Thrillseeker Report: The world’s best value theme parks revealed

Keen to hit the adrenaline-pumping theme parks but feeling overwhelmed by choice and by budget? The Best Value Theme Park Report from money.co.uk takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the most affordable options out there for thrill-seeking families.

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After the ups and downs of the last 18 months, many families will be excited to book a theme park adventure. In 2019, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was visited by nearly 21 million people, and if that’s anything to go by, 2021 is set to be the biggest year ever for theme parks all around the globe.  

There is a seemingly endless list of destinations around the world boasting impressive roller coasters, live shows, parades and food options, So it’s easy to get in a spin when it comes to booking our next theme park adventure. 

Consider spreading the cost of your theme park visit using a 0% credit card

From seaside locations in the UK, to fairytale-inspired attractions across the pond, the new Best Value Theme Park Report from the personal finance experts at money.co.uk, reveals which theme parks around the world offer the best value for families looking to stretch their savings and enjoy a much-needed family break. 

Calculating cost-per-ride in the world’s most-visited theme parks

Updated 29 July 2021
Theme parkLocationAnnual visitors Number of attractionsCost of a family ticket*Cost per ride
PraterLeopoldstadt, Austria4,200,000250£154.76£0.62
Beto Carrero WorldPenha, Brazil2,241,000100£75.31£0.75
Gold Reef CityJohannesburg, South Africa1,277,50046£40.55£0.88
Six Flags MéxicoMexico City, Mexico2,803,00050£51.06£1.02
LisebergGothenburg, Sweden2,950,00037£40.50£1.09
Hopi HariSão Paulo, Brazil1,028,00035£39.48£1.13
FantasilandiaSantiago, Chile1,100,00042£47.51£1.13
Parque Mundo AventuraBogotá, Colombia1,151,00033£37.76£1.14
Six Flags Great AdventureNew Jersey, USA3,451,00058£89.95£1.55
Cedar PointSandusky, USA3,604,00082£136.42£1.66
Six Flags Over GeorgiaAustell, USA2,050,00043£72.54£1.69
Canada’s WonderlandToronto, Canada3,950,00070£121.88£1.74
Tivoli GardensCopenhagen, Denmark4,850,00025£45.00£1.80
BakkenKlampenborg, Denmark2,900,00033£62.70£1.90
GardalandRonchi, Italy2,920,00036£68.78£1.91
HersheyparkPennsylvania, USA3,384,00076£153.40£2.02
CarowindsCharlotte, USA2,130,00056£121.91£2.18
Fårup SommerlandFårup, Denmark600,00060£137.35£2.29
Walt Disney World ResortOrlando, USA58,000,000172£450.71£2.62
Kings IslandMason, USA3,521,00048£130.62£2.72
Europa ParkRust, Germany5,750,00061£175.39£2.88
Heide Park ResortSoltau, Germany1,700,00041£123.81£3.02
LeolandiaBergamo, Italy800,00040£122.09£3.05
Six Flags Magic MountainValencia, USA3,610,00042£130.62£3.11
PortAventuraCosta Dorada, Spain3,750,00053£165.07£3.11
Djurs SommerlandDjursland, Denmark818,00043£139.21£3.24
Blackpool Pleasure BeachBlackpool, UK5,500,00038£129.99£3.42
Parque Warner MadridMadrid, Spain2,232,00042£144.01£3.43
Astérix ParkPlailly, France2,326,00041£149.60£3.65
Alton TowersAlton, UK2,130,00041£155.99£3.80
EftelingKaatsheuvel, Holland5,260,00036£141.00£3.92
Chessington World of Adventures ResortChessington, UK1,690,00033£135.99£4.12
Puy du FouLes Epesses, France2,308,00026£110.05£4.23
Knott’s Berry FarmBuena Park, USA4,115,00040£179.96£4.50
Isla MágicaSeville, Spain600,00020£92.85£4.64
Tibidabo Amusement ParkBarcelona, Spain732,57740£185.82£4.65
Dollywood Parks & ResortsKnoxville-Smoky Mountains, Tennessee2,410,00050£244.33£4.89
Disneyland ParisParis, France9,740,00050£251.14£5.02
Gröna LundStockholm, Sweden1,700,00031£159.00£5.13
PhantasialandBrühl, Germany2,050,00032£170.23£5.32
Parque de la CostaBuenos Aires, Argentina968,00030£161.82£5.39
Siam ParkCosta Adeje, Spain1,200,00020£110.05£5.50
DreamworldQueensland, Australia1,400,00047£272.33£5.79
Disneyland ResortAnaheim, USA18,660,00055£393.30£7.15
Thorpe Park ResortChertsey, UK1,900,00027£199.99£7.41
Ferrari WorldAbu Dhabi, UAE1,100,00026£207.45£7.98
Universal Orlando ResortOrlando, USA10,920,00053£468.77£8.84
Busch Gardens Tampa BayTampa Bay, USA4,180,00027£278.62£10.32
Warner Bros. Movie WorldOxenford, Australia2,000,00015£248.04£16.54
Universal Studios HollywoodLos Angeles, USA9,150,00021£365.73£17.42
*Day Pass - Two adults and two children

Taking the world’s most visited theme parks, our consumer spending experts calculated which parks have the lowest cost-per-ride, and offer the best value for money. 

Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, Austria tops the list as the most affordable theme park for families. A day pass for two adults and two children at the nostalgic theme park costs £154.76, and with over 250 attractions including a Giant Ferris Wheel with views across the whole park, a visit to Prater will set you back just £0.62 per ride

Beto Carrero World in Penha, Brazil is the second most affordable theme park in the report. With over 100 white-knuckle attractions to choose from, a family ticket costs just £75.31, which averages out at just £0.75 per ride.

The Castle of Nations is a stand out attraction at Beto Carrero World, it was inspired by medieval castles and its artistic painting was designed so that visitors can feel the magic and fantasy atmosphere of the theme park upon arrival. 

Rounding off the top three is Gold Reef City theme park in Johannesburg, South Africa. The attraction, which boasts 46 gold-rush themed attractions, may be located on an old gold mine but it won’t cost you the earth. Families can expect to pay just £0.88 per ride, as a day pass for a family of four will set you back just £40.55.

Visitors at Gold Reef City theme park should check out the Anaconda ride, the perfect attraction for thrill seekers with a well-earned nine out of 10 Fear Factor rating. This thrilling ride is for adrenaline junkies who crave twists and turns at high speed. 

Despite its undeniable global appeal and popularity, Universal Studios Hollywood in California emerged as the most expensive theme park to visit, with a day pass costing £365.73 for a family of four. Taking into account the 21 attractions found within the park, this hefty sum works out at a staggering £17.42 per ride.

The cheapest theme park hotels around the world

For those who feel a day simply isn't long enough, many theme parks now boast on-site hotels or have partner hotels nearby for families that want to extend their visit and make the most of all the theme parks have to offer. 

Not only are these hotels convenient, they have many additional benefits; complimentary drinks to queue jumping and extended park hours, alongside the convenience of staying nearby. Imagine spending the day riding white-knuckle coasters and then loading everyone up into your car and tackling the long drive home, when you can just stay the night in a theme park hotel. 

From Brazil to Holland, we’ve analysed theme park hotels around the world, to determine which offer the best value for money for an overnight stay, for two adults and two children. 

Beto Carrero World in Penha, Brazil takes the top spot as the cheapest hotel for a family of four. The hotel, which is situated just 3 km from the theme park, will cost families around £28.87 for an overnight stay. 

In total, a day pass with overnight accommodation at the biggest theme park in Latin America will cost a family of four £104.18. 

Djurs Sommerland, in Djursland, Denmark, takes second place, with nearby accommodation costing just £57.62. Combined with the £139.21 family day pass tickets, a family of four can enjoy the full theme park experience for just £196.83. The park is sure to be a hit among thrill-seekers of all ages, after being voted the best family park in Europe, with under one million guests per year at the Park World Excellence Awards in 2019. 

Six Flags Over Georgia, the 290-acre theme park located west of Atlanta, Georgia, rounds up the top three cheapest theme parks, with overnight accommodation for a family of four at a partner hotel costing as little as £85.97. As the second Six Flags to open its doors back in 1967, the park is home to some of the top ranked steel roller coasters in the world, with some of the top-rated including: The Twisted Cyclone, Goliath, Mind Bender and Acrophobia. 

Families wanting to experience all the rides, shows and attractions the theme park has to offer, can expect to pay approximately £216.59 for their park tickets and hotel stay. 

The most-searched theme parks in every city in USA

Updated 3 August 2021
CityState Most searched for theme park By cityLocation of Theme ParkSearch Volume
Los AngelesCaliforniaUniversal Studios HollywoodLos Angeles, California599,300
LouisvilleKentuckyKentucky KingdomLouisville, Kentucky171,200
New York CityNew YorkNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota164,500
IndianapolisIndianaKings IslandMason, Ohio151,800
DetroitMichiganCedar PointSandusky, Ohio146,600
Virginia BeachVirginiaBusch Gardens WilliamsburgJames City County, Virginia118,700
ColumbusOhioCedar PointSandusky, Ohio108,600
NashvilleTennesseeDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee104,000
ChicagoIllinoisCedar PointSandusky, Ohio84,200
HoustonTexasUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, Florida68,700
Las VegasNevadaKnotts Berry FarmBuena Park, California66,400
PhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota62,900
BostonMassachusettsCanobie Lake ParkSalem, New Hampshire62,710
PhoenixArizonaUniversal Studios HollywoodLos Angeles, California50,000
Kansas CityMissouriSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri37,900
MinneapolisMinnesotaNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota32,500
CharlotteNorth CarolinaDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee30500
AtlantaGeorgiaDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee30,100
BaltimoreMarylandBusch Gardens WilliamsburgJames City County, Virginia28,540
JacksonvilleFloridaDiscovery CoveOrlando, Florida21,170
Oklahoma CityOklahomaSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri19,700
Little RockArkansasSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri18,980
PortlandOregonSilverwood Theme ParkAthol, Idaho17,790
SeattleWashingtonSilverwood Theme ParkAthol, Idaho17,690
ManchesterNew HampshireCanobie Lake ParkSalem, New Hampshire17,110
WichitaKansasSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri15,950
BirminghamAlabamaDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee13190
CharlestonWest VirginiaKings IslandMason, Ohio12,930
ProvidenceRhode IslandCanobie Lake ParkSalem, New Hampshire12560
OmahaNebraskaSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri12,400
DenverColoradoUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, Florida11,790
New OrleansLouisianaDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee10,620
MilwaukeeWisconsinBay Beach Amusement ParkGreen Bay, Wisconsin8,540
NewarkNew JerseyNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota7,490
CharlestonSouth CarolinaDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee7470
WilmingtonDelawareDutch WonderlandLancaster, Pennsylvania7,340
Salt Lake CityUtahUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, Florida6,800
JacksonMississippiDollywoodPigeon Ford, Tennessee6,150
AlbuquerqueNew MexicoKnotts Berry FarmBuena Park, California5,760
Boise CityIdahoSilverwood Theme ParkAthol, Idaho4,120
Des MoinesIowaSilver Dollar CityBranson Missouri3,860
HonoluluHawaiiKnotts Berry FarmBuena Park, California3610
BridgeportConnecticutNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota3,210
BillingsMontanaSilverwood Theme ParkAthol, Idaho2,060
PortlandMaineCanobie Lake ParkSalem, New Hampshire2,010
AnchorageAlaskaKnotts Berry FarmBuena Park, California1510
Sioux FallsSouth DakotaUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, Florida1400
FargoNorth DakotaNickelodeon UniverseBloomington, Minnesota820
CheyenneWyomingUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, Florida610
BurlingtonVermontSantas VillageJefferson, New Hampshire530

Whether you’re looking to avoid an overly-crowded park, or scream your head off with a group of likeminded adrenaline junkies, our report reveals the most searched-for theme parks in the USA. 

Taking a seed list of 30 theme parks located across North America, we’ve uncovered how many times each destination was searched by residents living in the most populous city by state. 

Dollywood was revealed as the most popular theme park across the board with seven US cities preferring the family attraction which boasts more than 50 world class rides, high-energy entertainment and award-winning dining. 

Tennessee residents are such huge devotees of Dollywood, the iconic award winning theme park that first opened its doors in 1986, that they search for the local attraction 104,000 times in the past 12 months.

Other cities with an obvious affinity for the Tennessee attraction include North Carolina

Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi, who have made a total of 98,030 combined searches in the last 12 months. 

Nickelodeon Universe in Bloomington, Minnesota emerged as the second most popular attraction, with those living in New York searching for the amusement park the most frequently, at 164,500 in the last 12 months alone. The indoor attraction is renowned for its rides based on Nickelodeon’s popular franchises and is home to 27 thrill-seeking attractions that are suitable for all the family. 

Other notable cities searching for Nickelodeon Universe included Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut, and North Dakota, where residents were searching for the Universal film-inspired theme park a combined 106,920 times in the last 12 months.

Movie-inspired theme park rides that cost more than the original film budgets 

Being able to share and pass down nostalgic elements of childhood, and make new memories with your own family, is a special component of any family trip. This is especially true when visiting theme parks still operating attractions that have stood the test of time and span a number of generations.

Successful Hollywood films and amusement park rides have a long-standing relationship with one another. 

From Disney classics to Star Wars, and Indiana Jones to Harry Potter, theme park rides inspired by movies offer up endless amounts of family entertainment, and can make a substantial amount of money for the parks in which they reside. 

Updated 29 July 2021
Theme park rideTheme parkLocationFilm based onAge of ride (years)Still operating Cost to construct (£)Film budget (£)Cost difference (%) film budget vs cost to construct
Finding Nemo Submarine VoyageDisneylandCaliforniaFinding Nemo14Yes£122,817,350£67,890,090▼ -45%
Jaws: The RideUniversal Studios JapanJapanJaws20Yes£25,254,075£5,054,665▼ -80%
Seven Dwarfs Mine TrainMagic KingdomOrlando, FloridaSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs7Yes£18,038,625£1,082,420▼ -94%
IncredicoasterDisney California AdventureCaliforniaThe Incredibles3Yes£43,301,700£66,432,740▲ 53%
Cinderella CastleThe Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland at the Tokyo Disney ResortOrlando Florida and Urayasu TokyoCinderella50Yes£3,391,120£2,094,076▼ -38%
Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de RémyWalt Disney Studios ParkParisRatatouille7Yes£194,809,050£108,314,250▼ -44%
Haunted Mansion HolidayDisneylandCalifornia, TokyoThe Nightmare Before Christmas17Yes£5,050,605£13,004,190▲ 157%
Indiana Jones AdventureDisneylandCaliforniaIndiana Jones26Yes£36,075,750£13,004,190▼ -64%
Indiana Jones and the Temple of PerilDisneyland Park (Paris)ParisIndiana Jones28Yes£57,721,200£13,004,190▼ -78%
The Dark Knight CoasterSix Flags Great AdventureNew Jersey, Illinois, Mexico CityThe Dark Knight13Yes£16,234,087£133,644,925▲ 722%
Iron Man ExperienceHong Kong DisneylandHong KongIron Man4Yes£72,178,500£101,136,700▲ 40%
Superman: Escape from KryptonSix Flags Magic MountainValencia, CaliforniaSuperman24Yes£14,435,700£39,732,275▲ 175%
Terminator 2: 3DUniversal StudiosFloridaTerminator 2: Judgment Day21No£43,301,700£73,705,710▲ 70%
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea AdventureDisney California Adventure, Magic KingdomCalifornia, FloridaThe Little Mermaid10Yes£72,178,500£28,904,200▼ -60%
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!Disney California AdventureCaliforniaGuardians of the Galaxy4Yes£72,178,500$122,817,350▲ 70%
Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure/Jurassic Park: The RideUniversal Studios SingaporeSingapore, Orlando, JapanJurassic Park11Yes£79,399,650£45,524,115▼ -43%
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's RunDisneylandOrlando, FloridaStar Wars2Yes£721,815,000£1,180,013,965▲ 63%
Men in Black: Alien AttackUniversal Studios FloridaOrlando, FloridaMen in Black11Yes£50,527,050£65,034,450▲ 29%
Shrek 4-DUniversal StudiosFloridaShrek18Yes£25,254,075£43,360,500▲ 71%
The Simpsons RideUniversal Studios FloridaHollywood, FloridaThe Simpsons13Yes£50,527,050£54,200,625▲ 7%
The World of AvatarWalt Disney World ResortOrlando, FloridaAvatar4Yes£360,925,000£171,273,975▼ -53%
Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike AdventureUniversal's Islands of AdventureOrlando, FloridaHarry Potter2Yes£216,645,000£834,689,625▲ 285%
Harry Potter and the Forbidden JourneyUniversal's Islands of AdventureFlorida, Japan, CaliforniaHarry Potter11Yes£94,601,650£834,689,625▲ 782%
Radiator Springs RacersDisney California AdventureCaliforniaCars9Yes£144,433,000£86,694,000▼ -40%
Batman Adventure: The Ride 2Warner Bros. Movie WorldAustraliaBatman19No£9,386,585£25,254,075▲ 169%
Twister...Ride it OutUniversal StudiosFloridaTwister17No£11,552,720£66,432,740▲ 475%
Transformers: The RideUniversal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios FloridaSingapore, Hollywood, Florida, BeijingTransformers film franchise10Yes£288,818,000£108,314,250▼ -63%
Top Gun: The Jet CoasterCarowindsNorth CarolinaTop Gun22Yes£7,581,473£10,833,525▲ 43%
Saw: The RideThorpe ParkSurrey, EnglandSaw12Yes£10,833,525£867,114▼ -92%
Test TrackEpcotBay Lake, FloridaTron: Legacy9Yes£216,645,000£122,817,350▼ -43%
Splash MountainDisneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Magic KingdomCalifornia, Tokyo, FloridaSong of the South29Yes£162,502,875£1,535,514▼ -99%
Justice League: Alien Invasion 3DWarner Bros. Movie WorldQueensland, AustraliaJustice League9Yes£6,500,115£216,645,000▲ 3233%
Scooby-Doo Spooky CoasterWarner Bros. Movie WorldQueensland, AustraliaScooby-Doo19Yes£9,386,585£60,697,980▲ 546%
Revenge of the Mummy: The RideUniversal Studios FloridaFloridaThe Mummy17Yes£32,500,575£57,721,200▲ 78%

Our report analyses 34 famous theme park rides based on films, and determines which blockbuster film has the most costly counterpart, when it comes to visitor attractions. 

A ride filled to the brim with adventure and songs, the original Splash Mountain opened in 1989 and is now located in Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The log flume ride had a construction cost of £162,502,875, yet the 1946 film ‘Song Of The South’  that originally inspired the attraction had a budget of just £1,535,514, indicating a 99% cost difference. 

In second place as the most costly construction compared with its film counterpart is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, situated at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort. 

The family ride gives visitors the chance to race through the diamond mine featured in the film and swerve in and out of the age-old mountain. 

The 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first animated feature-length film, with Snow White also being the first member of the Disney Princess line-up, providing the basis for later heroines such as Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train cost an impressive £18,038,625 to construct, while the film budget was a mere £1,082,420 -  a 94% cost difference. 

Rounding up the top three is Saw: The Ride, a steel roller coaster in Thorpe Park, England that cost an impressive £10,833,525 to construct and is inspired by the infamous movie horror franchise.

The original Saw, released back in 2004 received generally mixed reviews from critics, but performed surprisingly well at the box office. It went on to gross more than $100 million worldwide and became, at the time, one of the most profitable horror films ever. 

The film, which has inspired a further nine sequels, had a budget of just £867,114 - a whopping -92% cost difference.

Methodology

The Best Value Theme Parks Report from the personal finance experts at money.co.uk analyses theme parks in Europe, North America, South America, Oceania, and the Middle East to determine which offer the best value for money. 

Taking a seed list of 50 of the most popular theme parks around the world, the report determines which theme parks are the busiest and which offer the best overall value for families. 

The personal finance experts developed the ranking based on the following criteria:

  • The busiest theme parks around the world based on the number of annual visitors (annual visitor numbers based on the latest data available)

  • Best value theme parks for families (based on two adult tickets and two junior tickets, if available as an add-on ticket price accounts for park hoppers)

  • The most exclusive theme parks in the world (based on low visitor numbers)

  • The cheapest theme park hotels around the world for families (Cheapest cost for one night onsite or nearby the park for two adults and two children - children both aged 10 - 20/8/2021-21/08/2021 - with no deals applied)

  • The most Instagrammable theme parks 

  • The most Instagrammable water parks 

Please note: 

  • Currency conversions complete on 01/07/2021

  • Ticket price data correct as of 01/07/2021

The Best Value Theme Parks Report also determines the cost difference between amusement rides based on films and the film production budgets and box office revenue. 

Taking a seed list of 34 of the most iconic theme parks, the report analyses which film franchises have the most successful theme park rides.

The personal finance experts developed the ranking based on the following criteria:

  • The cost to build vs the films production budget

  • The cost to build vs the films box office revenue

  • What film genre is the most replicated into theme park rides 

Sources: 

https://gizmodo.com/the-44-best-rides-based-on-movies-and-6-best-movies-ba-1843884965 

https://trip101.com/article/10-theme-parks-that-is-based-on-movies  

https://www.imdb.com/ 

https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/ 

https://www.universalorlando.com/ 

https://www.rwsentosa.com/en/attractions/universal-studios-singapore/ 

https://movieworld.com.au/ 

https://www.sixflags.com/greatadventure 

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/en-ca/ 

https://www.disneylandparis.com/ 

https://www.hongkongdisneyland.com/ 

https://www.usj.co.jp/ 

https://www.thorpepark.com/ 

https://www.disneyworld.co.uk/destinations/magic-kingdom/ 

https://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/ 

https://www.sixflags.com/magicmountain 

https://www.carowinds.com/ 

https://www.disneyworld.co.uk/destinations/epcot/ 

Please note: 

  • Ticket prices data sourced on 30/06/2021

  • Currency conversions completed on 30/06/2021