8 New England Theme Parks That Are Great for Families
For a memorable family outing jam-packed with exhilarating rides, indulgent snacks, and giggle-inducing character interactions, head to a New England amusement park. There are some great theme parks in New England that are perfect for families with kids ranging from toddlers to teens. Some are close enough for a day trip, while others are better suited for a weekend getaway. And they all make for a quick, exciting escape. For even more local thrills, explore our theme and water park guides for Boston and Connecticut, and if you have a few extra days for fun and relaxation, check out the Top Amusement Parks Near NYC.
Before you hop in the car, be sure to check each park's official website to confirm hours, as they change by season and also may vary due to weather and COVID-19 restrictions. Many parks are operating under limited capacity, and tickets will sell out fast, so make sure to plan ahead and book tickets online. Some parks offer two-day tickets, and to visit a particular park more than once, consider buying season passes.
Six Flags has rides ranging from "mild" to "max" on the thrill meter; these soaring balloons are on the milder side. Photo courtesy of the author.
Massachusetts Theme Parks
1. Thomas Land and Edaville Family Theme Park—Carver, MA
2021 Update: As of press time, Edaville still does not have an official opening date.
Situated among South Shore cranberry bogs, this growing theme park offers multi-season fun that's particularly appealing to younger kids. Thomas Land, with rides modeled after the island of Sodor, and Dino Land, featuring life-sized, roaring dinosaurs, are included in admission to this amusement park area that includes rides, bumper cars, mini-coasters, and more. It's open on weekends in April, September, and October, and daily by the second week of June through the end of August. Starting in mid-November, Edaville turns into a winter wonderland, illuminated with a "Festival of Lights" and seasonal rides.
2. Six Flags New England—Agawam, MA
2021 Update: Six Flags officially opens May 15. Face masks and social distancing are required. It is also strongly encouraged to purchase both amusement park tickets and parking passes in advance online.
Located just outside of Springfield, Six Flags New England (pictured) has rides that range from “Mild” to “Max” on the “Thrill Meter” and is best for teens and tweens. Concerts, character meet-and-greets, dance parties, parades, and shows round out the entertainment options. Six Flags is also home to New England's largest water park, Hurricane Harbor, with everything from one of the largest wave pools in the country to multi-passenger rafting adventures. The Six Flags season is April through October (weekends only in September and October).
Canobie Lake Park has more than 85 lakeside rides and attractions. Photo courtesy of the park.
New Hampshire Theme Parks
3. Canobie Lake Park—Salem, NH
2021 Update: Canobie Lake is operating at a limited capacity. All visitors must purchase a ticket and make a reservation online in advance. Masks are mandatory and social distancing is encouraged. The park is opening May 29 and will be open weekends from Memorial Day thru late June, Wednesdays thru Sundays from late June through Labor Day, and then weekends through Halloween.
Canobie Lake Park has more than 85 rides, games, live entertainment, and attractions. There are rides for everyone, ranging from roller coasters for maximum thrill-seekers (think 72 feet into the air and a drop that's beyond vertical at 97 degrees) to gentle rides for the young ones and fun family rides. The park hosts a wide variety of spectacular live entertainment throughout the summer, plus fireworks shows around July 4 and SCREEEMFEST in October. The attractions in Castaway Island keep visitors cool during the dog days of summer. The park is open weekends in May, daily from Memorial Day weekend to early September, and weekends in September and October for the Halloween season.
4. Santa's Village—Jefferson, NH
2021 Update: The park is open with limited capacity. Tickets must be purchased in advance online, as there is no option to buy tickets at the entrance. Masks are required in all indoor locations and areas where social distancing can not be maintained. No live shows will be happening this year, but kids can still meet Santa. The park officially opens in late May.
Even when it's hot outside, it's very "cool" in this Christmas-themed park. Go "snow" tubing down a giant slide and bounce up and down the Chimney Drop, enjoy up-close encounters with reindeer, or spend the day lounging in the "polar cap"-decorated water park. Santa's Village opens Memorial Day weekend and is open on weekends in June, September, October, and November. The fun happens daily in July and August. Hours vary and the weather can affect activities, so check the park calendar before visiting.
Story Land has plenty of water rides to help you cool off in the summertime. Photo courtesy of the park
5. Story Land—Glen, NH
2021 Update: The park is opening with limited capacity. Tickets and reservations must be booked in advance online. Face masks are required. Face shields and bandanas are not acceptable as masks. Some rides will not be operating.
Tucked away in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire, Story Land is a bit of a hike from Boston, but it's the perfect theme park for parents and little ones to enjoy together. And with so much to do in the area, make the trip a multi-day family getaway. Rides like the Swan Boats, Antique Cars, and Bamboo Shoots are designed for kid-parent bonding. The Little Dreamers' Nursery Rhyme area is a big hit with preschoolers who revel in literally stepping into their favorite stories, and there are lots of opportunities to meet storybook characters around the park. Story Land is open Memorial Day weekend through early October (weekends only in September and October).
Old-fashioned rides at Quassy. Photo courtesy of Quassy Amusement & Waterpark
Connecticut Theme Parks
6. Quassy Amusement Park—Middlebury, CT
2021 Update: The amusement park rides are open weekends with plans to open the water park May 29. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged.
For more than 100 years, Quassy has been a family favorite, uniting generations and making summer a little extra fun. There are quintessential kiddie rides (like a choo-choo, carousel, or frog hopper), thrill rides for older children, and a water park that the entire family can enjoy. Park operations are in full swing between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with a few weekends before and after those dates. The water park closes at 7pm every day, while the park remains open until 8pm, or 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
7. Lake Compounce—Bristol, CT
2021 Update: Purchasing tickets in advance online is strongly recommended, but not required. The park is operating at a limited capacity, so days will sell out. Face masks and social distancing is in place. The park's schedule is limited to weekends through June and Thursday through Monday in July and August, but make sure to check the official site for updates.
Lake Compounce is a fun place for the whole family, even for non-amusement park enthusiasts. The rides range from sweet kiddie rides to intense thrill rides, including a new triple launch coaster. The park's Antique Carousel, built in 1898, is one of America's oldest. For visitors who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Dino Expedition features life-like dinos and a fossil digging area. Water rides in Crocodile Cove keep visitors cool on hot days, and the fun can last around the clock by staying at Bear Creek Campground. The regular operating season is May to September, plus select times during the holiday season for Holiday Lights.
Get butterflies in Maine. Photo courtesy of York's Wild Kingdom
Maine Theme Parks
8. York's Wild Kingdom—York Beach, ME
2021 Update: York's Wild Kingdom opens May 29 with limited days and hours, so make sure to check their calendar before planning a trip. Face masks and social distancing are required. Bathrooms and snack shack with a limited menu will be open.
A mix of family rides, paddle boats, a miniature golf course, a zoo, and The Butterfly Kingdom guarantee a day (or more) of fun in York Beach. Visit with lions and tigers, watch in wonder as countless butterflies flutter in a 5,500-square-foot exhibit, and venture on more than 20 rides, including a Ferris wheel, a scrambler, a Wacky Mouse Roller Coaster, and bumper cars. For a restful break from all the excitement, step onto the nearby sand and dip your toes in the refreshing ocean. The park opens Memorial Day weekend and closes Labor Day weekend. Check the website for hours and special events.
Note: Six Flags New England offers some helpful tips for visiting with a family; many are practical suggestions that apply to any theme park visit.
This post was originally published in August 2011 and updated in April 2013 & June 2014; revised in June 2016, revised in May 2021
Places featured in this article:
Six Flags New England
Canobie Lake Park
Quassy Amusement Park