5 Best Theme Parks in the Midwest

Most people adore theme parks, which is why they gain so much attention and acclaim as the summer seasons roll by. There's nothing more fun than a warm early summer day with your friends, trying out all of the major rides or walking the park with a funnel cake in hand.

The coastlines, however, get most of the attention for parks, with the Disney parks, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens in attendance. The Midwest parks are definitely underrated and have plenty to offer your student group this summer!

Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO - One of my personal favorites, Silver Dollar City has wooed lifelong visitors since it first opened as a show cave (Marvel Cave), which is still in operation. Themed after the mid to late-19th century Ozarks hill country, your group may enter and immediately encounter employees in costume hand-carving wooden crafts, blowing glass at iron furnaces, or making potato hash right before your eyes. Everything is themed to perfection, even rides like the wooden coaster Thunderation and the newest addition, Outlaw's Run. Learn something of Ozark history on the dark indoor coaster Fire in the Hole, discover mysteries in Grandfather's Mansion, and find yourselves on the Lost River white water rapid ride. If you're not interested in fast roller coasters, of which there are plenty, there are a number of fantastic shows up to Branson's standards as well as water rides, playgrounds, live demonstrations, shopping areas, and slow rides to try out.

Cedar Point - Sandusky, OH - On the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point takes you up, up, and away. With 72 record-breaking rides, 17 roller coasters (second only to Six Flags Magic Mountain), two water rides, and a brand new coaster coming this May, Cedar Point certainly has a lot to offer. Visit and you'll understand why Cedar Point is called the "roller coaster capital of the world." From May until Labor Day you and your group have the opportunity to scare yourselves silly on the Wicked Twister, a terrifying coaster which twists 215 feet in the air only to drop you 206 feet, or the Millennium Force, the tallest in the park at 310 impressive feet. If you're not into the scary tall coasters, try out the carnival-style rides like the Ferris wheel, Snake River Falls or Thunder Canyon water rides, or visit the Dinosaurs Alive prehistoric themed interactive area complete with life-sized dinosaurs!

Kings Island - Mason, OH - Billed as the largest amusement and water park in the Midwest, Kings Island has a lot to live up to. Lucky for you, it's fantastically fun with 364-acres of rides, shops, dining and entertainment options for all ages. It's only 24 miles from Cincinnati, making it a great day trip for Ohio visitors! There are over 80 rides, 14 roller coasters, and a 33-acre water park to cool off on those hot summer vacation days. The Beast, the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, is one of the most popular attractions alongside the Banshee, the longest inverted roller coaster in the U.S. Firehawk, Diamondback, Invertigo, and several others add to the thrill ride repertoire while White Water Canyon, Scrambler, and Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, a haunted dark ride, round out the family-friendly rides. Like Cedar Point, Kings Island is also home to a Dinosaurs Alive interactive area plus a Planet Snoopy with amazing themed attractions with your favorite Peanuts characters.

Six Flags Great America - Gurnee, IL - Right outside Chicago, Six Flags Great America is in the top five list for the best Six Flags parks in the country. The familiarity between the Six Flags parks is a wonderful unifier between states, though each has its own unique flair. Gurnee's Great America park has ten themed sections, a 20-acre water park, three children's areas, and plenty of dining and entertainment options to keep everyone busy and happy. Six Flags park is known for its superhero-themed rides and here you can hop on board the Batman which travels ten stories in the air at 55 mph, as well as the Superman and the soon to be opened Justice League: Battle for Metropolis. Try out one of the country's first wing roller coasters with the thrillingly fun X Flight, or the longest, fastest, tallest roller coaster in the park, Raging Bull.

Six Flags St. Louis - Eureka, MO - Last but not least, another great Six Flags park, this time in St. Louis. Historically the third Six Flags park ever opened, St. Louis' delightful amusement destination maintains a few of the original rides like the River King Mine Train and the fabulously fun wooden coaster, Screamin Eagle. There are currently eight themed areas of the park, including DC Comics Plaza, Britannia, 1904 World's Fair, and Studio Backlot which features rides like the Ninja and Batman: The Ride. Mr. Freeze, The Boss, and American Thunder all round out the most popular roller coasters while Xcalibur, the Colossus Ferris wheel, and SkyScreamer, the tallest park ride at 236 feet, are among the most popular family rides. Hurricane Harbor, the adjacent water park, is an added splash of fun for hot summer days.