Summer is amusement park season and if you've been scouring the internet for cheap flights to the U.S. to head over to Florida's Disney World, you might want to rethink those plans.
While Disney World might be dubbed as the "happiest place on earth," visiting the iconic parks definitely come with a hefty price tag starting at $144 (US$109) per day. Not only is entry pricey, but with more than 17 million visitors a year, according to AECOM's Theme Index and Museum Index, it's also likely going to mean long days with huge lineups to contend with.
If you'd prefer to save some cash and still get the full theme park experience, we compared some of North America's biggest theme parks by looking at price, attractions, food and drink and more.
So if you were planning a Disney World trip, you might want to see how these North American theme parks stack up first and save yourself a ton of cash.
Canada's Wonderland, Vaughan, ON
Adult tickets for Canada's Wonderland start from $54.99 but you'll want to book online before you head to the park. Tickets at the gates are around $80. If you're likely going to go to more than once throughout the season, you can also pick up a season pass for $99 which gives you unlimited visits.
Canada's Wonderland claims to be the country's largest amusement park and if you're headed there for a summertime adventure, you'll find over 200 attractions including Canada's tallest and fastest rollercoaster, Leviathan, which reaches up to 148 kilometres an hour.
As one of Canada's most famous attractions, it's safe to say that visiting Canada's Wonderland is likely to be busy. According to AECOM, the theme park saw almost 3.8 million visitors in 2022.
The park has 36 different places to pick up food and drinks on the go so wherever you are, you're likely to only ever be a short walk away from refreshments. You can get all your classic theme park foods like pizza, hotdogs, mini donuts and funnel cake as well as more upscale options like gourmet BBQ at the Lazy Bear Lodge.
Throughout the year, Canada's Wonderland also hosts food festivals like Taste of Brazil, Taste of Portugal and Oktoberfest where you can get your hands on some more delicious fare.
The theme park is wheelchair and stroller accessible so you can either bring your own or they can be rented directly from Canada's Wonderland. The website outlines a lot of different processes and restrictions it has for accessibility which can be found ahead of time to avoid stress when visiting.
You can drive directly to Canada's Wonderland in Vaughan where there are parking lots available as well as a designated pick up and drop off point. If you'd rather take public transport, there are several YRT bus routes that take you directly to the park. You can also get the TTC out to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station and grab a bus from there too.
Overall score: 23/30
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, California
Daily tickets for Magic Mountain start from $76 (US$58) per day, compared to $152 (US$115) on the gate. However, Six Flags has a ton of different annual pass options ranging from a Gold Pass that gets you unlimited access to Magic Mountain to Platinum that gets unlimited access to all Six Flags theme parks and water parks.
For thrill seekers, Magic Mountain has everything you could possibly want. According to the website, it's the “Thrill Capital of the World,” with 20 different coasters to try out. Top of the list to try will be Full Throttle, the "world's tallest and fastest looping coaster" taking you 160 feet in the sky and reaching 70 miles per hour.
There's also Goliath, a mammoth coaster with a 255 foot drop where you'll reach 85 miles per hour.
Despite having a ton of rides perfect for thrill seekers, Magic Mountain is slightly less busy than its Californian counterparts. In 2022, the park saw just under three million visitors, according to AECOM.
As you'd expect, Magic Mountain serves up everything you would want from a U.S. theme park with Dole soft serve, giant soft pretzels and turkey legs as well burgers, tacos and more.
The park is also hosting a huge Flavors of the World food festival over the summer with cuisines from Italy, Greece, the Caribbean, Korea, India, China and France all available to try out too with specialty entrees, desserts and drinks.
Magic Mountain does have a full accessibility guide on its website which outlines how accessibility issues may impact your trip. You'll also need to apply for a IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card (IAC) online to access the Six Flags’ Attraction Access Program if you're likely to need any additional accommodations made at the park such as not having to wait in line.
Not accounting for Los Angeles traffic, Six Flags Magic Mountain is around a 45 minute drive northwest of downtown LA. You're also able to take public transit from downtown LA and change to Santa Clarita transit and change to busses to take you the rest of the way. It's definitely not as straight forward as just driving up the highway.
Overall score: 22/30
La Ronde, Montreal, QC
Single daily tickets for La Ronde start from $35.99 per person which as far as theme parks tickets go, is pretty affordable.
There are also different tiered season passes that get you unlimited access to the park as well as discounts on food and drinks in the park which start from $54.99.
La Ronde is home to a ton of rides perfect for thrill seekers, including the "hypercoaster" Goliath, which takes you up a whopping 170 feet as well as the huge swinging pendulum ride, Manitou.
For those who like to keep their feet firmly on the ground, there are also plenty of family-friendly rides. The park hosts a huge fireworks competition throughout the summer.
While La Ronde is Canada's second largest amusement park (behind Canada's Wonderland), it still receives a ton of visitors every year, with around 2.5 million estimated to visit the park every year, according to Ultimate Rollercoaster.
La Ronde has plenty of delicious food options to choose from serving everything from crepes to poutine and Beavertails. There are also a few restaurant options serving up healthier alternatives if you need a break from fried food.
The park is wheelchair accessible and they can either be rented from La Ronde or you can bring your own. As La Ronde is a Six Flags park, it also has the Six Flags’ Attraction Access Program in place and you'll need apply for an IAC to receive any additional accommodations.
La Ronde is pretty close to the center of Montreal and you can drive there in around 15 minutes. There's also public transit to the park with shuttle busses from Jean Drapeau station and Papineau station.
Overall score: 23/30
PNE Playland, Vancouver, B.C.
Playland operates slightly differently than a lot of theme parks with two ticket types on offer. The Fun Pass which starts at $33 is perfect for guests of all ages wanting to go on more family-friendly rides. There's also a Thrill Pass which starts at $45 for guests that are 48 inches or taller who want to tackle some of the bigger coasters.
The amusement park is packed full of attractions that cater to those seeking an adrenaline rush as well as having some more family-friendly options. Last year saw the opening of the Skybender. However, one of the most iconic Playland rides, the Wooden Roller Coaster is currently closed for refurbishments.
Playland makes up part of the Pacific National Exhibition. According to the PNE, around 2.5 million people visit the annual fair every year. If you're visiting Playland outside of the PNE Fair which runs from August 19 to September 4, 2023, chances are it will be a bit quieter.
There isn't a lot of variety at Playland compared to other amusement parks but it has all the fun day out favourites from mini donuts, gourmet hot dogs, burgers, lemonade and more.
If you hold an “Access 2 Program” card, Playland offers a two for one discount on admission and the park is wheelchair accessible. The website doesn't outline which rides are accessible.
The PNE is easy to get to from downtown Vancouver and visitors are encouraged to use public transit or to cycle. There is also parking available.
Overall score: 20/30
Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California
Tickets for Knott's Berry Farm start from $79.50 (US$59.99) per person. You can also get a season pass which gets you unlimited visits for $205 (US$155).
As one of the U.S.'s oldest theme parks, Knott's Berry Park has a unique mix of ghost towns and epic roller coasters all in one. Thrill seekers will want to check out the huge coaster Xcelerator which launches you 205 feet in the air and reaches speeds of 82 miles per hour.
The park is also home to one of the largest, tallest and fastest wooden coasters on the West Coast.
Theme parks are notoriously crowded and Knott's Berry Farm is no exception. According to the website, they usually see around five million visitors per year which is a lot more than Canada's Wonderland.
You can find theme park staples here with things like funnel cake, churros and corndogs all on offer. The park is famous for its fried chicken dinners which Knott's Berry Farm says is still the same recipe used by Mrs. Knott dating all the way back to 1934. You can also get your hands on boysenberry or apple pies.
The park is wheelchair and stroller accessible with guests able to bring their own or rent them directly from the park. All restrooms are also accessible.
Anyone with who may need additional accommodations at the park, such as no being able to wait in line, needs to visit Guest Services to find out more about the Boarding Pass Program.
Overall score: 18/30
Galaxyland, Edmonton, AB
General admission for Galaxyland at West Edmonton Mall starts from $64 per person. You can also get an unlimited annual pass for multiple attractions at the mall for $650 per person.
According to the Galaxyland website, it's "North America's largest indoor amusement park," which makes it a great option to visit year-round. The Hasbro themed park has rides based on a ton of games from Hungry Hippos to Monopoly as well as coasters and thrill seeking rides.
As one of the largest attractions in West Edmonton Mall, Galaxyland may be fairly busy. The mall receives almost 31 million visitors every year.
Galaxyland only has two food and drink concessions so there isn't a lot of variety. However, you are allowed to bring in outside food and drinks so you'll be able to bring stuff from home or pick up food elsewhere in the mall.
West Edmonton Mall is wheelchair and stroller accessible. You can either bring your own or rent them from the mall. The website also doesn't show in advance which rides may not be accessible.
West Edmonton Mall is around a 25 minute drive from downtown Edmonton. There's also direct public transport from the city center to the mall so it's pretty easy to get around.
Overall score: 14/30
Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.