Kentucky's major amusement park, Kentucky Kingdom, has had an odd history. It opened in 1987 on the grounds of the Kentucky State Fair. The park has served as an extension to the fair during its annual run in August. For the rest of the season, it has been a standalone park. In 1997, Six Flags took over operation and changed the name to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. It added a few coasters and brought in DC Comics and Looney Tunes characters.
In 2010, however, Six Flags closed the park. It remained closed until 2014. During that period, the state only had one park to speak of, the relatively small Beech Bend. In 2014, one of Kentucky Kingdom's original owners reopened the park and dropped the "Six Flags" from its name.
The following Kentucky parks are operating. They are listed alphabetically.
It’s not really a theme park or an amusement park (or is it? Read our article, Is Noah's "Ark Encounter" a Theme Park?). The biblical-themed attraction bills itself as a “theme park.” With no coasters, dark rides, or other conventions of the genre, that may be misleading. But it does have a “life-size” rendition of Noah’s Ark.
The traditional amusement park in Bowling Green has been in operation since 1898. It has three small coasters, a vintage Pretzel dark ride, a drop tower, a few spinning thrill rides, and a collection of family rides and kiddie rides. The Splash Lagoon water park is included with admission. In 2016, it added a new four-slide complex that includes Cyclone Saucers, a series of bowl slides. Beech Bend has an adjacent speedway and campgrounds.
The Wild West-themed small park used to be known as Guntown Mountain. It is currently under development. The park is planning to offer Can-Can dancers, a haunted house, and carnival rides.
As you might imagine, horseback riding is the featured attraction here. But Jesse James also offers family entertainment center staples such as go-karts, mini-golf, bumper boats, bumper cars, an alpine slide, and a zipline.
The major amusement park has a nice collection of coasters, including Lightning Run, Storm Chaser, T3, and the wooden Thunder Run. It also offers a big Ferris wheel, a river raft ride, a splashdown ride, a "5-D" Cinema, and a nice collection of spinning rides.
Hurricane Bay Water Park is included with admission. Among its attractions is Deep Water Dive, one of the country’s tallest speed slides, and Deluge, an uphill water coaster.
For 2019, Kentucky Kingdom added Kentucky Flyer, a family wooden coaster. The ride experience is similar to Wooden Warrior at Quassy in Connecticut, which was built by the same manufacturer. It will be the park’s sixth coaster.
In 2018, the park added Scream Extreme, a thrilling flat ride. In 2017, Kentucky Kingdom added Eye of the Storm, a giant loop ride that sends passengers 360 degrees forwards and backwards.
At its two locations, the large indoor family entertainment centers offer a wide variety of attractions including go-karts, mini-golf, laser tag, a 4-D motion theater, bumper cars, bowling, VR experience, arcades, a small roller coaster and other rides.
Other parks that used to operate in the state include Joyland in Lexington. It operated from 1923 to 1964 and offered two coasters, including the Wildcat. White City opened in Louisville in 1907 and closed in the 1920s. Its two coasters were the Figure 8 and the Scenic Railway. There was another ride known as the Scenic Railway (which was a common name of the earliest roller coasters) at Ludlow Lagoon. That park, which was located in Ludlow, opened in 1895 and closed in 1918.
Here are some resources to find nearby parks and make travel plans: