When it comes to the top U.S. theme parks, Disney World’s four theme parks have always ranked among the best, but a recent study found that while Disney owns some of the most popular theme parks in the country, it missed the mark for the #1 most popular U.S. theme park.
A Study of the Country’s Theme Parks
A recent study conducted by Westgate Palace Hotel revealed the top ten most popular theme parks in the United States.
The information used to score each theme park in the study and rank those parks was gathered and compiled by Westgate, which evaluated theme and amusement parks based on three specific factors, including Instagram hashtags, monthly Google Search volume, and the number of TripAdvisor reviews in which visitors gave the park a rating of excellent.
The number of stellar TripAdvisor reviews was then converted into a percentage to represent the amount of excellent reviews compared to the total number of reviews for each park.
The information was then combined into an index that assigned each park a total score. The highest total score then represented the most popular U.S. theme or amusement park. Per TravelTimes, customers’ experiences were given precedence in the index, “with TripAdvisor reviews carrying extra weight due to their direct reflection of visitor satisfaction.”
Winners Across Four Different Theme Park Owners
The top ten most popular theme parks in the U.S. include Disney theme parks, Universal Studios theme parks, and other smaller venues as well.
Universal Parks & Experiences have two parks in the top ten spots, while Disney Parks owns five of the parks that rank as the top ten most popular in the country. The remaining three spots belong to parks owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment and Herschend Family Entertainment.
Typhoon Lagoon Water Park at the Walt Disney World Resort
In the #10 spot is one of Disney World’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon. Out of a possible score of 100.0, Typhoon Lagoon scored a 77.7. Typhoon Lagoon was the second water park to open at Disney’s Central Florida theme park resort in June 1989 and features a water ride for everyone in the family.
Some are thrilling rides, while others are relaxing, and as with all of the attractions at Disney World, Typhoon Lagoon’s theme “tells” a story–this time of a once-perfect tropical paradise that was ravaged by a storm that even left a shrimping boat named the “Miss Tilly” high above the water park on Mount Mayday.
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The #9 spot on the list goes to the Dollywood theme park in East Tennessee. The park, which is owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment, encompasses more than 160 acres just five miles north of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
The park boasts more than 50 rides, various “high-energy” entertainment offerings, award-winning dining venues, and more. Dollywood even won the 2023 Golden Ticket Award for Best Park & Best Guest Experience.
Dollywood’s next operating calendar begins on March 8, 2024, and concludes on January 5, 2025.
Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California
Walt Disney’s very first theme park earned the #8 spot among the top ten most popular U.S. theme parks as compiled by Westgate Palace Hotel. When it opened in 1955, it was the first theme park of its kind in the world and has set the stage and the standard for Disney’s theme parks around the world ever since.
The entire Disneyland Resort is home to more than 50 attractions, and current ticket prices begin at $96 per day and cost as much as $155 per day with no discounts.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood sits in the #7 spot on this list. There are 18 attractions at the theme park, some of which are inspired by DreamWorks Studios, Jurassic World, Harry Potter, and other IPs.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort
The #6 spot on the list was earned by Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Disney World. The animal- and conservation-themed park opened to guests in April 1998 and has been popular with guests ever since.
In 2017, Disney expanded the park to include Avatar: The World of Pandora, a themed area in the park that is home to one of the park’s most popular attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to thousands of animals–some of them endangered, but it’s not, as some people believe, a Disney-themed zoo. It is among guests’ favorite theme parks at Disney World and one not to miss, even on a shortened trip to Disney World.
Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri
Silver Dollar City takes the #5 spot on the list, and like Dollywood, it is owned and operated by Herschend Family Entertainment. The 2024 operating calendar at the park begins on March 9 and concludes on December 30, and is closed on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the spring and fall months.
Silver Dollar City is a 61-acre amusement park located in Stone County, Missouri, near the city of Branson. The park opened in May 1960 and features an 1880s theme.
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
Ohio’s Cedar Point takes the #4 spot on the top ten most popular theme parks in the country. The park is owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment and is considered the company’s flagship park.
Cedar Point features 70 rides, including the Snake River Expedition and thrilling coaster attractions like the Steel Vengeance and the Millennium Force. There are also live shows, creative dining experiences, and exciting summer events.
Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure Park wins the #3 spot on the list. Located in Anaheim, California, Disney California Adventure opened in February 2001 and is the second theme park to be built at Disneyland Resort.
The park features several themed areas, including Cars Land, Pixar Pier, San Fransokyo Square, Grizzly Peak, Avengers Campus, and more.
Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom takes the #2 spot on the list of the top ten most popular theme parks in the United States.
First opened in October 1971, Magic Kingdom is Disney World’s very first theme park and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021. The park features dozens of attractions and rides across six unique themed lands: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
Magic Kingdom welcomes more guests through its gates each year than any other Walt Disney World theme park, and it is routinely wins the title of most visited theme park in the world year after year.
Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando Resort
And the #1 most popular theme park in the United States is Universal Studios Orlando Resort’s Islands of Adventure theme park.
When the park opened to guests in May 1999, it featured six themed lands, including the Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, The Lost Continent, and Marvel Super Hero Island.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure park is home to several thrilling attractions, including the Incredible Hulk Coaster, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, as well as the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade Station, part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Theme Parks: A Booming Business
According to IBISWorld, there were 596 theme park businesses in the United States in 2023. That’s an increase of more than 8% as compared to 2022.
In other words, the top ten most popular U.S. theme parks listed above rank in the top 1.8% of all of the country’s theme parks, meaning that earning even the #10 spot on this list is still a phenomenal achievement.
Which theme parks should have ranked among the top ten in the nation in your opinion?