Amusement parks, with their wild roller coasters and indulgent carnival food, mark the epitome of summer in Virginia. Whether you’re hoping for a quick thrill ride during an afternoon on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach, or you want to enjoy a weekend of water slides in Williamsburg, this historic state has the perfect park for you. No matter which of these family-friendly parks you choose, be sure to book Virginia vacation rentals early to beat the summer crowds.

1. Kings Dominion, Doswell

Packed with heart-stopping rides, Kings Dominion is Virginia’s top destination for thrill seekers. If you dare, head straight for the Intimidator 305. This intense coaster sends you flying 305 feet into the air, then drops you 300 feet at a mind-boggling 85-degree angle. The Volcano spits you straight up out of a fiery mountain, and the Dominator spins you senseless on a series of vertical loops. Bringing the kids? There are plenty of gentle rides and coasters for children. The park usually opens from late March through August, with limited weekend hours in the fall. Search for vacation rentals in Doswell, or stay in nearby Richmond for a larger selection of properties.

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2. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

For roller-coaster fanatics, it’s hard to beat Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. This huge park is loaded with high-thrill options, including Tempesto, which sends you through multiple tight inversions high in the air. Hold on tight for the double-looping Loch Ness Monster, or feel the ground drop away on the Griffon, a floorless dive coaster with a 90-degree drop. For a gentler ride, hop on the kiddie coasters in the Land of the Dragons or ride the scenic train around the park. Busch Gardens is open full-time from June through August, with weekend hours in the spring and fall. If you’re planning to visit Colonial Williamsburg while you’re in town, stay in York Terrace to be within easy driving distance of both attractions.

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3. Atlantic Fun Park, Virginia Beach

No trip to Virginia Beach is complete without a stop at the iconic Atlantic Fun Park, which opens from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With its retro vibe and classic rides, this amusement park has a charming, family-friendly atmosphere. Strap in to the Sling Shot and try not to scream as you’re flung high into the air above the park, or enjoy a view over the beach and boardwalk on the 100-foot Ferris wheel. Kids love the Kiddie Flying Elephants and the Skyfighter, and the whole family can get in on the fun at the Midway games. Most of the vacation properties on the water in Virginia Beach are within walking distance of the park, so you don’t need to deal with traffic or parking.

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4. Go-Karts Plus, Williamsburg

For families with young children, Go-Karts Plus is the perfect theme park. Small and easy to navigate, the park is well-suited for parents with strollers or toddlers. Hop on the bumper cars, or enjoy the gentle hills on the Python Kiddie Coaster. On hot days, don’t miss the Water Wars area. If you want a bigger thrill, jump on the DISK’O’ and enjoy a wild spinning ride. Other on-site attractions include go-karts, gemstone mining, and a huge arcade for rainy days. Go-Karts Plus opens from late March through August, with weekend hours in September and October. For the shortest drive, look for rental homes in the Lightfoot area.

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5. Splashdown Waterpark, Manassas

When the intense Virginia summers hit, bring the whole family to Splashdown Waterpark in Manassas. Small and friendly, the park offers plenty of room to run for adults and kids. Speed demons can head for the double-barreled Tropical Twister water slide or race down the two Cannon Ball slides. If you’re in the mood to relax, jump on a tube and float down the Lazy River. Need a workout? Hop in the lap pool. For toddlers, the children’s area provides multiple fountains and bubblers for hours of fun. The park is open all summer; if you want to make a weekend of it, the best local vacation rentals are near Bull Run Regional Park.

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6. Ocean Breeze Waterpark, Virginia Beach

When the temperatures heat up in Virginia Beach, join the locals at the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. Cool off with your kids on the pirate ship at Buccaneer Bay or the sprayers in Hook’s Lagoon. Runaway Bay features a massive wave pool with plenty of deck chairs, so you can relax while the family plays in the surf. If you’re in the mood for speed, brave the 35-foot drop and spin around a huge bowl on the Vortex slide, ride the whitewater on Jungle Falls, or drop 50 feet through the dark on Walk the Plank. To enjoy the beach and the water park, stay by the water in Rudee Beach. Ocean Breeze opens from late May through early September.

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7. Water Country USA, Williamsburg

Just a few miles from Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is Water Country USA, Virginia’s largest water park. Slide through the dark with the whole family on Aquazoid, ride a surf toboggan down Rampage, or test your bravery on the intense drop at Vanish Point. The Surfer’s Bay wave pool is a great place to work on your body surfing skills, and the Kritter Korral offers shallow-water activities for little ones. The park opens for the season in late May and stays open through early September; stay in Williamsburg to beat the crowds.

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