Now that summer has arrived, the idea of hopping into a car that speeds around curves at 50 mph-plus and climbs to heights higher than 100 feet suddenly seems like a good one. In Philadelphia, we don’t have any amusement parks. But you’re not out of luck. Several beckon in the region, the state and across the river in New Jersey.
Even better, these parks feature some of the best-known rides and attractions, full stop, from an obscure haunted mansion to the fastest, tallest roller coaster in the world to delicious park food. Here’s a handy pocket guide to Philadelphia-area amusement parks.
Nearby amusement parks
In Pennsylvania, central or south Jersey and Delaware, there are 13 amusement parks that offer rides and entertainment that aren’t just for families and children. Here’s the list, where they’re located and what they’re known for.
- Adventure Pier, Wildwood, N.J.: Located on the beach and features the wooden coaster
- Casino Pier, Seaside Heights, N.J.: On the beach, too, with a water park.
- Clementon Park, Clementon, N.J.: The closest amusement park to Philadelphia. Lots of water rides.
- Conneaut Lake Park, Conneaut Lake (in far western Pa.): Its wooden roller coaster the Blue Streak is regarded as one of the best in the country.
- Dorney Park, Allentown, Pa.: Massive park with live entertainment and rides like the roller coaster Steel Force.
- Funland, Rehoboth Beach, Del.: On the beach and small. You won’t find any major roller coasters here.
- Hershey Park, Hershey, Pa.: Has 13 roller coasters and Chocolate World.
- Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pa.: An old-school park with some of the oldest roller coasters in the country.
- Knoebels, Elysburg, Pa.: Come for the food. It’s often ranked the best or some of the best in the country.
- Lakemont Park, Altoona, Pa.: A few thrill rides and plenty of water attractions.
- Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.: Has all of the superhero rides, from Batman to Superman to Green Lantern.
- Steel Pier, Atlantic City, N.J.: Once the king of all beach amusement parks, it’s now about the same as the other amusement piers you’ll find in New Jersey.
- Waldameer Park, Erie, Pa.: REALLY far away. Its Ravine Flyer wooden coaster is considered one of the best.
The nationally-recognized parks
Knoebels: One of the Travel Channel’s favorites and it’s also on Fodor’s top 10 list for 2015. Unlike most theme parks, Knoebels doesn’t charge admission. The park only charges for rides and food. This old-school style is reflected through the rides and food offerings (like fresh apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream).
The parks with the most thrill rides
Here’s an inexact count of the number of rides you can find at each of these parks that aren’t just simple carousels, ferris wheels or bumper cars.
Kingda Ka: Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure wins the title for both of these and is not only the fastest and tallest ride of these 13 parks but the fastest and tallest in the world. It reaches speeds of 128 mph and rises to a height of 456 feet.
Steel Force: At a length of over a mile and lasting three minutes, Steel Force is the longest roller coaster on the East Coast.
Leap-the-Dips: Once again, our nearby amusement parks come out with another major superlative. Altoona’s Lakemont Park has Leap-the-Dips, considered the world’s oldest roller coaster still in operation. It was built in 1902. Kennywood features three roller coasters built in the 1920s.
Laff Trakk, Hershey Park: Said to be the country’s first “indoor, spinning, glow-coaster.” Basically, this ride launches you through a combination of other rides, like a funhouse and a house of mirrors, at speeds of up to 40 mph.
The best food
Knoebels is the way to go. Its old-school, nostalgic feel is reflected in its food offerings. There’s the fresh apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream mentioned above and other homestyle foods at a restaurant that has been in service since 1926. Throughout the park, concessions range from fudge to bavarian nuts to standard park fare like ice cream and cotton candy.