Buena Park, California
Discussions of California theme parks tend to begin and end with Disney, Universal, and Six Flags—with one notable exception: Knott’s. The former berry farm (thus the name) was family-owned from 1920 to 1997, and still retains many of its traditional attractions, from western themes to the exceptional, craft-and-home-centric marketplace. The (fairly) new owners have made their mark, though, adding brain-scrambling thrill rides—the Xcelerator roller coaster gets a big thumbs up—and a large water park. While wait times and higher food prices can be frustrating, Knott’s history, charm, and solid ride selection is worth a trip.
Bonus tip: If you can’t make it this summer, try going around Halloween, when the month-long, wildly popular Knott’s Scary Farm event lives up to its blood-curdling reputation.