot&aposs 11 World Showcase pavilions, which include several international food trucks and the newly opened Spice Road Table Moroccan restaurant, Chefs de France is a standout. Les Chefs serves dishes you might find in a typical Parisian brasserie, from escargots de Bourgogne and coq au vin to coquille St. Jacques and profiteroles, and it offers an impressive variety of French wines to pair with their classic menu. Reservations recommended.

Three Broomsticks Tavern, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

One word: Butterbeer. Two words: Frozen Butterbeer, which is nonalcoholic and tastes somewhat like a cream soda with a thick butterscotchy head. If that&aposs not enough to convince your skeptical Muggle heart, take comfort, as the rest of the menu offers solid British pub fare: porridge and black pudding for breakfast, and fish &aposn&apos chips, shepherd&aposs pie, and Cornish pasties the rest of the day. Those wishing for a little more beer in their Butterbeer can repair to the Hog&aposs Head pub at the back of the tavern.

Knoebels Amusement Resort

It&aposs not fancy, but the food at this park continuously rakes in accolades. Knoebels (pronounced with a hard k) has won Amusement Today&aposs Golden Ticket Award for Best Food nearly every year since 2000. (It lost out to Dollywood in 2012 and tied with the country singer&aposs namesake park in 2013.) Get good pizza at Cesari&aposs, taste Alligator Bites at the International Food Court, or find a little of everything (even gluten-free options) at The Alamo, Knoebels&apos full-service, family-friendly restaurant. Oh, and if you didn&apost already know, Knoebels is one of the country&aposs few free-admission theme parks.

Spaghetti Wednesdays, DelGrosso&aposs Amusement Park

DelGrosso&aposs is run by the same family whose name graces those jars of spaghetti sauce on your grocery shelves. Not surprisingly, the park&aposs fare runs toward the Italian. Summer Wednesdays are devoted to pasta, with special dinners ranging from rigatoni with vodka sauce to the bestselling lasagna with meatballs. And it&aposs worth noting that admission to DelGrosso&aposs rides area is free to the public, though the adjacent water park does charge an entry fee.

Hungry Dutchman Café, Nelis&apos Dutch Village

Holland, Michigan. Dutch Village. Are you sensing a theme here? Wind your way through the windmills and wooden shoes toward the Hungry Dutchman Café, where they serve traditional Dutch dishes, such as mettwurst (a type of pork sausage), saucijzebroodjes (basically, pigs in a blanket), and erwtensoep (a smoked sausage–studded pea soup) alongside typical park fare like burgers and fries. Eet smakelijk!

The Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney&aposs Hollywood Studios

This replica of the famous hat-shaped Hollywood restaurant is faithful down to the original eatery&aposs signature dishes like Cobb Salad (named for onetime Derby owner Robert Cobb) and Grapefruit Cake. The menu changes often according to season, and two current favorites are Crispy Spiced Duck Breast served with locally grown orange cauliflower and a duck confit-filled yucca, and herb-crusted rack of lamb over a buttermilk-blue cheese corn pudding. Go for the food. Go for the ambience. Just be sure to make reservations.

Knoebel's Grove Amusement park in Elysburg

We've been going there for years (we live about an hour away), and I realized last night that we go there as much for the food as we do for the great rides and the super relaxed atmosphere.

Traveling Tacos: a one serving sized bag of crushed Fritos with taco ingredients shovelled on top and served with a spoon great! Excellent pulled pork bbq sandwiches, chili cheese dogs, fries, pizza, soft or hard ice cream (Leichtman's), pierogies, potato pancakes, fried chicken, and on and on. The only flat spot is the burgers, which are the standard frozen patty found everywhere.

Knoebel's has no admission charge, you pay by the ride so if you want to go there and walk around, channel the park's energy and atmosphere, watch the shows featuring local talent (good wedding/high school level, generally), and maybe move your teeth a bit, then it won't cost you more than $1.50 for the funnel cake. And Knoebel's is not a sea of asphalt with rides plunked down on it it's dirt, gravel, trees, streams, and ponds. It's a nice place.

Top 25 theme park water rides in the U.S.

We rank the Top 25 log flumes, river rapids rafts, shoot the chutes and boat rides at theme parks across the United States.

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than getting soaking wet on a water ride at a theme park.

Unless you’re like me, and you dread getting drenched to the skin at a theme park, then there’s nothing worse.

I hate water rides. If I want to get wet, I’ll go to a water park.

So I come at this Top 25 from a slightly skewed perspective. While I’m the worst person in the world to write about the topic, I’m also enough of a consummate professional to step back from my irrational biases and rank the best water rides in the United States.

Now I’m not talking about water slides at water parks here. If that’s what you’re interested in, check out my rankings of the world’s best water slides and water parks.

What I’m looking for in a water ride is storytelling and theming. Far too many log flumes, river rapids rafts and shoot-the-chutes are interchangeable and indistinguishable from each other.

So as you might expect, my list is dominated by Disney attractions, with Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld and Six Flags well represented as well. I also managed to find room for a handful of rides from a few regional and smaller parks as well. A number of the rides appear at multiple parks in the U.S. and around the world.

I recently participated in a Season Pass podcast that focused on the best theme park water rides. The 90-minute podcast was often entertaining and if you want to hear me go on at length about my unbridled hatred of water rides you should check it out.

But for now, let’s turn to the topic at hand: The top 25 theme park water rides in the U.S.

25) Whenever I’m putting together a ranked list, I always like to include a wild card or two. So I figured why not start out with a ride that isn’t even open yet. Frozen Ever After replaces the Maelstrom dark ride in the Norway pavilion at Florida’s Epcot. Based on the “Frozen” film, the new boat ride is expected to take visitors to Arendelle and Elsa’s ice palace during a Winter in Summer celebration. I’m sure Frozen Ever After will move up this list once it officially debuts in 2016.

24) Storybook Land Canal Boats is a leisurely paced boat ride that sails past miniature scenes from Disney’s animated films in the Fantasyland section of Disneyland. The original Disneyland ride was unfinished on opening day in 1955 with little more than signs bearing the Latin terms for weeds lining the muddy banks.

23) Built in 1927, the Boat Chute was the first ride built at Georgia’s Lake Winnepesaukah amusement park, commonly known as Lake Winnie. With a final splashdown into the lake, the classic ride is one of the last remaining mill chutes left in the world and the oldest attraction of its type still in operation in the United States, according to the National Amusement Park Historical Assn.

22) The Aquazone Wave Racers at Legoland parks in California and Florida cleverly combine a water carousel with a stand-up jet ski that skips over waves on a man-made lagoon. Spectators trigger submerged water cannons that riders try to avoid.

21) Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges is a nicely themed river rapids ride at Florida’s Islands of Adventure theme park that’s guaranteed to get you wet. If I’m being honest, I have to admit I hate this ride with all my heart. But a lot people love Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges for the same reason I despise it: You will get 100% wet. Not one square inch of your body or your clothes will be dry after you get off the aptly named Bilge Rats. Fortunately there is a walk-in body dryer right near the exit.

20) Escape From Pompeii is a fairly straightforward shoot the chute with a short dark ride segment in the Italy area of Virginia’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Amid the destruction of Mount Vesuvius, the flat-bottom boat navigates crumbling statues and burning ruins before descending an 80-foot drop that concludes with a tidal wave splash.

19) The Tsunami Soakers at Six Flags St. Louis and California’s Six Flags Discovery Kingdom combine a classic teacup ride with lots of water. After the floor under the teacups fills with water, the ride starts spinning and the riders fire water guns at each other and shore-bound spectators (who are also armed).

18) Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls is a nicely themed Islands of Adventure water ride that combines a log flume with a roller coaster track. The flume travels through several dark ride elements before plunging riders down a 75-foot drop into a dynamite shack that explodes with a burst of water.

17) Kali River Rapids at Florida’s Animal Kingdom theme park was Disney’s first attempt at a river rapids ride. The attraction has an illegal logging theme that ties in with the park’s environmental conservation message. Located in the Asia area of the park, the river winds through a lush tropical jungle and past charred tree stumps, encountering cascading waterfalls and gushing geysers along the way.

16) I’ve combined the Mark Twain riverboat and the Columbia sailing ship since they travel the same route around Disneyland’s Rivers of America. They both offer leisurely 12-minute cruises by day and play prominent roles in Fantasmic by night. Florida’s Magic Kingdom as well as several other Disney parks around the world have similar stern-wheeler steamboats.

15) The River Battle interactive raft ride at Tennessee’s Dollywood theme park lets riders armed with soaker guns engage in raft-to-raft and raft-to-shore skirmishes. More than 100 targets line the 500-foot-long course, including talking beavers, skunks, otters and bears. Some of the spectators and even a few of the animals can shoot back.

14) The Monster Mansion at Six Flags Over Georgia is a relatively rare mill chute ride featuring nine scenes with more than 100 animatronic monsters. Dating from the park’s opening in 1967, the original boat ride told the same “Song of the South” story as Disneyland’s Splash Mountain.

13) Of all the rides on this list, I’m most conflicted about the the Journey to Atlantis water coasters at the SeaWorld parks in California and Florida. I give them both bonus points for being unique ride concepts but ultimately find them uninteresting as either roller coasters or water rides. While the Florida version has more dark ride elements and the California version focuses more on the coaster experience, both rides are clunky, outdated and uninspiring.

The Journey to Atlantis ride at SeaWorld San Antonio is different from its cousins in California and Florida. The Texas version of Journey to Atlantis more closely resembles a souped-up shoot the chutes ride with a brief backward whoop-de-do dip segment between two rotating turntables.

12) Billed as the longest, tallest and fastest river rapids ride in the world, Grizzly River Run winds around a bear-shaped mountain that serves as the centerpiece of Disney California Adventure. Sadly the ride is void of classic Disney animatronics, reportedly jettisoned during budget cuts before the park’s grand opening.

11) For my second and final wild card, I selected another Disney attraction that isn’t open yet: The “Avatar"-themed boat ride at Animal Kingdom in Florida. Similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, the D-Ticket indoor attraction will take riders on a river journey through the illuminated forest of Pandora. Expect this one to become an instant fan favorite.

10) Ye Old Mill debuted a year after New York’s Playland opened in 1928. Built around the supports of the Dragon coaster, the classic old mill ride travels past sometimes klutzy gnomes, a fierce dragon and evil trolls armed with water cannons.

9) The Pittsburg Plunge shoot the chutes is the centerpiece of a series of throwback rides in the Lost Kennywood area of the Pennsylvania amusement park. The unusual spelling of the name pays tribute to a brief period in the 1890s when Pittsburgh dropped the “h” from its name.

8) The Mountain Sidewinder water toboggan snakes through Dollywood’s hilly terrain amid the Smoky Mountains surroundings. The unique ride features a rubberized boat traveling along the banked curves of a water slide trough. It’s basically all the fun of a water park without having to don a bathing suit.

7) The 1969 Timber Mountain Log Ride at California’s Knott’s Berry Farm takes riders past scenes depicting a 19th-century lumber camp. The attraction was refurbished in 2013 with updated animatronic figures. The ride system was built by Arrow Development (later Arrow Dynamics), which created many of the log flumes found in theme parks around the world today.

6) You won’t find any other ride in the world quite like Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland. The 15-minute underwater journey takes passengers through craggy caverns and past colorful coral brimming with more than 100 animatronics interspersed with cleverly disguised projection screens.

5) The Splash Mountain log flumes at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom take riders through scenes inspired by the 1946 Disney film “Song of the South.” The California ride reused audio-animatronic figures from the “America Sings” attraction, which closed a year before Splash Mountain opened in 1989.

4) It’s a Small World at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom takes riders on an international journey past 300 audio-animatronics figures representing singing children from around the world. The addictive, and some would say annoying, theme song was created to be sung as a round in counterpoint like the “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” nursery rhyme. The original ride made its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York before being packed up and shipped to Disneyland.

3) The Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios theme parks in California and Florida travels past animatronic dinosaurs in a jungle setting. A Tyrannosaurus rex attacks the boat just before riders descend an 80-foot drop to a splashdown finale.

2) The Pirates of the Caribbean water-based dark ride at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom tracks the exploits and foibles of a band of pirates. In a twist, Disney based the popular film series on the ride rather than the other way around. You’ll be humming “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” once you step off this Disney classic.

1) The Jungle Cruise in the Adventureland areas of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom journeys past audio-animatronic tigers, elephants and hippos via tramp steamers along the rivers of Asia, Africa and South America. A skipper delivers a scripted narration that often includes humorous ad-libs.


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