How To Have the Most Fun and Find the Biggest Discounts at Theme Parks

Here’s how to raise the fun meter to the max.


If your ideal summer day includes sunshine, indulgent snacks, some scary jolts and a whole lot of fun, get ready to visit an amusement park. Whether you seek heart-stopping thrills from a giant roller coaster or prefer milder entertainment, an amusement park registers the maximum on the fun meter. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your experience—and your money.

5 ways to save

  1. BYO refreshments: Check in advance to see if the park allows outside food and beverages (bringing refillable bottles is also an option). If not, see if they allow readmittance, and take a snack break outside the park.
  2. Visit outside of peak times: Parks open year-round often charge lower rates in the fall and spring (except for holidays). Weekdays may also be less expensive than weekends, and certain times of day could cost less.
  3. Carpool or take a bus: Avoid expensive parking fees by taking public transit to the stop closest to the park. Or carpool with other parkgoers.
  4. Buy souvenirs outside the park: Souvenirs sold inside the park may be priced at a premium. You can shop online, where the park may sell items directly at lower prices, or you may find other souvenir shops or sites that have items available.
  5. AAA Member discounts: Use your membership to score amusement park discounts and rewards. Go to to find out more.

Park day prep

Do your research: Before your visit, plan your meals and entertainment. Prioritize rides and attractions and knock those out first. If available, reserve fast passes for rides.

Packing list: Take sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, a collapsible water bottle (many parks have refilling stations), sunscreen, a hat and a mask if required or if it makes you more comfortable.

Arrive early: Get a jump on the lines by arriving when the park opens. Plus, you’ll have a few hours before the hottest part of the day.

More ride tips: Lines can be shorter during events such as parades. Avoid wearing loose shoes, clothing or jewelry, which can become airborne.

Take our personality quiz to see if you’re ready for a thrill like Manta at SeaWorld, or if you should stick to the teacups at Disney World.

Roll With It

Aug. 16 is National Roller Coaster Day, which commemorates the first vertical loop roller coaster, patented by Edwin Prescott on this day in 1898. What, we wonder, might Prescott think of these, a few of the wildest rides around?


Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Max speed: 95 mph
  • Duration: 3 minutes, 25 seconds
  • Scream report: Soars to 325 feet—following an 81-degree plunge.

ICE BREAKER -- SeaWorld Orlando

Orlando, Florida

  • Max speed: 52 mph
  • Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds
  • Scream report: Four airtime-filled launches (both backward and forward), plus the steepest beyond-vertical drop in Florida—a 93-foot-tall spike with 100-degree angle.


Orlando, Florida

  • Max speed: 50 mph
    Duration: about 3 minutes
  • Scream report: Features seven total launches, a 17-foot free-fall vertical drop,
    a 65-foot catapult at a 70-degree-plus angle, and a drop backward—all in one movement.

PANTHEON -- Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia

  • Max speed: 73 mph
  • Duration: 2 minutes
  • Scream report: Two inversions, a 95-degree drop, four launches and five air-time hills.


Los Angeles, California

  • Max speed: 58 mph
  • Duration: 1 minute
  • Scream report: World’s tallest and longest single-rail coaster. Fly single file through the sky over 3,300 feet of track, towering 13 stories high.

MIND ERASER -- Elitch Gardens

Denver, Colorado

  • Max speed: 50 mph
  • Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds
  • Scream report: Suspends riders (legs and feet dangling) and blasts them through rollovers, dives and double corkscrew spins.


Keep reading in: