A family enjoys a day at an amusement park.

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

From your first upside-down roller coaster ride to the last bite of funnel cake, amusement park memories last far beyond childhood. For decades, families have traveled far and wide to visit some of the country's most renowned theme parks and attractions, but these days, many are looking for new adventures.

If time and money are in short supply, save your plane fare and look for attractions close to home. America is home to many wacky and wildly entertaining places that promise unique rides, shows, games and natural wonders.

It's time to hit the road...see what you've been missing!
Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas

Photo: Courtesy of Dinosaur Valley State Park

Dinosaur Valley State Park
Glen Rose, Texas

If you and your kids are Jurassic Park fans, this Texas state park is the place for you. For $5 or less, you can see some of the first Sauropod tracks ever discovered—they're approximately 113 million years old! Giant dinosaur statues lead the way to a riverbed dotted with the fossilized footprints.

The park also features campgrounds, backpacking sites, hiking trails and a playground. Guided tours are available—check the website for more information.
Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Indiana

Photo: Courtesy of Holiday World

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Santa Claus, Indiana

Don't miss your chance to visit the world's first theme park. In 1946, this attraction debuted as Santa Claus Land, a place that celebrated the town's jolly namesake. Over the years, the name changed, but the holiday thrills live on. From Reindeer Games to Blitzen's Airplanes, the rides will delight kids well past December.

In the summer, 'tis the season for water slides and lazy rivers. If fall is your favorite time of year, visit the Halloween area for HallowSwings and the Thanksgiving section for the Gobbler Getaway. Check the website to find out when Holiday World is open for business.
Legoland California

Photo: Courtesy of Legoland California

Legoland California
Carlsbad, California

If you're a kid at heart, plan a trip to an amusement park inspired by one of America's all-time favorite toys—the LEGO®! This 128-acre park features 15,000 LEGO models made up of more than 35 million bricks. From a Brontosaurus named Bronte to a tiny rabbit in a magician's hat, these creations are worth the price of admission.

At Legoland, there are also rides for all ages, pirate-themed attractions and a kid-size town square. Thanks to California's temperate climate, Legoland stays open year-round. Visit the website for ticket prices and park hours.
Enchanted Springs Ranch

Photo: Courtesy of Enchanted Springs Ranch

Enchanted Springs Ranch
Boerne, Texas

Head west for an experience cowboys and girls can't resist! Enchanted Springs Ranch is a working ranch that offers wagon rides through a wild animal park, which features Texas longhorns, horses, buffalo and zebras. After your tour, saddle up for Pistol Packin' Paula's show and a chuck wagon dinner.

In the Western Village, keep an eye out for gunslingers at Miss Vicki's Dress Shop and the Silver Spur Saloon. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children. Visit the website for hours and more photos.
Silver Dollar City in Missouri

Photo: Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City
Branson, Missouri

Smack dab in the middle of the country, this 1880s theme park offers world-class festivals, live shows and thrilling rides for all ages. If you visit in the spring, you'll be treated to international fare at World-Fest and down-home eats at the Bluegrass & BBQ festival. During the summer, Silver Dollar City hosts National KidsFest, America's largest children's festival, and the Southern Gospel Picnic.

If you want to beat the heat, visit in the fall for the National Harvest Festival or wait until winter's Old Time Christmas celebration. No matter when you visit, more than 100 craftsmen and women will be on hand to demonstrate old-timey arts. From bakers and potters to candlestick makers, you'll see true artisans at work. Special offers and packages are now available on the park's website.
DeSoto Caverns Park

Photo: Courtesy of DeSoto Caverns Park

DeSoto Caverns Park
Childersburg, Alabama

DeSoto Caverns Park, one of Alabama's best natural wonders, rests at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Head underground into the "big cave"—more than 12 stories tall—to see a dazzling display of onyx stalagmite and stalactite formations.

The fun doesn't end there! More than 25 family attractions like Lost Trail Maze, Happy's Slip N' Slide and Wacky Water Golf surround the park. Young and old prospectors can also try panning for gemstones—everyone's guaranteed to find a semiprecious treasure or two! The cave is open year-round, so start planning a trip today!
Gatorland in Florida

Photo: Courtesy of Gatorland

Orlando, Florida

If the mouse is a little too tame for your family, take a walk on the wild side at Orlando's Gatorland park. Known as the "alligator capital of the world," this reptile haven began as a roadside attraction in the '40s. Now, the 110-acre nature conservatory is home to the world's largest collection of giant white alligators and Gator Gully Splash Park.

For extra excitement, sign up for a Gatorland adventure tour. You can be a trainer for a day, go on a nighttime tour of the breeding marsh or face your fears inside the Gator Wrestlin' Arena. This park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit Gatorland's website for directions and ticket discounts!
Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky

Photo: Courtesy of Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park
Cave City, Kentucky

Travel to central Kentucky to explore the world's longest cave system, which includes more than 350 miles of underground passageways. If you're up for a true adventure and have kids who are 16 years old and up, sign up for the six-hour Wild Cave Tour. You'll crawl and climb your way through 5 miles of tunnels. If you're traveling with small children, the Trog Tour—a kids-only adventure—may be more your speed.

Outside this national park, there are lots of other attractions to keep your little ones busy. The surrounding area features everything from Beech Bend Raceway and Dinosaur World theme park to Jesse James Riding Stables and Guntown Mountain, a tribute to the Old West. Visit the website to explore all your options.

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