Best Amusement Parks Near Philadelphia for Preschoolers
It's hard to imagine a more thrilling summer day for a preschooler than riding bumper cars, spinning in teacups, or pretending to be the conductor on a miniature locomotive. Fortunately, there are plenty of amusement parks near Philly that offer plenty of fun for the preschool set. So we've rounded up our favorite ones with extra kiddie rides, or those designed precisely for preschoolers.
Even a restrictions begin to ease, managing the safety of guests during the pandemic remains a priority. All parks are operating under some form of reduced capacity, requiring face masks outside of water parks and dining, and maintaining physical distancing in accordance with state and local mandates. Other precautions include temperature screenings, contactless payments, and other measures to reduce hand-to-hand contact, and online registration for tickets to control crowd size. Be sure to check each park’s website for the current rules in place, as well as any updates to events or operations before you go.
And don't forget to check out our Summer Activities Guide for Philly Kids, which is filled with amazing warm weather activities for little ones.
Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in Pennsylvania
Kids will love the rides and water play at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom — Allentown, PA
Park is open on weekends only beginning May 22, and is open daily starting June 16. The water park opens May 29.
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 are rides such as PEANUTS Road Rally, Woodstock's Wagon Wheel, and Snoopy's Junction. New for 2021 is Seaside Splashworks, an addition to Wildwater Kingdom that boasts a beach-themed multilevel play structure. Another great perk is the pre-K pass, which offers free admission for ages 3 to 5, as long you register before July 4. Dorney Park is requiring at least one guest in your party to download its mobile app this year, in an effort to promote contactless transactions, and keep you abreast of park updates in real time. You also need you to complete a health screening questionnaire a full day before your visit. Some retail locations and entertainment options may stay closed, so check the website before you arrive.
Dutch Wonderland — East Lancaster, PA
Park opens May 15; water park opens May 29.
With a host of rides for kids under 36 inches, Dutch Wonderland is a preschooler's paradise. The Duke’s Lagoon water play area has small-sized slides located under shady palm trees. There are lots of food options, including some healthy choices including salad, yogurt, and fruit; however, families can also pack their own food to eat in the picnic area outside the park. The park advises that it might need to temporarily suspend rides or attractions from time to time to adhere to guidelines, so monitor the website for updates. Read our full review of the Dutch Wonderland theme park for more details.
"Car pool" with a friend at Hersheypark.
Hersheypark — Hershey, PA
Park is open on weekends through May 23, and every day starting May 27. Water park opens May 29.
Although Hersheypark is well-known for its impressive lineup of looping, heart-pounding roller coasters, it still has a good selection of rides for the "miniature" kids. Many of the preschooler-friendly rides are found near the park entrance. The park is canceling indoor live shows and roaming characters for 2021, but expects to allow certain character experiences and outdoor Aquatheatre shows to proceed. As always, check the website to plan your trip.
Knoebels Amusement Park — Elysburg, PA
Park is open weekends through May, and daily starting May 31. Water park opens May 29.
About a two-hour drive from Philly's western suburbs, Knoebels is a family-oriented amusement park that offers free parking and free admission—rides are pay-as-you-go, or buy a wristband. While the park won't place limits on entry, it will monitor capacity for individual rides this year. Rides not expected to operate at all this season include Ball Crawl, Sky Slide, and Space Walk. A daily check on the website to see exactly what's open is a good idea. The park has a nice mix of old-fashioned and modern attractions, with plenty of options for little ones. Many families enjoy staying at the nearby campground.
Elmo and Abby welcome visitors to Sesame Place.
Sesame Place — Langhorne, PA
Open weekends through May, and extended days starting May 31. Water park opens May 28.
Fans of the PBS TV 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 to 6. Happily, there are dozens of options that appeal to older siblings, too. A notable change to ticketing this year is that the water park is open for morning and afternoon shifts. You can book either one online in advance, with the morning session running 10am to 2pm; and the afternoon session running 2:30 to 6:30pm. Or, you can just book dry rides. The Neighborhood Street Party Parade, Our Street is Sesame Street Show, and Elmo The Musical Show have been temporarily suspended in accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health Guidelines.
Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in New Jersey
American Dream –– East Rutherford, NJ
Open for summer 2021
Just completed in 2020, American Dream is a gargantuan indoor shopping and entertainment complex that houses Nickelodeon Universe and Dreamworks Water Park, with both wet and dry attractions featuring your kids’ favorite TV and movie characters. Nickelodeon-themed rides with minimum height requirements of 36 to 42 inches include the Paw Patrol-inspired Pup Pup and Away, a Blue’s Clues ride called Blue’s Skidoo, and Shimmer and Shine Jumping Genies. On the aquatic side, kids will love the water play at the KungFu Panda Temple of Awesomeness and The Penguins Frozen Fun Zone. And if that’s not enough, American Dream also just happens to have mini golf, an interactive museum, an ice skating rink, a mirror maze, indoor skiing, an aquarium, and a Legoland Discovery Center. Clear a day or even two for this visit. COVID-19 protocols are in place with reduced capacity limits, so visit its website for more information and to book tickets online.
Diggerland USA — West Berlin, NJ
Open weekends through June 6, and daily starting June 11. Water park opens May 22.
This construction-themed park is sure to delight little ones obsessed with trucks and tractors. A lot of rides have a 36-inch or 42-inch minimums, so toddlers don't have quite as many options. Last year Diggerland added The Water Main, a two-acre water park with slides, multiple pools, and splash activities.
The often overlooked Land of Make Believe has something for everyone.
Land of Make Believe — Hope, NJ
Opens weekends starting May 29, and daily starting June 19.
Described in our review as "a little gem tucked away in Hope, New Jersey," Land of Make Believe offers many attractions for young kids to play the day away. This Garden State amusement park has both dry rides and a water play area, so pack your swimsuits and a change of clothes. Parking is free, and families can bring their own coolers inside the park.
RELATED: Water Parks Near Philly Open in 2021
Six Flags Great Adventure has rides for young thrill seekers, too.
Six Flags Great Adventure — Jackson, NJ
Open Thursdays-Sundays through May, and daily starting May 31.
While Great Adventure is primarily marketed toward older thrill-seekers with rides such as "Drop of Doom," "Sky Screamer," and "Dare Devil Dive," the park is so large there are plenty of options for younger riders. Live entertainment and Looney Tunes characters throughout the park appeal to little ones. Six Flags is completely cash-free this season, mandating contactless payments throughout. If you do show up with dollar bills, you can convert them to a Visa debit card inside the park at one of the ready-card kiosks. Great Adventure asks that visitors be healthy for 14 days prior to entry, and has designated areas for patrons to remove masks if you need a break. State-of-the-art technology takes temperatures by thermal imaging at the gate, and new tech also is used in security screenings to implement touchless bag checks. The park has expanded mobile food ordering and expects to have a virtual queue system in place soon for ride lines. Read our full review of Six Flags New Jersey.
Storybook Land is a delight for younger kids.
Storybook Land — Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Open for summer 2021.
With a theme based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes, Storybook Land is a great destination for kids younger than 10. Shady and compact, its offers free parking and plenty of rides to keep the family entertained. Guests can purchase food at the park or pack their own to enjoy a picnic, and mobile ordering has been added for 2021 to reduce hand-to-hand transactions.
Photos courtesy of the parks
This article was originally published in 2015. Writer Danielle Smith contributed to this 2021 update.