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Amusement parks near New York City

Skip town to these five thrill parks-all just minutes away from the Big Apple.

Dorney Park Photo

SWING TIME Watch the kids soar at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania.

Dorney Park Photo

Amusement park options around New York can seem a little tired: Either take on the Cyclone at Coney Island for the umpteenth time, or brave New Jersey Turnpike gridlock in order to fasten yourself into soulless comic-book-hero rides at Six Flags. But plenty of fun, kitschy and tot-friendly amusement parks are accessible by car or train in two hours or less. Some have been family-owned for generations, and while only one could be described as a megapark, what these places lack in the Tallest, Fastest or Shiniest departments, they make up for in character and personality.

Quassy Amusement Park

For more than 100 years, Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, has played host to young families seeking more heartwarming fun than heart-stopping thrills. The crowd happily snakes from the ’50s-era kiddie copters, fighter jets and boats, and the carousel—which dates to the 1920s and is the oldest ride in the park—to more modern additions, including the Saturation Station water park and the Big Flush water coaster. Families can rent a paddle boat and shove off into the park’s sparkling Lake Quassapaug, or relax with a picnic. This is a pay-as-you-go park, and special pricing events, such as “25 night,” when all rides, soda and cotton candy cost a quarter, make it even more budget-friendly.

2132 Route 64, Middlebury, CT (203-758-2913, quassy.com). Travel: Metro-North to Waterbury, then take a taxi eight miles to Middlebury. Travel time by car: Two hours. Schedule and prices vary; check the website.


With its mix of roller coasters, carousels, swings and ten acres of greenery, Adventureland feels like a Midwest county fair. Catering mostly to Long Island families seeking a mellow good time, Adventureland offers a veritable smorgasbord of colorful, sturdy-looking rides, such as the Hip Hop, the Balloon Tower and the Little Dipper log flume—perfect for kids to twirl, whirl and hurl (just kidding!) their hearts out.

2245 Route 10, Farmingdale, NY (631-694-6868, adventureland.us). Travel: LIRR to Farmingdale, then take a taxi two miles to Adventureland. Travel time by car: One hour. Schedule varies. Adults and children 48 inches and taller $24.99, under 48 inches $20.99; single-ride tickets $1 each.

The Land of Make Believe and Pirate’s Cove

Don’t sit on the sidelines while the kids hit the coasters. The Land of Make Believe and Pirate’s Cove in Hope, New Jersey, is a sweet-as-pie amusement park where parents are invited, nay, encouraged to participate. Legend has it that founder Hermann Maier made it his mission to open a true family amusement park after a visit with his children to Coney Island in the 1940s found him sitting alone on a concrete bench, just watching. Today, the Maier family still runs the retro-y LoMB, where adults can queue up for 16 of its 19 rides. There’s also a water park with a huge 12,000-square-foot wading pool and the awesome water slides Pirate’s Cannonball and the Black Hole. The most popular adult attraction, though, is tubing along lazy waterway Blackbeard’s River; the ride is the buoyant equivalent of chilling in a backyard hammock.

354 Great Meadows Rd (Route 611), Hope, NJ (908-459-9000, lomb.com). Travel: Accessible by car only. Travel time: One hour. May 23--Jun 14: Sat, Sun 10am--6pm. Jun 20—Sept 7: Daily 10am--6pm. Also open the weekend after Labor Day, Sep 12 and 13. $21, seniors $19, under 18 $23, under 2 free. Cash or Discover card only.

Sesame Place

At Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, each of the dozens of water slides, rides and attractions is aimed at kids ages two to tween—and anyone else nostalgic for a certain PBS show that infuses every inch of this 14-acre theme park. While Cookie Monster, Big Bird and other costumed characters wander about, families can try out Grover’s World Twirl (a.k.a. the teacup ride), a not-too-scary VaporTrail roller coaster and Sky Splash, a six-story water ride crowned with Ernie’s giant rubber ducky. The 21,000-square-foot Elmo’s World, the park’s first major addition since 1998, offers rides specifically targeted at kids ages two to six. New in 2009, the Count’s Splash Castle is a multi-level attraction with a one-thousand gallon 8 ft tipping bucket, multiple water slides, valves, levers, water curtains, bridges, hydro blasters, bubbler jets, bongos, and water wheels. If your crew gets waterlogged, skip over to Rock Around the Block, a daily 15-minute musical and dance parade.

100 Sesame Rd, Langhorne, PA (215-752-7070, sesameplace.com). Travel: NJ Transit to Trenton, then take SEPTA to Sesame Place. Travel time by car: 90 minutes. Open daily May 22—Sep 7: Hours vary. $50.95, seniors $49.45, children under 2 free.

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom

With more than 100 rides and attractions, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania, pack two-in-one thrills. In 2008, the park added an insane addition to its already impressive collection of rides: The Possessed, a U-shaped coaster in which riders are shot up a 184-foot helix at 70mph and then freefall in reverse as the coaster speeds up the opposite track. But little ones have lots to keep them occupied, too: Camp Snoopy offers attractions such as the Flying Ace, a gently swaying ship, and Tot Spot features midway games and rides. If you’re visiting on or after Memorial Day weekend, bring your bathing suits; the park’s water slides, play areas and wading pool make all the sweat bearable.

3830 Dorney Park Rd, Allentown, PA (610-395-3724, dorneypark.com). Travel: Accessible by car only. Travel time by car: 90 minutes. May 22—Sep 7; hours vary. Adults and children taller than 48 inches $27.99--$39.99, children 3 and older and seniors $19.99, 2 and under free.

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