A low balance in your checking account and not enough vacation time should not be factors in deciding to whether or where to have fun with your family. Amusement parks are very entertaining, affordable and a wild substitute.*Related: The Best Water Parks in the World The parks have many different types of slides – from water coasters to roller coasters, thrilling rides and heart-stopping vertical drops. Exciting amusement and theme parks are located all across the country. A weekend road trip will be enough for a fun family vacation, even if you don’t live near the ocean.
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Alabama is not known for major amusement or theme parks as there aren’t any major ones. The Splash Adventure, which is actually a water park, is a great place for entertainment. It has 18 attractions, the most famous, and scary, of which is the Rampage, a world class wooden roller coaster. Rampage will take you 120 feet off the ground and send you back to Earth at 56 miles per hour. The Drop Zone is new this season. It lifts riders 30 feet into the air and gives them butterflies in their stomachs with a series of drops and bounces. Other attractions include the Vault Laser Maze Challenge, the Wipeout Adventure Course, and a 5-story water tower. www.alabamasplash.com
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There are no theme parks in Alaska, but the state’s only indoor waterpark is open year-round— even when it's really cold outside.[See: 10 Most Fun Indoor Waterparks in the U.S.] H2Oasis, which is 56,000 square feet, making it the fifth largest indoor waterpark in the country, features a Master Blaster uphill water coaster, a wave pool, and a lazy river. You can learn how to swim there or take water aerobics. www.h2oasiswaterpark.com
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Several amusement parks in Arizona deserve to be on top of the “best” list, but the unique Railroad Park got the most and best reviews. “This place is a hidden treasure. My son loves trains so we stopped here. To my surprise it was amazing. I myself had a great time also. My son loved it all,” one review on Yelp says. Another says: “There isn't much I can add to all the raving reviews, but I love this park. It's well maintained, there is a lot to do and see.” This is a family-oriented railroad themed park that features a 5/12ths scale train ride, 1950’s carousel ride, historical railroad museum, two food concessions and souvenir shop. You can reserve picnic areas and staff-conducted birthday parties in a railroad car. www.therailroadpark.com
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Magic Springs & Crystal Falls, really the only entrainment and amusement-style parks in Arkansas, has a lot of water and many thrill rides, family rides, and kid’s rides. Parents can relax at the cabanas or try their surfing skills on the Boogie Blast. The little ones love the High Sierra Slide Tower and Splash Island. Don’t miss the Gauntlet to travel hanging along 2,200 feet at speeds up to 50 mph. The Twister is also on the “must do” list. The hundreds of thousands of feet of wooden boards zig–zag high above Timberwood Amphitheater create the park’s marquee ride. www.magicsprings.com
Universal Studios Hollywood is the world’s only working movie studio and theme park. Enjoy the ultimate entertainment – rides based on the biggest movies, live-action shows and a Studio Tour that gives you a behind the scenes look at the world of movie-making. For the most exclusive way to view the park, upgrade to the VIP Experience. You will get access to actual sound stages where movies and TV shows are filmed, the VIP lounge, VIP dining room and valet parking.
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What makes the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park unique is not the fact that it’s open year-round –some of the rides and attractions are seasonal – but the fact that this is not a typical amusement park. [See: Most Dangerous Theme Parks in the U.S.] It features one of the world’s highest suspension bridges at nearly 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River and 360° jaw-dropping rides. Adventurers will like the Royal Rush Skycoaster, which will leave you hanging over the canyon’s rim above the river after a 50mph free fall. Also in the park, you can take an aerial gondola or go ziplining above Arkansas. A carousel, a mini train, and a Skycoaster bungee drop ride are also popular. www.royalgorgebridge.com
Lake Compounce has something for everyone – roller coasters, water rides and shows. Hop on their newest coaster, the Phobia! For some adrenaline pumping fun and experience the thrill on one of the world’s best wooden coasters – Boulder Dash. Take the kids to Kids Comedy Hour where they will enjoy nonstop laughs and enjoy the Step Right Up show. Also make sure you slide down Lights Out, a high speed waterslide in the dark.
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Funland is a free-admission amusement park. Visitors purchase a la carte tickets. A bonus is that they are also good forever – If you don’t use them all in one year, you can bring them back next season. There are 19 rides that range from classic rides, like the carousel, to more modern adventures aboard the Superflip or Freefall. The SeaDragon is among the more popular attractions. It is an open-seated gondola/pirate ship ride. www.funlandrehoboth.com
[Related: 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Parks] With so many parks to choose from and so many secret spots to explore, it’s no wonder that Walt Disney World has made our list. Ride Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom, visit Cinderella’s Castle, explore Animal Kingdom and go on the Kilmanjaro Safari and don’t forget to watch the incredible Fantasmic! In Disney Hollywood Studios.
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This is the place to be for some snow-filled fun in Georgia. Go tubing, snowball shooting and build a snowman with the kids. Hop on Avalanche Valley and tube down a 400 foot hill, then take the kids to the Snowzone and have fun in Igloo City and ride slides in Penguin Run. Click here for more information.
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This is a large outdoor water park with great thrilling slides. There are more than 25 exhilarating attractions that range from chill to moderate and extreme. The park is Oahu’s top 10 most visited family attraction on the island and recently voted Best of Honolulu Magazine’s “Best Family Attraction.” Located on 29-acres in lavish tropical landscaping and natural cliffs, visitors will find many different adventures for both kids and their parents. www.wetnwildhawaii.com
This is the largest theme park in the Northwest with 65 rides, including six coasters. One of the most famous rides, the Tremors, is also one of the top-rated wooden coasters in the U.S. You slowly climb up 100 feet in the air, then turn and make a drop of 103 feet. Then you twist, drop some more and go through four tunnels. Another high intensity attraction is the Sky Diver – you twist and turn in every direction imaginable. General admission also includes access to Boulder Beach waterpark. www.silverwoodthemepark.com
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Located in Chicago is the famous Six Flags Great America. Are you looking for some kiddie rides? Check out the Big Easy Balloons and Bouncer. Those of you looking for a thrill, hop on the American Eagle – a double tracked roller coaster, or the Goliath – the world’s tallest, steepest and fastest wooden roller coaster. Also enjoy the water park rides, delicious dining and shopping opportunities.
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Rent a locker and store your personal items, because Adventureland’s thrill rides are sure to blow you away. Spin and swing on the Sidewinder, ride the 3,200 foot long Tornado roller coaster and prepare to be launched straight into the sky on the Space Shot. When you’re ready to wind down, enjoy dinner and a show at the Coca Cola Café, or grab a frozen chocolate dipped banana from The Oasis. Visit their website for information on group and corporate discounts.
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Go to Kansas’ Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which is home to Verrückt, the tallest water slide in the world, featuring a 168-foot drop. It opened in the state in 2009, making it the first non-Texas park owned by the company. Hold onto a mat and ride a downhill channel like a champ on the Cyclone or go on the Soaring Eagle ZipLine for a thrilling peak 100 feet above Schlitterbahn’s rivers and slides. Don’t forget to go on the Boogie Bahn, the first surf ride in the Kansas City region. www.schlitterbahn.com
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Get ready for some heart-pumping rides. Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay is full of full-filled attractions. Enjoy movies in the 5-D Cinema, see the park from above on the Giant Wheel, experience fast speeds on the Lightning Run, and get soaked on the Raging Rapids River Ride. Then make your way to Hurricane Bay and ride the Forbidden Passage. Have fun with your family in the Family Wave Lagoon and spike your adrenaline on the Waikiki Wipeout.
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One price includes admission to the Blue Bayou waterpark. Dixie Landin’, which is designed with family-fun in mind, and the neighboring Blue Bayou have a total of 47 rides. The Azuka is the world's largest tornado slide. Four people are dropped from 80 feet into a 70-foot wide funnel where riders swing back and forth. One of Dixie Landin’s best known attractions is the Ragin Cajun. It is a giant steel looping roller coaster that drops from 14 stories up. The Splinter, a log flume ride, has drops between 26 and 50 feet. www.bluebayou.com
With a combination of two parks, Funtown Ride Park and Splashtown Water Park, it’s no wonder this is the best amusement park in Maine. It features the state’s only wooden roller coaster – Excalibur, and New England’s longest and tallest log flume – Thunder Falls. A review on funtownusa.com says: "I've been going to amusement parks in Maine and to Funtown for at least 16 years. I'm now 24 years old, and I still get a kick out of going there at least once or twice every summer; just to illustrate how truly timeless this place is!"
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There are so many opportunities for thrilling adventures that deciding where to begin is a difficult task. Don’t miss The Apocalypse ride where you will stand up to unnerving drops and inversions on 10 stories of steel and race through an apocalyptic world. The park recently introduced a ground-breaking new ride experience — SUPERMAN: Ride of Steel Virtual Reality Coaster. It is one of North America’s first dedicated Virtual Reality Roller Coasters. After the many thrill, family and kids rides, relax and cool off at the Hurricane Harbor or see an entertaining show. www.sixflags.com/america
Our country just can’t get enough of Six Flags, and for good reason. These parks are full of excitement. Visit Six Flags New England for thrilling rides, exciting events and tons of entertainment. Take the kids to character meet & greets, hop on the all-new seven story inverting coaster, the fireball and enjoy spectacular views from the tallest swing ride in the world, the New England SkyScreamer. This park has also partnered with local hotel and lodging locations. Click here for more information.
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The Shivering Timbers ride is not to be missed. [See: The Scariest and Most Thrilling Roller Coasters] Thisis the longest wooden roller coaster in the state with a half mile out, and then a half mile back. Riders plunge at speeds of up to 65 mph. Go on a kayaking trip along the Grand Rapids and get soaked as you board giant rafts and meet the challenge of rocks, drops, and even waterfalls. Try the RipCord to soar through the air after experiencing a 180 foot free fall at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. www.miadventure.com
This is really a whole universe of entertainment opportunities for kids and adults. Ride a “wave of air” rocking back and forth to reach heights of 70 feet as air and fire forces rage in battle around you on the Avatar Airbender; spin round and round, upside down or backwards on the Brain Surge; or help rid a haunted mansion of its unwelcome guests on the Ghost Blasters. There are nearly 30 fun and thrilling attractions in the park. The mall has more to offer. The Water Park of America is the tallest indoor waterpark in the country (which only makes sense probably because it’s in the biggest mall in the nation). Its main attraction is the Eagles Nest 10th Floor Body Slide, also the tallest indoor waterslide in the U.S. www.nickelodeonuniverse.com
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This is a unique outdoor water park that is actually part of the Pearl River Resort casino complex. Some of the better known attractions include a half-pipe ride, a wave pool, and a trio of speed slides built into the natural terrain of a 60-foot hill. The Backsplash is the first waterslide of its kind in America. Riders zip through a tunnel, after which an exciting drop into the ramp follows. Then they travel backwards into the splash pool. It’s basically a roller coaster and waterslide in one ride. For visitors who want to relax, go to the Clearwater Key – eight acres of white sand beaches and crystal clear pools in a tropical environment. www.geyserfalls.com
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By far, the best amusement park in Missouri is the famous Silver Dollar City. It is a 1880s style theme park that features over 40 thrilling rides and attractions, award-winning food, live shows and concerts and 60 unique shops. This park is home to tons of festivals and events, some of which include Country Music Weekend, the National Harvest & Cowboy Festival and An Old Time Christmas.
This is Montana’s largest waterpark. It features bumper cars, slides, a giant whirlpool, go-karts, mini-golf, and arcade games. Go on the Big Splash River Ride for a feel of what a kayaking trip along wild rapids would feel like; climb the seven-story GERONIMO Speed Slide; or play water wars with balloons. “Kids, 8 and 10 boy and girl, had a blast. And unlike other water parks that we've been too, my wife and I enjoyed it too. There are lots of grassy areas, picnic tables, and trees for shade,” a recent review on TripAdvisor said. www.bigskywp.com
One ticket gives you access to waterpark attractions and amusement park rides. This is the state’s premier ride and waterpark with The Big Ohhhhh! roller coaster, go-karts, Lazzzy River, Motion Ocean, and a challenging 18-hole mini golf course. Fun-Plex has Nebraska’s only swim up bar - 1,800 sq. ft. pool with bars & stools inside. Go on the Tilt-A-Whirl and enjoy one of the most popular carnival rides as you spin yourself around. Don’t skip the Typhoon Falls for some twists and turns down a 5-story, mountain waterfall. www.fun-plex.com
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Featuring 25 rides and attractions, this theme park will provide you with indoor fun for the entire family. Speed through the world’s only indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster on the Canyon Blaster, hop on the Drifters, a hot air balloon ferris wheel, and enter the Xtreme Zone for indoor bungee jumping and rock climbing. Also have fun in their arcade, play miniature golf and take on the Batman Laser Challenge. Click here for more information.
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Get your heart pumping this Christmas and head to the best amusement park in New Hampshire, Santa’s Village. This Christmas themed amusement park is perfect for the entire family. Hop on the Skyway Sleigh, a monorail soaring over 30 feet above ground in some spots. A review on TripAdvisor says: “Visited with my kids ages 6 and 9. This is a small park that is very clean, well maintained and really fun for the little ones. The people who work there are real friendly and parking is free. There are plenty of food options, clean bathrooms and it does not get too crowded. My kids loved it. So did I.”
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From fast roller coasters to kiddie rides, events and a variety of entertainment options, there are so many activities to choose from at this amusement park. Take the kids to character meet and greets, spike your adrenaline on Batman: The Ride, and get soaked on the Congo Rapids. When you’re hungry, fuel up with some Asian cuisine, burgers, pizza, or healthier options such as a lean wrap or garden salad. Click here for more information.
Cliff’s is the only amusement park and outdoor waterpark in the city. [See: The Most Popular Amusement Parks] It offers unlimited rides and all day passes for customers of all ages. The Kiddyland, Galaxy, and Rocky Mountain Rapids are very popular, but nothing beats the New Mexico Rattler, an almost 3,000 foot-long, high-speed rush of adrenaline and thrills going over and around the entire park. It features some wild drops, scary turns, and a 100-foot long underground tunnel. “What a cool back yard treasure […] For the price and what they offer, it’s a perfect little local attraction that we will be visiting over and over again,” a review on Yelp says. www.cliffsamusementpark.com
Coney Island is a world-famous, classic entertainment area in Brooklyn, with several small amusement parks with more than 50 separate rides and attractions. Make sure you go on the Cyclone roller coaster and explore the Luna Park. The iconic Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, which 15 is stories high and carries 144 people at a time, is a must-do when you visit. The design has been replicated full-size at Disney’s California Adventure and at Dreamland in Japan. www.wonderwheel.com
Carowinds is by far one of the best amusement parks, but they really outdid themselves in 2016. The park features a variety of new experiences. Fury 325 is one of their most popular rides. It won the Golden Ticket Award for “Best New Ride in the World.” Ride their 13 world-class roller coasters, take the kids to Planet Snoopy, watch their live entertainment, hop on some family-friendly rides, and, when you get too hot, head to the Carolina Harbor Waterpark.
North Dakota doesn’t have theme parks but the Thunder Road Fargo is a great alternative. It features batting cages, mini-golf, go-karts, bumper cars, laser tag, and arcade games. “This is a great fun center for the whole family,” “Laser tag was great fun for young and old alike,” and “Your kids and fellow adults will love this place. […] A great solution for a kid’s party or a date. You'll come back again once you go,” are some of the reviews on TripAdvisor. www.thunderroadfargo.com
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Also known as the “Roller Coaster Capitol of the World,” Cedar Point is the ultimate amusement park. With 18 world-class roller coasters, a variety of family-friendly rides, kid’s areas, a waterpark and live entertainment, you will never run out of things to do. Summertime is one of the best times of the year to visit – there are tons of events. Some of which include Dive-In Movies, the North American Demo Boat Show, and Cedar Point Nights. Click here for more information.
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Frontier City has 50 thrill, family, kiddie and water rides and many free concerts and shows for different ages. Visitors love the Silver Bullet. They say it’s like being shot from a cannon as you rocket through a high-speed steel looping coaster. A new and wild thrill ride has people flip, twist, and spin in a dizzying 60-foot rise and descent. With two motor controlled rotations and a third driven only by gravity, it's a unique experience. Don’t skip the Tumbleweed to see what 3g of centrifugal force feels like as this barrel ride spins and the floor gives way. www.frontiercity.com
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Let your creativity take over; visit a world full of unique and exciting opportunities – the Enchanted Forest. This theme park is meant for families and children of all ages; it’s a place where they can let their imagination soar. Explore some of their many attractions – Storybook Lane, the Comedy Theatre and Fantasy Fountains. Hop on some of their thrilling rides – Big Timber Log Ride and Ice Mountain Bobsled Roller Coaster. Then take the kids on the Kiddy Bumper Boats and the Tiny Tune Train.
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Hershey Park, also known as the sweetest place on earth, is one of the best family friendly amusement parks in the U.S., as well as the most popular amusement park in Pennsylvania. Experience over 60 rides, watch a 3D show, learn the history of chocolate, and take a walk through the zoo next door.
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This is an old-fashioned family-fun oriented park with a carousel, batting cages, bumper boats, mini-golf, and an arcade. It started out as a wet/dry fun park. “This place is small, but packed with good, clean, outdoor fun for kids 6-16. Some adults will enjoy as well” and “We had so much fun here the combo prices are worth the money” are some of the reviews on TripAdvisor. People gave the park mostly great reviews on Yelp as well.
This family-friendly amusement park features more than 38 thrilling rides; some of their most famous include the Twist ‘n Shout steel roller coaster, Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster and the Slingshot Drop Zone. Also enjoy tons of family rides, attractions, games and tasty treats. A review on TripAdvisor says: “My kids could not get enough of this place, we ended going twice!! You will not regret it!!” Click here for more information.
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The park is mostly known for its zip lining adventures. The zip line spans 800 feet as people fly, enjoying stunning views. The park, which is Black Hills’ primer family fun destination, also offers an alpine slide. Explore the beautiful stalactite-filled caverns on a Scenic Cave Tour in Rushmore Cave; carve the turns on the Rushmore Mountain Coaster, and test your shooting skills at the Gunslinger 7-D Interactive Ride. Don’t miss a chance to go spelunking on the Xpedition Adventure Tour. www.rushmorecave.com
Dollywood, Tennessee’s most popular amusement park, is located on the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. It features over 40 rides, 15 spectacular shows, tons of festivals and delicious Southern-style dining options. A review on Yelp says: “Dollywood is probably my favorite theme park. I like it even better then Disney. It’s very charming and the employees are all outgoing and friendly. It is also more reasonably priced compared to other theme parks. There is something for everybody here.”
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Schlitterbahn is America’s first family of waterparks. There are tons of family-friendly and thrilling attractions to choose from. One of them includes the famous Screaming Serpents, a high speed body waterslide that sends you down through the mouth of giant sea serpents. Other great waterslides include the Dragon Blaster, Cliffhanger and Guada Loopy. If you’re not into waterslides, hang out at Schlitterbahn’s Kristal Beach, float along Kristal River, and splash around in the Wave Lagoon. Click here for more information.
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Experience their 50 thrilling rides, get your adrenaline pumping on their X-Venture attractions, slide through whitewater waves at Lagoon A Beach, explore the Wild West in Pioneer Village and watch tons of high-energy shows, each of which are free with admission to the park. Then, when you’re hungry, have a tasty meal in one of Lagoon Amusement Park’s many food locations.
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“America’s best family resort” is open year-round with different activities for every season. Go on a zip line canopy tour or Segway tours, play tennis, or go fishing, hiking and biking. There are plenty of different golf courses for every skill level. Enjoy the heated pools, splash pools and water play areas. During the AutumnFest, there is going to be a Mounatinside Water Playground with lap pool and a waterslide. Most people gave the resort a 5-star rating. “Smugglers Notch has so much to offer anyone who comes here - if you have kids or don’t have kids, there’s something for everyone no matter the season. But the activities for kids cannot be matched anywhere, especially in the summer, nor can the scenery from just about any location in the resort,” according to one TripAdvisor review. www.smuggs.com
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Located in Williamsburg is the famous, Busch Gardens. It has six roller coasters, tons of thrill rides and special events throughout the year. It’s also only three miles away from one of the best water parks in the world – Water Country USA. It is the largest water park in Virginia, comprised of tons of rides, attractions and lounging options. Go on a white water rafting adventure, plummet down a 701-foot-long flume and go free-floating down a lazy river.
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Looking for some adventure in Washington? Look no farther than Wild Waves Water Park. It’s full of exciting attractions; twist and turn down the Mountain Dew Slide Complex, face the rapids on the Raging River Ride, and when you’re ready to relax, float around the Konga River or pop into one of their four Warming Tubs.
This is a small but classic trolley park that has been around for more than a century. [See: The Most Dangerous Amusement Park Rides] It has more than 30 rides and attractions, the most famous of which may be the Big Dipper wood coaster and other common amusement park features such as Dodgems and a log flume. Other major rides include the Rattler, the Flying Scouter, and Haunted House. Visitors also go for the games, fireworks, concerts and special events.
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Noah’s Ark Waterpark is not only the best park in Wisconsin; it’s one of the best water parks in the world, and it’s home to one of the most terrifying waterslides in America – Scorpion’s Tail, a 400-foot long slide with the first drop sending you plummeting at over 50-feet per second. This park is great for families; however, if you’re searching for an adrenaline rush, it won’t let you down. Ride the Black Anaconda water coaster, slide in complete darkness down the Black Thunder, and take a nearly- vertical plunge on the Point of No Return.
Star Plunge is known as a water park with several pools and slides, but it’s mostly famous for it hot mineral tubs. Featured attractions at the park include three water slides, indoor pool, outdoor pool, sun decks, high jump, basketball hoop, hot tub, two jacuzzis, steam cave, fitness room, baby pool and a new fountain waterfall. Most reviews give the water park an excellent rating. “Star Plunge is the only reason why we go to Thermopolis. The large wonderful pools and vapor cave are the best in the world. This place is clean the people who work there are very nice and friendly,” one recent review on TripAdvisor says. www.starplunge.com