Best Theme Park City to Move To

July 16, 2014, 12:54 PM

My husband and I are currently researching new cities to move to. Having lived in Memphis my entire life, this is both exciting and daunting. Concerning our boys, we would love to move to a city either near or with a theme park and many family friendly attractions. We are looking to move in the next couple of years. We both love the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and know that we would have Dollywood and be even closer to Bush Garden Williamsburg. I would like to hear though from those outside of these two areas. What do you love and hate about living in a tourist town? Is it worth moving within an area for a theme park or is it better to live a city or so away? Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Replies (12)

July 16, 2014, 1:05 PM

For some reason I am unable to get the edit button to work. As I read what I had written, I realized that it may sound like I only want information concerning Williamsburg and Gatlinburg. I want to know of other cities across the U.S. that offer theme parks and family friendly events. Thanks again

July 16, 2014, 1:24 PM

In my last position with the government, Amanda, I used to travel all over the United States and the world and I can tell you that outside of Orlando, the best place to be to see theme parks and family friendly attractions is.... Washington, DC.

Several amusement and theme parks are within a three hour driving distance, and the place abounds with great public monuments and museums, not to mention Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields galore. It really is hard to beat.

Now with that said, the Cocoa Beach area is a close second. Orlando is an hour away. The Kennedy Space Center is nearby, and historic St Augustine and Daytona International Speedway are a short distance away. Plus the lifestyle is relatively laid back as long as you can deal with the somewhat irritating Yankee retirees and snowbirds that frequent the I-95 corridor.

Edited: July 16, 2014, 2:09 PM

Thanks Tim. Before my father-in-law passed away, he lived in Charles Town, WV. He had a beautiful place overlooking the Shenandoah Valley and was about an hour outside of D.C. You truly can't beat the beauty, history, and such of this area. The only problem with that is the memories for my husband. He went to so many of the attractions and such with his father that I don't think he could stand living there again.

I have been to Cocoa Beach in the past. It is lovely. We have been looking at Florida, but have wondered what else is out there.

Edited: July 16, 2014, 2:57 PM

My family and I loved Williamsburg, Va. -- it was among the small handful of the many, many cities that we've visited on our cross-country roadtrips that we considered, if just for a moment, as a new place to live. Obviously, Busch Gardens is right there, and Kings Dominion is nearby, plus all the colonial and historic attractions.

I lived in Orlando for a couple years, but it's a one-industry town on the south side of the city. It's great if you love parks, or work there, but I could see the appeal wearing thin after a while. I've joked that I felt my brain melting after a year in Florida and needed to get away.

If you want access to multiple top theme parks and everything else a big city has to offer, the Los Angeles area is the obvious choice in the United States. You've got the Disneyland parks, a growing Universal Studios Hollywood and a resurgent Knott's Berry Farm, with Magic Mountain to the north and Legoland and SeaWorld in San Diego to the south. (And this is why we're here!)

If you or anyone else reading is looking for multiple parks in the same metro area, don't overlook San Antonio, which is the only other metro area in the country with parks from two chains, outside Florida and California, with SeaWorld and Six Flags both in San Antonio.

But to the question asked, Eastern Tennessee is a lovely place and I've known many people who work happily in Knoxville. (I was offered a transfer there once, but turned it down.) The National Park is a great draw, too. And we really need someone to cover Dollywood for us, Amanda!

July 16, 2014, 5:18 PM

I'll echo Robert's response that Orlando itself grows old after a while, but I'll put in a plug that not all of Florida is brain melting :-). Up near Tallahassee, where I am, we're only 4 hours from Orlando and all it offers, about 5 hours from Tampa and Busch Gardens, 5 hours from Atlanta and SFGA, only an hour from some of the nicest beaches around, and, as a bonus, only 5 hours from New Orleans -- yes, not technically a theme park destination, but still an awesome place to visit and it's got a great zoo and aquarium :-). Oh, and we have seasons, sort of...some years more than others, of course, but this year we had an ice storm in January!

Of course, it all depends on your personal preferences and an any employment requirements. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Edited: July 17, 2014, 9:45 AM

My husband can easily get a lateral transfer to cities in East Tennessee. So, it is likely that you, Robert, will have someone to cover Dollywood :). We have even done some house hunting over there. Right now, he has some career opportunities in Austin and Aurora. In a few months, he will have finished some extra schooling with his degree that will open up even more job possibilities. Our sons want to desperately move to Florida. I would like to still have seasons, so Tallahassee does sound better.

Keep the info coming on your cities! All information is appreciated.

Edited: July 17, 2014, 12:38 PM

To me, Orlando is the only theme park city. Theme parks are its main industry. It is no different than Las Vegas as a Casino town since it is the main industry. Despite the fact that many people say Disney World is stagnant, I beg to differ. Disney World has much more to enjoy and experience. The theme park fan is in their own mecca, a paradise.

Los Angeles has many industries. Theme parks are a side show. They developed over time to service the locals. While the tourists might enjoy visiting Disneyland and Universal, they are mainly there to visit the various attractions that are not theme park related.

July 17, 2014, 2:22 PM

Somewhere along I-90 in the Midwest. Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point, and Holiday World all within a half days drive. That puts me where, right about South Bend?

July 17, 2014, 3:00 PM


The Tampa Bay area - where I live - is a good choice. It's 1 hour away of Orlando, and it has a theme park - Busch Gardens. If you like the beach, Honeymoon Island is close and perfect for a family. If you like small towns, Downtown Dunedin is a very nice place to walk and eat. Plus an aquarium, a children's museum, and an annual strawberry festival. If you have the money, buy - or rent - a house or apartment at Westchase - my favorite suburb anywhere.

Edited: July 17, 2014, 4:18 PM

I live in Orange County, CA and am fortunate to have seven major parks within 2 hours of my house: The Disneyland Resort and Knott's Berry Farm are both about 30 minutes away, LEGOLAND California is about 45 minutes, Universal Studios Hollywood is around an hour, SeaWorld San Diego is somewhere around 1 hr, 15 minutes, and Six Flags Magic Mountain is a 90 minute drive without traffic. There is a lot of other stuff to do here as well. I do think Southern California is a pretty good place for a theme park enthusiast to live, but I have to admit that if you visit the parks frequently you will get tired of them, and you pretty much have to fly or make a multi day drive to get to any other major parks.

Excluding the obvious Orlando, here are a couple other places I could think of as being good for a theme park enthusiast (or at least places I would choose):

Cincinnati: You've got Kings Island right nearby and Kentucky Kingdom is also within day trip distance. For a longer trip, Holiday World, Indiana Beach, and Cedar Point are within 4 hours or so.

Philadelphia: While there isn't a park right near Philadelphia, Six Flags Great Adventure and Dorney Park are both only about an hour away. If you're willing to go a bit further, you can get to places like Morey's Piers, Coney Island, Hersheypark, Knoebels Amusement Park, and many more small and mid-size parks. Even places like Six Flags New England and Kings Dominion aren't all that far away, so you've got a ton of variety here.

July 17, 2014, 5:40 PM

Thanks everyone for the responses. One thing I wonder also about is crime rate. Here in Memphis, our tourists areas are in or are surrounded by the most dangerous and crime ridden areas. No true Memphian travels these streets even in daylight. Graceland is in the heart of the worst and at the end of Beale Street begins another dangerous part. Our Pyramid is three blocks from a never-ending turf war for rival gang.

What areas should we avoid looking when considering these cities?

July 19, 2014, 8:58 AM

While I would love for you to move to I-90 (my area), Great America, Cedar Point, and Holiday World are still pretty far from each other (more than a half day drive)

To answer your question, Orlando, but I am not sure if I would want to move there (sorry Floridians)

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