Weekend Getaway

New England Amusement Parks

New England

Amusement and aquatic parks, with everything from death-defying rides to water slides, are synonymous with summer fun. Boaters love them. In fact, 57% of Americans said they enjoy these thrill-seeker playlands, according to a YouGov survey conducted in 2022. What’s more, this majority spanned the ages, with over half to two-thirds of Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers giving a thumbs up to amusement parks, including both women and men almost equally.

To take cruising plans up a notch this summer and add turf to the surf, visit these waterfront entertainment places in New England where families play from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Palace Playland

Palace Playland Amusement Park

Old Orchard Beach, ME

Make this beachfront amusement park in New England the first pick on your list. Not only is the location right — in a quaint resort town 20 miles south of Portland near a handful of marinas — but admission is free with only a charge for rides and games. “Our 70-foot Sea Viper rollercoaster is a must-ride attraction. It offers a bird’s eye view of the seven miles of sandy beach, the pier at Old Orchard Beach, and the small barrier islands. We also have Thursday night fireworks that can be viewed best from our 60-foot gondola ride called Electra Wheel,” says Meagan Achenbach, vice president of Palace Playland Associates. The five-acre entertainment complex features other rides from a carousel with hand-painted horses to the spinning top Dizzy Dragon and the Orient Express rollercoaster that looks like a giant Chinese dragon. Maine’s largest arcade is here too, with 200+ vintage to video games.  

Where to Dock: Marston’s Marina

York’s Wild Kingdom

York, ME

Talk to the animals, walk to the rides and chalk it all up to a great day at this 60-acre family-oriented combo zoo and amusement center, the only one of its kind in the state. Located less than a mile inland from Short Sands Beach in York on the southern tip of Maine, this adventure land is also a 10-mile drive north of Portsmouth, NH. “Feeding the birds is something special,” says Samantha Sauls, general manager, who adds it’s her daughter’s favorite activity. “Our expanded parakeet exhibit is where guests can feed a flock of birds. To do this, they purchase a stick with food on it and enter an enclosure full of 300+ birds. The parakeets are especially friendly and quickly land on guests and the food- filled sticks. It’s fun to see the birds fly to and fro, and it’s an amazing photo opportunity.” African lions, two-toes sloths and zebras are among the zoo critters. A Ferris wheel, bumper cars, mini golf and more are here, too.  

Where to Dock: York Harbor

Water Country - NH - Mockup Slide recolor & wayfinding

Water Country

Portsmouth, NH

New England’s largest water park, only three miles from Portsmouth Marina, doubles the fun this summer with a new water slide experience. The Hyperlight reimagines two of the ground’s most intense tube-style water slides with iSlide technology. This means immersive dual action for riders, as one side of the loop is filled with bright lights and dynamic sounds and the other cruises through a rainbow-colored star field. The Dragon’s Den drops into a mist-shrouded dragon abyss, and the Plunge & Racing Rapids, a combined one-sixth mile of rides and slides, received a repaint re-do as part of the 40th-anniversary summer. “We recommend visiting on the weekdays for smaller crowds and shorter wait times,” says Lynsey Winters, communications director for the operator, Palace Entertainment. “If you are interested in renting a tube for the day or a locker, we recommend arriving close to opening time to grab everything you need for a fun-filled day.”  

Where to Dock: Marina at Harbour Place

Paragon Carousel

Hull, MA

Take a spin on one of America’s last remaining grand carousels, set between Nantasket Beach and Steamboat Wharf Marina on this peninsula at the southern end of Boston Harbor. “All you need is a $3 ticket to hop on,” invites Jon Ericksen, executive director of the Friends of the Paragon Carousel, which keeps the 1928-era merry- go-round in operation. “Four rows of 66 hand-carved, hand-painted wooden horses continue to delight riders of all ages. The two Roman Chariots, each ‘pulled’ by a team of two horses, further distinguish the Paragon Carousel from the original Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousels. Seeing it all going with the Wurlitzer band playing, the doors to the building open and the lights lit feels like déjà vu to the early 20th century.” Grabbing an ice cream cone at the creamery next-door and taking in the ocean views is icing on the cake.  

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Sunset Bay

Cape Codder Water Park

Cape Cod, MA

Three and a half miles north of Hyannis Port is this 30,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor, year-round aqua center located at the same- named resort and spa. Action-packed fun includes rides where you can get wet on two 160-foot ‘Stars and Stripes’ high-speed water slides; a 50- and 80-foot waterslide that winds through a pirate ship replica; a 300-foot ‘stormy’ river with rapids, waterfalls, and a spouting humpback whale; and a kiddie pool called Pirate Bay, with water cannons, small water slides, and a dumping bucket. Adults enjoy the large whirlpool and sauna. “The wave pool, with its two-foot waves, is a big draw,” says Gianni Saltalamacchia, the resort’s director of sales and marketing. The water park is free to guests, and day passes are available for non-guests.  

Where to Dock: Hyannis Marina

Water Wizz

Water Wizz

East Wareham, MA

Best known as the film location for two blockbuster movies, Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups and The Way Way Back with Steve Carell, this is the largest water park in Southeastern New England. It’s five miles from Buzzard’s Bay, and over a half dozen marinas make traveling from sea to shore a breeze. “The most wow aspect here varies with age,” tells Kyleigh Barao, marketing manager. “Little kids love our Captain Kid’s Island, with little slides and a water bucket that pours down every five minutes. Pirates Plunge is a fan favorite for how daring it can be, and slides like The Canal and Thunder Falls are popular, because you can ride together with a friend in a double tube. Parents and grandparents relish relaxing in our lazy river or catching waves in our wave pool.” Add fuel to the fun with a treat from the pizza shop, fried dough truck or ice cream stand.  

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Onset Bay

Adventureland Family Fun Park

Narragansett, RI

Marinas in Wakefield are a little over a mile away from this old-school family-fun playland. It’s known for a Victorian era-styled carousel with horses, a tiger and sea dragon; 18-hole mini golf course built in a nautical-themed landscape complete with bridges, tunnels and interactive holes; Bumper Boats with a built-in water squirter; and Go-Karts race-ready on a figure eight track. “Our Go Karts are loved by tweens and teens to adults,” says Melissa Kells Burdick, general manager, and vice president. A new addition is Bankshot Basketball, like mini golf but with a basket. “Busy beach days are not so busy park days when there are fewer crowds,” Burdick adds.  

Where to Dock: Point Judith Marina

Action Amusements Waterslide & Kiddie Land

New London, CT

Nostalgia is the delightful vibe at this complex of rides situated four miles south of the town center in Ocean Beach Park. Owner Jeff Mullen lovingly and annually maintains the 40-year-old waterslide, one of only two left in the country, a vintage Ferris wheel, 1960s-era roller coaster, and a dozen-plus other rides, some of which were originally built in Coney Island. You also find a lazy river and wave pool, as well as a food court and souvenir shop. “It’s a labor of love,” says Mullen, who adds that local media reports on the complex’s opening each year are the sure sign summer has arrived.  

Where to Dock: Thamesport Marina

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