Best Amusement Parks Near NYC Reachable by Public Transportation
If you're feeling nostalgic for a summer adventure filled with cotton candy and Ferris wheel rides, it might be time for some family-friendly fun at a nearby theme park. There's no shortage of amusement parks and water parks for New York City-based thrill-seekers, but if you don't have a car, some parks can seem out of reach. Fear not, we’ve rounded up the best amusement parks that are easily accessible from NYC via public transportation. Remember the sunscreen and forget the parking (and rental car) headaches with these picks.
Following a summer of pandemic-canceled fun, most of our favorite area amusement parks are reopening in some capacity. Expect these seasonal thrills to look a little different in 2021. Most parks are still maintaining a cap on capacity, timed-entry tickets are the rule rather than the exception, and mask mandates are all in effect as the season starts.
Find more summer fun in our Theme and Water Parks Guide.
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.
Best Amusement Parks in New Jersey to Visit Without a Car
Six Flags – Jackson, New Jersey
2021 update: The NJ Transit bus service to Six Flags is currently on hold but should be up and running for summer 2021. All day tickets, group tickets, members, and season pass holders must reserve timed-entry tickets online before visiting. Six Flags only accepts card and mobile payments at all in-park locations, including parking. The safari attraction requires its own ticket and patrons to have their own car again this season.
1 Six Flags Boulevard
How to Get There: New Jersey Transit is the most affordable and convenient option, thanks to a bus package that takes a little over an hour from door-to-door. Skip the tolls and parking by taking New Jersey Transit Bus 308 directly to the gate. The express bus service to the park runs from Port Authority and Newark Penn Station.
Top Sights: This popular park isn't just about the high-intensity thrills; it also has an impressive selection of kiddie rides. Kid-friendly entertainment includes dance parties, animal presentations, and meet-and-greets with the Looney Tunes gang. There's also an entire water park on-site, Hurricane Harbor, with rides, slides, and water play area Caribbean Cove. Keep an eye out for the debut of the record-breaking Jersey Devil coaster, which debuts sometime this summer.
With rides, food, and the beach, Jenkinson's Boardwalk has a little something for everyone.
Jenkinson’s Boardwalk – Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
2021 update: Masks must be worn for ages 3 years and older in all indoor and outdoor attractions when six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.
300 Ocean Avenue
How to Get There: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is easily accessible via train or bus. Visitors can take New Jersey Transit from Penn Station right into Point Pleasant Beach. It’s a four-block, 10-minute walk from the station to the boardwalk.
Top Sights: This classic boardwalk has it all: an aquarium, three mini-golf courses, a fun house, an arcade, midway games, and many rides geared toward the shorties. The Adventure Lookout Ropes Course and 7D Dark Ride are both new for 2021. 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, head over to the beach for a relaxing afternoon on the sand.
Nickelodeon Universe & DreamWorks Water Park – East Rutherford
2021 update: All guests must wear face coverings when not in the water and maintain social distancing. Capacity at both theme parks has been reduced, and advance purchase is recommended.
1 American Dream Way
How to Get There: American Dream is accessible by a variety of public transportation options, including buses from Port Authority, PATH trains, and New Jersey Transit. See the website for detailed directions.
Top Sights: This mega mall is packed with attractions, and more seem to be opening every day. Whether you're in the mood for thrills or cooling water chills, American Dream has both. Explore the largest water theme park in the country along with Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda, and more familiar kid-friendly characters. Return on another day to visit SpongeBob and friends at the hype-worthy Nickelodeon Universe nearby.
Catch a thrill on the Turbulence coaster at Adventureland.
Best Amusement Parks in New York to Visit without a Car
Adventureland – Farmingdale, Long Island
2021 update: Tickets are available online and at the park; however, purchasing tickets in advance online is recommended to guarantee entry on your desired day. Season passes have sold out.
2245 Broad Hollow Road
How to Get There: Take the Long Island Railroad to Hempstead or Farmingdale, then the N70 bus going toward Melville, which stops on Broad Hollow Road near Adventureland.
Top Sights: This Long Island amusement park has been delighting New Yorkers since 1962. Adventureland includes plenty of classics—think bumper cars, an arcade, and a wave swing—in addition to more unique rides like the interactive Crocodile Run water ride and Turbulence, Long Island’s only spinning coaster. New for 2021: Soar over 60-feet in the air on the Sports Tower. Don't forget to hit up the face painting boot and Dippin’ Dots for a totally retro day out.
Take the subway to Luna Park for a ride on the legendary Cyclone.
Luna Park – Coney Island, Brooklyn
2021 update: Family Fun Wristbands provide entry into Luna Zone A and 2 hours of unlimited access to the park's family-friendly rides. The larger rides require more expensive Thrill Seeker Wristbands, which provide 2-hours of unlimited access for older riders. Reservations are recommended for guaranteed entry.
1000 Surf Avenue
How to Get There: Plan to spend about one hour on the subway—the D, F, N, and Q trains stop here—or bus, depending on where in the city you're coming from, but once you arrive at the station, it's about a five-minute walk to the park.
Top Sights: The city has several mini amusement parks, but Luna Park is the largest. You'll find the legendary Cyclone roller coaster and more rides from mild to moderate, high, and extreme thrill levels for riders of all sizes and ages. Located near the New York Aquarium, the famous Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and an expansive beach, consider making a day at Coney Island a Brooklyn staycation!
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park – Coney Island, Brooklyn
2021 update: Capacity is limited, and reservations are recommended to guarantee entry; book a reservation for a 2-hour window online and purchase tickets when you arrive.
How to Get There: Located adjacent to Luna Park on the Coney Island boardwalk. Take the D, F, N, and Q trains to the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue stop and walk toward the can't-miss Wonder Wheel.
Top Sights: No trip to Coney is complete without a ride on the namesake Wonder Wheel. All-ages are welcome, even babies, though if you're visiting with little ones, we suggest opting for stationary cars instead of the swinging ones. The Wonder Wheel gets a pandemic-delayed summer of centennial celebrations this year, too. In 21st Century news, Deno's welcomes a brand new family coaster, Phoenix, later this summer, and it's always a great place for kiddie rides.
Rye's Playland Park is an easy day trip by Metro-North. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Playland Park – Rye, New York
2021 update: Opening day for 2021 has not been announced, though hiring is underway.
1 Playland Parkway
How to Get There: The popular combination train-and-park admission package has been discontinued, but you can still get here easily by taking the Metro-North New Haven line to Rye, from either Grand Central or the Harlem-125th Street station. From the station, take the Bee-Line bus No. 75 or No. 76. Taxis wait outside the Rye station, a speedy alternative costing around $5. The entire trip should clock in at less than an hour.
Top Sights: Playland 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 make 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.
SplashDown Beach – Fishkill, New York
2021 update: SplashDown Beach opens for the season on Saturday, May 29. Details on bus service have yet to be announced.
16 Old Route 9 West
How to Get There: The CoachUSA Shortline Bus Tour departs from Port Authority at 8:30am daily and departs from SplashDown Beach at 6pm. The tour includes round-trip transportation and park admission. Visit the park's directions page for updated details.
Top Sights: SplashDown Beach, which bills itself as "America's Biggest Little Water Park," 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 the Megalodon, 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, take a dip in the Coconut Pool. Cabana rentals are available.
Splish Splash – Calverton, Long Island
2021 update: Opening day is Saturday, May 29, 2021.
2549 Splish Splash Drive
How to Get There: Take the Long Island Rail Road to the Riverhead station, and then you can take a local taxi or a Suffolk County transit bus to the park.
Top Sights: Options for the preschool set might be more limited at this Mommy Poppins favorite, but there are enough attractions to keep them entertained. Head to the Kiddie Cove, where kids can climb on an octopus in the pool or experience the tipping buckets and mild water slide at Monsoon Lagoon. Kids can enjoy some of the larger attractions, including a pair of wave pools, but those under 48 inches are required to have a life jacket, which can be borrowed for free at Murph the Surf's Rentals.
Touch the clouds on the Hersheypark Sky Rush after a ride on Amtrak.
Best Amusement Parks in Pennsylvania to Visit without a Car
Hersheypark – Hershey, Pennsylvania
2021 update: Hersheypark tickets purchased online can be used on any operating day in 2021. Reservations required. Masks and social distancing are required as recommended by the CDC.
100 West Hersheypark Drive
How to Get There: Amtrak has more than half a dozen daily trains departing from Penn Station that will get you to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in just over three hours. The train station is a 15-minute cab ride from Hershey, but both the Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge offer a shuttle service if you are staying overnight. The hotel concierge can reserve the shuttle for you.
Top Sights: Hersheypark, a shady, jam-packed theme park in “the Sweetest Place on Earth” (the hometown of Hershey chocolate), is worth a trip for chocolate lovers and candy fans—so, basically every kid. Even the littlest riders (36 inches and under) have plenty of options, including trains, slides, and the mini pirate ship. The huge on-site water park adds to the fun with a kiddie wave pool and splash fountains. Two new tasty options open this season: Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor and The Sweeterie confectionery kitchen.
Kalahari Resorts Indoor Water Park – Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania
2021 update: Reservations are required. Guests will be asked to socially distance and wear masks in all locations except for in the water.
250 Kalahari Boulevard
How to Get There: Use the Martz bus transportation system for an easy, efficient way to get to the resort and water park. It departs from NYC's Port Authority.
Top Sights: The area's largest indoor water park (with a retractable roof) calls the Kalahari Resort in the Poconos home. It offers more than 220,000-square-feet of wet-n-wild fun, including a brand-new wave pool. Day passes are available and include admission to the kid-friendly Tiko's Watering Hole and Coral Cove Play Areas, both designed for the youngest water park goers. There are outdoor water features and a pool for the summer season, too. Tots will feel comfortable playing at the water tables (complete with baby seats), zipping down mild slides, and floating in a mini lazy river. Stay the night at the resort for a quick family getaway.
This post, originally published in 2018, is updated annually.
All photos courtesy of the amusement parks unless otherwise noted