While there are no full-fledged water theme parks in NYC (yet), you don't have to go too far to find some awesome ones. We've rounded up 13 of our favorites for kids in the tristate area, mostly in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and all are less than a two-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan. No two are alike: Each one offers different experiences and thrills.
For more water fun, check out these toddler-friendly water parks and year-round indoor water parks near NYC. And don't forget to read our NYC Summer Fun Guide for all the great seasonal fun around the city from festivals and free movies to new outdoor art and best beaches.
Before you hop in the car, check the water parks' official websites to confirm hours and prices (sometimes you'll even find online-only ticket specials). Also, if you plan to visit a particular park more than once during the summer, consider buying a season pass.
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Action Park Mountain Creek – Vernon, New Jersey
200 Route 94
Operating dates for 2016 have not been announced yet.
The winter ski resort turned summer water park, Action Park Mountain Creek has two-dozen wet attractions, seven of which were designed for the littlest visitors, including Fishing Village, a multilevel, interactive play fort with water slides and spray cannons, and Junior Rapids, a mini version of the park's famous Colorado River ride. Cabanas and locker rentals are available.
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Tackle the slides headfirst as these daredevils are doing at Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark.
Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark – Tannersville, Pennsylvania
309 Resort Drive
Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day
Nestled in the Poconos, this winter ski resort 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, which is 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. 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.
Casino Pier & Breakwater Beach Waterpark – Seaside Heights, New Jersey
Casino Beach Pier, 800 Ocean Terrace
Open June to the weekend after Labor Day
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 and flumes, and a huge kiddie water play area.
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom – Allentown, Pennsylvania
3830 Dorney Park Road
Open Memorial Day to Labor Day
Wildwater Kingdom features a slew of water slides, two gigantic wave pools, a pair of lazy rivers and three kids' water play areas specifically designed for the park's youngest visitors. And 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.
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Get soaked with a 1,000-gallon dumping bucket at The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove.
The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove – Hope, New Jersey
354 Great Meadows Road, Route 611
Open Memorial Day weekend to the weekend after Labor Day
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 and 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. 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 skee-ball skills. Food is available for purchase, but you can also bring your own and eat in the spacious picnic area.
Runaway Rapids Family Waterpark – Keansburg, New Jersey
275 Beachway Avenue
Open Memorial Day to September 11
Run by the same folks behind the adjacent Keansburg Amusement Park, this summer family favorite features more than 18 slides, 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.
Catch some waves at Sahara Sam's FlowRider surf simulator.
Sahara Sam's Oasis Beach Club Outdoor Water Park – West Berlin, New Jersey
535 North Route 73
Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, and select weekends in September
We've been raving about Sahara Sam's massive indoor water park for years. But in 2013, the operators opened an adjacent, two-acre outdoor water park called the Beach Club, featuring the 25-meter Blue Lagoon leisure pool, a children’s splash zone and Rip & Roll, a 12,000-square-foot wave pool. Best of all: You pay one price for access to the indoor and outdoor water parks.
Sesame Place – Langhorne, Pennsylvania
100 Sesame Road
Open April 30 to December (though water attractions close in early fall)
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.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor – Jackson, New Jersey
1 Six Flags Boulevard
Open late May to Labor Day
Located in Ocean County, the gateway to the Jersey Shore, this Six Flags water park offers 11 attractions, from splashy play areas for tots to thrilling slides. Park operators hope to open the toddler-friendly Caribbean Cove attraction by late June. Once operational, it will offer 45 additional acres water fun with a gradual entrance 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, a nursing station and stroller rentals. Of course, if you hit Hurricane Harbor, you may also want to visit the nearby Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari. You can even buy a two-park season pass that gives you unlimited access to both, as well as 12 other Six Flags Theme Parks in the U.S. and Canada.
SplashDown Beach – Fishkill, New York
16 Old Route 9 West
Open June to Labor Day
Many of our readers have written in to say how much they love this water park, which underwent a major expansion in 2013. It's a particularly great destination for preschoolers, with attractions such as the Splash Works area featuring 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. There are more thrilling attractions for older visitors, too, like the four-story Bullet Bowl slide and the zero-gravity Humunga Half-Pipe. Cabanas are available to rent.
Race down Splish Splash's Bootlegger Run with the whole family.
Splish Splash – Calverton, Long Island
2549 Splish Splash Drive
Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day
Often cited by families as one of the best water parks in the country, 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 little toes in the water. Although many of rides have height restrictions (like the Cliff Diver, which drops you eight stories in three seconds), little kids can ride several of them (not that one) if clad in a life jacket and accompanied by a parent. If you become waterlogged, take in a family show while you drip-dry. 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.
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Tomahawk Lake Water Park has a laid-back, rustic vibe.
Tomahawk Lake Water Park – Sparta, New Jersey
155 Tomahawk Trail
Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day
Note: The park accepts cash only!
A water park and a state park, Tomahawk Lake is set in 200 acres of parkland and has a variety of 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, charbroiled hot dogs and hamburgers, and cotton candy. However, let's be clear: There's nothing flashy here. 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.
Quassy has something for everyone, complete with a gorgeous lake view.
Quassy Amusement & Waterpark – Middlebury, Connecticut
2132 Middlebury Road
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day
The Splash Away Bay water park at Quassy includes seven attractions catering to all ages. New in 2016 is the addition of 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 will make you leave all your city worries behind for the day.
A previous version of this post was first published in June 2009. We regularly update and revise it.
Top image: Splish Splash's Alien Invasion ride. All photos courtesy of the parks.