Family Theme Parks
10 Mid-Atlantic amusement parks for all ages
Summer is the season for amusement parks, and thankfully the Mid-Atlantic region has many. We found 10 that are all within a day’s drive of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and everywhere in between. Whether your kids love Cookie Monster, construction vehicles or chocolate, there’s a nearby theme park made for them. These destinations are following CDC guidelines for reopening and are ready to welcome you and your family for a safe and much-needed day (or several) of fun.
The only theme park in the U.S. dedicated entirely to the characters and stories of the award-winning “Sesame Street” television show, Sesame Place boasts rides, shows, dining experiences and, most importantly, ample opportunities to meet and take photos with Elmo and his furry friends. During the summer, check out the park’s multiple-themed water rides and special events. At the end of July, Sesame Place will hold its week-long Christmas in July celebration and a birthday party to mark 41 years of this unique theme park. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, PA 19047
For kids fascinated by construction equipment and machines — and we know there are a lot of them — there’s no better place to take them than Diggerland USA. At this New Jersey destination, “the only construction theme and water park in America,” according to the website, kids and their families can drive, ride and operate real machines and vehicles, but there are also plenty of classic amusement park rides, water park activities and carnival games. In addition to these attractions, Diggerland USA also offers birthday parties, group events and overnight camping trips at the park. Word of warning for Googlers: Make sure you visit the Diggerland USA site rather than the UK theme park of the same name. 100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin, NJ 08091
Just a five-mile drive from Ocean City, Maryland, Frontier Town is packed with family fun. The destination, which hosts nearly 600 campsites, also has plenty of kid-friendly attractions, including a water park, the Frontier Town Western Theme Park, an arcade and miniature golf. If you’re looking for funny family photo opportunities, be sure to check out the huge great white shark prop — one that was used in “Jaws” — which calls the park home. Frontier Town also has a variety of special summer events already on the calendar, including an animal-themed week, a space camp week and a week dedicated specifically to family-friendly activities. 8428 Stephen Decatur Hwy., Berlin, MD 21811
A theme park designed specifically for young children, Dutch Wonderland, the self-described “Best Amusement Park for Families in Pennsylvania,” has 35 rides and attractions. Known as “A Kingdom for Kids,” the park has been consistently recognized as a premier park for families and ranked as one of the top kids’ parks in the world by Amusement Today magazine. Summer is the perfect time to check out Dutch Wonderland’s Duke’s Lagoon water park that has kid-sized slides, splash areas and even a lounge area for parents. Be sure to pay a visit to Exploration Island if you have any dinosaur lovers in your family; the Prehistoric Path is lined with 22 life-like dinosaurs, and the Dino Dig gives kids a chance to dig for fossils and artifacts in a sand pit. 2249 Lincoln Hwy E., Lancaster, PA 17602
Consistently voted the world’s most beautiful theme park, Busch Gardens offers both exciting rides and nature experiences. Thrill-seeking families will love trying out the park’s seven world-class roller coasters. For a more low-key experience, bring the kids to meet a wide variety of animals, including Clydesdale horses, sheep, wolves and border collies. Whether or not you’ve already made the trip to Sesame Place, your kids can find their favorite furry characters here too, as Busch Gardens also has a Sesame Street Forest of Fun area with themed rides and photo opportunities alongside the friendly creatures. In July, the park will hold its special Summer Nights events with fireworks, concerts, a laser light show and more. 1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA 23185
If your kids still have energy after a trip to Busch Gardens — and we all know they will — be sure to check out Virginia’s largest water park, just three miles away. Water Country USA offers plenty of extreme thrills, including the state’s first water coaster and fast, twisting water slides. For younger ones, there are calmer splash areas, water playgrounds and kid-friendly slides. If you’re looking for endless summer fun, you can purchase a “2-Park 2021 Fun Card,” which allows you to visit both Busch Gardens and Water Country USA multiple times all season long. 176 Water Country Pkwy., Williamsburg, VA 23185
America’s largest free-admission amusement park is packed with activities geared toward the whole family. Parents and kids alike will enjoy Knoebels’ two old-fashioned wooden roller coasters, laser tag, mini golf and arcade games. To beat the summer heat, be sure to check out the park’s 900,000-gallon Crystal Pool filled with mountain stream water. And if you don’t want to make the ride there and back in one day, Knoebels offers over 800 campsites for tents and campers. 391 Knoebels Blvd., Elysburg, PA 17824
Conveniently located between D.C. and Baltimore, Six Flags America has over 100 exciting rides, attractions, shows and games. The park is tailored toward all ages, with plenty of thrilling rides for the older ones and a wide assortment of calmer rides for younger kids. Little Looney Tunes fans will love the Looney Tunes Movie Town, a children’s area themed around the classic animated television show, and there’s also the Looney Tunes Prop Warehouse, an enclosed play space with a variety of activities for little kids. Hurricane Harbor, Six Flags America’s water park, is open for the season with a variety of slides, a special beach play area just for kids and more. 13710 Central Ave., Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
It’s hard not to love Hersheypark — what could be better than a theme park filled not only with plenty of rides, but also chocolate? (Short answer: nothing.) This summer marks the opening of Hershey’s brand new Chocolatetown, entirely dedicated to everyone’s favorite sweet treat. Check out the park’s biggest roller coaster and enjoy an ice cream parlor, confectionery kitchen and full-service restaurant and bar in the new chocolate-themed area. Hersheypark also offers rides designed for families and young kids, so everyone can find something to enjoy here. 100 W Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, PA 17033
Kings Dominion is the only theme park in Virginia that offers two park experiences for the price of one: the amusement park and the Soak City water park. Kids will definitely want to check out Planet Snoopy, a Peanuts-themed area made just for them. Over at Soak City, your family will have to pay a visit to the newly redesigned Coconut Shores play area, which has a multi-level structure, eight fun slides, a mini wave pool and other cool kid stuff. Oh, and parents can enjoy relaxing poolside private cabanas, as well as a brand new Beach Street dining experience, with multiple food trucks and live entertainment. 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047
This story first appeared in our July 2021 issue.