When you’ve exhausted the sprinklers, museums and other ways to stay cool during the sizzling hot days of summer, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Nothing beats the heat quite like a float on a lazy river or a thrilling ride down a water slide. The cool relief of a water park is closer than you think. Here are our picks for the best outdoor water parks near NYC! (Like your water parks climate controlled? Check out these indoor spots!)
For A Local Favorite: Splish Splash
NYC residents don’t need to head that far for a deluxe water park experience. Just 90 minutes outside of the city on Long Island, Splish Splash has something for everyone. The 44" and under set will enjoy the kiddie pools, elephant slide, octopus pool and interactive pirate ship, complete with water cannons and slides. For thrillseekers, attractions include New York’s only water roller coaster, body slides with intense inclines, and several group rides for the family that likes to get wet together. Other chilling out options include relaxing in a rented cabana, by a wave pool, floating down a lazy river in a tube, or taking in a show featuring parrot trainer Weldon Middlebrooks.
2549 Splish Splash Dr.
Best for Wet & Dry Fun — Plus Elmo: Sesame Place
Though not specifically a water park, you and your little one will appreciate the kid-oriented Sesame Place for both the water fun and "dry fun" themed attractions. Cool off at the Count's Splash Castle, a multi-level interactive water-play space, and Big Bird's Rambling River, where you and your muppet can float in an inner tube together through Sesame Island. Other Sesame-infused attractions include dining experiences with the gang from Sesame Street and lots and lots of opportunities to take photos with giant Elmos and other furry friends — all of whom are a cut way above your Times Square imposters. Bonus: you don’t have to have a car to get there. Take NJ Transit to Trenton and then hop on a bus or grab a cab. Got wheels? It’s about a two-hour drive.
100 Sesame Rd.
Best for All Ages: Wildwater Kingdom
Don't be fooled by the name. Wildwater Kingdom, located in Pennsylvania about 2 hours from the city, can be wild or mild, depending on your preference. While you’ll find plenty of elevated, looping, racing and hair-raising slides and rides here, Wildwater Kingdom is also home to several specially-designed kids' sections. The big favorite is Kids Cove, an interactive water attraction in the form of a submarine with octopus tentacles that serve as mini slides. They’ll also enjoy Lollipop Lagoon and Splash Landing, low-impact but fun spots with mini water slides, fountains and squirt guns, and you can chill out on a lazy river or at the football field-sized wave pool. Finally, when you need to escape from all the water activities, dive into the amusement park rides at neighboring Dorney Park, where the big additional this season is a completely refurbished “Thunderhawk”, one of the nation’s oldest wooden coasters and a fan favorite.
3830 Dorney Park Rd.
For Pirate Lovers (and a Lower-key Vibe): Land of Make Believe and Pirate's Cove
If you’re looking for some water fun and rides for little kids, but don’t need things to be MEGA EXTREME, the combo of Pirate’s Cove and Land of Make Believe in Hope, New Jersey may be for you. Big on charm and easier on the wallet, these sister attractions are approximately a 90-minute drive from the city. The water park Pirate's Cove commits to a pirate theme throughout, with a giant ship interactive water feature, as well as an 18-inch deep wading pool with slides for tiny visitors. (They do have some more intense rides.) Next door at the Land of Make Believe you'll get a traditional country fair experience, complete with classic rides, a “famous” talking scarecrow and Civil War locomotive ride. There’s also a free picnic area on site, as well as free parking. Note: Payment is by cash or Discover card only here, and the parks are open on weekends until June 18, and daily from June 18 through Labor Day.
354 Great Meadows Rd.
Best for Theme Park Lovers: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is about a 90-minute drive from the city, and has something for everyone: thrill rides, areas for small kids, and spots for relaxing poolside — perfect if you're making a trip with kids of many ages plus adults who are ready to have fun, too. New this season is a water play area just for little ones, Caribbean Cove, which is home to 55 interactive features including spray nozzles, jets, valves and water guns, as well as a two-feet-deep entry pool and a beach area for relaxing. Other spots for families include the Blue Lagoon wave pool and Discovery Bay water playground, and features like a nursing station, stroller rentals and cabanas are nice, too. Finally, after a day of fun and thrills, your whole family can relax on the Taak It Eez Ee Creek lazy river complete with waterfalls, rapids and geysers. Got more energy to burn? Hit Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari, too.
Route 537, Jackson, NJ
Best for A Shore Thing: Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks
For the ultimate family-friendly summer shore experience, Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks is a sure bet. It’ll take you a while to get there — figure three hours — which is why you might want to consider spending a night. But it’s worth the trip, both for the extensive water parks and the multiple piers packed with rides for kids both big and small. (You can read our full review of Morey’s Piers, here.) Morey’s takes its water parks very seriously, as evidenced by not one, but two extensive water parks, each with its own feel, at the end of two piers. Raging Waters Adventure Water Park is, naturally, the more intense of the two splash zones. Ocean Oasis Water Park and Beach Club is more mellow and even features a swim up bar — although you’ll still find slides and activities for those who want to speed down a slippery slope. Both parks offer gorgeous views of the beach and water, driving home that you’re at the shore and it’s summer, baby!
Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks
For an Indoor/Outdoor Experience: Kalahari Resorts
Also located in the Poconos, Kalahari Resorts provides the best of both worlds: its 100,000-square-foot indoor water park provides shelter from the storm if it rains, but a retractable roof lets fresh the summer air in when it's not. Kalahari already features four thrilling raft rides, as well as thrilling two body slides on which riders can reach up to 40 mph! More mellow options include a long, languid Lazy River, a dedicated Kid’s Lazy River in an area that features children’s slides, and the interactive Tiko’s Watering Hole play area. The centerpiece of the water park, Spashdown Safari has several slides for all ages, and water spouts that will drench you when you least expect it. Two hot, steamy outdoor whirlpools that are accessible from inside soothe muscles tired from playing hard. But wait there's more: head outside to the large outdoor pool for more water fun al fresco, lounging under a giant umbrella and enjoying a refreshing drink at the swim-up bar.
250 Kalahari Blvd.
Pocono Manor, Pa
feature photo: Jeff Turner via Flickr