Amusement parks in Pennsylvania are somewhat of a walk down memory lane. They don’t have the shiny grandiosity and heart-stopping thrill of the parks in Orlando or Los Angeles, but they have a nostalgic, fairground vibe that makes them truly worth a visit. There are century-old carousels, clanky wooden roller coasters, and Ferris wheels perfect for a romantic spin. And perhaps the best part about amusement parks in PA is the low prices. If you’re looking for family-friendly fun on a budget, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best amusement parks (and water parks) in the state.
Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
If you’ve ever felt torn having to choose between an amusement park and a water park, Dorney is your answer. Located between Allentown and Emmaus, Dorney has 24 water slides and a relaxing pool, as well as some of the most impressive roller coasters in the entire state. The Stinger, Talon, and Steel Force (which is the ninth longest steel roller coaster in the world), are the standouts that are most thrilling, but there’s also a few more relaxed rides. Mosey over to Planet Snoopy to bring out your inner kid.
Few amusement parks can say their history stretches back to the 19th century. Initially built as a ‘trolley park’ back in 1898, Kennywood has been in operation for well over a century. Even today, there are a few rides and structures that date back to the early 20th century, but it’s since adopted all the appeal of a modern theme park. There are almost 50 attractions, including a freefall ride known as the Skycoaster, and a Sky Rocket with an optional virtual reality component. Located in West Mifflin, it’s just a short drive outside of Pittsburgh. For some unique ideas on where to stay around Pittsburgh, check out the Top 5 Glamping Picks in Pennsylvania.
You guessed it — a theme park entirely dedicated to old classic children’s program, Sesame Street. Whether you’re traveling with kids or are just a kid at heart, Sesame Place is worth a visit. Rides are mostly suitable for all ages, and there’s also a lazy river, a splash park, and an area to mingle with characters from the show. The Cookie Monster, Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Mr. Snuffleupagus — they’ve all been known to make appearances.
Located in Lancaster, which is Pennsylvania’s Amish country, Dutch Wonderland is another family-friendly theme park that caters mainly to kids. There are 32 rides that include a merry-go-round, a flying trapeze ride, and a monorail ride that offers beautiful views of the entire park. There’s also a section called Exploration Island, which has lifelike, animatronic dinosaurs and other interactive shows and parades. If you’re looking to get a little more authentically Dutch, check out our Two Day Amsterdam Itinerary.
As Pennsylvania is home to the Hershey Chocolate Company’s global headquarters, their influence flows into much of the state. Hersheypark, as an example, was originally built as a leisure park for the employees of the company. Today, it’s a theme park that’s entirely chocolate themed. Where else are you going to find that? Little ones can come face-to-face with life-sized Hershey kisses and Hershey bars, and the 110-acre park has more than enough rides to keep adults happy for the day.
Conneaut Lake Park
The Conneaut Lake Park is another gem for nostalgia. Its most famous ride, the Blue Streak, is a wooden roller coaster that was originally constructed back in 1938. It’s a rackety, bumpy ride that may have you questioning its structural integrity — but that’s half the thrill, right? Also, entrance is only $10, which is tough to beat.
If you’re traveling on a budget and are looking for free admission, Waldameer is for you. Stroll into the grounds without paying a dime, and you’ll be able to appreciate the daily entertainment, which includes three shows and scarfing down some delicious food. The rides work on their ‘Wally Card,’ which is a kind of pay-as-you-go system, so you can choose to hop on as many, or as few, rides as you please. Come wintertime, make your way over to one of the excellent Ski Resorts in Pennsylvania.
DelGrosso’s Amusement Park
DelGrosso’s is owned by a family known for their line of pasta sauces, so it’s no surprise that the food here is of a higher quality than most others on the list. Before your feast on some pastas, hop on rides like the X-Scream Tower, the Pharaoh’s Fury, or the Yo-Yo. DelGrosso’s is located in Tipton, PA, which is a northern suburb of Altoona.
Idlewild & Soakzone
Located just outside of Pittsburgh, Idlewild is a theme park that’s great for youngsters. With activities that include the Story Book Forest, Alligator Swamp, and the Safari Hut, kids are sure to be happy campers here. There’s also a historical Western-themed village with a blacksmith, a saloon, and a general store. Connected to Idlewild is Soakzone, a water park that includes fun rides like the Wowabunga Family Wave Pool and the Pipeline Plunge. This combo park is actually the oldest in the state, dating back to the late 19th century.