The Best-Kept Secrets: 10 Lesser-Known Theme Parks You Must Experience


Dreaming of adventure and a new destination to explore?

Why not head to one of the hidden gems that lie beneath the tourist radar: theme parks!

These underappreciated playgrounds offer our favorite childhood experiences, breathtaking views, and unique attractions.

From wild roller coasters and log flumes to immersive water slides, you will find something to get your heart racing.

Whether you’re looking for family fun or an adrenaline-pumping weekend getaway with friends, these underrated theme parks have it all!

Read on for a list of amazing locations beyond the traditional amusement park frontiers.

#1. Diggerland in West Berlin, New Jersey

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There are a lot of kids that are obsessed with construction equipment early on in their lives. 

The good news?

You can absolutely help them live out their dreams by visiting Diggerland in West Berlin, New Jersey. 

Aptly named, this theme park is centered around excavation and construction equipment, with a few thrills here and there for good measure. 

#2. Carousel Gardens Amusement Park in New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans is generally considered a great destination for adults, boasting a rich nightlife, fascinating and sometimes troubling history, and plenty to do if you’re looking around. 

But there’s also stuff for families to do too. 

The Carousel Gardens Amusement Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, is filled to the brim with things to do, including fun rides and attractions like bumper cars, a botanical garden, and mini-golf, to name a few. 

#3. Mountain Creek Waterpark in Vernon, New Jersey

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Whether you’re a New Jersey native or from somewhere else, the words “Action Park” might mean something to you. 

Action Park is rather infamous and has had its fair share of stories and controversy in the past. 

Action Park reopened under its old name in 2014 but has since been renamed Mountain Creek Waterpark. 

The waterpark is currently operating, and if you’re in the mood for a bit of nostalgia (without any of the safety issues Action Park was previously well-known for), you should visit it!

#4. Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California

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Nothing is more captivating than fairy tales. 

While most people think of Disneyland or Disney World when they think of fairy tale characters, those aren’t the only places to go if you want to run into storybook actors. 

Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California, apparently served as the inspiration for Disneyland and offers many of the same kinds of attractions that are sure to get kids going. 

From explorable castles and pirate ships to a petting zoo, there’s something here for everyone. 

#5. The Tweetsie Railroad Wild West Theme Park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

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What’s more exciting than the Wild West and Cowboys?

If that’s a question your family asks themselves often, you’d fit right in at the Tweetsie Railroad Wild West Theme Park in North Carolina. 

This wild west theme park is by no means limited. 

In fact, it has thrill rides, small zoos, and even live shows that will keep everyone entertained for hours. 

The Tweetsie Railroad Wild West Theme Park is an excellent choice to mix things up and try something new.  

#6. Gatorland in Orlando, Florida

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Taking the kids to see live animals is by no means a new thing. 

Plenty of kids love petting or even regular zoos, getting to see animals they might not be able to see every day. 

But there are places dedicated to animals that most people wouldn’t even think to see, and that place is Gatorland in Orlando, Florida.

As you might expect, Gatorland is the perfect theme park for gator enthusiasts, with activities like watching others wrestle gators and going down a zip line with a gator-filled pool underneath you. 

If gators are an animal you consider cool, Gatorland should be on the list of theme parks. 

#7. Sesame Place, Langhorne, Pennsylvania

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For younger kids into Big Bird, Elmo, and more, there is Sesame Place.

The park has traditional rides, for both kids and little kids, as well as a water park and lazy river.

Characters walk around in costume and have set times for photos with their adorning fans.

Weekdays, there is even a parade.

It’s a must visit place at least once.

#8. The Nickelodeon Universe in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the Mall of America

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Very few things are as beloved to children and adults alike as Nickelodeon. 

Whether it’s older cartoons like the Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack or shows that kids enjoy, like Blues Clues and Spongebob Squarepants, Nickelodeon has been serving up greatness for a while. 

At the Mall of America, the Nickelodeon Universe in Minneapolis, Minnesota, offers plenty of exciting things, including meet-and-greets with some of the top favorite Nickelodeon characters, various rides, and plenty of shopping. 

If you’re far from the Mall of America in Minnesota, don’t fret. 

At American Dream, you can also find the Nickelodeon Universe in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

#9. Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota

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A surprising number of obscure theme parks have a much older theme, which applies to Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Minnesota. 

Paul Bunyan Land is a massive 23-acre park modeled after the fictional Paul Bunyan, offering a host of activities and attractions like replica buildings in Old Farm Pioneer Village, thrill rides, and a large petting barn for when kids want to end the day on a calmer note by getting up close and personal with the animals there. 

#10. The Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach, California

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If you’re looking for highlights off the beaten path in California, look at some of the many beaches and piers that litter the California coast. 

The Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Beach is an old-school amusement park with fun rides, attractions like a nautical museum and an arcade zone (kids might be surprised that this used to be a thing), and even scenic harbor tours and plenty of places to get a frozen treat underneath the summer sun. 

You can even take the ferry to get there!

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