Theme & Water Parks

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12 Picture-Perfect Holiday Day Trips Near NYC

New York City is magical during the holiday season. However, if you're looking to experience some holiday happenings not too far from home, we've rounded up great options for family day trips, where kids can see Santa, dazzling Christmas lights, and even a North Pole village.

From right-in-our-backyard picks to rustic Christmas fun in Mystic, Connecticut and the Hudson Valley, here are a dozen holiday outings—listed roughly from nearest to farthest from Midtown—worth a drive or train trek this holiday season.

Top 10 Christmas Towns and Villages That Absolutely Sparkle

When it comes to the best places to visit for Christmas as a family, there are plenty of holiday travel options. You can head to Rome and Vatican City to soak in the religion of it all. Vienna, beautifully drenched in festive lights, boasts first-rate Christmas markets and concerts. Head north to Lapland, Finland, to visit Santa’s official hometown. Or, if you want to lie beneath Christmas-lit palm trees, a Caribbean vacation might do the trick.

Yet, some of the best Christmas towns and bedecked Christmas villages are actually right here in the US, offering those traveling with small kids a way to save on money and time. These local destinations go all out for Christmas with unique holiday light shows, special performances, and plenty of opportunities to meet with Santa Claus.

Read on for some of our favorite Christmas vacation ideas for those looking to get into the holiday spirit in a big way, from New York City to Williamsburg, Virginia, to Newport Beach, California. Find even more ideas in our Family Travel Guide.

Hersheypark's Brand-New Chocolatetown Looks Mighty Sweet

Just when you thought a visit to Hersheypark couldn't get any more tempting, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, amusement park announced a sweet surprise for fans of its chocolate emporium. It's adding a Chocolatetown, an all-new section of the theme park that will connect Hersheypark and Hershey's Chocolate World, opening in the summer of 2020. Expect a major new roller coaster, and yes, plenty of chocolate, including new dessert spots.

The expansion will further the vision of Milton S. Hershey, a real-life Willy Wonka, who brought his sweet dream to life in 1907 when he built the 121-acre amusement park as a perk for his chocolate factory workers and their families.

Halloween Festivals and Theme Park Haunts LA Kids Can't Do Without

I have a mama friend who refers to this time of year as the High Holidays, and she ain't talking Yom Kippur. She's also not wrong; there really is no higher holiday on the kid calendar than Halloween. And Southland families can enjoy a long slow build to All Hallows' Eve with more spooky celebrations, haunted happenings, and evil events per capita than any other urban area. Little ghouls and goblins have their pick of pumpkin patches, haunted houses, corn mazes, and ghost trains—but wait; there's more! SoCal theme parks get all creepy at this time of year, too, and the annual festivals below scream Halloween like nobody's business.

New Adventure Park Planned for Jones Beach

An adventure course at Jones Beach State Park is scheduled to open at the beachfront attraction in 2019. WildPlay Element Parks will install the gravity-defying East Mall Adventure Course, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

There are plenty more thrill-seeking destinations on Long Island. Check out these spots for little (and big) adrenaline junkies in your house. Or visit another state park on Long Island and embark on an adventure of your own.

Theme Park Haunts and Halloween Fun Near Philly

Summertime visits to an amusement park often mean dealing with long lines and sweating through your sunscreen. Fortunately, many parks around the Philadelphia area extend their seasons into the cooler fall months with Halloween-themed attractions. This can be a fantastic off-peak day trip for thrill-seeking families looking to enjoy a Halloween experience beyond the local parades and festivals. Several of the theme parks have kid-friendly attractions during the day, then transform into frightening tween-and-above entertainment zones at night. There are often trick-or-treat opportunities and costume contests, so children (and even some adults) can gather candy goodies and show off their Halloween disguises. If your family is seeking some over-the-top Halloween fun ranging anywhere from silly to downright scary, check our list of amusement parks sure to provide excitement.  

Looking for more Halloween fun? Don't forget to check out our Halloween Guide.

11 Outdoor Water Parks in New England

In two hours or less by car, you can get to any of the following outdoor water parks to cool off and have a blast this summer with your kids. Although there's no shortage of thrill rides and slides at these places, you don't have to be a daredevil (or of a certain height) to enjoy them. There are play areas for young children, wave pools, family raft rides, and lazy rivers for those of us who don't need to plummet a down a very tall slide to have fun. Some of the parks are dedicated to water attractions and others are part of a larger theme park, but they all offer plenty of chances to get completely soaked. 

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