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 one of these amusement parks near NYC. 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 amusement parks can seem out of reach. Fear not, we’ve rounded up the best amusement parks near NYC that are easily accessible via public transportation. Remember the sunscreen and forget the parking (and rental car) headaches with these picks.
From the thrilling roller coasters of Six Flags in New Jersey, to the mega theme park fun of Legoland New York in the Hudson Valley, we've found a selection of great amusement parks no matter your interest. Find more summer fun in our Guide to Amusement Parks and Water Parks Near NYC.
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Top Amusement Parks in New Jersey to Visit Without a Car
Six Flags – Jackson, New Jersey
Season opens: Late April for theme park and safari drive-thru; Saturday, May 14 for Hurricane Harbor
How to get there: New Jersey Transit is the most affordable and convenient option to get to this amusement park, 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 daily beginning Memorial Day weekend.
Top amusement park attractions: 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. Six Flags only accepts card and mobile payments at all in-park locations, including parking. The safari attraction requires its own ticket and patrons must drive their own car through again this season.
Nickelodeon Universe & DreamWorks Water Park – East Rutherford
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 amusement park attractions: American Dream 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 a pair of spectacular amusement parks. Explore the largest indoor water amusement 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 amusement park. Take note: Discounted combo tickets are often available.
With rides, food, and the beach, Jenkinson's Boardwalk has a little something for everyone.
Jenkinson’s Boardwalk – Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
How to get there: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk amusement park 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 some favorites to check out. Firetrucks, boats, airplanes, helicopters, motorcycles, trucks, trains—kids have their pick of a huge variety of amusement park classics made just for them. When you're done with the flashing lights and carnival music, head over to Point Pleasant Beach, one of our Shore favorites for a relaxing afternoon on the sand.
Catch a thrill on the Turbulence coaster at Adventureland.
Best Amusement Parks in New York State to Visit Without a Car
Adventureland – Farmingdale, Long Island
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 amusement park attractions: One of our favorite amusement parks on Long Island, Adventureland 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. Soar over 60-feet in the air on the Sports Tower. New in 2022: The FireBall Roller Coaster debuts later this summer. Don't forget to hit up the face painting booth 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
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 amusement park attractions: 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. New in 2022 is a family-friendly coaster, dubbed Tony's Express, and a refreshed log flume ride called Leti's Treasure, which will open during the summer. Family Fun Wristbands provide entry into Luna Park and 4 hours of unlimited access to the park's family-friendly rides. 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!
Ride the famous Wonder Wheel at Deno's.
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park – Coney Island, Brooklyn
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 amusement park attractions: No trip to Coney is complete without a ride on this amusement park's 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. In 2021, Deno's welcomed a brand new family coaster, Phoenix, to the park, and it's always a great place for kiddie rides. We love the pay-as-you-go tickets, so you can have a little amusement park fun without breaking the bank.
Catch a thrill on the Dragon Coaster at Legoland New York.
Legoland New York – Goshen, New York
How to get there: Just about an hour's ride will deliver you to this popular amusement park in upstate NY. Coach USA buses depart from Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan at designated morning time slots. Make sure to select the round-trip options to book your return trip to the city.
Top Sights: There is so much to see and do at this family-friendly theme park, including sailing high into the air on the Anchor's Away pirate ship ride and chasing a wizard on The Dragon roller coaster. For the little builders, this amusement park has an endless array of activities and fun rides fit for younger family members. All aboard the Duplo Express Train or head on over to the Builders Guild to construct your very own castle. The 2022 season is its first full season and we've found five new attractions we can't wait to try out.
Rye's Playland is an easy day trip by Metro-North. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Playland – Rye, New York
Season opening: Thursday, June 9
How to get there: You can 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 $10. The entire trip should clock in at less than an hour.
Top amusement park attractions: 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
Season opening: Saturday, May 28
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 amusement park attractions: 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
Season opening: Saturday, May 28
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 amusement park attractions: Options for the preschool set might be more limited at this water amusement park near NYC, 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.
Fun Amusement Parks in Pennsylvania to Visit Without a Car
Hersheypark – Hershey, Pennsylvania
How to get there: Amtrak has more than half a dozen daily trains departing from Penn Station that deliver 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 amusement park attractions: Hersheypark, a shady, jam-packed amusement 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. Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor and The Sweeterie confectionery kitchen are two must-visits when it comes to an afternoon (or anytime!) delight.
Swing high at Kalahari Resorts Indoor Water Park.
Kalahari Resorts Indoor Water Park – Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania
How to get there: Use the Martz bus for an easy, efficient way to get to the resort and water park. It departs from NYC's Port Authority.
Top amusement park attractions: This huge 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 thrilling 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