Roller coaster rides and winding waterslides are a major thrill for big kids. When it comes to sites that offer an admirable range of attractions geared toward young children with less bravado and shorter stamina, however, some theme parks really stand out. Plan a trip to one of these kids amusement parks for your next getaway with little ones.
1. Canada’s Wonderland – Vaughn, Ontario
With the addition of kid-friendly Planet Snoopy in 2010, Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughn, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, became friendlier than ever for families. Along with Kidsville, a dedicated area for little ones that debuted in 1998, Planet Snoopy welcomes pre-schoolers with tyke-friendly characters, entertainment and special rides scaled to size. Two Baby Care centers, stroller rentals and kid-friendly dining options cater to families with small children.
Recommended Canada’s Wonderland Hotel
Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites is convenient to Canada’s Wonderland, and offers an outdoor saltwater pool and Wonderland stay-and play-packages.
2. Busch Gardens Williamsburg – Williamsburg, VA
Featuring nearly 20 KIDsiterate activities and attractions that young children can enjoy, including animal encounters, high-energy shows and themed rides in Sesame Street Forest of Fun and Land of the Dragons, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a great destination for families with children of all ages. At the height check station, children receive wristbands that are color-coded to correspond to the rides they can enjoy. Family restrooms, two nursing rooms, a child ride swap program and a generous selection of kid-sized meals make it easy for mom and dad to relax and have fun, too.
Recommended Busch Gardens Williamsburg Hotel
Located just a mile from Busch Gardens, Courtyard Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area features an indoor/outdoor pool and one-bedroom suites with a separate living room.
3. Story Land – Glen, NH
You’ll get a big bang for your family buck at Story Land, a small-scale kids amusement park that’s perfect for the preschool set. Most of the rides at the White Mountains, New Hampshire, area attraction are geared towards children ages 7 and under, such as Alice’s Tea Cup and Whirling Whales.
Reserved stroller parking, VIP nursing and baby changing rooms, free pet kennels and free parking in an accessible lot make it especially family-friendly. For the whole crew, there’s a fun raft ride and Roar-o-Saurus, a roller coaster the whole family will love. Enter the park during the last three hours of operation (schedule varies seasonally) and receive complimentary admission the following day.
Recommended Story Land Hotel
Seven miles from Story Land in North Conway, New Hampshire, the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort features an awesome indoor water park and Story Land packages.
4. Idlewild & SoakZone – Ligonier, PA
Located just one hour outside of Pittsburgh, Idlewild & SoakZone features nearly a dozen rides for little ones in Raccoon Lagoon, plus coasters and classic rides that pack plenty of thrilling punch for the older ones.
Kids can blow off steam in Jumpin’ Jungle and SoakZone, with dry and wet play areas that offer tons of choices for hands-on physical fun. Characters come to life in Story Book Forest, and a trolley rides through Mr. Rogers beloved Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Fun Day Admission/Meal Deal passes include a meal voucher, good for your choice of a sandwich, hot dog or salad, plus chips and a beverage at participating outlets. Parking is free and strollers may be rented in advance online.
Recommended Idlewild & SoakZone Hotel
Located just 11 minutes from the park, Wingate by Wyndham Latrobe is a good family lodging option, with complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi.
5. Cedar Point – Sandusky, OH
With 17 electrifying roller coasters, Ohio’s Cedar Point is thrill ride central, but did you know that it’s also home to some of the most tot-friendly rides and attractions around? Offering four areas specifically designed for children, this mega theme park is major fun for little kids.
Preschoolers will have a blast in Kiddy Kingdom, a self-contained play land filled with pint-sized rides they can board and steer themselves, including car and airplane rides and a carousel. Fitting for adventurers up to early elementary age, Camp Snoopy lures pint-sized Charlie Brown fans with cartoonish people movers, from a giant school bus to a submarine.
When hunger strikes, families have a host of familiar choices, from Chick-Fil-A to Dairy Queen. The kids’ amusement park features two Family Care Centers, both with baby changing and private nursing stations, a Kid Track safety system and a Parent Swap option, the latter of which allows parents to take a turn enjoying the big rides without a major wait.
Recommended Cedar Point Hotel
Right on the park property, Hotel Breakers features family-friendly sleeping set-ups, children’s play areas and early theme park entry for guests.
6. Dutch Wonderland – Lancaster, PA
Refreshingly old-fashioned and set in Amish Country, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a great fit for families looking for a wholesome getaway. Featuring more than two-dozen preschooler-friendly rides and attractions, plus a dedicated water play area and a no-alcohol policy, this theme park really rolls out the red carpet for families with small children. Dining options include familiar chains like Subway and Nathan’s Famous, and when it’s snack time, kids can cool off with Dippin’ Dots and frozen Dole Whip.
Recommended Dutch Wonderland Hotel
The newly opened Cartoon Network Hotel—the first of its kind in the U.S. and an attraction in itself—features themed rooms with kitchenettes, indoor and outdoor pools, and discounted admission to Dutch Wonderland.
7. Magic Kingdom – Orlando, FL
The central Florida kids amusement park of choice is Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, which combines the elements of fantasy and magic with character encounters, exciting rides and shows staged by professional entertainers. In Fantasyland, kids can soar high with Dumbo, take a journey under the sea with the Little Mermaid and meet their favorite Disney idols.
A Rider Switch program allows parents to enjoy rides that are too mature for little ones, without the wait, while a special behind-the-scenes Family Magic Tour is just right for the early elementary set. A Baby Care Center, located on Main Street, U.S.A., has special feeding areas, changing tables and a family waiting area where older children can watch videos while mom and dad take care of the baby. A special resort guide just for preschoolers can be found on Disney’s website, and offers a comprehensive list of kid-friendly attractions, sample touring itineraries and travel tips.
Recommended Magic Kingdom Hotel
A short walk (or stroller ride) to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort takes the cake for convenience, allowing guests to return to lodging easily for a mid-day nap.
8. Disneyland – Anaheim, CA
The West Coast counterpart to Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, Disneyland holds the title of Walt Disney’s first and original theme park in Anaheim, California. Due to its smaller size and scope as compared to its Florida sister, it tends to be easier to navigate for families with small children.
Classic ride highlights for the pre-school set include the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, King Arthur Carrousel and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Visits to Mickey and Minnie’s homes in Toontown and the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland are obligatory for faithful fans. A Baby Center, located on Main Street, U.S.A., offers diapers and changing and feeding areas.
Kid-Friendly Disneyland Hotel
Convenient to Disneyland and offering and early theme park entry and an onsite character dining experience, the Disneyland Hotel features guestrooms with special Disney touches, themed suites and a kid-friendly pool and water play area.
9. LEGOLAND Florida – Winter Haven, FL
You don’t have to be a LEGO fanatic (though it certainly doesn’t hurt) to enjoy a day at LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven, Florida. Attractions are geared toward children ages 2 through 12, and families will find a nice variety for both preschool and elementary-age children.
In DUPLO Valley, toddlers can build, splash and play in a comfortable, safe environment, while in LEGO City, kids ages 3 to 5 and 6 to 13 can earn their official LEGOLAND drivers’ license at junior and senior driving schools. In Fun Town and Land of Adventure, the whole family can create their own mini-figures, watch a 4D movie, explore hidden tombs and ride a scaled-to-size LEGO dinosaur themed roller coaster. The LEGO World of Chima brings visitors up close with favorite characters, from Laval the Lion Prince to Cragger the Crocodile King.
For an added fee, visitors can combine a full day at the theme park with LEGOLAND Water Park admission. Like the theme park, LEGOLAND Water Park offers fun activities for toddlers, as well as school-aged children. A second U.S. LEGOLAND park and LEGOLAND Hotel are situated in Carlsbad, California; a third will open in New York in 2020.
Kid-Friendly LEGOLAND Florida Hotel
LEGOLAND Florida Hotel features themed rooms that sleep five with bunk beds and trundle beds, complimentary breakfast, in-room treasure hunts and early LEGOLAND theme park entry. Bonus: As of April 17, 2020, all-inclusive packages are available at this hotel, as well as LEGOLAND Florida’s other two resort hotels.
10. Sesame Place – Langhorne, PA
You can count on a wholesome G-rated day at Sesame Place, a super-cute kids amusement park featuring scaled-to-size rides, shows and favorite characters from the popular PBS children’s show. A musical starring Elmo, a daily character parade and wet and dry areas offer plenty to keep the kids engaged. For young daredevils, the Vapor Trail roller coaster features gentle twists, turns and the opportunity to earn bragging rights back home. Sesame Place is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.
Recommended Sesame Place Hotel
SpringHill Suites Philadelphia Langhorne is a short walk to Sesame Place by private path. This family-friendly hotel features complimentary breakfast, an indoor swimming pool and a seasonal children’s play room. It also offers package deals.
11. Edaville Family Theme Park – Carver, MA
For those of you with Thomas the Tank Engine fanatics in the family, Edaville should be on the top of your list. Thomas Land brings “the Island of Sodor to life in a lush New England landscape.” With 11 Thomas-themed rides, plus favorite spots like Knapford Station and Tidmouth Sheds, you’ll be transported into your little one’s favorite show. There’s also a Dino Park for the dinosaur lovers, and Cran Central, the original park, which has several rides and activities; you can even take the Diesel Excursion Train to tour some cranberry bogs! The park hosts a sensory-friendly awareness weekend annually (April 25 in 2020), plus themed events throughout the year. Edaville USA is located about an hour south of Boston.
Recommended Edaville Hotel
The Hilton Garden Inn Plymouth is less than a half-hour from Edaville, two miles from Plymouth Harbor, and five minutes from Plimoth Plantation. It offers spacious rooms and an onsite restaurant.
12. Diggerland – West Berlin, NJ
A construction theme park?! Yes! Diggerland caters to curious youngsters with rides such as the Backhoe Adventure (a family-style ride on a JCB 3CX backhoe), the Excavator Express (similar to a train ride), Farm Tractors (where little ones can ride in an actual tractor), and the Mini Dig: Ducks and Mini Dig: Treasure, where they can sit in a mini-excavator and dig for floating duck toys or treasure. There’s also ziplining, a ropes course, rocking climbing, and a video arcade.
Recommended Diggerland Hotel
The Wingate by Wyndham Vorhees is less than 15 minutes from Diggerland and offers an indoor pool and free continental breakfast.