6 hidden-gem theme parks to discover this summer, from Santa’s Village to Gilroy Gardens


Sure, you know about Disney World. Chances are, you’re also familiar with Universal Orlando. Megaparks such as Cedar Point in Ohio probably register as well for their huge collections of attention-grabbing roller coasters and thrill rides.

But there are a bunch of lower-profile theme parks and amusement parks that deserve some love. They may not be that well-known beyond their local markets, but they are nonetheless wonderful places to visit that are filled with fun – and often surprising – things to experience. Some of these park gems are more hidden than others, but all of them warrant consideration as you plan your warm-weather road trips.

Let’s begin our journey in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Amid the region’s stunning natural splendor are two theme parks that cater to the 12-and-under set and their families. Both are loaded with charm.

Santa’s Village in Jefferson dates back to the early 1950s, and the same family that opened it still owns and operates it with loving care. Midcentury crooners belt out holiday tunes over the sound system, the Reindeer Shoe Blacksmith Shop greets guests and Santa Claus awaits visitors in his cozy log cabin.

The Christmas-themed haven may seem frozen in time, but there are modern touches as well such as Poogee Penguin’s Spin Out, a coaster with rotating cars, and the 3D film “A Tinkerdoodle Christmas.” Santa’s Village welcomes guests in the warmer months but remains open through the fall and, yes, the holiday season. The park never lets a little snow get in the way of fun. (It is in the White Mountains, after all.)

Read more…