Best Local Theme Park

Growing up, we took at least a couple of trips to Ghost Town in The Sky in Maggie Valley, NC. It was a wild-west theme park up on the top of a mountain. To get there, you had to either take a chairlift, or an incline.

Once there, you found a kitschy old west town with games, restaurants, shops, etc., along with rides, including the first roller coaster I ever rode: the Red Devil.

It’s been closed for a little while, but apparently some folks are trying to bring it back.

https://www.romanticasheville.com/ghost_town.htm

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Silver Dollar City, near Branson, MO, literally started out as a hole in the ground. In the 1950s, the family operating the tours of Marvel Cave decided to reconstruct an 1880s mining town that had once stood near the cave entrance. The idea was to have something to occupy cave-goers while they waited for the next tour. A handful of shops that included a general store, a doll shop, an ice cream parlor, and a blacksmith shop opened in May of 1960 as Silver Dollar City and has grown from that humble beginning to one of the top-rated theme parks in the country.

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A theme park I would visit all the time as a child was Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey! It’s intended for young kids, and most of the attractions and rides are based on stories. They have a maze that appears to be built of huge cards based on Alice in Wonderland, a (slightly creepy) animatronic retelling of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, Snow White’s House, Little Red Riding Hood, and Santa’s Workshopshop with a “North Pole” which is just a tall, cold pole covered in ice (which is great in the summer). Some of the rides include a carousel, small ferris wheel, teacup ride, a small rollercoaster featuring a dragon who blows bubbles, a “drop” ride, and much more. The park is intended for kids, so the most “extreme” ride is the small roller coaster. It’s not much a visit if you don’t have young kids, but I have fond memories of going at least once a year. They’ve been open since 1955 and do maintain the park with renovations so although it is a classic, it is up to date.

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This wasn’t a theme park but at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival each year they have a cultural pavilion celebrating one of the many nations that influence our city. One year they paid homage to Haiti and had a wooden carousel that was powered by people and had a band in the middle playing music as you spun around. It was pretty awesome. I think they’re bringing it back this year!

Kiddieland in Chicago. It closed in 2009 and is now a sad Costco. My dad and his family grew up in Chicago, so this was a staple for them, and therefore for me. We always went with his family who would share stories about their visits and tell tales on each other! There were some awesome rides, too: a classic wooden coaster called the Little Dipper, a log flume, a train that went around the whole park (with a very enthusiastic conductor), and a funny-lookin’ tilt-a-whirl modeled after an octopus (I think it was called The Polyp, if memory serves). The best part was the vibe: everyone, especially the employees, seemed genuinely happy to be there, and not in an over-the-top forced customer service way. May it rest in peace!

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Holiday World is Indiana’s best-kept secret. We go here every year for their enthusiasts-only weekend, where attendees get the entire park to themselves at night for “exclusive ride time”. The Voyage is the best wooden roller coaster in the world (I’d argue best wooden roller coaster period, wooden or otherwise). It’s a beautiful park in a valley, very family-friendly and affordable, with an exceptional waterpark as well. We camp at Lake Rudolph next to the park and you can walk right up to the entrance from your campsite. It’s an hour from Louisville so you can pair it with a trip along the bourbon trail. It’s truly my favorite weekend of the year!

voyage
The Voyage hill.

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I’ll 2nd Lagoon :slight_smile: They also had all the big names in music back in the day( A little before my time). Brubeck, Ray Charles The Doors , Stones , Hendrix…
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Lagoon's bygone era of incredible concerts | Deseret News
Astroworld built a venue for music shows as well, I saw the Dead there in the 85 or 86

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tcincebox - the Calypso ride from Americana lives on at Holiday World in Indiana. It’s called Firecracker now, and it is my 6 year old son’s favorite ride!

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Chippawa Lake Park in Medina, Ohio. The Park is no longer there only some pieces of the old rides and the buildings that housed the main attractions. It is so sad because every summer when I was kid was spent in the at park. The happiest times of my life.

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Dandelion Park on Muskego Beach, Waukesha County WI was THE destination. Here is a YouTube of a home movie. Starts slow, but shows more rides later on.

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I love a classic fairytale forest!

That place looks wild.

I agree wholeheartedly about Deer Forest. In the late fifty’s and early sixties it was a summer tradition for our family. We’d also swing over to St. Joesph to Silver Beach and to the House of David, had to ride the train there…lol.
When my own kids were little in the '80’s I was able to take them to Deer Forest also. I do so miss that simpler times.

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Indiana Beach in Monticello, IN has been a part of my summers for sixty years. It is a fantastic gem of an amusement park that in 2026 will be celebrating it’s 100th anniversary.

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Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona! I’d been before, but last fall my sister, best friend and I took a day to poke around for the pumpkin and chili festival and we had the best time! While it is a working farm with pick-yourself produce and petting zoo, it also features carnival rides and attractions. Our favourite was the 1950s rollercoaster brought in from New York. It’s funner than it looks, tbh, and the attendants all seemed to be having as much fun as we were! They also had a haunted train ride and live shows. If you go, you’ve got to try the caramel apple pie. It was the best pie I think I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot of pie.

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I’m in for the pie alone.

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Fair Park in Nashville was a real treat for kids until it closed in 1987. The state fair continued as well as the Nashville Speedways on the same tract of land. Now the future home of the Nashville MLS team is being constructed.

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I still have my Deer Forest elephant key that turned on the story boxes on Storybook Lane.

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Gold Reef City Johannesburg is a unique Theme Park in South Africa It has thirty thrilling rides, hotel in Victorian Style and a Casino

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I have to add another vote for The Enchanted Forest in Maryland. Many of the pieces were moved to Clark’s Eliok Farm, worth the trip to see them. The park was also recreated in the movie Crybaby.

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