Since many of the best amusement parks in the US are located in places where it's warm year-round, like Orlando and Southern California, many DC-area families plan vacations to visit them in fall, winter, and early spring. But come late spring and summer, amusement parks near DC are open and ready to welcome families.
Whether you have toddlers or preschoolers looking for low-octane fun or older kids and teens chasing the thrill of roller coasters, there is a theme park within a three-hour drive from DC that's perfect for a day trip or weekend trip with your family. Many of these family-friendly amusement parks near DC also have on-site water parks included in their ticket prices, so don't forget your bathing suits!
Here are nine great amusement parks near DC to visit with your family. Most of them are open only on weekends in the spring and then every day by June, so be sure to call or check the websites for operating hours before you go.
Part of the nationwide Six Flags chain, this enormous amusement park about a 40-minute drive from DC caters to every member of the family. The fearless might want to tackle the 200-foot-tall Superman roller coaster (which reaches speeds of 73 miles per hour) and seven other thrilling coasters. Little ones can enjoy nearly 15 rides just for them, plus others their adults can ride with them like a hot-air balloon Ferris wheel. Younger kids can also blow off some energy at the huge Whistlestop Park Playground. In summer 2022 a new whitewater rafting experience called Renegade Rapids opens. It might be a good idea to try this just before getting soaked in the Hurricane Harbor water park.
This family amusement park roughly an hour from DC offers indoor and outdoor attractions, perfect for when the weather is a bit mixed. Three roller coasters with different scare factors, go-karts, mini golf, and gentler rides like teacups and a super slide keep everyone entertained. Indoors you will find laser tag, rock climbing, mini bowling, arcades, and a ropes course. Attractions are paid for with a rechargeable Fun Pass, so you only pay for the activities you want to use. Adventure Park also features the Sky Coaster, a unique concept for those 42 inches and above that combines skydiving and hang gliding. At one point, riders free-fall 100 feet!
Not to be confused with Adventure Park USA, The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is Maryland’s biggest climbing and zip lining adventure park. It has 14 courses, seven difficulty levels, and over 200 climbing and zip lining elements. The trails range from easiest (purple) to expert (double black diamond), starting around 10 feet from the ground and becoming more physically challenging as you progress. Sessions last up to three hours and include a full safety briefing, as well as being fitted with a harness and safety equipment. Ages 5 and up are welcome, and all climbers must wear closed-toe shoes. The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is about an hour's drive from DC
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Kings Dominion boasts a whopping 13 roller coasters.
Kings Dominion, about two hours from DC, has over 60 rides, shows, and attractions. These range from 13 roller coasters for thrill seekers to Planet Snoopy, an area just for younger kids featuring plenty of kiddie rides and the entire Peanuts gang. A new immersive experience for 2022 called Jungle X-pedition explores an ancient civilization and includes a new roller coaster, the Tumbili 4D spin coaster.
Kings Dominion is also the only amusement park in Virginia with a water park. Soak City offers 20 acres of extreme water slides, a massive wave pool, and an interactive multi-level aqua play structure with over 200 elements, eight twisting slides, and two gigantic tipping buckets.
Hersheypark features plenty of fun for guests of all ages. Its 40 kid-friendly rides including two trains and a mini pirate ship. Fifteen roller coasters that will keep the daredevils in the family entertained include Laff Trakk, the US’s first indoor, spinning, glow-coaster. New for 2022, the Jolly Rancher Remix is a reimagined boomerang roller coaster where each ride is different, so older kids will want to go back for more and more.
When your family needs to cool off, head to Hersheypark’s water park. It has16 water attractions including a lazy river, a water coaster, a wave pool, and racing water slides. You can also take a break from the thrills at ZooAmerica, an 11-acre zoo within Hersheypark, and at the next-door Chocolate World, where you can take a ride through a chocolate factory, see a 4D chocolate movie, and so much more. With the drive time from DC being about 2.5 hours and way too much to do in one day, consider spending an entire weekend at Hersheypark!
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Look for the KIDserate logo to help you find rides for younger kids at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is an action-packed European-themed theme park that's been voted the World’s Most Beautiful Amusement Park by the National Amusement Park Historical Association every year since 1990. With so many things to do for visitors of all ages, Busch Gardens is worth the three-hour drive from DC.
Little-kid rides are scattered throughout the park and are easily identifiable by the KIDsiderate K logo. There are also animal interactions, live shows, and the Land of the Dragons, a child-specific area with kid-friendly rides, climbing nets, and splash areas. For older kids and adults, Busch Gardens features the brand-new-in-2022 Pantheon, the world’s fastest multi-launch roller coaster, and the Loch Ness Monster, the world’s only double interlocking loop roller coaster. Plus, there are six more roller coasters and plenty of other thrill rides.
When you need a break from the heat, head to Water Country USA, Busch Gardens' water park. Or, slow the pace down and enjoy the beautiful grounds of the theme park via steam- powered locomotive or by boat on the Rhine River Cruise. Check out some of our tips on visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA with Kids.
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Kids can ride an old-school carousel at Trimper Rides.
Open since 1893, Trimper Rides of Ocean City, Maryland is the oldest continuously family-owned-and-operated amusement park in the world. The Tidal Wave looping roller coaster and the Endeavour, a cutting-edge twist on a classic Ferris wheel, offer big thrills. For younger children, there are plenty of options including a mini Ferris wheel, slides, and water boats. The mirror maze will be sure to have the entire family in fits of giggles. Plus, there's a video arcade called Marty’s Playland and an award-winning dark fun house called Bill Tracey Pirate’s Cove. Along with the beach and more, Trimper Rides is a great reason to hit the road and head to Ocean City, about a three-hour drive from DC.
Best Amusement Parks Near DC for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Little kids will feel like big kids when they conquer Merlin's Mayhem.
This amusement park, also about a 2.5-hour drive from DC, caters to families with young children. It offers shows, attractions, 35 rides, and more. Kids can whirl around on the Wonder Whip, become an astronaut on the Sky Fighter, and make friends with a panda on Panda Party. Merlin’s Mayhem is a suspended roller coaster designed for families to be able to ride together.
Two unique areas make Dutch Wonderland even more special. Duke the Dragon’s Lagoon features slides, play structures, and water attractions on a multi-level water-play platform that includes a large tipping bucket. On Exploration Island, kids can discover over 22 life-like dinosaurs and dig up ancient fossils.
For a less high-octane, but no less fun experience specifically aimed at the younger members of your family, head to Sesame Place (roughly three hours from DC). Meet favorite Sesame Street friends, watch a Sesame Street parade or show, and ride kid-friendly rides like Big Bird's Tour Bus and the Flying Cookie Jars. Sesame Place even has a family-friendly wooden roller coaster, Oscar’s Wacky Taxi. The website gives detailed information about each ride, including sensory information. When your kiddos get hot, they'll have a blast at Sesame Place's water park. It has has chutes, slides, a lazy river, and a multi-level interactive water-play attraction called The Count’s Splash Castle.
All photographs courtesy of the amusement parks