Day trips: Amusement parks worth the admission

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  • Photograph: Bob Skalkowski

    Hersheypark

    Hersheypark

  • Photograph: Bob Skalkowski

    Hersheypark

    Hersheypark

  • Photograph: Six Flags

    Six Flags Great Adventure

    Six Flags Great Adventure

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Lake Compounce

    Lake Compounce

    Lake Compounce

  • Photograph: Courtesy of Lake Compounce

    Lake Compounce

    Lake Compounce

Photograph: Bob Skalkowski

Hersheypark

Hersheypark


RECOMMENDED: See all day trip ideas

Hersheypark; Hershey, PA
Travel time: Three hours from NYC by car
Disneyland meets Candy Land at this kitschy theme park, a celebration of all things Hershey's chocolate. But it's not all sweetness: A trio of roller coasters—Fahrenheit, Great Bear and Storm Runner—provide adult thrills by dropping you 97 degrees, dangling you below the track or launching you from 0 to 72mph in two seconds (and straight up 18 stories), respectively. When you need to relax, head to the Boardwalk to lazily float along the Intercoastal Waterway or hit several other water rides. The 1933 Hotel Hershey (thehotelhershey.com) offers choc-inspired treatments in its on-site spa. hersheypark.com

Playland; Rye, NY
Travel time: One hour from NYC by train
At the country's only Art Deco fun park, the big draw is the 1929 wooden Dragon Coaster. But Playland has five more adult and two kiddie rides that predate 1930 too. Walk the mall (as it is now) while you can: Westchester County recently called for proposals to bring the park into the 21st century. After a dip in the bracing Long Island Sound, satisfy your shellfish cravings at Seaside Johnnies (seasidejohnnies.com). ryeplayland.org

Six Flags Great Adventure; Jackson, NJ
Travel time: Two hours from NYC by bus or car
The wildest roller coaster here is named after Kingda Ka, the Bengal tiger that lives next to the ride, which is the tallest in the world (456 feet) and the fastest in North America (128mph). It's got a new rival this year: the Green Lantern, a stand-up coaster that swings riders through upside-down loops and corkscrew curls. If you prefer water in your face to wind, hit Hurricane Harbor's water park rides. For ground-level thrills, drive through Wild Safari's fields of elephants, rhinos and kangaroos. sixflags.com/greatadventure.

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom; Allentown, PA
Travel time: Two to three hours from NYC by bus or car
The park map here is dominated by Steel Force, a looming metal coaster that stretches for 5,600 feet—the longest on the East Coast—and takes riders on a 205-foot drop. But Dorney isn't one of those amusement parks that concentrates solely on coasters. As the name suggests, Wildwater Kingdom is almost on equal footing and features water attractions both tall (the 70-foot Aquablast) and vast (the 590,000-gallon Wave Pool). And since you're in Pennsylvania, make sure you grab a Rita's Water Ice before you leave the park (and don't make the mistake of calling it an Italian ice—you'll sound like a tourist). Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom (610-395-3724, dorneypark.com). $23--$40.
Make it an overnight: Allentown has more to offer than that Billy Joel song would suggest: an art museum (610-432-4333, allentownartmuseum.org), the Da Vinci Science Center (484-664-1002, davinci-center.org) and a history museum at a site where the Liberty Bell was hidden from the British (610-435-4232, libertybellmuseum.org). Or you can screw all that educational stuff and head straight for the go-karts at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix (866-577-5278, lehighvalleygrandprix.com). When it's time to hit the hay, do so in an actual barn at the Fogelsville's Glasbern Country Inn, a converted 19th-century farm that serves a killer country breakfast (610-285-4723, glasbern.com; weekends from $165).

Lake Compounce; Bristol, CT
Travel time: Two and a half hours from from NYC by car
Lake Compounce's days as an amusement park date to 1846, so it makes sense that its most popular ride is a retro one: the Boulder Dash, a wooden coaster built into the side of a mountain. (It ranked No. 4 on Amusement Today's 2010 list of the top ten wooden roller coasters.) Compounce isn't all old-timey, though. New this year is the Rev-O-Lution, a spinning-platform ride that also moves up and down on a half-pipe-shaped track, ensuring maximum nausea for the weak-of-stomach. Over at the lake, seven water rides will have visitors dodging waves and sliding through darkened tunnels. Lake Compounce (860-583-3300, lakecompounce.com). $18--$36, parking $8.

Users say

4 comments
Friendly-Hotels.com
Friendly-Hotels.com

When I think of NYC, I think of Central Park, Museums, Great Architecture, Brooklyn Bridge and so on.  I don't really think about theme parks in and close to New York.  And from this article it looks like there are some excellent theme parks with some really thrilling rides.  I think it should be on everyone's list to visit a theme park in New York City. 

Florentina
Florentina

Is this outdated? Just a concern...

Serra
Serra

This was much more helpful than bing.

Reynoldo Reynoldo
Reynoldo Reynoldo

This should be made into a movie!!!!!!! You is like my nuevo idol for like ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was fighting some knarly great white sharks the other day in NYC, I was, when I read this like so underestimated by such work!!!!!!!! Totally subscribed to your you tube channel bro.

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