We all need a little excitement in our lives. For some, any of these 13 carousels around New York City will deliver all the excitement in the world. For others, the idea of zip-lining through the air ranks high on their to-do list. Of course, adventure parks aren't for everyone, but there's proof they help children learn problem-solving and collaboration skills. Plus, it's just plain fun to play together as a family and create unforgettable memories.
New York City may not be the epicenter of adventure parks, but it's making strides, especially with Adventures on Governors Island, the Bronx Zoo's Treetop Adventure, and a seriously high-flying outdoor zip line in Queens. Meanwhile, just outside the city limits, there are dozens of rope and zip line courses.
We've rounded up a handful of our favorite outdoor adventure parks either in the city or reachable within a quick day trip. Also make sure to see our brand new guide to 25 outdoor adventures in the city for NYC kids.
Note: Most of these parks are seasonal, closing outdoor courses for the cold and snowy winter months and reopening, or already reopened, in the spring. Please call ahead to confirm hours and book tickets, and pay careful attention to height and age requirements, as well as the dress code, which usually includes closed-toe shoes.
Challenge yourself on ropes courses that range from beginner to expert. Photo courtesy of NYCgo
Adventures on Governors Island — Governors Island
All ages, but height requirements vary for some features
Enjoy this cool zip line and climbing tower to delight all kids, not just those who meet height requirements. For the smaller kids, there's an all-ages, 3,600-square foot maze that's also part scavenger hunt, part spelling bee. Plus, it's on Governors Island, which is filled with fun all spring and summer, opening May 1, 2019.
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Climb high on the ropes course at Alley Pond Park Adventure Course. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks
Alley Pond Park Adventure Course — Oakland Gardens, Queens
Ages 8 and up
Alley Pond Park is famous for its amazing educational programs—and an increasingly famous, top-notch Adventure Course. The course includes a zip line, a "Trust Fall" station, a climbing and bouldering wall, swings, nets, and balance stations. Because the Adventure Course is so large, it can accommodate all abilities. Best of all, Sunday programs that run from May 5 through October 27, 2019 are FREE for families. During July and August, due to high demand, families must register through a lottery. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure — Bronx
Ages 7 and up, between 50 and 275 lbs, able to reach 5'6" with feet on ground
This ropes course at the Bronx Zoo includes a zip line that travels 400 feet across the Bronx River, and back, at a height of 50 feet (!). Best of all? It's located right next to the best zoo anywhere. Find out everything you need to know with our detailed Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure review. By the way, there's a smaller Nature Trek for little ones.
Nearby Adventure Parks
The Adventure Park at The Discovery Museum — Bridgeport, Connecticut
Ages 5 and up
While the Discovery Museum is an "adventure in art and science," the five-acre aerial adventure park behind it offers more visceral thrills, including a new Charlotte's Web feature, completed in the fall of 2017 consisting of a labyrinth of features launched from a separate platform and aimed at the ages 5 to 7 set (but not limited to them only). Befitting its link to a museum, this adventure park also hosts special Arbor and Earth Day events. That's all in addition to a dozen trails (coded by levels of difficulty), 21 zip lines and almost 161 challenge bridges. Our Connecticut Mommy Poppins team visited a couple of years ago and had a blast. Sessions are three hours long, and reservations strongly suggested. Ages 5-7 admitted FREE with a paid adult who must accompany them.
The Adventure Park at Long Island offers magical "glow" nights during the summer.
The Adventure Park at Long Island — Wheatley Heights, Long Island
Ages 7 and up
This Long Island course is barely an hour from Midtown (closer if you're in Brooklyn or Queens). It bills itself as a "forest climbing park" where visitors can climb and zip among the trees. The focus is on self-discovery. Guides are available, and are happy to assist, but after you receive your safety orientation, you're encouraged to explore what interests you. Aerial "trails" stretch from tree to tree, and each provides a new type of challenge. There are 15 zip lines, 10 trails, and over 100 "challenge bridges." Everyone in your group can pursue appropriate activities, because there are five-color-coded levels of difficulty.
Cruise through the trees zip-lining at Camelback Mountain Adventures.
Camelback Mountain Adventures — Tannersville, Pennsylvania
Children must be able to reach a height of 4 feet and 10 inches with their feet flat on the floor, and one arm raised, to participate.
About an hour and 45 minutes away from New York City, this park is specially designed for fun-loving types, because it offers zip lines, adventure courses, and mountain rides—including the Pocono Pipeline Alpine Slide, which features 2,800 feet of switchbacks, straightaways, and dips. Even better, two sections of the park are reserved for smaller children. Reservations are strongly suggested. A stay at the resort isn't required, but an overnight might free you up to visit the water park too!
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions — Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
Children 4 feet in height are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest for water park participation. Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
With America's largest indoor water park and an outdoor water park, this resort just added Gorilla Grove Treetop Adventures to its list of attractions. New as of spring 2019, the Gorilla Express train takes visitors to and from the new adventure course with Legends of the Lost Jungle Mini-Golf and zip lines. A rope course with tree-to-tree challenges from easy (children’s courses close to the ground), to extremely difficult—for experienced adventures—is coming soon!
Mountain Creek— Vernon, New Jersey
Must be at least 48 inches tall and weigh at least 60 pounds.
This ski resort about an hour and a half from New York City is a great place for year-round fun (you may recall its 80s heyday as Action Park). It may genuinely have everything kids think is fun—a bike park with mountain trails, a water park, zip lines, and now an aerial ropes course. The zip lines are open year-round (and take you to the tubing park in winter), so families can enjoying swooping high over a mountain-top lake through all four seasons. To participate, kids must meet the height and weight requirements, but also be able to carry a 10-pound trolley through mountainous terrain. Reservations recommended.
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The Pocono TreeVentures & Pocono Zip Racer offers thrills for preschoolers to big kids.
Pocono TreeVentures & Pocono Zip Racer — East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Ages 4 and up
Want to tailor your own course to your ability? This is the place for you! You can choose from swaying bridges, tree swings, and tightrope walks. Two of you can race on the zip lines, and then tackle "tree climbing walls." Pocono Kidventures is geared for kids ages 4-7, but older and more advanced kids can tackle a series of zip lines connected by bridges and ladders. It's about an hour and a half drive from New York City.
Turtle Back Zoo TreeTop Adventure Course — West Orange, New Jersey
Ages 6 and up
Located next to the popular New Jersey zoo, this recently-expanded aerial park (the adults-only zip line measures over a football field in length) also offers junior courses: 15 unique challenges with an average run time of 30 to 45 minutes. Parents are welcome to join their kids on the smaller elements. It's a one-hour drive from New York City and, while walk-ups are permitted, reservations are suggested. Take little ones to the zoo, while the big kids zip along, or tempt them with the nearby playground and nature trails.
More Adventure Parks
We've mentioned a few favorite spots above, but the greater NYC metro area is loaded with adventure parks, especially if you're willing to drive a bit further. We loved the zip line fun at Hunter Mountain, and the Catskills water park Zoom Flume offers a zip line, too. If you're staying in the Hudson Valley, there's an outdoor ropes course in Peekskill, overlooking the water: Spins Hudson. For indoor picks, don't miss the Palisades Climb, the 85-foot, five levels of ropes courses at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York. At the Jersey Shore Jenkinson's Boardwalk includes a mini zip line with a complimentary sea breeze.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the parks
A version of this article was published in 2018, but it has since been updated.