Amusement parks have been featured in films since the early days of Hollywood, like “Tire Trouble,” released way back on January 13, 1924. The highlight of this “Our Gang” comedy was the kids’ dizzying rollercoaster ride as well as their visit to the funhouse, filmed at the Venice Amusement Pier in Southern California.

Since then, many movies have featured theme parks, and some parks have even served as center stage of the entire film. An amusement park has just about every type of storytelling device needed for a great movie such as great imagery as well as plenty of people and lots of action.


2009’s “Adventureland” is one of the more recent films that may come to mind. Director Greg Mottola, who also directed “Superbad,” worked at an amusement park with the same name in Long Island back in his younger years and was said to have written the movie loosely based on his experience as a park employee. It was shot at Kennywood in Pittsburgh, Pa., which was grimed up a bit to make it appear more like a decrepit suburban carnival park from the 80s.

There are quick glances of Kennywood’s classic rides like the Thunderbolt, Racer and Jack Rabbit, although most is filmed in the games area where two of the main characters, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) and Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart) are working.

Lost Boys

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a classic as one of the last of its kind on the west coast, and made a great central location for the 1980s film “Lost Boys.” The park was established over a century ago during the Golden Age of amusement parks; the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster seen in the film is one of the oldest wooden coasters still running in the U.S. having opened back in 1924.

The park serves as the fictional town of Santa Carla’s social center and helps to inspire fear as well as thrills, and a bit of a creepiness factor, particularly when the vampires are seen flying over it.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

“Wally World” is the fictional name of Six Flag’s Magic Mountain just outside Los Angeles, the destination for the Griswold’s family vacation in 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” You can even take a ride on the “Whipper Snapper,” the coaster that flips the family around while they’re being held hostage at the park. Its real name is “The Revolution,” one of the most famous and historic rollers coasters in the world. The coaster is the very first made from tubular steel track with a 360 degree vertical loop.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Part of the 1989 film “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” included a scene at a water park where the stars catch up with French Emperor Napoleon. This was Golfland-Sunsplash Waterpark in Mesa, Arizona, where visitors can still go to cool off and have fun like the actors did in the movie, minus the experience of going to a water park with someone who doesn’t even know they exist.

Where to Go For Your Own Amusement Park Adventure

If you want to get the feeling you’re in one of the movies but don’t live in close proximity to Southern California, Arizona or Pennsylvania, the odds are there’s an amusement park within a day’s drive of where you live where you can do just that.

A few of the best include Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.; Disney theme parks in Orlando, Fla.; Six Flags Great America in Chicago; Schlitterbahn in New Braufels, Texas, the 11th most visited waterpark in the world; and Wilderness Territory Waterpark at Wisconsin Dells.

Budget Travel named the Wilderness Territory Waterpark as one of the top 10 indoor water parks in the U.S. It’s actually four different parks that make up a massive 600-acre resort including an incredible raft ride that drops 58 feet before spinning into a funnel that mimics a hurricane with lightning and fog included. This is also a great place for a budget-friendly family vacation with lots of Wisconsin Dells hotel deals that can help you enjoy a great time without breaking the bank. Some even include free passes to area attractions and waterparks.

Guest article by: Michelle Ramone