13 Most Dangerous Theme Parks In The U.S.

Theme parks are places perfectly designed to experience adrenaline-inducing fun and excitement in a contained and relatively safe atmosphere. Though every roller coaster, water slide, bungee chair, or high-flying thrill ride comes with a base level of risk, theme parks are typically safer than jumping off a cliff with a parachute or climbing towering ledges with nothing but your finger strength and ability to drive metal into cracks to safeguard against falling to your end. That, of course, doesn't mean theme parks are safe places, and some are far more dangerous than others.

To determine the most dangerous theme parks in the U.S., we considered the vastness of injuries accrued, known deaths to occur at the parks, incidents of equipment malfunctions, hazardous oversight or negligence leading to detriment, and social safety conditions, such as violence. Some of the incidents are gruesome; others are sad. Yet, others are so outlandish that it'll make you wonder how the parks managed to get away with the conditions leading to the incident in the first play. Regardless, all of the events we note might have you second-guessing your next theme park vacation.

1. Action Park – Vernon Township, New Jersey

From 1978 until the park closed in 1996, visitors could enjoy a multitude of rides at New Jersey's Action Park. However, enjoying these rides was easier said than done since they often amounted to injuries and near-drowning incidents. A waterslide with an enclosed loop battered park visitors, leaving them with black eyes and bloody noses. Intoxicated staff and guests weren't likely to be much help in the event of catastrophe. A fresh-water wave pool saw dozens of guests rescued by lifeguards daily. And even with all of this, the visitors kept rolling in.

Action Park was so dangerous that the echos of its hazards prompted an HBO documentary called "Class Action Park," covering the incidents, the park's fraudulent insurance, and rides that no one in their right mind would've designed. At least six people died at Action Park and countless others were injured. It's no wonder the park was closed down in 1996 after a series of lawsuits and fraud charges, but it didn't stay closed forever. The park was bought and reopened under the name Mountain Creek Waterpark, but unlike its previous iteration, Mountain Creek boasts standard safety levels, which, in itself, isn't much of a selling point.

2. Disneyland Park – Anaheim, California

Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, is one of the largest and most visited parks in the United States, and certainly one of the most popular on the West Coast, averaging more than 15 million visitors every year, except the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic. With numbers like that, you'd expect the total incidents to be pretty high as well, and that's definitely true for the theme park powerhouse.

According to DAM Firm, a legal firm specializing in injury law, 29 deaths have occurred at or because of injuries sustained at Disneyland up to November of 2023. The list includes employees, contractors, and visitors. Some of the park's victims were adults and others were children as young as 4 years old. Most of the incidents led to lawsuits, several of which Disney admitted fault and settled for large sums of money. 

Negligence seems to be one of the primary causes of death at Disneyland, but the park has seen everything, including kids accidentally drowning after hiding in the park until after closing hours, those who died by suicide, and two people who were murdered at the park. Regardless, the possibility of a gruesome death isn't something most look for in a vacation. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org

3. Walt Disney World – Orlando, Florida

Like its West Coast sister, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is one of the most popular theme park destinations in the world, if not the most popular adventure park destination in the world, and its historical danger level certainly reflects that. It's important to remember, though, that the number of incidents to take place in this park isn't necessarily more than at other dangerous parks, by rate, but likely due to the exorbitantly high visitor population at Walt Disney World Resorts at any given time.

DAM Firm reports that Walt Disney World has seen over a whopping 60 deaths up to August 2023, which is an insanely high number for a place people metaphorically claw at the doors to get into. This number includes death by natural causes, park-related accidents, vehicle accidents, death by suicide, accidental falls, and more. Several heart attacks prove this park can be dangerous to older populations and those with medical conditions, but the number of head injuries and out-of-court settlements make this park fairly terrifying. Let's not overlook the number of people either. With tens of millions of visitors packed into this park each year, there's a serious risk of disease transfer and other human dangers, which are usually overlooked when choosing to visit amusement parks.

4. Knott's Berry Farm – Buena Park, California

Knott's Betty Farm in Buena Park, California, definitely carries potential dangers to visitors, but the park isn't dangerous in the ways you might expect. Accidental ride malfunctions, negligent operators allowing unsafe riders to hop on attractions out of their safety level, and falls from unsecured rollercoaster seatbelts are the types of hazards most dangerous theme parks are known for. While these are worries at any amusement park, one of Knott's Berry Farm's hazards is the visitors themselves.

A day vacation at the local theme park would be ruined for anyone if they happened to get caught in a random brawl by the Calico Railroad or the Hangtime roller coaster. An incident of violence that broke out in July 2022 was scary enough to warrant a teen chaperone policy, proving it's a possibility. According to the Los Angeles Times, instead of engaging in a personal round of fisticuffs as expected, some witnesses claimed to see the teens responsible for the incident striking innocent bystanders and injuring random parkgoers. Others claimed the incident was more contained, affecting security workers and only a couple of teenagers. It seems that, in actuality, multiple teens were exhibiting riot-like behavior. Two people were taken to the hospital with injuries.

5. Adventureland – Altoona, Iowa

Though Adventureland, nestled in the center of corn country, may not have the number of casualties or incidents as more popular Disney theme parks do, it might not be the safest place to vacation. The first thing to note here is the number of visitors. While Disney parks average in the tens of millions each year, Adventureland averages around a couple million visitors at most. With numbers that low, any deaths are worrisome, and at least three people have died at Adventureland in recent years.

Most recently, a contractor died while working at the park in 2023, and in 2016, an elderly man died on a raft ride known as the Raging River. Unfortunately, the park would keep the ride going until after an 11-year-old boy was killed when a raft flipped in 2021, trapping the family under the water. The incident also hospitalized the boy's father and put his brother in a month-long coma. As you would expect, the family filed a lawsuit against the park following the accident.

Though the family claimed negligence by the park in the lawsuit, Adventureland was sold just months after the incident, and the park's new ownership is reportedly doing their best to make the park a safer place for visitors, so it may still be a theme park worth visiting.

6. Schlitterbahn Waterpark – Kansas City, Kansas

Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas, had one of the most gruesome deaths in theme park history in 2016 when a 10-year-old boy was instantly killed by decapitation when he collided with a pole holding a safety net enclosure on a waterslide. An investigation by filmmaker Nathan Truesdell uncovered some worrisome details in his documentary "The Water Slide" that make this death unnerving.

The slide in question, Verrückt, was built in a hurry in 2012. There was a reality show featuring Schlitterbahn in the near future, and the slide's builders wanted to get it finished in time to hit the screen. Thanks to Kansas' lax laws regarding amusement rides, neither of the designers-builders, one being the park's owner, was required to hold an engineering certificate of any kind. These were two non-engineers who simply liked to build rides. The ride, likewise, didn't require any sort of state inspection, a recipe for pure disaster.

Even the ride's designers said they weren't confident whether they'd live or die when testing the ride out themselves since the sandbags they'd been sending down — the only means of testing done — kept flying around. To solve this, they installed the safety net. An engineer would've likely accounted for potential, deadly issues with the net, but designers weren't quite so qualified. If the park was willing to allow this ride to open, who knows what other dangers are lurking at Schlitterbahn.

7. Rye Playland – Rye, New York

Rye Playland in Rye, New York, is considered a National Historic Landmark, and thanks to that designation and its proximity to Manhattan, it doesn't do too bad for itself. The park has been around since 1928 and has everything to keep a family outing fun and exciting. Unfortunately, it has a fair history of tragedy, too.

A ride known as the Mind Scrambler is responsible for two deaths. The first was a 7-year-old girl who slipped the metal railing meant to hold her in place in 2004. Then, in 2007, a worker was killed when thrown from the same ride, though the rules stated employees weren't allowed on the amusement park rides. Some reports claim the operator knew that the rider wasn't wearing her seat belt when he started the ride, according to Daily Freeman via The New York Times. A little further back, in 2005, a 7-year-old boy died after being stuck under the conveyor belt of a water ride.

Those deaths certainly marked a dark few years for the New York amusement park, but recent ride malfunctions — including the derailment of a train ride in August 2023 and the malfunction of a carousel ride that sent visitors flying in reverse in July of the same year — should keep visitors weary as well.

8. Six Flags

Six Flags is one of the largest amusement park franchises out there. They have a whopping 14 parks that attract over 30 million yearly visitors between them. Not quite as many as the Disney parks, but as a whole, they come in second. With so many bodies moving through their gates, it's not surprising that they have more incidents than most, but three of their parks have collected a higher death toll than most visitors would find reassuring.

Being a franchise with over 60 deaths between its parks, you might want to think twice before visiting your local Six Flags. Even if it is sheer bad luck. The three parks that stand out from the rest include Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey with at least 13 deaths, Six Flags Magic Mountain in California with at least seven deaths, and Six Flags Over Georgia in, well, Georgia, also with seven deaths. Great Adventure takes the cake with eight deaths in a single incident when their Haunted Castle caught fire in 1984. The attraction had neither smoke alarms nor emergency sprinklers. Sure, the parks have been upgraded since the '80s, but Six Flags' body count climbs steadily with at least one or two deaths per year.

9. Kings Island – Warren County, Ohio

No one opens amusement parks with killing on their minds. Having visitors die in your park is bad for business. Amusement parks want you alive and healthy so you keep coming back to spend your money. Places like Kings Island in Warren County, Ohio, tend to rack up injuries and deaths due to accidents, equipment malfunction, and oversights. And Kings Island has seen plenty enough incidents to make visitors think twice before paying admission.

Let's start by saying that Kings Island doesn't seem to have seen any deaths since the turn of the millennia. Before that though, people died or were injured in a number of ways, including two who were electrocuted from exposed wires in a small pond and one who fell 60 feet from a ride on the same day in 1991. Teens have been killed pulling unnecessary stunts, and employees have been killed by animals from a zoo-like exhibit ride. But that was back then.

Things have been less deadly since the year 2000, but the park hasn't been without incident. In 2006, nearly 30 people were injured when a wooden roller coaster went off track. So, it might be best to exercise caution at Kings Island.

10. Waterworld California (now Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord) – Concord, California

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord, once and still colloquially known as Waterworld California, in Concord, California, truly lives by the phrase "go big or go home." The wave pool contains 635,000 gallons of water, the waterslides are gigantic and looping, and the lazy river is over 1,000 feet long. However, unfortunate incidents to have gone down at this park in the past are equally as impressive as the rides, though visitors have had their own part to play.

Unlike the usual ride malfunctions of other dangerous theme parks, Hurricane Harbor has had at least two incidents that most wouldn't expect.  In 2019, one unfortunate individual was shot in the theme park's parking lot before getting to experience the adrenaline rush of the Tornado. The shooter was caught five days later. The summer of 1997 saw the biggest accident at Waterworld California when a graduating class sent over thirty people down a slide at once. The slide collapsed and over 20 people were injured.

Blend the uncontrollable people factor (already shown to cause issues at this park) with Six Flags' overall history of death and injury, and the thought of Hurricane Harbor Concord might give you pause.

11. Six Flags Darien Lake – Buffalo, New York

It's probably shocking to see so many Six Flags locations on this list, but there are a lot of them with tons of visitors, so it makes sense. Some of the Six Flags decisions, on the other hand, don't exactly make sense. Like why Six Flags Darien Lake in Buffalo, New York, decided to keep a dangerous ride in rotation for so long.

In 2011, a double amputee was sent to his death after being ejected from a Man of Steel roller coaster at the Darien Lake location. The ride, which reaches over 200 feet in height, has a rider requirement of at least 54 inches tall. The attendant allowed the man to ride anyway despite not meeting the height requirement. In truth, ejections from Six Flags' Man of Steel rides aren't unheard of, as other visitors have fallen from the Six Flags' Man of Steel ride across the country. The restraints are often called into question, but Six Flags' Darien Lake (and others) have allowed this ride to stay in rotation for over a decade. Only time will tell if they're making similar decisions with other rides.

12. Lagoon Amusement Park – Farmington, Utah

Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah, seems like one of the best ideas for beating the desert heat. With its Rattle Snake Rapids raft ride to wet you down and several roller coasters to cool you in the Utah air, it's got to be a decent money maker. Too bad the danger might outweigh the fun at this particular park.

The Utah park's wooden roller coaster seems to be one of the main causes of their trouble. In 2021, a paraplegic visitor had their foot caught in the ride and destroyed because, as the victim claims, his leg wasn't properly secured. Problems with this coaster date back almost a century though, and the park still keeps it around. In 1989, a girl was killed on the same roller coaster. The deaths and injuries date all the way back to 1934, but we won't bore you with every account since the wooden coaster isn't the only ride to cause incidents. 

A man recently fell and died after dangling from Lagoon Park's Sky Ride (a chair lift) in 2021. As if that's not enough, a huge portion of the park burned to the ground in the '50s. For an amusement park with over 100 years of history, it's done pretty well — this certainly isn't a "Don't Visit" — but the major accidents and recent injuries may put some visitors on edge.

13. Adventuredome Amusement Park – Winchester, Nevada

The last amusement park to make the list of dangerous theme parks is Adenturedome Amusement Park in Winchester Nevada, an indoor amusement park on the Las Vegas Strip. This park has had a few incidents over the years, but what's a little danger in Sin City? That probably depends on if you survive the experience, and the park seems to have a mixed bag of dangers in store.

The most recent incident to occur at Adventuredome involved a shooting inside the indoor park in 2020. A minor opened fire with a handgun, shooting four visitors. Another recent accident happened when a woman fell from the El Loco roller coaster, leading to a double amputation. The woman was reportedly wearing her safety harness and everything, so the incident raised a lot of questions. The roller coasters at Adventuredome hide dangers for specific members of the populous as well, namely those who might not be fit enough for the thrill of a ride that goes 55 miles per hour and drops at 45 degrees. These coasters have claimed the lives of at least two people with pre-existing conditions, so be careful out there.