Amusement parks near New York City
Get your thrills at these amusement parks in and around NYC, complete with roller coasters, kid-friendly rides and more
Mon May 18 2015
Photograph: courtesy Luna Park
If your youngsters love the carnival rides at NYC street fairs and festivals, they'll flip for the cool roller coasters, games and character visits at these amusement parks near New York City. Some of these fun-filled spots are located right in your favorite NYC parks, while others make great destinations for summer day trips as a family, keeping kids and parents alike entertained with everything from animatronic dinosaurs to splash parks to construction-themed rides.
Amusement parks near NYC
Photograph courtesy Adventureland
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 rides such as the Hip Hop, the Balloon Tower and the Little Dipper log flume—perfect for kids to twirl their hearts out. Little ones will dig the spinning cars, Pirate Island, Helicopters, Viking Voyage and Merry-Go-Round, plus there are water rides like Adventure Falls (flume ride) and Crocodile Run where kids will zoom around the water on green crocodiles. See website for hours of operation. 2245 Route 10, Farmingdale, NY (631-694-6868, adventureland.us). P.O.P Bracelet $27.99.
In the summer of 2014, the lot behind the Sahara Sam's waterpark transformed into Diggerland USA, where landlubbers can operate and drive real backhoes, tractors, dumpers, excavators and skid-steer loaders. In addition to the obstacle courses and rock-climbing wall, the unique park boasts carnivalesque rides made from construction vehicles, like the Spin Dizzy, which spins passengers up, down and around on the arm of a 20-ton excavator. Elsewhere, little construction workers can get a bird's-eye view of the park on the Sky Shuttle, a cranelike truck that'll take them five stories high. 100 Pinedge Dr, West Berlin, NJ (856-768-1110, diggerlandusa.com). Tickets starting at $24.95, kids under 36 inches free.
Photograph: Dorney Park
With more than 100 rides and attractions, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Pennsylvania pack two-in-one thrills. The parks is always introducing new additions to its already impressive collection of family rides, including the Cedar Creek Flyers—which lets riders steer a flying and spinning eagle suspended 28 feet in the air—debuting for the 2015 season. Especially daring tykes can brave The Possessed, a U-shaped coaster that shoots riders up a 184-foot helix at 70mph before they freefall in reverse as the coaster speeds up the opposite track. Little ones have lots to keep them occupied, too: Planet Snoopy offers attractions such as the Flying Ace, a gently swaying swing-set ride, and a giant, inflatable Snoopy moonbounce. 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). May 1—Nov 1; hours vary. Adults and children taller than 48 inches $39.99–$44, children 3 and up under 48" $34, ages 2 and under free.
Photograph: Robie Capps/Dutch Wonderland
Youngsters who aren’t quite big enough for twisty roller coasters will love Dutch Wonderland, a tame amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, boasting over 30 rides, a water play area, walk-around characters and live entertainment. Families can make their way through themed attractions like the Panda Party ride, dino-themed Prehistoric Path and on-water Gondola Cruise, many of which are appropriate even for little ones. Kids can join Princess Brooke on a brand-new Bon Voyage Balloon Chase this season—an attraction that takes rides 20 feet above ground in eight hot air balloons. The balloons rise, fall and rotate clockwise according to the passengers’ controls via a wheel in their balloon’s basket. Make sure to catch daily theater shows and storytimes when the tots need some time to rest their feet. Get to the park early on Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy a buffet breakfast with Merlin and other medieval characters (9–10am, $14.49 per person). 2249 Lincoln Hwy E, Lancaster, PA (866-386-2839, dutchwonderland.com). Open on weekends May 2–23 and Sept 12–Nov 1, open daily May 23–Sept 7. Tickets start at $31.99 per person.
The Flushing Meadows Carousel in Queens becomes a hot attraction for families when this low-key amusement park opens in the spring. Kids can enjoy five other attractions, including a kid-friendly roller coaster; Fantasy Frog Hopper, a ride that flies to the top of a tower and bounces its way back to the ground; Queens Himalaya, a hilly mini-coaster that speeds up and down as you go; Corona Choo Choo, a western-style train for little engineers; and the Queens Motor Speedway, a racecar whip ride. Win prizes at classic carnival games, like swinging on the hi-striker, ring toss and mini basketball toss. And of course, families can also take a spin on the classic carousel. Be sure to check the website for other entertainment throughout the season–beginning with Omar’s Summer Blastoff on Memorial Day, clowns, magicians and Zabo’s Circus Show (June 21). Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens (718-788-2676, fantasyforestnyc.com). Open daily March 28–Oct 12, hours vary. Free admission, tickets vary per attraction ($1 for one ticket, $38 for 50 tickets).
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Field Station: Dinosaurs
Kids can pretend to be prehistoric explorers at this outdoor expedition, where they’ll tramp through the verdant New Jersey Meadowlands alongside animatronic dinosaurs including Stegosaurus and Triceratops. The theme park features 32 life-sized dinosaurs in total, built with sensors and facial-recognition technology that makes them move as visitors draw near. Daring kids will get a thrill from hearing a 15-foot-tall T.rex roar in response to their excited shouts, but there are also activities geared towards the younger set; little ones can pet and hold dinosaur babies at the Dinosaur Meet & Greet, or play Raptor Feud, a dino-centric version of the popular game show that quizzes families on geology and archeology. Check out The Mesozoic Concentration, where your family can experience the nitty-gritty of a dig site and learn about a paleontologist’s tools as you unearth a dinosaur skeleton together. Families can watch the prehistoric creatures come to life on the big screen in Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet 3D. Laurel Hill Park, One Dinosaur Way, Secaucus, NJ (855-999-9010, fieldstationdinosaurs.com). Open weekends May 23–June 28, open Tue through Sun June 30–Sept 6; special hours on Labor Day and Sept 7. Ages 2 and up $15–$40, under 2 free.
Photograph: Courtesy Hershey Par
Your kids will be all in for a trip to a park inspired by their favorite treats…after all, Hershey is as big as it gets when it comes to candy. Go for a spin on Carrousel, zip around on the Cocoa Cruiser, hold on for dear life with the sooperdooperLooper and Trailblazer and put the wee ones on the Dinosaur-Go-Round, Red Baron or Bizzy Bees for an afternoon of fun in the sun. There’s also a pretty sweet water park complete with life-size sandcastles (Sandcastle Cove), huge slides (Coastline Plunge Pipeline) and East Coast Waterworks with seven slides, two crawl-tunnels and 600 interactive water toys. See website for hours of operation. 100 W Hersheypark Dr, Hershey, PA (800-437-7439, hersheypark.com). $61.95, ages 3–8 $38.95, ages 2 and under free.
Photograph: Courtesy Luna Park NYC
It's a sure sign that summer's on the way when the rides at Coney Island open for another season of rollicking good times. In addition to the park's iconic Cyclone, kids with a need for speed will want to hit up the Thunderbolt roller coaster (new in 2014), which is a whopping 115 feet tall and can reach speeds up to 55mph. Don't miss the Scream Zone, a separate section which houses four new rides for brave (and big enough!) kids: two coasters, a spinning disc called the Zenobio, and the Human Sling Shot. Plus, a full-service restaurant, the Cyclone Café , offers sushi rolls as an alternative to the usual hot dog/candy apple/ice cream. Kids who get good grades can even earn bonus credits towards amusement park rides when they present a copy of their report card at guest services. 1000 Surf Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-373-5862, lunaparknyc.com). March 29–Nov 1; hours vary. Free admission, ride and game wristbands $20–$45.
Rejoice: This Jersey Shore town is more family-friendly than MTV-camera ready. Little ones can brave a 175,000–gallon activity pool and two interactive kiddie play areas, water rides like River Adventure and Shotgun Falls and explore (all with parental supervision, of course) three amusement piers (Mariner’s, Surfside and Adventure). In 2015, Morey’s Piers will also offer a new take on their 1970s Gorilla-themed amusement ride; KONG, the animatronic gorilla will snort smoke and fog while eight vintage shark-themed vehicles circle at heights of 26 feet. While Mariner’s Pier (Schellenger Ave) offers traditional amusement park rides like Super Scooters, Teacups and a Ferris wheel, Surfside Pier boasts a variety of kids rides. Thrillseekers should explore Adventure Pier for scream-worthy rides Skycoaster and SlingShot. 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, NJ (609-729-3700, moreyspiers.com). All-Day Water Park $44, under 48” $39; Ride Passes $55, under 48” $45; Ride & Water Park Combo Pass $75, under 48” $57.
Photograph: Courtesy Sesame Workshop
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. Once inside, don't miss Blast Off, which launches kids and parents to Planet Elmo, and Grover's World Twirl, which takes little ones on an internationally themed teacup ride. On hot days, head straight to the Count's Splash Castle, a combination of slides, water wheels, bridges and an eight-foot-tall bucket that dumps a thousand gallons of H2O on the folks underneath it. Be sure to check out Cookie's Monster Land, which introduced five rides, a three-story net climb and a soft play area to the kiddie wonderland last spring. Before leaving, take a stroll through the life-size re-creation of the Sesame Street set, and watch the Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade in celebration of the park's 35th birthday. 100 Sesame Rd, Langhorne, PA (215-752-7070, sesameplace.com). Tickets from $55. Open May 2–Dec 31, hours vary. Ages 2 and up $55, children under 2 free.
The Land of Make Believe & 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 most of its rides. Try the 12,000-square-foot wading pool and the awesome water slides Pirate’s Cannonball and the Black Hole. For a calm water adventure, try 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). Weekends only May 25 –Jun 20, open 10am–6pm daily from Jun 21–Sept 7.
Photograph: Gary Gershoff
Come summer, the ice of Trump Wollman Rink disappears and the space magically transforms into Victorian Gardens, an old-fashioned amusement park withrides including the Aeromax, Kite Flyer or Bumper Boats, plus a fun slide, mini roller coaster and games like Whac-a-Mole, making it a kiddie paradise for all seasons. Catch entertainment throughout the summer including magic shows and comedy performances from the likes of Sammie and Tudie. Wollman Rink, Central Park, enter from 59th St at Sixth Ave (212-982-2229, victoriangardensnyc.com). Open May 23–Sept 15, hours vary. Park admission $8–$9, ride/game tickets $1 (4 tickets per ride/game), unlimited ride wristbands $15–$17.
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