Best Water Theme Parks Near NYC for Families in 2021
While there are no full-fledged outdoor water theme parks in NYC (yet), you don't have to go too far to find some awesome ones. We've rounded up 14 of our favorites for families in the tristate area. Most are in New Jersey—including beachside spots—and Pennsylvania, and all are less than a two-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan. There's also a great pick in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. No two are alike: Each one offers different experiences and thrills.
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Most parks require guests to wear masks and practice social distancing when not in the water, and parks have restricted capacity, so we encourage you to reserve tickets in advance. Be sure to click through to each park's website for up-to-date information.
1. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Open weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend and daily from Wednesday, June 16 through Labor Day; reservations are required
Wildwater Kingdom features a slew of water slides, two giant wave pools, a pair of lazy rivers, and three water play areas specifically designed for the park's youngest visitors. Of course, there's also Dorney Park with its amusement park rides, midway games, arcades, live shows, and special sections like Planet Snoopy, inspired by the beloved Peanuts pup. Wildwater Kingdom's amenities include poolside cabanas and a wide variety of dining options.
Tackle the slides at Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark in the Poconos.
2. Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark – Tannersville, Pennsylvania
Opening weekend is Friday, June 11-Sunday, June 13; daily hours begin on Thursday, June 17
Nestled in the Poconos, this is a winter ski resort that turns into a water park come summer. There are a variety of rides and slides, many geared toward older kids. Little ones should enjoy Kahuna Cove, located next to the Kahuna Lagoon Wave Pool, with gentle tipping buckets and interactive spray structures. The Pharaoh's Phortress play structure has eight water slides, a four-story-high tipping bucket, fountains, and spray guns. For the little ones, check out the Mummy's Oasis, which features slides, sprinklers, and plenty of levers to adjust the wet, wild fun. Camel Cove allows kids and families to control the action of a giant bucket (that dumps all its water every few minutes) with various valves and levers. The Blue Nile Adventure River is a 1,000-foot-long ride that takes passengers on a relaxing journey through waterfalls, past geysers, and across bubbling waters. Don’t want to get wet? The Adventure Zone has rock climbing and other dry action. Cabanas, strollers, and lockers are all available to rent.
3. SplashDown Beach – Fishkill, New York
Opens for the weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend; daily hours from Friday, June 25 through Labor Day; reservations are required
This is a particularly great destination for preschoolers, with attractions like the Splash Works area that features slides, geysers, and buckets that dump water on their heads. The Croc Creek Wavy Lazy River and the spinning teacup-style ride the Water Whirler are great fun too. There are more thrilling attractions for older visitors, like the Megladon, a high-thrill raft slide that gives you a zero-gravity experience. The four-story Bullet Bowl slide, and another zero-gravity ride, the Humunga Half-Pipe, are a thrill a minute. Cabanas are available to rent. Read our full review of SplashDown Beach.
Cool off in the wave pool at Breakwater Beach Waterpark.
4. Casino Pier & Breakwater Beach Waterpark – Seaside Heights, New Jersey
Opens for the season Memorial Day weekend; daily hours begin Monday, June 21
When it comes to the Jersey Shore, it seems like the philosophy is too much is never enough. Casino Pier offers loads of over-the-top fun like classic amusement park rides, an antique carousel, an arcade, and go-karts, all right along the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Meanwhile, Breakwater Beach is a state-of-the-art water park with a massive interactive play area, including water slides, flumes, and a huge kiddie water play area.
Get soaked with a 1,000-gallon dumping bucket at The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove.
5. The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove – Hope, New Jersey
Open daily through Labor Day and the weekend of September 11-12
Note: Only cash and Discover cards are accepted.
A true family amusement park with rustic, old-fashioned charm, the Land of Make Believe mixes a traditional country-fair experience with thrilling rides. Pirate's Cove is where you'll find the water attractions, including America's Largest Wading Pool, pirate-themed water slides, rides, and a water playground. For nostalgia buffs, there's a Civil War locomotive ride, a World War II cockpit, a hayride, and a talking scarecrow. A new thrill ride and an eco-adventure safari ride debuted last season. Families can go back and forth between the two distinct sections, and if you need to get out of the sun, you can hit the indoor arcade and impress the kids with your skeeball skills. Food is available for purchase, but you can also bring your own and eat in the spacious picnic area. Bonus: You pay just one ticket price for both the amusement and the water parks.
6. Tomahawk Lake Water Park – Sparta, New Jersey
Open weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend; daily from Friday, June 18 through Labor Day
A water park and a state park, Tomahawk Lake is set on 200 acres of parkland and has various water slides and a water play area. There's a beach on a 20-acre lake, boat rentals for an added fee (pedal boats, swan boats, bumper boats, and kiddie canoes), a picnic area, sports fields, and miniature golf—it kind of feels like summer camp. In addition, there's an outdoor beer garden and old-fashioned country food concessions that sell homemade doughnuts, fresh popcorn, char-broiled hot dogs and hamburgers, and cotton candy. However, let's be clear: There's nothing flashy here, except for maybe the Apache Plunge raft slide that runs 610 feet in length. If you come expecting state-of-the-art facilities, you’ll be disappointed. The mini-golf course doesn't have windmills, the kiddie area is a roped off part of the lake with some plaster animals to climb, and there's a horseshoe pit. Need we say more? But if you're looking for simple country fun in a place where you don't have to deal with insane water park prices and crowds, this spot is for you.
Enjoy slides, pools, and an interactive play area at Mountain Creek Waterpark.
7. Mountain Creek Waterpark – Vernon, New Jersey
Opens for the season Saturday, June 19; reservations are required
Winter ski resort turned summer water park, Mountain Creek has about two-dozen wet attractions, including Fishing Village, a multilevel, interactive play fort with water slides and spray cannons. There are family-friendly slides, plenty of high-thrill slides, and even cliffs to dive off for older kids and adults.
8. Splish Splash Water Park – Calverton, Long Island
Opens for the season Memorial Day weekend; five-day-a-week schedule begins Thursday, June 24 (closed Mondays and Tuesdays); reservations are encouraged
Often cited by families as one of the best water parks in the country, Long Island's Splish Splash has 96 acres of rides, slides, and pools. Preschoolers can play in the kiddie pools, slip down the elephant slide, take a soak surrounded by bubbles and geysers, and romp in a shipwreck-themed water playground. There are even toddler swings that dip tiny toes in the water. Although many rides have height restrictions (like the Cliff Diver, which drops you eight stories in three seconds), little kids can ride several clad in a life jacket and accompanied by a parent. Cabana rentals are also available so you can relax in the shade when you need a break from all the sun and fun. Another unique Splish Splash attribute: When the park was built, the developers didn't cut down the trees; they just worked around them. So it's very pretty and comparatively eco-friendly.
Runaway Rapids offers plenty of family-friendly thrills with a cool boardwalk location.
9. Runaway Rapids Family Waterpark – Keansburg, New Jersey
Open weekends through Saturday, June 19, then daily through Labor Day
Run by the folks behind the adjacent Keansburg Amusement Park, this summer family favorite features more than 18 slides, plus splash zones, a kiddie lagoon, a toddler play area, and a crazy lazy river. Lockers and dressing rooms are available, along with lounge chairs and umbrellas. There is also a full-service snack bar. If you want to enjoy the attractions in both parks, you can opt to buy a combo ticket.
RELATED: Indoor Water Parks Near NYC
Catch some waves at Sahara Sam's FlowRider surf simulator.
10. Sahara Sam's Oasis Beach Club Outdoor Water Park – West Berlin, New Jersey
Open Thursdays-Sundays; daily beginning Thursday, June 17 through Labor Day; advance tickets required
We've loved Sahara Sam's massive indoor water park for years, and we feel exactly the same way about its 2-acre Beach Club outdoor water park, which features the 25-meter Blue Lagoon leisure pool, a children’s splash zone, and Rip & Roll, a 12,000-square-foot wave pool.
11. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor – Jackson, New Jersey
Open weekends; daily hours from Friday, June 18 through Labor Day; tickets must be purchased online in advance
Located in Ocean County, the gateway to the Jersey Shore, this Six Flags water park offers 12 attractions, from splashy play areas for tots to thrilling slides. The toddler-friendly Caribbean Cove offers tons of water fun with a pool, slides, water guns, and a giant dumping bucket. Other kid-friendly attractions include the 696,000-gallon Blue Lagoon wave pool, the Discovery Bay water playground, and a float down the Taak It Eez Ee Creek: a 2,150-foot lazy river featuring mild waterfalls and rapids. The park also offers some nice amenities like cabanas and a nursing station. Of course, if you hit Hurricane Harbor, you may also want to visit the nearby Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari, including the chance to take your own car through its drive-thru safari or see larger-than-life dinos roar.
Hop aboard the Good Ship Sesame at Sesame Place.
12. Sesame Place – Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Opens daily through September 7 and weekends thereafter; reservations are required
The world's only theme park based on the award-winning TV series Sesame Street, Sesame Place isn't exclusively a water park. However, it offers lots of water attractions, and fans of the show are sure to have fun, both wet and dry. There's the interactive Count’s Splash Castle, with more than 90 play elements, including a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket. Big Bird’s Rambling River offers a leisurely float along a 1,000-foot waterway of bubbling, swirling waters with surprises like water-filled tipping coconuts, waterfalls, and spraying geysers. Got older kids? Don't worry; there are things for them to do, too, like Sky Splash, an exhilarating ride that takes passengers from gentle ponds with whirlpool-like jet streams to slides with speeds of up to 20 feet per second, culminating with a final plunge into a pool of water. Amenities include cabanas, strollers, and lockers for rent. Read our full review of Sesame Place for more details. Everyone can appreciate its certification as the world's first Certified Autism Center theme park.
Quassy has something for everyone, complete with a gorgeous lake view.
13. Quassy Amusement & Waterpark – Middlebury, Connecticut
Open Memorial Day weekend and daily Thursday, June 3 through Labor Day plus the weekend of September 11-12
The Splash Away Bay water park at Quassy includes seven attractions catering to all ages including Slide City, a five-slide complex for the under-48-inches set. Admission prices include access to all the rides at the attached amusement park, too. The beautiful lakeside location and view make you leave all your city worries behind for the day.
Diggerland's Water Main is now open for splashing.
14. Diggerland's Water Main – Berlin, New Jersey
Open weekends and daily beginning Friday, June 11 through Saturday, September 11; reservations are recommended
The Water Main includes a tot splash area, main pool, slide tower, and several pool activities, including a challenge course and basketball. There are cabana rentals, too. Admission to the water park is included in the ticket price for the theme park, so visitors can enjoy both options on one trip.
A previous version of this post was first published in June 2009, but it has since been updated and revised.
All photos courtesy of the parks