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Thrills. Chills. Waterparks: Best amusement parks in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

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We tapped our amusement park loving staff throughout New Jersey, Delaware and the Hudson Valley to provide this round-up of parks for every comfort level; from those willing to try the latest thrill ride at Six Flags — buckle up for Wonder Woman, daredevils! — to families who prefer a tamer Land of Make Believe.

We've got new attractions at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom (off-road safari rides!) Hersheypark's Reese's Cupfusion and the new coaster, called Hydra, at the Seaside Park Amusement Pier, as well as some tried-and-trues, including the 100-year-old  Dragon Coaster, at Playland in Rye, New York, and the Runaway Tram at Morey's in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth. A similar ride will open at Six Flags Great Adventure. (Photo: Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging, Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging)

Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey 

Why you should visit: The park, which opened in its gates in 1974, turns 45 this summer. But Six Flags is certainly not stuck in the past — its coasters offer some record-breaking excitement. El Toro is one of the tallest and fastest wooden coasters in the world, measuring at 176 feet high and reaching top speeds of 70 miles per hour.

Kingda Ka is the tallest roller coaster in the world (456 feet) and the fastest coaster in North America (top speed of 128 miles per hour).

The park also features a safari, the Hurricane Harbor water park and the annual seasonal spectaculars Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park in the fall and winter, respectively.

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What’s new for 2019: The park is set to welcome two highly-anticipated new attractions in 2019: the 17-story-tall Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth (the world’s tallest pendulum ride) and Calypso Springs, a 100,000-gallon activity pool coming to Hurricane Harbor.

Details: 1 Six Flags Boulevard, Jackson, New Jersey. Open daily through Sept. 2, and on weekends and select weekdays through Dec. 31. 732-928-2000, www.sixflags.com — Alex Biese, Asbury Park Press, abiese@gannetnj.com

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Riders enter the dragon's mouth on the Dragon Coaster ride during the opening day festivities at Playland in Rye, May 12, 2018. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)

Playland Amusement Park, Rye, New York

Why you should visit: One of just a handful of Art Deco Amusement Parks in America – it’s on the National Register of Historic Places – Playland offers throwback thrills courtesy of its century old-Carousel and its classic wooden roller coaster. Built in 1929, The Dragon Coaster, is one of the last roller coaster rides built by famed engineer Frederick Church that is still operating. (Look closely and you can catch a glimpse of it in Mariah Carey’s 1995 music video “Fantasy.”) The park’s 104-year-old carousel is another attraction, with a rare band organ built by the Gavioli company in Italy.  

Modern marvels: There’s plenty to opt for, from the Double-Shot Log Flume and Super Flight to Wipeout and  the Park features mini-golf, a boardwalk, Olympic-sized pool and a guarded beach.

Details: 1 Playland Parkway, Rye, New York. Open every day except Mondays (excluding holidays) playlandpark.org — Karen Croke, lohud.com, kcroke1@lohud.com

Casino Pier: Elephant Express, a flying elephant ride, will open this summer on Casino Pier in Seaside Heights. (Photo: File photo/USAToday Network)

Seaside Heights and Seaside Park boardwalks, New Jersey

Why you should visit: The Seasides continue their journey back to life after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and a far-reaching boardwalk fire one year later. On Seaside Heights’s Casino Pier the storm sent the Jet Star rollercoaster into the ocean, but the pier now is home to the blue and neon green Hydrus, a German-made Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter model coaster, and a 131-foot Ferris Wheel that lights up at night and gives riders views of both land and sea.

What to expect this summer: The return of Centrifuge, a scrambler-style ride also lost to the storm, and the addition of Elephant Express, a flying elephant ride; the Mermaid Parade log flume, which features 130 feet of water track, and Crazy Cabs, a spinning ride. 

On the south end of the boardwalk in Seaside Park, a few small rides and games have popped up in place of Funtown Pier, which was known for its kiddie rides, and Carousel Arcade. Both were damaged by the storm and fire; neither have been rebuilt.

Modern marvels: Breakwater Beach water park boasts Salem’s Scream, a 50-foot speed slide with a floor that drops out from under your feet at the start, plus plenty of other slides, lazy and wild rivers, and go-karts.

Details: Casino Pier is at 800 Ocean Terrace in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Open daily; casinopiernj.com — Sarah Griesemer, Courier Post, sgriesemer@gannettnj

Hershey's Tripletower Aerial (Photo: Submitted)

Hersheypark, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Why you should visit: If you've never been to Hersheypark, you may have visions of a Willy Wonka-esque experience with chocolate bars everywhere and a river of melted chocolate winding through the park. While there is plenty of chocolate here,  it's not quite the movie scene in your head. Even so, it's still a blast. Dating back to 1906, it's been home to roller coasters since 1923, currently boasting 14 different coasters ranging from rides for kids to white-knuckle experiences for the older crowd. There are shows, games, an 11-acre zoo and Hershey's Chocolate World, a 30-minute tour that reveals how cocoa beans are made into the classic American snack. And, yes, you get to sample the goods. Even better, pay $26.95 and you can create your own candy bar, picking your own ingredients and designing a unique wrapper.

New for 2019: Opened Memorial Day weekend, Reese's Cupfusion is an interactive gaming attraction with riders becoming agents in charge of guarding the Crystal Cup from the bad guys, Mint the Merciless and the League of Misfit Candy.

Details: 100 Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, Pennsylvania. Open daily through Sept. 2. hersheypark.com — Ryan Cormier, Wilmington News Journal, rcormier@delawareonline.com.  

A pirate ship at The Land of Make Believe. (Photo: File photo/Courier post)

Land of Make Believe, Hope, New Jersey

Why you should visit: It’s all about the family at the Land of Make Believe, which features attractions designed so parents can participate in the fun with their kids with rides aimed at those 13-years-old and younger. Fittingly, they have a slew of family-friendly awards under their belts, including 2018 NJ Amusement Park of the Year by the New Jersey Amusement Association and New Jersey Magazine’s No. 1 Amusement Park in North Jersey. It’s easy to spend the day (or a few) at this 40-ride park, which also includes a water park. Plus, unlike some other big-name parks, the Land of Make Believe actually encourages picnicking and touts reasonably priced food and fare – the ultimate mark in family-friendliness.

What’s new for 2019: The Scream Machine 360 spins, turns, and yes, goes upside-down. The Off-Road Safari Adventure, launched on Memorial Day Weekend, lets visitors travel in a 4x4 safari vehicle for an ecotourism experience depicting America's Western frontier in the 1700s.

amily magazine named the Land of Make Believe one of the top family amusement parks in the state. In a poll conducted by its readers, Six Flags was ranked No. 1 in the state, with Land of Make Believe ranked second. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Land of Make Believe New Jersey F)

Details: 354 Great Meadows Road, Hope, New Jersey, lomb.com. Open weekends of June 2 and 8, then daily from June 16-Sept. 2, ending with the weekend of Sept. 8.  — Jenna Intersimone, JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Why you should visit: Perfect for both roller coaster lovers and splash-seekers, this is two parks in one for the same admission price. One of the oldest parks in the country, dating back to the 1800s, you'll find seven roller coasters along with an array of rides with even more scares, such as Demon Drop which lets you free-fall for 10 stories. There are also of plenty of kiddie rides and games for the younger set at Dorney. And if they are OK with getting wet, Whitewater Kingdom has plenty of slides, along with semi-private cabanas if you want to go all out.

Modern marvels: The Steel Force roller coaster may be 22 years old, but it's still a marvel at 5,600 feet long, making it the eighth longest steel hypercoaster in the world. It goes up to 75 mph and includes a terrifying 205-foot drop. If you're into throwbacks, try Dorney's 86-year-old wooden Thunderhawk coaster, one of the oldest American wooden coasters still in operation.

Details: 4000 Dorney Park Road, Allentown, Pennsylvania. Open every day May 24 through Sept. 2. dorneypark.com — Ryan Cormier, Wilmington News Journal, rcormier@delawareonline.com.  

Gillian's Wonderland celebrates 90 years on the Ocean City Boardwalk. (Photo: Gillians Wonderland)

Ocean City Boardwalk, Ocean City, New Jersey

Why you should visit: Whether you want to stroll the boards and savor a Banana Whip with some Monkey Bread, play a few rounds of Haunted Golf or spin yourself silly on a Tilt-a-Whirl, this is the place to do it. One of the oldest amusement parks in the country, the family-friendly destination offers leisurely days at the beach and adventure-filled evenings of amusements. Hit every roller coaster or climb aboard the massive Giant Wheel to see the sights like a seagull. With Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Playland’s Castaway Cover, the boardwalk is two destinations in one for the littlest beach-goers and bigger thrill-seekers.

What's new: One of the newest rides is the 130-foot Drop Tower, which offers a spine-tingling 47-mile-per-hour descent. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier turns 90 this year, the perfect excuse to pay a visit and ride a classic attraction such as the 1926 carousel or the equally nostalgic swings. Hit with a heat wave? Don’t forget Ocean City Waterpark or the Canyon Falls Log Flume, where you can really make a splash.

Details: 400 Boardwalk, Ocean City, New Jersey. oceancityvacation.com — Tammy Paolino, Courier Post, tpaolino@gannett.com

Get ready to throw your hands in the air! Clementon Park is getting a Tilt-A-Whirl. (Photo: Provided)

Clementon Park & Splash World, Clementon, New Jersey  

Why you should visit: Strolling through Clementon Park offers a glimpse into South Jersey history. When opened in 1907, it was among nearly 20 amusement parks in the region. Now it's the only one, and honors its origins with details such as a Victorian Main Street. While grownups might like the nostalgia, kids will just care about the fun stuff — and there's plenty of it, from a Ferris wheel and carousel to a water park with a 23,000-square-foot wave pool, lazy river and free-fall slides. The Big Wave Bay water park also hosts "Dive-In Movie" events throughout the summer. A Main Street Midway with games such as ring toss and drop-a-disc add to the carnival atmosphere. 

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What's new: The park added four retro rides that recall its roots. The Mini Pirate Ship, Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl rides, plus a twisting Dragon Coaster pay homage to classic amusement-park attractions.  

Details: 144 Berlin Road, Clementon, New Jersey. Opens May 24; open daily beginning June 13. clementonpark.com  — Sheri Berkery, Courier Post, sberkey@gannettnj.com

Morey's Piers celebrates 50 years on the Wildwood Boardwalk by opening the Runaway Tram ride, a nod to the Wildwoods' iconic Sightseer tram car. (Photo: Kip Dawkins/ Moreys Piers)

Morey's Piers, Wildwood, New Jersey 

Why you should visit: The higher the Morey's Piers amusements climb, the better the view of the Wildwood beach. It's home to the 156-foot tall Giant Wheel, a blinking beacon that can be seen from the Wildwood exits on the Garden State Parkway in Cape May County. The boardwalk amusement park celebrates its 50th season on the Wildwoods boardwalk this summer. Morey brothers opened their first attraction — a giant, six-lane slide — in 1969.

In the ensuing five decades, the pay-per-ride amusement park now spans three piers in two towns along the boardwalk. Moreys also operates two water parks, an art gallery, and multiple restaurants, including Stubborn Brothers, an ocean-front bar, and Pig Dog, a dog-friendly beach bar and grill. 

 Modern marvels: Mariner's Landing pier is home to the Giant Wheel, installed in 1985, the Sea Serpent roller coaster, and smaller kids rides, including carousels. Adventure Pier is the site of Morey's Piers' wooden roller coast The Great White. Surfside Pier opened Kong, a King Kong-themed swing-like flyer ride, in 2015, and this summer debuts The Runaway Tram, a family roller coaster modeled from the Wildwoods' iconic Sightseer Tram Car. 

Details: 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood. The amusements piers are open daily from noon to midnight starting June. moreyspiers.com — Carly Romalino, Courier Post, cromalino@gannettnj.com

Kids are in the driver's seat of real modified construction equipment at Diggerland USA. (Photo: Diggerland USA)

Diggerland USA, West Berlin, New Jersey

Why you should visit: If your kids are at that magic age where just the sight of the garbage truck in your neighborhood or a fire truck downtown evokes squeals, this is a summer must for family fun. Diggerland is a construction adventure park with 25 attractions that let guests safely operate modified, diesel-fueled excavators, asphalt rollers and tractors.There are also rope courses to navigate, rock walls to scale and a construction-themed arcade. Diggerland USA is privately owned by brothers Ilya and Yan Girlya,  New Jersey residents.Note: Young visitors must be at least 3 feet tall to operate most vehicles, and 3 1/2 feet for a few attractions. Adults can get in on the action with their little ones, but they can also check out Diggerland XL, a chance to learn from experts how to operate “unrestricted machinery,’’ whether for fun or team building exercises.

Modern marvels: Popular attractions include Rugged Riders, an off-road Kubota RTV-900; the Greased Beast, a steel demolition trailer that lifts passengers more than 34 feet before “dumping’’ its cargo; Spin Dizzy, a JCB JS220 that will give you quite a spin; and the Sky Shuttle, a JCB 540-170 Telehandler that takes 10 passengers at once more than 50 feet in the sky for a bird’s eye view of the park.

Have a load of fun on the Greased Beast at Diggerland USA. (Photo: Diggerland USA)

Details: 100 Pinedge Drive, West Berlin, New Jersey. From June 1 to June 21, the park is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; beginning June 22, weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Labor Day. 856-208-6440 diggerlandusa.com/ — Tammy Paolino, Courier Post, tpaolino@gannett.com

Sesame Place, Langhorne, Pennsylvania

Why you should visit: Sesame Place, as the only theme park in the United States based entirely on the PBS series "Sesame Street," has the kid-centric vibe you'd expect. Rides and attractions are modeled after "Sesame Street" characters and children can interact with costumed characters, watch stage shows and parades. Rides are geared for the youngest patrons, though there are also two mild rollercoasters, including Oscar’s Wacky Water Taxi, which opened in 2018. A variety of family-friendly water rides provides more all-ages fun. Inclusivity is a priority: Sesame Place was the first theme park in the world to earn the designation of Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continued Education Standards. 

Sesame Place caters to the youngest of patrons. (Photo: Courtesy of Sesame Place/Jason Lindsey)

 What's new: Snuffy is here! Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird's friend, will be shuffling through the park all season. The "Sesame Street" neighborhood has been updated to reflect the new set on the TV series. New photo op stations will commemorate the 50th anniversary this year of "Sesame Street."

Details: 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  Opens at 10 a.m. daily through Labor Day. Closing time varies, peaking at 8 p.m. in August. After Labor Day, open select dates through December. sesameplace.com — Kelly-Jane Cotter, Asbury Park Press, kcotter@gannettnj.com

Sheri Berkery, Alex Biese, Ryan Cormier, Karen Croke, Sarah Griesemer, Jenna Intersimone, Kelly-Jane Cotter, Tammy Paolino and Carly Romalino  contributed to this story

Read or Share this story: https://www.lohud.com/story/entertainment/2019/05/30/new-york-new-jersey-pennsylvania-best-amusement-parks/3664632002/

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