Theme parks can be one of the most awesome summer experiences… but the more popular a theme park is, the longer the lines are. At America’s more popular theme parks, it’s common to spend most of your day just waiting your turn for the rides. Plus, chances are many of your friends have already been there, so there’s not much you can say about your trip that they don’t already know. Well, there’s still hope! Skip the lines and bring back an impressive story with a trip to one of these seven theme parks that you probably never knew existed.
1. Gatorland, Orlando, Florida
The city of Orlando, Florida is packed with world-famous theme parks, such as Universal Studios, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot and SeaWorld. However, if you want to have a unique story to tell, you should stop at Gatorland, the self-billed “Alligator Capital of the World.” This theme park and nature preserve houses live alligators that have been rescued from trappers, as well as other snakes, lizards, and swamp critters. There are also zip lines and off-road rides for those who want to explore the park from a different point of view.
2. Holy Land Experience, Orlando, Florida
Yet another of the seemingly endless amount of theme parks in Orlando, the Holy Land Experience sure makes it a point to stand out. As the name suggests, this park has a Christian-based theme recreating the architecture and atmosphere of 1st century Jerusalem. The Holy Land Experience serves as a museum and theatre, showcasing actual religious artifacts and performing live shows depicting stories from the Bible. The park also hosts weekly church services and Bible studies for the general public.
3. San Francisco Dungeon, San Francisco, California
Not for the faint of heart, the San Francisco Dungeon immerses its customers in the city’s dark historic past. Live and interactive performances showcase stories from the sinful side of the gold rush gangs to the Chinatown Plague – and of course, of the infamous Alcatraz Prison. For those who really want to test their bravery, the attraction also features a drop ride and an escape room.
4. Rush Mountain Adventure Park, Keystone, South Dakota
Rush Mountain is a cave-themed amusement park featuring – you guessed it – an actual cave! Tourists can explore the scenic and beautiful Rushmore Cave with a tour guide, going up and down passageways and learning more about how caves are created and what kind of wildlife evolves inside them. Above ground, the park features a roller coaster, giant obstacle challenge course, and zip lines.
5. Zero Gravity, Dallas, Texas
If you love the feeling of flying (or falling) through the air, then this is the theme park for you! Zero Gravity lets guests jump, fall, swing, and soar with their five different styles of free-fall rides. Bungee jumping, a skycoaster, and a giant slingshot ride can get your blood pumping, but that’s just the beginning. If you truly want a thrill ride, you can try jumping without the bungee cord into a giant net… 16 stories down. And if that still isn’t enough for you, strap yourself into the Skyscraper, which whips you around a 165-foot propeller at a G-Force stronger than a space shuttle takeoff.
6. Hersheypark, Hersey, Pennsylvania
We’ll be honest — chances are, out of all of the parks on this list, you may have heard of this one before… but it’s just so unique we had to include it! Hersheypark is a chocolate-themed amusement park collaborated with the Hershey Chocolate Company. However, this place is more than just an advertisement for candy! The park features over a dozen roller coasters, a giant water park with slides and water rides, and other various family and kids rides, live entertainment, and a full resort.
7. Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Knoebels boasts the proud distinction of being America’s largest free-admission theme park for over 90 years… yes, that’s right, free! Free admission, free parking, and free entertainment. You do have to purchase tickets to get on the rides and roller coasters, but only paying for the rides you want can still save you a lot of money. Somehow, even with free admission, plenty of roller coasters, thrill rides, and a full campground resort, Knoebels has flew under the radar on the national level. However, that may be a blessing in disguise, as fewer people = shorter lines!