Flushing Meadows Corona Park is already jam-packed with cool kids' attractions like the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo and a historic carousel. But there's always room for more. Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel, the only amusement park in Queens, has been a welcome addition to the park since its opening in 2013.
Before you start thinking Fantasy Forest is the next Coney Island, be advised: It's much more modest. In addition to the carousel, there are six fairly tame rides, best for younger children, as well as a few games. New in 2016 is the Bouncy Baja Buggies ride, which features ATVs simulating a wild ride on the sands of the Baja Peninsula. It is expected to open Saturday, May 14.
Fantasy Forest is certainly worth a stop during your day out in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, especially if you have preschoolers in tow. Bring a picnic lunch, hang out under the shady trees or plop down on one of the many benches and stay a while.
There are six rides: the aforementioned Bouncy Baja Buggies; the Fantasy Frog Hopper, which goes up and down; the Corona Cobra Coaster; a circular track ride called Queens Himalaya; the Corona Choo Choo train and the Queens Motor Speedway. There are also four games: the Ring Toss, Basketball Shoot-Out, the old strongman Hi-Striker and Rising Waters.
The management company has worked hard to beautify this enclave and it looks great. The sizable, four-rows deep carousel with 71 horses to ride, plus a couple of chariots, got a much-needed coat of new paint a few years ago. Vintage signs from the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs give the spot a retro feel. There are plenty of shady benches, especially appealing if your children are tall enough to go on the rides by themselves. There's also a picnic table and plenty of grass where you can put down a blanket and eat.
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Fantasy Forest marked my 3-year-old's first amusement park visit, and she spent two hours going on all the rides over and over. She's still thanking me daily for taking her to the "music" park. The current selection of rides is perfect for preschoolers and young grade schoolers ages 3 to 8. Most rides have a minimum height requirement of 33 to 36 inches, and children can ride alone at 36 or 42 inches, depending on the attraction. Some rides, like the carousel and the Choo Choo, allow children under the height minimum to ride as long as a parent accompanies them (parents ride for free in such instances). All height minimums must be met on other rides, such as the Frog Hopper. My daughter's favorites were the Queens Himalaya, the carousel and the Corona Choo Choo. I was impressed she tried them all!
Fantasy Forest is open from April through November. Visit the website for the complete schedule. Admission is free but tickets must be purchased for rides. An unlimited wristband is available on weekdays. On Sundays and holidays, there are free interactive performances at 2 and 4pm by clowns, magicians or jugglers.
Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel is located inside Flushing Meadows Corona Park right next to the merry-go-round. Enter at 111th Street and 55th Avenue. If you're bringing a stroller be warned: There are stairs. However, readers tell us there's a ramp all the way to the right.
All photos courtesy of the venue.
This article first published in May 2013.