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These amusement parks near NYC offer offer adrenaline-pumping rides and carnival-style action
Written byTime Out contributors , Jordi Lippe-McGraw & Marisa LaScala Monday March 14 2022
Navigating New York City is something of a thrill ride in its own right. But when it comes to classic fun with family and friends, look no further than one of these amusement parks near NYC. Within screaming distance of the city (hey, Coney Island), you can partake in jaw-dropping thrill rides and dizzying roller coasters, the kind of heart-palpitating drops that make the G train at rush hour look like child’s play. Or go a little further to New Jersey or Pennsylvania for your thrills.
Hordes of teens be damned—whether it’s a peak holiday weekend or a lazy summer’s day, hitting up one of these top-rated amusement parks will always provide a most thrilling excursion. Just remember to pace yourself, and don’t scream yourself hoarse. If a lower-adrenaline kind of getaway is your kind of thing, opt for one of the best day trips from NYC or drop the thrill-seekers off and head out for some shopping at the best outlets near NYC.
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Best amusement parks near NYC
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1. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park: Brooklyn
Travel Time: One hour from NYC by subway
This family focused amusement park is situated right on the beach at Coney Island and has a history of over a decade. There’s something for everyone here, a few adult rides as well as rides for the kids. And of course, the famous Spook-a-Rama, which is an indoor ride in the complete pitch-black which will give any horror lover or thrill seeker a real fright. They are currently closed for the winter season, but there isn’t long to go until you can visit them again: they’ll be reopening on Sunday 10th April 2022 in time for spring.
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2. Playland: Rye, NY
Travel time: One hour from NYC by train
At the country’s only Art Deco fun park, the big draw is the historic 1929 wooden Dragon Coaster. There are rides for all ages, plus a pool, boardwalk and lake to enjoy.
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3. Casino Pier: Seaside Heights, NJ
Travel Time: One and a half hours from NYC by car
Despite being destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, this oceanfront amusement park has come back strong and offers everything from classic attractions for kids to rides for thrill seekers. Test out the SkyCoaster, which makes you feel like you’re skydiving as you soar over the ocean, or relax on the Sky Ride, a beachy take on a ski lift that’s known for its Jersey Shore cameo appearance. The Hydrus—a heart-pounding coaster with a beyond-vertical drop—and a shiny Ferris wheel are new this year.
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4. Splish Splash: Calverton, NY
Travel time: Two hours from NYC by car
Splish Splash is the best place to go to cool you down from the blazing hot NYC temperatures. They’ve got the Lazy River for the little oens, and the Dr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror for the real thrill seekers. You’ll have to be brave for this one though, the ride plummets 40 feet down a pitch black water slide. If you’re going with a group, the Bootleggers Run or Mammoth River might be one to check out.
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5. Sesame Place: Langhorne, PA
Travel time: Two hours from NYC by car
Meet Elmo, Big Bird and all your pals from Sesame Street at this kid-friendly amusement and water park. Themed rides like Captain Cookie’s High C’s Adventure and Elmo’s Cloud Chaser combine thrills and TV nostalgia. Don’t forget your suit in the summer: You’ll want to take a dip in Big Bird’s Rambling River while you’re there.
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6. Six Flags Great Adventure: Jackson, NJ
Travel time: Two hours from NYC by bus or car
The wildest roller coaster here is named after Kingda Ka, the Bengal tiger that lives next to the ride. It’s also crazy tall and super fast. It’s got a new rival, though: the Green Lantern, a stand-up coaster that swings riders through upside-down loops and corkscrew curls. If you prefer water in your face to wind, hit Hurricane Harbor’s water park rides.
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7. Lake Compounce: Bristol, CT
Travel time: Two and a half hours from from NYC by car
Lake Compounce’s days as an amusement park date to 1846, so it makes sense that its most popular ride is a retro one: the Boulder Dash, a wooden coaster built into the side of a mountain. Compounce isn’t all old-timey, though. For more modern thrills, check out the Rev-O-Lution: a spinning-platform ride that also moves up and down on a half-pipe-shaped track, ensuring maximum nausea for the weak-of-stomach. Over at the lake, seven water rides will have visitors dodging waves and sliding through darkened tunnels.
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8. Clementon Park and Splash World: Clementon, NJ
Travel Time: Two hours from NYC by car or three hours by train
Featuring four awesome roller coasters—the intimidating-sounding Ring of Fire, Thunder Drop, Hellcat and King Neptune’s Revenge—there’s no shortage of entertainment for even the most seasoned adrenaline junkie. But that’s not all, folks. There’s also a barrage of kiddie rides and an on-site water park.
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9. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom: Allentown, PA
Travel time: Two to three hours from NYC by bus or car
The park map here is dominated by Steel Force, a looming metal coaster that stretches for 5,600 feet—the longest steel coaster on the East Coast—and takes riders on a 205-foot drop. But Dorney isn’t one of those amusement parks that concentrates solely on coasters. As the name suggests, Wildwater Kingdom is almost on equal footing and features water attractions both tall (the 70-foot Aquablast) and vast (the 590,000-gallon Wave Pool). And since you’re in Pennsylvania, make sure you grab a Rita’s Water Ice before you leave the park.
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10. Hersheypark: Hershey, PA
Travel time: Three hours from NYC by car
Disneyland meets Candy Land at this kitschy theme park, a celebration of all things Hershey’s chocolate. But it’s not all sweetness: A trio of roller coasters—Fahrenheit, Great Bear and Storm Runner—provide adult thrills by dropping you 97 degrees, dangling you below the track or launching you from 0 to 72mph in two seconds (and straight up 18 stories), respectively. When you need to relax, head to the Boardwalk to lazily float along the Intercoastal Waterway or hit several other water rides. Chocoholics might also want to stop by The Hershey Story museum for a look into the candy company’s history, or check into the 1933 Hotel Hershey to take advantage of the choc-inspired treatments in its on-site spa.
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11. Dutch Wonderland: Lancaster, PA
Travel time: Three hours from NYC by car
Though it was designed with younger riders in mind, park goers of all ages can find something they like out of the 30-plus rides at Dutch Wonderland. Most kids will be able to handle the two helix turns on the new Merlin’s Mayhem coaster, while the Kingdom Coaster is one of the more thrilling rides in the park. Reserve a cabin or campsite next door at the Old Mill Stream Campground to make a weekend of it!
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeremy Thompson
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12. Idlewild and SoakZone: Ligonier, PA
Travel Time: Five hours from NYC by car
It might be five hours away from NYC, but it’s definetely worth that drive. With rides like the Flying Aces, where you can control the ride yourself and the Howler which twists around like a literal tornados, there’s something for everyone. You can also watch fireworks here regularly (check their website for the schedule) theme days and character meet and greets to make your trip complete.
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Find the best amusement parks in America
The best amusement parks in America
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