Whether your idea of fun is riding a hair-raising roller coaster, floating down a lazy river in an inner tube, or reliving those classic rides from childhood, you’ll find exciting and diverse theme parks throughout the Midwest perfect for a day trip.
Some of these roller-coaster, water slide, and Ferris-wheel venues are havens for summertime fun, while others have indoor thrills accessible year-round.
What is the Midwest’s best amusement park? Each state in America’s Heartland has world-class options, so you will find something within driving distance no matter where you live in the region.
That said, if you are looking for a place with enough rides, attractions, and events to keep you, your friends, or your family entertained for a weekend or longer, these amusement parks are worth a multi-day road trip or flight.
Here are the 10 best Midwest theme parks, in no particular order.
Valley Fair (Minnesota)
Valley Fair is the most popular outdoor theme park for Minneapolis-Saint Paul residents. It sits in the suburb of Shakopee and boasts more than 75 different rides and attractions.
If you are chasing an adrenaline rush, Valley Fair offers coasters like the Corkscrew and Excalibur, which towers over the rest of the park.
The in-house waterpark, Soak City, has a wave pool, slides, and cabanas where you and your group can chill out and take a break from the surprisingly warm Minnesota summer sunshine.
Nearby: The downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are both 20-30 minutes away by car.
Season: Daily, from mid-May through Labor Day, and then weekends through October.
Social Media: Instagram
Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun (Missouri)
Worlds of Fun describes itself as “the best place to have fun in Kansas City.” This classic Missouri park opened in 1973 and has rides, slides, and plenty of eating options.
Together with the Oceans of Fun waterpark, this property covers acres. The Worlds of Fun Village offers resort-like accommodations and access to unexpected experiences like balloon rides.
Highlights include the competitive mat-racing waterslide Riptide Raceway, the lofty Mamba coaster, and the Skyliner Ferris wheel.
Nearby: The restaurants, nightlife, and museums of Kansas City are accessible by car.
Season: Open on weekends through April and May, and daily during the summer.
Noah’s Ark WaterPark (Wisconsin)
Noah’s Ark is one of the largest outdoor waterparks in the US. It sits in the middle of the Wisconsin Dells, a collection of waterparks and camps surrounded by towering rock formations.
Noah’s Ark features an almost-unbelievable array of water rides, pools, slides, and other features, including its newest glow-in-the-dark tube slide, Chameleon.
Black Anaconda and Scorpion’s Tail are two slides with enough height and speed to scare even experienced enthusiasts. The Bermuda Triangle and Kowabunga, meanwhile, appeal to those who prefer to keep their pulse rates lower.
Nearby: The tourist town ofLake Delton is only a stone’s throw away from the park, and the Big Sky Drive-In Theater is just 10 minutes away.
Season: Open daily from 10 am throughout summer.
Adventureland Park (Iowa)
Adventureland Park is a huge amusement park in Altoona, Iowa, just outside of Des Moines. It started as a modest venue on the grounds of an unused airport, but it has expanded over the decades to include a waterpark, hotel, restaurants, and a campground.
There are plenty of old-school rides, including the wooden Outlaw rollercoaster, but you can also find more modern thrills, such as the intense Dragon Slayer.
At Adventure Bay, the water park within Adventureland Resort, you’ll find Iowa’s largest wave pool and the full menu of slides, including the jaw-clenching Typhoon tube slide.
Nearby: Spring Creek Sports Complex and Prairie Meadows Casino and Racetrack are nearby.
Season: Open at 10 am daily during summer, and on weekends in the fall.
Nickelodeon Universe (Minnesota)
Nickelodeon Universe is an indoor amusement park inside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is one of the Midwest’s biggest shopping centers.
The park has 27 rides and attractions, including the Pepsi Orange Streak, a coaster that circles the entire park. The Log Chute likewise covers the whole park, as does a skyline adventure course.
Classics like a carousel and miniature golf course allow visitors to relive their childhoods. When you’re finished riding, there are four floors of shopping and restaurants in the mall to keep you entertained.
Nearby: The hiking trails and beach of Fort Snelling State Park are only five minutes away.
Season: Open daily, year-round.
Fun-Plex is an outdoor amusement park in the Ralston area of Omaha, Nebraska. Since it hosted its first thrill-seeker in the late 1970s, the park has added to its list of crowd-drawing attractions.
However, the classics are still the biggest draws. They include an 18-hole miniature golf course, bumper cars, a speedway, slick track go-karts, and more.
Its waterpark, the largest in the state, provides both extremes. You can move from the Lazzzy River to the wicked waves of Motion Ocean Wave Pool, then over to the 5-story, 1,200-ft Rockin’ Rapids and back.
Nearby: Lake Manawa State Park is 20 minutes away by car, and Omaha’s famous steakhouses are nearby as well.
Season: The park is open between 11 am and 7 pm all summer.
Six Flags St. Louis (Missouri)
Located in suburban Eureka, Missouri, Six Flags St. Louis is a Warner Bros-themed park. Six Flags is known for its world-class rollercoasters, and this member of the franchise doesn’t disappoint.
The classic wooden Screamin’ Eagle was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for its 110-ft height and 65 mph top speed. It’s still active today, along with the Ninja, famous for its massive high-speed loop.
Six Flags enters the something-for-everyone category with its live shows, huge wave pool, concerts, carnival games, and food options.
Nearby: For nature and quiet, Rockwoods Towersite and Forby Road Nature Trail are reachable within 12 minutes by car.
Season: Open between 11 am and 6 pm during summer.
Rush Mountain Adventure Park (South Dakota)
Rush Mountain Adventure Park is in the Black Hills of western South Dakota, located near the famous Mount Rushmore rock sculpture.
If you are seeking something totally unique, Rush Mountain is your spot. Some of its rides take advantage of the natural terrain. For example, there is a seated zip-line ride, an adventure course, and the Mountain Coaster, which takes riders in individual cars down steep slopes on a narrow track.
The park also hosts Rushmore Cave. You can tour the underground chambers of this accessible part of the vast Black Hills cave system.
Nearby: Mount Rushmore is 15 minutes away by car.
Season: Open on weekends during the springtime and daily during the summer, starting at 10 am.
Tickets: Pre-purchased tickets are available based on arrival date and availability.
Wa-Tiki Indoor Waterpark (South Dakota)
The Wa-Tiki indoor WaterPark is an all-season attraction in the Black Hills area in the town of Box Elder.
This place boasts 30,000 square feet of swimming pools and water slides. Tube slides wind overhead, and a lazy river flows around the entire complex, so you can go either fast or slow, depending on your mood.
Wa-Tiki has an onsite bar and grill, and the five nearby hotels offer package deals for the park.
Nearby: The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is 10 minutes by car.
Season: Open all year round.
Mount Olympus (Wisconsin)
Mount Olympus is an Ancient Greece-themed ride and water park in the Wisconsin Dells.
It brings a diversity of experiences, including upside-down and underground roller coasters, a go-kart track, and a swing that circles an LED-illuminated tower.
Meanwhile, its indoor waterpark includes a rotating water slide, a multi-person raft ride, and a side-by-side racing slide.
Nearby: The Wisconsin Deer Park and Timbavati Wildlife Park are located within the Mount Olympus property.
Season: Weather-permitting, opening in April and through the summer, from 10 am.
Tickets: The park offers a variety of deals, including group and package promos.
Theme-Park Thrills Await
Whether you’re looking for a day of fun or a weekend of wild adventures, these Midwest theme parks have something for everyone. From indoor attractions to outdoor slides, thrill rides, and more, you can plan the perfect park-centered getaway. So come on and get ready for a wild ride!
So get your friends and family together, and let the fun begin!