Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in and Near NYC

Enjoy the tot-friendly water features at SplashDown Beach. Photo courtesy the park
Enjoy the tot-friendly water features at SplashDown Beach. Photo courtesy the park
4/20/21 - By Jody Mercier

For young children, a ride on a carousel’s painted pony, a spin with dad around the bumper car track, and a dripping swirl of frozen custard are the stuff summer memories are made of. No need to seek out the latest scary high-tech roller coasters.

Rides that look mild (or frankly, downright boring) to big people usually provide just the right amount of thrills for toddlers and preschoolers. Happily, several amusement and water parks in or near the New York City metro area offer these kinds of tame attractions. Here's our roundup of theme parks perfect for the pint-sized.

Find more seasonal rides in our Theme and Water Parks Guide for families.


Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance. Most parks are currently limiting capacity, so book your tickets in advance. Be sure to click through to each venue's website for current safety protocols.

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in New York City

Luna Park – Coney Island

2021 update: Family Fun Wristbands provide entry into Luna Zone A and 2 hours of unlimited access to the park's family-friendly rides. Owned by the same operators as Central Park's now-shuttered Victorian Gardens, all Victorian Gardens 2020 pass holders can exchange their passes for a 2021 Luna Park pass.
1000 Surf Avenue
Open daily Memorial Day to Labor Day; open weekends only in late March, April, September, and October
Luna Park offers plenty of kiddie rides—including six new ones imported from Victorian Gardens—and games and a brand new ropes course opens this season, with both kid- and adult-friendly challenges. The park is reminiscent of its early 20th-century namesake, which closed in 1944 after a series of fires. It's a great multi-generational destination. You'll see rides organized into mild, moderate, high, and extreme thrills on the website. There are plenty of options for everyone. Located near the New York Aquarium and the beach, you can satiate the kids with a few rides before moving on to other activities.

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in New York State

Adventureland – Farmingdale

2021 update: Tickets are available online and at the park; however, online advance ticket purchase is recommended to guarantee entry.
2245 Broad Hollow Road (Route 110)
Open daily June 24 through Labor Day; open weekends beginning in late March through and September through late October.
Approximately 1 hour by car from Midtown Manhattan
With 10 kiddie rides, tots won’t feel left out at this amusement park. Classics like the carousel, swings, and helicopters all promise fun, not fear. Some rides provide bigger thrills, too, so everyone can enjoy the day trip. Locals dominate the scene, and there are lots of camp groups during the week. There is an air-conditioned, sit-down restaurant, which is a great place to cool off and take a break. The menu is loaded with kid-pleasing options and even gluten-free pizza.

Find more Long Island amusement parks or water slides and pools on our Long Island site.

Playland – Rye

2021 update: Opening day has not yet been announced, but Playland is targeting a June return.
1 Playland Parkway
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan
Open weekends in May; daily (except for Mondays) from June 1 through Labor Day
We love this local theme park right off of I-95. It offers all the classics and a whole section of rides just for toddlers and preschoolers in its Kiddyland area. You'll find an original mini coaster, kiddie train ride, a great slide, mini boats, fire trucks, a carousel, and a dozen more rides. Most of the minimum heights start at 36 inches. Costumed characters and a shaded area with entertainment for little ones makes it even more of a win. Preschoolers will likely enjoy the fair-style games, as well as a stroll on the boardwalk with an ice cream in hand. The park is also accessible by bus or Metro-North.

SplashDown Beach – Fishkill

2021 update: SplashDown Beach opens for the season on Saturday, May 29.
16 Old Route 9 West
Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan
Opens for the season Memorial Day weekend; open daily from June 1 through Labor Day
Speaking of water parks, we're big fans, and SplashDown Beach, which bills itself as "America's Biggest Little Water Park," and offers big fun for its littlest customers. You'll find the Splash Works kiddie area, plus plenty of places for the family to play together. There are slides big and small, including Megladon, a family-friendly raft slide, plus water park staples like the Croc Creek Wavy Lazy River and the Monster Wave Pool. If you're in the mood for a more relaxing pool experience, frolic in the good, old-fashioned Coconut Pool. Cabana rentals are available, too.

RELATED: Legoland New York Announces Opening Day

Child plays at Diggerland
Little kids can dig to their heart's content at Diggerland.

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in New Jersey

Diggerland – West Berlin

2021 update: Currently open weekends. Facial coverings are required. Contactless admissions and payment options are offered. Online reservations and advance ticket purchases are encouraged.
100 Pineridge Drive
Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open weekends from March through early June and September-October; open daily from June 8 through Labor Day
This construction-themed amusement park is a must for Bob the Builder fans. Here, kids can operate diggers, backhoes, skid-steers, dump trucks, and tractors. Take a spin on rides like the Dig-A-Round, the park's version of a merry-go-round, and the train-like Excavator Express. Kids must be at least 36 inches to go on most rides, though some require a minimum height of 42-inches. Young visitors will have fun in the Kid Zone, which includes a jungle gym with tube slides, mini diggers, and more. There's also a rock wall, four-story ropes course, and arcade. New for 2021: The Water Main, a brand new mini-water park included with admission.

RELATED: Best Things to Do in Coney Island With Kids: Luna Park, Aquarium, Beach, Mermaids

Smiling preschoolers ride the alligator at Jenkinson's
The Alligator and many other rides at Jenkinson's are sized just right for little ones.

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk – Point Pleasant Beach

2021 update: Jenkinson's Boardwalk requires masks in all inside gift shops and attractions. More pandemic-related notices can be found on its website.
300 Ocean Avenue
Approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan
Schedule varies by activity; visit the website for full details.
This boardwalk has it all: an aquarium, three mini-golf courses, a funhouse, an arcade, midway games, and many rides geared toward the shorties. Firetrucks, boats, airplanes, helicopters, motorcycles, trucks, trains—kids have their pick of a huge variety of amusements made just for them. When you're done with the flashing lights and carnival music, saunter over to the beach for a relaxing afternoon of fun in the sun.

Six Flags – Jackson

2021 update: All-day tickets, group tickets, members, and season pass holders must reserve timed-entry tickets online before visiting. Six Flags only accepts credit card and mobile payments at all in-park locations, including parking.
1 Six Flags Boulevard
Approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open Thursdays-Sundays through Memorial Day weekend, then daily through Labor Day; open weekends and some evenings in September and October
This popular park isn't only about death-defying drops and high-intensity thrills; it also has an awesome selection of kiddie rides. Young children will also dig the Six Flags Drive-thru Safari, where they can visit lion cubs, parrots, goats, and a multitude of exotic animals. Kid-friendly entertainment includes dance parties, animal presentations, and meet-and-greets with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang. There's also an entire water park on-site with the Caribbean Cove attraction doling out lots of family-friendly fun.

RELATED: Jersey Shore Boardwalks and Amusement Parks for Family Fun

Ride the Balloon Ride at Storybook Land
Fly high on the Balloon Ride at the sweet Storybook Land in New Jersey.

Storybook Land – Egg Harbor Township

2021 update: Open Thursdays-Sundays at 50% capacity. Face masks are required for children ages 2 and up. Reservations are required unless you are a season pass holder. More pandemic-related notices can be found on its website.
6415 Black Horse Pike
Approximately 2 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open weekends in March, April, September, and November; open daily May through August; open Thursday-Sunday in October, plus December evenings
This charming amusement park geared toward the 10-and-under crowd offers a magical experience for young children and parents. You can literally walk through all your favorite stories, and nursery rhymes at Storybook Land, including Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, and Alice in Wonderland. The park's 17 sweet rides include Bubbles the Coaster, Beanstalk Bounce, Jumping Jumbos, and Turtle Twirl.

Also, consider the Land of Make Believe in New Jersey, or find more preschooler-friendly rides from our New Jersey site.

RELATED: Best Toddler Water Parks Near NYC

See the dinos at Dutch Wonderland
Check out the dinos at Dutch Wonderland's Exploration Island.

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in Pennsylvania

Dutch Wonderland – Lancaster, Pennsylvania

2021 update: Open weekends beginning May 15. Reservations and ticket purchase required. For more pandemic-related notices, visit its website.
2249 Lincoln Highway East
Approximately 3 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open daily Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day; open weekends in May, September, and October
Lancaster County is known as a great family vacation destination. I've got so many wonderful memories of going there as a child. But when you inevitably tire of seeing horse-drawn buggies driving down the highway, take the brood to Dutch Wonderland. With a host of rides for kids under 36 inches, it's a preschooler's paradise. The Duke’s Lagoon water play area has small slides located under shady palm trees. There are lots of food options, including some healthy choices like salad, yogurt, and fruit. As a bonus: It's also a great place to spot dinosaurs!

Dorney Park – Allentown, Pennsylvania

2021 update: Opening on Saturday, May 22. Reservations are required for the water park. A health screening questionnaire is conducted on entry. For more pandemic-related notices, visit its website.
3830 Dorney Park Road
Approximately 2 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day; open weekends in April, May, September, and October
You are correct in thinking that this park is home to several roller coasters that send chills down the spine of even hard-core thrill-seekers. But for the junior set, there's Planet Snoopy, with its 14 mild Peanuts-themed rides. Fly with the Red Baron, swing with Charlie Brown, and blast off on Snoopy's Rocket Express. A theater hosts live performances starring the gang that will entertain tots with singing and dancing. If the kids want more, Dorney has other family rides, including a carousel and a tilt-a-whirl. And remember, there's also the sister water park, Wildwater Kingdom.

RELATED: Best Water Theme Parks for Families Near NYC

Counts Castle welcomes all ages at Sesame Place
Splash around at Count's Castle at Sesame Place.

Sesame Place – Langhorne, Pennsylvania

2021 update: Open Saturdays and Sundays in May, with hours extending through the summer. Reservations required. More pandemic protocol information is available on its website.
100 Sesame Road
Approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes by car from Midtown Manhattan
Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day; open weekends in April, May, and September through December
Fans of the beloved puppet series will go gaga (especially if that's the only word they can say!) for this park. There are a ton of rides aimed at kids ages 2-6. Happily, there are dozens of options that will appeal to older siblings, too. The park is big, with wet and dry attractions, so bring a bathing suit. Don’t miss the Neighborhood Street Party Parade, in which Big Bird, Elmo, and the gang sing, dance, and prance to the delight of their devoted fans. For a special treat, reserve a meal with your child’s favorite Sesame Street character. The amusement park has been tabbed as the world's first Certified Autism Center theme park.

RELATED: NYC's Best Playgrounds: 20 Parks Worthy of a Subway Schlep

Take a spin in the teacups at Quassy Amusement Park
Every age enjoys the teacup ride at Quassy. Ride with mom or without!

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in Connecticut

Quassy Amusement Park – Middlebury

2021 update: Quassy Amusement Park is open Saturdays and Sundays in May. The water park opens Saturday, May 29. Advance online reservation and ticket purchase are strongly recommended. Connecticut pandemic guidelines can be viewed here.
2132 Middlebury Road
Approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes from Midtown Manhattan
Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day; open weekends in April, May, September, and early October
Quassy's lakefront location has been operating as an amusement park for more than 100 years, so it knows a thing or two about family-friendly fun. You'll find a selection of five kiddie rides in addition to eight other rides sure to thrill the whole family. If the cool lake breeze isn't enough to chill you on a summer day, there's also a water park on-site.

Bonus: Though decidedly further-flung, if you've got a train fan underfoot, Thomas Land (Edaville Family Theme Park) at Edaville in Massachusetts is worth the trip. It's about four hours away, so consider making this adventure a weekend getaway. The park is open every day in July and August and stays open through the Fall and Winter, closing January 1.

All photos courtesy the venues except where noted.

This article, first published in July 2011 but is updated and revised annually.

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