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What Is A Theme Park? | Simply Explained & Most Popular Parks

Theme parks and amusement parks have been around for decades, but understanding what exactly makes a theme park different from an amusement park might not always be so easy to figure out. 

Our Theme Park Guide details what defines a theme park as well as some helpful differentiators between theme parks and amusement parks. 

Topics We'll Cover About Theme Parks:

  • What Is A Theme Park?
  • Theme Park vs Amusement Park
  • What Are The Most Popular Theme Parks In The World?

 Islands of Adventure Sign

What Is A Theme Park?

Simply put, a theme park is an entertainment complex usually made up of rides, shows, and games all centered around one overarching theme. 

Theme parks are typically entire environments that are based off a fictional land or concept to truly immerse visitors in the fictional world that has been created around them.

There is also often a detailed, fictional backstory to most theme parks that help make the area come to life even further.

Knott's Beary Tales Sign

The Walt Disney Company is most well known for their theme parks which have themes encompassing fantasy tales, movies and other mythology. 

Other theme parks like Islands of Adventure are themed after multiple lands based on works of literature like comics (Marvel) and books (Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss).

Theme parks can truly have any theme, and as we explain in the next section, this theme is what sets a theme park apart from amusement parks. 

Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride

Theme Park vs Amusement Park

Amusement parks and theme parks by definition are nearly identical, except for one thing...

Theme parks take amusement parks to the next level by having a theme! 

Amusement parks are going to be entertainment centers with rides, shows, and games, but there really isn't any sort of cohesive theme that tells a story or makes things flow together. 

Amusement parks often have rides and shows with minimal similarities and no themed stores or restaurants on their property. You'll get more of a straight-to-the-point and less fluff vibe at amusement parks compared to theme parks.

Hangtime Rollercoaster

Your overall surroundings at an amusement park overall going to be far less immersive than what you would find at a theme park, and the rides will likely be the same - less theming, but usually still packed with thrills and fun. 

The final, but big difference is the price point. Theme parks will nearly always be much more expensive to enter when compared to the price of admission at an amusement park.

While many theme parks are now over $100 a day to enter, you can often get into most amusement parks for less than $50 or even $20 in some cases. 

It's A Small World

What Are The Most Popular Theme Parks In The World?

Based on the latest data from 2021, below are the most popular theme parks in the world in terms of annual attendance according to the Themed Entertainment Association:

  1. Magic Kingdom: 12,691,000
  2. Islands of Adventure: 9,077,000
  3. Universal Studios Florida: 8,987,00
  4. Disney's Hollywood Studios: 8,589,000
  5. Disneyland Park: 8,573,000
  6. Shanghai Disneyland: 8,480,000
  7. EPCOT: 7,752,000
  8. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom: 7,452,000
  9. Disney's Animal Kingdom: 7,194,000
  10. Tokyo Disneyland: 6,300,000



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