Remember the first time you rode a roller coaster? It was exciting, scary and exhilarating all at the same time. Remember how you felt when you got off? Proud, maybe a little bit wobbly, and ready to ride again, or even better, try the next (bigger, faster, twistier) one. Next, you graduated to the big leagues, Nitro, El Diablo, the Cyclone and Farenheit, and now you want to introduce your family to the thrill of roller coaster riding.
Where to start? Check out our 15 amusement park rides bucket list that will turn your kids into coaster aficionados faster than you can go from 0 to 128 on Kingda Ka (that would be 3.5 seconds to those of us with two feet planted firmly on the ground).
Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA
How do you hold on to vapor? You’ll find out on this outer space-themed ride at Sesame Place. This is the perfect first coaster experience for your child, and they’ll experience twists and turns on the steel track. Children 3 years and older can ride. While you’re there, book a meal with Elmo and friends and tell them all about your adventures.
Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster, PA
New for Summer 2017, Merlin’s Mayhem at Dutch Wonderland tells the story of Merlin the Magician’s search for his mischievous green dragon friend, Mayhem. Merlin’s Mayhem is a high-flying, suspended coaster with two helix turns and lots of twists. Riders must be 39” to ride. If Merlin’s Mayhem seems a little intense for your little one, put the Joust Family Coaster or the Kingdom Coaster on your bucket list instead. Or stick to the other rides, and the water play area.
Land of Make Believe, Hope, NJ
For 60 years, Land of Make Believe and the Pirate Cove water park has been giving families the chance to spend an action-packed day of fun together. Start your little one off with the Thriller roller coaster and work them up to water rides like Pirate’s Peak, The Black Hole and the Sidewinder. Adults must accompany little ones 33” – 36” on the Thriller.
Storybook Land, Egg Harbor Township, NJ
Enter Storybook Land for rides and attractions that bring to mind your all-time favorite stories and nursery rhymes. Then hop on the back of your own personal dragon and swoop through the twists and turns of Bubbles, an oval coaster with one inside helix. Kids must be 36” tall to ride.
Victorian Gardens, New York, NY
Visit Victorian Gardens, New York City’s only outdoor amusement park, located at the site of the Wollman Rink in Central Park and entertain your little one with the perfect beginner roller coaster, the Mini Mouse. The winding turns are a great introduction to coaster riding and then, if they’re feeling particularly brave, head over the the new Bigfoot Monster Trucks for a slightly, ahem, bigger thrill. Children under 36” must be accompanied by an adult.
Luna Park (formerly Astroland), Coney Island, NY
You know Luna Park as home to the Thunderbolt, the Cyclone and the Tickler, but your little one will know it as the place they climbed aboard the junior Circus Coaster and headed out on a 500+ foot downhill course of tight turns, slopes and a helix. Must be 36” to ride with an adult, 42” to ride unaccompanied.
Hershey Park, Hershey, PA
There is so much to love about a visit to Hershey Park, the rides, the water park, the chocolate, the chance for your little one to ride not one but two coasters made just for him/her. Smaller children will want to ride the Cocoa Cruiser, a steel coaster with changes in elevation, twists, turns and spins. Slightly bigger children will love the Comet, a classic wooden coaster that is fast-paced with quick turns and drops. Must be 36” to ride the Cocoa Cruiser and 42” to ride the Comet. Adults won’t want to miss the new Hershey Triple Towers – pick your thrill, or try all three.
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ
Start your day at Six Flags Great Adventure with the Road Runner Railway. This coaster, intended to introduce your little one to thrill rides is smaller scale but still packs a big punch. Be prepared for a bendy, curvy track with one junior drop and a corkscrew. Then, hop on the Harley Quinn Crazy Train and graduate to the big leagues as far as your little guys go. This junior roller coaster has a curvy, winding track with a series of small hills and twists that end with a few wild curves and crazy turns. Minimum height for the Road Runner Railway is 42”. For the Harley Quinn Crazy Train, riders must be 41” with an adult or 48” to ride alone.
Knoebels, Elysburg, PA
Kozmo’s Kurves, at Knoebels in Elysburg, PA is more than just your average kiddie coaster. This mini steel rollercoaster dips, it dives, it’s fun for the whole family! This little coaster thrills as it weaves under and over itself and across the motor boat canal. Riders must be 36” to ride and 36” to ride alone. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our suggestions for family camping, why not try Knoebels? They offer a wooded campground that is a short walk from the park. Bring a tent or your camper or rent a cozy cabin.
Jenkinson’s, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
No trip down the shore is complete without a trip to Jenkinson’s. So before you make your annual visit to the penguins at the aquarium, stop in at the Tornado for some coaster fun on this smaller, train-like ride with a shorter track. Perfect for the nervous first-timer. Riders must be a minimum of 42” unless they are with a paid adult.
Keansburg Amusement Park, Keansburg, NJ
Check off your last bucket list coaster at Keansburg Amusement Park when you ride the Sea Serpent, a mini coaster that is thrilling without being scary, featuring smooth sharp turns with gentle dips. If your budding coaster geek wants more, try the new Looping Star for their first inverted experience. The best thing about Keansburg? It’s one of the few free beaches on the Jersey shore. Sea Serpent riders must be 33” tall.
Diggerland USA, West Berlin, NJ
Okay, so it’s not a roller coaster. But if you have an extra weekend, plan a trip to Diggerland USA, the only construction-themed adventure park in North America where families can drive, ride and operate actual machinery. Make sure to try the new Digger Derby, individual mini cars that your little Andretti can race around their exclusive racetrack.