The Ultimate Guide to Texas’ Top Theme Parks

From Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Fiesta to SeaWorld San Antonio, here's a comprehensive guide to the best theme parks in all of Texas for family fun.

As far as summer traditions go, theme parks are right up there with baseball games and road trips. With the most leisurely time of year quickly approaching and parks now open for the season, we’ve compiled eight of the best theme parks across Texas, from Arlington to Galveston Island. Buckle up for adrenaline-rush thrill rides on speedy roller coasters, slip down seven-story water slides, or go the opposite route entirely and float down a lazy river with a drink in hand. Here’s your guide to doing it all.

Ticket Price: $34.99 and up
This year, Six Flags welcomes two new rides to its already impressive mix. The just-opened Pirates of Speelunker Cave reimagines The Cave, one of the park’s first attractions that dates back to 1964. This new iteration sees guests board a six-passenger boat, where they’ll be immersed into a treasure hunt, with 17 new scenes combining animatronics with cinematic projections. The coming-soon Aquaman: Power Wave is a hybrid roller coaster and water ride that goes backwards and forwards, sending riders straight up 148 feet into the sky, before barreling them down the track at 63 miles per hour to a splash zone.

Ticket Price: $49.99 and up
SeaWorld is known for its animal experiences, where you can get up close and personal with dolphins and penguins. But don’t sleep on the rides. New this season is Tidal Surge, which is billed as the world’s tallest and fastest pendulum swing ride. Strap in with your legs dangling, and you’ll swing back and forth at speeds up to 68 miles per hour, reaching heights up to 135 feet. After exiting the ride, take a quick break to get your bearings and find your land legs.

If you go before May 30, check out the Seven Seas Food Festival. On weekends, it features more than 60 global cuisines (Brazilian, German, Korean) and nearly 50 beer, wine, and cocktail selections, so you’ll have plenty to eat and drink throughout the day.

Schlitterbahn

New Braunfels

Ticket Price: $39.99 and up
Located on the banks of the Comal River, this family-friendly park has 51 attractions, from adrenaline-spiking water slides and chutes to low-key pools and lazy rivers, so there’s something for everyone in your party. A fan-favorite is the Master Blaster, a unique undulating slide that propels your tube uphill with jets of water to a height of six stories before you race down to the bottom.

Schlitterbahn invested more than $4.5 million in the offseason to upgrade the 70-acre park, including its Lagoon Activity Pool, where you can float in a tube, play water volleyball, or avail yourself of drinks at the swim-up bar. There’s also a new B&B Barbecue truck on site, which is serving slow-smoked meats like brisket and pulled pork.

Ticket Price: $39.99
Big Rivers has six-story water slides, wave pools, and the Houston-area’s longest lazy river—all great options for cooling off when the summer heat becomes unbearable. There’s also Wild Isle, a floating challenge course situated across the onsite lake, where you can test your athleticism over a series of bouncing, slippery obstacles. But new this year is the Big Rivers Fairgrounds, which adds 11 amusement park rides to the mix, including a spinning, flipping roller coaster dubbed Rolling Thunder and a couple of swing-style rides that will whip you through the air. The fairgrounds add more activities to your itinerary, while also providing a few options for anyone who doesn’t want to get back into the car soaking wet.

Ticket Price: $34.99 and up
Fiesta Texas is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this summer, with a festival through May 30. Get your fill at food and drink booths serving tacos, brisket-stuffed jalapeños, Frito pies, and adult beverages, then stick around for fireworks once the sun goes down. Later this summer, the park will debut Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger, the world’s steepest dive roller coaster. It sends riders down 2,500 feet of track, with a 95-degree drop, and multiple inversions, so you don’t want to miss that. But until then, you can get your thrills on existing coasters like the Iron Rattler, The Poltergeist, and Batman: The Ride, which hurtle you through space with plenty of twists, turns, and loops.

Ticket Price: $24.99 and up
When the temperatures heat up, it’s best to spend as much time in and around water as possible. Hurricane Harbor’s three million gallons of water across 40 rides, slides, and pools make that easy to accomplish. The new Banzai Pipeline opened last year with three-side-by-side slides that twist, turn, and spin, so try them all. But leave room for classics like the pitch-dark, looping Black Hole, and the three-slide complex featuring seven-story slides Dive Bomber, Der Stuka, and Geronimo, a free-fall experience that will quite literally take your breath away.

Ticket Price: $26.99 and up
This 25-acre park opened in 2016 and sports 30 waterslides, a massive wave pool, and a lazy river that stretches more than five football fields. Throw in the tacos, pizza, barbecue, and frozen cocktails served in hollow-out pineapples, and you’ll do just fine here on any hot summer day. Check the calendar before buying tickets, so you can time your visit to the summer concert series, where performers take the stage to provide a live soundtrack to the day’s festivities. There’s also a Typhoon Texas located just outside Austin, giving you another option for water slides and corn dogs. Try one or hit them both.

Ticket Price: $20.00 to $27.99, depending on height
Located on the tip of Galveston Island and extending over the water, Pleasure Pier is a popular destination for vacationers and beachgoers who want a break from the sand. The pier isn’t adding any new attractions this year, but it features fan-favorites like the Iron Shark roller coaster, which elicits screams via its 100-foot vertical drop and four full inversions, and the Texas Star Flyer, which suspends riders 230 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. There’s also a log flume, spinning rides, carnival games, and more ways to pass the time, including restaurants, an ice cream shop, and even a couple bars where you can score a life-giving beer or Margarita while giving your lungs a break.

Kevin Gray is a freelance writer and editor covering all things food, drinks, and travel. He’s written for The Dallas Morning NewsForbesLiquor.comMen’s Health, and Wine Enthusiast, and his extensive home bar is turning into a real Hoarders situation.